فصل 12

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter twelve

‘Girl! You, girl! Come in here.’

Lucy turned her head, surprised. Old Mr Crackenthorpe was calling to her loudly from a small room. He took hold of her arm and pulled her inside. ‘I want to show you something.’

Lucy looked round her. ‘Do you want me to clean this room?’ They were in a study, but there were piles of dusty papers on the desk and spiders in corners of the ceiling.

Old Mr Crackenthorpe shook his head. ‘No! I keep it locked up. It’s my room. See these stones? They’re very old.’

Lucy looked at the piles of stones. ‘Most interesting.’

‘You’re a clever girl. They are interesting. I’ll show you some more things.’

‘It’s very kind of you, but I really have a lot to do. With six people in the house…’

‘Costing me a fortune in food. That’s all they do when they come down here! Eat. All waiting for me to die. Emma thinks I’m an old man. You don’t think I’m old, do you?’

‘Of course not,’ said Lucy.

‘Sensible girl. Now I’m going to show you something.’ He took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door of a dark wooden cupboard. From this he took out a surprisingly new-looking money box, which he also unlocked. ‘Do you know what these are, my dear?’ He took out some gold coins. ‘Sovereigns. Worth a lot more than silly pieces of paper. Emma doesn’t know - nobody knows. It’s our secret, see, girl? Do you know why I’m telling you?’

‘Why?’

‘Because there’s still lots of life in me and you’re a spirited girl, so don’t throw yourself away on a young man. Young men are stupid!

‘You wait…’ His fingers pressed into Lucy’s arm. ‘Wait. I’m going to live longer than all of my children. And then we’ll see! Oh, yes. Harold’s got no children. Cedric and Alfred aren’t married. Emma - she’ll never marry now. She rather likes Quimper - but Quimper will never marry Emma. There’s Alexander, of course. Yes, there’s Alexander… I’m fond of Alexander…’ He paused looking worried. ‘Well, girl, what about it?’

‘Miss Eyelesbarrow…’ Emma’s voice came faintly through the closed door.

Lucy said quickly, ‘Miss Crackenthorpe’s calling me. I must go…’

‘Don’t forget - our secret…’

‘I won’t forget,’ said Lucy, and hurried out into the hall, not sure whether or not Mr Crackenthorpe had just asked her to marry him.

Dermot Craddock sat at his desk at Scotland Yard talking into the telephone, in French. ‘It was only an idea, you understand.’

‘Yes,’ said the voice from the Paris police. And already we have two or three possibilities. It is a pity that the photograph you sent me is so difficult for anyone to recognize. But I will continue to make inquiries.’

As Craddock said goodbye, a piece of paper was placed on his desk. It said:

Miss Emma Crackenthorpe.

To see Detective Inspector Craddock.

As Emma came in he offered her a chair. ‘Miss Crackenthorpe, you have been worried about something, haven’t you? Do you perhaps think you know who the dead woman was?’

‘No, no, not really that. But…’ Emma paused. ‘You have met three of my brothers. I had another brother, Edmund, who was killed in the war. Just before he was killed, he wrote to me from France.’ She opened her handbag, took out a letter and read from it: ‘I hope this won’t be a shock to you, Emma, but I’m getting married - to a French girl. I know you’ll like Martine - and look after her if anything happens to me. Please be careful how you tell Father. He’ll probably go mad.’

She continued, ‘Two days after receiving this, we had a message saying Edmund was Missing, believed killed. Later he was definitely reported killed. It was just before Dunkirk - and a time of great confusion. There was no Army record of his marriage so I was very surprised to receive a letter just about a month ago, signed Martine Crackenthorpe.’

‘Do you have it?’

Emma took the letter from her bag and handed it to Craddock who read it.

Dear Mademoiselle,

I hope it will not be a shock to you to get this letter. I do not even know if your brother Edmund told you that we were married. He was killed only a few days afterwards. After the war ended, I decided that I would not contact you. I had made a new life for myself but now things have changed. It is for my son that I write this letter. He is your brother’s son, you see, and I can no longer give him the advantages he ought to have. I am coming to England early next week. Will you tell me if I can come and see you? My address for letters is 126 Elvers Crescent, N10.

Yours sincerely,

Martine Crackenthorpe

Craddock gave the letter back to Emma. ‘What did you do when you received this?’

‘I wrote to the address she gave, and invited her to come down to Rutherford Hall. A few days later I received a message from London: Very sorry had to return to France unexpectedly. Martine. There were no more letters.’

‘All this happened - when?’

‘Just before Christmas.’

‘And you believe that the woman whose body was found in the sarcophagus might be this Martine?’

‘No, of course I don’t. But when you said she was probably foreign - well, I couldn’t help wondering…’

Craddock said, ‘You were quite right to tell me about this. We’ll make some inquiries.’ He paused. ‘Did you tell your father and your brothers about the letter?’

‘I had to tell my father, of course. He got very angry,’ she smiled faintly. ‘He was sure it was all made up to get money out of us. I also told my brothers. Harold thought it was made up, too and that I should be very careful. Alfred thought the same, but also that it was rather funny. Cedric just wasn’t interested. But we all thought that the family should meet Martine, and that our lawyer, Mr Wimborne, should be with us.’

‘Did you try to contact her after you received the message?’

‘Yes. I wrote to the address in London with Please forward on the envelope, but I have had no reply.’

‘Rather a strange business…’ He looked at her sharply. ‘What were your feelings about it, if this girl really was your brother’s widow?’

Emma’s face softened. ‘Edmund was my favourite brother, so it seemed right for Martine to ask his family for help as he had wanted her to do. The letter seemed real to me - but, as Harold said, if it was written by someone pretending to be Martine, they must have known her very well for people to believe the letter came from her. But still…’ She stopped.

‘You wanted it to be true?’ said Craddock gently.

‘Yes, I wanted it to be true. I would be so happy if Edmund had left a son.’

Craddock nodded. ‘As you say, the letter sounds genuine. What is surprising is what followed. You had replied kindly to her, so why even if she had to go back to France, did she not write again? That is if she really was Edmund’s widow. Did perhaps one of your brothers make inquiries that frightened her? But of course, if Edmund Crackenthorpe left a son, he would be one of the heirs to your grandfather’s estate?’

Emma nodded.

‘Well, don’t worry. There is probably no connection at all between the woman who wrote the letter and the woman whose body was found in the sarcophagus.’

Emma stood up. ‘I’m so glad I told you.’

When she had gone, Craddock rang for Detective Sergeant Wetherall. ‘Bob, I want you to go to 126 Elvers Crescent, N10. Take photographs of the dead woman with you. Ask about a woman calling herself Mrs Martine Crackenthorpe who was either living there, or calling for letters there, between the 15th to the end of December.’

‘Right, sir.’

Craddock was occupied with other matters for the rest of the day but when he returned to his office, he found a message from Paris on his desk.

Details given by you might fit Anna Stravinska of Ballet Maritski. Suggest you come over. Dessin.

Craddock smiled. At last! Forget Martine Crackenthorpe. He would go to Paris tonight.

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