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Ten Little Niggers: Page 32
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Like an automaton Vera moved forward. This was the end - here where the cold
wet hand (Cyril's hand, of course) had touched her throat...
"You can go to the rock, Cyril..."
That was what murder was - as easy as that!
But afterwards you went on remembering...
She climbed up on the chair, her eyes staring in front of her like a sleepwalker's...
She adjusted the noose round her neck.
Hugo was there to see she did what she had to do.
She kicked away the chair...
Sir Thomas Legge, Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, said irritably:
"But the whole thing's incredible!"
Inspector Maine said respectfully:
"I know, sir."
The A.C. went on:
"Ten people dead on an island and not a living soul on it. It doesn't make sense!"
Inspector Maine said stolidly:
"Nevertheless, it happened, sir."
Sir Thomas Legge said:
"Damn it all, Maine, somebody must have killed em."
"That's just our problem, sir."
"Nothing helpful in the doctor's report?"
"No, sir. Wargrave and Lombard were shot, the first through the head, the
second through the heart. Miss Brent and Marston died of cyanide poisoning,
Mrs. Rogers died of an overdose of chloral. Rogers' head was split open. Blore's
head was crushed in. Armstrong died of drowning.
Macarthur's skull was
fractured by a blow on the back of the head and Vera Claythorne was hanged."
The A.C. winced. He said:
"Nasty business - all of it."
He considered for a minute or two. He said irritably:
"Do you mean to say that you haven't been able to get anything helpful out of the
Sticklehaven people. Dash it, they must know something."
Inspector Maine shrugged his shoulders.
"They're ordinary decent seafaring folk. They know that the island was bought by
a man called Owen - and that's about all they do know."
"Who provisioned the island and made all the necessary arrangements?"
"Man called Morris. Isaac Morris."
"And what does he say about it all?"
"He can't say anything, sir, he's dead."
The A.C. frowned.
"Do we know anything abut this Morris?"
"Oh, yes, sir, we know about him. He wasn't a very savoury gentleman, Mr.
Morris. He was implicated in that share-pushing fraud of Bennito's three years
ago - we're sure of that though we can't prove it. And he was mixed up in the
dope business. And again we can't prove it. He was a very careful man, Morris."
"And he was behind this island business?"
"Yes, sir, he put through the sale - though he made it clear that he was buying
Indian Island for a third party, unnamed."
"Surely there's something to be found out on the financial angle, there?"
Inspector Maine smiled.
"Not if you knew Morris! He can wangle figures until the best chartered
accountant in the country wouldn't know if he was on his head or his heels! We've
had a taste of that in the Bennito business. No, he covered his employer's tracks
all right. "
The other man sighed. Inspector Maine went on:
"It was Morris who made all the arrangements down at Sticklehaven,
Represented himself as acting for 'Mr. Owen.' And it was he who explained to the
people down there that there was some experiment on - some bet about living on
a 'desert island' for a week - and that no notice was to be taken of any appeal for
help from out there."
Sir Thomas Legge stirred uneasily. He said:
"And you're telling me that those people didn't smell a rat? Not even then?"
Maine shrugged his shoulders. He said:
"You're forgetting, sir, that Indian Island previously belonged to young Elmer
Robson, the American. He had the most extraordinary parties down there. I've no
doubt the local people's eyes fairly popped out over them. But they got used to it
and they'd begun to feel that anything to do with Indian Island would necessarily
be incredible. It's natural, that, sir, when you come to think of it."
The Assistant Commissioner admitted gloomily that he supposed it was.
"Fred Narracott - that's the man who took the party out there - did say one thing
that was illuminating. He said he was surprised to see what sort of people these
were. 'Not at all like Mr. Robson's parties.' I think it was the fact that they were
all so normal and so quiet that made him override Morris' orders and take out a
boat to the island after he'd heard about the SOS signals."
"When did he and the other men go?"
"The signals were seen by a party of boy scouts on the morning of the 11th. There
was no possibility of getting out there that day. The men got there on the
afternoon of the 12th at the first moment possible to run a boat ashore there.
They're all quite positive that nobody could have left the island before they got
there. There was a big sea on after the storm."
"Couldn't some one have swum ashore?"
"It's over a mile to the coast and there were heavy seas and big breakers inshore.
And there were a lot of people, boy scouts and others on the cliffs looking out
towards the island and watching."
The A.C. sighed. He said:
"What about the gramophone record you found in the house? Couldn't you get
hold of anything there that might help?"
Inspector Maine said:
"I've been into that. It was supplied by a firm that do a lot of theatrical stuff and
film effects. It was sent to U.N. Owen, Esq. c/o Isaac Morris, and was understood
to be required for the amateur performance of a hitherto unacted play. The
typescript of it was returned with the record."
"And what about the subject matter, eh?"
Inspector Maine said gravely:
"I'm coming to that, sir."
He cleared his throat.
"I've investigated those accusations as thoroughly as I can.
"Starting with the Rogerses who were the first to arrive on the island. They were
in service with a Miss Brady who died suddenly. Can't get anything definite out
of the doctor who attended her. He says they certainly didn't poison her, or
anything like that, but his personal belief if that there was some funny business -
that she died as the result of neglect on their part. Says it's the sort of thing
that's quite impossible to prove.
"Then there is Mr. Justice Wargrave. That's O.K. He was the judge who
"By the way, Seton was guilty - unmistakably guilty. Evidence turned up later
after he was hanged which proved that beyond any shadow of doubt. But there
was a good deal of comment at the time - nine people out of ten thought Seton
was innocent and that the judge's summing up had been vindictive.
"The Claythorne girl, I find, was governess in a family where a death occurred by
drowning. However, she doesn't seem to have had anything to do with it, and as a
matter of fact she behaved very well, swam out to the rescue and was actually
carried out to sea and only just rescued in time."
"Go on," said the A.C. with a sigh.
Maine took a deep breath.
"Dr. Armstrong now. Well-known man. Had a consulting room in Harley Street.
Absolutely straight and aboveboard in his profession. Haven't been able to trace
any record of an illegal operation or anything of that kind. It's true that there
was a woman called Clees who was operated on by him way back in 1925 at
Leithmore, when he was attached to the hospital there. Peritonitis and she died
on the operating table. Maybe he wasn't very skillful over the op. - after all he
hadn't much experience - but after all clumsiness isn't a criminal offence. There
was certainly no motive.
"Then there's Miss Emily Brent. Girl, Beatrice Taylor, was in service with her.
Got pregnant, was turned out by her mistress and went and drowned herself. Not
a nice business - but again not criminal."
"That," said the A.C, "seems to be the point. U.N. Owen dealt with cases that the
law couldn't touch."
Maine went stolidly on with his list.
"Young Marston was a fairly reckless car driver - had his license endorsed twice
and he ought to have been prohibited from driving, in my opinion. That's all
there is to him. The two names John and Lucy Combes were those of two kids he
knocked down and killed near Cambridge. Some friends of his gave evidence for
him and he was let off with a fine.
"Can't find anything definite about General Macarthur. Fine record - war service
- all the rest of it. Arthur Richmond was serving under him in France and was
killed in action. No friction of any kind between him and the General. They were
close friends, as a matter of fact. There were some blunders made about that time
- commanding officers sacrificed men unnecessarily - possibly this was a blunder
of that kind."
"Possibly," said the A.C.
"Now, Philip Lombard. Lombard has been mixed up in some very curious shows
abroad. He's sailed very near the law once or twice.
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