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Ten Little Niggers


Ten Little Niggers: Page 24


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Vera sat down again. Every one looked inquiringly at Blore.

He said:

"Look here, everybody, my opinion's this: we needn't look farther for the author of
these deaths than the dining-room at this minute. I'd take my oath that woman's
the one we're after!"

Armstrong said:

"And the motive?"

"Religious mania. What do you say, doctor?"

Armstrong said:

"It's perfectly possible. I've nothing to say against it. But of course we've no
proof."

Vera said:

"She was very odd in the kitchen when we were getting breakfast. Her eyes -"
She shivered.



Lombard said:



"You can't judge her by that. We're all a bit off our heads by now!"



Blore said:



"There's another thing. She's the only one who wouldn't give an explanation after
that gramophone record. Why? Because she hadn't any to give."

Vera stirred in her chair. She said:

"That's not quite true. She told me - afterwards."

Wargrave said:

"What did she tell you, Miss Claythorne?"

Vera repeated the story of Beatrice Taylor.

Mr. Justice Wargrave observed:

"A perfectly straightforward story. I personally should have no difficulty in
accepting it. Tell me, Miss Claythorne, did she appear to be troubled by a sense of
guilt or a feeling of remorse for her attitude in the matter?"

"None whatever," said Vera. "She was completely unmoved."

Blore said:

"Hearts as hard as flints, these righteous spinsters! Envy, mostly!"



Mr. Justice Wargrave said:

"It is now five minutes to eleven. I think we should summon Miss Brent to join
our conclave."

Blore said:



"Aren't you going to take any action?"

The judge said:

"I fail to see what action we can take. Our suspicions are, at the moment, only
suspicions. I will, however, ask Dr. Armstrong to observe Miss Brent's
demeanour very carefully. Let us now go into the dining-room."

They found Emily Brent sitting in the chair in which they had left her. From
behind they saw nothing amiss, except that she did not seem to hear their
entrance into the room.

And then they saw her face - suffused with blood, with blue lips and staring eyes.

Blore said:

"My God, she's dead!"



Ill

The small quiet voice of Mr. Justice Wargrave said:
"One more of us acquitted - too late!"



Armstrong was bent over the dead woman. He sniffed the lips, shook his head,
peered into the eyelids.

Lombard said impatiently:

"How did she die, doctor? She was all right when we left her here!"

Armstrong's attention was riveted on a mark on the right side of the neck.

He said:

"That's the mark of a hypodermic syringe."

There was a buzzing sound from the window. Vera cried:

"Look - a bee - a bumblebee. Remember what I said this morning!"

Armstrong said grimly:

"It wasn't that bee that stung her! A human hand held the syringe."

The judge asked:

"What poison was injected?"

Armstrong answered:

"At a guess, one of the cyanides. Probably Potassium Cyanide, same as Anthony
Marston. She must have died almost immediately by asphyxiation."



Vera cried:

"But that bee? It can't be coincidence?"

Lombard said grimly:

"Oh, no, it isn't coincidence! It's our murderer's touch of local colour! He's a
playful beast.
Likes to stick to his damnable nursery jingle as closely as possible'"

For the first time his voice was uneven, almost shrill. It was as though even his
nerves, seasoned by a long career of hazards and dangerous undertakings, had
given out at last.

He said violently:

"It's mad! - absolutely mad - we're all mad!"

The judge said calmly:

"We have still, I hope, our reasoning powers. Did any one bring a hypodermic
syringe to this house?"

Dr. Armstrong, straightening himself, said in a voice that was not too well
assured:

"Yes, I did."

Four pairs of eyes fastened on him. He braced himself against the deep hostile
suspicion of those eyes. He said:

"Always travel with one. Most doctors do."



Mr. Justice Wargrave said calmly:

"Quite so. Will you tell us, doctor, where that syringe is now?"

"In the suitcase in my room."

Wargrave said:

"We might, perhaps, verify that fact."

The five of them went upstairs, a silent procession.

The contents of the suitcase were turned out on the floor.

The hypodermic syringe was not there.



IV

Armstrong said violently:

"Somebody must have taken it!"

There was silence in the room.

Armstrong stood with his back to the window. Four pairs of eyes were on him,
black with suspicion and accusation. He looked from Wargrave to Vera and
repeated helplessly - weakly:

"I tell you some one must have taken it."



Blore was looking at Lombard who returned his gaze.

The judge said:

"There are five of us here in this room. One of us is a murderer. The position is
fraught with grave danger. Everything must be done in order to safeguard the
four of us who are innocent. I will now ask you, Dr. Armstrong, what drugs you
have in your possession?"

Armstrong replied:

"I have a small medicine case here. You can examine it. You will find some
sleeping stuff- trional and sulphonal tablets - a packet of bromide, bicarbonate of
soda, aspirin. Nothing else. I have no cyanide in my possession."

The judge said:

"I have, myself, some sleeping tablets - sulphonal, I think they are. I presume
they would be lethal if a sufficiently large dose were given. You, Mr. Lombard,
have in your possession a revolver."

Philip Lombard said sharply:

"What if I have?"

"Only this. I propose that the doctor's supply of drugs, my own sulphonal tablets,
your revolver and anything else of the nature of drugs or firearms should be
collected together and placed in a safe place. That after this is done, we should
each of us submit to a search - both of our persons and of our effects."



Lombard said:

"I'm damned if I'll give up my revolver!"

Wargrave said sharply:

"Mr. Lombard, you are a very strongly built and powerful young man, but ex-
Inspector Blore is also a man of powerful physique. I do not know what the
outcome of a struggle between you would be but I can tell you this. On Blore's
side, assisting him to the best of our ability will be myself, Dr. Armstrong and
Miss Claythorne. You will appreciate, therefore, that the odds against you if you
choose to resist will be somewhat heavy."

Lombard threw his head back. His teeth showed in what was almost a snarl.

"Oh, very well then. Since you've got it all taped out."

Mr. Justice Wargrave nodded his head.

"You are a sensible young man. Where is this revolver of yours?"

"In the drawer of the table by my bed."

"Good."

"I'll fetch it."

"I think it would be desirable if we went with you."

Philip said with a smile that was still nearer a snarl:



"Suspicious devil, aren't you?"

They went along the corridor to Lombard's room.

Philip strode across to the bed-table and jerked open the drawer.

Then he recoiled with an oath.

The drawer of the bed-table was empty.



V



"Satisfied?" asked Lombard.

He had stripped to the skin and he and his room had been meticulously searched
by the other three men. Vera Claythorne was outside in the corridor.

The search proceeded methodically. In turn, Armstrong, the judge and Blore
submitted to the same test.

The four men emerged from Blore's room and approached Vera. It was the judge
who spoke.

"I hope you will understand. Miss Claythorne, that we can make no exceptions.
That revolver must be found. You have, I presume, a bathing dress with you?"

Vera nodded.

"Then I will ask you to go into your room and put it on and then come out to us
here."



Vera went into her room and shut the door. She reappeared in under a minute
dressed in a tight-fitting silk rucked bathing dress.

Wargrave nodded approval.

"Thank you, Miss Claythorne. Now if you will remain here, we will search your
room."

Vera waited patiently in the corridor until they emerged. Then she went in,
dressed, and came out to where they were waiting.

The judge said:

"We are now assured of one thing. There are no lethal weapons or drugs in the
possession of any of us five. That is one point to the good. We will now place the
drugs in a safe place. There is, I think, a silver chest, is there not, in the pantry?"

Blore said:

"That's all very well, but who's to have the key? You, I suppose."

Mr. Justice Wargrave made no reply.

He went down to the pantry and the others followed him. There was a small case
there designed for the purpose of holding silver and plate. By the judge's
directions, the various drugs were placed in this and it was locked. Then, still on
Wargrave's instructions, the chest was lifted into the plate cupboard and this in
turn was locked.

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