CHAPTER NINE: THE SECOND INVESTIGATION
One year, to the day, had passed, since the death of Third, which still remained as baffling and unexplained a mystery as it was when Moose and Clayton investigated the case. Stood in the study that Third had once used were the very eight people who had been on the island the day Third was killed. They all looked rather fidgety, self-conscious and ill at ease; and were clearly waiting for something to occur. Something that was necessary and unavoidable, but that wouldn’t be entirely pleasant in character.
Lady Anne paced nervously up-and-down the room. Sir Stanley, a sour look on his face, was sat in an armchair. Sat beside him, looking equally glum, was the portly, middle-aged businessman, Terence Brackenberry. Stood, anxiously glaring out of the window was the property developer, Freddie Lancaster, a small, slight character, some ten years younger than Brackenberry. Stood like a sentinel, by the door, was Mr. Bosworth. Stood by his side was the housekeeper, Mrs. Field. Two other servants were there: the gardener, Ron Tower, a phlegmatic, down to earth, horny handed son of toil - in his forties; and the cook, Jennie Prince, a rather porcine woman of about the same age.
The portrait of Sir Richard still hung on the wall, above the great baronial fireplace, like a mocking spectre. The grandfather clock still meticulously marked out the minutes and hours. And in the grate of the baronial fireplace a log fire crackled and spluttered.
’What’s keeping the blighter?’ demanded Lancaster, as he looked down at his watch. ’He should be here by now.’
’Yes, its damned inconsiderate,’ piped up Brackenberry, ’leaving us here to twiddle our thumbs.’
Lady Anne stopped in her tracks. ’He said he wanted to give the island a brief recce first. Said it might aid his investigation. Help get the old grey matter working.’
’Where’ve we heard that before?’ groused Sir Stanley. ’The grey matter indeed!’
’Or he wants to make a dramatic entrance, just to puff up his own self-importance?’ suggested Lancaster.
The servants remained stoical and silent, though they had their own thoughts on the matter.
Brackenberry sneered derisively. ’Let’s see if this Hieronymus Puree is everything he’s cracked up to be?’
Then was heard the ominous, sepulchral sound of the doorbell, as it chimed and echoed through the vast house. A charged, uneasy silence descended over the room. Nervous glances were swapped. The sneer disappeared from Brackenberry’s face, as he glanced, apprehensively, at the door.
’Well, we’ll soon find out,’ said her Ladyship. ’That sounds like him now. Answer the door will you, Bosworth.’
Bosworth left the room. His precise, measured steps were heard as he walked in the direction of the main entrance door.
Lady Anne looked up at the portrait of her late, unlamented husband, and wondered, briefly to herself, what he would have made of all this.
Bosworth walked through the draughty reception hall and pulled open the entrance door.
’Monsieur Puree, if you would care to come this way; they are all expecting you.’
Bosworth leading the way, the two men walked through the reception hall in the direction of the study.
’It is some little while since we have last met, my dear Bosworth,’ came that familiar Gallic voice.
’Indeed so, monsieur.’
’There was the little case of her Ladyship’s missing diamond necklace, some years ago now.’
’Indeed, it was worth a tidy fortune as I recall. And a most remarkable piece of detective work on your part, Monsieur Puree, in retrieving it again.’
’One tries one’s best.’
’Let’s hope that you’re as successful tonight, monsieur.’
’I will apply all my skills to this singular case. You have my guarantee of that.’