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Chapter twenty four

‘Nobody could possibly have made more mistakes than I have.’ Dermot Craddock sat in Florence’s sitting room looking tired and upset. ‘I’ve let a whole family be poisoned. Alfred Crackenthorpe’s dead and now Harold’s dead too. What going on here?’

‘Poisoned pills,’ said Miss Marple thoughtfully.

‘Yes. Very clever. They looked just like the pills that he had been taking. But Quimper never ordered them. And the chemist knew nothing about them, either. No. That box of pills came from Rutherford Hall.’

‘Do you know it came from Rutherford Hall?’

‘Yes. It’s the box that held Emma’s sleeping pills.’

‘Oh, I see. Emma’s…’

‘Yes. It’s got her fingerprints on it and the fingerprints of both the nurses and the fingerprints of the chemist. Nobody else’s, of course.’

And the sleeping pills were removed and something else put in the box?’

‘Yes.’

‘What were the pills Harold took?’ Miss Marple asked. ‘Aconite. They are usually kept in a poison bottle. I don’t know who poisoned Harold, I don’t know who poisoned Alfred, and now the real Martine turns out to be the wife of Sir Robert Stoddart-West! So, who’s the woman in the barn? I don’t know. At first I was sure it was Anna Stravinska, but then she’s out of it-‘ Miss Marple gave a small cough. ‘But is she?’

‘Well, that postcard from Jamaica…’

‘Yes,’ said Miss Marple, ‘but anyone can get a postcard sent from almost anywhere, don’t you think?’

‘Yes,’ said Craddock. ‘And of course we would have checked that postcard if it hadn’t been for the Martine business fitting in so well. The envelope of the letter Emma wrote to her was even found at Rutherford Hall, showing she had actually been there.’

‘But the murdered woman hadn’t been there!’ Miss Marple said. ‘Not in the sense you mean. She only came to Rutherford Hall after she was dead.’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘What the envelope really proves is that the murderer was there. Presumably he took that envelope off her with her other things, and then dropped it by mistake - or - I wonder, was it a mistake? Your men must have searched the place, but they didn’t find it. It only turned up later in the bin.’

‘You think the boys were meant to find it?’

‘Well, it stopped you thinking about Anna Stravinska any more, didn’t it?’

‘But the main fact is that someone was going to pretend to be Martine,’ said Craddock. ‘And then for some reason - didn’t. Why?’

‘That’s a very interesting question,’ said Miss Marple.

‘Somebody sent a note saying Martine was going back to France, then arranged to travel down with the girl and kill her on the way. You agree?’

‘Not exactly,’ said Miss Marple. ‘I don’t think, really, you’re making it simple enough.’

‘Simple! So do you or do you not think you know who the murdered woman was?’

‘It’s so difficult to explain,’ Miss Marple said. ‘I mean, I don’t know who she was, but I’m sure who she was, if you know what I mean.’

‘Know what you mean?’ Craddock shook his head. ‘I haven’t any idea.’ He looked out through the window. ‘There’s Lucy Eyelesbarrow coming to see you, so I’ll go. My confidence is very low this afternoon and meeting such a clever young woman is too much for me.’

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