فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

Detective Inspector Neele sat behind Mr Fortescue’s desk. One of his officers sat quietly against the wall near the door with a notebook. Inspector Neele looked like an ordinary man, but his way of thinking was very imaginative.

Miss Griffith had just left, after giving him an exact report of the morning’s events. Inspector Neele thought of possible reasons why the head typist could have poisoned her employer’s tea, and rejected them as unlikely, because Miss Griffith was (a) not the type of person to be a poisoner, (b) not in love with her employer, (c) not a woman who held grudges.

It was possible, of course, that Mr Fortescue’s sudden illness had a natural cause, but neither Dr Isaacs nor Sir Edwin Sandeman had thought so.

Miss Grosvenor now came in and said at once, ‘I didn’t do it! There wasn’t anything wrong with the tea!’

Inspector Neele thought of a possible reason why Miss Grosvenor might have poisoned Mr Fortescue: perhaps a love affair that had gone wrong?

‘I see,’ said Inspector Neele. ‘Your name and address, please?’

‘Irene Grosvenor, 14 Rushmoor Road, Muswell Hill.’

No love affair, Neele said to himself. The address was a respectable one and she probably lived there with her parents. Inspector Neele questioned her about how she had made Mr Fortescue’s tea. The cup, saucer and teapot had already been sent for analysis. Irene Grosvenor and only Irene Grosvenor had touched that cup, saucer and teapot. The kettle had been refilled from the tap in the small kitchen by Miss Grosvenor.

‘And the tea itself?’ asked Neele.

‘It was Mr Fortescue’s own special China tea. We keep it in my room.’

Inspector Neele asked about sugar and heard that Mr Fortescue didn’t take sugar. The telephone rang and Inspector Neele picked it up and spoke. ‘Sergeant Hay?’ He nodded to Miss Grosvenor and said, ‘That’s all for now, thank you.’ She went out of the room quickly.

‘He died five minutes ago, you say?’ Neele said into the phone. Sergeant Hay had gone to St Jude’s Hospital, where Mr Fortescue had been taken. Twelve forty-three, he wrote in his notebook. Hay then said that Dr Bernsdorff would like to speak to Inspector Neele. A moment later a loud voice made Neele take the telephone away from his ear.

‘Hello, you old crime hunter!’ Inspector Neele and Dr Bernsdorff of St Jude’s had worked together on a case of poisoning a year ago and had become friends.

‘Mr Fortescue’s dead, I hear, doc. And the cause of death?’

‘There will have to be an autopsy, naturally. It’s a very interesting case. Very interesting indeed.’

‘You don’t think it was a natural death?’ asked Neele.

‘Not a chance of it.’

‘He was poisoned?’

‘Definitely. And I’m almost sure what the poison was. Taxine, my boy. Taxine.’

‘Taxine? I’ve never heard of it,’ said Neele.

‘It’s really very unusual! I don’t think I would have thought of it myself if I hadn’t had a case only three weeks ago. A couple of kids playing dolls’ tea parties pulled some berries off a yew tree and made tea with them. Extremely poisonous, but I don’t think I’ve heard of a case where it was used deliberately. It really is most interesting and unusual. You have no idea, Neele, how boring it is when weed killer is used all the time. Interesting for you, too, I would think!’

‘So enjoyable for everyone, is that the idea? Except for the victim. Did he say anything before he died? ‘

‘He said that he had been given something in his tea at the office - but that’s nonsense, because Taxine doesn’t work that fast. It takes two or three hours to work. And if he had eaten a big breakfast, it would take even longer.’

‘Breakfast,’ said Inspector Neele thoughtfully. ‘Thanks, doctor. I’d like to speak to my Sergeant again, if you don’t mind.’ Moments later Sergeant Hay said urgently, ‘Sir. The suit the victim was wearing - I checked the contents of the pockets. There were the usual things - handkerchief, keys, change, wallet - but there was one thing that’s really strange. The right-hand pocket of his jacket had grain in it. It looked like rye to me. Quite a lot of it.’ Inspector Neele got up and went into the typists’ office. ‘Miss Griffith? Can I have a word with you?’

Miss Griffith followed Neele back into Mr Fortescue’s office and he said, ‘I have heard from St Jude’s Hospital. Mr Rex Fortescue died at 12.43.’

‘I was afraid he was very ill,’ she said.

She was not, Neele noted, at all upset. ‘Will you please give me the details of his home and family?’

‘Of course. I tried to speak to Mrs Fortescue, but it seems she is out playing golf. They do not know where she is playing, but they will tell her that Mr Fortescue is in hospital when she returns. I’ve written down the telephone number for you, but they live at Baydon Heath and the name of the house is Yewtree Lodge…’

‘What?’ exclaimed Neele, immediately connecting the name of the house with the poison that had been used.

Miss Griffith looked at him with interest, but Inspector Neele said no more on the subject. ‘Can you give me details of his family?’

‘Mrs Adele Fortescue is his second wife. She is much younger than he is. The first Mrs Fortescue has been dead a long time. There are two sons and a daughter from the first marriage. The daughter, Elaine, lives at home and so does the elder son, Percival, who is a partner in the firm. He is away in the north of England today on business. They are expecting him to return tomorrow.’

‘When did he go away?’

‘The day before yesterday.’

‘And the second son?’

‘Because of a disagreement with his father, Lance Fortescue lives abroad.’

‘Are both sons married?’

‘Yes. Mr Percival has been married for three years. He and his wife, Jennifer, are moving into their own house soon.’

‘You were not able to get in touch with Jennifer Fortescue either, when you rang?’

‘She had gone to London for the day.’ Miss Griffith went on, ‘Mr Lance got married less than a year ago. To the widow of Lord Frederick Anstice. I expect you’ve seen pictures of Mrs Patricia in magazines such as the Tatler - with horses, you know. And at horse races.’

Neele assumed that the disagreement with his father was because young Lance Fortescue had been guilty of some bad behaviour, possibly in business. And now he was married to the widow of Lord Frederick Anstice, a man who had killed himself rather than face an inquiry about his racehorses.

Neele picked up the phone and dialled and soon a man’s voice said, ‘Baydon Heath 3400.’

‘I want to speak to Mrs Adele Fortescue or Miss Elaine Fortescue.’

‘They aren’t in, either of them.’

Are you the butler?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Is there anyone in the house I can speak to about Mr Rex Fortescue’s illness?’

‘Well, there’s Miss Dove, the housekeeper.’

‘I’ll speak to Miss Dove, please.’

A minute or two later a woman’s voice spoke. ‘This is Miss Dove.’ The voice was low and musical.

‘I am sorry to have to tell you, Miss Dove, that Mr Rex Fortescue died a short time ago. I need to contact his relatives…’

‘Of course,’ she said, her voice calm. ‘The person you really want to speak to is Mr Percival Fortescue. You might find him at the Midland Hotel in Manchester or possibly at the Grand in Leicester. Mrs Adele Fortescue will be home for dinner and she may be in to tea. It will be a great shock to her. Mr Fortescue was well when he left here this morning. What was it? His heart? ‘ ‘Did he have heart trouble?’ Neele asked.

‘No, but as it was so sudden…’ She broke off. ‘Are you speaking from St Jude’s Hospital?’

‘No, Miss Dove, I’m speaking from Mr Fortescue’s office. I am Detective Inspector Neele and I will be coming down to see you as soon as I can get there.’

‘Detective Inspector? Do you mean… what do you mean?’

‘Miss Dove, when there is a sudden death, we are called to the scene, especially when the deceased hadn’t seen a doctor lately - he hadn’t, had he?’

‘No. Mr Percival made an appointment twice for him, but he refused to go. He was quite unreasonable - they were all worried…’ She broke off and then continued as calmly as before. ‘If Mrs Fortescue returns to the house before you arrive, what do you want me to tell her?’

What a practical and sensible woman she is, thought Inspector Neele. Aloud he said, ‘Just tell her that in a case of sudden death we have to make a few inquiries. Routine inquiries.’

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