فصل 02

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فصل 02

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter two

Two Dresses in a Desert

The next person on Hudson’s list was Elvira Elliot, his favourite insurance investigator. She also happened to be his favourite person; but that was something he would never admit to himself or anyone else.

“You’re lucky,” Elvira said as soon as he had identified himself on the phone. “I was just leaving my office.”

“Then I am lucky indeed,” James Hudson said, feeling stupid. Why did she always make him feel like a clumsy schoolboy? Perhaps Miss Paddington knew the answer to that question. But then again - better not ask her. She might think all the wrong things.

“Glad you see it that way, too,” Elvira said in her sultry voice. She sounded amused.

Hudson noticed how hot it was in his office and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Well, I just have a short question,” he said a touch too rudely.

“What is it, Inspector?” Whenever she called him by his title and not by his first name, it put him in a bad mood. He didn’t know why and he didn’t care to know why, either.

“Does the name ‘Petit Fleur du Jardin’ ring a bell?” he asked.

‘“Petit fleur du jardin’? Did you just call me Tittle flower of the garden’, Inspector? How sweet of you! I didn’t know you could be romantic,” Elvira said in that sultry voice of hers. He just KNEW that she was being sarcastic.

“It’s a French designer label,” he explained, and again he felt like a fool.

“Ah yes, now I remember,” Elvira replied. “Yes, that’s a very expensive French dressmaker. You only get those dresses at ‘Gray’s’. I think they sell the whole summer collection there. I simply MUST get myself one soon! Should I get one in peach or in navy blue - what do you think, James?”

“Don’t ask me,” he said. Elvira would look good in any colour of the rainbow, he thought.

At least this time she had not called him by his title…

“Thanks for your help,” he said gruffly.

“Any time, sir,” she replied and hung up.

When Mrs Baker opened the door to let the Scotland Yard inspector in, she began to cry. “Poor Lizzy”, she sobbed, “she hasn’t been eating anything! It’s not very nice of Sue to leave her cat alone for so long, is it?”

“She’s still not quite herself,” Mr Baker explained to Hudson, while he ushered the inspector into the living room.

Hudson sat down on an overstuffed sofa. Its cover was a mixed array of pink roses, white lilies and green ferns. Little flowers in a garden… it reminded him of the first question he had to ask the grieving parents.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” he said. “But I need to ask you if Sue recently bought a blue French designer dress.”

Mr Baker shook his head, and his wife burst out in tears again. “A French dress? Aren’t they expensive? I don’t think so,” the father said. “We raised our girl to be modest.”

“She always bought cat food with the tips she got from the guests over at the pub,” his wife sobbed. “She took such good care of Lizzy. That’s why I can’t understand why she hasn’t come back for her cat yet…”

“Did Sue have a boyfriend? Was she seeing anyone?” the inspector continued.

“No,” her father replied. “As far as we know, she only had a few girlfriends. Sometimes they would go out for a meal or a film. Sue didn’t have any time for a man - she had to work most evenings anyway.”

“Could she have met a man at the ‘Old Lion’s Pub’?” Hudson wanted to know. “Someone who might have bought her a blue French designer dress?”

Again Mr Baker shook his head. “I think she would have told us,” he said sadly. “But she did not mention any special man in her life.”

“She was such a pretty girl,” his wife sobbed. “And she loved pretty clothes. But she didn’t have the money for expensive dresses. She was saving most of her money for veterinary school. You see, she wanted to become a veterinarian because she loved animals so much.”

Sue’s father nodded proudly. “Yes, my little girl would have made a fine veterinarian.” His voice broke.

Sue’s mother shook her head and mumbled, “But now I’m no longer sure about that. Why did she leave her poor cat alone? That’s not very nice of her, is it?”

The inspector rose. He did not want to bother the grieving parents any more for the time being. “Thank you so much,” he said. “I’ll do everything to find the person who did this to your daughter. I promise.”

The first victim’s name was Melanie Jordan. She had been a 28-year-old secretary. On the night she was murdered she had gone out with an old school friend. They had spent a pleasant but unspectacular evening in the city, and shortly after twelve she had said goodbye to her friend. The next morning a dock worker had found her on the banks of the River Thames - strangled and wearing that beige dress. Of course Hudson’s colleagues had already interviewed her family, friends and co-workers. But there was a new question they had not asked yet simply because it had not come up before.

He made a few phone calls. “Did Melanie recently buy a beige French designer dress?” he asked one witness after another.

“Not that I know of,” her best friend said.

“She couldn’t afford expensive clothes,” her mother said.

“She didn’t wear a beige dress that night,” her old school friend said. “Let me see - oh yes, she was dressed in jeans and a red cotton top. She had taken along a jacket, but she didn’t put it on because the evening was so mild.”

Looks like the man who killed the two women is also the man who bought those two dresses, Hudson thought. The same man who sent us the belt and calls himself “Jack the Skipper”.

Again he wondered if there would be another note soon. And another murder after that.

On the outside “Gray’s” was an unspectacular building in one of the narrow side streets found in West End. It had a fresh white coat of paint. The window frames and the beautiful old wooden door were painted blue. Only a small brass sign over the heavy door which read “Gray’s Boutique” told the inspector that he was entering the right shop.

He stepped into another world. The high walls and the ceiling were as blue as the sky. The far wall was decorated with some abstract paintings. The floor was covered with white sand. There were three tall potted palm-trees in different corners. Dresses, skirts, blouses, trousers and jackets were arranged on hangers that hung from thick white ropes along the other three walls. A sandy-coloured wooden booth in the form of a pyramid was in the centre of the large sales room. Its shelves were filled with jumpers, T-shirts and accessories. An old brass cash register was sitting on a small wooden table in front of the pyramid.

Exotic music was coming from somewhere. Hudson looked round but he could not see any speakers. The music seemed to be coming from behind the potted palms.

A woman left the row of colourful blouses she had been admiring. “Don’t you just love their desert theme?” she asked while passing him to look at the next row of colourful blouses.

“What? Oh yes, certainly,” he said. “It’s rather - creative!”

The only thing that’s missing is a camel, he thought to himself.

A young shop assistant dressed in white shorts, a white top and white sandals came up to him. “May I help you, sir?” she asked. “Is there anything particular you’re looking for?”

“No - I mean, yes - I’m looking for the manager.” He showed her his badge. “Inspector James Hudson from Scotland Yard.”

“Scotland Yard?” the young assistant asked shocked. “Why - what’s wrong?”

“Would you please just get the shop manager?” Hudson said patiently.

“Oh yes, of course, sir.” The flustered girl ran off.

The woman who had been inspecting her third row of blouses turned round. Still holding up a very pink blouse, she glanced at the inspector. “The Yard here at ‘Gray’s’? What are you looking for - an illegally imported camel?”

“Not really.” Hudson shook his head. “But if I were you, I would stay away from that pink!”

Without so much as another glance she marched off to a row of pastel ensembles.

Half a minute later the flustered shop assistant returned with the flustered shop manager. “Emily Gray,” she introduced herself nervously. “I’m the owner of the shop. How may I help you?”

“I need to ask you some questions in reference to an investigation,” Hudson explained. “Is there a room where we could talk privately?” “Oh, of course! Please come along this way.” Ms Gray led the inspector into her office and offered him a seat. Then she sat down and brushed back her long black hair.

“So what brings you here?” she asked businesslike. “Surely not our unique desert theme?”

The inspector studied her for a second. She was a good-looking woman about forty, even though her features were a bit hard. But then it probably was hard work to keep a trendy boutique like this one successful year after year. Aloud he said, “No, of course not - although it certainly is impressive! But the reason for my stopping by are the two murder victims we found on the banks of the Thames. I’m sure you’ve heard about them?”

“Oh yes, I read in ‘The Times’ that they found another poor woman yesterday, didn’t they? How horrible!” She shook her head in disbelief. “Who would do something like that?”

“That’s what I’m here to find out. You see, the dresses the two women were wearing when they were found both have the label ‘Petit Fleur du Jardin’. I understand you carry that label in your collection?”

“‘Petit Fleur du Jardin’?” Emily Gray asked shocked. “Are you sure? Yes, we carry that label in this year’s summer collection. But what does that have to do with she paused thoughtfully. “Oh my God, of course! Now I understand. ‘Gray’s’ is the only place in all of London that sells ‘Petit Fleur du Jardin’ models! That’s why it’s been so successful here. But the fact that the victims purchased those dresses here doesn’t tell you anything about their murderer yet, does it?”

Hudson shook his head. “No, that’s exactly the point. They did not buy the dresses! These garments are completely unknown to the victims’ families, friends or co-workers! It seems that the murderer has made them put on these dresses shortly before he killed them.”

Ms Gray looked aghast. “My dresses? He made them put on my dresses? My beautiful ‘Petit Fleur du Jardin’ dresses? What a beast! How did he kill them? The papers didn’t say anything about that.” Inspector Hudson was not going to say anything about that, either. The media had not been informed of the note by “Jack the Skipper” and the enclosed belt. This was information that only the police knew - and the culprit himself.

“That’s not important now, Ms Gray,” he said. “What’s important is to know who bought those dresses at your shop. I need you to check your bookkeeping to make sure that no dresses were stolen. And I will also need two dresses of the exact colours the victims were wearing.” Ms Gray said uncertainly, “I’m not sure if my sales personnel will actually remember the customer who bought those dresses. But I certainly can help you out with the sample dresses. What colours are they?”

“One is beige, and the other one is a kind of a brilliant dark blue.” “Oh yes, I know which ones you are talking about. The unicoloured V-neck dresses with the ruffled skirt and the slim belt! Those sell really well - why, we must have sold at least ten of each. That’s because they are very reasonably priced for one hundred percent of pure silk and such a flattering cut. Let me show you.” She rose from her chair and walked to the door.

The inspector followed her back into the sales room, past the cash register. The woman who had been so interested in blouses was just paying for her newest treasure. Hudson noticed with a quick glance that she had not picked the pink blouse but one in a greyish green. She looked up and saw him look at her purchase.

“Very pretty,” he nodded grinning. “It’s definitely you!”

“Have you found the camel yet, Inspector?” she replied. “You may want to check out the dressing cabins!” Grabbing her shopping bag, she walked out the door.

All four shop assistants were completely dressed in white to match the desert theme, but they could not remember a man buying the dresses in question.

“One or two women were accompanied by their husband or boyfriend,” Mandy said. “But I can’t remember selling those dresses to any male customer.”

Jacqueline could not remember whom she had sold any of the dresses to, and Sandy could not even remember selling any dresses to anyone. But Bernadine remembered something. “Oh yes, there was this chap who came in a few months ago at the beginning of the summer season. I remember that because back then we still had these dresses in all colours. We had not sold very many yet.”

“Yes, and?” the inspector asked impatiently. “Did he buy one or more dresses? What did he say he wanted them for? What did he look like?”

Bernadine shook her head. “No, he didn’t buy any dress. But he kept going back to the blue ones. It’s called Summer Sea. I showed him the dress in all colours, but he seemed to be particularly interested in the blue one. He even took it outside and held it into the daylight. But then he put it back and said his wife had better try it on first, since she was very particular about colours.”

“Did he look at the beige one as well?”

“You mean this one? Sahara Sand?” The girl frowned while she was trying to remember. “No. Actually he was only interested in the blue one and the green one. That one is called Cool Mint - but he was more interested in the blue one.”

“What did he look like? Was he tall or short? Blond or dark? How old would you say he was? Did he wear glasses? How was he dressed?” the inspector wanted to know.

“He was - I don’t know, normal, I guess. I mean he wasn’t particularly good-looking.”

“She only notices the good-looking ones,” Jacqueline remarked. Hudson rolled his eyes. “Can you remember anything else about that man? Old or young? Anything?” he asked.

Bernadine was thinking hard. “He must have been about thirty or thirty-five at the most. Oh yes - he wore glasses with golden frames! And he was kind of dirty blond. He was neither tall nor short, kind of in between.”

“Well, thank you, that’s excellent,” Hudson said. “Specially since that chap wasn’t good-looking, I mean.”

Jacqueline grinned at him, but Bernadine had not noticed his sarcasm. She was smiling happily.

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