فصل 15کتاب: سپس هیچ کدام باقی نماندند / فصل 16
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I Three people sat eating breakfast in the kitchen.
Outside, the sun shone. It was a lovely day. The storm was a thing of the past.
And with the change in the weather, a change had come in the mood of the prisoners on the island.
They felt now like people just awakening from a nightmare. There was danger, yes, but it was danger in daylight. That paralysing atmosphere of fear that had wrapped them round like a blanket yesterday while the wind howled outside was gone.
“We’ll try heliographing today with a mirror from the highest point of the island. Some bright lad wandering on the cliff will recognize SOS when he sees it, I hope. In the evening we could try a bonfire—only there isn’t much wood—and anyway they might just think it was song and dance and merriment.” Vera said:
“Surely someone can read Morse. And then they’ll come to take us off. Long before this evening.” Lombard said:
“The weather’s cleared all right, but the sea hasn’t gone down yet. Terrific swell on! They won’t be able to get a boat near the island before tomorrow.” Vera cried:
“Another night in this place!”
Lombard shrugged his shoulders.
“May as well face it! Twenty-four hours will do it, I think. If we can last out that, we’ll be all right.” Blore cleared his throat. He said:
“We’d better come to a clear understanding. What’s happened to Armstrong?” Lombard said:
“Well, we’ve got one piece of evidence. Only three little soldier boys left on the dinner table. It looks as though Armstrong had got his quietus.” Vera said:
“Then why haven’t you found his dead body?”
Lombard shook his head. He said:
“It’s damned odd—no getting over it.”
Blore said doubtfully:
“It might have been thrown into the sea.”
Lombard said sharply:
“By whom? You? Me? You saw him go out of the front door. You come along and find me in my room. We go out and search together. When the devil had I time to kill him and carry his body round the island?” Blore said:
“I don’t know. But I do know one thing.”
“The revolver. It was your revolver. It’s in your possession now. There’s nothing to show that it hasn’t been in your possession all along.” “Come now, Blore, we were all searched.”
“Yes, you’d hidden it away before that happened. Afterwards you just took it back again.” “My good blockhead, I swear to you that it was put back in my drawer. Greatest surprise I ever had in my life when I found it there.” Blore said:
“You ask us to believe a thing like that! Why the devil should Armstrong, or anyone else for that matter, put it back?” Lombard raised his shoulders hopelessly.
“I haven’t the least idea. It’s just crazy. The last thing one would expect. There seems no point in it.” Blore agreed.
“No, there isn’t. You might have thought of a better story.”
“Rather proof that I’m telling the truth, isn’t it?”
“I don’t look at it that way.”
“Look here, Mr. Lombard, if you’re an honest man, as you pretend—” Philip murmured:
“When did I lay claims to being an honest man? No, indeed, I never said that.” Blore went on stolidly:
“If you’re speaking the truth—there’s only one thing to be done. As long as you have that revolver, Miss Claythorne and I are at your mercy. The only fair thing is to put that revolver with the other things that are locked up—and you and I will hold the two keys still.” Philip Lombard lit a cigarette.
As he puffed smoke, he said:
“Don’t be an ass.”
“You won’t agree to that?”
“No, I won’t. That revolver’s mine. I need it to defend myself—and I’m going to keep it.” Blore said:
“In that case we’re bound to come to one conclusion.”
“That I’m U.N. Owen? Think what you damned well please. But I’ll ask you, if that’s so, why I didn’t pot you with the revolver last night? I could have, about twenty times over.” Blore shook his head.
“I don’t know—and that’s a fact. You must have had some reason.” Vera had taken no part in the discussion. She stirred now and said:
“I think you’re both behaving like a pair of idiots.”
Lombard looked at her.
“You’ve forgotten the nursery rhyme. Don’t you see there’s a clue there?” She recited in a meaning voice:
“Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.”
She went on:
“A red herring—that’s the vital clue. Armstrong’s not dead… He took away the china soldier to make you think he was. You may say what you like—Armstrong’s on the island still. His disappearance is just a red herring across the track….” Lombard sat down again.
“You know, you may be right.”
“Yes, but if so, where is he? We’ve searched the place. Outside and inside.” Vera said scornfully:
“We all searched for the revolver, didn’t we, and couldn’t find it? But it was somewhere all the time!” Lombard murmured:
“There’s a slight difference in size, my dear, between a man and a revolver.” Vera said:
“I don’t care—I’m sure I’m right.”
“Rather giving himself away, wasn’t it? Actually mentioning a red herring in the verse. He could have written it up a bit different.” Vera cried:
“But don’t you see, he’s mad? It’s all mad! The whole thing of going by the rhyme is mad! Dressing up the judge, killing Rogers when he was chopping sticks—drugging Mrs. Rogers so that she overslept herself—arranging for a bumble bee when Miss Brent died! It’s like some horrible child playing a game. It’s all got to fit in.” Blore said:
“Yes, you’re right.” He thought a minute. “At any rate there’s no zoo on the island. He’ll have a bit of trouble getting over that.” Vera cried:
“Don’t you see? We’re the Zoo… Last night, we were hardly human anymore. We’re the Zoo.…” II
They spent the morning on the cliffs, taking it in turns to flash a mirror at the mainland.
There were no signs that any one saw them. No answering signals. The day was fine, with a slight haze. Below, the sea heaved in a gigantic swell. There were no boats out.
They had made another abortive search of the island. There was no trace of the missing physician.
Vera looked up at the house from where they were standing.
She said, her breath coming with a slight catch in it:
“One feels safer here, out in the open … Don’t let’s go back into the house again.” Lombard said:
“Not a bad idea. We’re pretty safe here, no one can get at us without our seeing him a long time beforehand.” Vera said:
“We’ll stay here.”
“Have to pass the night somewhere. We’ll have to go back to the house then.” Vera shuddered.
“I can’t bear it. I can’t go through another night!”
“You’ll be safe enough—locked in your room.”
Vera murmured: “I suppose so.”
She stretched out her hands, murmuring:
“It’s lovely—to feel the sun again….”
“How odd … I’m almost happy. And yet I suppose I’m actually in danger … Somehow—now—nothing seems to matter … not in daylight … I feel full of power—I feel that I can’t die….” Blore was looking at his wristwatch. He said:
“It’s two o’clock. What about lunch?”
Vera said obstinately:
“I’m not going back to the house. I’m going to stay here—in the open.” “Oh come now, Miss Claythorne. Got to keep your strength up, you know.” Vera said:
“If I even see a tinned tongue, I shall be sick! I don’t want any food. People go days on end with nothing sometimes when they’re on a diet.” Blore said:
“Well, I need my meals regular. What about you, Mr. Lombard?”
“You know, I don’t relish the idea of tinned tongue particularly. I’ll stay here with Miss Claythorne.” Blore hesitated. Vera said:
“I shall be quite all right. I don’t think he’ll shoot me as soon as your back is turned if that’s what you’re afraid of.” Blore said:
“It’s all right if you say so. But we agreed we ought not to separate.” Philip said:
“You’re the one who wants to go into the lion’s den. I’ll come with you if you like.” “No, you won’t,” said Blore. “You’ll stay here.”
“So you’re still afraid of me? Why, I could shoot you both this very minute if I liked.” Blore said:
“Yes, but that wouldn’t be according to plan. It’s one at a time, and it’s got to be done in a certain way.” “Well,” said Philip, “you seem to know all about it.”
“Of course,” said Blore, “it’s a bit jumpy going up to the house alone—” Philip said softly:
“And therefore, will I lend you my revolver? Answer, no, I will not! Not quite so simple as that, thank you.” Blore shrugged his shoulders and began to make his way up the steep slope to the house.
Lombard said softly:
“Feeding time at the Zoo! The animals are very regular in their habits!” Vera said anxiously:
“Isn’t it very risky, what he’s doing?”
“In the sense you mean—no, I don’t think it is! Armstrong’s not armed, you know, and anyway Blore is twice a match for him in physique and he’s very much on his guard. And anyway it’s a sheer impossibility that Armstrong can be in the house. I know he’s not there.” “But—what other solution is there?”
Philip said softly:
“Oh—do you really think—?”
“Listen, my girl. You heard Blore’s story. You’ve got to admit that if it’s true, I can’t possibly have had anything to do with Armstrong’s disappearance. His story clears me. But it doesn’t clear him. We’ve only his word for it that he heard footsteps and saw a man going downstairs and out at the front door. The whole thing may be a lie. He may have got rid of Armstrong a couple of hours before that.” “How?”
Lombard shrugged his shoulders.
“That we don’t know. But if you ask me, we’ve only one danger to fear—and that danger is Blore! What do we know about the man? Less than nothing! All this ex-policeman story may be bunkum! He may be anybody—a mad millionaire—a crazy businessman—an escaped inmate of Broadmoor. One thing’s certain. He could have done every one of these crimes.” Vera had gone rather white. She said in a slightly breathless voice:
“And supposing he gets—us?”
Lombard said softly, patting the revolver in his pocket:
“I’m going to take very good care he doesn’t.”
Then he looked at her curiously.
“Touching faith in me, haven’t you, Vera? Quite sure I wouldn’t shoot you?” Vera said:
“One has got to trust someone … As a matter of fact I think you’re wrong about Blore. I still think it’s Armstrong.” She turned to him suddenly:
“Don’t you feel—all the time—that there’s someone. Someone watching and waiting?” Lombard said slowly:
“That’s just nerves.”
Vera said eagerly:
“Then you have felt it?”
She shivered. She bent a little closer.
“Tell me—you don’t think—” she broke off, went on: “I read a story once—about two judges that came to a small American town—from the Supreme Court. They administered justice—Absolute Justice. Because—they didn’t come from this world at all.…” Lombard raised his eyebrows.
“Heavenly visitants, eh? No, I don’t believe in the supernatural. This business is human enough.” Vera said in a low voice:
“Sometimes—I’m not sure….”
Lombard looked at her. He said:
“That’s conscience …” After a moment’s silence he said very quietly: “So you did drown that kid after all?” Vera said vehemently:
“I didn’t! I didn’t! You’ve no right to say that!”
He laughed easily.
“Oh yes, you did, my good girl! I don’t know why. Can’t imagine. There was a man in it probably. Was that it?” A sudden feeling of lassitude, of intense weariness, spread over Vera’s limbs. She said in a dull voice: “Yes—there was a man in it….”
Lombard said softly:
“Thanks. That’s what I wanted to know….”
Vera sat up suddenly. She exclaimed:
“What was that? It wasn’t an earthquake?”
“No, no. Queer, though—a thud shook the ground. And I thought—did you hear a sort of cry? I did.” They stared up at the house.
“It came from there. We’d better go up and see.”
“No, no, I’m not going.”
“Please yourself. I am.”
Vera said desperately:
“All right. I’ll come with you.”
They walked up the slope to the house. The terrace was peaceful and innocuous-looking in the sunshine. They hesitated there a minute, then instead of entering by the front door, they made a cautious circuit of the house.
They found Blore. He was spreadeagled on the stone terrace on the east side, his head crushed and mangled by a great block of white marble.
Philip looked up. He said:
“Whose is that window just above?”
Vera said in a low shuddering voice:
“It’s mine—and that’s the clock from my mantelpiece… I remember now. It was—shaped like a bear.” She repeated and her voice shook and quavered:
“It was shaped like a bear….”
Philip grasped her shoulder.
He said, and his voice was urgent and grim:
“This settles it. Armstrong is in hiding somewhere in that house. I’m going to get him.” But Vera clung to him. She cried:
“Don’t be a fool. It’s us now! We’re next! He wants us to look for him! He’s counting on it!” Philip stopped. He said thoughtfully:
“There’s something in that.”
“At any rate you do admit now I was right.”
“Yes—you win! It’s Armstrong all right. But where the devil did he hide himself? We went over the place with a fine-tooth comb.” Vera said urgently:
“If you didn’t find him last night, you won’t find him now… That’s common sense.” Lombard said reluctantly:
“He must have prepared a secret place beforehand—naturally—of course it’s just what he would do. You know, like a Priest’s Hole in old manor houses.” “This isn’t an old house of that kind.”
“He could have had one made.”
Philip Lombard shook his head. He said:
“We measured the place—that first morning. I’ll swear there’s no space unaccounted for.” Vera said:
“There must be….”
“I’d like to see—”
“Yes, you’d like to see! And he knows that! He’s in there—waiting for you.” Lombard said, half bringing out the revolver from his pocket:
“I’ve got this, you know.”
“You said Blore was all right—that he was more than a match for Armstrong. So he was physically, and he was on the look out too. But what you don’t seem to realize is that Armstrong is mad! And a madman has all the advantages on his side. He’s twice as cunning as any one sane can be.” Lombard put back the revolver in his pocket. He said:
“Come on, then.”
Lombard said at last:
“What are we going to do when night comes?”
Vera didn’t answer. He went on accusingly:
“You haven’t thought of that?”
She said helplessly:
“What can we do? Oh, my God, I’m frightened.…”
Philip Lombard said thoughtfully:
“It’s fine weather. There will be a moon. We must find a place—up by the top cliffs perhaps. We can sit there and wait for morning. We mustn’t go to sleep… We must watch the whole time. And if any one comes up toward us, I shall shoot!” He paused:
“You’ll be cold, perhaps, in that thin dress?”
Vera said with a raucous laugh:
“Cold? I should be colder if I were dead!”
Philip Lombard said quietly:
“Yes, that’s true….”
Vera moved restlessly.
“I shall go mad if I sit here any longer. Let’s move about.”
They paced slowly up and down, along the line of the rocks overlooking the sea. The sun was dropping towards the west. The light was golden and mellow. It enveloped them in a golden glow.
Vera said, with a sudden nervous little giggle:
“Pity we can’t have a bathe….”
Philip was looking down towards the sea. He said abruptly:
“What’s that, there? You see—by that big rock? No—a little farther to the right.” Vera stared. She said:
“It looks like somebody’s clothes!”
“A bather, eh?” Lombard laughed. “Queer. I suppose it’s only seaweed.” Vera said:
“Let’s go and look.”
“It is clothes,” said Lombard as they drew nearer. “A bundle of them. That’s a boot. Come on, let’s scramble along here.” They scrambled over the rocks.
Vera stopped suddenly. She said:
“It’s not clothes—it’s a man….”
The man was wedged between two rocks, flung there by the tide earlier in the day.
Lombard and Vera reached it in a last scramble. They bent down.
A purple discoloured face—a hideous drowned face.…
“My God! it’s Armstrong.…”
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