فصل 03

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Chapter three

‘Less serious? Nonsense!’ said Mrs McGillicuddy. ‘It was murder!’ She looked at Miss Marple and Miss Marple looked back at her. ‘Go on, Jane, say I imagined the whole thing! That’s what you think now, isn’t it?’

‘Anyone can be mistaken,’ Miss Marple said gently. ‘Although I think that you were probably not mistaken… But I don’t think there’s anything more you can do.’

‘That’s a relief, in a way,’ said Mrs McGillicuddy, ‘as I’m going out to Ceylon after Christmas to stay with my son Roderick, and I do not want to put off that visit. So if the police choose to be stupid Miss Marple shook her head. ‘Oh, no, the police aren’t stupid. And that makes it interesting, doesn’t it?’

Mrs McGillicuddy looked surprised.

‘One wants to know,’ said Miss Marple, ‘who killed the woman, and why, and what happened to her body.’

‘That’s for the police to find out.’

‘Exactly - and they haven’t found out. Which means that the man was very clever. I can’t imagine how he got rid of it. You kill a woman in sudden anger - it can’t have been planned, you would never choose to kill someone just before arriving at a big station. So you strangle her - and then what can you do…?’ Miss Marple paused.

Mrs McGillicuddy said, ‘Well, I am going to stop thinking about it and start thinking about the trains to London tomorrow. Would the afternoon be all right? I’m going to my daughter Margaret’s for tea.’

‘I wonder, Elspeth, if you would mind taking the 12.15? We could have an early lunch. And I wonder, too, if Margaret would mind if you didn’t arrive for tea - if you arrived about seven, perhaps?’

Mrs McGillicuddy looked at her friend curiously. ‘Are you planning something, Jane?’

‘I suggest, Elspeth, that I could travel up to London with you, and that we could then travel back to Brackhampton in a train at the same time as you travelled the other day. You could then return to London and I would come on here as you did. I, of course, would pay the fares,’ Miss Marple said firmly.

‘What do you expect, Jane? Another murder?’

‘Certainly not. But I would like to see for myself exactly where the crime was committed.’

And so the next day Miss Marple and Mrs McGillicuddy sat in two opposite corners of a first-class carriage speeding out of London on the 4.50 from Paddington. But on this occasion no train passed close to them going in the same direction. A few trains flashed past them towards London. On two occasions trains flashed past them going the other way.

‘We’re due in Brackhampton in five minutes,’ said Miss Marple.

A ticket collector appeared in the doorway. Miss Marple looked at Mrs McGillicuddy, who shook her head. It was not the same ticket collector. He looked at their tickets, and moved on a little unsteadily as the train swung round a long curve and slowed down as it did so. There were lights flashing past outside, buildings, an occasional sight of streets and buses.

‘We’ll be there in a minute,’ said Mrs McGillicuddy, ‘and I can’t really see this journey has been any good at all.’

‘But this train is a few minutes late. Was yours on time on Friday?’

‘I think so.’

The train ran slowly into Brackhampton station. Doors opened and shut, people got in and out. Easy, thought Miss Marple, for a murderer to leave the station amongst all those people, or even to find another carriage and go on in the train to the end of its journey. But not so easy to make a body disappear into the air. That body must be somewhere.

Mrs McGillicuddy had got out and spoke now through the open window. ‘Take care of yourself, Jane. And don’t let’s worry ourselves any more about all this. We’ve done what we could.’ Miss Marple nodded. ‘Goodbye, Elspeth. A happy Christmas to you.’

A whistle blew and the train began to move, but Miss Marple did not lean back as it increased speed. Instead she sat upright. Mrs McGillicuddy had said that they had both done all that they could do. It was true of Mrs McGillicuddy, but about herself Miss Marple did not feel so sure.

Like a General planning a possible battle, Miss Marple thought through the facts for and against further action. For further action were the following: 1. My long experience of life and human nature.

Sir Henry Clithering and his godson (now at Scotland Yard), who was so very nice in the Little Paddocks case. My nephew Raymond’s second boy, David, who works for British Railways. Griselda’s boy, Leonard, who knows so much about maps.

‘But I can’t go here, there and everywhere, making inquiries and finding out things. I’m too old for any more adventures,’ she thought, watching out of the window the curving line of an embankment…

A curve…

Very faintly something came into her mind… Just after the ticket collector had seen their tickets… It suggested an idea. A completely different idea…

Suddenly Miss Marple did not feel old at all!

The next morning Miss Marple wrote to her great-nephew, David West, asking for important information.

Fortunately she was invited, as usual, to the vicarage where Griselda and her family lived, for Christmas dinner, and here she was able to ask young Leonard about maps.

Leonard loved maps of all kinds and did not wonder why Miss Marple was interested in a large-scale map of a particular area. He even found one amongst his collection and lent it to her.

Soon Miss Marple received a letter from David West. It said:

Dear Aunt Jane,

I’ve got the information you wanted. There is only one train that it can be - the 4.33, which is a slow train and stops at Haling Broadway, Barwell Heath, Brackhampton and then stations to Market Basing.

So, do I smell some village scandal? Did you, returning from Christmas shopping in London by the 4.50, see the vicar’s wife being kissed by the Tax Inspector? But why does it matter which train it was?

Yours ever,

David

Miss Marple smiled. It seemed that some more travelling was necessary.

She went up to London as before on the 12.15, but this time returned not by the 4.50, but by the 4.33 in an empty first- class carriage. As the train came near to Brackhampton, running around a curve, Miss Marple pulled down the blind and then stood with her back to the window.

Yes, she decided, the sudden curving of the line did throw one back against the window and the blind might very easily fly up. She looked out of the window. It was only just dark, but to see things clearly she must make a daylight journey.

The next day she went up to London by the early morning train. Then a quarter of an hour before she reached Brackhampton, Miss Marple got out the map which Leonard had lent her. She could see exactly where she was just as the train began to slow down for a curve. It was a very big curve and Miss Marple divided her attention between watching the ground beneath her and looking at the map until the train finally ran into Brackhampton.

That night she wrote a letter to Miss Florence Hill, at 4 Madison Road, Brackhampton. And the next morning she went to the library to read about the local history of the area. Her idea of what had happened was possible but there was nothing to prove it yet. And that would need action, the kind of action she was not strong enough to take. If her theory were to be definitely proved or disproved, she must have help. The question was - who? Miss Marple thought for a long time. Then suddenly she smiled and said aloud a name.

‘Of course! Lucy Eyelesbarrow!’

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