فصل 15

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Chapter fifteen

Inspector Craddock arranged to see Harold Crackenthorpe at his office, and went there with Sergeant Wetherall. The office was in the City and inside everything looked very expensive and businesslike.

Harold was sitting behind a leather-topped desk in his private room. ‘Good morning, Inspector. I hope this means that you have some real news for us at last?’

‘I am afraid not, Mr Crackenthorpe. I’d just like to ask you a few more questions.’

‘Well, what is it this time?’

‘Could you tell me exactly what you were doing on the afternoon and evening of 20th December last - say between the hours of 3 p.m. and midnight.’

Crackenthorpe’s face went an angry red. ‘That seems to be a most extraordinary question.’

‘It is a question for several other people as well as you.’ said Craddock.

‘Well, of course - I would like to help in any way I can.’ He spoke into one of the telephones on his desk and a neat young woman entered. ‘Miss Ellis, the Inspector would like to know what I was doing on the afternoon and evening of Friday, 20lh December.’

‘Oh, yes.’ Miss Ellis left the room, returned with a diary. ‘You were in the office on the morning of 20th December. You had a meeting with Mr Goldie about the Cromartie business, you lunched with Lord Forthville-‘

‘Ah, it was that day, yes.’

‘You returned to the office about three o’clock and later you went to Sotheby’s where you were interested in some rare books which were being sold that day. You did not return to the office, but you were attending the Catering Club dinner that evening.’ Miss Ellis left the room.

‘Yes,’ said Harold. ‘I went to Sotheby’s but the books I wanted went for too high a price. I had tea in a small place in Jermyn Street - Russells, I think it was called, then went home - I live at 43 Cardigan Gardens. The Catering Club dinner was at seven- thirty, and after it I returned home to bed.’

‘What time was it when you returned home to dress for the dinner, Mr Crackenthorpe?’

‘Just after six, I think.’

‘And after your dinner?’

‘It was, I think, half-past eleven when I got home.’

‘Did a servant let you in? Or perhaps Lady Alice Crackenthorpe…?’

‘My wife is in the South of France. I let myself in.’

‘So there is no one who can say that you got home when you say you did?’

Harold looked at him coldly. ‘I expect the servants heard me come in. But, really, Inspector-‘

‘Please, Mr Crackenthorpe, I know these questions are annoying, but I have nearly finished. Do you own a car?’

‘Yes, but I don’t use it much except at weekends.’

‘But you use it when you go down to see your father and sister in Brackhampton?’

‘Not unless I am going to stay there for a while. If I just go down for one night - as, for example, to the inquest - I always go by train.’

‘Where do you keep your car?’

‘I rent a garage behind Cardigan Gardens. Any more questions?’

‘That’s all for now,’ said Inspector Craddock, smiling.

When they were outside, Sergeant Wetherall, said, ‘He didn’t like those questions at all.’

‘If you have not committed a murder, it naturally annoys you if it seems someone thinks that you have,’ said Inspector Craddock. ‘But what we have to find out is if anyone saw Harold Crackenthorpe at the rare book sale that afternoon, and at the tea-shop. He could easily have travelled by the 4.33, pushed the woman out of the train and caught a train back to London in time to appear at the dinner. He could also have driven his car down that night, moved the body to the sarcophagus and driven back again. Make inquiries in the street where his garage is.’

‘Yes, sir. Do you think that’s what he did do?’

‘How do I know?’ asked Craddock. ‘He’s a tall dark-haired man, like the one Miss Marple’s friend saw on the train. Now for Brother Alfred.’

Alfred Crackenthorpe had a flat in West Hampstead, in a big modern building. But the flat was small, with just a table, a single bed, and some chairs. Craddock explained why he had come and asked Alfred what he had been doing on the afternoon and evening of 20th December.

‘That’s over three weeks ago. I never remember times or places. Except Christmas Day. Everyone knows where they were on Christmas Day, and I was with my father at Brackhampton.’

‘And this year your father was ill, wasn’t he?’

‘Yes. Caused by eating and drinking more than he was used to.’

‘But I heard that his doctor was - worried.’

‘Ah, that stupid Quimper. It’s no use listening to him.’

‘He seemed a rather sensible man to me.’

‘Well, he’s not. So when father felt ill, Quimper was here all the time asking questions about everything he’d eaten and drunk. The whole thing was mad!’

Craddock didn’t say anything, so Alfred asked angrily, ‘Why do you want to know where I was on a particular Friday, three or four weeks ago?’

‘So you do remember that it was a Friday?’

‘I thought you said it was.’

‘Perhaps I did,’ said Inspector Craddock. ‘Anyway, Friday 20th is the day I am asking about.’

‘Why? Have you found out something more about the murdered woman?’

‘Our information is not yet complete.’

Alfred gave him a sharp look. ‘I hope you don’t believe this mad theory of Emma’s that she might have been Edmund’s widow. That’s nonsense. Emma, of course, arranged a meeting with the woman.’

‘Very wise,’ said Craddock. ‘Was there a date fixed for this meeting?’

‘It was to be soon after Christmas - the weekend of the 27th…’ he stopped.

‘Ah,’ said Craddock pleasantly. ‘So you do remember some dates. But you can’t tell me what you were doing on Friday, 20th December?’

‘Sorry - no. I probably just wandered around. Business gets done in bars more than anywhere else. I can’t tell you what I was doing that day, but I can tell you what I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t murdering anyone in the Long Barn.’

‘Why do you say that, Mr Crackenthorpe?’

‘Come on, Inspector. You’re investigating this murder, aren’t you? Did somebody see the dead woman going into the barn that afternoon? She went in and she never came out? Is that it?’

The sharp black eyes were watching him, but Inspector Craddock said, ‘I’m afraid we’ll have to let you guess about that.’

‘The police are so secretive.’

‘Not only the police. I think, Mr Crackenthorpe, you could remember what you were doing on that Friday if you tried. Of course you may have reasons for not wishing to remember.’ The inspecter got up. ‘I’m sorry you couldn’t be more helpful, Mr Crackenthorpe.’

‘I’m sorry too! It’s all so silly. Even if the body is the body of Edmund’s widow, why would any of us wish to kill her? We’d all have enjoyed making Father give her money and pay to send her son to a good school.’

‘Sir, that chap, I’ve seen him before,’ Sergeant Wetherall said. ‘He was involved with di@ky Rogers and some of the so ho lot who stole jewellery.’

Of course! Craddock realized why Alfred’s face had seemed familiar. They had all been small crimes, and nothing had ever been proved.

‘Do you think he did it, sir?’

‘I don’t know. But it explains why he couldn’t give himself an alibi.’

‘So you think he’s all right?’

‘No one’s all right just yet,’ said Inspector Craddock.

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