فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

In the following weeks I did not make much progress at all. I had not found a job. Not that I really wanted one! I had the belief that if I went looking for adventure, adventure would meet me half-way. It is a theory of mine that was about to be proved true.

It was early in January - the 8th. I was returning from an interview and at Hyde Park Corner Tube Station I bought a ticket to Gloucester Road. There were not many people on the platform - but if there is one smell I cannot bear it is mothballs! One man’s overcoat stank of mothballs. And yet most men begin to wear their winter overcoats before January, and so the smell should have gone. The man seemed absorbed in his own thoughts. He was small, thin and had a very suntanned face.

‘He has just come from abroad,’ I decided. ‘That’s why his overcoat smells so.’ At this moment the man turned. He glanced at me and then looked at something behind me and his face showed sudden panic. He took a step backwards - as though running from danger - forgetting that he was standing on the edge of the platform. He went down. There was a bright flash from the rails and a loud bang. I screamed.

People came running. Two men in railway uniforms seemed to appear from nowhere to take control. Part of me was horrified at the sudden disaster; another part was fascinated by the methods used for lifting the man off the electric rail and back on to the platform.

‘Let me pass, please. I am a medical man.’

A tall, broad-shouldered man, wearing a dark overcoat and a formal hat, pressed past me. He had a brown beard and eyeglasses with gold frames. As he examined the body I had a strange feeling that what was happening was not real. Finally, the doctor stood upright and shook his head.

‘Dead. Nothing to be done.’

A worried porter raised his voice.

‘Now then, stand back, will you?’

I suddenly felt sick. I turned and walked towards the lift. I had to get out into the open air. The doctor was ahead of me, the lift was about to go up and he began to run. As he did so, he dropped a piece of paper. I picked it up and ran after him. But the lift gates shut in my face. I hoped it was nothing important he had lost - written on the notepaper was: 17 122 Kilmorden Castle

There was an unpleasant smell - mothballs again! The paper smelt strongly of them.

I walked home slowly - and did a good deal of thinking about how the doctor had examined the body.

There was a brief article in the evening papers which said that a man had been killed in the Tube. Nothing had been found in the dead man’s pockets except instructions from a house-agent to view a house on the river near Marlow. It was in the name of L. B. Carton, Russell Hotel. There was uncertainty whether the cause of death was suicide or accident. That seemed to make my duty clear, and Mr Flemming agreed.

‘You should attend the inquest.’

At the inquest the hotel clerk identified the man as L. B. Carton of Kimberley, South Africa. He had arrived the day before and had, it seemed, come straight from the ship. I was the only person who had seen the death.

‘You think it was an accident?’ the coroner asked me.

‘I am sure of it. Something alarmed him, and he stepped backwards without looking or thinking.’

‘But what could have frightened him?’

‘I don’t know. But he looked extremely shocked.’

The jury, obviously impatient to get home, decided that the event was an accident.

‘It is extraordinary to me,’ said the coroner, ‘that the doctor who first examined the body has not come forward.’

I had my own theory about the doctor and intended to visit Scotland Yard, the police headquarters. But the next morning brought a surprise in the Daily Budget newspaper.

EXTRAORDINARY DEVELOPMENT

IN TUBE ACCIDENT

WOMAN FOUND STRANGLED

IN LONELY HOUSE

I read with interest.

‘A terrible discovery was made yesterday at the Mill House, Marlow: The body of a beautiful young woman was discovered, strangled, in an upstairs room of the house. She is thought to be a foreigner, but so far has not been identified. The property, which is owned by Sir Eustace Pedler, is empty and advertised for rent. The house-agent’s instruction to view the Mill House was the only item found in the pockets of the man who died at Hyde Park Corner Tube Station. Sir Eustace Pedler is spending winter on the French Riviera.’

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