Cat Among the Pigeons - Agatha Christie

-

Chapter one

Revolution in Ramat
About two months earlier, certain events took place that would greatly affect the famous girls' school.
In the Palace of Ramat, two young men sat smoking. One man was dark, with large, sad looking eyes. He was Prince Ali Yusuf, the Sheikh of Ramat, a small but very rich country in the Middle East. The other young man, Bob Rawlinson, had light hair and freckles, and was the prince's private pilot. The two men had been at school together and were very close friends.
'They shot at us, Bob,' said Prince Ali, unable to believe it. 'They wanted to shoot down our plane.'
'Yes, they did,' said Bob grimly. 'You should have left the country two weeks ago, Ali. Now it's too late. Perhaps you can go to the British Embassy — shall I talk to my friend who works there?'
Ali Yusuf's face reddened with anger. 'I will never hide in your Embassy! The rebels would probably drag me from the building.' He sighed. 'I don't understand,' he said sadly. 'My grandfather was a cruel man, who killed his enemies without pity. And yet he is still admired and respected! And I? I have built hospitals, schools and houses… all the things people want. So why are they rebelling against me?'
Bob Rawlinson sighed. 'Let's not talk about that now. The most important thing is to get you safely out of the country. Is there anybody in the Army you can trust?'
Slowly, Prince Ali Yusuf shook his head. 'I do not know,' he said. 'I cannot be sure — there are secret agents everywhere. They hear everything — they know everything.'
'Even at the airstrip.-' Bob stopped. 'But we can trust Achmed. He caught someone trying to sabotage the plane — someone we thought we could trust. So, if you want to leave the country, Ali, we must go soon.'
'I know — I know. I am quite certain now that if I stay I will be killed.' Ali spoke without emotion — as if his future was only of slight interest to him.
'We may be killed anyway,' Bob warned him. 'We'll have to fly north over the mountains. At this time of year it's very dangerous.'
Ali Yusuf looked worried. 'I don't want anything to happen to you, Bob.'
'Don't worry about me, Ali. I'm not important. No — it's you — I don't want to make you leave. If some people in the Army are loyal -'
'I don't want to run away,' said Ali simply. 'But nor do I want to be killed by a crowd of angry people.' After a moment's thought he made his decision. 'Very well,' he said with a sigh. 'We will try to leave. When?'
'This afternoon,' said Bob. 'Go and inspect that new road, and stop at the airstrip. I'll have the plane ready to go. We can't take anything with us.'
'There is only one thing I wish to take with me,' said Ali Yusuf. He took out a small leather bag from under his shirt, and poured its contents on the table.
Bob held his breath for a moment. Before him was a pile of beautiful precious jewels. 'My goodness! Are they real?'
Ali looked amused. 'Of course they are real. They are worth about a million pounds.'
'A million pounds!' Bob picked up the jewels and let them fall through his fingers. 'It's fantastic. Like a fairy story.'
'Yes.' The dark young man nodded. 'Such jewels have a strange effect on people — death and violence follow them around. And women — beautiful jewels make women go mad. I would not trust any woman with these jewels. But I will trust you.'
'Me?' Bob stared.
'Yes,' replied his friend. 'I do not want these jewels to be taken by my enemies. I do not know when the rebellion will take place, but I may not live to reach the airstrip this afternoon. Take the jewels and do the best you can.'
'But I don't understand,' said Bob. 'What do you want me to do with them?'
'Take them out of the country somehow,' Ali said calmly. 'You will think of a plan.'
'But Ali, I don't know how to do that.'
Ali sat back in his chair and smiled. 'You are sensible, Bob, and you are honest. When we were at school, you always had clever ideas. I will give you the name and address of a man who deals with such things for me — in case I do not survive. Do not look so worried, Bob. Do the best you can, that is all I ask. I shall not blame you if you fail. It is as Allah wills.'
'You're crazy!' exclaimed Bob.
'No. I believe in fate, that is all.'
'But Ali — a million pounds. Aren't you afraid that I'll keep the jewels for myself?'
Ali Yusuf smiled at his friend. 'No, Bob,' he said, 'I am not afraid of that.'
Chapter two
The Woman on the Balcony
Bob Rawlinson was very unhappy as he walked along the crowded main street outside the palace. He felt that everyone knew he was carrying a million pounds in his pocket. As he walked along he tried to think. Where was he going? What was he planning to do? He had no idea, and not much time.
He went into a local cafe and ordered some lemon tea. As he drank it, he slowly began to feel better. The atmosphere of the cafe was calming. At a nearby table, an elderly Arab was peacefully sitting and drinking his hot tea, and behind him two men played a game of dice. It was a good place to sit and think.
And he had to think. He'd been given jewels worth a million pounds, and he had to get them out of the country as soon as possible. What was he going to do? He couldn't involve his friend at the British Embassy. What he needed was an ordinary person who was leaving the country — a businessman or a tourist would be best.
Then suddenly Bob thought of his sister, Joan Sutcliffe — of course! Joan had been in Ramat for two months with her daughter Jennifer, who was recovering from an illness. They were going back to England by ship in a few days' time.
Joan was the ideal person, Bob thought. Yes, he could trust Joan, even with jewels.
But wait a minute… could he really trust Joan? Joan was honest, yes, but she would talk — talk about the jewels. It would be safer if she didn't know what she was carrying.
Bob looked at his watch, stood up and left the cafe. Outside everything seemed so normal — there was nothing to show that rebels were planning a revolution.
Bob walked to Ramat's leading hotel. The hotel clerk behind the desk knew Bob well and smiled at him. 'Good morning, sir. Do you want your sister? I'm afraid she and your niece have gone to visit the temple.'
Bob swore quietly to himself — Joan wouldn't be home for hours. 'I'll go up to her room,' he said, and the clerk gave him the key.
Inside his sister's room it was very untidy. Golf clubs lay across a chair and tennis racquets had been thrown on the bed. Clothes were lying around, and the table was covered with rolls of film, postcards, books and souvenirs.
Bob now had a problem. He wouldn't see Joan before he flew Ali out that afternoon, and he couldn't just leave her a package of jewels and a note, because he'd probably been watched and followed to the hotel. He hadn't noticed anyone — but that just meant they were good at their job. There was nothing suspicious in coming to see his sister, but if he left her a package and a note, the package would be opened and the note would be read.
If only he had more time!
He looked around the room… and then he had an idea. With a smile, he took from his pocket the little tool kit he always carried. He saw that his niece Jennifer had some plasticine — that would help.
He worked quickly. Once he looked up at the open window — he felt that someone was watching him. But no, there was no balcony outside this room.
When he finished, he nodded in approval. He was sure that nobody — not even Joan or Jennifer — would notice what he'd done. When he had cleared up he wrote an ordinary note to his sister. He would leave a message with someone else to give to Joan in England. He wrote quickly:
Dear Joan — I came to ask if you'd like to play golf this evening, hut if you've been to the temple, you'll probably be too tired. What about tomorrow? Five o'clock at the Club.
Yours, Bob
Next he telephoned the British Embassy, and was connected to his friend, John Edmundson. 'John? It's Bob Rawlinson. Can you meet me somewhere when you finish work? Or earlier, if you can — it's important. Well, actually, it's about a girl...' He gave an embarrassed cough. 'She's wonderful, really wonderful — but it's a bit difficult.'
Because all the telephones in Ramat were tapped and listened to, Bob and John Edmundson had their own secret code. A 'wonderful girl' meant something urgent and important.
'Really, Bob, you and your girls!' said Edmundson with disapproval. 'All right, I'll meet you at two o'clock.' Bob heard a 'click' as the person who had been listening to their conversation put down the phone.
He would meet Edmundson outside the main bank at two o'clock and tell him about the secret hiding place. Joan and Jennifer were travelling on a slow boat back to England, which would take six weeks. By that time the revolution in Ramat would have either succeeded or failed, and Ali Yusuf might be safely in Europe — or they might both be dead.
Bob looked carefully around the room before he left. It looked exactly the same — peaceful and untidy. His harmless note to Joan was on the table. There was no one in the corridor when Bob left the room.
***
The woman in the room next door to Joan Sutcliffe's stepped back from the balcony. There was a mirror in her hand.
She had gone out on the balcony to look at her face closely in the clear sunlight. Then she saw something else. She was holding her mirror so that it reflected the mirror of the wardrobe in the room next to hers — and in the wardrobe mirror she saw a man doing something very strange and unexpected.
She stood still, watching the man. He could not see her from where he was, and she could only see him because of the double reflection in the two mirrors.
Once, the man did look up suddenly towards the window, but since there was no one there, he lowered his head again. When he had finished what he was doing he wrote a note, which he left on the table. Then the woman heard him make a telephone call, and though she didn't hear the words, he sounded cheerful and relaxed. Then she heard the door close.
The woman waited a few minutes and then opened her door. The door of the next room was locked, but she opened the lock quickly and expertly with a small knife.
She went in, closing the door behind her, and picked up and read the note. Just as she put the note down, she heard voices and ran to the window.
Below, Joan Sutcliffe was complaining in a loud voice to a young man from the British Embassy. 'Leave Ramat now? I never heard such nonsense! Everything's perfectly quiet here.' Her daughter Jennifer, a pale girl of fifteen, stood next to her.
'We're going home by boat in a few days anyway,' continued Mrs Sutcliffe. 'The doctor said that travelling by sea will be good for Jennifer's health. I refuse to change my plans and fly back to England in this silly hurry.'
'You don't have to fly to England,' said the young man persuasively. 'You can both fly out of Ramat and get on your boat at the next port.'
'With all our luggage?' asked Joan Sutcliffe. 'We have a lot of luggage.'
'Yes, yes, I can arrange that. I've got a big car waiting outside. We can load everything and leave right away.'
'Oh, very well,' said Mrs Sutcliffe. 'I suppose we'd better pack.'
'At once, if you don't mind.'
The woman in the bedroom stepped away from the window. She looked at the address on one of the luggage labels, and then went quickly back to her own room.
A few moments later Joan Sutcliffe arrived at the door of her room, followed by the hotel clerk. 'Your brother went up to your room, Mrs Sutcliffe,' he said. 'But I think you have just missed him.'
'How annoying,' said Mrs Sutcliffe and thanked the clerk. 'I suppose Bob's fussing too,' she said to Jennifer. 'I can't see any sign of a revolution in the streets myself. This door's unlocked. How careless people are.'
'Perhaps it was Uncle Bob,' said Jennifer.
'I wish I'd seen him… Oh, he's left me a note.' She read it quickly.
'Bob isn't worried,' she said. 'He obviously doesn't know anything about a revolution — it's all a big fuss about nothing. I hate packing when it's so hot. Come on, Jennifer, get your things ready quickly.'
'I've never been in a revolution,' said Jennifer thoughtfully.
And you won't be in one now,' said her mother sharply. 'Nothing will happen.'
Jennifer looked disappointed.
Chapter three
Introducing Mr Robinson
Six weeks later a young man entered a small office in London. Behind a desk sat Colonel Pikeaway, a fat, middle-aged man wearing an untidy suit. The Colonel always looked half asleep, and he smoked a lot of cigars.
'Oh,' said Colonel Pikeaway, as the young man entered. 'Your name's Edmundson, isn't it? You were at the British Embassy in Ramat at the time of the revolution.'
'That's right, sir,' said the young man. 'John Edmundson. They said you — r — wanted to see me.'
'Sit down,' said Colonel Pikeaway. 'You were a friend of Bob Rawlinson's, weren't you?'
'I knew him fairly well, yes,' said Edmundson.
'So you know he's dead, then,' said Colonel Pikeaway. 'Bob Rawlinson flew Ali Yusuf out of Ramat on the day of the revolution. The plane crashed into a mountain and the wreckage has only just been found — with two bodies.'
He paused and looked at Edmundson. 'Some people — very important people — have asked us to investigate this case.' he continued. 'You've heard, perhaps, that nothing valuable was found on the bodies, or in the wreckage. We know that Bob Rawlinson and Ali Yusuf were great friends. Did Rawlinson say anything to you before he flew out of Ramat?'
'I think Bob did want to tell me something important, sir,' said Edmundson cautiously. 'We knew that all the telephones in Ramat were tapped, so Bob and I used a simple code about a «wonderful girl». Bob rang me and used the code on the day the revolution started. I arranged to meet him outside the main bank, but I never got there because there was fighting and the police closed the road. Bob flew Prince Ali out the same afternoon.'
'I see,' said Pikeaway, and thought for a moment. 'Do you know Mrs Sutcliffe?'
'Bob Rawlinson's sister?' said Edmundson. 'Yes, I did meet her and her daughter in Ramat. She was much older than Bob.'
'Mrs Sutcliffe and her daughter arrive back in England tomorrow. Do you think that Bob Rawlinson would have told his sister an important secret?'
'It's difficult to say — but no, I don't think so.'
Colonel Pikeaway sighed and was silent for a moment, before he said goodbye to Edmundson. 'Thank you for coming.'
'I'm sorry I haven't been able to help, sir.'
When John Edmundson left, Colonel Pikeaway picked up the phone. 'Send Agent R in to see me,' he said. 'I've got a job for him.'
***
Colonel Pikeaway looked up as a good looking young man — tall, dark and muscular — entered the room. The Colonel grinned. 'I'm sending you to a girls' school,' he said. 'To Meadowbank.'
'Meadowbank!' said the young man in surprise. 'Are the girls making bombs in Chemistry class?'
'Don't ask silly questions,' said the Colonel, 'and listen. I'm sure you've heard about the recent death of Prince Ali Yusuf of Ramat. His closest living relative is his cousin, Princess Shaista, who starts at Meadowbank in the summer term. I want you to watch her closely and report to me if anyone seems interested in her.'
The young man nodded. 'And what will I be doing teaching?'
'All the teachers there are women.' Colonel Pikeaway looked at him thoughtfully. 'No, you're going to be the gardener. Good gardeners are hard to find at the moment, and I know you have a lot of experience. I'll write you some good references to make sure they give you a job. And you need to hurry — summer term starts soon.'
'So I do the gardening and keep my eyes open, is that right?'
'That's right,' said the Colonel. 'And don't get too involved with those teenage girls. I don't want you to be thrown out before you've done your job.' He started writing. 'Your new name is Adam Goodman. Go and invent a new past history for yourself and then get to Meadowbank as soon as possible.' He looked at his watch. 'I'm expecting Mr Robinson now.'
A buzzer went on the Colonel's desk. 'There he is now. Mr Robinson is always on time.'
'Tell me,' said Adam curiously. 'Who is he really? What's his real name?'
'His name,' said Colonel Pikeaway, 'is Mr Robinson. That's all I know, and that's all anybody knows.'
***
Mr Robinson was fat and well dressed, with a yellow face, sad dark eyes, and large, very white teeth. He and Colonel Pikeaway greeted each other politely. 'It's very good of you to help us,' said the Colonel.
'I hear things, you know,' said Mr Robinson. 'I know a lot of people, and they tell me things.'
'Did you know that Prince Ali Yusuf's plane has been found?' asked Colonel Pikeaway.
'Yes,' said Mr Robinson. 'And I can tell you that it wasn't Bob Rawlinson's fault the plane crashed. The plane was sabotaged by a man called Achmed, the senior mechanic. Rawlinson trusted him, but Achmed now has a well-paid job with the new Ramat government.'
'So it was sabotage! We didn't know that for sure.'
And now we know that Prince Ali Yusuf is dead,' continued Mr Robinson, 'we would like to find the package he left behind — the jewels.'
'They weren't found on Ali Yusuf's body, as far as we know.'
'No, because he gave them to Bob Rawlinson.'
'Are you sure of that?' asked Pikeaway sharply. 'They weren't on young Rawlinson's body, either.'
'In that case,' said Mr Robinson, 'Rawlinson must have got them out of the country some other way.'
'Have you any idea how?' asked Pikeaway.
'Rawlinson went up to his sister's hotel room to write her a note and stayed there for about twenty minutes. He could have written his note in three minutes. What did he do the rest of the time?'
'So you think that he hid the jewels in his sister's luggage?'
'It seems likely, does it not?' agreed Mr Robinson. 'Mrs Sutcliffe and her daughter left Ramat that same day, and they arrive back in England by boat tomorrow, I believe.'
Pikeaway nodded. 'We've arranged to look after them,' he said.
'If she has the jewels, she will be in danger.' Mr Robinson closed his eyes. 'There are other people interested in them.' Colonel Pikeaway asked carefully, 'And what is your — er — interest in the jewels?'
'I represent a certain group of people,' said Mr Robinson. 'Prince Ali Yusuf bought some of the jewels from us, and so we are interested in finding the jewels now. I'm sure the prince would have approved. I will not say any more — these matters are private.' He paused. 'Do you know who was staying in the hotel rooms on either side of Mrs Sutcliffe's room?'
'On the left hand side was Senora Angelica de Toredo,' said Colonel Pikeaway. 'She's a Spanish — er — dancer — though I don't think she was Spanish, or a very good dancer. On the other side was a schoolteacher, I believe.'
Mr Robinson smiled. 'You always know everything,' he said. 'I hope that — together — we know enough...'
Chapter four
Return of a Traveller
'Oh dear!' said Mrs Sutcliffe, as she looked out of her hotel window. 'It's always raining in England.'
'It's lovely to be back,' said Jennifer. 'I love hearing everyone speak English in the streets, and I'm looking forward to having a really good afternoon tea, with lots of cakes.'
'Now let me make sure we have all our luggage,' said her mother. 'People are so dishonest these days. I'm sure that man on the boat was trying to steal my green bag. And there was another man on the train...' Mrs Sutcliffe counted. 'Yes — yes, that's all right. All fourteen pieces of luggage are here.'
'Can we have tea now?' said Jennifer. 'I'm very hungry.'
'All right, but I really need to rest, so you must go down by yourself. I don't know why your father couldn't leave work and meet us, especially as he hasn't seen us for three months.' She gave Jennifer some money for tea and watched her daughter leave the room.
After a few minutes there was a knock at the door. It was a young man in a dark blue uniform, carrying a tool bag. 'Electrician,' he said. 'I've come to repair the lights in the bathroom.'
Mrs Sutcliffe had just shown the electrician the bathroom when the telephone rang. 'Hello… Yes, Mrs Sutcliffe speaking.'
'My name is Derek O'Connor — I work for the government. Can I come up to your room, Mrs Sutcliffe? It's about your brother.'
'Bob? Do you have any news?'
'I'm afraid so — yes.'
'Oh… Oh, I see… Yes, come up. My room's on the third floor, number 310.' Mrs Sutcliffe sat down on the bed. She knew what the news must be.
Soon there was a knock on the door and Mrs Sutcliffe let in another young man. 'Please tell me,' said Mrs Sutcliffe. 'Bob's dead, isn't he?'
'Yes, Mrs Sutcliffe, I'm afraid so,' said O'Connor. 'Your brother was flying Prince Ali Yusuf out from Ramat and they crashed in the mountains. There was no definite news until a few days ago, but now the wreckage of the plane has been found. He and Prince Ali must have died immediately.'
'I'm not at all surprised,' said Mrs Sutcliffe. Her voice shook a little but she was in control of herself. 'I knew Bob would die young. He was always doing such dangerous things.' A tear fell down her cheek. 'It's such a shock.'
'I know — I'm very sorry.'
'Thank you for coming to tell me,' Mrs Sutcliffe said.
'There's something I have to ask you,' said O'Connor. 'Did your brother give you anything — a package — to bring back to England?'
She shook her head. 'No. Why do you think that?'
'Your brother had a rather important package, and we don't know where it is. He came to your hotel the day the revolution started.'
'I know,' said Mrs Sutcliffe. 'But all he left me was a note asking me to play golf the next day.' Another tear fell down her cheek. 'Oh dear, I need a handkerchief. Where's my bag? Perhaps I left it in the other room.'
'I'll get it for you,' said O'Connor.
He went through the bedroom door and stopped as he saw a young man bending over a suitcase. 'Electrician,' said the young man hurriedly. 'There's something wrong with the lights.'
O'Connor pressed the light switch. 'They seem all right to me,' he said pleasantly.
'I must be in the wrong room,' said the electrician. He quickly picked up his tool bag and left.
O'Connor frowned as he took Mrs Sutcliffe's bag back to her. 'Excuse me,' he said, and picked up the phone. 'Room 310 here. Have you just sent up an electrician?' He waited. 'No? No, I thought you hadn't. No, there's nothing wrong.'
He put down the phone and turned to Mrs Sutcliffe. 'The office didn't send up an electrician,' he told her. 'I think that man was a thief.'
Mrs Sutcliffe looked hurriedly in her bag. 'He hasn't taken anything. I still have all my money.'
'If your brother didn't give you a package,' said O'Connor, 'he might have hidden it in your luggage instead.'
'But why would Bob do such a thing?' asked Mrs Sutcliffe. 'It sounds very unlikely.'
'Would you mind if we searched your luggage now?' asked O'Connor. 'It might be very important. I can help,' he added persuasively. 'I'm very good at packing.'
'Oh well,' said Mrs Sutcliffe, 'I suppose so — if it's really important -'
***
'Mummy, why have you been unpacking?' Jennifer asked in surprise when she returned.
'Don't ask me why,' said her mother. 'It's possible that your Uncle Bob put something in my luggage to bring home. He didn't give you anything, Jennifer, did he?'
'No, he didn't,' said Jennifer. 'Have you been unpacking my things, too?'
'We've unpacked everything,' said Derek O'Connor cheerfully, 'and we haven't found anything. Can I order you a drink, Mrs Sutcliffe, while I pack up again?'
'I wouldn't mind a cup of tea,' said Mrs Sutcliffe.
O'Connor ordered the tea, then packed up Mrs Sutcliffe's things again quickly and neatly.
'There's just one thing more, Mrs Sutcliffe,' he said. 'I'd like you to be very careful. Are you staying in London long?'
'We're going back home to the country tomorrow, with my husband.'
'That's all right then. But if anything strange happens, call the police straight away.'
***
From a local newspaper:
A man named Andrew Ball appeared in court yesterday, charged with breaking into the house of Mr Henry Sutcliffe. Police arrested him as he tried to escape from the house, and nothing was taken. Ball admitted that he was guilty of trying to steal, saying that he had no work and was looking for money.
***
'I told you to have the lock on that side door repaired,' said Mr Sutcliffe to his wife.
'My dear Henry,' said Mrs Sutcliffe, 'I've been abroad for the last three months. And burglars can always find a way in if they really want to.'
'I don't understand,' said Jennifer. 'How did the police know the house was being burgled and get here in time to catch him?'
'It seems extraordinary that he didn't take anything,' commented her mother.
'Are you quite sure nothing's missing, Joan?' demanded her husband.
Mrs Sutcliffe sighed. 'It's very hard to know,' she said. 'There was such a mess in my bedroom.'
'Can I have some more pudding?' asked Jennifer.
'I suppose so,' said her mother, 'though I do hope they won't think you're too greedy at school. Meadowbank isn't an ordinary school, remember.'
'I don't think I really want to go to Meadowbank,' said Jennifer. 'I know a girl whose cousin said it was awful.'
'That's enough, Jennifer,' said Mrs Sutcliffe. 'You're very lucky to be going to Meadowbank. It's a very good school.'
***
When Andrew Ball had been sent to prison for three months, Derek O'Connor rang Colonel Pikeaway. 'We let Ball have plenty of time to search the house before we arrested him,' he told the Colonel, 'in case he knew where the jewels were. But he didn't find anything.'
'And neither did you,' replied Colonel Pikeaway. 'Perhaps we're wrong, and Rawlinson didn't hide the jewels in his sister's luggage.'
'Are there any other possibilities?' asked O'Connor.
'Oh, yes,' said the Colonel. 'They may still be in Ramat, hidden in the hotel or near the airstrip. Or maybe Mrs Sutcliffe had the package of jewels without knowing, and threw them into the sea on her way home.
'And that,' he added thoughtfully, 'might be the best place for them.'
Chapter five
Letters from Meadowhank School
Letter from Julia Upjohn to her mother:
Dear Mummy,
I've settled in now and I like it here very much. There's another new girl called Jennifer and she and I do things together. We both like tennis, and Jennifer is rather good. She was in Ramat when that revolution started, but she missed it because they were taken away by someone from the Embassy.
I like Miss Bulstrode, but she can be frightening. I've heard that she's going to retire soon and that Miss Vansittart will be the new head teacher, but I'm sure it isn't true. Miss Rich, our English teacher, is wonderful. When she reads Shakespeare it all seems different and real. Someone told me she wasn't here last term. We do French with Mademoiselle Blanche, who seems to be bored a lot of the time. Our Games teacher, Miss Springer, is awful. She's got red hair and smells when she's hot.
There are a lot of foreign girls here, and a princess who says she was going to marry Prince Ali Yusuf if he hadn't been killed in that plane crash. Jennifer says that isn't true, and that Prince Ali liked someone else. Jennifer knows a lot of interesting things.
I know you're leaving on your trip soon. Don't forget your passport like you did last time!
Love from Julia
***
Letter from Jennifer Sutcliffe to her mother
Dear Mummy,
It really isn't bad here, and I'm enjoying it more than I expected. The weather has been very fine. Do you think I could have a new tennis racquet? Mine feels all wrong. And can I start to learn Greek? I love languages. Some of us are going to London to the theatre next week. The food here is very good. Yesterday we had chicken, and lovely cakes for tea. Your loving daughter,
Jennifer
Letter from Ann Shapland to Dennis Rathbone:
Dear Dennis,
I'd love to have dinner with you, but I don't have any free time until the weekend of the third week of term. I'll let you know.
It's rather fun working in a school. But I'm glad I'm not a teacher — I'd go mad!
Yours ever,
Ann
Letter from Miss Johnson to her sister:
Dear Edith,
Everything here is much the same as usual. The summer term is always nice. The garden is looking beautiful and we've got a new gardener to help old Briggs — he's young, strong and good looking, which is a pity. Girls are so silly.
Miss Bulstrode hasn't said anything more about retiring, so hope she's changed her mind. If Miss Vansittart became head teacher I really think I'd have to leave.
Give my love to Richard and the children.
Elspeth
Letter from Miss Vansittart to a friend
Dear Gloria,
The summer term has started, and all the new girls are settling in well. But the new Games teacher, Miss Springer, is not a success and the girls don't like her. She is also rather rude and very nosey, and asks far too many personal questions. Mademoiselle Blanche, the new French teacher, is quite nice but is not a very good teacher.
Miss Bulstrode has not yet talked to me about the future, but I think she has decided what to do. I will be proud to carry on her fine work at Meadowbank.
Yours ever,
Eleanor
Letter from Adam Goodman to Colonel Pikeaway, sent in the usual way:
Princess Shaista arrived in a huge luxury car. I hardly recognized her the next day in her school uniform. I am already on friendly terms with her, and she was asking me about the flowers until the Games teacher, Miss Springer, took her away and told me not to talk to pupils. An old teacher called Miss Chadwick keeps an eye on me, so I'm being careful.
No sign, so far, of anything strange — but I hope something will happen soon.
Chapter six
Early Days
The teachers were all talking together — discussing their holidays, the Sports Pavilion and the new girls. Then attention turned to the new teachers. Mademoiselle Blanche answered some polite questions about France, and Miss Springer began to talk about herself.
Miss Springer had a high opinion of herself. She talked loudly about how much she had been valued at other schools, and how her colleagues and head teachers had welcomed her advice. 'Though of course some people were ungrateful and refused to face the truth,' she said. 'I'm not like that. And I'm good at finding things out. Several times I've discovered a nasty scandal and told everyone about it. You shouldn't teach in a school if you have something to hide.' She laughed loudly. 'You'd be surprised if I told you some of the things I've found out about people. But I was just doing my duty.'
Miss Springer laughed again. She didn't notice that nobody else was amused.
***
Miss Bulstrode was trying not to smile as Miss Johnson complained about Shaista's brassiere. 'It's not the ordinary kind,' said Miss Johnson. 'It — er — pushes her up.'
'But I want to look bigger,' explained Shaista helpfully. 'I want to look like a woman.'
'You're only fifteen,' said Miss Johnson.
'Fifteen — that is a woman!' said Shaista. 'And I look like a woman, do I not?'
Miss Bulstrode nodded seriously. 'I understand your point of view, Shaista,' she said, 'but I suggest that you wear your brassiere when you go to London or to a party, not every day.'
When Shaista had gone, Miss Bulstrode smiled at Miss Johnson. 'It's true — Shaista does look fully grown up. Physically she's totally different to Julia Upjohn, for example. It's good to have a school full of girls who are different.'
Miss Bulstrode went back to correcting homework, and thought about her school. She had worked hard and taken risks to make Meadowbank a success. And Miss Chadwick had always been there to help her. Now Miss Bulstrode had decided to retire while she was still successful. She didn't know what Miss Chadwick would do — perhaps she would prefer to carry on teaching.
Miss Bulstrode rang for Ann Shapland and began to dictate letters. Ann was a very good secretary, thought Miss Bulstrode. Better than the one before, who had left so suddenly.
When the letters were done, Miss Bulstrode sighed with relief. 'Writing to parents is very dull,' she said to Ann. 'Tell me, why did you become a secretary?'
'I don't really know,' said Ann. 'It just happened. But I've had lots of interesting jobs. And I can't stay in one job for very long because of my mother — I have to go and look after her at times. I like change — it's never dull.'
'My job — teaching — is never dull,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'I'll miss it when I retire.'
'Are you going to retire?' asked Ann in surprise. 'Why?'
'Because I've done all I can for Meadowbank — it's someone else's turn.'
'Miss Vansittart, I suppose?' said Ann. 'She'll carry on your work.'
But is that what I want? thought Miss Bulstrode as Ann left the room to start typing. Do I want Eleanor Vansittart just to carry on my work? Or do I want someone with personality — like Eileen Rich — to bring new and fresh ideas to Meadowbank?
She looked up as Miss Chadwick came in. 'What's wrong, Chaddy?'
'Nothing,' said Miss Chadwick with a frown. 'Nothing really. I just have a feeling that something isn't quite right — but I don't know why. And I don't like Mademoiselle Blanche very much, or Miss Springer.'
'Having new teachers is always upsetting,' said Miss Bulstrode.
'Yes,' agreed Miss Chadwick. 'That must be it. And we must keep an eye on that new gardener. It's a pity he's so young and good looking.'
Both women nodded. They knew what damage a good looking young man could do to the hearts of teenage girls.
Chapter seven
Straws in the Wind
'Were you talking to one of the young ladies just now?' Briggs asked his new gardener.
'Just for a few minutes,' said Adam sulkily. 'I didn't say anything wrong.'
'I don't say you did, boy. But you'd better be careful,' Briggs told him. 'All these girls together with no men to distract them. Miss Bulstrode wouldn't like it. Ah, here she comes now.'
Miss Bulstrode was approaching. 'Good morning,' she said. 'I'd like one of you to repair the wire netting round the tennis court. As soon as possible.' She walked off again.
'She just comes along — giving orders,' said Briggs, annoyed. 'But I suppose you should go and repair that netting when you've finished here.'
'Oh, all right,' said Adam, still sounding sulky.
***
As she walked back to the school, Miss Bulstrode met Miss Vansittart coming in the opposite direction.
'What a hot afternoon,' said Miss Vansittart.
'Yes, it is,' agreed Miss Bulstrode. Then she frowned. 'Have you noticed that young man — the young gardener? He's very good looking. The girls notice him. We'll have to keep an eye on them.' She laughed. 'There's never a dull moment running a school. Do you ever find life dull here, Eleanor?'
'No indeed,' said Miss Vansittart. 'I find the work here very exciting and satisfying. You must feel very proud of the great success you've achieved.'
'Tell me, Eleanor,' said Miss Bulstrode, 'if you were running the school instead of me, what changes would you make?'
'I don't think I would change anything,' said Eleanor Vansittart. 'I think Meadowbank is perfect the way it is.'
Now was the time, thought Miss Bulstrode, to ask Eleanor Vansittart to be the next head teacher. But something was stopping her...
A bell sounded in the distance.
'It's time for my German class,' said Miss Vansittart. 'I must go.' She hurried towards the school, and Miss Bulstrode followed her slowly — and almost bumped into Eileen Rich, hurrying from a side path.
'Oh, I'm sorry,' said Eileen Rich, 'I didn't see you. I was going to my English class.' Her hair, as usual, was very untidy.
'You enjoy teaching, don't you?' said Miss Bulstrode. 'Why exactly do you like it?'
Eileen Rich ran a hand through her hair and thought for a moment. 'Because you don't know what you're going to get,' she said, 'or how the girls will answer. It's so incredibly exciting.'
Miss Bulstrode nodded in agreement. 'And do you have your own ideas about running a school?' she asked.
'Oh yes,' replied Eileen Rich. 'I'm sure some of them wouldn't work, but you have to take risks in life, don't you, if you feel strongly enough about something?'
'So you don't mind leading a dangerous life,' smiled Miss Bulstrode.
A dark look passed over Eileen Rich's face. 'I suppose not,' she said. 'I must go now. The girls will be waiting.' She hurried off.
Miss Bulstrode was still looking after her when Miss Chadwick came to find her.
'You look worried, Honoria,' said Miss Chadwick.
'Yes, I am worried — I can't decide what to do,' said Miss Bulstrode.
'Are you still thinking about retiring? You really shouldn't. Meadowbank needs you.'
'You love Meadowbank, don't you, Chaddy?'
'It's the best school in England,' said Miss Chadwick. 'We can be proud of ourselves for starting it.'
***
'I can't play with this tennis racquet,' said Jennifer, throwing it down in despair. 'It's been restrung but the balance is all wrong.'
'It's much better than mine,' said Julia, comparing the two racquets. 'The strings on mine are really loose.'
'I'd still rather have your racquet,' said Jennifer, picking it up and swinging it.
'Well, I'd rather have yours,' said Julia. 'Shall we swap?'
'All right then,' Jennifer agreed, and the two girls took off their name labels and put them on each other's racquet.
***
Adam was mending the netting round the tennis court when the door of the Sports Pavilion opened and Mademoiselle Blanche, the little mouse-like French teacher, looked out. She seemed surprised to see Adam, and went back inside, with a guilty look that made Adam immediately suspicious.
Soon Mademoiselle Blanche came out again and closed the door. 'It is a very fine Sports Pavilion,' she said to Adam as she passed. 'Today is the first time I have been inside. I wish to write home to my friends in France who keep a school.'
Adam was curious. Mademoiselle Blanche could go anywhere in the school that she liked. Why was she explaining herself to a gardener? What had she been doing in the Sports Pavilion?
He waited until she was out of sight, then left his work and looked inside the Sports Pavilion himself. He couldn't see anything unusual. 'All the same,' he thought, 'she was doing something in there.'
As he came out again, he bumped into Ann Shapland. 'Have you seen Miss Bulstrode?' she asked.
'She was talking to Briggs just now, Miss, but I think she's gone back to the house,' replied Adam.
Ann frowned. 'What were you doing in the Sports Pavilion?' she asked.
'I was just looking,' Adam said rudely. 'I'm allowed to look, aren't I?'
'I think you should get on with your work,' said Ann, and walked back towards the school. When she turned round, Adam was busy repairing the wire netting.
Chapter eight
Murder
One night the telephone rang at the local police station. The Sergeant who answered quickly wrote down some details, and then hurried off to find his colleagues.
'A murder at Meadowbank school?' said Detective Inspector Kelsey, greatly surprised. 'Who's been murdered?'
'The Games teacher, sir,' said the Sergeant. 'Her name's Miss Springer. She's been found shot dead in the school's Sports Pavilion.'
'Did they find the gun?' asked Kelsey.
'No, sir.'
'Interesting,' said Detective Inspector Kelsey. He called his team together, and they left quickly to do their job.
***
At Meadowbank Inspector Kelsey was met by Miss Bulstrode. 'What would you like to do first, Inspector,' she asked, 'visit the Sports Pavilion or hear the full details?'
'If someone could show the doctor and my two Sergeants where the body is,' replied Kelsey, 'I'd like a few words with you first.'
'Certainly.' Miss Bulstrode arranged everything without fuss. 'Come with me.'
'Who found the body?' asked Kelsey, as he followed Miss Bulstrode into her sitting room.
'Miss Johnson, the matron,' said Miss Bulstrode.
'I'll talk to her in a minute,' Kelsey said. 'First, can you tell me about the murdered woman?'
'Her name is Grace Springer — she was new this term.'
And what do you know about her?'
'I hadn't met her before this term, but her references were excellent,' said Miss Bulstrode.
'Have you got any idea at all why this happened? Was she unhappy? Was she seeing anyone — a man, perhaps?'
Miss Bulstrode shook her head. 'Not that I know of,' she replied. 'And it seems very unlikely. She was not that kind of woman.'
'Was there any reason why Miss Springer should be in the Sports Pavilion at night?' continued Kelsey.
'No reason at all,' said Miss Bulstrode.
'Very well, Miss Bulstrode. I'll talk to Miss Johnson now.' Miss Johnson had been given a lot of brandy to drink after her discovery of the body, which made her very talkative. 'Such an awful thing to happen,' she said to Inspector Kelsey. 'I can't believe it. Miss Springer was so — well, so sure of herself. The sort of woman who could deal with a burglar all by herself.'
'A burglar?' said Inspector Kelsey. 'Was there anything to steal in the Sports Pavilion?'
'Well, no, not really — just swimsuits and sports equipment.'
'Were there any signs of a break-in?' asked the Inspector.
'I don't really know,' said Miss Johnson. 'The door was open when we got there and -'
'There were no signs of a break-in,' interrupted Miss Bulstrode. 'I see,' said Kelsey. 'Someone used a key.' He looked at Miss Johnson. 'Did people like Miss Springer?' he asked.
'I don't think so,' said Miss Johnson slowly. 'She was very sure of herself — sometimes quite rude — and was quite nosey.'
'Now, Miss Johnson,' said Kelsey. 'Tell me exactly what happened.'
'It was late, and I was up with one of our pupils, who was ill. I looked out of the window and saw a light in the Sports Pavilion. It was moving about.'
'So it was a torch?'
'Yes, it must have been. I didn't think of burglars. I thought it was one of our pupils — meeting a boy, perhaps. I didn't want to disturb Miss Bulstrode, so I went to ask Miss Chadwick to come with me and see what was going on. We went out by the side door and were standing on the path, when we heard a shot from the Sports Pavilion. We ran there as fast as we could. The door was open, and we switched on the light and -'
Kelsey interrupted. 'So the Sports Pavilion was dark when you got there?'
'Yes. We switched on the light and there she was. She -'
'That's all right,' said Inspector Kelsey kindly, 'I'll go and see for myself. Did you meet anyone, or hear anyone running away?'
'No, we didn't,' said Miss Johnson.
'Well, thank you,' said Inspector Kelsey. 'That's very clear. I'll go out to the Sports Pavilion now.'
'I'll come with you,' said Miss Bulstrode, and led Inspector Kelsey out to the Sports Pavilion, where the police were busy.
As the Inspector entered the Pavilion, he could see the girls' lockers, a stand for tennis racquets and hockey sticks, and a door that led off to the showers and changing rooms. The police photographer and the officer testing for fingerprints had just finished.
The police doctor was kneeling by the body, and looked up as Kelsey approached. 'She was shot from about four feet away,' said the doctor. 'The bullet went through the heart and killed her immediately.'
'How long ago?'
'About an hour ago,' replied the doctor.
Kelsey nodded, and went to talk to Miss Chadwick, who was standing against the wall. She was very calm.
'Miss Chadwick?' he said. 'You and Miss Johnson discovered the body. Do you know what time it was?'
'It was ten minutes to one when Miss Johnson woke me.' Kelsey nodded. He looked down at the dead woman. Her bright red hair was short and she had a thin, athletic body. She was wearing a dark heavy skirt and sweater.
'Have you found the gun?' asked Kelsey.
'No, sir,' said one of his men. 'But there is a torch with the dead woman's fingerprints on it.'
'So Miss Springer had the torch,' said Kelsey thoughtfully. 'Any idea why she was here?' he asked Miss Chadwick.
'No,' replied Miss Chadwick, shaking her head. 'No idea at all. Perhaps she came to find something she'd forgotten — though it seems rather late to do that.'
Kelsey looked around him. Nothing seemed disturbed except the stand of tennis racquets, several of which were lying around on the floor.
'Perhaps,' continued Miss Chadwick, 'Miss Springer saw a light and came to investigate, like we did. She was confident enough to do that on her own.'
'Was the side door of the house unlocked?'
'Yes,' said Miss Chadwick. 'Miss Springer probably unlocked it.' Inspector Kelsey turned back to Miss Bulstrode, who was standing by the door. 'So, Miss Springer saw a light in the Sports Pavilion and came to investigate. And then she was shot.'
'But why would someone shoot her?' said Miss Bulstrode. 'Surely they would just run away? There's nothing here worth stealing, and certainly nothing worth murdering for.'
'So do you think that Miss Springer interrupted a meeting of some kind? A local boy, perhaps?'
'That seems more likely,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'Except local boys — and the girls in my school — don't have guns...'
Chapter nine
Cat among the pigeons
Letter from Jennifer Sutcliffe to her mother:
Dear Mummy,
We had a murder last night — Miss Springer, the Games teacher. It happened in the middle of the night and the police came and this morning they're asking everybody questions.
We were told not to talk about it but I thought you'd like to know.
With love,
Jennifer
***
Miss Bulstrode knew some important people, so very little about Miss Springer's murder appeared in the newspapers. Ann Shapland was busy, sending letters to the girls' parents telling them what happened. And Miss Bulstrode had a meeting with Inspector Kelsey.
'We'll search the school to try to find the gun,' Inspector Kelsey told her. And we'll need to interview the staff and the pupils. Until we're finished, you can't use the Sports Pavilion, I'm afraid.'
'I'll ask the girls if they know anything about Miss Springer's death,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'I'll let you know if they tell me anything.'
***
'I've looked through all the lockers in the Sports Pavilion, sir,' said the Sergeant. 'None of them were locked. But I didn't find anything important.'
Kelsey looked around thoughtfully. The hockey sticks and tennis racquets had been replaced tidily on their stands.
'Oh well,' he said, 'I'm going up to the house now to have a talk with the staff.'
'Do you think it was one of them, sir?'
'It could have been,' said Kelsey. 'Nobody's got an alibi except Miss Chadwick and Miss Johnson. Everyone has separate rooms, so if they say they were asleep in bed, we don't know if they're lying. Anyone could have met Miss Springer or followed her to the Sports Pavilion. After shooting her, they could easily come back to the house without being seen. But we need a motive — why was Miss Springer shot?'
Kelsey walked slowly back to the house. Old Briggs, the gardener, stopped working as the Inspector approached.
'You're working late,' Kelsey said to him, smiling. 'But I can see you do a good job — the gardens here are very well looked after.'
'It's hard work,' said Briggs, 'but it's easier now I've got a strong young man to help me.'
'Have you got a new gardener?' Kelsey asked.
'Yes, I have,' said Briggs. 'Adam Goodman, his name is. Came and asked for a job. He's been here since the start of term.'
'He's not on my list of people who work here,' replied Kelsey sharply.
'You can talk to him tomorrow,' said Briggs. 'But I'm sure he can't tell you anything.'
That evening Miss Bulstrode spoke to the girls about Miss Springer's death. 'Please come and tell me,' she said, 'if Miss Springer said anything to you that could be important.'
'I wish we did know something,' said Julia Upjohn sadly, as she and Jennifer Sutcliffe went back to their rooms. 'But Miss Springer always seemed so ordinary.'
***
Inspector Kelsey was interviewing the teachers. He started with Miss Vansittart, but she hadn't seen or noticed anything. Miss Springer had been good at her job, but she was rude and people didn't like her very much.
The next teacher was Eileen Rich, who said that she hadn't heard or noticed Miss Springer say anything important. But when Kelsey asked if there was anyone who didn't like — or even hated — Miss Springer, he got an answer he didn't expect.
'Oh no,' said Eileen Rich. 'She just wasn't important enough to hate. She annoyed people but nothing she did really mattered. I think she knew that, and that's why she was so rude, and eager to find out people's secrets. She tried to make herself important, but she just wasn't. I'm sure she wasn't killed for herself — she probably was in the wrong place at the wrong time.'
'I see,' said Inspector Kelsey. 'Did you like her, Miss Rich?'
'I never really thought about her. I know it's a horrible thing to say, but she was just the Games teacher.'
Kelsey looked at her curiously. She was a strange young woman, he thought.
'How long have you been at Meadowbank?' he asked.
'Just over a year and a half.'
'Has there ever been any trouble here before?'
'Oh no. Everything's been all right until this term.'
'What else has been wrong this term?' Kelsey asked quickly. 'I don't know if I can explain,' Eileen Rich said slowly. 'But I do feel that there's someone here who's wrong — someone who doesn't belong.' She looked at him. 'There's a cat among the pigeons. We're the pigeons, all of us, and the cat's among us. But we don't know who the cat is...'
Chapter ten
Fantastic story
Inspector Kelsey next talked to Mademoiselle Angele Blanche. She was about thirty-five with neat brown hair, and she wore a plain coat and skirt. It was her first term at Meadowbank, she explained. She had been a teacher in France, but this was her first time in England. She didn't think she would stay at Meadowbank for another term. 'It is not nice to be in a school where murders take place,' she said.
'Did you know Miss Springer well?' Inspector Kelsey asked.
'No,' said Mademoiselle Blanche. 'She had bad manners and a loud voice — and she was rude to me. She did not like it when I went to the Sports Pavilion. I was looking around and she told me that I should not be there. She spoke to me as if I was a pupil, not a teacher.'
'That must have been annoying,' said Kelsey.
'And then she shouts at me,' continued Mademoiselle Blanche. 'I had picked up the key to the door and forgot to put it back. Did she think I was going to steal it? She had the manners of a pig! The other teachers, at least they are polite.'
After answering a few more questions, Mademoiselle Blanche left the room.
'So, Miss Springer didn't like people visiting the Sports Pavilion,' said Kelsey. 'I wonder why? Was she hiding something there? Oh well, let's see the rest of the staff.'
Miss Blake was young and serious with a round, good-natured face. She had nothing to say that could help. She had seen very little of Miss Springer and had no idea of what could have led to her death.
All Miss Rowan said was that Miss Springer was very rude, and had hinted that in other schools she had discovered people's secrets.
Next Inspector Kelsey saw Ann Shapland. He approved of her neat and businesslike appearance.
'Well, Miss Shapland,' he said. 'Can you tell me anything about Miss Springer's death?'
'I'm afraid not,' said Ann. 'I have my own sitting room, and I don't see much of the other staff. And even now I still can't believe what happened. Why would anyone want to break into the Sports Pavilion and shoot Miss Springer? Why didn't they just run away?'
Thinking of what Mademoiselle Blanche had said, Kelsey asked, 'I've been told that Miss Springer didn't like people visiting the Sports Pavilion. Did she say anything to you?'
'No,' said Ann Shapland, 'but I've only been to the Pavilion once or twice. Though I did hear that Miss Springer was quite rude to Mademoiselle Blanche about it.'
'Do you know anything about Miss Springer's private life?'
'No,' replied Ann. 'I don't think anyone did.'
'And is there anything else — perhaps about the Sports Pavilion — that you can tell me?'
'Well -' Ann hesitated. 'I did see the new gardener coming out of there once. He shouldn't have been in there — he was supposed to be working.' She frowned. 'And he was rude to me.' Kelsey made a note of this after Ann left. Then he questioned the school servants, but learned nothing helpful, before he was interrupted by Miss Bulstrode.
'Princess Shaista — one of our foreign pupils — would like to speak to you, Inspector,' she said. 'She's the niece of the Emir Ibrahim, and thinks she's quite an important person.'
A slim, dark girl of medium height came in. 'You are the police?' she asked.
'Yes, that's right,' said Kelsey, smiling. 'Please tell me what you know about Miss Springer.'
'I will tell you,' said Shaista. 'There are people here watching this place.' She lowered her voice dramatically. 'They want to kidnap me. Then they will ask my uncle for a lot of money — a ransom — before they let me go.'
This was not what Kelsey had expected. 'Er — well — perhaps,' he said doubtfully. 'But — even if this is true — what has it got to do with the death of Miss Springer?'
'She must have found out about them,' said Shaista. She sounded as if she was enjoying herself. 'Perhaps she asked them for money to keep silent. They meet at the Sports Pavilion, but instead of giving her money they shoot her.'
'Well — er -' said Inspector Kelsey, 'I don't know what to say.' He paused. 'Is this your own idea,' he asked, 'or did Miss Springer say something about it?'
'The only thing Miss Springer ever said to me was «Run faster»,' said Shaista sulkily.
'So it's possible that you're imagining all this?' Kelsey suggested gently.
Shaista was very annoyed. 'You do not understand! My cousin was Prince Ali Yusuf of Ramat. He was killed in the revolution. I was going to marry him when I was older, so I am an important person. Perhaps these people think I know where the jewels are.'
'What jewels?' said Kelsey with surprise.
'My cousin, Prince Ali, had many jewels, worth much money,' Shaista said calmly. 'They disappeared in the revolution. I was Ali's nearest relation, and now he is dead the jewels belong to me.'
Inspector Kelsey wasn't sure what to believe. 'Has anyone said anything to you about these jewels?' he asked.
'No,' admitted Shaista.
Inspector Kelsey made a'decision. 'I think,' he said pleasantly, 'that you're talking nonsense.'
Shaista looked at him angrily. 'I am just telling you what I know,' she said, standing up and walking out of the door.
'Kidnapping and fabulous jewels!' said Kelsey to himself. 'What next?'
Chapter eleven
Conference
When Inspector Kelsey returned to the police station, Adam Goodman was waiting for him. The young gardener looked sulky and rude, but when he was alone with Inspector Kelsey his behaviour changed. He was quiet and polite as he showed the Inspector his identification.
'So that's who you are,' said Kelsey. 'What are you doing working at a girls' school?' Adam explained that he was here to watch Princess Shaista and see if anyone contacted her.
Kelsey listened with interest. 'So the girl was telling the truth?' he said with surprise. 'I didn't believe her. But you say that there are jewels — jewels worth a million pounds! You must admit it's hard to believe.' He paused. 'So who do these jewels belong to?'
'The lawyers would argue about that for years,' said Adam. 'They may belong to Prince Ali Yusuf's family, or he may have left them to someone else. The truth is, whoever finds the jewels will just keep them — and there are a lot of people looking for them.'
'But why is Meadowbank involved? Because of Princess Shaista?'
'That's right,' said Adam. 'Princess Shaista is Ali Yusuf's cousin. Someone may try to contact her or give her the jewels. We know there's a well-known secret agent staying in a local hotel. She just finds out useful information — nothing against the law. But we've been told that there's another woman in the area — a woman who was a dancer in Ramat when the revolution started. She works for a foreign government, but we don't know where she is or even what she looks like.'
Kelsey shook his head. 'This all sounds unbelievable,' he said. 'Secret agents, jewels, murder — they don't happen in real life!'
'I know what you mean,' said Adam. 'It doesn't seem possible — but it is happening. And it's happening here.'
There was a silence, and then Inspector Kelsey asked, 'What do you think happened last night?'
'I don't know,' Adam said slowly. 'Why was Miss Springer in the Sports Pavilion at night? Did she go there to meet someone? Did she follow someone there? Or did she see a light and go and investigate?'
'Everyone says that Miss Springer was very sure of herself,' said Kelsey. 'And that she was nosey. I think that she either went to investigate — or to meet someone from the school. Miss Rich, one of the teachers, says that there's someone here who doesn't belong — a cat among the pigeons.'
'A cat among the pigeons,' repeated Adam. 'That's a good description.'
'If there is a cat among the pigeons,' said Kelsey, 'it's more likely to be one of the three new staff. Miss Springer is dead, so that leaves either Miss Shapland or Mademoiselle Blanche.' He looked towards Adam. 'Any ideas?'
'I saw Mademoiselle Blanche coming out of the Sports Pavilion one day,' said Adam. 'She looked guilty. But I think it's more likely to be Miss Shapland. She's cool and intelligent.' Kelsey smiled. 'Ann Shapland was suspicious of you,' he said. 'She saw you coming out of the Sports Pavilion and said you were rude to her.' He paused. 'We need to find out what's happening at Meadowbank,' he said. 'I think I'll tell Miss Bulstrode who you are. She's an impressive woman — and she won't tell anyone.' Adam nodded. 'Yes,' he said. 'Tell her who I am.'
Chapter twelve
New Lamps for old
Miss Bulstrode listened carefully to Inspector Kelsey and Adam as they explained the whole story. 'Very interesting,' she said calmly, when they had finished. 'And will you still be my gardener?' she asked Adam.
'If you don't mind,' he replied. 'Then I can keep an eye on things.'
'I hope you're not expecting another murder,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'I don't think Meadowbank could survive two murders in one term.'
'No, no,' said Inspector Kelsey. 'And we don't want any news about this in the papers. We'll say that Miss Springer went to catch some burglars, who then shot her by accident.'
'And have you finished with the Sports Pavilion?' Miss Bulstrode asked. 'We'd like to use it again if we can.'
'You'll be able to use it again soon. We've searched the place — and found nothing.' He paused. 'There's only one more thing I have to ask you. Has anything happened this term that's made you worried or uneasy?'
Miss Bulstrode was silent for a moment. 'I have had a feeling that something is wrong,' she said slowly. 'But I don't know exactly what it is.' She paused. 'I think that I missed something important on the first day of term.' She explained about Mrs Upjohn and the drunken Lady Veronica Carlton.
Adam was interested. 'So Mrs Upjohn looked out of the front window and recognized someone,' he said. 'Then later she was talking about her work during the war, and secret agents.'
'Yes, that's right,' said Miss Bulstrode.
'We need to talk to Mrs Upjohn,' said Kelsey. 'As soon as possible.'
'I think she's travelling abroad at the moment,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'Let me ask her daughter, Julia.' She pressed the buzzer on her desk. When there was no answer, she stepped out of her room for a moment and asked a passing girl to get Julia Upjohn.
'I should go before she gets here,' Adam said. 'I'm only the gardener.' He stood up. 'And Miss Bulstrode,' he added, 'will it be all right if I become very friendly with some of your staff — Mademoiselle Blanche, for example?'
Miss Bulstrode looked unhappy, but agreed. 'I suppose you must do everything you can.'
'And if I meet some of the girls in the garden, I'm only trying to get information,' Adam said, before he left. 'They may know something.'
Soon Julia Upjohn knocked at the door. 'Come in, Julia,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'I just wanted to ask for your mother's address — I need to contact her.'
'But mother's gone to Anatolia — in Turkey,' Julia explained. 'On a bus.'
'On a bus?' said Miss Bulstrode with surprise.
Julia nodded. 'Mother likes travelling like that,' she said. 'It's uncomfortable, but cheap. She'll probably arrive in the city of Van in about three weeks.'
'I see,' said Miss Bulstrode. 'Tell me, Julia, did your mother ever say that she'd seen someone here — at Meadowbank — who she knew during the war?'
'No, Miss Bulstrode. I'm sure she didn't.'
Вложение:
RSS
Нет комментариев. Ваш будет первым!