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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Anne’s Story

I decided the time had come to share my story. I sat on my bed, still in my party dress, and thought about Mrs Blair. I liked her. She had been kind to me - and I knew my story would interest her. She would not be in bed yet and the night stewardess would know her cabin. I rang the bell. After some delay it was answered, by a man. Mrs Blair’s cabin was Number 71.

‘Where is the night stewardess, then?’ I asked.

‘There is no stewardess working at night, miss.’

‘But a stewardess came the other night - about one o’clock.’

‘You must have been dreaming, miss. There’s no stewardess after ten.’

So who had come to my cabin on the night of the 22nd? I was certainly dealing with well organized people.

I left my cabin and knocked at Mrs Blair’s door.

‘Who’s that?’

‘It’s me - Anne Beddingfeld.’

‘Oh, come in, gipsy girl.’

I entered. Mrs Blair was wearing a lovely Japanese silk robe - all orange, gold and black.

‘Mrs Blair,’ I said quickly, ‘I want to tell you my story - that is, if it isn’t too late.’

‘Not a bit. I always hate going to bed.’ She smiled in that delightful way of hers. ‘I would love to hear your story. You are a most unusual creature, Anne. Sit down next to me and begin.’

I told her the whole story - from Papa dying, to the death in the Tube station, the murder at Sir Eustace Pedler’s house and ‘the Man in the Brown Suit’ - and now my adventures on the boat. She gave a deep sigh when I had finished, but she did not say at all what I expected.

‘Anne, haven’t you ever had doubts?’

‘Doubts?’ I asked, confused.

‘Yes, doubts! Starting off alone with almost no money. What will you do in a strange country with all your money gone?’

‘It’s no good worrying about that until it happens. I’ve still got most of the twenty-five pounds Mrs Flemming gave me, and I won the ship’s lottery yesterday. That’s another fifteen pounds. Why, I have lots of money. Forty pounds!’

‘Lots of money! My goodness!’ said Mrs Blair. ‘I could not do it, Anne, and I have plenty of strength. I could not start off with a few pounds and no idea where I was going.’

‘But that’s the fun of it,’ I cried, excitedly. ‘It gives me such a grand feeling of adventure.’

Then she smiled. ‘Lucky Anne! There are not many people who feel as you do.’

I could not wait any longer. ‘Well, what do you think of it all, Mrs Blair?’

‘I think it’s the most thrilling thing I ever heard! But first, will you stop calling me Mrs Blair? Suzanne will be much better. Is that agreed?’

‘I would love it, Suzanne.’

‘Good girl. Now, you recognized Sir Eustace’s secretary - not Pagett, the other one - as the man who was stabbed and came into your cabin for shelter?’

I nodded. But this ‘stewardess’ is rather strange… as soon as you told me about her, I had an idea. Are you sure she wasn’t a man?’

‘She was very tall,’ I admitted. And I did think her face was familiar.’

Suzanne got a piece of paper and began to draw with quick confidence.

‘There! The Reverend Edward Chichester. Now for the rest.’ She finished and passed the paper to me. ‘Is that your stewardess?

‘Why, yes!’ I cried. ‘How clever of you!’

‘From the moment I saw him, I thought Chichester was no good.’

‘And he tried to get Cabin 17!’ I answered quickly.

‘Yes. But what does it all mean? What should have happened at one o’clock in Cabin 17? It can’t be the stabbing of the secretary. It must have been some kind of appointment - Rayburn was on his way to meet someone when he was stabbed. But who was the appointment with? Certainly not with you.’

We both sat, silent for a minute or two, then Suzanne came up with another idea. ‘Is it possible something was hidden in the cabin?’

‘That would explain why my cabin was searched the next morning.’

‘Was someone looking for your piece of paper?’

‘But it was only a time and a date - and they were both past by then.’

Suzanne nodded. ‘No, it wasn’t the paper. But I’d rather like to see it.’

I had brought it with me, and gave it to her. She studied it closely. ‘There’s a dot after the ‘17’. Why not a dot after the ‘1’ too?’

‘There’s a space,’ I pointed out.

‘Yes, but…’

She held the paper close under the light. ‘Anne, that isn’t a dot! That’s a weak spot in the paper! You see? Just go by the spaces!’

I read out the numbers as I now saw them. ‘1 71 22.’

‘You see,’ said Suzanne. ‘It’s one o’clock still, and the 22nd - but it’s Cabin 71! My cabin!’

We were so pleased with our discovery and so excited - then suddenly I had a very different thought. ‘But this isn’t your cabin, is it, Suzanne?’

‘No, the purser moved me into it.’

‘I wonder if it was reserved by someone who did not board the ship. Could we find out?’

‘We don’t need to,’ cried Suzanne. ‘The purser told me. The cabin had been booked for Madame Nadina, a celebrated Russian dancer. She has never appeared in London, but she is loved in Paris. She was a great success there during the War. A thoroughly bad woman, I believe, but very attractive.’

‘The purser told me how sorry he was that she wasn’t on board, then Colonel Race told me that there were some odd stories about her in Paris. That she might have been mixed up in espionage. I think that is why Colonel Race was in Paris. He’s told me some very interesting things. There was a large gang of international criminals whose leader, a man called “the Colonel”, was thought to be an Englishman. He was very clever! When they committed a crime, “the Colonel” made sure the police had the evidence to arrest somebody who was innocent. This woman was supposed to work for him, but nobody could prove it. Yes, Nadina is just the woman to be involved in this business. The appointment on the morning of the 22nd was with her in this cabin. But where is she? Why didn’t she sail?’

And suddenly I knew. ‘Because she was dead,’ I said. ‘Suzanne, Nadina was the woman murdered at Marlow!’

My thoughts went back to that room where I had found the roll of film. And why did I connect that thought with Suzanne?

Suddenly I held her arms and almost shook her in my excitement. ‘The film that was dropped through the ventilator! That was on the 22nd!’

‘The one I lost?’

‘Why would anyone return it to you that way - in the middle of the night? It’s a mad idea. No, the film had been taken out of the tin, and something else put inside. Have you still got it?’

‘Here it is. I put it next to my bed’

She passed it to me.

It was the usual round tin container. I took it with a shaking hand, but even as I did so my heart jumped. It was much heavier than it should have been.

I pulled off the lid and a stream of glassy stones rolled on to the bed. ‘Stones,’ I said, disappointed.

‘Stones?’ cried Suzanne. ‘No, Anne, not stones! Diamonds!’

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