The Next Texts

The next Leo Bruce text we shall provide, Dead for a Ducat, will be published in December.  Next year, deis volentibus, we shall haply provide texts of the Carolus Deene novels Death on the Black Sands (in January), Death on Romney Marsh (in February) and At Death’s Door (in March).

First chapters of the texts which are available:
Case for Three Detectives ;
Case without a Corpse ;
Case with Ropes and Rings ;
Neck and Neck ;
Cold Blood ;
At Death’s Door ;
Dead for a Ducat ;
A Bone and a Hank of Hair ;
Death on the Black Sands ;
Death on Romney Marsh ; &
Death by the Lake.
UPDATE I (30 December):  we have obtained (at considerable expense) a photocopy of another rare, out-of-print Carolus Deene novel, Death of Cold; we hope to provide the chapters thereof in April. 

UPDATE II (14 January, 2015):  we have obtained a copy of another rare, out-of-print Carolus Deene novel, A Louse for the Hangman—far, far more cheaply than the few other copies available because it has, horresco referens, no dust jacket!—we hope to provide the chapters thereof in May.  With that text, should all go smoothly, we shall thereby be providing texts of all out-of-print Leo Bruce novels.

Forthcoming Publication of Leo Bruce Books

I recently wrote to Chicago Review Press, publisher of Leo Bruce books and holder of the worldwide rights thereof, asking whether CRP would grant me permission to produce some fine, limited editions of rare, out-of-print Leo Bruce books.  I also asked whether CRP had “any plans to republish, say, Death on the Black Sands and Death on Romney Marsh?”
I received a reply from Cynthia Sherry:
I am not interested in licensing Australian editions at this time. Please try us back in about six months. Right now I am working on producing e-books and republishing and repackaging titles. We are trying to find an affordable, hardcopy [meaning, I believe, real books*] of Death on Romney Marsh and Death on the Black Sands to use as production materials for reprints. As soon as we get copies we will republish them.
I have offered to lend CRP my copies of Death on Romney Marsh, Death on the Black Sands and Death by the Lake.
We may, haply, expect new editions of some of the rarer Leo Bruce books soon.

in publishing terminology of olden days, before modern computing, a “hard copy” was a manuscript (or typewritten document) which had been edited and proof-read, and was ready for typesetting.

A Bone and a Hank of Hair, Chapter Twenty

A Bone and a Hank of Hair

CHAPTER TWENTY

“As to the other deaths you mention,” went on Carolus, “I don’t think we need to waste much time on them.  It would be an insult to the medical profession to suppose that there was anything questionable about the death of Herbert Bright, and I have not even bothered to see the doctor who signed his death certificate.  Cases of food poisoning above all are most carefully scrutinized.  If the faintest suspicion had existed, if the doctor who attended the old gentleman had not known exactly what caused his death, there would have been an autopsy.
“Much the same is true of ‘Frenchy’.  The women who lived in that house talked glibly about the doctor giving the ‘usual’ certificate, but that is part of their characteristic self-pity.  There is nothing extraordinary about the death in such circumstances of a prostitute, and it is absurd to try to connect Rathbone with it.  I doubt if he knew of Frenchy’s existence, unless Charlotte casually mentioned it to him.
“But the case of Mrs. Myberg is somewhat different, and in a certain way I feel myself to blame, for it was I who indicated to her, beyond any possible doubt, that I knew of her part in this affair.  I think perhaps, as I study my own motives now, that I wanted to warn her.  My interest in crime begins and ends with murder; I have no wish to be responsible for the punishment of offenders against any law but the sixth commandment.  Cara Myberg had asisted in an ingenious fraud and in the illegal destruction of a corpse, but she had killed no one.  I am not arguing the ethics of the thing, merely stating the invitations of my interest.
“However, the wretched woman did not realise that and believed that she would shortly be convicted of several serious crimes including, perhaps, complicity in the murder of Anne, for she may have foreseen Mullard’s attitude.  No doubt further investigation will reveal more, but in the meantime I am convinced that she committed suicide.  The inquest has been adjourned, I believe, and there may be more evidence later.  I admit that Rathbone may have been to her house shortly after her death; that again seems to be irrelevant though I am not dogmatic about it.  We shall come to Rathbone’s recent behaviour in a few minutes.
“We left him driving away from Hastings in search of a secluded home and someone who would assist him in keeping up the deception which could not now be dropped.  Perhaps he knew already of that grim and lightly populated area which lies in the sprawling rectangle formed by the roads between Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Ashford.  At any rate, he found Bluefield, and in Glose Cottage just the dwelling he wanted.  Soon after I began to make enquiries about the Rathbones and their life at Bluefield, I noticed a curious phenomenon:  most local people knew the Rathbones by sight, most described them singly, but never the two together.
“Drubbing, for instance, the first person I met, knew Rathbone, who had been in his office.  Of Mrs. Rathbone he said he did not know her and had only seen her driving the car.  Then Wallbright the postmaster:  “He came in now and again for cigarettes but I can’t remember her ever being in the shop.’  Then the woman who supplied teas in Bluefield Village:  ‘I used to see her in church.  She used to sit right at the back and nip out almost before it was over.  He was a bit more sociable.  He has been known to pop into the Stag.  But not her.  She never did any shopping in the village.’  Lofting the publican:  ‘The man came in here occasionally.’  When asked if Mrs. Rathbone accompanied him:  ‘Good Lord, no!  She was supposed to be strictly TT.’  The postman, Fred Spender:  ‘I’ve seen her.  Not to say often, but more than anyone else, I guess say.  Didn’t talk much.  Just “thank you” when I handed her the letters.  He was just the opposite.  Gloomy-looking.  But he would now and again exchanged a few words.’  The Rector knew Rathbone but ‘never had a chance’ to speak to his wife, though he saw her in church.  Dr. Chatto was never called to the house, Rathbone only consulting him at the surgery.
“Mr. Toffins was perhaps the most revealing about this.  ‘It would have made you laugh.  To have seen one or the other, I mean.’  Then he went on to describe them individually.  No one seemed ever to have seen them together and that for a very simple reason.  They were not too people but one.”
Mr. Gorringer gave his throaty and rather patronising chuckle.  “So we are to abandon all sense of reality,” he said with a glance at Mullard to see if he gave support, “and enter the realms of sheer fantasy.  We are Alice passing through the looking-glass.  How in the world do you suppose such a deception could be practised successfully for a day, let alone for three years?”
“It was just those three years, that passage of time, which made it feasible.  The alter ego became a familiar figure.  Rathbone, you see, was tired of trusting his freedom, well being and, most important, his ease, to a woman who might do such a thing as Charlotte had done and decide to leave him.  Why, after all, was it necessary?  He had long ago learned Anne’s signature and the only thing that could stop the quarterly payments was the announcement of Anne’s death.  All he needed was to appear to be a married man.  He had a good deal in his favour.  He had a certain skill in make-up—enough, anyway, to avoid complicated effects or one which would take a long time to assume.  He also had a mobile face which lent itself to the thing.  ‘Effeminate’, the Rector of Bluefield called him, and explained it by saying that there was ‘a sort of softness or weakness’ in Rathbone’s face.
“It would be interesting to know how he obtained the wardrobe.  ‘Old-fashioned’ it was described in Bluefield, and that seems to have been no exaggeration.  The wig was a natural one for a middle-aged woman, and if you, Inspector, think it necessary, I can let you have several hairs from it that I found in Glose Cottage.  As for teeth, he had a simple but ingenious idea.  He wore his dentures as Mrs. Rathbone and left them out as Rathbone.  As he had a perpetual smile as Mrs. Rathbone, the teeth were noticeable, but his own gaps, when Rathbone, were noticed, too, particularly by the Rector, who remarked on them to me.  That must have changed the two faces considerably.
“The beauty of this disguise, if we must call it that, was that it was a quick-change affair.  The wig, the ear-rings, the dentures, the thick spectacles, a dab or two of powder and the clothes––Rathbone could become Mrs. Rathbone, as he did once while Toffins was unloading his coal.  Only one thing could give him away—his hands.  He was forced to keep these in beautiful condition to be ready for their appearance as Mrs. Rathbone’s, and this did not go well with his slipshod appearance and indolent character.  Dr. Chatto noticed them.  ‘Extraordinary thing,’ he said, ‘the man neglected his teeth and looked generally pretty seedy, but he had small well-kept hands.’
“But with his appearance he was wise enough to change his manner.  The sad-looking, shifty man, who never smiled but usually greeted people in a dismal sort of way, became the cheery-looking, perpetually smiling but almost monosyllabic woman.  ‘Mrs. Rathbone’ does not seem to go on record in Bluefield as having said more than ‘thank you’ once for twice, and even that maybe faulty memory on the hearer’s part.  If someone smiles and nods and makes some sound, it is probable that it would be read we collected afterwards as ‘saying thank you’.  But that’s as maybe.  The feminine part of the personality and no cause to say more.  She never left her house except in the car.  It was easy for Rathbone to open the door as himself on any occasion which might lead to difficulties, like the Rector’s ill-fated call.
Once created, the ‘third Mrs. Rathbone’ had considerable advantages over her predecessors.  She cost nothing to maintain and she could not suddenly want to go away.  She did not answer back or want to go to the local like the second, or cost a lot in doctor’s bills like the first.  All Rathbone had to do from morning to night and from year’s end to year’s end was to receive the quarterly check, do a little housework—and it was a little as I discovered when I moved in—and occasionally amuse himself with the ‘amateur theatricals’ of becoming Mrs. Rathbone.  The life suited him admirably and looked like continuing indefinitely.
“But ‘man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward’, and Rathbone never seemed fated to enjoy the bliss of idleness for long.  Just as he had worked out this pleasant routine of lotus-eating, he received a letter which at once shattered his dream.  Mrs. Chalk was leaving Brazil for England and look forward to seeing her cousin Anne.  She was the one person in the world who could neither be hoodwinked nor bribed, since it was her children who were losing by the scheme—had already, in fact, been losing for six years.
“Rathbone was desperate.  He formed a foolish plan of cashing in as best he could on the life income and going abroad in the hope that he would not be extradited.  For this he needed Cara Myberg and, as we have seen, she accompanied him to Mumford’s office.  But even then he could not make up his mind.  Perhaps this was a very brief visit by Mrs. Chalk, and she would not have time to search for Anne if he told her she had left him?  After all, he could flee after her visit if he seem to be threatened—there would be plenty of time.  So, like many indolent people, he dithered on till it was too late and Mrs. Chalk was upon him.
“But in the meantime he eliminated ‘the third Mrs. Rathbone’ by the simple process of burning her shoes, clothes and wig.  But he forgot the ear-rings until the last moment, and Mrs. Chalk actually interrupted him burying them in his favourite place—under the rubbish heap.  Of all these, traces have since been found.  I had the ashes of the grate expertly examined and they were found to contain burnt cloth, while among them were shoemaker’s tacks.  The finger-print situation was an interesting one, since certain finger-prints left in grease or what not in a kitchen would endure for weeks and, of course, the only prints found were Rathbone’s.  Although he had attempted to clean all prints, I am convinced that, if such a person as ‘the third Mrs. Rathbone’ had existed as a separate entity, some of her prints would have been there.
“Mrs. Chalk noticed that he had shaved his moustache, as he had been forced to do for the sake of his quick changes of personality.  He had arranged to sell his furniture by auction giving Mrs. Chalk the reason that Anne had left him, but after her visit, and her warning that she would not leave England till she had found her cousin, he panicked and disappeared.  I don’t know where he went while he grew his moustache, but not much later he turned up at the boarding-house in which he had lived more than fifteen years ago.  He now became the jaunty Colonel Hood.
“It was partly by chance that I found him there.  Villiers gave me the address of the place in which Rathbone had lived when he worked for Tonkins, and I went there in hope of picking up some information.  I only wanted to see Colonel Hood because I thought he might have known Rathbone in the old days.  I had, as you know, already met Rathbone on his nocturnal visit to Glose Cottage to recover his forgotten cheque book and, when he saw me again, he realized that once more he would have to go.  But I told him something which scared the wits out of him—that the police would soon make as thorough a search of the house and garden at Coleshill Lodge as they had done at Glose Cottage.  I knew pretty well what effect this would have.  I was convinced from his manner that something incriminating was concealed there, and I believed that he would try to recover it.
Mr. Gorringer broke in.  “Let us pause again,” he suggested, “before you give us the last details.  I have not wished to interrupt you, but for some time I have noticed that Inspector Mullard’s glass is empty.”
“By all means,” said Carolus, and laid down his notes.
“I must admit, Mullard conceded, “that I begin to find your theory more tenable than it seemed.”
“But you do not know our Deene!” chuckled Mr. Gorringer.  “He is keeping, I warrant, some surprise for the end.  It is his way.”
“No, headmaster,” said Carolus rather wearily.  “You have had all the surprises—if they were surprises—which the case offers.  The rest is just odds and ends of information.”
“We shall see,” said Mr. Gorringer.
After a drink and a few deep pulls at one of his favourite cheroots, Carolus proceeded:  “The present occupant of Coleshill Lodge was most helpful; in fact when he heard what I anticipated, he entered into the spirit of the thing and would like to have shared my vigil.  This was rewarded, but in a way that surprised me.  I never for a moment anticipated that Rathbone would assume one of his former disguises for his visit and the motive is still somewhat obscure.  It must have cost him considerable trouble and expense, since he had destroyed the appurtenances of ‘the third Mrs. Rathbone’.  Perhaps he feared recognition in that area in which he had lived so long, but it was scarcely likely that anyone would see and know him at one or two o’clock in the night.  He was by this time in a state of such panic that he was capable of some quite crazy actions.
“It was, then, dressed as ‘the third Mrs. Rathbone’, that he entered the garden and received the severest blow he had yet suffered, for he saw that over the spot where Anne’s skull was buried a summer-house had been built.  He fled and, as I fortunately realized in the morning, he went into yet deeper hiding, assuming his most intelligently considered disguise as yet.  I reached St. Andrews Avenue just before he made his departure from the Lascelles Private Hotel and was able to follow him to Waterloo, from which he left for Cornwall.  On the journey he ceased to be Colonel Hood and assumed a personality with which he could have remained secure in the art colonies of Cornwall for as long as his money lasted; but the wretched creature was put to fight again by the arrest of Oscar Gordon, which he rightly supposed was in mistake for his own arrest. 
“Now he was in despair.  The only refuge he could think of was at Cara Myberg’s, since he had no reason to think she had yet been drawn into the net of investigation.  (She had visited him several times at the Lascelles Private Hotel, by the way, doubtless to talk over their common danger.)  When he found her dead, he lost his head altogether and, with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on his heels, he dropped on to his old bed at Glose Cottage in which, he remembered, he had left some tinned food.  It was there that you found him this morning.  I imagine his arrest came almost as a relief to him.”
“So that’s your case?” said Mullard almost kindly.
“That’s my case.  There are some loose ends which you will be able very easily to tie up.  For instance, on the night he visited Coleshill Lodge he came by car.  Since he had not then a car of his own he must have either hired one or stolen one.  That should be a confirming details, but I don’t think you’ll need even that.  Rathbone will tell you the whole story quite readily and probably plead guilty to fraud and his offences in the matter of Anne’s body.  But he won’t plead guilty to a murder, because he has not committed one.  ”
“No surprises!”  Mr. Gorringer almost shouted.  “You said there would be no surprises, Deene, yet here we have the greatest surprise of all!  You dangle before our eyes, as it were, already hanging on a gibbet, a mass-murderer, a monster in human shape, anwerable for the fiendish crime of murdering certainly three and possibly as many as five persons in the most cold-blooded manner.  Then you proceeded to demonstrate with your inimitable gift of persuasion, if not always with the logic and reliable evidence we could wish, that no murder at all has taken place.  Is not that a surprise to end all surprises, to use a popular phrase?  Is not that étonnant, épatant, extraordinaire ?”
“I shouldn’t have thought so,” said Carolus carelessly, as he lit another cheroot.
— THE END

A Bone and a Hank of Hair, Chapter Nineteen

A Bone and a Hank of Hair

CHAPTER NINETEEN

When Mr. Gorringer had recovered from this he spoke peremptorily:   “Come on, Deene; let us have the whole story.”
“I’ll try,” said Carolus; “but I dare say you will find it all very long-winded and unconvincing.  However . . .  several conscientious Shakespearean critics—the term in itself is a paradox, by the way; who the hell is going to presume to criticize Shakespeare?—several of them have pointed out that each of the tragedies is the story of a man being ruined by some particular fault which grew in him like a cancer.  In Lear, it was vanity; in Macbeth, ambition; in Othello, jealousy; in Hamlet, procrastination.  It’s wildly to over-simplify, of course, but in our little story here it works out nicely.  Rathbone was lazy, bone lazy; I might almost say passionately lazy when I think of the very interesting account which Mullard gave me of his boyhood and when I recall the fire in his eyes when he said ‘I have always hated work’.  It was the key to his whole character.  He was not at first an inhuman creature.  He was a lazy young man whose interest could only vaguely be aroused by amateur theatricals.  But that vice of his grew.  I dare say he had some affection for Anne Bright when he married her.  I felt he was speaking the truth when he said so, and good sensible Mrs. Richards confirmed it.  But I think the joy of marriage to him was that with his wife’s comfortable income he need never do another stroke of work in his life.  It simply did not occur to him, as it does not occur to others in his situation, that he might outlive his wife.  She was some years younger than he was and he had never been a fit man.  Yet that is exactly what happened.  Anne became seriously ill with pernicious anæmia and, before the doctor could discover what was the basic cause of this, quite suddenly she died.
“Not long before, the sister Charlotte, who was, in the words of the period, ‘no better than she should be’, had been down to see Anne, and Rathbone had her address.  With the horror of work hanging over him—for Anne’s income would die with her—he set himself to carry out a scheme which he had already in mind, perhaps for which the co-operation of Charlotte was necessary.  This scheme was simplicity itself.  It consisted in Rathbone’s continuing to enjoy Anne’s income after her death, with Charlotte as a stand-in for Anne.
“Anne’s signature presented no difficulty.  As I knew from Mrs. Chalk, her handwriting was almost childish, and it would not be difficult for either or both of them to learn it.  There were no inquisitive relatives, since the only interested parties, members of the Chalk family, were safely in Brazil.  The trouble with the scheme was twofold—the disposal of Anne’s body and the fact that, though the sisters were alike in feature and voice, Charlotte was considerably plumper and healthier in appearance than the anæmic Anne.  But they decided to chance that. 
“These two people were drawn together, I think, by the bond of laziness, for prostitution itself is largely a form of that.  Without being too cynical, that day-to-day existence is often the result of a lack of determination or set purpose.  Both saw the advantages, an easy life on Anne’s income.  They must have talked it over at Coleshill Lodge, while Anne lay dead upstairs, and worked out their scheme.  Charlotte never returned to the girl she lived with.
“Exactly how the body was disposed of, I do not intend to imagine and I dare say you will be pleased if we do not dwell on this.  But whatever means was adopted, fire or acid or whatnot, it left the head.  There was really only one thing to be done with this and Rathbone did it.  He buried it deeply under what was then a rubbish heap.  That it was Rathbone’s own scheme initially was shewn by his dismissal of Mrs. Richards on the morning after Anne’s death.  He must have thought about it for some time, for, instead of calling in the doctor when Anne was dying or dead, he left her that night, dismissed Mrs. Richards when she arrived in the morning, and immediately summoned Charlotte.  He had already dismissed the nurse, perhaps in anticipation.  Then, since the doctor was not due till his weekly visit in the space of a day or two, Rathbone could put Charlotte in his car after dark and drive away with the stated intention of taking his wife to healthier surroundings.
“These they found in Hastings and, with some parade of arriving with an invalid wife, Rathbone moved into 47, Balaclava Grove.  ‘When they arrived here, Mrs. Rathbone was so ill that she had to be carried into the house,’ said Miss Ramble.  There was only one way of avoiding the doctor and they took it.  They let it be known that they were Christian Scientists and believed in self-cure.  This was all right till the inquisitive Miss Ramble asked them about their religion and they knew so little that they had to refer her to a Christian Science reading room.  Charlotte remained immured for ‘many weeks’ before she could appear in the ‘excellent health’ she had always, in reality, had.
“When she did emerge, Charlotte only too soon revealed the cloven hoof and sang the unforgettably ‘vulgar’ song at the piano which so shocked Miss Ramble.  She went on an occasional blind at the Star and Mitre.  She was ‘most sociable’ and affable—a person very unlike the wilting Anne.  Still, there was likeness enough to deceive Mumford’s somewhat myopic clerk Potter, who had not seen Mrs. Rathbone for years and concluded only that she had put on weight.  After they had been at Hastings for about a year, they received what at first seemed a nasty shock.  A policeman called and asked ‘Mrs. Rathbone’ to come and identify her sister’s body which had been found in Montgolfier Street.  Fortunately for them, they kept their heads and said nothing till the policeman had gone.
“What had happened, of course, was that in Charlotte’s hurried leaving of her friend, or rather in her failure to return to her after what was to have been a brief visit to her dying sister, she had left with the girl the only documents she had.  When this girl who called herself Lucille French was found dead, the police searched her possessions and discovered the letter which Mumford had written to Charlotte about her thousand pound legacy.  It was the only clue to poor Frenchy’s identity.  Heaven knows who she was or where she came from, but ‘Mrs. Rathbone’ identified her as Charlotte Bright and as such she was cremated.
“From one point of view this simplified the situation.  Charlotte was now officially dead and cremated, and Rathbone remained married to a marvellously recovered ‘Anne’, a credit to the ozone of Hastings.  This might have continued for years, and the two might have deceived even the watchful Mrs. Chalk, when she returned from Brazil, since she and Charlotte had scarcely met.  But a new cloud arose on Rathbone’s horizon.  The ease and rest which he had sought were soon dispersed again, this time more dangerously.  When all seemed to go smoothly and the income came in pleasant quarterly instalments, and nobody dreamed that there was anything odd about Mr. and Mrs. Rathbone of Balaclava Grove, and Coleshill Lodge was reoccupied and all seemed well, the most unexpected and ironic thing had to happen—Charlotte fell in love.”
“Come now, Deene,” put in Mr. Gorringer.  “You have told us that she was nothing better than a common prostitute.”
“Perhaps you haven’t made much close study of the species,” said Carolus.  “I can assure you there was nothing unprecedented about this event.  The man she fell for was a commercial traveller and very soon the Rathbone’s neighbours on both sides, and both of them chanced to be at the window on all strategic occasions, were aware of what was going on.”
“What was the commercial traveler’s name?” asked Mullard.
“Myberg.”
“Halt!” cried Mr. Gorringer.  “A word of explanation here!  Are you telling us, my good Deene, that Charlotte Bright, the sister of the deceased Anne Rathbone, the woman known as Cara, the friend of the dead girl called Lucille French, the pretended wife of Rathbone at Hastings, afterwards became none other than the unfortunate Mrs. Myberg found dead from an overdose of luminal?”
“That is what I’m telling you.  Why?”
“Incredible!” said Mr. Gorringer.  “So the ‘second Mrs. Rathbone’ was not murdered as the people of Hastings suspected?”
“Suspicions of murder in Hastings at that time, if they existed, were wholly misplaced.  Charlotte left Rathbone to live with Myberg, even, for all I know, to marry him.”
“This grows more murky and curious than I dreamed, to Mr. Gorringer with a solid shake of his head.
“How do you know that Cara Myberg was Charlotte Bright,” asked Mullard sharply.
“It was fairly obvious from the first.  Rathbone would never have dared put his scheme into action unless he had Anne’s sister to help him, and there was sufficient likeness between them to deceive the solicitors who acted for the father.  Moreover, who else could have driven away from Bolderton with him?  Who else would have identified Frenchy as Charlotte Bright?  But I had better reasons than these.  Mrs Myberg gave herself away hopelessly when I saw her.  She was supposed to be ‘Cara’, a friend of ‘Frenchy’ who had died and been identified by her sister, when I knew that in fact that sister had died years before at Bolderton, so she was in an impossible position for the first.  She was supposed only to have heard of Rathbone from her friend Frenchy, who was supposed to have met him once.  Yet the first thing she said, when I asked her if she knew Rathbone, was ‘yes’; she then tried to cover it by adding that she knew him by name.  If she had been a mere acquaintance of Charlotte, she was unlikely to know anything of Mrs. Chalk, whom Charlotte herself had scarcely met; yet as soon as I mentioned Mrs. Chalk, Mrs. Myberg said:  ‘Oh, that bitch!  What’s she got to do with it?  She scarcely knew Anne.’  This was said in that feelingly intimate tone which can only be used of a personally known and disliked acquaintance.  There were lots of other small indications during the interview I had with Mrs. Myberg.  ‘That thousand pounds,’ she said and knew that it came from the mother.  But most of all it was the state of abject terror into which she was thrown when I told her, right at the end of the interview, what I wanted to know from Maurice Myberg, and what the police would want to know.  ‘Where he met you,’ I said, quite casually, and left her in a condition of uncontrollable fear and perturbation.  For they met at Hastings and from that she would very soon be identified as ‘the second Mrs. Rathbone’ and from that as Charlotte Bright, who had helped to dispose of her sister’s body perhaps, and had certainly been guilty of fraud over a number of years.  There was no reasonable doubt about the identity of Mrs. Myberg as Cara and as Charlotte Bright.  It was all very clear up to that point.”
With some sepulchral rumblings Mr. Gorringer cleared his throat.  “It is but eleven o’clock,” he said, “yet I feel that this exhausting analysis merits for Deene some refreshments, and I suggest that you and I, Inspector, should join him.  What say you?”
There was a break of a few minutes while they were served and, as Mr. Gorringer put it, regaled themselves.  “A point which leaves me at a loss,” complained the headmaster presently, “is that recent visit by the Rathbones to the solicitors when the life interest had been disposed of.”
“As to the why of that I hope to explain in a moment.  The how of it was simple enough.  Though Charlotte or Cara had left Rathbone and was living with Myberg, she was called in for the sake of one last deception, for which she doubtless received a handsome reward, if not a half-share of the total obtained—fraudulently, of course, since Anne was dead long before—from the finance company which had taken over the life income.  That accounts for an apparently genuine ‘Mrs. Rathbone’ being at Mumford’s offices when it seemed impossible.  Incidentally it would be further proof, if that were needed, that ‘Cara’ and not ‘Frenchy’, who was dead by then, had started life as Charlotte Bright.
“An interesting fact arose from Miss Ramble’s reminiscences.  Soon after ‘the second Mrs. Rathbone’ had left Rathbone at Hastings did he himself leave the town that it caused considerable question and comment.  Let me quote Miss Ramble when I asked her if Rathbone left soon after his wife.  ‘Almost immediately’, she said, after telling me of the suggestion that he had done away with his wife.  The truth was that the quarter was nearly up and another check would be due.  Rathbone had to find a new wife as swiftly as possible and take her to a part of the country where he was not known.  There was no going back for him now.  He would be charged with the murder of Anne almost certainly, and quite certainly he would face a long term of imprisonment for fraud.  His only chance, as he saw it, was to find a substitute for Charlotte, who at least could be relied on not to talk; she was herself too deeply involved for that.  So he moved his furniture to London hoping—and his hopes were justified—that his neighbours, though watchful, might not have the bare-faced curiosity to take the trouble to trace him through that.
“I had a fairly good idea of all this when I went down to Bolderton and saw Mrs. Richards.  It was the details she gave me of Rathbone’s behaviour at the time of his wife’s illness which convinced me:  how he dismissed the nurse and how, so suddenly and seeming ‘very upset’, one morning he dismissed Mrs. Richards herself, saying he was going to take his wife to give by the sea; he would not even let Mrs. Richards clear up, but gave her three weeks’ money to go at once; he himself remained in the house some days after she had left.
“I have been lucky in this case in dealing with people who have excellent memories.  Dr. Whistley, for example, who had attended Anne Rathbone at Bolderton, was most explicit.  And my friend ‘Old Maree’ and her friend Elizabeth were very helpful.  It was ‘Old Maree’ who made me realize that ‘Cara’ was Charlotte and Frenchy an unknown girl, and not vice versa. It was through ‘Old Maree’ that I was able to trace Cara.  Her description of Cara tallied nicely with Miss Ramble’s description of the ‘second Mrs. Rathbone’.  I felt surer at every moment.  ‘Old Maree’ remembered, too, how very suddenly Cara disappeared, as she did when Rathbone put his proposition to her.  Then Mr. Villiers, formerly Schmidt, was most informative.  In his information about Rathbone as an employee, as a member of the Amateur Dramatic Society and as a lover to the uninteresting daughter of the firm’s rich chartered accountant, he aided me considerably.  It was also through him that, partly by chance, I picked up the later trail of Rathbone.  But we shall come to that.  At the moment I want to clear up all the odds and ends of my theory—for I do not regard it as more—up to the point when Charlotte or ‘Cara’ had left Rathbone at Hastings, and within a few days he himself disappeared leaving a cloud of suspicion behind him.
“You’ve done that,” said Mullard, “and, as long as you are content to call it theory, I see no harm in it.  It won’t prevent us charging Rathbone with the murder of his wife.”
“No?  You think he murdered Anne?”
“I ask you!” said Mullard.  “We find the woman’s skull buried three feet deep under concrete six years after she disappears and you ask me whether I think Rathbone murdered her.  Who else could have?”
“I don’t know. I don’t believe in her murder but, if it happened, it was not done by Rathbone. Of that I am quite certain.”
“Although he lived alone with her?  Dismissed the nurse and the daily help?  Disappeared suddenly and recently, after another sudden vanishing by another wife?  Has been dodging us all over the place?  Of course he killed her.  What possible reason can you have for doubting it?”
“The entire, absolute lack of any kind of motive.”
“There, Mr. Deene, you must allow an experienced police officer to know a little bit more than you can possibly know.  Lack of motive!  That’s an academic illusion.  Half the murders we investigate have no motive that would seem a motive to anyone but the murderer.  These psychopathic cases and sex crimes aren’t in the category of cause and motive at all.  What motive had Jack the Ripper, do you suppose?”
“In his own mind, a very adequate one I am sure.  But we’re not dealing here with a psychopath or a sexual maniac.  Rathbone is as sane as you or I.”
“You believe that Anne died naturally?”
“I am sure of it.  Her death was the very last thing Rathbone wanted.  All his crimes have been committed in trying to put right that blow of fate.”
Mr. Gorringer indicated by another stormy rumble that he was about to join in the conversation.  “Interesting as it is to a layman like myself to hear these polemics from such experts as you,” he enunciated, “I feel that I should give the opinion of a plain man.  It seems to me that the truth in the matter of the unfortunate Anne Rathbone will only be apparent when you learn the fate of her successors.  Inspector Mullard opines that Rathbone was a psychopathic case, a criminal motivated by the dim and horrible promptings of some sexual aberration.  Deene, on the other hand, claims that he was nothing of the sort.  Let us then hear the sequel.  Let us know the truth about the other sudden deaths in this case.  We know that Anne Bright’s father opposed her marriage to Rathbone and died suddenly.  We know that the woman known as ‘Frenchy’ was found dead in a room in the notorious precincts of Montgolfier Street.  We know that Mrs. Myberg has recently died as the result of an overdose of luminal.  Let us hear about these from Deene.  Above all let us know what befell the woman known as ‘the third Mrs. Rathbone’.
Carolus looked puzzled.  “But there was no ‘third Mrs Rathbone’,” he said.  “Surely that must have been obvious to you?”
“Ah,” said Mr. Gorringer, “some facetious word-play of yours, Deene.  Come now.  Tell us all.”

A Bone and a Hank of Hair, Chapter Eighteen

A Bone and a Hank of Hair

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Cara Myberg had died of an overdose of luminal, a phenobarbital, but whether this were self-administered or not could not be decided at the inquest.
Carolus, abandoning his hope of a period of relaxation, once again put himself into the position of Rathbone in the hope of discovering his whereabouts.  He imagined that the man, after hearing of the arrest of Oscar Gordon and realizing that it was almost certainly in mistake for himself, would feel very much more watched and observed any reality he was.  He saw him in London, not daring to register at a hotel, not daring to walk about the streets—though either might be safe enough—which in despair and the agonies of fatigue.
Where would he, where could he go?  Last time he sought for a refuge, he had gone back to a place he had known in the past, the Lascelles Private Hotel.  Was it too much to hope that now, half-crazy with fear, miserably tired, he might do the same?  If so, it would not be to Lewisham, the scene of his unhappy boyhood, which he probably had not visited for years, and it could not be to Bolderton.  Hastings was unlikely for he would remember Miss Ramble, who would certainly happen to be sitting in a window.  But—it was a long chance—he might seek a brief rest at Glose Cottage.  He had the key, he knew that Carolus was no longer there.  In his dazed mind it might seem at least a place in which to stretch himself out to sleep.  To reach it would not mean taking any great chances.  When he had lived there, he had a car and would not be known to the railway staff.  He could walk over from Tunney’s Halt in twenty minutes and at least find a temporary peace.
But Carolus had a better reason for going back to Bluefield.  There had come back to him something Mr. Toffins had said about rubbish being tipped down a disused mine-shaft, and he had decided to know a little more about this.  What an incompatible way of getting rid of . . . anything!  If it served a large area, there would be tons of rubble and ash, of refuse of every kind tilted on top of whatever had been dropped.  It would become virtually irrecoverable.  A corpse, for instance—it would take a major mining operations and weeks of work and then the results would be dubious.
He drove down to Bluefield next afternoon, and at opening time received a rather cold greeting from Mr. Lofting behind the bar of the Stag.  Carolus compared him unfavourably with the landlord of the Porthaziel Hotel, who was a sound professional licensee and knew how a conversation should go between himself and a customer.  Mr. Lofting just now was busy with a youngish man wearing one of those silly little caps which looked as though it been made for H. G. Wells to wear for cycling as a young man.  Under it was an uncouth moustache.
“I thought as soon as you came in,” said Lofting to this customer, “that’s an Old Ravenstonedalean tie.  I see you were in the NBLI, too.  He has scarcely a glance for Carolus, so enraptured was he with his other visitor’s insignia.
“Heard nothing more of Rathbones, I suppose?” asked Carolus firmly.
“Not a thing,” said Lofting briefly before turning back to his new acquaintance.  “You must have been in Bangalore in ’44 them?  I thought I knew your face.  Decent crowd at HQ, weren’t they?”
Soon Mrs. Luggett waddled in, and Carolus could buy her ‘a nice drop of stout’ she said, because she didn’t fancy draught beer in this weather.  “You soon gave up living out there,” she wheezed.  “I thought you would.  And just after I got the place a bit decent.”
“Still, I expect you have plenty to do elsewhere,” said Carolus.
“Well, I have and I haven’t, as you might say.  I don’t mind giving any place a dust-over when it comes to that.  I never take any notice of what’s said.”
“What is said?”
“Well, about Rathbones and that.  Mind you, I never cared for that place, even if she wasn’t buried under the floorboards.  It had a nasty sort of smell with it, hadn’t it?” She breathed stertorously before she finished her stout.  “That’s better!” she announced.
“What about a short?” asked Carolus.
I don’t mind a rum,” said Mrs. Luggett, making a special concession in favour of the spirit, as though whisky or gin would be highly unpleasant to her.  “This cold weather seems to get into your bones, doesn’t it?”
It would have a long way to go with Mrs. Luggett, Carolus thought, but just then Mr. Toffins came in and joined them.  “You back, are you?” he said jovially.  “Still asking about Rathbones?  Last time you were here, it made me laugh to hear you go on about them.  From all accounts it wasn’t his wife that was here with him at all, then?”
“I don’t take any notice of that, said Mrs. Luggett equably.  “Wife or no wife, I don’t believe he done for her.”
“No, but it’s funny to think of him living with another woman and her buried where they lived before, or all that was left of her, according to what the papers say.”
“Mr. Toffins,” put in Carolus, “when I was here before, you mentioned something about a disused mine-shaft being used for refuse?”
“That’s right.  Out at Grayfield, it is.  They all come here to tilt their rubbish from Canterbury, Folkestone, everywhere.”
“A good many lorries tilt there every day?”
“Scores of them.  And it never will fill up.  The mine hasn’t been worked for I don’t know how many years.  They say there’s no bottom to it, but that’s just a tale.  Anyhow, all that refuse goes right down out of sight and it’s been going on for years now.”
“Is the place enclosed?”
“Now it is.  Barbed wire and a night watchman and everything.  But that’s only recently.  A matter of a week or two before Christmas a horse and cart went to tilt when there was no one there and slipped back, it seems.  The horse lost its foothold and down it went.  Luckily the carter was standing clear or he’d have gone to perdition.  So since then they’ve fenced it off and put a watchman on it, because you never know what might have gone down.”
“You don’t,” agreed Carolus.
“I often laugh when I think that you could drop this whole village down there and no one the wiser.”
“And not much lost, if you ask me,” said Mrs. Luggett, chuckling to make her chins crease and swell.
“Do you ever pass Glose Cottage now?” Carolus asked her.
“Of course I do.  Every time I go home.  My place is beyond there towards Tunney’s Halt.  I told you that.”
“You should see her on her old bike!” said Mr. Toffins.  “You’d split your sides laughing.  She doesn’t half skip along though.”
“You don’t need to be shrivelled up to nothing to ride a bicycle,” said Mrs. Luggett.
“I suppose you never see anyone near a Glose Cottage now?” Carolus pressed.
“Not since you left, I haven’t.”
“You’d notice it if anyone was there?”
“I should see the smoke and that, I suppose.  I shall have to take a look since you’re so interested.”
“Thank you,” said Carolus, and went up to the bar again.  He felt like apologizing to Mr. Lofting for his spotted and un-significant tie, his lack of a blazer badge, his general failure to belong to the associations, clubs, societies, and regiments which would have endeared him to the innkeeper.  But he feared wartime reminiscences and old school fellowship too much to admit to Stonyhurst, Balliol and the Commandos, his modest record.
“This gentleman thinks he remembers meeting you in Tobruk, old man.”
Carolus shook his head.
“What mob were you with during the war?”
“Ministry of Information,” said Carolus, and ended a beautiful friendship.  It was doubtful, in fact, whether Mr. Lofting would let Carolus a room for the night, and he handed the matter to his wife as if to say that accommodation for such as this was beneath his notice.  But next evening, as Carolus sat in the bar, Mrs. Luggett waddled in and, flopping breathlessly into the seat beside him, gave him the news he had scarcely dared to expect.
“There’s someone in there,” she gasped.  “Unless it’s her walking shadow, poor thing, come back as they say they do to the place they knew last.  Mind you, there’s no smoke out of the chimney or anything.  Oh, dear, that last pull up the hill will be the death of me.  I feel as though I shall never get my breath again.  Well, yes, I will have a nice drop of stout and see if that does any good, Otherwise I’m sure I shall be done for.”
When Carolus brought her stout, she lowered its level in her glass by several inches.  “That’s better!” she sighed.
“You were telling me about Glose Cottage.”
“Yes.  This afternoon it was.  After you asking about it, I had a good look as I came by this evening.  I didn’t stop or anything but peeped sideways, as you might say, not to be noticeable if there were people watching.  Anyone my size can’t go twisting and spinning this way and that like a teetotum.  Still what I saw, I saw, and there’s an end of it.”
“What was it,” asked Carolus obligingly.
“Well, it was someone, I can’t say more than that.  Someone moving about.  I didn’t gamble too hard, but I’m not making any mistake.  It wasn’t just reflection on the window.  I rode on pretty smartly as soon as I’d seen it, you may be sure of that.  It was enough to give anyone the shudders to think of someone in that place right out there.  But tonight when I came by I took a good look.  I thought they might be a light burning.  At first I was almost sure there wasn’t.  It looked dark as the grave.  Well, thanks, I don’t mind a drop of short when I remember what I’ve seen.  It’ll help to pull me together.  I thought it first I should never be the same again.”
Mrs. Luggett wasted no time over her rum when she got it.  It went down in a trice and there was a deep if breathless appreciation in her “That’s better!”
“Yes, it quite upset me what I saw,” she said, returning to Glose Cottage.  “Because it didn’t seem like anything at first and only after I’d had a good look could I make it out.  There was no light burning.  Oh, no!  Whoever it is in there’s too artful for that.  But after a minute I saw a sort of red glow.  I thought to myself, so that’s what they’re up to.  Waiting till after dark when no one can see the smoke coming out of the chimney, then lighting a fire.  If that’s not artful, I don’t know what is.”
Carolus went to the telephone, and after a time succeeded in speaking to Mullard at his home in Sidcup.
“I’m not giving you any definite information this time,” he said, “and I won’t be held responsible for anything that may come from my suggestion.  But I think that if you come down to Bluemfield very early tomorrow morning you will find Rathbone in the cottage he used to occupy.”
Mullard was characteristically indignant.  He hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep for days, he said, now this.  How reliable was the information?
“It’s not information at all,” said Carolus.  “It’s just a friendly suggestion.  It may lead to nothing whatever.”
Mullard’s indignation grew.  He couldn’t think why he had ever listened to Carolus.  Here was this nonsense about Bluefield which, Carolus knew very well, he could not conscientiously ignore, yet which might lead to another wild-goose chase.
“Yes.  It might,” said Carolus mercilessly.
Was Mullard to get others out in the small powers and perhaps look a fool for doing so? This was the sort of thing Mullard most disliked about amateurs.  Carolus kept maddeningly cool.
“I see your difficulty,” he said.  “But I’ve no intention of solving it for you.  I simply tell you I have reason to think Rathbone may be there.  I’m not particularly interested one way or the other.  Catching criminals is not my job.  I’m a dabbler and a theorist, not a policeman.  But if you do come down, please come to breakfast with me at the Stag and, if it interests, I’ll tell you what I think about the whole thing.”
“That,” said Mullard with bitter sarcasm, “will be most enlightening, I’m sure.  I suppose you know what has happened to be other women in this case?  The Hastings one and the Bluefield one?
“Oh, yes,” said Carolus, “I know that.  Also the Montgolfier Street one, the Marie Louise Avenue one, the Lascelles Private Hotel one, Anne Rathbone’s sister and Anne Rathbone herself.”
“You are omniscient.  If I find Rathbone at Glose Cottage, I will accept your invitation to breakfast,” said Mullard; “and we will hear this remarkable piece of romantic fiction.”
Carolus was smiling as he put down the receiver and took it up again to ask for a Newminster number.
“This is the Headmaster’s House of the Queen’s School, Newminster,” came the answer in a churchyard voice.
“Hello, Headmaster,” said Carolus gaily.  “This is Deene.  I wondered whether you would like to hear the end of this affair?”
“You have completed your investigations?  You have worked out your theory?”
“One that satisfies me, anyway.”
“Ah!  And you intend to elucidate it for the benefit of those concerned?”
“I don’t know who will benefit.  I’m going to give the investigating CID man my explanation.  No one else will be there unless you like to come.”
“Where and at what hour?”
“Here in the Stag at Bluefield.  Perhaps you would breakfast with me tomorrow?”
“But how, my dear Deene, do you suggest I should make the journey?  You with your large automobile speak lightly of such jaunts.  I have no means of transport.”
“Surely . . .”
“Unless a certain Mrs. Carruthers, the parent of that rather unpromising boy in the Lower Third, can be prevailed upon to run me down.  She has frequently hinted that her car is at my disposal.”
“Do that,” said Carolus, “and I’ll drive you back.  What about Mrs. Chalk? It was she who put me on to this case.”
An almost passionate tone came into the headmaster’s voice:  “Mrs. Chalk has only recently gone to stay with some relatives of her own in the salubrious town of Clacton-on-Sea.  As a matter of fact, I went so far as to hint, lightly and tactfully of course, that she had perhaps misgauged our modest invitation.  I think it would be most unwise, most unwise, to interrupt her visit.”
“Just as you think,” said Carolus.  “I’ll expect you about nine.”
He went to make the difficult approach to Mr. Lofting.  He had to ask for a breakfast party from the innkeeper who now thought him of lesser breeds without the Law.  He explained his difficulty.
“I don’t know whether the wife will do it,” said Mr. Lofting sulkily.  “Who did you say they were?”
“Mullard is a CID man,” said Carolus hopefully.  “Old Hendon Police Collegiate, if that’s the right term.”  This made little impression.  “The other is my boss.  Headmaster of the Queens School, Newminster.”
“Is he, by Jove?”
“Yes.  An Old Newbiggin-on-Lunean, I believe.”
“That’s different.”
“London University,” pressed Carolus.  “Rowed, I seem to remember, for Lechlade-on-Thames Second Eight.”
“War service?” asked Mr. Lofting.
“Home Guard!” said Carolus triumphantly.
“I dare say we can manage it.  Nine o’clock, you say?  Yes.  I’ll speak to the wife.”
Carolus slept soundly, quite undisturbed by the thought of the ugly little scene which he anticipated at Glose Cottage very early in the morning; but at barely half-past eight, when he came down to the small sitting-room behind the bar, he found Mullard awaiting him.
“Yes, we got him all right.  I felt almost sorry for the poor wretch.  He’d been lying up there eating what was left of the tinned stuff in the house and sleeping on a damp bed.  He hadn’t shaved for days and looked a pitiful specimen altogether.  But then, I believe most of these wife-murderers do.”
When Mr. Gorringer arrived and he and Mullard had been introduced, they all three ate with a hearty appetite the ample breakfast Mrs. Lofting provided.  When the table was clear, the headmaster turned eagerly to Carolus.  “We are all ears,” he said, and for his own part it was nearly true.
“I scarcely know where to begin,” Carolus reflected.
“Better begin with Anne Rathbone,” suggested Mullard.
“Yes, tell us first, my dear Deane, how Rathbone killed his wife.”
“But he didn’t,” said Carolus gently.
“I beg your pardon . . .” began Mr. Gorringer.
“Rathbone didn’t kill his wife.  On the contrary he used every means, some of them quite extraordinary, to keep her alive.”

A Bone and a Hank of Hair, Chapter Seventeen

A Bone and a Hank of Hair

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

He was surprised, on his return, to have a ’phone message from Mullard asking whether it would be possible for Carolus to call and see him tomorrow.
“We’ve got your man,” said Mullard when Carolus was in his office next morning; “but our people down there are a bit worried.  He claims to know nothing whatever about it.  I thought, as you know him by sight, you might come down to Pentragon with me.”
“Yes, I will; providing you come in my car.  I can make it in six hours, or seven at the most, if we get held up at all.”
Mullard accepted this and they set off.  They said little of the case on the way, Mullard because he felt he had already gone further than professional reserve allowed; Carolus because there was nothing more he wanted to know from Mullard.  When they reached Pentragon, Carolus suggested a drink at the Porthaziel Hotel before getting down to business.  The landlord was delighted to see him.
“You back already?” he said affably as he served their drinks.  “You must like it.  I’m damned if I do!  I can’t wait to get back to the Smoke.  They never stop, you know, midday and night.”
“The landlord is not an enthusiastic about the arts,” explained Carolus to Mullard.
“I don’t know about arts,” said the landlord.  This lot give me the ——s.  Listen to ’em.
Carolus and Mullard did.  ‘Nothing as vieux jeu as Eliot’, they heard, ‘quasi-surréalism’, ‘conceptual images’, ‘Derain’, ‘Harold Pinter’, ‘Brecht’, ‘flaccid as Lawrence’, and one shrill pained cri de cœur—‘You might as well say E. M. Forster!’
“It is rather overwhelming,” agreed Carolus.  “How did that chap get on?  The one you were telling me about?”
“Which one was that?”
“The man who is going to take a room in your hotel and instead met the owner of Penzanvoze Cottage.”
“Oh, that one.  It was a funny thing about him.  It seems he didn’t take that cottage after all.  Couldn’t agree on terms, I dare say.  Osbert Auden his name was.”
“Yes, that’s the man.”
“No.  He didn’t take the cottage.  Just as well perhaps, because the police have just nicked the owner of it.”
“Really?  What’s his name?”
“God knows.  All their names are alike to me.  Christopher and Peter and Stephen and Francis.”  He turned to a beard nearby.  “What’s the name of that bloke who had Penzanvoze Cottage?  Just been nicked?  Oscar Gordon.  That’s it.  Oscar Gordon his name is.”
“What was he arrested for?” asked Carolus, conscious of Mullard fuming beside him.
“No one seems to know.  Usual thing I suppose, with these bees.  It seems the London police wanted him.  Anyhow, he’s inside now.  Took him in yesterday afternoon, I heard.”
“What about the other one?”
“The one who was going to take the cottage?  He’s gone.”
“Does anyone know where?”
“No.  Just went.  He was in here last night and heard this Oscar Gordon was nicked.  Not been seen since.”
“Come on,” said Mullard to Carolus.
They went round to the police station, where a worried Inspector awaited them.
“He’s roaring to beat the band,” the Inspector told Mullard.  “Screaming blue murder for solicitors.  Shouting about wrongful arrest.  Every time I go near he yells habeas corpus at me.  I don’t know what to do with him.”
“I’m not surprised.  You have got the wrong man.”
“You said one of these artistic crackpots at Penzanvoze Cottage.”
“I said Osbert Auden.”
“This one’s Oscar Gordon.  It sounded like that on the ’phone.  He lives at Penzanvoze Cottage.  And he’s artistic, all right.  Beard, jeans, the lot.”
“I might have known,” said Mullard, “I should never have listened to an amateur.  I should have come down here myself.  Can’t leave anything to anyone else.  Now you’re in for a nice case of wrongful arrest, Inspector.  There’ll be Members of Parliament popping up all over the House about this.
“I arrested the man living at Penzanvoze Cottage, just as you said,” returned the Inspector sulkily.
“But the name!” said Mullard, clinging to his strong point.
“They’ve all got names like that.  There’s an Osric Borden in the village.  I might just as easily have thought you meant him.”
“I meant the man I named and know one else.  You’d better bring him in and let’s see whether we can get over it.”
“He’s nasty, I don’t mind telling you.  You won’t talk him round easily.  Talks about Craig, Marwood and Podola.  Screams about the Gestapo.  Says this is a Police State!”
Mr. Oscar Gordon was a small fiery man with an auburn beard and very heavy thick-lensed spectacles.  He remained silent just long enough for Mullard to say he was from Scotland Yard and that there had been a grave and regrettable mistake; then, screwing up his face and releasing a deluge of saliva, he said, “Mistake?  Mistake ?  You dare to talk to me about a mistake?  Perhaps the Home Secretary will be able to explain this mistake!  Perhaps he’ll say that he acted on the best advice this time!  I’ve been kept in a cell by your mistake and, by God, you’re going to pay for it!  I shall see my member of Parliament.  I shall write to The Times.  I shall telephone the Chief Constable.  I shall report this to every section of the press.  I shall sue you in every Court in the country.  I might have remained in that cell for years before you discovered your mistake.  Look what happened to Oscar Slater through a mistake like that!  Look what happened to Evans!  It’s infamous.  You stand there calmly talking about a mistake!
“By a most unfortunate chance, your name resembled that used by the man we wanted, Mr. Gordon.”
“So I must change my name, must I, to avoid being dragged to prison?  My name, sir, is known to art lovers throughout the kingdom.  Do you know I hold the silver medal of the Bodmin Etching Society?  I have been hung in three Exhibitions by the New Penzance group?  How dare you talk about my name?  Before many hours are past, you will realise the enormity of this deliberate attack on the rights of a citizen!  Don’t speak to me again!  Don’t attempt to excuse yourself!  If there’s any justice left in the land, I’ll break every one of you!”
He was gone, leaving behind him ‘the icy silence of the tomb’.
“Meanwhile,” said Mullard presently, “where do you suppose we’re going to find the man we want?  Heaven knows he has had warning enough.  I would point out to you, Inspector, that he is wanted on a charge of murder.”
“I know that, Inspector,” replied the local man tightly.
“You don’t suppose he is waiting here for us to arrest him, do you?”
“I’ll send a man to the railway station and check on the bus services.”
“It’s all you can do now.  But please don’t arrest the station-master or any of the bus-conductors.”
“No need for sarcasm, Inspector.  We carried out your instructions to the best of our ability.”
When Mullard was alone with Carolus, he asked whether Carolus thought Rathbone would adopt another disguise.
“Quite likely.  But his wardrobe must be giving out.”
“You think, then, he’ll return to ‘Colonel Hood’?”
“Something like that.”
“It may take weeks to find him now.  He’s got plenty of money in one-pound notes.  Have you no suggestions?”
“Yes.  A very cogent one.  I suggest you put a twenty-four-hours-a-day watch on number 17, Marie Louise Avenue, Bayswater.”
“Now, Mr. Deene, this is no time for mystery and tricks.  You can’t make fools of the police, you know.  I have been very patient with you and listened to a great deal of amateur theorizing; but don’t go too far.  Who lives at this address?”
“A woman called Cara Myberg.”
“What’s she to do with it.”
“She was a friend of another woman who called herself Lucille French and who died.  I think I told you about Lucille French.”
“Yes.  Does Mrs. Myberg know Rathbone?”
“She says not.”
“But you think?”
“I think you should have her very carefully watched.”
“It’s all very well, Mister Deene.  I went on your information before and you see what has come of it.”
“I told you that Rathbone was masquerading as a writer or artist at Pentragon under the name of Osbert Auden.  I was right.”
“But you also told me he had taken Penzanvoze Cottage, which was incorrect.”
“Yes, I admit that.  My information was through the landlord of the Porthaziel Hotel.  He was positive, but I should have warned you that that piece of information was second-hand.  You heard the landlord explain that the man had decided against it at the last moment.”
“The consequences are very unpleasant.  As you know, the police are not generally popular just now.”
“You put it very mildly.  But, forgetting that, I can tell you that my information about Mrs. Myberg is first-hand.  I interviewed her yesterday.”
“I see.  You think Rathbone will contact her?”
“Once again, you don’t want to know what I think.  As you had just crisply pointed out, I thought Rathbone had taken Penzanvoze Cottage and misled you over it.  But, if I may suggest it, I would not leave that woman for a moment without a watch over the place.”
Mullard was still inclined to grumble.  “You laymen talk as though we had unlimited manpower resources.  It will mean taking men from important duties.”
“All right,” said Carolus.  “It’s not my affair.  Street betting, prostitution, public decency, illicit parking, drinking hours are doubtless of more importance.  I can only throw out my little suggestion.”
Mullard look at him resentfully as though to imply a regret, a very bitter regret, that he had ever been brought into contact with Carolus.  When they had returned to the hotel, however, Mullard disappeared for a long time into the telephone booth in the hall while Carolus went to the bar.  Here he found Mr. Oscar Gordon, a very waterspout of saliva and the centre of a sympathetic group.  Picasso, Sartre, even Dame Edith Sitwell, were forgotten as the small man said his piece.
“At last,” he spat, “they called it a mistake.  A mistake !  Heads shall fall over this!  There must be a fate in the name Oscar.  It is the third of three infamously unjust imprisonments—Oscar Slater, Oscar Wilde and Oscar Gordon.”
An irreverent voice came from a young man across the room:  “Come off it, Gordon.  You were only inside a few hours.”
Oscar Gordon turned to the speaker, then said with chilly venom:  “That is what I might expect from a man who does woodcuts, but we shall see!”
Carolus and Mullard decided to stay at the Porthaziel Hotel that night and leave very early in the morning.  During the evening the local police inspector came in to give Mullard the results of his inquiries at the railway station and bus stop.  These were simply stated.  Both the booking clerk and a porter had noticed a man dressed in corduroys and a beret and carrying a suitcase who had boarded the London train yesterday evening.  The porter, who was a customer at the Porthaziel Hotel, in fact remembered the man’s arrival and knew that he had intended to take Penzanvoze Cottage.  But this information was not very useful to Mullard, since the train stopped several times on the way up.  The fact that Rathbone had bought a ticket to London might not mean anything at all.  He was astute enough to realise that Gordon had been arrested in mistake for him, and therefore that his flight and disguise were known.  He might have gone to London as providing him with the best chance of remaining undiscovered, or he might have chosen one of the southern towns through which they passed.  Carolus had never been to Reading, for instance, but imagined it a city in which one could live unobserved for years.
Carolus turned in early, much to the regret of the landlord, who found his company refreshing.
The drive back to London was even less chatty than the drive down.  Carolus realised, not without amusement, that Mullard had plenty to think about.  He himself felt a blissful unconcern since the actual catching of criminals was a police task, not his.  They had all the resources and would not hesitate to use them.  The hunt was up, and Carolus, who had never been an enthusiast for bloodsports, would take no part in it; but he could not help speculating on Rathbone’s next impersonation.  As he had pointed out to Mullard, Rathbone’s wardrobe could not be unlimited, so it was reasonable to suppose that he would make some adaptation of a disguise already used, and the most probable was Colonel Hood’s neat dark suit.  A clerical collar, perhaps?  If it occurred to him he would scarcely be able to resist it.
Carolus dropped Mullard in Whitehall and drove back to Newminster.  There would, he believed, be a pause of some days before any further developments were likely, and frankly he was glad of it.  He wanted a rest.  It had been an unsavoury case at the best of times.  He had taken it up without the enthusiasm he usually felt when an opportunity for investigation opened before him.  At the time he had put this down to the fact that there was no clear case of murder and he had always said that he would never investigate anything else.  But, as its grim indications became apparent, he felt more than that.
As usual, it had brought him into contact with good and likeable people, as well as a good many less agreeable.  He thought of Mrs. Luggett and Mr. Toffins, of Mr. and Mrs. Humbell and sensible Mrs. Richards.  But he felt sick of the stale and morbid, the nasty little flat in which Cara Myberg lived, the pretentious Lascelles Private Hotel, the important Mr. Villiers and all the neo-whatever-they-were of Pentragon Bay.  He wanted his own home and a few days in which to forget Glose Cottage and the limp lace at Miss Ramble’s skinny neck.
He garaged his car with some relief, for five hundred miles in two days was a lot of motoring on English roads.  And this time, to his great relief, Mrs. Stick welcomed him with the prim movement of lips which she meant for a smile.  In a few minutes Carolus was deep in his arm-chair with a whisky-and-soda beside him and a cigar from which he blew slow, luxurious puffs.  Mrs. Stick brought in the evening paper, and it was without rancour that she said:  “There.  A cigar before dinner.  You’ll never enjoy the ‘pullet a la cream’ I’ve got for you.  I was only saying to Stick, cigars are for after dinner.  But there you are.”
“No telephone calls, Mrs. Stick?”
“No.  Was you expecting one?”
“Not really.  Those are wonderful hyacinths you’ve got.”
“Well, you want a bit of colour sometimes, don’t you?”
Carolus had dinner and picked up a novel which his cousin Fay had sent him as a Christmas present.  The hours passed to ten o’clock and, blissfully relaxed, he was about to go to bed when the front door-bell was rung.  He called to Mrs. Stick that he would open it, and did so to find Mullard there.  He could see at once that something was gravely amiss.  Mullard spoke with a harsh, almost contemptuous hostility.  “I’m afraid,” he said, “it was too late to put a watch on 17, Marie Louise Avenue.”
“Oh?  Cara Myberg had gone?”
“No,” replied Mullard icily.  “Cara Myberg is dead.”
The two men found themselves in chairs, Mullard still wearing his overcoat.  There was a long silence.
“Poisoned, I take it?” said Carolus.
“Poisoned.”
“Any chance of suicide?”
“I suppose so.  In any other circumstances, suicide would be considered probable.  But in view of her connection with the case . . .”
“Quite.  Any reason to think Rathbone had been to the house?”
“Impossible to say.  She had frequent callers.  Her husband was away.  But the woman downstairs tells me that the day before yesterday, in the evening, a man was ringing the Mybergs’ bell for some time without result.  She herself, knowing that Mrs. Myberg was upstairs, let him in.  A very respectable-looking, middle-aged man, she says, in dark clothes.  The house is divided up, as you must have seen, but there are no front doors to each floor.  She heard this man knock, then open and shut a door.  A few minutes later she described him as ‘bolting out of the house’.”
“She could give no accurate description of the man, of course?”
“The usual thing.  It could have been Rathbone, but it could have been almost anyone of his age.”
“It must have happened a few hours after I left her.”
“Yes, Mr. Deene.  It seems to me you’re rather more heavily involved in this thing than you imagine.  I don’t know why you took it upon yourself to go and see this woman.  If you thought she had any information, it was your duty to inform us.  As it is, you may be the last person to have seen her alive.”
“Or the last but one,” said Carolus reflectively.