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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Sir Thomas Legge, Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, said irritably: “But the whole thing’s incredible!”

Inspector Maine said respectfully:

“I know, sir.”

The AC went on:

“Ten people dead on an island and not a living soul on it. It doesn’t make sense!” Inspector Maine said stolidly:

“Nevertheless, it happened, sir.”

Sir Thomas Legge said:

“Dam’ it all, Maine, somebody must have killed ’em.”

“That’s just our problem, sir.”

“Nothing helpful in the doctor’s report?”

“No, sir. Wargrave and Lombard were shot, the first through the head, the second through the heart. Miss Brent and Marston died of cyanide poisoning. Mrs. Rogers died of an overdose of chloral. Rogers’ head was split open. Blore’s head was crushed in. Armstrong died of drowning. Macarthur’s skull was fractured by a blow on the back of the head and Vera Claythorne was hanged.” The AC winced. He said:

“Nasty business—all of it.”

He considered for a minute or two. He said irritably:

“Do you mean to say that you haven’t been able to get anything helpful out of the Sticklehaven people? Dash it, they must know something.” Inspector Maine shrugged his shoulders.

“They’re ordinary decent seafaring folk. They know that the island was bought by a man called Owen—and that’s about all they do know.” “Who provisioned the island and made all the necessary arrangements?”

“Man called Morris. Isaac Morris.”

“And what does he say about it all?”

“He can’t say anything, sir, he’s dead.”

The AC frowned.

“Do we know anything about this Morris?”

“Oh yes, sir, we know about him. He wasn’t a very savoury gentleman, Mr. Morris. He was implicated in that share-pushing fraud of Bennito’s three years ago—we’re sure of that though we can’t prove it. And he was mixed up in the dope business. And again we can’t prove it. He was a very careful man, Morris.” “And he was behind this island business?”

“Yes, sir, he put through the sale—though he made it clear that he was buying Soldier Island for a third party, unnamed.” “Surely there’s something to be found out on the financial angle, there?” Inspector Maine smiled.

“Not if you knew Morris! He can wangle figures until the best chartered accountant in the country wouldn’t know if he was on his head or his heels! We’ve had a taste of that in the Bennito business. No, he covered his employer’s tracks all right.” The other man sighed. Inspector Maine went on:

“It was Morris who made all the arrangements down at Sticklehaven. Represented himself as acting for ‘Mr. Owen.’ And it was he who explained to the people down there that there was some experiment on—some bet about living on a ‘desert island’ for a week—and that no notice was to be taken of any appeal for help from out there.” Sir Thomas Legge stirred uneasily. He said:

“And you’re telling me that those people didn’t smell a rat? Not even then?” Maine shrugged his shoulders. He said:

“You’re forgetting, sir, that Soldier Island previously belonged to young Elmer Robson, the American. He had the most extraordinary parties down there. I’ve no doubt the local people’s eyes fairly popped out over them. But they got used to it and they’d begun to feel that anything to do with Soldier Island would necessarily be incredible. It’s natural, that, sir, when you come to think of it.” The Assistant Commissioner admitted gloomily that he supposed it was.

Maine said:

“Fred Narracott—that’s the man who took the party out there—did say one thing that was illuminating. He said he was surprised to see what sort of people these were. ‘Not at all like Mr. Robson’s parties.’ I think it was the fact that they were all so normal and so quiet that made him override Morris’s orders and take out a boat to the island after he’d heard about the SOS signals.” “When did he and the other men go?”

“The signals were seen by a party of boy scouts on the morning of the 11th. There was no possibility of getting out there that day. The men got there on the afternoon of the 12th at the first moment possible to run a boat ashore there. They’re all quite positive that nobody could have left the island before they got there. There was a big sea on after the storm.” “Couldn’t someone have swum ashore?”

“It’s over a mile to the coast and there were heavy seas and big breakers inshore. And there were a lot of people, boy scouts and others on the cliffs looking out towards the island and watching.” The AC sighed. He said:

“What about that gramophone record you found in the house? Couldn’t you get hold of anything there that might help?” Inspector Maine said:

“I’ve been into that. It was supplied by a firm that do a lot of theatrical stuff and film effects. It was sent to U. N. Owen Esq., c/o Isaac Morris, and was understood to be required for the amateur performance of a hitherto unacted play. The typescript of it was returned with the record.” Legge said:

“And what about the subject matter, eh?”

Inspector Maine said gravely:

“I’m coming to that, sir.”

He cleared his throat.

“I’ve investigated those accusations as thoroughly as I can.

“Starting with the Rogerses who were the first to arrive on the island. They were in service with a Miss Brady who died suddenly. Can’t get anything definite out of the doctor who attended her. He says they certainly didn’t poison her, or anything like that, but his personal belief is that there was some funny business—that she died as the result of neglect on their part. Says it’s the sort of thing that’s quite impossible to prove.

“Then there is Mr. Justice Wargrave. That’s OK. He was the judge who sentenced Seton.

“By the way, Seton was guilty—unmistakably guilty. Evidence turned up later, after he was hanged, which proved that beyond any shadow of doubt. But there was a good deal of comment at the time—nine people out of ten thought Seton was innocent and that the judge’s summing up had been vindictive.

“The Claythorne girl, I find, was governess in a family where a death occurred by drowning. However, she doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with it, and as a matter of fact she behaved very well, swam out to the rescue and was actually carried out to sea and only just rescued in time.” “Go on,” said the AC with a sigh.

Maine took a deep breath.

“Dr. Armstrong now. Well-known man. Had a consulting-room in Harley Street. Absolutely straight and aboveboard in his profession. Haven’t been able to trace any record of an illegal operation or anything of that kind. It’s true that there was a woman called Clees who was operated on by him way back in 1925 at Leithmore, when he was attached to the hospital there. Peritonitis and she died on the operating table. Maybe he wasn’t very skilful over the op—after all he hadn’t much experience—but after all clumsiness isn’t a criminal offence. There was certainly no motive.

“Then there’s Miss Emily Brent. Girl, Beatrice Taylor, was in service with her. Got pregnant, was turned out by her mistress and went and drowned herself. Not a nice business—but again not criminal.” “That,” said the AC, “seems to be the point. U. N. Owen dealt with cases that the law couldn’t touch.” Maine went stolidly on with his list.

“Young Marston was a fairly reckless car driver—had his licence endorsed twice and he ought to have been prohibited from driving in my opinion. That’s all there is to him. The two names John and Lucy Combes were those of two kids he knocked down and killed near Cambridge. Some friends of his gave evidence for him and he was let off with a fine.

“Can’t find anything definite about General Macarthur. Fine record—war service—all the rest of it. Arthur Richmond was serving under him in France and was killed in action. No friction of any kind between him and the General. They were close friends as a matter of fact. There were some blunders made about that time—commanding officers sacrificed men unnecessarily—possibly this was a blunder of that kind.” “Possibly,” said the AC.

“Now, Philip Lombard. Lombard has been mixed up in some very curious shows abroad. He’s sailed very near the law once or twice. Got a reputation for daring and for not being overscrupulous. Sort of fellow who might do several murders in some quiet out of the way spot.

“Then we come to Blore.” Maine hesitated. “He of course was one of our lot.” The other man stirred.

“Blore,” said the Assistant Commissioner forcibly, “was a bad hat!” “You think so, sir?”

The AC said:

“I always thought so. But he was clever enough to get away with it. It’s my opinion that he committed black perjury in the Landor case. I wasn’t happy about it at the time. But I couldn’t find anything. I put Harris on to it and he couldn’t find anything but I’m still of the opinion that there was something to find if we’d known how to set about it. The man wasn’t straight.” There was a pause, then Sir Thomas Legge said:

“And Isaac Morris is dead, you say? When did he die?”

“I thought you’d soon come to that, sir. Isaac Morris died on the night of August 8th. Took an overdose of sleeping stuff—one of the barbiturates, I understand. There wasn’t anything to show whether it was accident or suicide.” Legge said slowly:

“Care to know what I think, Maine?”

“Perhaps I can guess, sir.”

Legge said heavily:

“That death of Morris’s is a damned sight too opportune!”

Inspector Maine nodded. He said:

“I thought you’d say that, sir.”

The Assistant Commissioner brought down his fist with a bang on the table. He cried out: “The whole thing’s fantastic—impossible. Ten people killed on a bare rock of an island—and we don’t know who did it, or why, or how.” Maine coughed. He said:

“Well, it’s not quite like that, sir. We do know why, more or less. Some fanatic with a bee in his bonnet about justice. He was out to get people who were beyond the reach of the law. He picked ten people—whether they were really guilty or not doesn’t matter—” The Commissioner stirred. He said sharply:

“Doesn’t it? It seems to me—”

He stopped. Inspector Maine waited respectfully. With a sigh Legge shook his head.

“Carry on,” he said. “Just for a minute I felt I’d got somewhere. Got, as it were, the clue to the thing. It’s gone now. Go ahead with what you were saying.” Maine went on:

“There were ten people to be—executed, let’s say. They were executed. U. N. Owen accomplished his task. And somehow or other he spirited himself off that island into thin air.” The AC said:

“First-class vanishing trick. But you know, Maine, there must be an explanation.” Maine said:

“You’re thinking, sir, that if the man wasn’t on the island, he couldn’t have left the island, and according to the account of the interested parties he never was on the island. Well, then the only explanation possible is that he was actually one of the ten.” The AC nodded.

Maine said earnestly:

“We thought of that, sir. We went into it. Now, to begin with, we’re not quite in the dark as to what happened on Soldier Island. Vera Claythorne kept a diary, so did Emily Brent. Old Wargrave made some notes—dry legal cryptic stuff, but quite clear. And Blore made notes too. All those accounts tally. The deaths occurred in this order. Marston, Mrs. Rogers, Macarthur, Rogers, Miss Brent, Wargrave. After his death Vera Claythorne’s diary states that Armstrong left the house in the night and that Blore and Lombard had gone after him. Blore has one more entry in his notebook. Just two words. ‘Armstrong disappeared.’ “Now, sir, it seemed to me, taking everything into account, that we might find here a perfectly good solution. Armstrong was drowned, you remember. Granting that Armstrong was mad, what was to prevent him having killed off all the others and then committed suicide by throwing himself over the cliff, or perhaps while trying to swim to the mainland?

“That was a good solution—but it won’t do. No, sir, it won’t do. First of all there’s the police surgeon’s evidence. He got to the island early on the morning of August 13. He couldn’t say much to help us. All he could say was that all the people had been dead at least thirty-six hours and probably a good deal longer. But he was fairly definite about Armstrong. Said he must have been from eight to ten hours in the water before his body was washed up. That works out at this, that Armstrong must have gone into the sea sometime during the night of the 10th–11th—and I’ll explain why. We found the point where the body was washed up—it had been wedged between two rocks and there were bits of cloth, hair, etc., on them. It must have been deposited there at high water on the 11th—that’s to say round about 11 o’clock a.m. After that, the storm subsided, and succeeding high water marks are considerably lower.

“You might say, I suppose, that Armstrong managed to polish off the other three before he went into the sea that night. But there’s another point and one you can’t get over. Armstrong’s body had been dragged above high water mark. We found it well above the reach of any tide. And it was laid out straight on the ground—all neat and tidy.

“So that settles one point definitely. Someone was alive on the island after Armstrong was dead.” He paused and then went on.

“And that leaves—just what exactly? Here’s the position early on the morning of the 11th. Armstrong has ‘disappeared’ (drowned). That leaves us three people. Lombard, Blore and Vera Claythorne. Lombard was shot. His body was down by the sea—near Armstrong’s. Vera Claythorne was found hanged in her own bedroom. Blore’s body was on the terrace. His head was crushed in by a heavy marble clock that it seems reasonable to suppose fell on him from the window above.” The AC said sharply:

“Whose window?”

“Vera Claythorne’s. Now, sir, let’s take each of these cases separately. First Philip Lombard. Let’s say he pushed over that lump of marble on to Blore—then he doped Vera Claythorne and strung her up. Lastly, he went down to the seashore and shot himself.

“But if so, who took away the revolver from him? For that revolver was found up in the house just inside the door at the top of the stairs—Wargrave’s room.” The AC said:

“Any fingerprints on it?”

“Yes, sir, Vera Claythorne’s.”

“But, man alive, then—”

“I know what you’re going to say, sir. That it was Vera Claythorne. That she shot Lombard, took the revolver back to the house, toppled the marble block on to Blore and then—hanged herself.

“And that’s quite all right—up to a point. There’s a chair in her bedroom and on the seat of it there are marks of seaweed same as on her shoes. Looks as though she stood on the chair, adjusted the rope round her neck and kicked away the chair.

“But that chair wasn’t found kicked over. It was, like all the other chairs, neatly put back against the wall. That was done after Vera Claythorne’s death—by someone else.

“That leaves us with Blore and if you tell me that after shooting Lombard and inducing Vera Claythorne to hang herself he then went out and pulled down a whacking great block of marble on himself by tying a string to it or something like that—well, I simply don’t believe you. Men don’t commit suicide that way—and what’s more Blore wasn’t that kind of man. We knew Blore—and he was not the man that you’d ever accuse of a desire for abstract justice.” The Assistant Commissioner said:

“I agree.”

Inspector Maine said:

“And therefore, sir, there must have been someone else on the island. Someone who tidied up when the whole business was over. But where was he all the time—and where did he go to? The Sticklehaven people are absolutely certain that no one could have left the island before the rescue boat got there. But in that case—” He stopped.

The Assistant Commissioner said:

“In that case—”

He sighed. He shook his head. He leaned forward.

“But in that case,” he said, “who killed them?”

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