فصل 17

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فصل 17

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

‘So you’re Lance’s wife,’ Miss Ramsbottom said. ‘You’re a tall girl and you look healthy. Where did you meet my nephew?’

‘In Kenya, when I was staying with some friends,’ Pat replied. ‘You’ve been married before, I understand.’

‘Yes. Twice. My first husband was a fighter pilot. He was killed in the war.’

‘And your second husband shot himself. Was it your fault?’

‘No,’ said Pat. ‘It wasn’t my fault.’

‘He was a horse-racing man, wasn’t he?’

‘Yes.’

‘I’ve never been to a horse race in my life,’ said Miss Ramsbottom. ‘Gambling and card playing - all evil! Ah, well, it’s a wicked world nowadays. A lot of wickedness was going on in this house, but they got what they deserved. I’ll tell you this. My sister Elvira was a fool, my brother-in-law Rex was a horrible man, Percival is nasty, and your Lance was always the bad boy of the family. Don’t trust Percival. I’ve never liked him. Mind you, I don’t trust Lance, but I can’t help being fond of him. He’s a reckless sort of boy - always has been. You’ve got to look after him and see he doesn’t go too far. Tell him not to believe everything that Percival says. They’re all liars in this house.’

The triple tragedy at Yewtree Lodge had shocked the Fortescues’ lawyer, Mr Billingsley. He was only too anxious to help the police. ‘It’s a most extraordinary business. I’ll tell you whatever I can.’

‘First let me ask you how well you knew Mr Rex Fortescue, and how well you know the affairs of his firm.’

‘I’ve known Rex Fortescue for sixteen years - although we are not the only firm of solicitors he employed.’

Inspector Neele nodded. Billingsley, Horsethorpe & Walters were respectable solicitors. For his less honest business, Rex Fortescue had employed less honest firms.

‘Now what do you want to know?’

‘I’m interested in the will of his widow. On Mr Fortescue’s death she inherited the sum of one hundred thousand pounds, I understand?’

Billingsley nodded. ‘A large amount of money. And one the firm would have found difficult to pay out.’

‘The firm is not doing well?’

‘Well, Consolidated Investments Trust was doing very well, buying and selling stocks and shares wisely. But for the last year Rex Fortescue had been acting like a madman. Selling good stock here, buying very questionable projects there. Really, he seemed to have been a changed man.’

‘But not, I understand, a depressed man,’ said Inspector Neele. ‘No, no. The opposite. He had become very overexcited and convinced only he knew how to run the firm.’

Inspector Neele nodded. An idea was forming in his mind. Mr Billingsley was continuing, ‘But it’s no good asking me about the wife’s will. I didn’t make any will for her.’

‘I know that,’ said Neele. ‘I’m simply checking that she had a hundred thousand pounds from Rex Fortescue’s will to leave.’ Mr Billingsley was shaking his head. ‘No, no, my dear Sir. She did not inherit the hundred thousand pounds unless she lived for one month after his death.’

Inspector Neele was staring at him. ‘Then what happens to that money?’

‘It goes to Mr Percival Fortescue. And with the firm in a poor condition, I would say that he’ll need it!’

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