فصل 16

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Chapter sixteen

When Craddock got to 4 Madison Road, he found Lucy Eyelesbarrow with Miss Marple. ‘I’m not on duty this afternoon, Miss Eyelesbarrow, so I’ve come to see the true expert on murder!’

Miss Marple looked at him and laughed. ‘I told you, Lucy, Sir Henry Clithering, his godfather, is a very old friend of mine.’

‘Yes, and he described her as the best detective in the world. Not only could she tell you what might have happened, and even what actually did happen! But also why it happened.’

Miss Marple’s face was pink. ‘Really… I just know a little, perhaps, about human nature… living, you know, in a village ‘Do you feel that if you saw the person who had done the murder, you’d know?’ asked Lucy.

‘Oh, I wouldn’t say that, dear. All one can do is to observe people and see of whom they remind you.’

‘Like Cedric and the bank manager?’

‘The bank manager’s son, dear. Mr Eade himself was far more like Harold - a little too fond of money - the sort of man, too, who would do anything to avoid scandal.’

Craddock smiled. ‘And who does Alfred remind you of?’

‘Mr Jenkins at the garage. He didn’t exactly steal tools, but he used to exchange a broken one for a good one. And Emma,’ continued Miss Marple, ‘she reminds me of Geraldine Webb - always very quiet - and bossed around by her elderly mother. It was a great surprise when the mother died and Geraldine went off on holiday, and came back married to a very nice lawyer.’ Lucy said, ‘What you said about Emma marrying seemed to upset the brothers.’

Miss Marple nodded. ‘Yes. So like men - unable to see what’s going on in front of them. I don’t think you noticed either.’

‘No,’ Lucy replied. ‘They both seemed to me…’

‘So old?’ said Miss Marple. ‘But Dr Quimper isn’t much over forty. And Emma Crackenthorpe is under forty. The doctor’s wife died young having a baby, so I have heard. He must be lonely.’

‘Are we investigating crime, or are we arranging a marriage?’ asked Lucy.

Miss Marple smiled. ‘I’m afraid I am rather romantic. And now you have finished what you were doing for me at Rutherford Hall, if you really want a holiday…’

‘And leave Rutherford Hall? Never! I’m the complete detective now. Almost as bad as Alexander and James. They spend all their time looking for clues. They looked all through the rubbish bins yesterday. So if they come to you, Inspector, with a bit of paper with Martine - if you value your life keep away from the Long Bam! on it, you’ll know that I felt so sorry for them that I hid it in the pigsty!’

Inspector Craddock looked at her. ‘Miss Eyelesbarrow, I’d like your opinion on something. What does the family think about this Martine business?’

‘They’re all furious with Emma for going to you about it,’ Lucy replied. ‘And with Dr Quimper, who encouraged her. Harold and Alfred think the letter wasn’t really from Martine. Emma isn’t sure. Cedric agrees with his brothers but he doesn’t think it’s as serious as they do. Bryan, though, seems sure that Martine wrote the letter.’

‘Why, I wonder?’

‘Well, Bryan just accepts things without question. He’s rather sweet, like a dog that wants to be taken for a walk.’

‘And do you take him for a walk, dear?’ asked Miss Marple. ‘To the pigsties, perhaps?’

Lucy looked at her sharply.

‘You’re such a good looking girl, I expect all the gentlemen give you a lot of attention. Gentlemen are all very much alike in some ways - even if they are quite old…’

‘You are extraordinary!’ said Lucy. ‘How do you know these things? But I don’t think it’s my good looks - they must think I know something.’ She laughed.

But Inspector Craddock did not laugh. ‘Be careful. They might murder you instead of asking you to marry them.’

Lucy was suddenly serious. ‘I keep forgetting what happened. The boys have been having such fun that I began to think of it all as a game. But it’s not a game.’

‘No,’ said Miss Marple. ‘Murder isn’t a game.’ She paused. ‘Will the boys go back to school soon?’

‘Yes, next week. Tomorrow they go to James’s home for the last few days of the holidays.’

‘I’m glad of that,’ said Miss Marple. ‘I would not like anything to happen while they are at Rutherford Hall.’

Craddock looked at her thoughtfully. ‘You don’t believe that an unknown woman was murdered by an unknown man? You think that the crime was connected to Rutherford Hall?’

‘I think there’s a definite connection, yes.’

‘All we know about the murderer is that he’s a tall dark man. On the day of the inquest, when I came out, the three brothers were standing waiting for the car. I could only see their backs, not their faces, and it was remarkable how, in their heavy overcoats, they looked all alike. Three tall, dark men. And yet, actually, they’re all quite different. It makes it very difficult.’

‘I wonder,’ said Miss Marple. ‘Whether it might perhaps be all much simpler than we think. Murders so often are simple - with an obvious unpleasant motive…’

‘If Martine exists,’ said Craddock, ‘there is a motive. Her reappearance with a son would make the Crackenthorpe inheritance smaller - they’re all very short of money.’

‘Even Harold?’ asked Lucy.

‘He’s been involved in some rather risky deals. A large sum of money, soon, might save him.’

‘But if so…’ said Lucy, and stopped.

‘I know, dear,’ said Miss Marple. ‘It’s the wrong murder, that’s what you mean.’

‘Yes. Martine’s death wouldn’t help Harold - or any of the others. Not until…’

‘Not until Luther Crackenthorpe died. Exactly.’

‘And he’ll go on for years,’ said Lucy. ‘Although he was rather ill at Christmas-time. He said the doctor made a lot of fuss about it- “Anyone would think I’d been poisoned by the fuss he made.” That’s what he said.’

‘Yes,’ said Craddock. ‘I want to ask Dr Quimper about that.’

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