فصل 16

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فصل 16

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Chapter sixteen

Chief Inspector Kemp arrived at Kidderminster house and the butler led him to the library, where Lord Kidderminster and the Farradays were waiting.

Lord Kidderminster shook his hand. ‘Chief Inspector, we appreciate your kindness in coming here, instead of summoning my daughter and her husband to Scotland Yard. This is the second time that they have witnessed a violent death in the same restaurant, involving two members of the same family. Publicity of this kind can damage the reputation of a man in public life. The Commissioner of Police tells me that Barton’s death is murder, not suicide. But you thought it was suicide, didn’t you, Sandra, my dear?’

‘It seemed so obvious,’ she said, thoughtfully. ‘We were at the same table where poor Rosemary poisoned herself last year. When we saw George Barton down in Sussex, during the summer, his behaviour was very strange. We thought he hadn’t recovered from his wife’s death. So, yes, suicide seemed possible. And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to murder him.’

‘Nor can I,’ said Stephen. ‘Barton was an excellent fellow. I don’t think he had an enemy in the world.’

Chief Inspector Kemp paused for a moment before replying. ‘What you say is quite correct, I’m sure. But before his death, George Barton told two people that he believed his wife had been poisoned by someone else. The party last night in honour of Miss Marle’s birthday was actually supposed to reveal the identity of Rosemary Barton’s killer. So, he was certainly not considering suicide.’ Kemp’s manner became slightly more official. ‘Lady Alexandra, you said that Mr Barton’s behaviour had been strange this summer. In what way?’

‘Well, he was nervous. He couldn’t concentrate on what was said to him.’

‘Yes,’ agreed Stephen. ‘He looked ill, too. He had lost weight.’

‘Did you notice any change in his attitude towards you and your husband? Was he less friendly, perhaps?’

‘No, quite the opposite, in fact. He bought a country house near to ours.’

‘Was Rosemary Barton a close friend of yours, Lady Alexandra? ‘

‘No, we were not close.’ She gave a light laugh. ‘She was really Stephen’s friend. She was interested in politics, and he enjoyed educating such a charming and attractive woman.’

And you’re a very clever one, thought Kemp. I wonder how much you really know about those two. He continued aloud, ‘What do you know about Anthony Browne, Lady Alexandra? ‘ ‘Nothing at all, but I have met him occasionally.’

Kemp turned to Stephen. ‘Mr Farraday? ‘

‘I probably know less than my wife does. She has danced with him, at least. He seems to be a pleasant chap.’

Was he particularly close to Mrs Barton?’

Stephen frowned. ‘They were friendly, that’s all I can say.’ ‘And what can you tell me about Miss Lessing, Lady Alexandra? ‘

‘She was Mr Barton’s secretary. I’ve only met her twice - first on the evening that Mrs Barton died, and again last night.’

‘Did you form the impression that she was in love with George Barton?’

‘I have no idea.’

‘Then, let us talk about the events of last night.’

The Farradays’ evidence confirmed the important points about the tragic events. Barton had proposed a toast to Iris. They had drunk it and then got up to dance. George and Iris had returned first. When asked about the empty chair, they said that George was expecting a man called Colonel Race to join them later in the evening. When the lights were turned on again, after the cabaret, George had stared at the empty chair with a strange expression on his face, before proposing a toast to Iris’s birthday.

Closing his notebook, Kemp rose to his feet. ‘I’m grateful for your help.’ He turned to Stephen. ‘Mr Farraday, there are one or two other points where I think you could help me. Perhaps you could visit me at Scotland Yard, at a time that suits you? I know you’re a busy man.’

The request was pleasant, but the message was serious. Somehow, Stephen managed a friendly smile. ‘Certainly, Chief Inspector.’

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