'We merely continued with what we had talked about earlier. Then the Major called me.'
'To examine the body. What were your conclusions?'
'He had been dead no more than half an hour at the most, he was still somewhat warm. He had been shot in tthe back at close range. Death was instantaneous.'
'Thank you, Dr. Sinclair. That will be all. I'd like to speak with your fiancée next.'
'Must she be submitted to this questioning all over again?'
'There is no reason for her to be excused, Doctor. Please send her in.'
I had to give this guy credit; he could handle people. He listened to what they said and held his temper when they raved about his 'incompetence'.
Kathleen Preston entered looking as lovely as ever--a totally different type of beauty than Sophie, of course. She sat down nervously in the chair facing the desk. Palmer began. 'I know this must be a trying experience for you, but all I want is for you to answer a few questions for me.'
'I'll tell you what I can, Sergeant.'
'Let's start with what you did last night.'
She looked nervously at me and I smiled encouragingly. 'After dinner we went into the drawing room and I had a small glass of sherry. We talked of parapsychology and séances. Madame Saphrona left after about thirty minutes. When she left, the conversation turned to her--and you,' she added, looking at me.
'Who started things in that vein?' I asked.
'Mr. Curry, I think.' She turned back to Palmer. 'It seemed that he wanted to convince us that they really were the con artists Mr. Newbury said they were. He left the room soon after Madame Saphrona, not less than a quarter of an hour.'
'What did you do after he left?'
'Major Kennsington-Smythe, Mrs. Westbury, James, and I played bridge while Mr. Newbury read then went up to his room. We stopped playing cards when the Major complained about the pain in his leg and went to fetch his medicine. The three of us chatted about the séance and Madame Saphrona until we heard the Major calling James and telling us that Mr. Newbury was dead.'
She seemed about to cry so I chivalrously handed her my handkerchief. 'What was your reaction?'
She thanked me and wiped her eyes. 'I was horrified. I mean, who could do such a thing? Mr. Newbury seemed so nice. But if he really was involved in what the papers said, I guess he deserved what he got.'
'Does that mean you approve of the murder?'
'Of course not. What he must have done to make someone wish to kill him. . .' She shuddered.
'Thank you, Miss Preston. That will be all. Will you please tell Mr. Thompson that we wish to speak to him?' She nodded and left the room. 'What did you make of that?'
I was surprised that he asked for my opnion instead of just telling me his. 'She said two things different from both Sinclair's and Westbury's evidence. One: Newbury was reading while they played cards. Two: Mr. Curry left fifteen minutes after Madame Saphrona. According to the others, it was closer to thirty minutes.'
Palmer was impressed. 'I'm glad you picked that up. You followed the wrong calling.' He smiled. There was a polite knock on the door. 'Our next guest.'
'He gives me the creeps.'
'That's no excuse for leaving him in the hallway. Come in.'
Thompson entered, looking much better than he had last night. 'Good morning, Sergeant. Mr. Anthony.'
'Good morning, Thompson. I take it you are feeling much better?'
'I still have a headache, but that's minimal when I think about what could have happened.'
'True. Now, let's get down to business. I have a few more questions to ask you and I hope your mind is clear enough to answer them. When you went upstairs, where were the guests?'
'Mr. Anthony and Madame Saphrona were upstairs. The Major, Dr. Sinclair, Mrs. Westbury, and Miss Preston were in the drawing room. I can't say about the others. I didn't see them.'
'What about Meyers?'
His look showed he wondered why Palmer was asking about Meyers, but he answered anyway. 'He was in the front hall as I went upstairs. I think he was carrying the port salver and some glasses on a tray.'
'Did you go straight to the Major's room?'
Thompson actually seemed to blush. 'No, sir. I had to visit the, um, facilities.' I smiled and he went on. 'It was as I was passing between Mr. Newbury's and Madame Saphrona's rooms that I heard the voices. I walked to Mr. Newbury's door to see if he was there when I was knocked out.'
'Are you sure that's where the voices were coming from?' I asked, fingers crossed.
'They seemed to be loudest in front of his door.'
'One last thing: were you tied up in the shed or just knocked out?'
'Just knocked out.'
'Thank you very much, Mr. Thompson, You've helped us a great deal. Just take it easy for the rest of the day. Could you send Meyers in next?'
Meyers walked into the room oozing all his butlerish charm. That didn't affect Palmer in any way. He merely motioned ofr Meyers to sit down and began tto question him. 'Where were you last night when Newbury was found?' (That was the first direct question he had asked.)
'I was belowstairs, sir, tending to the Major's port.'
Palmer nodded. 'You arrived at the scene quite promptly, Meyers. The Major hadn't even rung for you.'
'I heard the commotion.' Palmer raised an eyebrow. 'When Dr. Sinclair ran upstairs.'
'How did you know it was Dr. Sinclair?' I asked.
'It wasn't a woman, the tread was too heavy. Mr. Newbury and Mr. Curry had already been upstairs for some time when I left to refill the decanter. Major Kennsigton-Smythe was just going upstairs as I was going down.'
'How did you know they weren't coming down?'
Meyers turned to Palmer who told him to answer the question. 'Going down they would have been much faster, but they sounded slower, as if they were going up two at a time.' I nodded and sat back to let Palmer continue. Something about Meyers' nonchalance in answering made me suspicious. 'How did you feel towards Mr. Newbury?' (An interesting tack.)
'How should I feel towards a great politician? I respected him, nothing more, nothing less.' (A bit of anger there. I wonder if Palmer noticed it?)
'Did you know any of the guests before ast night?'
'Mr. Newbury and Mrs. Westbury; they have visited before. Dr. Sinclair was just a name. The others I did not know at all.'
'That's all, Meyers. Thank you very much.' Palmer dismissed him.
Meyers rose slowly and walked to the door. He paused and looked back at Palmer. 'Do you think the murderer will get away, sir?'
'Not a ghost of a chance,' I answered, emphasizing the word, hoping it would get some reaction from him. It did: a nervous smile. He left.
'What was that all about?'
'Oh, nothing. I just thought it an appropriate phrase considering the séance tonight.' I don't know if he believed me, but he didn't say anything further.
We stepped out of the study at about 12.30. They were preparing for lunch. The Major saw us and came over. 'Do you think you know who did it?'
'We're closer to an answer, sir, but we don't want to say anything just yet.' Palmer looked at his watch. 'I have to get back to the station, but I'll be back in time for the séance.' They shook hands and we walked to the front door.
'Do you think you're closer to the solution?'
'I've narrowed it down to two people. I have to check some files for verification.'
'And leave me here with a murderer?'
'Why are you so worried? They've already taken care of their target.'
'What if they think I know something?'
'If that should happen, then we'll know who the killer is.' He put a hand on my shoulder. 'Take it easy. I'll be back for the séance. If it makes you feel better, avoid everyone.'
I gave him a sickly smile and he walked to his car. Maybe he was right. Maybe I should stay away from everyone, until dinner at least. I could possibly live longer that way. I walked back inside and went to the dining room. I swear, everytime I saw these people, they were eating. I slid into a seat next to Lenoar. She gave me a polite smile and I gave her one in return. The others acted coldly towards me, afraid of possibly saying the wrong thing and ending up a suspect.
After lunch, I took Sophie aside and told heer I wanted to talk. 'Your room or mine?' she asked with a smile.
'Neither. Out on the moor where no one can hear us.'
'You're really serious about this, aren't you?'
'Considering I'm in fear of my life, I'd say I have to be.' We walked outside towards the tor. 'What did everyone say when they came out of the study?'
She wasn't surprised by the question. 'The Major didn't say anything, his face told all. He seemed oetrified that you had information that could ruin his reputation. Bill, my God, he acted as if he were a real snob. He couldn't believe that the police were allowing a "fraud" to help in the investigation. Sinclair felt the same way. Lenora took it all in stride, and Kathleen didn't know how to take it at all.'
We were at the foot of the tor. 'What about Thompson and Meyers?'
'You questioned them? Whatever for?'
'Thompson's story about being knocked out deserved investigation, and Meyers, as butler, usually sees everyone coming and going. I take it you didn't see them.'
'No, I didn't.'
We walked to the top, sat down, and just stared at the Hall for close to twenty minutes. My mind was in turmoil. I thought I knew who the killer was and I wanted to tell someone. Sophie was the only one I could trust, yet I didn't want her involved--any more than she was already. I could at least intimate. 'Sophie, I think I know who killed Newbury,' I said softly.
'You do? Did you tell Sgt. Palmer?'
'No. I think he has his own suspicions. I just wanted to tell someone and you're the only one in this place I can really trust.'
'What about Bill?'
'Not with the way he's acting. I have to be careful with a murderer about.'
'How do you know you can trust me?' she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
'I was with you when the murder supposedly occurred.'
'Why don't you tell me?'
'Tell you what?' I said, being evasive.
'You know very well what. Who killed Newbury?'
'I don't know. I only suspect.'
'Who do you suspect, then?'
'I can't tell you because then they might go after you and I can't let that happen.'
She looked me straight in the eyes and knew I was being sincere. 'Okay, Nick. I won't push you any further, but I'll be there when you need help.'
I nodded silently in gratitude. We sat there for another half-hour in silence. We might have held hands, I don't quite remember. As if in unspoken agreement, we both rose and walked back to the Hall. The clock in the front hall was just striking 3.00.
I saw Bill out of the corner of my eye and decided to leave. 'It was a lovely walk, Sophie,' I said, stifling a yawn. 'I'm going up to my room to catch up on some sleep. I'll be down for dinner.' I passed Bill on the way to the stairs and gave him a cool 'Hello'. He didn't say anything.
When I reached my room, I locked the door behind me. I was taking no chances. What I had said to Sophie was a ruse so I could have a reason for being in my room for that long--or so I thought. Once I stretched out on the bed, I was asleep.
* * * *
When I woke, my watch said 5.25. Just enough time to prepare for dinner and the séance--not to mention the unmasking. I got up and looked in the wardrobe to decide what suit to change into, the one I had on had that slept-in look. I picked out a navy outfit and was unknotting my tie when the blow came.
'Ssshhh, he's coming 'round. Neil, can you hear me?'
I blinked a couple of times and my eyes focused on Sophie. 'W-w-what happened?'
'You got hit on the head. When you didn't come down for dinner, I decided to come wake you. I knocked and called, but you didn't answer. I had to get Meyers to open the door with a key.'
I tried to turn my head and had my own 24-gun salute. I settled for just my eyes. I didn't see him so I tried to pull myself up. 'Take it easy. You have a minor concussion and you don't want to aggravate it.' Sinclair.
Holding a bowl of soup was my other Angel of Mercy, Kathleen. 'You have to eat something.'
Bill was standing off to one side. 'I guess this means the séance is off.'
I stopped eating the broth. 'It most certainly does not.' I slowly swung my feet off the bed. 'We're going through with this. Remember, I have something to prove.' I leaned on Sophie for support. Please, God, help me through this and I promise I'I go straight--eventually.
We all went into the drawing room where the séance was to be held and were met by the Major and Palmer. He raised an eyebrow at the bandage about my head. He walked over and took me aside. 'I have the evidence. It was all in the files.'
'I think I know who did it as well as who knocked me out.'
'Maybe we both know the same. It's--'
'Sgt. Palmer, Mr. Anthony, Madame Saphrona is ready to begin,' Lenora said, calling us away from our discussion.
We sat around the table that had been prepared for the occasion. 'We must now hold hands and remain silent,' I said, 'as we wait for Madame to go into her trance.'
Sophie let out a few soft moans then began. 'We are trying to contact Catherine Kennsington-Smythe. Catherine, can you hear me?' Nothing. 'Catherine, your husband wishes to speak with you. We mean you no harm.' A thin white mist appeared above the centre of the table and slowly began to grow and take on a resemblance to human form. Sophie had excelled herself. 'Catherine, is that you?'
'No, it is not Catherine,' a familiar male voice intoned. Everyone's eyes were frozen on the mist.
Sophie looked at it, shocked. 'Edmund Newbury?' she whispered.
'Yes, the form replied. 'I have come to point out my murderer.'
Everyone cast glances at everyone else. Who was it? Whose crime was so dastardly that the victim came back from beyond the grave? I looked at Bill to see his reaction to Sophie's calling. He knew it was real because we never had the chance to set up the equipment. He kept clenching and unclenching his teeth. I jerked my head in his direction so Palmer would see. He did.
'Who is the murderer, Mr. Newbury?' asked Sophie. The apparition turned once, looking at everyone, then, the second time, he stopped and pointed--at Meyers. He stuttered and tried to deny it, but Palmer, who had other tangible proof, handcuffed him.
I turned to Sophie. 'You called him. You really called him.'
'I couldn't believe it. At first, I thought you had done something without telling me, then I remembered you never had the chance.'
'He was in on it!' Meyers yelled. 'It was his idea!'
I turned to see who he was looking at. It was Bill! I started towards him, but he grabbed Kathleen and pulled out a gun. 'Any further, Neil, and she gets it.' And he meant it. Sinclair moved towards his fiancée. 'That includes you, too, Doctor.'
Sophie moved to comfort him. 'Everything will work out okay,' she whispered.
Lenora and K.S. didn't know what to do. Neither of them had ever been in a situation like this before. 'Mr. Curry, what are you trying to prove by holding this young woman?' he asked.
'Come now, Major, surely you must understand the strategy of hostages?' He began backing out of the room. Palmer walked with him. 'What are you doing, Sergeant?'
'I'm going to call off the constable, let you go unharmed.' I couldn't believe how cool he was. 'McGuire, let him go. We don't want the girl hurt.' McGuire nodded. 'You're set, Mr. Curry. When will you let Miss Preston go?'
'As soon as I'm on my way out of the country. You had better call the station to expect us . You don't want me to get nervous, do you?' He tightened his grip on Kathleen, who cried out.
Once they were in the front hall, I headed for a window. I wasn't going to let Bill get away with this. He had ruined my life enough already. 'Where do you think you're going?' asked the Major.
'To save Kathleen, what do you think? C'mon, I've been proved innocent, haven't I? I'm not running out on you.'
'Let him go, Gordon,' Lenora told him. 'I think right now he's the only one who can stop him.'
I thanked her and climbed out. Bill had just reached the door, but was still facing inside. Kathleen, however, saw me. I held my finger to my lips to have her hold her tongue. I dug my toes in and prepared myself for a running tackle. Just at the right time, Kathleen kicked Bill then ran back inside. Bill, his hostage gone, headed away from the house and I followed.
He ran towards the moor and I kept up with him, the distance between us closing slowly. My head was pounding; I had almost forgotten about the concussion. I looked up and Bill was nowhere in sight. I slowed to a stop and glanced about me. There were many rocks for him to hide behind while he shot at me. I turned off the main path and hid--right in his sights. He began to shoot and the bullets were close, too close. One even hit me in the leg.
All of a sudden, they stopped. I heard voices, one shouting. Then one called me. I called a feeble reply and soon Palmer and Sinclair were beside me. Sinclair began to examine my leg. 'Did you get him?' Palmer nodded, a concerned smile on his face. 'The butler did it,' I said with a weak smile before loosing consciousness.
* * * *
I woke in a hospital bed with a throbbing head and a throbbing leg. When will I ever learn? If it hadn't been for Bill, I wouldn't be in this mess! Bill. Why had he turned to murder? He had seemed the epitome of the upper-class youth. Then, he had never told me why he had been sent down. The door opened and Palmer and Sophie walked in. 'Did you miss me?'
'No,' Sophie replied.
'Are you positive?'
'Not exactly.' I smiled in triumph. 'I was worried about you,' she said hastily.
'With good reason, too,' remarked Palmer. 'Why did you chase him when you had a concussion?'
'Anger, I guess. Remember, I was crazy enough to go out on a ledge in a thunderstorm,' I said with a grin. 'What happened to Meyers and Curry?'
'Meyers confessed without any pressure. His real name is Owens. It seems he once worked with Newbury and came up with the ideas for most of the bills Newbury claimed as his own. They argued and Newbury had him blacklisted. He's held a grudge ever since. A few years later, he read that New bury was going down to Devon to visit an old friend--'
'Right. He came down and applied for the position as butler--after getting rid of the old one. He bided his time, putting up with the Major's eccentricities and spiritualism. He also admitted to putting a dummy in your wardrobe.' He raised an eyebrow questioningly at me.
I ignored that and asked, 'What about Bill? What was his story?'
'He's refused to talk so far, but we have enough to convict him from Owens' confession. He said that he met Curry last month during some time off in London. He was struck by Curry's charm and they began to talk. Newbury became the topic of conversation and they realised they had something in common: they both carried a grudge against the man. He thinks Bill's might have had to do with his father. Owens told him that he worked for Major Kennsington- Smythe, Newbury's friend in Devon and that he, Newbury, was planning a visit in the next couple of weeks. They arranged then to bring about the man's downfall. Murder wasn't originally part of it.'
'So Curry created a scandal for Newbury to become involved in, to ruin his career,' I said slowly.
'Exactly. When that didn't work the way he wanted it to, he invited himself to Baskerville Hall to commit murder.'
'But Meyers--sorry, Owens--did the actual murder,' Sophie brought up.
'Of course. Curry thought himself the brains of the team and refused to bloody his hands, literally.'
'It must have been Curry who knocked Thompson out because he heard Owens and Newbury.'
'But who knocked me out? No, wait. It had to be Owens. I had locked my door and Madame said she had to fetch him with a key to open it.'
'Oh, my,' she said, shocked. 'I didn't even think of that.'
'You did quite a job last night,' remarked Palmer. 'Quite commendable. The others are all ready to forget how they treated you before.'
'Speaking of the others, how's Kathleen?' Sophie's eyes threw poisoned darts at me.
'She's recovered from the shock of it all and can't wait to tell everyone.'
'When will the trial be?'
'In two weeks or so. It's very big news. Won't sit on the back burner for long. I have to be going. Reports to file.'
'Good-bye, Sergeant. Thank you.' Palmer left and Sophie and I were alone. 'I can't believe it. Bill Curry, a murderer.'
'He didn't actually do the killing himself, so he can't be tried for it.'
'Conspiracy to murder, especially with Owens' testimony. He might even turn Crown's Evidence.'
'Why did you chase after Bill? Was it because he was holding a gun to Kathleen?'
'Don't be stupid! That was only part of it. The main reason was that this whole this was his fault. I was contemplating going straight before all this. I was visiting my family for the first time in years. Mum knew I was into something deep, so I was going to try, just for her. Bill was the one who came up with the idea of conning Newbury and he never told me the man was an MP. He then came up with the Major. He knew all along that Newbury was going to be there. The next thing I know is I find the body of a dead politician and I'm the prime suspect. Then I get knocked on the head and shot at! This has not been the relaxing weekend I was hoping for.'
'Why did you leave home?' That was the first time someone had asked me that. Even Mum hadn't.
'It was the last year of the war and things were tough. Mum had to raise five kids alone after my father was killed during a raid. I thought if I left things would be easier. I always sent money, but I think that may have made things harder on her.' She didn't say anything.
A nurse came in. 'Time for medication.' She turned to Sophie. 'Visitors' hours are over, miss.'
'Thank you. Everything will be okay. I'm staying at the Hall and I'll visit you tomorrow.' She kissed me on the forehead. We were making progress.
Two weeks later I was on a London-bound train in a private compartment with Sophie. The bandage had gone from my head, but my leg was still wrapped and I needed a cane to get about. I had been reading the Times to keep up with the trial proceedings. Owens had confessed to murder and had been sentenced to hang within the fortnight. Bill, however, refused to confess and was pleading 'not guilty'. His father had provided the lawyer, but even the best money could buy wouldn't be able to save him.
'What are you thinking?'
'Just about Bill's trial. I know this might sound callous, but I hope he swings.'
'I never would have thought that of you before this started.'
'Before this started, I didn't know the real Bill. He led me along by always placing new game in front of me. I was ready to quit, but that wouldn't help him, so he enticed me back again by using the Major's spiritualism. How could I have been so gullible?'
'I was just as gullible as you. I believed him. I didn't sense anything. He'll be out of our lives soon. Here we are at Paddington. We can take a cab to the Old Bailey.'
She found a porter that carried our bags to a waiting cab. We sat in the back and listened while the driver talked about the trial. Well, at least Sophie listened; they were just a jumble of words to me. We arrived and she asked the man to wait. She ran up the steps and into the building. I stepped out of the cab and asked him to get the bags out of the boot.
'Sure.' He saw the cane. 'Nice walkin' stick ya got there. What happened?'
'Shooting accident.' Sophie came back. 'Well?'
'We're in. They had to get Palmer for verification because the trial's closed to the public.'
'Hey, where d'ya want the bags?'
'I'll take them. We can leave them with security. Come along.' She was beginning to sound like a school mistress with a flock of children to tend to.
The trial hadn't started yet and already the courtroom was packed with prestigious people. There was a space for us with the witnesses--Kathleen, the Major, Sinclair, Lenora, and even Thompson. I got a few pats on the back and some whispered congratulations.
My seat had a perfect view of the dock. When Bill was placed in it, I actually felt elated. His eyes found me and I could see the different man he was. I smiled back at him as if to say Yes, I survived and am enjoying every minute of this.
The judge entered and the trial began, but I really didn't pay much attention to what was being said. I judged everything by Bill's face: anger, frustration, brief moment of triumph, and finally fear. I was broken out of my observations to testify. I was totally unprepared. I was asked about finding the body up through chasing Bill. That, and Owens' confession, nailed the lid tight on his coffin. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang within the fortnight.
I later found out his motivation for murder. Newbury had promoted some sort of tax bill that drove Bill's father to near-bankruptcy and the man had a nervous breakdown. Newbury, through one of his businesses, bought the Currys out. He was only avenging his father who had been taken advantage of.
After the trial, Sophie and I were called over by the Major. 'Ah, Anthony, I'm glad to see you are up and about. Such a nasty thing to have happened.'
Sinclair even spoke civilly to me. 'I'd like to thank you for risking your life to save Kathleen I just couldn't think straight at the time.'
'That's okay. I think I would have gone after him anyway. No offence.' I smiled.
Kathleen herself kissed me on the cheek. 'Thank you, Mr. Anthony. The Major is having a little get-together at his suite is you would care to join us.'
'Thank you, but no. I'm feeling tired and was planning on going home.' I sat down one of the chairs beside them as if to prove my point.
'What about you, Madame Saphrona?' asked Lenora.
'I can't either, I'm afraid. I have to play nursemaid to keep him from hurting himself any further.' They laughed and we left, picking up our bags on the way.
I closed my eyes in the car, feeling quite weak and only opened them again when the car stopped. 'What are we doing here?'
'You said you wanted to go home.'
'I meant my own place,' I said, refusing to get out of the car.
'We'll go there once you tell your mother what happened.'
'Everything. Including why you ran away.'
I reluctantly agreed and stepped out of the car. Sophie carried the bags up to the flat without asking for directions. 'How did you know about this?'
'You think you're the only one who does research? I knew about this place two years ago after we first worked together.' I didn't say a word as she knocked on the door. Mum answered. 'Mrs. Adamson? I don't know if you remember mw, but I came here once about two years ago.'
Mum looked her over, trying to place her. 'Oh, yes, you're a friend of Nick's. How is he?'
'I'm right here, Mum.' I hobbled into view.
'Oh, come in. You shouldn't be standing out there!' She helped me in and called for Nora to give Sophie a hand with the bags. 'What happened to you?'
'It's a long story,' I said, trying to put it off, 'but I feel I have to tell you,' I finished as Sophie glared at me. I took a deep breath and began. I told her why I ran away, that I was a con-man, and had attempted to go straight, then finished with the murder, séance, and trial.
My mother looked me in the face and said, 'I know.'
Uncalled-for tears rose to my eyes. 'You knew? I didn't want to tell you because I thought you'd worry.'
She pulled me forward in a big hug. 'I knew it would happen. Before your father--God rest his soul--joined the army, he was a con-man, too. He didn't work in the same neighbourhood as you, but he did well under the circumstances.'
I sat back and wiped away a tear. 'I. . .I never knew Dad did that.' She nodded. 'I guess I should find out more about my family,' I said with a slow smile.
'Does that mean you'll visit a lot?' asked Katie.
'Yes, I'll be home again.'