Mrs Elspeth McGillicuddy hurried along Platform 3 at Paddington Station after the porter who was carrying her suitcase. Mrs McGillicuddy was short and the porter was tall. Mrs McGillicuddy was also carrying a lot of packages after a day of Christmas shopping. So the porter had already turned the corner at the end of the platform while she searched her bag for the ticket at the entrance gate.
At that moment, a voice sounded above her head, 'The train standing at Platform 3, is the 4.50 for Brackhampton, Milchester, Waverton, Roxeter and stations to Chadmouth. Passengers for Brackhampton and Milchester travel at the back of the train.'
Mrs McGillicuddy found her ticket and showed it to the man at the gate who said, 'On the right, at the back.'
Mrs McGillicuddy continued up the platform and found her porter waiting outside the door of a third-class carriage.
'I'm travelling first-class,' said Mrs McGillicuddy.
'You didn't say so,' said the porter. Mrs McGillicuddy, had said so, but was too tired to argue.
The porter carried her suitcase to the next coach, where Mrs McGillicuddy sat down alone and opened her magazine. Five minutes later, whistles blew, and the train started. The magazine slipped from Mrs McGillicuddy's hand, her head dropped sideways and three minutes later she was asleep. She slept for thirty-five minutes and awoke feeling much better as she sat looking out of the window at the countryside flying past. It was almost dark now and the train passed through a station, then began to slow down, and then it stopped for a short while before it began to move forward again.
A train passed them, going in the opposite direction. Then another train, going in the same direction, passed frighteningly close to them. For a time the two trains ran parallel, and Mrs McGillicuddy looked from her window into the windows of the other carriages. Most of the blinds were down, but occasionally she could see people in the carriages, although many of them were empty.
Suddenly, when the two trains seemed to have stopped because they were both moving at the same slow speed, a blind flew up and Mrs McGillicuddy looked into the lighted first-class carriage that was only a short distance away.
Then she gasped and stood up.
Standing with his back to the window was a man. His hands were round the throat of a woman, and he was slowly strangling her. Her eyes were wide open and her face was purple. As Mrs McGillicuddy watched, the womans body collapsed. At the same time, the other train began to go forward faster and a moment later, it had passed Mrs McGillicuddy's train and disappeared.
Then the door of her carriage opened and a man said, 'Ticket, please.'
Mrs McGillicuddy turned to him, 'A woman has been strangled in a train that has just passed ours. I saw it — through there.' She pointed to the window. 'You must do something at once!'
The ticket collector coughed. 'You don't think that you may have been asleep and — er -?'
'I have been asleep, but if you think this was a dream, you're wrong. I saw it, I tell you.'
The ticket collector looked at his watch. 'We shall be in Brackhampton in seven minutes. I will report what you have told me. Perhaps you could give me your name and address...'
Mrs McGillicuddy gave him the address where she would be staying for the next few days and her home address in Scotland.
The train was slowing down now, and running through the bright lights of a large town. As it moved towards a crowded platform, the usual voice was saying, 'The train now arriving at Platform 1 is the 5.38 for Milchester, Waverton, Roxeter, and stations to Chadmouth...'
Her mind went back to the scene on the other train. Awful, really awful… and if the blind of the carriage had not by chance flown up… then she would not have been a witness to the crime.
Voices shouted, whistles blew, doors were banged shut. The 5.38 moved slowly out of Brackhampton station. An hour and five minutes later it stopped at Milchester. Mrs McGillicuddy collected her packages and her suitcase and got out.
Outside the station, a taxi driver came forward, 'Are you Mrs McGillicuddy? For St Mary Mead?'
It was a nine-mile drive, but at last the taxi reached the familiar village street and finally stopped. Mrs McGillicuddy got out and walked up the brick path to the door, which was opened by a servant. While the driver put her bags inside, Mrs McGillicuddy walked straight through the hall to where, at the open sitting room door, stood a fragile old lady.
They kissed and then, without a pause, Mrs McGillicuddy cried, 'Oh, Jane, I've just seen a murder!'
Miss Marple did not look surprised as she said, 'Most upsetting for you, Elspeth. I think you should tell me about it at once.'
That was exactly what Mrs McGillicuddy wanted to do. So she sat down by the fire and told her story while Miss Marple listened.
When she had finished, Miss Marple spoke, 'The best thing, I think, is for you to go upstairs and have a wash. Then we will have dinner — during which we will not discuss this at all. After dinner we can discuss it from every point of view.'
So the two ladies had dinner, discussing life in St Mary Mead, and also their gardens. Then they settled themselves by the fire again, and Miss Marple took out two beautiful old glasses from a corner cupboard, and from another cupboard took out a bottle.
'No coffee tonight for you, Elspeth. You are already overexcited (and no wonder!) so I suggest you have a glass of my home-made wine.'
'Jane,' said Mrs McGillicuddy, as she took an enjoyable sip, 'you don't think, do you, that I imagined it?'
'Certainly not,' said Miss Marple.
'Thank goodness. Because that ticket collector, he thought so. Very polite, but...'
'I think, Elspeth, that he behaved quite normally. It sounds — and indeed is — a very strange story. But I do not doubt at all that you saw what you've told me you saw. The man had his back to you, so you didn't see his face?'
'And the woman, can you describe her? Young, old?'
'Between thirty and thirty-five, I think.'
'I don't know. Her face, you see, was all...'
Miss Marple said quickly, 'Yes, yes, I understand. How was she dressed?'
'She had on a pale-coloured fur coat. No hat. Her hair was blonde.'
'And there was nothing particular that you can remember about the man?'
Mrs McGillicuddy took a little time to think before she replied. 'He was tall — and dark, I think. He had a heavy coat on.'
Miss Marple paused. 'We shall know more, I expect, in the morning.'
'In the morning?'
'Well, it will be in the morning newspapers. After this man had killed her, he would be left with a body. So he would probably leave the train at the next station — can you remember if the carriage had a corridor?'
'No, it did not.'
'Then it was a train that was not going far, so it would stop at Brackhampton. He left the train at Brackhampton, perhaps, after arranging the body in a corner seat. But of course she will soon be discovered — and the news will almost certainly be in the morning papers.'
But it was not in the morning papers.
Miss Marple and Mrs McGillicuddy, after making sure of this, finished their breakfast in silence. Then Mrs McGillicuddy stood up and turned to her friend.
'I think,' said Miss Marple, 'we should walk down to the police station and talk to Sergeant Cornish. I know him very well so I think he'll listen — and pass the information on to the right department.'
Frank Cornish was friendly and respectful. He listened to Mrs McGillicuddy's story and after she had finished he said, 'That sounds very strange.'
But Miss Marple believed that her friend was telling the truth, and he knew all about Miss Marple. She looked soft and fragile, but really she was as sharp and as clever as it was possible to be.
He said, 'Of course, you may have made a mistake — I'm not saying you did — but a lot of joking goes on — it might not have been serious and the woman might not have been dead.'
'I know what I saw,' said Mrs McGillicuddy.
Cornish said, 'You have done everything correctly and you can trust me to start inquiries.' He turned to Miss Marple. 'What do you think has happened to the body?'
'There seem to be only two possibilities,' said Miss Marple. 'The most likely one was that the body was left in the train, but that seems unlikely now, for it would have been found last night. The only other thing the murderer could have done would be to push the body out of the train on to the track. So it must be on the track somewhere — though that also seems unlikely.'
'Yes,' said Cornish. 'The body, if there is a body, ought to have been discovered by now, or will be very soon.'
But that day passed and the next day. On that evening Miss Marple received a note from Sergeant Cornish.
Considering the matter about which you spoke to me, full inquiries have been made, with no result. No woman's body has been found. I suggest that your friend may have witnessed a scene just as she described, but that it was much less serious than she thought.
'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.
2. Sir Henry Clithering and his godson (now at Scotland Yard), who was so very nice in the Little Paddocks case.
3. My nephew Raymond's second boy, David, who works for British Railways.
4. 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...
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?
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!'
Lucy Eyelesbarrow was thirty-two. She had taken a First in Mathematics at Oxford, and was expected to have a successful academic life. But Lucy Eyelesbarrow, as well as being very clever, was also very sensible. She knew that scholars were not well-paid, and she liked money. And to make money she knew that one must do work that is highly-valued because there are always too few people to do it. So, to the great surprise of her friends and fellow scholars, Lucy Eyelesbarrow decided to become a highly-skilled professional at housework.
Her success was immediate. Now, after about ten years, she was known all over Britain. It was quite usual for wives to say joyfully to husbands, 'It will be all right. I can go with you to America. I've got Lucy Eyelesbarrow!' Because once she came into a house, all the worry and hard work went out of it. Lucy Eyelesbarrow did everything. She looked after old people and young children, got on well with servants, and was wonderful with dogs. She also cooked perfectly. Best of all she never minded what she did. She washed the kitchen floor, dug the garden, and carried coal!
One of her rules was never to accept any job for a long time: two weeks or four at the most.
Lucy read the letter from Miss Marple. She had met her two years ago when Raymond West, the novelist, had paid for her to look after his old aunt who had been ill. Lucy had liked Miss Marple very much and now the old lady was asking if she could do a certain job for her — rather an unusual one. Perhaps Miss Eyelesbarrow could meet her so they could discuss it.
So the next day they met alone in a small, dark writing room of Lucy Eyelesbarrow's club in London. She said, 'I'm rather busy at the moment, but perhaps you can tell me what it is you want me to do?'
'It's very simple, really,' said Miss Marple. 'Unusual, but simple. I want you to find a body.'
'What kind of a body?' asked Lucy Eyelesbarrow with admirable calm.
'The body of a woman,' said Miss Marple, 'who was strangled in a train.'
'Well, that's certainly unusual. Tell me about it.'
Miss Marple told her. Lucy Eyelesbarrow listened without interrupting. At the end she said, 'Well, what do you want me to do?'
'I've got a theory,' said Miss Marple. 'The body's got to be somewhere. If it wasn't found in the train, then it must have been pushed out of the train — but it hasn't been found anywhere on the line. So I travelled down the same way to see if there was a place where the body could have been thrown off the train and yet not on to the line — and there was. The railway line makes a big curve before getting into Brackhampton, on the edge of a high embankment. If a body was thrown out there, when the train was leaning to one side, I think it would fall right down the embankment.'
'But surely it would still be found — even there?'
'Oh, yes. It would have to be taken away… Here's the place — on this map.'
Lucy studied the place where Miss Marple's finger pointed.
'It is right on the edge of Brackhampton now,' said Miss Marple, 'but originally it was a country house with large grounds and it's still there, untouched — surrounded by housing estates. It's called Rutherford Hall. It was built by a man called Crackenthorpe, a very rich manufacturer, in 1884. The original Crackenthorpe's son, an elderly man, is living there still with, I hear, a daughter. The railway encircles half of the property.'
'And you want me to do — what?'
'I want you to get a job there. But it might, you know, be dangerous.'
'I don't know,' said Lucy 'I don't think danger would worry me.'
'I didn't think it would,' said Miss Marple.
'What do I look for exactly?'
'Any signs along the embankment, a piece of clothing, broken bushes — that kind of thing.'
'And then?' Lucy asked.
'I shall be staying nearby,' said Miss Marple. 'With an old servant of mine, Florence, who lives in Brackhampton. I think you should mention you have an aunt living in the neighbourhood and that you want a job that is close to her, and also that you need some spare time so that you can go and see her.'
'I was going on holiday the day after tomorrow,' Lucy said. 'That can wait. But I can only stay three weeks. After that, I have another job.'
'If we can't find out anything in three weeks, we might as well give up the whole thing,' said Miss Marple.
After Miss Marple had gone, Lucy rang up an Employment Office in Brackhampton, and explained she needed a job in the neighbourhood to be near her 'aunt'. After saying no to several more desirable places, Rutherford Hall was mentioned.
'That sounds exactly what I want,' said Lucy.
Two days later, driving her own small car, Lucy Eyelesbarrow passed between two large iron gates. A long drive wound between dark bushes up to Rutherford Hall, which was like a small castle. But the stone steps in front of the door were broken and the drive was green with weeds.
She pulled an old bell, and an untidy woman opened the door. 'Miss Eyelesbarrow?'
'That's right,' said Lucy.
The house was very cold inside. The woman led her along a dark hall and opened a door. To Lucy's surprise, it was a rather pleasant sitting room, with books and pretty chairs.
'I'll tell Miss Crackenthorpe you're here,' said the woman, and went away shutting the door.
After a few minutes the door opened again. Emma Crackenthorpe was a middle-aged woman, neither good- looking nor plain, sensibly dressed in warm clothes, with dark hair and light brown eyes.
'Miss Eyelesbarrow?' She held out her hand. Then she looked doubtful. She had clearly been expecting someone very different from Lucy. 'I wonder, if this job is really right for you? I don't want someone just to organize things, I want someone to do the work.'
Lucy said, 'You want cooking and washing-up, and housework. That's what I do.'
'It's a big house, you know, and we only live in part of it — my father and myself. I have several brothers, but they are not here very often. Two women come in, a Mrs Kidder in the morning, and Mrs Hart three days a week.' She paused. 'My father is old and a little — difficult sometimes. I wouldn't like-'
Lucy said quickly, 'I'm very used to old people, and I always manage to get on well with them.'
Emma Crackenthorpe looked thankful. Lucy was given a large dark bedroom with a small electric heater, and was shown round the house. As they passed a door in the hall a voice shouted, 'Is that you, Emma? Have you got the new girl there? Bring her in. I want to look at her.'
The two women entered the room. Old Mr Crackenthorpe was stretched out in a chair. He was a big, but thin man with thick grey hair, a large chin and small, lively eyes. 'Let's have a look at you, young lady.'
Lucy advanced, confident and smiling.
'There's one thing you must understand straight away. Just because we live in a big house doesn't mean we're rich. We're not rich. We live simply — do you hear? — simply! I live here because my father built the house and I like it.'
'Your home is your castle,' said Lucy.
'You're laughing at me?'
'Of course not. I think it's very exciting to have a real country place all surrounded by a town.'
'Exactly. Fields with cows in them — right in the middle of Brackhampton.'
Lucy and Emma left the room and Lucy asked the times of meals and inspected the kitchen. Then she said cheerfully, 'Just leave everything to me.'
Lucy got up at six the next morning. She cleaned the house, prepared vegetables, cooked and served breakfast. With Mrs Kidder she made the beds and at eleven o'clock they sat down for some tea in the kitchen
Mrs Kidder was a small, thin woman. 'Miss Emma has to put up with a lot from her father,' she said. 'He's so mean. But she's not weak. And when the gentlemen come down she makes sure there's something good to eat.'
'Yes. It was a big family. The eldest, Mr Edmund, he was killed in the war. Then there's Mr Cedric, he lives abroad somewhere. He paints pictures. Mr Harold works in the City, in London — he married a lord's daughter. Then there's Mr Alfred, he seems very nice, but he's been in trouble once or twice — and there's Miss Edith's husband, Mr Bryan, ever so nice, he is — she died some years ago, and there's Master Alexander, their little boy. He's at school, but comes here for the holidays.'
Lucy listened carefully to all this information. When Mrs Kidder had gone, she cooked lunch and when she had cleared it away and washed up, she was ready to start exploring.
First, she walked round the gardens. A flower border near the house was the only place that was free of weeds. The gardener was a very old man, who was only pretending to work in the kitchen garden. Lucy spoke to him pleasantly. He lived in a cottage nearby and behind his cottage was a drive that led through the park, and under a railway arch into a rough path.
Every few minutes a train ran over the arch. Lucy watched the trains as they slowed down to go round the sharp curve surrounding the Crackenthorpe property. She passed under the railway arch and out into the road. On one side was the railway embankment, on the other was a high wall and some factory buildings. Lucy walked along the path until it came out into a street of small houses. A woman was walking past and Lucy stopped her.
'Excuse me, can you tell me if there is a public telephone near here?'
'There's one at the Post Office at the corner of the road.' Lucy thanked her and walked along until she came to the Post Office. There was a telephone box at one side. She went into it, dialled and asked to speak to Miss Marple.
A woman's voice said, 'She's resting. And I'm not going to wake her! Who shall I say called?'
'Miss Eyelesbarrow. Just tell her that I've arrived and that I'll let her know when I have any news.'
The next day in the sitting room after lunch Lucy said to Emma, 'Will it be all right if I just practise a few golf shots in the park?'
'Oh, yes, certainly. How clever of you to play golf.'
'I'm not much good, but it's a pleasanter form of exercise than just going for a walk.'
'There's nowhere to walk outside this place,' said Mr Crackenthorpe. 'Nothing but pavements and miserable little box houses. They'd like to buy my land and build more of them. But they won't until I'm dead. And I'm not going to die to please anybody. I can tell you that! I know what they're waiting for. Cedric, and Harold, and Alfred… I'm surprised he hasn't tried to get rid of me already. And perhaps he did, at Christmas-time. That was a very strange stomach upset I had. Dr Quimper asked me a lot of questions about it.'
'Everyone gets stomach upsets sometimes, Father,' said Emma.
'All right, all right, say that I ate too much! That's what you mean. And why did I eat too much? Because there was too much food on the table. And that reminds me — you, young woman, you sent in five potatoes for lunch. Two potatoes are enough for anybody. So don't send in more than four in future. The extra one was wasted today.'
'It wasn't wasted, Mr Crackenthorpe. I am going to use it in a Spanish omelette tonight.'
As Lucy went out of the room she heard him say, 'She's always got an answer! She cooks well, though — and she's a good- looking girl.'
Lucy Eyelesbarrow took a golf club out of the set she had brought with her, and walked out into the park. She hit the ball a few times until it landed on the railway embankment, then went up and began to look about for it. During the afternoon she searched about a third of the embankment. Nothing.
Then, on the next day, she did find something. A rose bush growing about halfway up the bank had been broken. Caught on it was a small piece of pale brown fur. Lucy took some scissors out of her pocket and cut it in half. The half she had cut off she put in an envelope.
As she came down the steep slope, she looked carefully at the long grass and at the bottom of the embankment just below the broken rose bush she found a powder compact. She put it in her pocket.
On the following afternoon, Lucy got into her car and went to see her 'aunt'. Number 4 Madison Road was a small, grey house in a small, grey street, but it had a very clean doorstep. The door was opened by a tall woman dressed in black who took her to Miss Marple, who was in the sitting room by the fire.
'Well!' Lucy said. 'It looks as though you were right.' She showed Miss Marple what she had found and told her how she had found them.
Miss Marple felt the small piece of fur. 'Elspeth said the woman was wearing a light-coloured fur coat. I suppose the compact was in the pocket of the coat and fell out as the body rolled down the slope. You didn't take all the fur?'
'No, I left half of it on the bush.'
'Very good. The police will want to check it.'
'You are going to the police — with these things?'
'Well — not yet… It would be better, I think, to find the body first.'
'But won't that be very difficult? I mean, the murderer may have taken it anywhere.'
'Not anywhere,' said Miss Marple. 'Because then he might much more easily have killed the girl in some remote place and driven the body away from there. You haven't understood...'
Lucy interrupted. 'Do you mean — that this crime was planned?'
'I didn't think so at first,' said Miss Marple. 'But isn't it hard to believe that a man suddenly killed a woman, then looked out of the window and saw the train going round a curve exactly at a place where he could push the body out, and where he could go later and remove it! If he had just thrown her out there by chance, he wouldn't have done anything else and the body would have been found. I think that he must have known all about Rutherford Hall, its geographical position, I mean — an island surrounded by railway lines.'
'It is exactly like that,' said Lucy.
'So if the murderer came to Rutherford Hall that night, before anyone could discover the body the next day, how would he come?'
Lucy thought. 'There's a rough path, beside a factory wall. He would probably come that way, turn in under the railway arch and along the back drive. Then he could go to the bottom of the embankment, find the body, and carry it back to the car.'
'And then,' continued Miss Marple, 'he took it to some place he had already chosen near Rutherford Hall. The obvious thing, I suppose, would be to bury it somewhere.'
'It wouldn't be easy,' said Lucy. 'He couldn't bury it in the park, because someone would notice it.'
'Then in some farm building?'
'That would be simpler… There are a lot of old buildings that nobody ever goes near.'
So the next afternoon Lucy looked around some of the old farm buildings. Suddenly she heard someone cough and turned to see the gardener, looking at her.
'You should be careful' he said. 'That floor is not safe. And you were up those steps just now and they aren't safe either.'
'I was just wondering if this place could be used for growing things,' Lucy said cheerfully. 'Everything seems to be in ruins.'
'That's because the Master won't spend any money.'
'But the place could make money — if the buildings were mended.'
'He doesn't want to make money. He knows what will happen after he's dead — the young gentlemen will sell the whole place as fast as they can. They're going to get a lot of money when he dies.'
'I suppose he's a very rich man?' said Lucy.
'Crackenthorpe's Delights, that's what the business was called. Mr Crackenthorpe's father started it and made his fortune. His two sons were educated to be gentlemen and they weren't interested in their father's business. The younger one was killed in a car accident. The older one went abroad a lot when he was young, and bought a lot of old statues and had them sent home. They didn't get on well, him and his father.'
'But after his father died, the older Mr Crackenthorpe came and lived here?'
'Him and his family, yes, in 1928.'
Lucy went back to the house and found Emma Crackenthorpe standing in the hall, reading a letter. 'My nephew Alexander will be here tomorrow — with a school friend. Alexander's room is the first one at the top of the stairs. The one next to it will do for his friend, James Stoddart-West,' she said.
'Yes, Miss Crackenthorpe, I'll prepare both rooms.'
'They'll arrive before lunch.' Emma paused. 'I expect they'll be hungry.'
'Roast chicken, do you think?' said Lucy. 'And apple tart?' Alexander's very fond of apple tart.'
The two boys arrived the next morning. Alexander Eastley had fair hair and blue eyes, Stoddart-West was dark and wore glasses. During lunch they talked seriously about sport, and occasionally about space travel. The roast chicken was eaten very quickly and every bit of apple tart disappeared.
Mr Crackenthorpe said, 'You two will soon eat all my money.' Alexander looked at him. 'We'll have bread and cheese if you can't afford meat, Grandfather.'
'Of course I can afford it but I don't like waste.'
'We haven't wasted any, sir,' said Stoddart-West, looking down at his empty plate.
After she had washed up, Lucy went out. She could hear the boys calling to each other on the lawn. She went down the front drive and began to hunt amongst the bushes with the help of her golf club. Suddenly the polite voice of Alexander Eastley made her turn.
Are you looking for something, Miss Eyelesbarrow?'
A golf ball,' said Lucy. 'Several golf balls in fact.'
'We'll help you,' said Alexander.
'That's very kind of you. I thought you were playing football.'
'One can't go on playing football,' explained Stoddart-West. 'One gets too hot. Do you play a lot of golf?'
'I do enjoy it, but I don't get much opportunity.'
'There's a clock golf set in the house,' Alexander said. 'We could fix it up on the lawn and have a game.'
Encouraged by Lucy, the boys went off to get it. Later, as she returned to the house, she found them setting it out on the lawn.
'It's a pity the set is so old,' said Stoddart-West. 'You can hardly see the numbers.'
'It needs some white paint,' said Lucy. 'You could get some tomorrow.'
'Good idea.' Alexander said. 'But I think there are some old pots of paint in the Long Barn. Shall we go and look?'
'What's the Long Barn?' asked Lucy.
Alexander pointed to a long, stone building near the back drive. 'A lot of grandfather's statue collection is in there. And it is sometimes used for Women's Institute events. Come and see it.'
Lucy followed the boys to the barn, which had a big wooden door. Alexander took a key from a nail near the top of the door, then he turned it in the lock. Inside there were three big, ugly statues, and an even bigger sarcophagus. Besides these, there were two folding tables and some piles of chairs. Alexander found two pots of paint and some brushes in a corner, then the boys went off, leaving Lucy alone.
She stood looking at the furniture, at the statues, at the sarcophagus… which had a heavy, close-fitting lid. She looked around and on the floor found a big crowbar.
It was not easy, but she worked with determination and slowly the lid began to rise, enough for Lucy to see what was inside...
A few minutes later she left the barn, locked the door, put the key back on the nail, then drove down to the telephone box.
'I want to speak to Miss Marple.'
'She's resting, and I'm not going to wake her.'
'You must wake her. It's urgent.'
Florence did not argue any more. Soon Miss Marple's voice spoke. 'Yes, Lucy?'
'I've found it.'
'A woman's body?'
'Yes. A woman in a fur coat. It's in a sarcophagus in a barn near the house. I think I ought to inform the police.'
'Yes. You must inform the police.'
'But the first thing they'll want to know is why I was lifting up that great heavy lid. Do you want me to invent a reason?'
'No,' said Miss Marple, you must tell the truth.'
Lucy suddenly smiled. 'That will be easy for me!' She said goodbye and rang the police station. Then she drove back to Rutherford Hall and went to the library, where Miss Crackenthorpe was reading to her father.
'Can I speak to you Miss Crackenthorpe?'
Emma looked up, a little nervously.
'Well, speak up, girl, speak up,' said old Mr Crackenthorpe. Lucy said to Emma, 'I'd like to speak to you alone, please.'
'Just a moment, Father.' Emma got up and went out into the hall. Lucy followed her and shut the door behind them.
Emma said, 'If you think there's too much work with the boys here, I can help you and-'
'It's not that,' said Lucy. 'But I didn't want to speak before your father because it might give him a shock. You see, I've just discovered the body of a murdered woman in that sarcophagus in the Long Barn.'
'In the sarcophagus? A murdered woman? It's impossible!'
'I'm afraid it's true. I've told the police. They will be here very soon.'
Emma's face went a little red. 'You should have told me first — before telling the police.'
'I'm sorry,' said Lucy, as they heard the sound of a car outside and the doorbell rang through the house.
'I'm very sorry to have asked you to do this,' said Inspector Bacon as he led Emma Crackenthorpe out of the barn.
Emma's face was pale, but she walked steadily. 'I have never seen the woman before.'
'Thank you, Miss Crackenthorpe. That's all I wanted to know.'
'I must go to my father. I telephoned Dr Quimper as soon as I heard about this.'
Dr Quimper came out of the library as they crossed the hall. He was a tall friendly-looking man. 'You were right to call me, Emma,' he said. 'Your father's all right. Just go in and see him, then get yourself a glass of brandy. That's doctor's orders.'
Emma smiled at him gratefully and went into the library.
'She's one of the best,' he said, looking after her. 'A pity she never married.'
'She cares too much for her father, I suppose,' said Inspector Bacon.
'She doesn't care that much — but her father likes being an invalid, so she lets him be an invalid. She's the same with her brothers. Cedric thinks he's a good painter, Harold believes he is good with money, and Alfred enjoys shocking her with his stories of his clever deals. Well, do you want me to have a look at the body now the police doctor has finished?'
'I'd like you to have a look, yes, Doctor. We want to get her identified. I suppose it's impossible for old Mr Crackenthorpe? It would upset him too much?'
'Upset him? Nonsense. He'd never forgive you if you didn't let him have a look. It's the most exciting thing that's happened to him for years — and it won't cost him anything!'
'There's nothing really wrong with him then?'
'He's seventy-two. That's all that's wrong with him. Come on, let's go and see this body of yours. Unpleasant, I suppose?'
'The police doctor says she's been dead for two or three weeks.'
'Very unpleasant, then.'
Dr Quimper stood by the sarcophagus and looked down at the body. 'I've never seen her before. She must have been quite good looking once. Who found her?'
'Miss Lucy Eyelesbarrow.'
They went out again into the fresh air.
'What was she doing, looking inside a sarcophagus?'
'That,' said Inspector Bacon, 'is just what I am going to ask her. Now, about Mr Crackenthorpe. Will you-?'
'Disgusting!' Mr Crackenthorpe came out of the house. 'I brought back that sarcophagus from Rome in 1908 — or was it 1909?'
'Calm yourself,' the doctor said. 'This isn't going to be nice, you know.'
'I may be ill, but I've got to do my duty, haven't I?'
A very short visit inside the Long Barn was, however, long enough. Mr Crackenthorpe came out into the air again with surprising speed. 'I've never seen her before! It wasn't Rome — I remember now — it was Naples. A very fine example. And some stupid woman is found dead in it!' He put a hand on his chest. 'Oh, my heart… Doctor...'
Doctor Quimper took his arm. 'You'll be all right after you have had a small brandy.' They went back together towards the house.
'And now,' Bacon said to himself, 'for Miss Lucy Eyelesbarrow!'
Lucy had just finished preparing potatoes for dinner when she was informed that Inspector Bacon wanted to see her. So she followed the policeman to a room where he was waiting.
'Now, Miss Eyelesbarrow,' Inspector Bacon said. 'You went into the Long Barn to find some paint. Is that right? And after you found the paint you forced up the lid of this sarcophagus and found the body. What were you looking for in the sarcophagus?'
'I was looking for a body,' said Lucy.
'You were looking for a body — and you found one! Doesn't that seem to you a very extraordinary story?'
'Oh, yes, it is an extraordinary story.' And Lucy told it to him.
The Inspector was shocked. 'Are you telling me that you were asked by an old lady to get a job here and to search the house and grounds for a dead body?'
'Who is this old lady?'
'Miss Jane Marple. She is at the moment living at 4 Madison Road.'
The Inspector wrote it down. 'Do you really expect me to believe this?'
Lucy said, 'Not, perhaps, until after you have spoken to Miss Marple.'
'I shall speak to her all right. She must be mad.'
Lucy did not reply to this. Instead she said, 'What are you going to tell Miss Crackenthorpe? About me?'
'Why do you ask?'
'Well, I've done what I came here for. But I'm still supposed to be working for Miss Crackenthorpe, and there are two hungry boys in the house and probably some more of the family will arrive after all this upset. She needs help, but if you tell her that I only took this job in order to hunt for dead bodies, she'll probably tell me to leave.'
The Inspector looked hard at her. 'I'm not saying anything to anyone at present, because I don't yet know whether your statement is true.'
Lucy got up. 'Thank you. Then I'll go back to the kitchen and get on with things.'
'So, you think we should ask the police in London to help us with this?' The Chief Constable looked at Inspector Bacon. 'You think we should speak to Scotland Yard?'
'The woman wasn't from the local area, sir,' Bacon said. 'We believe — because of her underwear — that she might have been foreign. But of course I'm not saying anything about that until after the inquest tomorrow. Other members of the Crackenthorpe family will be here for it and there's a chance one of them might be able to identify her.'
'There is no reason, is there, to believe the Crackenthorpe family are connected with the crime in any way?' the Chief Constable asked.
'Not apart from the fact that the body was found on their land,' said Inspector Bacon. 'What I can't understand is this nonsense about the train.'
'Ah, yes. You've been to see this old lady, this — er -'
'Miss Marple, sir. Yes, she's certain about what her friend saw. I'm sure she's just imagining it, but she did ask this young woman to look for a body — which she did.'
'And found one,' said the Chief Constable. 'Miss Jane Marple — the name seems familiar somehow… Anyway, I'll speak to Scotland Yard. I think you are right about it not being a local case.'
The inquest was a formal affair. No one came forward to identify the dead woman. Lucy was asked to give evidence of finding the body and medical evidence was given about the cause of death — she had been strangled.
It was a cold, windy day when the Crackenthorpe family came out of the hall. There were five of them, Emma, Cedric, Harold, Alfred, and Bryan Eastley, the husband of the dead daughter, Edith. There was also Mr Wimborne, the family's London lawyer. They all stood for a moment on the pavement. A small crowd had gathered there; the story of the 'Body in the Sarcophagus' had been fully reported in both the London and the local Press.
Voices were heard saying, 'That's them...'
Emma said sharply, 'Let's get away.' She got into the big hired car with Lucy. Mr Wimborne, Cedric and Harold followed.
Bryan Eastley said, 'I'll take Alfred in my car.'
The Daimler was about to leave when Emma cried, 'Oh, stop! There are the boys!'
Alexander and James had been left behind at Rutherford Hall, but now they suddenly appeared. 'We came on our bicycles,' said Stoddart-West. 'The policeman was very kind and let us in at the back of the hall.'
'But it was rather disappointing,' said Alexander. 'All over so soon.'
'We can't stay here talking,' said Harold angrily. 'There's all those men with cameras.' He gave a sign to the driver, who drove away down the road.
'All over so soon!' said Cedric. 'That's what they think, the young innocents! It's just beginning.'
'It's most unfortunate,' Harold said. 'By the way Miss — er — Eyelesbarrow, why were you looking in that sarcophagus?'
They all looked at Lucy. She had wondered when one of the family would ask her this and had already prepared her answer. 'I don't know… I did feel that the whole place needed to be cleaned. And there was,' she paused, 'a very unpleasant smell...'
Mr Wimborne said, 'Yes, yes, of course… but this unfortunate young woman was nothing to do with any of us.'
'Ah, but you can't be so sure of that, can you?' said Cedric. Lucy looked at him with interest. She had already noticed that the three brothers were very different. Cedric was a big man with untidy dark hair and a cheerful manner. He was still wearing the clothes in which he had arrived from the airport; old grey trousers, and an old brown jacket. He looked bohemian and proud of it.
His brother Harold was the opposite; the perfect picture of a City gentleman. He was tall, with smooth, dark hair, and was dressed in a suit and a pale grey tie. He said, 'Really, Cedric, that seems a most unnecessary remark.'
'Why? She was in our barn, so what did she come there for?' Mr Wimborne coughed. 'Possibly some — er — romantic meeting. I have heard that all the locals knew that the key was kept outside on a nail.'
Emma said, 'Yes, it was for the Women's Institute people.'
Mr Wimborne coughed again. 'It seems probable that the barn was used in the winter by local lovers. There was a disagreement and some young man lost control of himself. Then he saw the sarcophagus and he realized that it would make an excellent hiding place.'
'If I was a girl coming to meet my young man, I wouldn't like being taken to a freezing cold barn,' Cedric replied. 'I'd want a nice warm cinema, wouldn't you, Miss Eyelesbarrow?'
'Do we really need to discuss all this?' Harold said.
But as he asked the question, the car stopped outside the front door of Rutherford Hall.
As he entered the library Mr Wimborne looked past Inspector Bacon whom he had already met, to the fair-haired, good- looking man behind him.
'This is Detective Inspector Craddock of Scotland Yard,' Inspector Bacon said.
Dermot Craddock smiled at Mr Wimborne. 'As you are representing the Crackenthorpe family, I think that we should give you some confidential information. We believe that the dead woman travelled down here from London and that she had recently come from abroad. Probably from France. Now I would like to have a quick talk with each member of the family...'
'I really cannot see...'
'What they can tell me? Probably nothing. I expect I can get most of the information I want from you. Information about this house and the family.'
'And how can that possibly be connected with an unknown woman coming from abroad and being killed here?'
'Well, that's the question,' said Craddock. 'Why did she come here? Had she once had some connection with this house? Had she been, perhaps, a servant here? Or did she come to meet someone else who had lived at Rutherford Hall? Can you give me a short history of the family?'
'There is very little to tell,' said Wimborne. 'Josiah Crackenthorpe made sweet and savoury biscuits. He became very rich. He built this house. Luther Crackenthorpe, his eldest son, lives here now.'
'And the present Mr Crackenthorpe has never thought of selling the house?'
'He is unable to do so,' said the lawyer. 'Because of his father's will.'
'Perhaps you'll tell me about the will?'
'Josiah Crackenthorpe left his great fortune in trust, the income from it to be paid to his son Luther for life, and after Luther's death, the capital to be divided equally between Luther's children, Edmund, Cedric, Harold, Alfred, Emma and Edith. Edmund was killed in the war, and Edith died four years ago, so that on Luther Crackenthorpe's death, the money will be divided between Cedric, Harold, Alfred, Emma and Edith's son Alexander Eastley.'
'And the house?'
'That will go to Luther Crackenthorpe's eldest living son or his children.'
'Was Edmund Crackenthorpe married?'
'So the property will actually go-?'
'To the next son — Cedric,' said Mr Wimborne.
'So at present the next generation have no income except what they make or what their father gives them, and their father has a large income but no control of the capital.'
'Exactly.' Mr Wimborne stood up. 'I am now going back to London. Unless there is anything more you wish to know.'
Lucy had gone straight to the kitchen when she got back from the inquest, and was busy preparing lunch when Bryan Eastley came in.
'Can I help in any way?' he asked.
Lucy gave him a quick look. Bryan had arrived alone at the inquest in his small M.G. sports car, and she had not had much time to study him. She now saw a friendly-looking man, about thirty years old, with fair hair and blue eyes.
'The boys aren't back yet,' he said, sitting on the end of the kitchen table.
Lucy smiled. 'They were determined not to miss anything. Do you mind getting off the table, Mr Eastley? I want to put this hot dish down there.'
Bryan obeyed. 'Do you mind me talking to you?'
'If you came in to help, I'd rather you helped.' Lucy took another dish from the oven. 'Here — turn all these potatoes over so that they will get brown on the other side.'
Bryan did as he was told. Then he watched Lucy pour the Yorkshire pudding mixture into the dish. 'This is fun. It reminds me of being in our kitchen at home — when I was a boy.'
There was something strangely sad about Bryan Eastley, Lucy thought. Looking closely at him, she realized that he must be nearer forty than thirty. He reminded her of the many young pilots she had known during the war when she had been only fourteen. She had gone on and grown up into a post-war world — but she felt that Bryan had not gone on, but had been left behind. She remembered what Emma had told her. 'You were a fighter pilot, weren't you? You've got a medal.'
'Yes, and if you've got a medal, people try to make things easy for you. They give you a job, which is very good of them. But they're all office jobs, and I'm just not any good at that sort of thing. I've had ideas of my own but… if I had a bit of capital...' He paused.
At that moment Alexander and Stoddart-West arrived.
'Hello, Bryan,' said Alexander to his father. 'Oh, what a good piece of meat. Is there Yorkshire pudding?'
'Yes, there is,' said Lucy.
'She's an excellent cook.' Alexander spoke to Bryan like a kindly father to his son.
'Can we help you, Miss Eyelesbarrow?' asked Stoddart-West.
'Yes, you can. Alexander, go and ring the bell. James, will you carry this dish into the dining room? And will you take the meat in, Mr Eastley? I'll bring the potatoes and the Yorkshire pudding.'
When Lucy came out into the hall, Mr Wimborne was standing there putting on his coat, Emma was coming down the stairs, and two police officers were coming out of the library.
Mr Wimborne took Emma's hand in his. 'Now this is Detective Inspector Craddock from Scotland Yard who has come to take charge of the case. And he has just told me that this almost certainly was not a local crime. They think she came from London and was probably foreign.'
Emma Crackenthorpe said sharply, 'Was she French?'
After lunch, the police officers asked if they could talk to Mr Cedric Crackenthorpe. Inspector Craddock said, 'I hear you have just come from Ibiza? You live out there?'
'It's better than this boring country.'
'You get more sunshine than we do, I expect,' said Inspector Craddock. 'But you came home not very long ago — for Christmas. What made you come back again so soon?'
Cedric smiled. 'I got a call from my sister. We've never had a murder here before and I didn't want to miss anything. Also I thought poor Emma might need a bit of help — managing the old man and the police and everything.'
'I see. Although her two other brothers have also come to be with her.'
'But not to cheer her up,' Cedric said. 'Harold is very angry about it. It's not at all suitable for a City man to be mixed up with the murder of a strange female.'
'Was she — a strange female?' Inspector Craddock asked. 'I thought perhaps you might be able to guess who she was?' Cedric shook his head. 'I have no idea.'
Craddock leaned back in his chair. 'As you heard at the inquest, the time of death was between two and four weeks ago — which makes it somewhere around Christmas. When did you arrive in England and when did you leave?'
Cedric thought. 'I got here on the Saturday before Christmas — that would be the 21st.'
'You flew straight here?'
'Yes, and got here at midday. I flew back on the following Friday, the 27th.'
Cedric smiled. 'That puts me well within the time of the murder, unfortunately. But really, Inspector, strangling young women is not my favourite form of Christmas fun.'
'So what do you think of him?' Craddock asked Bacon as Cedric shut the door behind him.
'I don't like that type,' Bacon said. 'Dirty trousers, and did you see his tie? It looked as though it was made of coloured string. He's just the type who would strangle a woman and think nothing about it.'
'Well, he didn't strangle this one — if he didn't leave Ibiza until the 21st. And that's a thing we can easily check.'
Bacon looked at him. 'I notice that you're not telling them the actual date of the crime.'
'No, we'll keep quiet about that for a bit. Now we'll see what our correct City gentleman has to say about it all.'
Harold Crackenthorpe had very little to say about it. No, he had no idea who the dead woman was. Yes, he had been at Rutherford Hall for Christmas. He had been unable to come down until Christmas Eve — but had stayed on over the following weekend.
Inspector Craddock then asked to see Alfred, and when he came into the room Craddock felt that he had seen him somewhere before. He asked Alfred what job he did.
'I'm in insurance at the moment. Until recently I've been interested in putting a new type of talking machine on the market. I did very well out of that.'
Inspector Craddock smiled — but he was noticing how Alfred's suit, which had looked smart when he came in, was really very cheap. Cedric's clothes had been dirty, but they had been made of excellent material. Alfred's cheap smartness told its own story. Craddock began to ask his usual questions and Alfred seemed interested.
'It's quite an idea, that the woman might once have had a job here. But as Emma didn't recognize her, I think that's unlikely. And if the woman came from London… What made you think she came from London, by the way?'
Inspector Craddock smiled and shook his head.
'Not telling, eh?' Alfred said. 'Did she have a return ticket in her coat pocket, is that it?'
Inspector Craddock thanked Alfred and let him go.
'I don't suppose you want to see me,' said Bryan Eastley, coming into the room. 'I don't really belong to the family.'
'You were the husband of Miss Edith Crackenthorpe, who died five years ago?' Inspector Craddock asked.
'Well, it's very kind of you, Mr Eastley, especially if you know something that could help us.'
'But I don't. I wish I did. Is it true that she was foreign?'
'She may have been French,' said Inspector Bacon.
Bryan's blue eyes suddenly looked interested. 'Really?' Inspector Craddock said, 'Has anybody in the family got any French connections, that you know of?'
Bryan shook his head. 'I'm not being very helpful, am I?' He smiled. 'But Alexander and James are out every day hunting for clues. They'll probably find something for you.'
Inspector Craddock said he hoped they would, then said he would like to speak to Miss Emma Crackenthorpe.
Inspector Craddock looked more carefully at Emma Crackenthorpe than he had done before. He was still wondering about the expression on her face before lunch when Wimborne had said the murdered woman was foreign.
'As you have heard, we believe the dead woman came from abroad which makes it more difficult for us to identify her.'
'But didn't she have anything — a handbag? Papers?' Craddock shook his head.
'You have no idea of her name — of where she came from — anything at all?'
She's very anxious to know who the woman is, Craddock thought.
'We know nothing about her,' he said. 'Can you think of anyone she might be?'
'I have no idea at all.'
There was a hardness in Inspector Craddock's voice as he asked, 'When Mr Wimborne told you that the woman was foreign, why did you assume that she was French?'
Emma remained calm. 'Did I? I don't really know why — except that most foreigners in this country are French, aren't they?'
'Oh, I really don't think so, Miss Crackenthorpe. People from so many countries come here, Italians, Germans, Belgians...' Craddock looked at Inspector Bacon who showed her a small powder compact. 'Do you recognize this, Miss Crackenthorpe?'
'No. It's not mine.'
'You've no idea whose it is?'
'Then I don't think we need worry you any more — for the present.'
'Thank you.' She smiled, got up, and left the room.
'Do you think she knows anything?' asked Bacon.
Inspector Craddock said, 'I often think that everyone knows more than they want to tell you, but...'
But suddenly the door was thrown open and old Mr Crackenthorpe came in, looking extremely angry. 'So Scotland Yard comes here and doesn't have the good manners to talk to the head of the family first! Tell me, who is the Master of this house?'
'You are, of course, Mr Crackenthorpe,' said Craddock, standing up. 'But we thought that you had already told Inspector Bacon all you know, and as Dr Quimper said...'
'Yes, yes, I am not a strong man… but Dr Quimper is like a silly old woman sometimes. And there has been a murder in my own house — well, in my own barn! So, what do you want to know? What's your theory?'
'It's a bit early for theories, Mr Crackenthorpe. We are still trying to find out who the woman was.'
'Foreign, you say?'
'We think so.'
'And you think she was involved with one of my sons? If so, she would be Alfred's woman. And some violent fellow followed her down here, thinking she was coming to meet Alfred and killed her. How's that?'
'But Mr Alfred Crackenthorpe did not recognize her,' Inspector Craddock said.
'He's a liar, always was!' And he left the room.
'Alfred's woman?' said Bacon. 'I don't think Alfred is who we're looking for — but I did just wonder about that Air Force fellow.'
'Yes. I've met one or two like him. They had danger and death and excitement too early. Now they find life boring and they don't mind risking things. If Eastley were mixed up with a woman and wanted to kill her...' He stopped 'But if you do kill a woman, why put her in your father-in-law's sarcophagus? No, none of this family had anything to do with the murder.' Bacon stood up. 'Anything more you want to do here?'
Craddock said there wasn't, so he was going to call on an old friend.
Miss Marple, sitting very straight on Florence's sofa, smiled at Inspector Dermot Craddock. 'I'm so glad that you have been asked to help with the case. I hoped you would be.'
'When I got your letter,' said Craddock, 'I took it straight to the A.C., the Assistant Commissioner. And he had just heard from the Brackhampton people asking for our help. The A.C. was very interested in what I had to tell him about you. He had heard about you from my godfather.'
'Dear Sir Henry,' said Miss Marple.
'So he sent me to look into the case, and here I am! Of course, this meeting is not an official one. I'm hoping you can put yourself in the murderer's place, and tell me where he is now?' Miss Marple shook her head. 'I wish I could. But I've no idea. Although he must be someone who knows all about Rutherford Hall.'
'I agree. But that includes so many people. A lot of women have worked there. And there's the Women's Institute and other groups. They all know the Long Barn and where the key was kept. Also we'll never begin to solve the crime until we identify the body.'