فصل 25

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فصل 25

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Chapter twenty five

As Anthony watched understanding appear in the eyes of the other men, a new thought hit him. ‘Just a minute - that car!’ he cried, and jumped to his feet. ‘I’m a fool! An idiot! Iris told me that a car had nearly run her over - and I hardly listened. Come on, quick! ‘ ‘She said she was going straight home when she left Scotland Yard,’ said Kemp.

‘Who’s at the house?’ asked Race.

‘Ruth Lessing was there, waiting for Mrs Drake to come home and discuss the funeral.’

‘Discussing everything else as well, if I know Mrs Drake,’ said Race. He added abruptly, ‘Has Iris Marle got any other relations?’

‘Not that I know of.’

‘I see the direction in which your thoughts are leading you. But - is it physically possible?’

‘I think so. Consider for yourself how much has been taken for granted on one person’s word.’

‘You think that Miss Marle is in danger?’ asked Kemp as he paid the bill.

‘Yes, I do.’

The three men hurried out of the cafe and stopped a taxi, telling the driver to go to Elvaston Square as quickly as possible.

‘I’ve only got the general idea so far,’ said Kemp, as they raced through the London streets. ‘It certainly clears the Farradays, thank goodness. But surely there wouldn’t be another murder so soon?’

‘The sooner the better,’ said Race. ‘Before anyone realizes the truth. Iris told me, in front of Mrs Drake, that she would marry Browne as soon as he wanted her to.’

As the taxi drew up in Elvaston Square, Anthony leapt out and ran up the steps to ring the bell, while Race paid the fare. Kemp followed Anthony up the steps as the parlourmaid opened the door.

‘Is Miss Iris back?’ asked Anthony, anxiously.

‘Yes, sir. Half an hour ago.’

He sighed with relief. ‘Where is she?’

‘I expect she’s in the sitting room with Mrs Drake.’

Anthony nodded and went up the stairs to the sitting room, Race and Kemp following behind him.

In the sitting room, they found Lucilla Drake searching for a letter in her desk.

‘Where’s Iris?’ demanded Anthony.

Lucilla stared at him. ‘I beg your pardon? Who are you?’ Recognizing Race, she smiled. She did not notice Chief Inspector Kemp also entering the room. ‘Colonel Race! How kind of you to come! But I do wish you could have been here a little earlier - I would have liked to ask you about the funeral arrangements. I was so upset that I couldn’t really think. Miss Lessing was very kind, and offered to do everything she could to help me. But, naturally I am the person most likely to know what George’s favourite hymns were - not that he went to church very often…’

As she paused to take a breath, Race asked, ‘Where is Miss Marle?’

‘She said she had a headache and was going up to her room. I said that was quite all right. Miss Lessing and I were managing perfectly well, and she could leave everything to us.’

‘Has Miss Lessing gone?’ asked Kemp.

‘Yes, she went about ten minutes ago. Canon Westbury is to give the funeral service…’

As Lucilla went on talking, Anthony backed silently out of the door and ran up the stairs. Chief Inspector Kemp followed close behind him. They were on the second floor landing, when Anthony heard a light footstep coming down the stairs from the floor above. He pulled Kemp behind a nearby bathroom door.

As the footsteps continued down the stairs, Anthony came out of the bathroom and ran up to the third floor. Iris’s room, he knew, was at the back of the house. He knocked on the door. ‘Iris!’ There was no reply. He tried the handle. The door was locked. In sudden fear, he beat loudly upon it. ‘Iris - Iris!’ Looking down, he saw that a woollen mat had been pushed up against the bottom of the door. He kicked it away and lay down to press his nose against the gap. He smelt the air, then leapt up and shouted ‘Kemp!’

There was no reply from the Chief Inspector, but Colonel Race came running up the stairs.

‘Gas, pouring out!’ cried Anthony. ‘We’ll have to break the door down.’

The two men ran at the door. The lock broke, and the door flew open.

‘She’s by the fire,’ said Race. ‘I’ll break the window. You get her out.’

Iris was lying, unconscious, by the gas fire, her face beside the open gas tap. Coughing and choking from the fumes, Anthony carried her out onto the stairs and laid her on the floor.

‘I’ll look after her,’ said Race. ‘Go and call a doctor. Don’t worry. She’ll be all right. We got here just in time.’

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