فصل 19

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter ninteen

‘Not very helpful,’ said Sergeant Wetherall.

Craddock was reading through the report on Harold Crackenthorpe’s alibi for 20th December.

He had been noticed at Sotheby’s at about three-thirty, but had left soon after that. His photograph had not been recognized at Russell’s tea-shop, but his manservant said that he had returned to Cardigan Gardens to dress for his dinner party at a quarter to seven - rather late, since the dinner was at seven-thirty. He did not remember hearing him come in that evening, but he often did not hear him. The garage where Harold kept his car was rented and so no one noticed who came and went there.

‘He was at the Catering Club Dinner, but left before the end of the speeches.’ said Wetherall.

Craddock stretched out his hand for the information on Cedric. That also was negative, though a taxi driver said he might have taken him to Paddington station that afternoon. ‘Dirty trousers and untidy hair. He swore a bit because fares had gone up since he was last in England.’

‘And here’s Alfred,’ said the Sergeant.

Something in his voice made Craddock look up. Wetherall had the pleased look of a man who has kept the best news until the end.

The check was mainly negative. Alfred came and went at different times. Most of his neighbours were out at work all day. But towards the end of the report, Wetherall’s large finger pointed to the final words.

Sergeant Leakie, who had been working on cases of things stolen from lorries, had been at a cafe on the Waddington- Brackhampton Road, watching certain lorry drivers. He had noticed at a nearby table, Chick Evans, one of the di@ky Rogers mob. With him had been Alfred Crackenthorpe. Time, 9.30 p.m., Friday, 20th December.

Alfred Crackenthorpe had got on a bus a few minutes later, going in the direction of Brackhampton. William Baker, ticket collector at Brackhampton, had checked the ticket of a gentleman whom he recognized as one of Miss Crackenthorpe’s brothers, just before the 11.55 train left for Paddington. He remembered the day because there had been a story of some mad old lady who said she had seen somebody murdered in a train that afternoon.

‘It puts him right at the exact place, there,’ Wetherall said.

Craddock nodded. Yes, Alfred could have travelled down by the 4.33 to Brackhampton, committing murder on the way. Then he could have gone out by bus to the cafe. He could have left there at nine-thirty and would have had plenty of time to go to Rutherford Hall, move the body from the embankment to the sarcophagus, and get into Brackhampton in time to catch the 11.55 back to London.

At Rutherford Hall there had been a gathering of the Crackenthorpe family and very soon voices were raised.

Lucy decided to mix some cocktails in a jug and then took them towards the library. The voices sounded clearly in the hall.

Dr Quimper came out of the study where he had been with Mr Crackenthorpe. He saw the jug in Lucy’s hand. ‘What’s this? A celebration?’

‘More like a calming medicine. They’re having a big argument in there.’

‘Blaming each other?’

‘Mostly Emma.’

‘Are they?’ Dr Quimper took the jug from Lucy’s hand, opened the library door and went in. ‘Good evening.’

‘Ah, Dr Quimper,’ Harold said. ‘I would like to know why you involved yourself in a family matter, and told my sister to go to Scotland Yard about it.’

Dr Quimper said calmly, ‘Miss Crackenthorpe asked my advice. I gave it to her.’

‘You dare to…’

‘Girl!’ Mr Crackenthorpe looked out of the study door just behind Lucy. ‘I want curry for dinner tonight. You make a very good curry. It’s ages since we’ve had curry.’

‘All right, Mr Crackenthorpe.’

Lucy went back to the kitchen and began to peel some mushrooms. The front door banged and from the window she saw Dr Quimper walk angrily to his car and drive away.

It was 3 a.m. when Dr Quimper drove his car into his garage. Well, Mrs Josh Simpkins now had a healthy baby. He went upstairs to his bedroom. He was tired - very tired. He looked with pleasure at his bed. Then the telephone rang.

‘Dr Quimper?’

‘Yes.’

‘This is Lucy Eyelesbarrow from Rutherford Hall. Please can you come over. Everybody here suddenly has an upset stomach.’

‘I’ll be over immediately.’ He hurried down to his car again.

It was three hours later when the doctor and Lucy sat down at the kitchen table to drink large cups of black coffee.

‘Well, I think they’ll be all right now,’ he said. ‘But how did it happen? That’s what I want to know. What did they have for dinner?’

‘Mushroom soup. Curried chicken and rice. Fruit jelly.’

‘All right - so most people would say “It must have been the mushrooms”.’

‘It wasn’t the mushrooms. I had some of the soup myself and I’m all right.’

‘Yes, you’re all right.’

‘If you mean…’

‘No. You’re a clever girl. You would be pretending to be ill, too, if you had put poison in the food. Anyway, I know all about you. I made some inquiries. And you’re not a girlfriend of either Cedric, Harold or Alfred - helping them to do unpleasant things.’

‘Do you really think…?’

‘I think quite a lot of things,’ said Quimper. ‘But I have to be careful what I say. Now, curried chicken. Did you have some of that?’

‘No. When you’ve cooked a curry, the smell makes you feel you’ve already eaten it. I tasted it, of course. And I had some jelly.’

‘How did you serve the jelly?’

‘In separate glasses.’

‘And how much of all this has been washed up?’

‘Everything.’

‘A pity,’ Dr Quimper said. ‘Is there any of the food left?’

‘There’s some of the curry, and some soup. No jelly.’

‘I’ll take the curry and the soup.’ He stood up. ‘And if you can manage until the morning, I’ll send a nurse here by eight o’clock.’ Dr Quimper put a hand on her shoulder. ‘Look after two people in particular. Emma - well, Emma means a lot to me. And look after the old man. I can’t say that he’s ever been my favourite patient, but he is my patient, and I’m not going to let him be rushed out of the world because one of his unpleasant sons wants his money.’

Inspector Bacon was looking upset. Arsenic?’ he said. Arsenic?’

‘Yes. It was in the curry.’

‘So there’s a poisoner at work?’

‘It seems so,’ said Dr Quimper.

And they’ve all been ill, you say - except that Miss Eyelesbarrow. That’s a bit strange…’

‘If Miss Eyelesbarrow was feeding the family arsenic, she would be careful to eat a very small amount of the poisoned curry, and then behave as though she was extremely ill.’

‘And you wouldn’t be able to tell that she’d had less than the others?’

‘Probably not.’

‘Then there might be one of the family now who’s making more fuss than he need?’

‘Yes. But I don’t think that anyone has had enough arsenic to kill them.’

‘Did the poisoner make a mistake?’

‘No. I think that the idea was to put enough arsenic in the curry to cause signs of food poisoning - which everyone would say was because of the mushrooms. Then one person would probably suddenly get worse and die.’

‘Because he had been given more poison?’

The doctor nodded. ‘So, perhaps you can go to Rutherford Hall and tell them all that they’re suffering from arsenic poisoning. That will probably stop the poisoner carrying out the rest of his plan.’

The telephone rang on the Inspector’s desk. He picked it up. ‘OK. Yes.’ He said to Quimper, ‘It’s your nurse.’ He handed him the receiver.

‘Quimper speaking… I see… Yes, we’ll be with you very soon.’ He put the receiver down and turned to Bacon. ‘It’s Alfred. He’s dead.’

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