فصل 22

مجموعه: کارآگاه مارپل / کتاب: یک جیب پر از گندم سیاه / فصل 22

فصل 22

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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In the office of Consolidated Investments, once again Miss Somers had just made tea in the typists’ room, and once again the kettle had not been boiling. As so often before, Miss Griffith said sharply, ‘The water’s not boiling again, Somers,’ but she was interrupted by the entrance of Lance Fortescue. Miss Griffith jumped up. ‘Mr Lance,’ she exclaimed.

His face lit up in a smile. ‘Hello, Miss Griffith.’

Miss Griffith was delighted. Eleven years since he had seen her and he knew her name. She said in an excited voice, ‘You remember me!’

And Lance said easily, smiling his attractive smile, ‘Of course I remember.’ He looked round him. ‘So everything’s still going on just the same here.’

‘Not many changes, Mr Lance. I suppose you must have had a very interesting life abroad.’

‘You could call it that,’ said Lance, ‘but perhaps I am now going to try and have an interesting life in London.’

‘You’re coming back here to the office?’

‘Maybe. You’ll have to show me how everything works again, Miss Griffith.’

Miss Griffith laughed delightedly. ‘It will be very nice to have you back, Mr Lance. Very nice indeed. We never believed - none of us thought…’ Miss Griffith broke off.

Lance patted her on the arm. ‘You didn’t believe I was as guilty as it seemed I was? Well, perhaps I wasn’t. But that’s all old history now. The future’s the important thing now.’ He added, ‘Is my brother here?’

‘He’s in the inner office.’

Lance nodded and walked on through to his father’s office. Somewhat to his surprise it was not Percival who was sitting behind the desk there, but Inspector Neele.

‘Good morning, Mr Fortescue. Are you really going to become a city man? It doesn’t seem the kind of life that would suit you.’ Lance sat down, smiling. ‘You’re more intelligent than my brother, Inspector. Percival thinks I’ve decided to join the firm again and that I’ll spend the firm’s money on risky investments. It would be almost worth doing just for the fun of it! But I couldn’t really stand an office life. However, I want to make him worry a bit. I’ve got to have just a little revenge!’

‘There was a problem with a forged cheque some years ago, I understand. Would that be what you want revenge for?’ enquired Inspector Neele.

‘How much you know, Inspector!’

‘There was no question of prosecution, I understand,’ said Neele. ‘Your father wouldn’t have done that.’

‘No. He just got rid of me, that’s all.’

Inspector Neele thought about Percival. It seemed to him that wherever his investigations got in the case, there was Percival Fortescue. On the surface, he seemed to be a man who had never said no to his father. Neele was trying now, through Lance, to learn more about Percival’s personality. ‘Your brother seems always to have been very much - well, how shall I put it - controlled by your father.’

‘I don’t know,’ Lance said. ‘I’m not sure that it was really the truth. It’s amazing, when I look back through life, to see how Percival always got what he wanted without seeming to do so, if you know what I mean.’

Neele pushed a letter across the desk towards Lance. ‘This is a letter you wrote last August, isn’t it, Mr Fortescue?’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I wrote it after I got back to Kenya last summer, saying I would re-join the firm. Where was it - here in the office?’

‘No, it was among your father’s papers in Yewtree Lodge. Where did you address this letter, Mr Fortescue?’

Lance frowned. ‘The office. Why?’

‘I wondered,’ said Inspector Neele. ‘Your father did not put it on the file here among his private papers. I found it in his desk at Yewtree Lodge there. I wondered why he would have done that.’ Lance laughed. ‘To hide it from Percival, I suppose. He always did read other people’s letters. And just look who’s here!’

Percival Fortescue came in. About to speak to the Inspector he stopped, frowning, as he saw Lance. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘You didn’t tell me you were coming here today.’

‘Oh, I felt I had to come and get started on my new working life,’ said Lance. ‘By the way, why did you get rid of the old man’s glamorous secretary, Grosvenor? Did you think she knew a bit too much?’

‘Of course not. What an idea!’ Percy spoke angrily. He turned to the Inspector. ‘You mustn’t pay any attention to my brother,’ he said coldly. ‘He has a rather strange sense of humour. I never had a very high opinion of Miss Grosvenor’s intelligence and in any case, we have to save money - the firm is in a bad state.’

‘That’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about, Mr Fortescue,’ Inspector Neele said to Percival.

‘Yes, Inspector?’

‘I understand that your father’s recent behaviour made you worry and you tried to make him see a doctor, but he refused?’

‘That is correct.’

‘May I ask you if you suspected that your father had one of those mental illnesses which make people behave in an extreme way?’

‘That is exactly what I did suspect.’

Neele continued, ‘So from the business point of view, your father’s death was very fortunate.’

‘You can’t believe that I would think of my father’s death in that way!’

‘It is not a question of how you think of it, Mr Fortescue. I’m speaking about a fact.’

‘Yes. But really, Inspector, I don’t see what you’re trying to say…’ Percival broke off.

‘Oh, I’m not trying to say anything, Mr Fortescue,’ said Neele. ‘I just like getting my facts together. Now, you said that you hadn’t had any communication at all with your brother since he left England many years ago - but last spring you wrote and told him you were worried about your father’s behaviour. You wanted your brother to support you in getting your father medically examined.’

‘I - I - I thought it only right. After all, Lance was a junior partner.’

Inspector Neele looked at Lance, who was smiling.

‘You received that letter?’ Inspector Neele asked.

Lance Fortescue nodded.

‘What did you reply to it?’

‘I told Percy to leave the old man alone. I said the old man knew what he was doing. And that is one of the reasons why, when I got a letter from my father, I came home to see for myself. In the short interview I had with my father, he appeared to me to be quite capable of managing his business. Anyway, after I got back to Africa and had talked things over with Pat, I decided that I would come home and make sure that my father wasn’t pushed into something that he didn’t want.’ He looked at Percival as he spoke.

‘I object strongly to what you are suggesting. I was worried about my father’s health. I admit that I was also worried…’ Percival paused.

Lance filled the pause quickly. ‘Worried about your pocket, eh?’ He got up and all of a sudden his behaviour changed. ‘All right, Percy, I was going to annoy you for a while by pretending to work here, but I’ve had enough of it. It makes me sick to be in the same room with you. You’ve always been nasty and mean since you were a child, lying and making trouble. I’ve always believed it was you who forged that cheque - for one thing it was a very bad forgery. I can’t understand why Father didn’t realize that if I had forged his name, I would have done it much better. Well, I’m sick of little men like you with their almost criminal financial deals. We’ll divide everything as you suggested, and I’ll get back with Pat to a country where there’s room to breathe. Give me Father’s latest risky investments. I’ll bet that one or two of them will make a great deal of money in the end! As for you, you little…’ Lance walked towards his brother, who stepped backwards quickly.

‘All right,’ said Lance, ‘I’m not going to touch you. You wanted me out of here, you’re getting me out of here.’ He added as he walked towards the door, ‘You can also give me the old Blackbird Mine too, if you like. If we’ve got murdering MacKenzies following us, I’ll lead them off to Africa. Revenge - after all these years - it doesn’t seem likely. But Inspector Neele seems to take it seriously, don’t you, Inspector?’

‘Nonsense,’ said Percival. ‘Such a thing is impossible!’

Gently stroking his upper lip, Inspector Neele said, ‘You remember the blackbirds last summer, Mr Fortescue. There are reasons for us to investigate.’

‘Nonsense,’ said Percival again. ‘Nobody’s heard of the MacKenzies for years.’

‘And yet,’ said Lance, ‘I’d almost believe that there’s a MacKenzie very near us. I imagine the Inspector thinks so, too.’

Inspector Neele followed Lance Fortescue into the street. ‘Mr Fortescue, when you came into the inner office and saw me, you were surprised. Why?’

‘Because I thought I’d find Percy there. Miss Griffith said he was in his office.’

‘I see - so nobody knew he’d gone out. There’s no second door out of the inner office - but there is a door leading straight into the corridor from the secretary’s office - I suppose your brother went out that way.’

Lance looked at him. ‘What’s the idea, Inspector?’

‘Just puzzling over a few little things, that’s all, Mr Fortescue.’

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