فصل 25

مجموعه: کارآگاه مارپل / کتاب: یک جیب پر از گندم سیاه / فصل 25

فصل 25

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CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

‘Are you saying,’ Inspector Neele said, astonished, ‘that Gladys Martin deliberately murdered Rex Fortescue?’

‘No, of course she didn’t mean to murder him,’ said Miss Marple, ‘but she put the Taxine in the marmalade. She didn’t think it was poison, of course.’

‘What did she think it was?’

‘I believe she thought it was a truth drug,’ said Miss Marple. ‘It’s very interesting, you know, the things these girls cut out of papers and keep, because they believe that if a story is in a newspaper, then it must be true. And if she had it read in the papers, then Gladys would have believed it when he told her that it was a truth drug.’

‘When who told her?’ said Inspector Neele.

‘Albert Evans,’ said Miss Marple. ‘That’s not his real name, of course. He met her last summer at a holiday camp, and he said sweet things to her, kissed her, and probably told her some story of being cheated out of money by Rex Fortescue. The point was that Rex Fortescue had to be made to confess what he had done. I don’t know this, of course, Inspector Neele, but I’m quite sure about it. He persuaded her to take a job here - it’s really very easy nowadays with the shortage of domestic staff, to get a job where you want one. They then arranged a date together. You remember on that last postcard he said, Remember our date. That was to be the day Gladys would put the drug that he gave her into the top of the marmalade, so that Mr Fortescue would eat it at breakfast, and she would also put the rye in his pocket. I don’t know what story he told her to explain the rye, but Gladys Martin was a girl who would believe almost anything.’

‘Please continue,’ said Inspector Neele in an amazed voice.

‘The idea probably was that Albert was going to visit him at the office that day, and that by that time the truth drug would have worked, and so Mr Fortescue would confess everything. You can imagine the poor girl’s feelings when she heard that Mr Fortescue was dead.’

‘But, surely,’ Inspector Neele objected, ‘she would have told someone?’

‘What was the first thing she said to you when you questioned her?’

‘She said, “I didn’t do it”,’ Inspector Neele said.

‘Exactly,’ said Miss Marple. ‘When she worked for me, Gladys would always say if she broke anything, “I didn’t do it, Miss Marple. I can’t think how it happened.” You don’t think that a nervous young woman who had murdered someone when she didn’t mean to murder him, is going to admit it, do you? Her first idea would be to deny it all. Then in a confused way she would try to sort it all out. Perhaps Albert hadn’t known how strong the truth drug was. She’d think of excuses for him. She would hope he would contact her, which he did. By telephone. There were unexplained calls that day. People rang up and, when Crump or Mrs Crump answered, nobody spoke, so they would put the telephone down. That’s what he would do, you know. Ring up and wait until Gladys answered the phone, and then he would make an appointment with her to meet him.’

‘You mean she had an appointment to meet him on the day she died.’

Miss Marple nodded quickly. ‘Yes. The girl was wearing her best nylon stockings and her good shoes. Only she wasn’t going out to meet him. He was coming to Yewtree Lodge. That’s why she was so excited and late with tea. Then, as she brought the second tray into the hall, she looked along the hall to the side door, and saw him there, waving to her. She put the tray down and went out to meet him.’

‘And then he strangled her,’ said Neele.

‘He couldn’t risk her talking. She had to die, poor, silly girl. And then - he put a clothes peg on her nose!’ There was great anger in the old lady’s voice. ‘To make it fit in with the rhyme. The rye, the blackbirds, the counting house, the bread and honey, and the clothes peg - the nearest he could get to a little di@key bird that nipped off her nose -‘

And I suppose at the end of it all he’ll go to Broadmoor and we won’t be able to hang him because he’s crazy!’ said Neele slowly.

‘I think you’ll hang him all right,’ said Miss Marple. ‘He’s not crazy, Inspector!’

Inspector Neele looked hard at her. ‘Now see here, Miss Marple, you’re saying that a man is responsible for these crimes. A man who called himself Albert Evans was someone who wanted revenge for the old Blackbird Mine business. You’re suggesting, aren’t you, that Mrs MacKenzie’s son, Don MacKenzie, didn’t die in France. That he is responsible for all this?’

‘Oh no!’ she said. ‘This blackbird business is a complete fake. It was used, that was all, by somebody who heard about the blackbirds on the desk and in the pie. The blackbirds were real enough. They were put there by someone who knew about the old business, who wanted revenge for it. But only the revenge of trying to frighten Mr Fortescue. I don’t believe that children can really be brought up to carry out revenge. But someone whose father had been cheated and perhaps left to die, might want to play a trick on the person who was supposed to have done it. That’s what happened, I think. And the killer used it.’

‘The killer,’ said Inspector Neele. ‘Who was he?’

‘He’s sane, brilliantly intelligent, and quite without morals. And he did it, of course, for money.’

‘Percival Fortescue?’ Inspector Neele almost begged, but he knew as he spoke that he was wrong.

‘Oh, no,’ said Miss Marple. ‘Not Percival. Lance.’

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