فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

The inquest on the strangled woman revealed the following facts. At one o’clock on January 8th, a well-dressed woman with a foreign accent had entered the offices of Butler and Park, house-agents, in Knightsbridge. She wanted to rent a house by the River Thames. She gave the name of Mrs de Castina and her address at the Ritz Hotel, but there was no one of that name staying there.

Mrs James, who is employed to look after the Mill House, explained that at three o’clock a lady came to see the house. She produced instructions from the house-agents and Mrs James gave her the keys.

A few minutes later a young man arrived. Mrs James described him as tall and broad-shouldered, with a suntanned face, light grey eyes, and clean-shaven, with no moustache or beard. He was wearing a brown suit. He explained that he was a friend of the lady but had gone to the post office to send a telegram. Mrs James directed him to the house.

Five minutes later he reappeared, handed back the keys and explained that the house was not right for them. Mrs James did not see the lady again. However, she noticed that the young man seemed very upset. ‘He looked like a man who had seen a ghost,’ she said.

The following day another lady and gentleman came to see the property and discovered the body of ‘Mrs de Castina’ - strangled with a thin black rope. The police surgeon believed the woman had been dead about twenty-four hours.

A verdict of ‘Murder’ was given, and the police (and the Daily Budget) were left to look for ‘the Man in the Brown Suit’ - who had murdered Mrs de Castina. These details were published by the Daily Budget and every day the newspaper demanded: ‘Find the Man in the Brown Suit’. The accident in the Tube, however, was now seen as a coincidence, and forgotten. But I thought there was a connection between the two deaths. In each there was a man with a suntanned face - clearly an Englishman who had been living abroad - but I knew he wasn’t a doctor.

I had felt at the time that there was something wrong with the ‘doctor’s’ examination. I had worked in hospitals during the War and seen the professional way doctors dealt with bodies. A doctor does not feel for the heart on the right side of the body. But this ‘doctor’ would have been able to take anything he wanted from the pockets of the dead man. I had to go to Scotland Yard, to see whoever was in charge of the Mill House murder.

When I arrived I was introduced to Detective Inspector Meadows, a small man with red hair and a very irritating way of speaking.

‘Good morning. I understand you think you may be of use to us.’

His voice suggested that such a thing was unlikely. I began to get angry.

‘You know about the man who was killed in the Tube? The man who had an instruction to view the Mill House at Marlow.’

‘Ah!’ said the inspector. ‘You are the Miss Beddingfeld who gave evidence at the inquest. Certainly the man had instructions in his pocket. A lot of other people may have had, too.’

I continued. ‘You didn’t think it was unusual that this man had no ticket?’

‘Easiest thing to drop your ticket. I’ve done it myself,’ Meadows claimed.

‘And no money.’

‘Some men don’t carry a wallet,’ he replied.

I tried again. ‘You don’t think it’s unusual that the doctor never came forward afterwards?’

‘A busy medical man often doesn’t read the papers. He probably forgot all about the accident.’

‘In fact, inspector, you are determined to find nothing unusual,’ I answered.

‘Well, I think you are too fond of the word, Miss Beddingfeld. Young ladies are romantic, I know - fond of mysteries and that kind of thing. But I’m a busy man-‘

I decided the inspector was useless.

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