Tag Archive: mystery


Christie In A Year - Extended

Rating: 4.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1939

Motive for Murder: Justice (?)

Plot:  Ten strangers arrive on ‘free holiday’ in Soldier Island, Devon. In the first evening after the dinner, their jolly mood suddenly change. A recorded voice then announces each name and the crime committed; all of them have slipped out of the justice radar. Afterwards, the night claims a life.

The next day begins and so does the terror. Stranded on an island in a stormy weather, more lives are taken as days pass. Suspicions among the remaining party are inevitable, for they come to realise one of them is the murderer. But who; a retired judge, an ex-Chief Inspector Detective (CID), a doctor or an elderly puritan woman?

Ten people were to spend a leisure time in an island that had  become a sensation in the media. For the speculation is rife…

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But when does the lifeboat become the prison ship?
When does the drug start working against you?

Turning round Clara stared at the piano. Mariana had
dropped her hands to the keys, and they were doing
the most remarkable thing. They were finding the
notes. In the right order. The music was astonishing.
Fluid and passionate and natural.
It was gorgeous, but it was also typical. She should
have known. The untalented brother was a brilliant
painter. The mess of a sister was a virtuoso pianist.
And Thomas? She’d always presumed he was as he
seemed. A successful executive in Toronto. But this
family was fuelled by deceit. What was he, really?

He expected people to play fair. Rules meant order.
Without them they’d be killing each other. It began
with butting in, with parking in disabled spaces, with
smoking in elevators. And it ended in murder.
True, he had to admit, it was a bit of a stretch but it
was descended from the same line. Trace it back far
enough and a murderer probably always broke the
rules, thinking himself better than the rest. He didn’t
like rule-breakers. And he especially didn’t like them
when they came wrapped in purple and green and
scarlet shawls with children named Bean.

‘I’ve been raised in a family of hypocrites, Inspector. I
promised myself I wouldn’t be like them. I wouldn’t
hide my feelings.’‘Quite easy when there’re none to hide.’
That silenced her. He’d won the point, but was losing
the interview. It was never a good sign when the
investigator was doing all the talking.
‘Why show all your feelings?’

Her smiling face grew serious. It didn’t make her
more attractive. Now she looked glum and ugly. ‘I
grew up in Disney World. It looked good from the
outside. It was meant to. But inside everything was
mechanical. You never knew what was real. Too much
courtesy, too many smiles. I grew frightened of smiles.
Never a cross word, but never a supportive one
either. You never knew how people really felt. We kept
things to ourselves. Still do. Except me. I’m honest
about most things.’

Peter smiled tightly. ‘Curiosity wasn’t something
rewarded in our home. It was considered rude. It was
rude to ask questions, rude to laugh too loud or too
long, rude to cry, rude to contradict. So, no, I wasn’t
curious.’


As he spoke he looked out of the French doors of the
library, across the mint-green wet grass and to the
misty lake beyond. A low cloud clung softly to the
forest. He could hear birds and insects, and
sometimes a splash as a feeding trout or bass
jumped. And he could hear the wah-wah of a siren
and the irritated honking of a horn.
purest-folly:(by Daniel Tsao).

Paris.The City of Light mingling with the wilderness. What a
world we live in, he thought.
rosewash:vanilla-velvet: rosy posts here ♡

But Armand always said people react differently to
death, and it was folly to judge anyone and double
folly to judge what people do when faced with sudden,
violent death. Murder. They weren’t themselves.
But privately Reine-Marie wondered. Wondered
whether what people did in a crisis was, in fact, their
real selves. Stripped of artifice and social training. It
was easy enough to be decent when all was going
your way. It was another matter to be decent when all
hell was breaking loose.
Her husband stepped deliberately into all hell every
day, and maintained his decency. She doubted the
same could be said for the Morrows.

You’ve taught us we make our own world. What was
that Milton quote we were raised with?
‘The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
Remember those walks in the park? You’d take Annie and me
and recite poetry all the way there. That was one of
your favourites. And mine.’Sometimes parenting was standing up and doing
what was unpopular.

He wanted her to know him. To explain this familiarity he suddenly felt. It was
disquieting. ‘Everyone gets a second chance. But not a third.’
He’d fired a man that day. Pierre had seen it. It was
horrible.This was Elliot’s third chance. He’d have to fire Elliot.
Once the investigation was over and the police gone.
It was no use doing it before that, since Elliot had to
hang around anyway.
Years after the firing his father had quietly invested
hundreds of thousands of his own dollars in helping
the man he’d fired start his own company.
He’d given him a third chance after all. But

Patenaude wasn’t just weak, letting others, even kids,
walk all over him. Beauvoir didn’t like weakness.
Murderers were weak.
‘Have you ever been walking down the street
and smelled something, and suddenly you’re
someplace else? It’s as if the smell transports you.’
With anyone other than the Chief Inspector he’d feel
foolish saying that.
‘I do. But it’s more than that,’ said Gamache. ‘A
feeling goes with it. I’ll suddenly feel melancholy or at
ease or calm. For no reason, except the scent.’
‘Oui, c’est ca. Especially an emotion.


Gamache had never seen Three Pines in summer.
The leaves of the maple, apple and oak trees
obscured slightly the old homes round the village
green. But that made them all the more magical, as
though half hiding their beauty only added to it. Three
Pines revealed itself slowly, and only to people with
the patience to wait, to sit quietly in one of the faded
armchairs in the bistro, sipping Cinzano or cafe au
lait, and watch the changing face of the venerable
village.
To their right the white spire of the chapel rose, and
the Riviere Bella Bella tumbled down from the
millpond then meandered behind the homes and
businesses.

Villagers walked dogs and ran errands or, more
precisely, strolled errands. Some could be seen with
their floppy gardening hats and gloves and rubber
boots kneeling in the moist gardens, snipping roses
for bouquets. Each home had an abundant perennial
bed. Nothing designed, no new species, none of the
latest horticultural offerings. Nothing that wouldn’t have
been found in gardens by soldiers returning home
from the Great War. Three Pines changed, but it
changed slowly.

Where most visitors went to the Louvre, the Tuileries,
the Tour Eiffel, Armand Gamache went to a quiet
courtyard garden behind a tiny museum.
And there he paid his respects to men long dead.
For that was the musee of Auguste Rodin. And
Armand Gamache went to visit the Burghers of
Calais.

The kitchen had the most wonderful aromas, but more than
anything it smelled of calm. Odd, she thought, for a
place so filled with activity. Assistants in crisp white
aprons were chopping herbs and cleaning early
vegetables taken from the kitchen garden or dropped
off by the local organic farmer, Monsieur Page. They
baked and kneaded, they stuffed and stirred. It was a
regular Dr Seuss book. But then cooking was an intimate act. An act of
artistry and creation. But neither did she want to leave this kitchen, this little
world the chef created. Perhaps because she
seemed so totally oblivious of her body, her face, her
clunky mannerisms, there was something refreshing
about her.Madame Dubois was her opposite. Plump,
composed, refined and beautifully turned out, even in
the Quebec wilderness.But both women were genuine.
And Chef Veronique Langlois had something else,
thought Lacoste, watching her gently but clearly
correct the technique of one of her young assistants,
she had a sense of calm and order. She seemed at
peace.
The kids gravitated to her, as did Pierre Patenaude

 
It was a charming smile, without artifice. He wasn’t
what she’d call an attractive man, not someone you’d
pick out at a party or notice across a room. He was
slim, medium height, pleasant, refined even. He
carried himself well, as though born to be a maitre d’,
or a multi-millionaire.There was an ease about him. He was an adult, she
realized. Not a child in adult’s clothing, like so many
people she knew. This man was mature. It was
relaxing to be around him.
He ran his Manoir in much the same way Chief
Inspector Gamache ran homicide. There was order,
calm, warmth about the Manoir Bellechasse, radiating
from the three adults who ran it, and impressing the
young adults who worked there. They learned more
than another language from these people, Lacoste
knew. Just as she learned more than homicide
investigation from Chief Inspector Gamache

‘Go on,’ said Gamache. He trusted Agent Lacoste’s
feelings.Beauvoir didn’t. He didn’t even trust his own.

‘I’m saying strange things happen to people who live
on the shores of a lake together, for years. This is a
log cabin. No matter how large, no matter how
beautiful. It’s still isolated.’
‘There are strange things done ‘neath the midnight
sun
By the men who moil for gold.‘

What killed people wasn’t a bullet, a blade, a fist to
the face. What killed people was a feeling. Left too
long. Sometimes in the cold, frozen. Sometimes
buried and fetid. And sometimes on the shores of a
lake, isolated. Left to grow old, and odd.

He stared at the hole and tried to feel something.
Tried to remember Julia as a girl. His older sister.
Born between the boys, like being born between the
wars. Trodden upon and mauled as the boys tried to
get at each other. They’d squashed and trampled her
in the middle.

So sure of yourself.Always fitting in. Well try being an artist in a family of
intellectuals. Try being tone deaf in a family of
musicians. Try being taunted all the way to class, not
by other kids, but by your own brother, yelling “Spot,
Spot”.’
Morrows ran and hid in smiling cynicism and dark
sarcasm.
‘The first generation makes the money, the second
appreciates it, having witnessed the sacrifice, and the
third squanders it.

Gamache’s alarm went off at five thirty the next
morning and after a refreshing shower he dressed,
picked up his notebook and left. The summer sun was
just up and wandering in the lace-curtained windows.
Nothing stirred, except a loon calling across the lake.

Was there an invisible world, Gamache wondered. A
place where diminished people met, where they
recognized each other? Because if he knew one thing
about Julia Martin it was that she too was invisible.
The sort others cut off in conversation, cut in front of in
grocery lines, overlook for jobs though their hand
might be raised and waving.

Settling into the chair on the wooden dock Gamache
sipped coffee and stared at the lake and the forested
mountains all around. He cradled the delicate cup in
his large hands and let his mind wander. Instead of
forcing himself to focus on the case he tried to open
his mind, to empty it. And see what came to him.
What came to him was a bird, a footless bird. Then
Ulysses and the whirlpool, and Scylla, the monster.
The white pedestal.

‘No, Chief Inspector, I’ve never been a prisoner. I
wouldn’t allow it.’‘Some people have no choice, monsieur.
Terrible,’ said Finney. They sat quietly, each in his
own thoughts. The mist was slowly burning off the lake
and every now and then a bird skimmed the surface,
hungry for insects. Gamache was surprised how
companionable it felt, to be alone with this quiet man.
https://i0.wp.com/25.media.tumblr.com/918cd0096cd5f1a9208d10aed030583f/tumblr_mm7jsfmAcX1r4kb9co1_500.jpg

‘The surroundings aren’t the issue,’ said Gamache
quietly. ‘The interior is. Your body can be standing in
the loveliest of places, but if your spirit is crushed, it
doesn’t matter. Being excluded, shunned, is no small
event.’
‘I couldn’t agree more.’ Finney leaned back again into
the deep Adirondack chair. Across the lake a couple
of Oh Canada birds called to each other. It was just
after seven.Bean’s alarms would have gone off by now.
‘Did you know that Henry David Thoreau and Ralph
Waldo Emerson were friends?’‘They were. Thoreau was once thrown in jail for
protesting some government law he believed violated
freedom. Emerson visited him there and said, “Henry,
how did you come to be in here?” Do you know what
Thoreau replied?’‘No,’ said Gamache.
‘He said, “Ralph, how did you come to be out there?”
After a moment Finney made a strangled noise.
Gamache turned to look. It was laughter. A soft,
almost inaudible, chuckle.

‘He was my best friend.’ Finney broke away,
reluctantly, from the scene on the lake. ‘We went
through school together. Some people you lose track
of, but not Charles. He was a good friend. Friendship
mattered to him.’‘What was he like?’‘Forceful. He knew what he wanted and he generally
got it.‘What did he want?’‘Money, power, prestige. The usual.’

He always said she had the best mind of any of them. Not, perhaps, the
best brain. But the best mind. But she was busy having fun.’

The Morrows could be counted on to choose the right
fork and the wrong word. Their comments were
always casual. And when confronted they’d look hurt,
offended, perplexed. How often had Clara apologized

Gamache smiled, understanding it now.
On the outside the Morrows were healthy, attractive
even. But you can’t diminish so many people without
diminishing yourself. And the Morrows, inside, had all
but disappeared. Empty.

But he wasn’t convinced the sculptor was right. He
thought there might be quite a bit of the Burghers in all
of them. He saw all the Morrows, trudging along,
chained together, weighed down by expectation,
disapproval, secrets. Need. Greed. And hate. After
years of investigating murders Chief Inspector
Gamache knew one thing about hate. It bound you for
ever to the person you hated. Murder wasn’t
committed out of hate, it was done as a terrible act of
freedom. To finally rid yourself of the burden.

Pelletier tilted his palms towards the blue sky.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ asked Beauvoir,
suddenly annoyed. ‘God murdered Julia Martin?’‘He is a serial killer,’ said Pelletier, without humour.

‘People like you, Colleen.’
She raised her eyes to his.
‘I watch and listen,’ he continued. ‘I read people. It’s
what I do for a living. Are you listening?’
She nodded.‘Those young women like you. If one good thing’s
come of all this pain, it’s that you’ve found some real
friends here.’

Gamache stared at the dishevelled man in front of
him. ‘Be careful, Peter. You have a good spirit, but
even good spirits stumble, and sometimes they fall.
And sometimes they don’t get up.’

Both men knew that one day Beauvoir would step
forward. And both men knew the burned and desolate
spot Gamache sought wasn’t exclusive to the
murderer. The reason Armand Gamache could go
there was because it wasn’t totally foreign to him. He
knew it because he’d seen his own burned terrain,
he’d walked off the familiar and comfortable path
inside his own head and heart and seen what
festered in the dark.And one day Jean Guy Beauvoir would look at his
own monsters, and then be able to recognize others.
And maybe this was the day and this was the case.

‘What did you think of him?’
‘He was a type I knew. I’d never have married him.
Too wrapped up in work and society and right and
wrong. Not morals, of course, but things like dessert
forks and thank you notes and proper clothing.’
‘Forgive me, Madame Dubois, but all those things
clearly matter to you, too.’ ‘They matter by choice, Chief Inspector. But if you
showed up in a striped shirt and a polka-dotted tie I
wouldn’t ask you to change. Monsieur Morrow would
have. Or he’d have made certain you knew it was
offensive. He was easily offended. He had a very
keen idea of his place. And yours.’ She smiled at him.
‘But there’s always more to a person, and you say you
got to know them quite well.’
‘‘I liked Charles Morrow. For all he was pompous he
had a sense of humour and a lot of good friends. You
can tell a lot about a man by his friends, or lack of
them. Do they bring out the best in each other, or are
they always gossiping, tearing others down? Keeping
wounds alive? Charles Morrow despised gossip. And
his best friend was Bert Finney. That spoke volumes
about the man, a mon avis.

‘He has nowhere to go. Do you know why we’re all sohappy here, monsieur? Because it’s the last house onthe road. We’ve tried everywhere else, and don’t fit in.Here we fit. Here we belong. Even the kids who cometo work are special. Seekers. And they stay as longas they choose.
Her Victorian parents had made clear two
things: the husband must be obeyed, and she must
never show weakness, especially to that husband.
And so she’d bathed her beautiful baby, and cried.

‘No, we got the murderer, there’s no doubt. But I also
knew there was someone else in Three Pines I felt
was capable of murder. Someone who needed
watching.’‘Clara,’ said Lacoste. Emotional, temperamental,
passionate. So much can go wrong with a personality
like that.‘No, Peter. Closed off, complex, so placid and
relaxed on the surface but God only knows what’s
happening underneath.’

‘Look.’ He pointed into the night sky. ‘It’s Babar.’
He swirled his fingers around, trying to get her to see
the elephant shape in the stars.
‘Are you sure? It looks more like Tintin.
‘No, he’s grazing, resting,’ said Gamache. ‘Even the
most magnificent of creatures needs a rest. Pegasus
knows how to soar and chase and glide. But he also
knows how to be at peace.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed … and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of.
Beauvoir looked over and saw the chief, his eyes
closed and his head tilted back, but his lips moving,
repeating a phrase.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue,
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights …
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
‘Where’s that from?’ asked Beauvoir.
‘A poem called “High Flight” by a young Canadian
aviator in the Second World War.’

She radiated rage now. He felt his face would bubble
and scald. And he knew why none of the Morrow
children had ever been this close.
puzzle.

Grief was dagger shaped and sharp and pointed
inwards. It was made of fresh loss and old sorrow.
Rendered and forged and sometimes polished. Irene
Finney had taken her daughter’s death and to that
sorrow she’d added a long life of entitlement and
disappointment, of privilege and pride. And the
dagger she’d fashioned was taking a brief break from
slashing her insides, and was now pointed outward.
At Armand Gamache.

‘I loved my father then and I love him now. It’s pretty
simple,’ he said.
‘I loved my father then and I love him now. It’s pretty
simple,’ he said.
‘He doesn’t deserve it. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth, and I
have to speak it. The truth will set you free.’ She
seemed almost sorry.‘I believe it,’ he said. ‘But I also believe it’s not the
truth about others that will set you free, but the truth
about yourself.’Now she bristled.
‘I’m not the one who needs freeing, Mr Gamache. You
refuse to see your father clearly. You’re living with a
lie. I knew him. He was a coward and a traitor. The
sooner you accept that the sooner you can get on with
your life. What he did was despicable. He doesn’t
deserve your love.’‘We all deserve love. And at times pardon.’
‘Pardon? Do you mean mercy, forgiveness?’ She
made it sound like an oath, a curse.
‘Yes. I found a book last night about the Hundred
Years War between England and France. At that time
the first son of any family inherited, the second was
given to the church, the third might make a good
marriage, but the fourth? Well, the fourth had to make
his own way.’
‘Difficult times.’
‘For martlets. And I remembered what Charles
Morrow most feared about his own children, four of
them as it turned out. He was afraid they’d squander
the family fortune.’

‘As it happens, yes. But of all of them Peter was the
most fragile. He has an artist’s soul and a banker’s
temperament. Makes for a very stressful life, being so
in conflict with himself.’
‘On the night she died Julia accused him of being a
hypocrite,’ Gamache remembered.
‘They all are, I’m afraid. Thomas is the opposite of
Peter. A banker’s soul but an artist’s temperament.
Emotions squashed. That’s why his music’s so
precise.’
‘But without pleasure,’ said Gamache. ‘Unlike
Mariana’s.’
Finney said nothing.
‘But I haven’t told you the most

‘Do you know why it’s always drawn without feet?’
Finney remained silent.‘Because it’s on its way to heaven. According to
legend a martlet never touches the earth, it flies all the
time. I believe Charles Morrow wanted to give that to
his children. He wanted them to soar. To find, if not
heaven, then at least happiness. Oh, I have slipped
the surly bonds of earth,’ said Gamache. ‘You quoted
the poem “High Flight” when we first talked.’
‘Charles’s favourite. He was a naval aviator in the
war. And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
Beautiful.’
The words went out into the world and joined the
golden sunshine streaming through the gathering
clouds and onto the water and the dock and warming
their faces. The words joined the glittering waves and
the bobbing insects and butterflies and birds and
shimmering leaves.

earth-song:“Tiny Visitor” by Sue Holland  fairy-wren:European Bullfinch(Photo by mars shangareev)
Armand Gamache closed his eyes and walked deep
into the shadows, deep into the longhouse where all
his experiences and memories lived, where everyone
he’d ever met and everything he’d ever done or
thought or said waited.

Instead he continued to stare at the younger man, so neat, so perfectly turned out,
and in such turmoil. It was that turmoil that made him
such a gifted investigator, Gamache knew. Yes, he
collected facts and assembled them brilliantly, but it
was Beauvoir’s discomfort that allowed him to
recognize it in others.‘There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but there is a lot to
be aware of. Be careful.

‘Be careful,’ Gamache whispered. ‘You’re making
hurting a habit. Spreading it around won’t lessen your
pain, you know. Just the opposite.’

He sponsored a woman he’d met in Bergen-
Belsen to come to Canada and live with us. Zora was
her name. She became my grandmother, and raised
me after my parents died. She taught me that life
goes on, and that I had a choice. To lament what I no
longer had or be grateful for what remained. I was
fortunate to have a role model that I couldn’t squirm
my way around. After all, how do you argue with the
survivor of a death camp?’Gamache actually chuckled, and Peter wondered at
this man who’d lived every nightmare and was happy
while Peter had every privilege and wasn’t.
They walked out of the tunnel of maple trees and into
the light, dimmed by cloud. Both men stopped. Some
fiddle music reached them.

She told him and his eyes widened, surprised. She
was right, of course. And so many vaguely troubling
things suddenly made sense. The world-class chef
hidden away. The army of young English workers.
Never older, never French. Why she never greeted the
guests. And why she lived, year round, on the shores
of an isolated lake.

The last thing they needed was to lose the searchers. It happened. How
often had the lost reappeared and the searchers
disappeared, only to be found as bones years later.
The Canadian wilderness didn’t give up her territory
or her dead easily.
She looked at Gamache as though he was
responsible. And he knew he was. He’d been slow,
allowed himself to be misdirected by his own
prejudices. He’d accused Beauvoir of being blinded
by emotion, but he had been too.
‘You sit here, safe and warm with the old women and
children,’ hissed Mrs Finney. ‘Hiding here while others
do the difficult work.’

Review of the garden mysteries

Anthony Eglin's picture

Now that i’m into  my third Eglin mystery , I think he is more of a passionate connoisseur of the  arts of nature – as he says in one of his novels  ” Along with all the obvious sensual rewards of spending time in these places of beauty, tranquillity, and seclusion, there was often the dividend of meeting the inspired gardeners responsible for creating these Edens on Earth “ – so this is a novelist who is more into the research part than the mystery – he does build up a fairly good mystery to his credit – but it is glaringly obvious that he does his research well – that would be an understatement – inexhaustible research is the word i guess –  i mean if  you are interested in knowing about gardens or  Viticulture or as in the one i’m reading now – expeditions  – with a good dose of the whodunit – go no further than eglin . Talking about his detective – Lawrence Kingston is  a retired professor of botany and amateur sleuth.   He is an old school dapper english gentleman type , who is into solving crossword puzzles in the Times – we come across anagrams  frequently – which lead me thinking – Eglin is   ( well not exactly an anagram) in the word english -silly but couldn’t help it – he writes so extensively about the english countryside and food ‘n’ all. I thought  ” lost gardens” was much better than ” Water lily cross” . But i didn’t like the way eglin keeps inserting these references to his earlier mysteries – kingston solved this few years back  etc. ….. Will be blogging excerpts soon..

She wished her sister, Leila, didn’t work every Saturday and Sunday. Before she took the Sunday job, Leila used to call it their day, and she’d taken Elizabeth around with her. Most of the nineteen-year-old girls like Leila were hanging around with boys, but Leila never did. She was going to go to New York to be an actress, not get stuck in Lumber Creek, Kentucky. “The trouble with these hick towns, Sparrow, is that everybody marries right out of high school and ends up with whiny little kids and Pablum all over their cheerleader sweaters. That won’t be me.”

Elizabeth liked to hear Leila talk about how it would be when she was a star, but it was scary too. She couldn’t imagine living in this house with Mama and Matt without Leila.

An abstract watercolor by Will Moses hung on the wall over the oyster-colored couch. An Aubusson rug shimmered on the dark tile. The reception desk was authentic Louis XV, but there was no one seated there. She felt an immediate sense of sharp disappointment, but reminded herself that Sammy would be back tomorrow night.

Weep No More, My Lady

She was a thin child with long legs and a spray of freckles across her nose. Her eyes were wide-set and mature—”Queen Solemn Face” Leila called her. Leila was always making up names for people—sometimes funny names; sometimes, if she didn’t like the people, pretty mean ones.

After a two-month absence, the apartment felt close and stuffy. But as soon as she opened the windows, a breeze blew in, carrying the peculiarly satisfying combination of scents that was so specially New York: the pungent aura of the small Indian restaurant around the corner, a hint of the flowers from the terrace across the street, the acrid smell of fumes from the Fifth Avenue buses, a suggestion of sea air from the Hudson River. For a few minutes Elizabeth breathed deeply and felt herself begin to unwind. Now that she was here, it was good to be home. The job in Italy had been another escape, another temporary respite.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: Where is the love, beauty and truth we seek?—Shelley  Good morning, dear guest!   Welcome to another day of luxury at Cypress Point Spa.

We hope all our guests will have a pleasant and pampered day. Remember, to be really beautiful we must keep our minds tranquil and free of distressing or troubling thoughts.

Elizabeth studied the other woman’s hands. They were the hands of a working person, thick-knuckled and callused. The brightly colored fingernails were short and stubby, even though the manicure looked expensive. Her curiosity about Alvirah Meehan was a welcome respite from thinking about Leila. Instinctively she liked the woman—there was something remarkably candid and appealing about her— but who was she? What was bringing her to the Spa?

Elizabeth left them a few minutes later. The slanting rays of the sun danced on the beds of wild-flowers along the path to the bungalow Min had assigned her. Somewhere in her subconscious she experienced a sense of calm observing the brilliant checkerblooms, the wood roses, the flowering currant hedges. But the momentary tranquillity could not mask the fact that behind the warm welcome and seeming concern, Min and Helmut were different.

The persistent headache she’d had all evening began to ebb, the sense of enclosure faded; once again she began to experience the release she had always found in water. “Do you think it started in the womb?” she’d once joked to Leila. “I mean this absolute sensation of being free when I’m immersed.”

Elizabeth touched the far wall, brought her knees to her chest and flipped her body over, changing from a backstroke to a breaststroke in one fluid movement. Was it possible that Leila’s fear of personal relationships had begun at the moment of conception? Can a speck of protoplasm sense that the climate is hostile, and can that realization color a whole life? Wasn’t it because of Leila that she’d never experienced that terrible sense of parental rejection? She remembered her mother’s description of bringing her home from the hospital: “Leila took her out of my arms. She moved the crib into her room. She was only eleven, but she became that child’s mother. I wanted to call her Laverne, but Leila put her foot down. She said, ‘Her name is Elizabeth!'” One more reason to be grateful to Leila, Elizabeth thought.

The soft ripple that her body made as she moved through the water masked the faint sound of footsteps at the other end of the pool. She had reached the north end and was starting back. For some reason she began to swim furiously, as though  sensing danger.

A witty woman is a treasure; a witty beauty is a power.  —George Meredith

At six o’clock she got out of bed, pulled up the shade, then huddled back under the light covers. It was chilly, but she loved to watch the sun come up. It seemed to her that the early morning had a dreamy quality of its own, the human quiet was so absolute. The only sounds came from the seabirds along the shore.

Leila with her arms hugging her knees. “Sammy, he’s not that bad. He makes me laugh, and that’s a plus.”       “If you want to laugh, hire a clown.”

The letter had been written in Min’s florid, sweeping penmanship. Quickly, Elizabeth scanned her schedule. Interview with Dr. Helmut von Schreiber at 8:45; aerobic dance class at 9; massage at 9:30; trampoline at 10; advanced water aerobics at 10:30—that had been the class she taught when she worked here; facial at 11; cypress curves 11:30; herbal wrap at noon. The afternoon schedule included a loofah, a manicure, a yoga class, a pedicure, two more water exercises…

“Your face is like a fine carving,” he told her. “You are one of those fortunate women who will become more beautiful as you age. It’s all in the bone structure.”          Then, as if he were thinking aloud, he murmured, “Wildly lovely as Leila was, her beauty was the kind I that peaks and begins to slip away. The last time she was here I suggested that she begin collagen treatments, and we had planned to do her eyes as well. Did you know that?”

“Yes, you would have. When Leila gave you a nickname, it meant you were part of her inner circle.”        Was that true? Ted wondered. When you looked up the definitions of the nicknames Leila bestowed, there was always a double edge to them. Falcon: a hawk trained to hunt and kill. Bulldog: a short-haired, square-jawed, heavily built dog with a tenacious grip.

They are talking about me, Ted thought. They are discussing what can and cannot be done to win my eventual freedom as though I weren’t here. A slow, hard anger that now seemed to be part of his persona made him want to lash out at them. Lash out at them? The lawyer who supposedly would win his case? The friend who had been his eyes and ears and voice these last months? But I don’t want them to take my life out of my hands, Ted thought, and tasted the acid that suddenly washed his mo uth. I can’t blame them, but I can’t trust them either. No matter what, it’s as I’ve known right along: I have to take care of this myself.

He settled on the couch, where he could look out on the ocean and watch the sea gulls arcing over the foaming surf, beyond the threat of the undertow, beyond the power of the waves to crash them against the rocks.

, “There are just two people I know I can trust in this world: Sparrow and Falcon. Now you, Sammy, are getting there.” Dora had felt honored. “And the Q.E. Two”—Leila’s name for Min— “is a do-or-die friend, provided there’s a buck in it for her and it doesn’t conflict with anything the Toy Soldier wants.”

Dora handed the glass to Min and looked contemptuously at Helmut. That spendthrift, she thought, would put Min in her grave with his crazy projects! Min had been absolutely right when she’d suggested that they add a self-contained budget-price spa on the back half of the property. That would have worked. Secretaries as well as socialites were going to spas these days. Instead, this pompous fool had persuaded Min to build the bathhouse. “It will make a statement about us to the world” was his favorite phrase when he talked Min into plunging into debt. Dora knew the finances of this place as well as they did. It couldn’t go on.

“Well, let me tell you that everything you say about the place is true. Remember how the ad says, ‘At the end of a week here, you will feel as free and untroubled as a butterfly floating on a cloud?”

“Lots of people get stage fright. Helen Hayes threw up before every performance. When Jimmy Stewart finished a movie, he was sure no one would ever ask him to be in another one. Leila threw up and worried. That’s show biz.”

“Ted is lucky to have you,” he said. “I don’t think he appreciates it.”        “That’s where you’re wrong. Ted has to rely on me now to front for him in the business, and he resents it. To clarify that, he only thinks he resents me. The problem is, my very presence in his place is a symbol of the jam he’s in.”

The noon sun was high overhead. The breeze was coming gently from the Pacific, bringing the scent of the sea. Even the azaleas that had been crushed by the patrol cars seemed to be trying to struggle back. The cypress trees, grotesque in the night, seemed familiar and comforting under the splendid sunshine.

“Are you grateful, Min?” Cheryl asked. “I gather the Baron did write the play. You not only married nobility, a doctor, an interior designer, but also an author. You must be thrilled—and broke.”        “I married a Renaissance man,” Min told her. “The Baron will resume a full schedule of operations at the clinic. Ted has promised us a loan. All will be well.”

For love and beauty and delight. There is no death nor change.        —Shelley

I feel as if I’m digging and digging for the vein of truth the way the old prospectors dug for a vein of gold… The only trouble is I’m out of time, so I had to start blasting. But at the very least, I may have upset one of them enough so that he—or she—will make a slip.”

Outside, the darkness was now absolute. The moon and stars were again covered with a misty fog; the Japanese lanterns in the trees and bushes were hazy dots of light.

They had deliberately skipped the “cocktail” hour and could see the last of the guests leaving the veranda as the muted gong announced dinner. A cool breeze had come up from the ocean, and the webs of lichen hanging from the giant pines that formed the border of the north end of the property swayed in a rhythmic, solemn movement that was accentuated by the tinted lights scattered throughout the grounds.

He’d been walking all afternoon, trying to make himself stand at the edge of a cliff, battling his own personal demon in search of the truth.

The sight of Alvirah Meehan, ghostly pale, barely breathing, hooked to machines, was incredible to Scott. People like Mrs. Meehan weren’t supposed to be sick. They were too hearty, too filled with life.

The afternoon had fulfilled the morning’s promise. The sun was golden warm; there was no breeze; even the cypress trees looked mellow, their dark leaves shimmering, the craggy shapes unthreatening. The cheerful clusters of petunias, geraniums and azaleas, perky from recent watering, were now straining toward the warmth, the blossoms open and radiant.

“He’s guilty,” Bartlett said. “There’s no way I can get him off now. Give me a clean-cut liar and I can work with him. If I put him on the stand, the jury will find Teddy arrogant. If I don’t we’ll have Elizabeth describing how he shouted at Leila, and two eyewitnesses to tell how he killed her. And I’m supposed to work with that?” He closed his eyes. “By the way, he’s just proved to us that he has a violent temper.”

Bartlett had probably been on the phone with the district attorney. By now he would have some idea of the kind of sentence he might expect. It still seemed absolutely incredible. Something he had no mem ory of doing had forced him to become a totally different person, had forced him to lead a totally different life.

“I’d have thought she was sound as a dollar. A little chunky, but good skin tone, good heartbeat, good breathing. She was scared of needles, but that doesn’t give anyone cardiac arrest.”

Be serene. Be tranquil. Be merry. And have a pretty day.

A health reminder. By now you may be feeling muscles you’d forgotten you had. Remember, exercise is never pain. Mild discomfort shows you are achieving the stretch. And whenever you exercise, keep your knees relaxed.

“IN AQUA SANITAS,” the inscription read. For once Helmut was right. Water would soothe her, turn off her mind.

She decided to have dinner served in the bungalow. It was impossible to envision going through the motions of socializing with any of those people, knowing that Sammy’s body was in the morgue awaiting shipment to Ohio, that Alvirah Meehan was fighting for her life in Monterey Hospital.

Elizabeth wondered as she went into the welcome calm of her bungalow. Her senses absorbed the emerald-and-white color scheme. Splashy print on thick white carpeting. She could almost imagine there was a lingering hint of Joy mixed with the salty sea air.

The Baron lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. His china-blue eyes watered. The reddish tint in his hair seemed brassy under the late-afternoon sun. The top of the convertible was down. A cool land breeze had dispelled the last of the daytime warmth. A sense of autumn was in the air.

“I know it sounds crazy, and I know Cheryl can lie as easily as most of us can breathe, but I’ve been thinking about this all day, and my gut feeling is she’s telling the truth

Alvirah Meehan! Scott rubbed his hands over suddenly weary eyes. That woman was bright. He thought of her comments at dinner. She was like the child in the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes who says, “But he has no clothes on!”

What does it prove? Elizabeth asked herself as she walked from the main house along the path to the clinic. If Helmut wrote that play, he must be going through hell. The author had put one million dollars into the production. That was why Min was calling Switzerland. Her nest egg in a numbered account was a standing joke. “I’ll never be broke,” she had always bragged. Min had wanted Ted acquitted so that she could license Cypress Point Spas in all his new hotels. Helmut had a much more compelling reason. If he was “Clayton Anderson,” he knew that even the nest egg was gone.

“Because I am appalled at the idea that Ted may spend the rest of his life in prison. Sometimes people do terrible things in anger, because they are out of control, things they might never do if they were not goaded beyond their ability to stop themselves. I believe that happened. I know that happened to Ted.”    Someday you will again face Leila. I think she will not thank you. You know how she was after she had been utterly outrageous. Contrite. Loving. Generous. All of it.”

“Elizabeth and I were very good friends. We liked each other. We enjoyed each other’s company. If I had my choice of being in Chicago on Wednesday and Dallas on Friday or the other way around, and found that a good friend with whom I could enjoy a late supper and relax was in those same cities, yes, I would arrange my schedule to do that. So what?”

While Craig and Bartlett went to confront the sheriff, Ted worked out with the Nautilus equipment in the men’s spa. Each piece of equipment he used seemed to emphasize his own situation. The row-boat that went nowhere; the bicycle that no matter how furiously pedaled, stayed in place.

There was something indefinably different about Sammy’s apartment. Elizabeth felt it was as though her aura as well as her physical being had departed. Her plants had not been watered. Dead leaves rimmed the planters.

Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye.            —Shakespeare

Then, as if his composure, his sense of order, had abandoned him, he leaned forward, his head in his hands, and began to cry.

Funny—when you’re just listening to people, you get a different perspective than when you’re sitting with them.          Alvirah checked her microphone to see that it was securely in place in the center flower of her sunburst pin and delivered an observation. “Voices,” she declared, “tell a lot about people.”

But she was seventy-one, Alvirah comforted herself, and it must have been real quick. That’s the way I want to go when it’s my turn. Not that she expected it to be her turn for a long time to come. As her mother said, “Our women make old bones.” Her mother was eighty-four and still went bowling every Wednesday night.

Carmel was still crowded with summer tourists, college students getting in one last fling before the fall semester. When he and Leila walked through town, she’d stopped traffic. The thought made him pull his sunglasses from his pocket. In those days, men used to look at him with envy. Now he was aware of hostility on the faces of strangers who recognized him.          Hostility. Isolation. Fear.          These last seventeen months had disrupted his entire life, had forced him to do things he would not have believed possible. Now he accepted the fact that there was one more monumental hurdle he had to overcome before the trial.

Ray was right, Nancy thought as she walked slowly back to the table. There was a time to stop
following the patterns of yesterday -a time to stop remembering and look only to the future. She
knew that a part of her was still frozen. She knew that the mind dropped a protective curtain over
painful memories – but it was more than that.

Seven years, Nancy thought. Life was a series of seven-year cycles. Carl used to say that your
whole body changed in that time. Every cell renewed itself. It was time for her to really look ahead
… to forget.  She glanced around the large, cheerful kitchen with the old brick fireplace, the wide oak floors,
the red curtains and valances that didn’t obstruct the view over the harbour. And then she looked at
Michael and Missy . . .

She’d fled here, completely across the continent – as far away from California as she could get; as
far away from the people she’d known and the place she’d lived and the college and the whole
academic community there. She never wanted to see them again -the friends who had turned out
not to be friends but hostile strangers who spoke of ‘poor Carl’ because they blamed his suicide on
her too.

She’d come to Cape Cod because she’d always heard that New Englanders and Cape people were
reticent and reserved and wanted nothing to do with strangers, and that was good. She needed a
place to hide, to find herself, to sort it all out, to try to think through what had happened, to try to
come back to life.

She’d cut her hair and dyed it sable brown, and that was enough to make her look completely
different from the pictures that had front-paged newspapers all over the country during the trial.

That first morning here, she’d made coffee and sat by the window. It had been a clear, brilliant  day – the cloudless sky purple-blue; the bay tranquil and still; the only movement the arc of sea  gulls hovering near the fishing boats.  With her fingers wrapped around the coffee cup, she’d sipped and watched. The warmth of the coffee had flowed through her body. The sunbeams had warmed her face. The tranquillity of the  scene enhanced the calming sense of peace that the long, dreamless sleep had begun.   Peace . . . give me peace. That had been her prayer during the trial; in prison. Let me learn to  accept. Seven years ago . . .   Nancy sighed, realizing that she was still standing by the bottom step of the staircase. It was so  easy to get lost in remembering. That was why she tried so hard to live each day . . . not look back  or into the future.

Begun as a hobby, it had become an absorbing daily activity. A publisher friend had read a few  chapters of it one week-end and promptly sent him a contract. The book was a case study of  famous murder trials. Jonathan worked on it five hours every day, seven days a week, starting  promptly at nine-thirty in the morning. The wind bit against him. He pulled out his muffler, grateful for the watery sunshine he felt on  his face as he glanced in the direction of the bay.

It was timing. The whole universe existed because of split-second timing. ……….

To willingly leave yourself open to failure -to tightrope-walk across  a dozen pits so that when the act was accomplished no one even glanced in your direction -that
was the way.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/crime-born-of-passion/article4373936.ece

But the book’s lingering quality — its ability to stay under a reader’s skin long after its secrets had been disclosed — hinged on its portrayal of two characters who match wits: one a brilliant physicist-sleuth named Yukawa (also known as Detective Galileo) and the other a criminal with almost unfathomable, monk-like reserves of personal dedication and forbearance.

When it is revealed, a reader’s instinctive response might be to snort and say “Impossible” (which is what the detectives listening to Yukawa do). I even felt a little cheated at first, as if the author had blindsided me by stepping outside the permissible limits of the genre. But further reflection shifted my perception of what was possible and what wasn’t; I began to see the peculiar internal logic of the denouement in light of the personalities and the lifestyles involved, and the crime no longer appeared unfeasible.

The actual writing has some of the functional woodenness that you find in most commercial fiction of this sort — too many references to a character’s eyes “widening in surprise”, for example, or hands gripping a phone tightly when unexpected news is received — but these are tics of the genre, easy enough to ignore up to a point. (Besides, as has often been observed, when Japanese is translated into English, the results can seem a little stilted and over-formal, especially when the reader is from a culture that doesn’t understand why a detective might remove his shoes outside a house before going in to question a murder suspect.)

This book is about a crime born of very deep passion, but with no sudden bursts of action, no explicit violence or dramatic confrontations, it is unnerving in ways that more conventional thrillers are not. And despite the fact that the setting is a homogenous modern city and the characters are in some ways indistinguishable from upper-middle-class people living anywhere in the world, there is something distinctly Japanese about it, something of the deceptive placidity of the filmmaker Ozu or the novelist Ishiguro. There is a sense of a neat and ordered contemporary world with mystical rumblings beneath its surface, reminiscent of the Sheep Man in Haruki Murakami’s novels, hidden in a forgotten corner of a glass-and-steel skyscraper, or a videotape being employed by supernatural forces in Koji Suzuki’s Ring series. Higashino’s book is set in a world of tidy kitchens with coffee-makers and bottled mineral water, of sophisticated dinners and dating parties, but beneath it all is something more primal. The image one is left with at the end is the indelible one of a predatory spider watching quietly, patiently over her web.

I am blown along a wandering wind,’ replied the voice irresolutely, ;and hollow, hollow, <br />
hollow all delight.

Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?

He was a man of middle height and spare figure, nearly sixty years old, by constitution rather delicate in health, but wiry and active for his age. A sparse and straggling beard and moustache did not conceal a thin but kindly mouth; his eyes were keen and pleasant; his sharp noseand narrow jaw gave him very much of a clerical air, and this impression was helped by hiscommonplace dark clothes and soft black hat. The whole effect of him, indeed, was priestly. He was a man of unusually conscientious, industrious, and orderly mind, with little imagination. His father’s household had been used to recruit its domestic establishment by means of advertisements in which it was truthfully described as a serious family. From that fortress of gloom he had escaped with two saintly gifts somehow unspoiled: an inexhaustible kindness of heart, and a capacity for innocent gaiety which owed nothing to humor. In an earlier day and with a clericaltraining he might have risen to the scarlet hat. His austere but not unhappy life was spent largely among books and in museums; his profound and patiently accumulated knowledge of a number of curiously disconnected subjects which had stirred his interest at different times had given him a place in the quiet, half-lit world of professors and curators and devotees of research; at their amiable, unconvivial dinner parties he was most himself. His favorite author was Montaigne.

So much being determined, Mr. Cupples applied himself to the enjoyment of the view for a

few minutes before ordering his meal. With a connoisseur’s eye he explored the beauty of the rugged coast, where a great pierced rock rose from a glassy sea, and the ordered loveliness of the vast tilted levels of pasture and tillage and woodland that sloped gently up from the cliffs toward the distant moor. Mr. Cupples delighted in landscape.

. ‘An enormous great breakfast, too—with refined conversation and  tears of recognition never dry.

She said that the worry and the humiliation of it, and the strain of trying to keep up appearances before the world, were telling upon her, and she asked for my advice.

I said I thought she should face him and demand an explanation of his way of treating her. But she would not do  that. She had always taken the line of affecting not to notice the change in his demeanor, and  nothing, I knew, would persuade her to admit to him that she was injured, once pride had led her into that course. Life is quite full, my dear Trent,’ said Mr. Cupples with a sigh, ‘of these obstinate silences and cultivated misunderstandings.’

I know that he was making a desert of the life of one who was like my own child to me. But I am under an intolerable dread of Mabel being involved in suspicion with regard to the murder. It is horrible to me to think of her delicacy and goodness being in contact, if only for a time, with the brutalities of the law. She is not fitted for it. It would mark her deeply. Many young women of twenty-six in these days could face such an ordeal, I suppose. I have observed a sort of imitative hardness about the products of the higher education of women today which would carry them through anything, perhaps. I am not prepared to say it is a bad thing in the conditions of feminine life prevailing at present. Mabel, however, is not like that. She is as unlike that as she is unlike the simpering misses that used to surround me as a child. She has plenty of brains; she is full of character; her mind and her tastes are cultivated; but it is all mixed up’—Mr. Cupples waved his hands in a vague gesture—’with ideals of refinement and reservation and womanly mystery. I fear she is not a child of the age. You never knew my wife, Trent. Mabel is my wife’s child.’

A painter and the son of a painter, Philip Trent had while yet in his twenties achieved some  reputation within the world of English art. Moreover, his pictures sold. An original, forcible talent and a habit of leisurely but continuous working, broken by fits of strong creative enthusiasm, were at the bottom of it. His father’s name had helped; a patrimony large enough to relieve him of the perilous imputation of being a struggling man had certainly not hindered. But his best aid to  success had been an unconscious power of getting himself liked. Good spirits and a lively,humorous fancy will always be popular. Trent joined to these a genuine interest in others that gained him something deeper than popularity. His judgment of persons was penetrating, but its process was internal; no one felt on good behavior with a man who seemed always to be enjoying himself. Whether he was in a mood for floods of nonsense or applying himself vigorously to a  task, his face seldom lost its expression of contained vivacity. Apart from a sound knowledge of  his art and its history, his culture was large and loose, dominated by a love of poetry.At thirty-two he had not yet passed the age of laughter and adventure. His rise to a celebrity a hundred times greater than his proper work had won for him came of a momentary impulse.

‘It had been like that,’ she ended simply, ‘for months before he died.’ She sank into the corner of a sofa by the window, as though relaxing her body after an effort. For a few moments both were silent. Trent was hastily sorting out a tangle of impressions. He was amazed at the frankness of Mrs. Manderson’s story. He was amazed at the vigorous expressiveness in her telling of it.

. . . what I want to  say is that along with it there had always been a belief of his that I was the sort of woman to take a great place in society, and that I should throw myself into it with enjoyment, and become a sort of  personage and do him great credit—that was his idea; and the idea remained with him after other delusions had gone. I was a part of his ambition. That was his really bitter disappointment, that I failed him as a social success.

the sort of girl I was, brought up to music and books and unpractical ideas, always

enjoying myself in my own way. But he had really reckoned on me as a wife who would do the honors of his position in the world; and I found I couldn’t.’

 

Overwork, the doctor called it.

‘Sit back and browse for a little,’ the doctor had said, crossing one
elegant Wimpole Street leg over the other and admiring the hang of it.

Grant could not imagine himself sitting back, and he considered browsing
a loathsome word and a contemptible occupation. Browsing. A fattening-up
for the table. A mindless satisfaction of animal desires. Browse,
indeed! The very sound of the word was an offence. A snore.

‘Have you any hobbies?’ the doctor had asked, his admiring glance going
on to his shoes.

‘No,’ Grant had said shortly.

‘What do you do when you go on holiday?’

‘I fish.’

‘You fish?’ said the psychologist, seduced from his Narcissian gazing.
‘And you don’t consider that a hobby?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘What is it, then, would you say?’

‘Something between a sport and a religion.’

And at that Wimpole Street had smiled and had looked quite human; and
assured him that his cure was only a matter of time. Time and
relaxation.

Well, at least he had managed not to open that door last night. But the
triumph had been dearly bought. He was drained and empty; a walking
nothingness. ‘Don’t fight it,’ the doctor had said. ‘If you want to be
in the open, go into the open.’ But to have opened that door last night
would have meant a defeat so mortal that he felt there would be no
recovery. It would have been an unconditional surrender to the forces of
Unreason. So he had lain and sweated. And the door had stayed closed.

But now, in the unrewarding dark of early morning, in the bleak
anonymous dark, he was as without virtue as if he had lost. ‘I suppose
this is how women feel after long labour,’ he thought, with that
fundamental detachment which Wimpole Street had noted and approved. ‘But
at least they have a brat to show for it. What have I got?’

His pride, he supposed. Pride that he had not opened a door that there
was no reason to open. Oh God!

‘Can’t you recognise a dead man when you see one?’ he said. Through the
haze of his tiredness he heard his own voice say it: ‘Can’t you recognise
a dead man when you see one? As if it were a thing of no moment. Can’t
you recognise a primrose when you see one? Can’t you recognise a Rubens
when you see one? Can’t you recognise the Albert Memorial when—-‘

‘Dead!’ said Yughourt in a kind of howl. ‘He can’t be! I’m due to go
off.’

That, Grant noted from his far-away stance, was all that it meant to Mr
Blast His Soul Gallacher.   Someone had taken leave of life, had gone out
from warmth and feeling and perception to nothingness, and all it meant
to Damn His Eyes Gallacher was that he would be late in getting off
duty.

He dropped the two suitcases on the platform and stood there (chattering
like a blasted monkey, he thought resentfully) and wished that it were
possible to die temporarily. In some last dim recess of his mind he knew
that to dither with cold and nerves on a station platform at six of a
winter morning was in the final resort a privilege; a corollary to being
alive; but oh, how wonderful it would be to achieve temporary death and
pick up life again at some happier moment.

‘To the hotel, sir?’ the porter said. ‘Yes, I’ll take them over when
I’ve seen to this barrow-load.’

He stumbled up the steps and across the bridge. The wood sounded
drumlike and hollow under his tread, great bursts of steam billowed up
round him from below, noises clanged and echoed from the dark vault
about him. They were all wrong about hell, he thought. Hell wasn’t a
nice cosy place where you fried. Hell was a great cold echoing cave
where there was neither past nor future; a black, echoing desolation.
Hell was concentrated essence of a winter morning after a sleepless
night of self-distaste.

He stepped out into the empty courtyard, and the sudden quiet soothed
him. The darkness was cold but clean. A hint of greyness in its quality
spoke of morning, and a breath of snow in its cleanness spoke of the
‘high tops’. Presently, when it was daylight, Tommy would come to the
hotel and pick him up and they would drive away into the great clean
Highland country; away into the wide, unchanging, undemanding Highland
world where people died only in their beds and no one bothered to shut a
door anyhow because it was too much trouble.

In the hotel dining-room the lights were on only at one end, and into
the gloom of the unlit spaces marched ranks of naked baize-topped
tables. He had never before, now he came to think of it, seen restaurant
tables undressed. They were really very humble shabby things stripped of
their white armour. Like waiters without their shirt-fronts.

 

Grant looked with interest at the pencilled words. The writer had
designed his effort in eight lines, it seemed, but had not been able to
think of the fifth and sixth. So that the scribble read:

     _The beasts that talk,
     The streams that stand,
     The stones that walk,
     The singing sand,_
            .    .
            .    .
     _That guard the way
     To Paradise._

Well, it was odd enough, in all conscience. The beginnings of delirium
tremens?

It was understandable that the owner of that very individual face would
see nothing so ordinary in his alcoholic dreams as pink rats. Nature
itself would turn cartwheels for the young man with the reckless
eyebrows. What was the Paradise that was guarded by so terrifying a
strangeness? Oblivion? Why had he needed oblivion so badly that it
represented Paradise to him? That he had been prepared to run the known
horror of the approaches to it?

Grant ate the fine fresh bap that there was ‘no chew in’ and considered
the matter. The writing was unformed but not at all shaky; it looked the
writing of an adult who wrote an unformed hand not because his
co-ordination was bad but because he had never quite grown up. Because
in essentials he was still the schoolboy who had originally written that
way. This theory was confirmed by the shape of the capital letters,
which were made in pure copy-book form. Odd, that so individual a
creature had had no desire to impress his individuality on the form of
his letters. Very few people indeed did not adapt the copy-book form to
their own liking; to their own unconscious need.

One of Grant’s milder interests had for years been this business of
handwriting; and in his work he had found the results of his long
observation greatly useful. Now and then, of course, he was shaken out
of any complacency about his deductions–a multiple murderer who
dissolved his victims in acid turned out to have handwriting remarkable
only for its extreme logic; which after all was perhaps appropriate
enough–but in general, handwriting provided a very good index to a man.
And in general a man who continued to use the schoolboy form for his
letters did so for one of two reasons: either he was unintelligent, or
he wrote so little that the writing had had no chance of absorbing his
personality.

Considering the high degree of intelligence that had put into words that
nightmare hazard at the gates of Paradise, it was obvious that it was
not lack of personality that had kept the young man’s writing
adolescent. His personality–his vitality and interest–had gone into
something else.

Into what? Something active, something extrovert. Something in which
writing was used for messages like: ‘Meet me Cumberland bar, 6.45,
Tony’, or for filling up a log.

But he was introvert enough to have analysed and put into words that
country-of-the-moon on the way to his Paradise. Introvert enough to have
stood apart and looked at it; to have wanted to record it.

Grant sat in a pleasant warm daze, chewing and considering. He noted the
tightly-joined tops of the n’s and m’s. A liar? Or just secretive? A
curiously cautious trait to appear in the writing of a man with those
eyebrows. It was a strange thing how much the meaning of a countenance
depended on eyebrows. One change of degree in the angle this way or that
and the whole effect was different. Film magnates took nice little girls
from Balham and Muswell Hill and rubbed out their eyebrows and painted
in other ones and they became straightway mysterious creatures from Omsk
and Tomsk. He had once been told by Trabb, the cartoonist, that it was
his eyebrows that had lost Ernie Price his chance of being Prime
Minister. ‘They didn’t like his eyebrows,’ Trabb had said, blinking
owlishly over his beer. ‘Why? Don’t ask me. I just draw. Because they
looked bad-tempered, perhaps. They don’t like a bad-tempered man. Don’t
trust him. But that’s what lost him his chance, take it from me. His
eyebrows. They didn’t like ’em.’ Bad-tempered eyebrows, supercilious
eyebrows, calm eyebrows, worried eyebrows–it was the eyebrows that gave
a face its keynote. And it was the slant of the black eyebrows that had
given that thin white face on the pillow its reckless look even in
death.

Well, the man had been sober when he wrote those words, that at least
was clear. That toper’s oblivion in compartment B Seven–the fugged air,
the rucked blankets, the empty bottle rolling about on the floor, the
overturned glass on the shelf–may have been the Paradise he sought, but
he was sober when he blue-printed the way to it.

The singing sand.

Uncanny but somehow attractive.

Singing sand. Surely there actually were singing sands somewhere? It had
a vaguely familiar sound. Singing sands. They cried out under your feet
as you walked. Or the wind did it, or something. A man’s forearm in a
checked tweed sleeve reached in front of him and took a bap from the
plate.

‘You seem to be doing yourself very well,’ Tommy said, pulling out a
chair and sitting down. He split the bap and buttered it. ‘There’s no
chew in these things at all nowadays. When I was a boy you sank your
teeth in them and pulled. It was evens which came away first: your teeth
or the bit of bap. But if your teeth won you really had something worth
having. A nice floury, yeasty mouthful that would last you for a couple
of minutes. They don’t taste of anything nowadays, and you could fold
them in two and put the whole thing in your mouth without any danger of
choking yourself.’

Grant looked at him in silence and with affection. There was no intimacy
so close, he thought, as the intimacy that bound you to a man with whom
you’d shared a Prep. school dorm. They had shared their public school
days too, but it was Prep. school that he remembered each time he
encountered Tommy anew. Perhaps because in all essentials that fresh
pinky-brown face with the round ingenuous blue eyes was the same face
that used to appear above a crookedly-buttoned maroon blazer. Tommy had
always buttoned his blazer with a fine insouciance.

It was so like Tommy not to waste time or vitality on conventional
inquiries as to his journey and his health. Neither would Laura, of
course. They would accept him as he stood; as if he had been there for
some time. As if he had never gone away at all but was still on his
previous visit. It was an extraordinarily restful atmosphere to sink
back into.

 

 

never knew heyer wrote mysteries too………………gud ones too . love this neville character and his fiance , forgot her name .

A breeze, hardly more than a whisper of wind, stirred the curtains at the long window,and wafted into the room the scent of the wisteria covering the wall of the house. The policeman turned his head as the curtains faintly rustled, his rather glassy blue eyes frowning and suspicious. Straightening himself, for he had been bending over the figure of a man seated behind the carved knee-hole desk in the middle of the room, he trod over to the window and looked out into the dusky garden. His torch explored the shadows cast by two flowering shrubs without, however, revealing anything but a nondescript cat, whose eyes caught and flung back the light for an instant before the animal glided into the recesses of the shrub. There was no other sign of life in the garden, and after a moment of keen scrutiny, the policeman turned back into the room, and went to the desk. The man behind it paid no heed, for he was dead, as the policeman had already ascertained. His head lay on the open blotter, with blood congealing in his sleek, pomaded hair.

Glass laid down the receiver, and restored his handkerchief to his pocket. “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in his riches,” he said.

The sombre pronouncement recalled Simmons’s thoughts. He gave a sympathetic groan. “That’s true, Mr. Glass. Woe to the crown of pride! But how did it happen? How do you come to be here? Oh dear, oh dear, I never thought to be mixed up with a thing like this!”

Yes, but I don’t like murders. So inartistic, don’t you think? Besides, they don’t happen.”

“This has happened, sir,” said Glass, a little puzzled.

“Yes, that’s what upsets me. Murders only occur in other people’s families. Not even in one’s own circle. Ever noticed that? No, I suppose not. Nothing in one’s experience – one had thought it so wide! – has taught one how to cope with such a bizarre situation.”

He ended on an uncertain laugh; it was plain that under his flippancy he was shaken. The butler looked at him curiously, and then at Glass, who, after staring at Neville Fletcher for a moment, licked his pencil-point, and asked: “When did you see Mr. Fletcher last, if you please, sir?”

“At dinner. In the dining-room, I mean. No, let us be exact; not the dining-room; the hall.”

“Make up your mind, sir,” recommended Glass stolidly.

“Oh! And what about Mr. Neville? Was he annoyed?”

“I shouldn’t like to say, Sergeant. Mr. Neville is a peculiar young gentleman, not given to showing what he feels, if he feels anything, which I sometimes doubt.”

“Well I do, frequently,” said Neville, who had come into the room in time to hear this remark.

The Sergeant, unaccustomed to young Mr. Fletcher’s noiseless way of entering rooms, was momentarily startled. Neville smiled in his deprecating fashion, and said softly: ‘Good-evening. Isn’t it shocking? I do hope you’ve arrived at something? My aunt would like to see you before you go. Do you know who killed my uncle?”

“It’s early days to ask me that, sir,” replied the Sergeant guardedly.

“Your words hint at a prolonged period of suspense, which I find peculiarly depressing.”

“Very unpleasant for all concerned, sir,” agreed the Sergeant. He turned to Simmons. “That’ll be all for the present,” he said.

Simmons withdrew, and the Sergeant, who had been eyeing Neville with a good deal of curiosity, invited him to sit down. Neville obligingly complied with this request, choosing a deep armchair by the fireplace. The Sergeant said politely: “I’m hoping you may be able to help me, sir. I take it you were pretty intimate with the deceased?”

“Oh no!” said Neville, shocked. “I shouldn’t have liked that at all.”

“No, sir? Am I to understand you were not on good terms with Mr. Fletcher?”

“But I was. I’m on good terms with everyone. Only I’m not intimate.”

“Well, but, what I mean, sir, is -‘

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean. Did I know the secrets of my uncle’s life? No, Sergeant: I hate secrets, and other people’s troubles.”

He said this with an air of sweet affability. The Sergeant was a little taken aback, but rallied, and said: “At all events, you knew him fairly well, sir?”

“We won’t argue the point,” murmured Neville.

“Do you know if he had any enemies?”

“Well, obviously he had, hadn’t he?”

“Yes, sir, but what I’m trying to establish -‘

“I know, but you see I’m just as much at a loss as you are. You weren’t acquainted with my uncle?”

“I can’t say as I was, sir.”

Neville blew one smoke ring through another, and watched it dreamily. “Everybody called him Ernie,” he sighed. “Or Ernie dear, according to sex. You see?”

The Sergeant stared for a moment, and then said slowly: “I think I get you, sir. I’ve always heard him well spoken of, I’m bound to say. I take it you don’t know of any person with a grudge against him?”

Neville shook his head. The Sergeant looked at him rather discontentedly, and consulted Glass’s notebook. “I see you state that after you left the dining-room you went into the billiard-room, where you remained until Miss Fletcher came to find you. At what hour would that have been?”

Neville smiled apologetically.

“You don’t know, sir? No idea at all? Try and think!”

“Alas, time has hitherto meant practically nothing to me. Does it help if I say that my aunt mentioned that a most peculiar visitor was with my uncle? A fat little man, who carried his hat in his hand. She had seen him in the hall.”

“Did you see this man?” asked the Sergeant quickly.

“No.”

“You don’t know whether he was still with your uncle when you went up to your room?”

“Sergeant, Sergeant, do you think I listen at keyholes?”

“Of course not, sir, but -‘

“At least, not when I’m wholly incurious,” explained Neville, temporising.

“Well, sir, we’ll say that some time between 9.00 and 10.00 you went up to your room.”

“At half-past nine,” said Neville.

“At – A moment ago, sir, you said you had no idea what time it was!”

“Oh, I hadn’t, but I remember now one solitary cuckoo.”

The Sergeant shot a startled look towards Glass, standing motionless and disapproving by the door. A suspicion that the eccentric Neville Fletcher was of unsound mind had darted into his brain. “What might you mean by that, sir?”

“Only the clock on the landing,” said Neville.

“A cuckoo-clock! Well, really, sir, for a moment I thought – And it struck the half-hour?”

“Yes, but it’s quite often wrong.”

“We’ll go into that presently. Which way does your room face, sir?”

“North.”

“It’s at the back of the house, then? Would it be possible for you to hear anyone coming up the side path?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t hear anyone, but I wasn’t trying to.

“Quite,” said the Sergeant. “Well, I think that’ll be all for the present, thank you, sir. Of course, you understand that you will not be able to leave this house for a day or two? Just a matter of routine, you know. We’ll hope it won’t be long before we get the whole thing cleared up.”

“Yes, let’s,” agreed Neville. His gaze dwelt speculatively on a picture on the wall opposite the fireplace. “It wouldn’t be robbery, would it?”

“Hardly, sir, but of course we can’t say definitely yet. It isn’t likely a burglar would come when Mr. Fletcher was still up, not to mention the rest of the household.”

“No. Only the safe is behind that picture -just in case you didn’t know.”

“Yes, sir, so the butler informed me. We’ve been over it for finger-prints, and as soon as we can get Mr. Fletcher’s lawyer down we’ll have it opened. Yes, Hepworth? Found anything?”

The last words were addressed to a constable who had stepped into the room through the window.

“Not much, Sergeant, but I’d like you to have a look at one thing.”

The Sergeant went at once; Neville uncoiled himself, got up, and wandered out of the room in his wake. “Don’t mind me coming, do you?” he murmured, as the Sergeant turned his head.

“I don’t see as there’s any objection, sir. The fact is, a man was seen sneaking out by the side gate just after 10 p.m., and unless I’m mistaken he’s the chap we’re after.”

“A – a fat man?” suggested Neville, blinking.

“Ah, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it, sir?” said the Sergeant indulgently. “No, just an ordinary looking chap in a soft hat. Well, Hepworth, what is it?”

The constable had led the way to the back of a flowering currant bush, which was planted in a bed close to the house. He directed the beam of his torch on to the ground. In the soft earth were the deep imprints of a pair of high-heeled shoes.

“They’re freshly made, Sergeant,” said Hepworth. “Someone’s been hiding behind this bush.”

“The Women in the Case!” said Neville. “Aren’t we having fun?”

The Sergeant had found himself listening to a panegyric  ( A panegyric is a formal public speech, or (in later use) written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing,   ) on the late Ernest Fletcher: how charming he was; how popular; what perfect manners he had; how kind he had always been to his sister; how gay; how dashing; how generous! Out of this turmoil of words certain facts had emerged. Neville was the son of Ernie’s brother Ted, many years deceased, and certainly his heir. Neville was a dear boy, but you never knew what he would be up to next, and – yes, it did annoy poor Ernie when he got himself imprisoned in some horrid Balkan state – oh, nothing serious, but Neville was so hopelessly vague, and simply lost his passport. As for the Russian woman who had appeared at Neville’s hotel with all her luggage before breakfast one morning in Budapest, saying he had invited her at some party the night before – well, one couldn’t exactly approve, of course, but young men did get drunk sometimes, and anyway the woman was obviously no better than she should be, and really Neville was not like that at all. At the same time, one did rather feel for Ernie, having to buy the creature off. But it was quite, quite untrue to say that Ernie didn’t like Neville: they hadn’t much in common, but blood was thicker than water, and Ernie was always so understanding.

Questioned more closely, no, she knew of no one who nourished the least grudge against her brother. She thought the murderer must have been one of these dreadful maniacs one read about in the papers.

The Sergeant got away from her, not without difficulty, and very soon left the house. Aunt and nephew confronted one another in the drawing-room.

“I feel as though this were all a horrible nightmare!” said Miss Fletcher, putting a hand to her head. “There’s a policeman in the hall, and they’ve locked dear Ernie’s study!”

“Does it worry you?” asked Neville. “Was there anything there you wished to destroy?”

“That,” said Miss Fletcher, “would be most dishonest. Not but what I feel sure Ernie would have preferred it to having strangers poking their noses into his affairs. Of course I wouldn’t destroy anything important, but I’m sure there isn’t anything. Only you know what men are, dear, even the best of them.”

“No, do tell me!”

“Well,” said Miss Fletcher, “one shuts one’s eyes to That Side of a Man’s life, but I’m afraid, Neville, that there have been Women. And some of them, I think – though of course I don’t know – not what I call Nice Women.”

“Men are funny like that,” said Neville dulcetly.

“Yes, dear, and naturally I was very thankful, because at one time I made sure Ernie would get caught.”

“Caught?”

“Marriage,” explained Miss Fletcher. “That would have been a great blow to me. Only, luckily, he wasn’t a very constant man.”

Neville looked at her in surprise. She smiled unhappily at him, apparently unaware of having said anything remarkable. She looked the acme of respectability; a plump, faded lady, with wispy grey hair and mild eyes, red-rimmed from crying, and a prim little mouth, innocent of lip-stick.

“I’m now definitely upset,” said Neville. “I think I’ll go to bed.”

She said distressfully: “Oh dear, is it what I’ve told you? But it’s bound to come out, so you had to know sooner or later.”

“Not my uncle; my aunt!” said Neville.

“You do say such odd things, dear,” she said. “You’re overwrought, and no wonder. Ought I to offer that policeman some refreshment?”

He left her engaged in conversation with the officer on duty in the hall, and went up to his own room. After a short interval his aunt tapped on his door, desiring to know whether he felt all right. He called out to her that he was quite all right, but sleepy, and so after exchanging good-nights with him, and promising not to disturb him again, Miss Fletcher went away to her own bedroom in the front of the house.

Neville Fletcher, having locked his door, climbed out of his window, and reached the ground by means of a stout drain-pipe, and the roof of the verandah outside the drawing-room.

The garden lay bathed in moonlight. In case a watch had been set over the side entrance, Neville made his way instead to the wall at the end of the garden, which separated it from the Arden Road. Espaliers trained up it made the scaling of it a simple matter. Neville reached the top, lowered himself on the other side, and let himself drop. He landed with the ease of the trained athlete, paused to light a cigarette, and began to walk westwards along the road. A hundred yards brought him to a crossroad running parallel to Maple Grove. He turned up it, and entered the first gateway he came to. A big, square house was sharply outlined by the moonshine, lights shining through the curtains of several of the windows. One of these, on the ground-floor to the left of the front door, stood open. Neville went to it, parted the curtains, and looked into the room.

A woman sat at an escritoire, writing, the light of a reading-lamp touching her gold hair with fire. She wore evening dress, and a brocade cloak hung over the back of her chair. Neville regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, and then stepped into the room.

She looked up quickly, and gave a sobbing gasp of shock. The fright of her eyes gave place almost immediately to an expression of relief. Colour rushed into her lovely face; she caught her hand to her breast, saying faintly: ‘Neville! Oh, how you startled me!”

“That’s nothing to what I’ve been through tonight,” replied Neville. “Such fun and games at Greystones, my dear: you wouldn’t believe!”

She shut her blotter upon her half-finished letter. “You haven’t got them?” she asked, between eagerness and incredulity.

“All I’ve got is the jitters,” said Neville. He strolled over to her, and to her surprise went down on his knee.

“Neville, what on earth – ?”

“Are you an escapist?” inquired Neville solicitously. “Is that why you write improbable novels? Have you felt the banality of real life to be intolerable?”

“My novels aren’t improbable! It may interest you to know that the critics consider me as one of the six most important crime novelists.”

“If you think that you’re a bad judge of character,” said Neville.

Helen gave a strangled shriek of exasperation. “Oh, don’t, don’t! What does any of that matter at a time like this? What am I to do?”

Sally turned away from Neville. “All right, let’s get this thing straight,” she said. “I don’t feel I’ve got all the data. When did you start falling for Ernie Fletcher?”

“I didn’t. Only he was so attractive, and – and he had a sort of sympathetic understanding. Almost a touch of the feminine, but not quite that, either. I can’t explain. Ernie made you feel as though you were made of very brittle, precious porcelain.”

“That must have added excitement to your life,” said Neville reflectively.

 

“Lummy!” said Miss Drew elegantly. “Gilded vice, and haggard harpies, and suicides adjacent? All that sort of thing?”

“It wasn’t gilded, and I don’t know about any suicides, but it was a bad place, and yet – in a way – rather thrilling. If John knew of it – the people who belonged to it – Sally, no one would believe I wasn’t a bad woman if it was known I went to that place!”

“Well, why did you go there?”

“Oh, for the thrill! Like one goes to Limehouse. And at first it sort of got me. I adored the excitement of the play. Then I lost rather a lot of money, and like a fool I thought I could win it back. I expect you know how one gets led on, and on.”

“Why not have sold your pearls?”

A wan smile touched Helen’s lips. “Because they aren’t worth anything.”

“What?” Sally gasped.

“Copies,” said Helen bitterly. “I sold the real ones ages ago. Other things, too. I’ve always been an extravagant little beast, and John warned me he wouldn’t put up with it. So I sold things.”

“Helen!”

Neville, who had been reposing in a luxurious chair with his eyes shut, said sleepily: “You said you wanted copy, didn’t you?”

“Even if it didn’t concern Helen I couldn’t use this,” said Sally. “Not my line of country at all. I shall have to concentrate on the murder. By the way, Helen, who introduced you to this hell? Dear Ernie?”

“Oh no, no!” Helen cried. “He absolutely rescued me from it! I can’t tell you how divine he was. He said everything would be all right, and I wasn’t to worry any more, but just be a good child for the future.”

“Snake!” said Sally hotly.

“Yes, only – it didn’t seem like that. He had such a way with him! He got hold of those ghastly IOUs, and at first I was so thankful!”

“Then he blackmailed you!”

“N – no, he didn’t. Not quite. I can’t tell you about that, but it wasn’t exactly as you imagine. Of course, he did use the IOUs as a weapon, but perhaps he didn’t really mean it! It was all done so – so laughingly, and he was very much in love with me. I expect I lost my head a bit, didn’t handle him properly. But I got frightened, and I couldn’t sleep for thinking of my IOUs in Ernie’s possession. That’s why I told Neville. I thought he might be able to do something.”

“Neville?” said Miss Drew, in accents of withering contempt. “You might as well have applied to a village idiot!”

“I know, but there wasn’t anyone else. And he is clever, in spite of being so hopeless.”

“As judged by village standards?” inquired Neville, mildly interested.

“He may have a kind of brain, but I’ve yet to hear of him putting himself out for anyone, or behaving like an ordinarily nice person. I can’t think how you ever succeeded in persuading him to take it on.”

“The dripping of water on a stone,” murmured Neville.

“Well having taken it on, I do think you might have put your back into it. Did you even try?”

“Yes, it was a most painful scene.”

“Why? Was Ernie furious?”

“Not so much furious as astonished. So was I. You ought to have seen me giving my impersonation of a Nordic public-school man with a reverence for good form and the done-thing. I wouldn’t like to swear I didn’t beg him to play the game. Ernie ended up by being nauseated, and I’m sure I’m not surprised.”

“You know, you’re not hard-hearted, you’re just soulless,” Sally informed him. She glanced at her sister. “Was I invited to stay to be a chaperon?”

“Yes, in a way. Besides, I wanted you.”

“Thanks a lot. What happened tonight?”

“Oh, nothing, Sally, nothing! It was silly of me, but I thought if only I could talk quietly to Ernie, and – and throw myself on his generosity, everything would be all right. You were busy with your book, so I got my cloak, and just slipped round by the back way to Greystones, on the off chance of finding Ernie in his study.”

“Oh, don’t be a fool! Don’t you realise you’ll have led them straight to Helen?”

“Oh no! No, really I haven’t,” Neville replied, with his apologetic smile. “I climbed out of my window, and over the wall.”

“You – Did you really?” exclaimed Sally, her thunderous frown vanishing. “I must say I should never have thought it of you.”

“Atavism,” he explained.

“Oh, Neville, how on earth did you manage it?” Helen asked, a note of admiration in her voice.

He looked alarmed. “Please don’t get misled! It wasn’t a bit heroic, or daring, or even difficult.”

“It must have been. I can’t think how you did it! I should never have had the nerve.”

“No nerve. Merely one of the advantages of a University education.”

.

Only Heaven that wrote the scroll of human life
Knows where its beginning is, and where its end—
If end there be. We mortals can not read its writ,
We even \now not whether the text runs down or up.

Yet when a judge is seated behind his scarlet bench
His is the power of Heaven, over life and death—
But not Heaven’s knowledge. Let him—and us!—beware
Lest passing judgment on others, we ourselves be judged.

My senses are numbed by the unbearable pain .

But isn’t it true that when a man has been touched by death, others can see its mark on him ? Every time I come upon one of my wives or concubines in the now deserted corridors, she quickly averts her face. When I look up from my papers in the office, I often catch my clerks staring at me. As they hurriedly bend again over their documents, I know that they covertly clasp the amulets they have taken to wear¬ing of late. They must feel that after I had come back from my visit to Han-yuan I was not merely very ill. A sick man is pitied; a man possessed is shunned.
They do not understand. They need only pity me. As one pities a man condemned to the inhuman punishment of inflicting on him¬self with his own hand the lingering death: being forced by the executioner to cut away his own flesh, piece by piece. Every letter I wrote, every coded message I sent out these last days cut away a slice of my living flesh. Thus the threads of the ingenious web I had been weaving patiently over the entire Empire were cut, one by one. Every thread cut stands for a crushed hope, a thwarted illusion, a wasted dream. Now all traces have been wept out; no one shall ever know. I even presume that the Imperial Gazette shall print an obitu¬ary, mourning me as a promising young official who met an un¬timely death by a lingering disease. Lingering, indeed, lingering till now there is nothing left of me but this bloodstained carcass.
This is the moment that the executioner plunges his long knife in the tortured criminal’s heart, giving him the merciful deathblow. Why, then, do you, fearful shadow, insist on prolonging my agony, you who call yourself by the name of a flower ?

 Who could rule men when himself not a man ? At last I knew there was only one solution.
Once I had taken that decision, I felt at peace. I enjoyed the charming surroundings. On my left the almond trees, laden with white blossoms whose scent hung heavily in the warm spring air. And on my right the silvery expanse of the moonlit lake
“The almond blossoms are out very early, this spring!”
And I said:
“It is the unexpected joys that are the greatest!”
“Are they always?” she asked with a mocking smile. “Come, I shall show you where I was sitting just now.”

“Liu comes from an old family in the capital, and was educated to become an official. But he failed to pass the second literary examination, and that em¬bittered him to such a degree that he gave up all his studies and became a merchant. In that he was so successful that now he is one of the richest men in this province and his commercial enter¬prises are spread over the entire realm. That is the reason why he travels about so much. But please never mention to him that I told you this, for his earlier failure still rankles!”

Judge Dee reflected that Liu himself was probably having a hangover from the wedding dinner. He con¬gratulated him, and added: “I regret to have missed this opportunity of meeting the professor. His conversation would doubtless have been most instructive.”
“A simple merchant like me,” Liu Fei-po said sullenly, “does not pretend to understand classical literature. But I have heard it said that book learning does not always imply a high character!”
There was an awkward pause. Han quickly gave a sign to the waiters, who rolled up the bamboo curtains.

Meeting and parting are constant in this inconstant world,
    Where joy and sadness alternate like night and day;
    Officials come and go, but justice and righteosness remain,
    And unchangeable remains forever the imperial way.

“You could at least have chosen a better district than Peng-lai, that dismal place of mist and rain, far away on the seacoast! Don’t you know the weird stories they tell about that region since olden times? They say that on stormy nights the dead rise there from their graves, and strange shapes flit about in the mist that blows in from the ocean. They even say that weretigers are still slinking about in the woods there. And to step in the shoes of a murdered man! Everyone in his senses would have refused that post if it were offered to him, but you even asked for it!”
    The young magistrate had hardly listened to him. Now he said eagerly, “Think of it, a mysterious murder to solve, right after one has arrived at one’s post! To have an opportunity right away for getting rid of dry-as-dust theorizing and paper work! At last I’ll be dealing with men, my friends, real, living men!”
       “The implications of that fact,” Secretary Liang added quickly, “you know as well as we! It means that the magistrate’s murder has ramifications here in the capital. Heaven knows what hornets’ nest you are going to stir up, and what intrigues of high officials you’ll get involved in! You have passed all the literary examinations with honors; here in the capital you have a great future before you. And you prefer to bury yourself in that lonely place, Peng-lai!”
    “I advise you, Dee,” the third young official said earnestly, “to reconsider your decision. There is still time; you could easily plead a sudden indisposition and ask for ten days’ sick leave. In the meantime they’ll assign another man to that post. Do listen to me, Dee. I am speaking to you as your friend!”
    Magistrate Dee noticed the look of entreaty in his friend’s eyes. He felt deeply touched. He had known Hou only for a year, but had formed a high opinion of his brilliant mind and his exceptional capacities. He emptied his wine cup and rose.
    “I appreciate your solicitude as a further mark of your staunch friendship!” he said with a warm smile. “Both of you are perfectly right, it would be better for my career if I stayed on in the capital. But I owe it to myself to go on with this undertaking. The literary examinations Liang referred to just now I consider as routine; I feel that they don’t count for me. And neither do I count the years of paper work I have had in the Metropolitan Archives here. I have yet to prove to myself that I am really capable of serving our illustrious emperor and our great people. The magistracy of Penglai is the real beginning of my career!”
    “Or the end,” Hou muttered under his breath. He rose also and walked to the window. The gravediggers had left their shelter and were starting their work. He grew pale and quickly glanced away. Turning round he said hoarsely, “The rain has stopped.”
    “Then I’d better go!” Magistrate Dee exclaimed.

“And my advice to you, magistrate,” he said calmly, “is that you carry your sword yourself, else you’ll be caught unawares again.” He turned his horse round, and the two disappeared among the trees.
    As Magistrate Dee took his sword from Hoong and hung it over his own back, the old man said contentedly, “You gave them a good lesson, sir. What kind of people would those two have been?”
    “Usually,” the magistrate replied, “it is men with some real or imagined grudge who choose to become outlaws. But their code is to rob only officials and wealthy people; they often help people in distress, and they have a reputation for courage and chivalry. They call themselves ‘brothers of the green woods.’ ‘”‘ell, Hoong, it was a good fight, but we have lost time. Let’s hurry on.”

 

A torrential rain came pouring down. They took shelter under a high tree on a plateau by the roadside, overlooking the fertile green peninsula on which the district of Peng-lai was located.
    While they were eating a cold snack Ma Joong told with gusto some stories about his adventures with farm girls. Magistrate Dee took no interest in ribald tales, but he had to admit that Ma Joong had a certain caustic humor that was rather amusing. But when he began on another similar story, the magistrate cut him short saying, “I am told that there are tigers in these parts. I thought those animals favored a drier climate.”
    Chiao Tai, who had been listening silently to the conversation, now remarked, “Well, that’s hard to say. As a rule those brutes keep to the high wooded land, but once they have acquired the taste for human flesh they’ll also roam about in the plains. We might get good hunting down there!”
    “What about those tales about weretigers?” Magistrate Dee asked.
    Ma Joong cast an uneasy glance at the dark forest behind them. “Never heard about it!” he said curtly.
    “Could I have a look at your sword, sir?” Chiao Tai asked. “It seemed a fine antique blade to me.”
    As he handed him the sword, the magistrate said, “It is called Rain Dragon.”

There, you’d better show me the tribunal.”
    Tang first took them to the spacious court hall. The tiled floor was swept clean, and the high bench on the platform in the back was covered with a piece of shining red brocade. The entire wall behind the bench was covered with a curtain of faded violet silk. In its center appeared as usual the large figure of a unicorn, symbol of perspicacity, embroidered in thick gold thread.
    They went through the door behind the curtain and, after having crossed a narrow corridor, entered the private office of the magistrate. This room was also well kept: there was not a speck of dust on the polished writing desk, the plaster walls were newly whitewashed. The broad couch against the back wall was of beautiful dark green brocade.

   “Your honor’s predecessor was a gentleman of considerable charm and culture. Perhaps a bit easygoing at times and impatient about details, but very precise in all things that really mattered, very precise indeed. He was about fifty years old, and he had a long and varied experience. An able magistrate, your honor.”
    “Did he,” Judge Dee asked, “have any enemies here?”
    “Not one, your honor!” Tang exclaimed. “He was a shrewd and just judge, well  liked by the people. I may say, your honor, that he was popular in this district, very popular indeed.”

“He was an enthusiastic devotee of the tea cult, your honor, and most particular about all its details. He always insisted on fetching the water himself from the well in his garden, and he also boiled it himself on the tea stove in his library. His teapot, cups and caddy are all valuable antiques. He kept them locked away in the cupboard under the tea stove. On my instructions the coroner also made experiments with the tea leaves found in the caddy, but those proved to be quite harmless.”
   

The coroner, Dr. Shen, was a dignified elderly man with an intelligent face. Tang whispered to the judge that he was the best physician in the district, and a man of noble character.

 

Judge Dee leaned back in his chair and took a folding fan from his sleeve. Fanning himself vigorously, he said with a contented smile, “Well, Hoong, I have now a fairly clear picture of the murdered man’s personality. I have glanced through the volumes with his own poetry it is written in exquisite style but rather shallow in content. Love poems predominate, most of them dedicated to famous courtesans in the capital or other places where Magistrate Wang served.”


    Judge Dee nodded, “That brocade folder cou gave me a few moments ago,” he said, “contained nothing but erotic drawings. Further, lie bad a few score books on wine, and the way it is made in various parts of the empire, and on cooking. On the other hand, he had built up a fine collection of the great ancient poets, every volume dog-eared and with his own notes and comments written in on nearly every page. The same goes for his comprehensive collection of works on Buddhism and on Taoist mysticism. But his edition of the complete Confucian classics is in as virgínal a state as when he purchased it! I further noticed that the sciences are well represented: most of the standard works on medicine and alchemy are there, also a few rare old treatises an riddles, conundrums and mechan-ical devices. Books on history, statecraft, administration and mathematics arc conspicuous by their absence.”
    Turning his chair round, the judge continued.
    “I conclude that Magistrate Wang was a poet with a keen sense of beauty, and also a philosopher deeply interested in mysticism. And at the same time he was a sensual man, much attached to all earthly pleasures-a not unusual combination, I believe. He was completely devoid of ambition; he liked the post of magistrate in a quiet district far from the capital, where he was his own master and where he could arrange his life as he liked. That is why he didn’t want to be promoted–I belive that Peng-lai was already his ninth post as magistrate! But he was a very intelligent man of an inquisitive mind-hence his interest in riddles, conundrums and mechanical devices-and that, together with his long practical experience, made him a fairly satisfactory magistrate here, although I don’t suppose he was very devoted to his duties. He cared little for family ties; that is why he didn’t remarry after his first and second ladies had died, and why he was content with ephemeral liaisons with courtesans and prostitutes. He himself summed up his own personality rather aptly in the name he bestowed on his library.”
    Judge Dee pointed with his fan at the inscribed board that hung over the door. Hoong couldn’t help smiling when he read, “Hermitage of the Vagrant Weed.”
        “In any case,” he said, “I’ll study this at leisure, though it is of course by no means certain that it concerns affairs that are connected with his murder. But inconsistencies are always worth special attention. Anyway we have now a good picture of the victim, and that’s, according to our handbooks on detection, the first step toward discovering the murderer!”
        
  

 

CARDS ON THE TABLE – christie

They are four widely divergent types; the motive that drives each one of them to crime is peculiar to that person, and each one would employ a different method. The deduction must, therefore, be entirely psychological, but it is none the less interesting for that, because when all is said and done it is the mind of the murderer that is of supreme interest.

It was a soft purring voice a voice/used deliberately as an
inStrument–nothing impulsive or unpremeditated about it.
Hercule Poirot swung round.
He bowed.

The door of Mr. Shaitana’s flat opened noiselessly. A grey-haired butler drew it
back to let Poirot enter. He closed it equally noiselessly and deftly relieved the
guest of his overcoat and hat.

The man who came in did so with a kind of parody of a brisk bedside manner.
He was a cheerful, highly-coloured individual of middle age. Small twinkling eyes,
a touch of baldness, a tendency to embonpoint and a general air of well-scrubbed
and disinfected medical practitio/er. His manner was cheerful and confident. You
felt that his diagnosis would be correct and his treatments agreeable and
practical “a little champagne in convalescence perhaps.” A man of the world!

“In real life people don’t bother about being too subtle, Mrs. Oliver,” said the
superintendent. “They usually stick to arsenic because it’s nice and handy to get
hold of.”
“Nonsense,” said Mrs. Oliver. “That’s simply because there are lots of crimes
you people at Scotland Yard never find out. Now if you hada woman there
“As a matter of fact we have ”
“Yes, those dreadful policewomen in funny hats who bother people in parks. I
mean a woman at the head of things. Women know about crime.”
“They’re usually very successful criminals,” said Superintendent Battle.
“Keep their heads well. It’s amazing how they’ll brazen things out.”
Mr. Shaitana laughed gently.
“Poison is a woman’s weapon,” he said. “There must be many secret women
poisoners–never found out.”
“Of course there are,” said Mrs. Oliver happily, helping herself lavishly to a mousse of foie gras.

The firelight gleamed on the crystal stoppers. Always an artist in lighting, Mr. Shaitana had simulated the appearance of a merely firelit room. A small shaded lamp at his elbow gave him light to read by if he so desired. Discreet floodlighting gave the room a subdued glow. A slightly stronger light shone over the bridge table, from whence the monotonous
ejaculations continued.

“It’s impossible!” cried Mrs. Oliver. “Absolutely impossible. None of those
people can be criminals.”Superintendent Battle shook his head thoughtfully.”I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Mrs. Oliver. Murderers look and behave very  much like everybody else. Nice, quiet, well-behaved, reasonable folk very often.” “In that case, it’s Dr. Roberts,” said Mrs. Oliver firmly. “I felt instinctively that there was something wrong with that man as soon as I saw him. My instincts  never lie.”
“Didn’t get any extra change out of her,” commented Battle. “Put me in my place,
too. She’s the old-fashioned kind, full of consideration for others, but arrogant as
the devil! I can’t believe she did it, but you never know! She’s got plenty of
resolution.

“I should have kept him to the end,” said Mrs. Oliver. “In a book, I mean,”
she added apologetically.
“Real life’s a bit different,” said Battle.
“I know,” said Mrs. Oliver. “Badly constructed.”

And just because you’re old and celibate doesn’t give you the right to act however yod
want, lady. I’m of un certain age and celibate (not by choice, of course) and still manage to get along in polite society^

I guess you could call Trixie ( dog) my third best friend because no matter what I do, what I say, or the kind of day I’ve had, she loves me unconditionally.

People who have been married have a sort of telepathy and now we were communicating without saying too much.

I chewed and thought about his question. Was it time to move on? I didn’t know. I did know that I missed Crawford terribly and hoped I would hear  from him. I wished I was more twenty-first century and could pick up the phone and call him myself, but I always hesitated; I don’t know why.

The thing that saved me was the fact that I was bilingual, having been raised in a French-speaking household, and I could sometimes figure things out without killing too many brain cells.

What I remember about Peter was that he was always trying to get me to ride in his Trans Am and that I always declined. Even then, when I should have been throwing caution to the wind and living the life of a carefree coed, my common sense ruled. I had been right about him all along but it still didn’t explain to me why this seemingly bright, attractive woman had ended up with him.

It would take about forty-five minutes to get to Boscobel, and factoring in picnic time, I figured we should leave my house a little before five. I told   her that I would buy dinner and prepare it.”Of course you will. If you leave it up to me, we’ll be eating stale Wheat Thins and drinking flat Diet Coke.” She hung up without saying good-bye.that’s her trademark. No beginnings and no endings.

I tried to think about something sad, willing tears to my eyes. The best I could conjure up was the feeling I get when I watch the first Rocky .Between his love for mousy Adrian and his inability to form a complete, cohesive thought, I was a sucker for his plight. I thought about Rocky in his boxing shorts and my eyes welled up. Thinking about Sylvester Stallone’s post-Rocky career probably would have produced more genuine sadness and tears but that didn’t occur to me at the time. It wasn’t exactly an award-winning performance but the doorman looked at me with something approaching sympathy.

Nothing says sexy like someone who reads obtuse Irish writers
“‘Love loves to love love. And this person loves that other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody,'” he said, a faint  blush appearing on his cheeks as it may have occurred to him that quoting Joyce was either a show-offy move or one that would give me the wrong impression of our first date .Neither possibility crossed my mind. “I’m impressed,” I said, and it was the truth. Not only did he quote correctly, but it was a quote from well into the text.

She nodded and took a long sip from her water glass. “I’m all right with everything.” She smiled, a little sad, but resigned to the truth: her parents were better off apart. And as divorced, or almost-divorced, families went, theirs was pretty functional. Neither parent used Meaghan or her sister to their own gain, they saw their father as much as they possibly could given his crazy work schedule, and their parents seemed to genuinely like each other, ever if they didn’t love each other anymore. There were no financial issues to speak of; their father took very good care of them and made sure they wanted foT
nothing. There was no ill will or resentment in the air when their parents spoke. As she tried to tell Erin, it could be much, much worse. She gave her father a punch in the arm. “And frankly, Dad, you need a woman. You’re getting awfully cranky.