Source: PD PhotoSir John reflected on his day. He had achieved nothing, what with all that business with the good for nothing gardener. Though he'd denied taking the missing silver. Maybe he couldn't trust Stevens either. He was always a shifty sort. And as for Jayne, well, he just wished that she didn't take after her mother quite so much. She was certainly not a suitable heir. If only her mother had stayed around long enough to give him a son. Bitch! Still, there was...
He opened a drawer, and removed a cigar, throwing the empty box back in, lit it, savoured the scent, then reached for the port, and took a sip. Just right. Suddenly, he looked up, a surprised expression on his face...
The waiter whispered into his ear urgently. "I'm sorry, Chief Inspector, but there's been a murder. Sir John, our local bigwig. I'll have to leave straight away. It's a two hour drive, you know.", announced Seargent Plode, putting down his glass and cocktail sausage, and rushing off.
A ticking grandfather clock. The hands were almost on 7 o'clock, and the bell was just about to strike, when a loud ringing was heard in the hall. Footsteps. The front door opened. "Ah, everyone is waiting for you in the drawing room, sir. Please come in."
The Great Detective entered the drawing room. There were five people seated around the long oak table. One of them rose. "Hello, sir. Thankyou for coming." said Sergeant Plode.
The Great Detective nodded and sat down, motioning for the Butler to do so too. "We've really got to be quick. I'm catching the 8.15 train back to London, which gives me about 55 minutes. Sergeant, a run-down of the salient points, please."
The Sergeant cleared his throat, in the time-honoured tradition of the Force, and began.
"Sir John Percivale, Condom magnate. Known as 'Rubber Johnny', though not within earshot of the man. Two nights ago he died of strychnine poisoning. I was called to the scene, which was in this room. There was a part-smoked cigar and a glass of port on the table. Our lab found traces of poison in the glass, but none on the cigar."
"What about the wine, and the other cigars in the case?"
"Well, sir, there was no poison in the wine bottle. We didn't check the other cigars, since there was no poison on the one he was smoking."
A young lady, dressed in a maid's outfit, spoke. "Excuse me sir, there was something strange about the cigars. I only noticed this morning when I was cleaning the room." she went to a drawer, and removed a packet of cigars, handing them to the Great Detective. It was full, apart from one. "The master only smoked one a day, I'm sure I've not had to throw any empty packets away lately. He always used to put the empty ones back in the drawer, you see."
"So he may have had company that evening, and offered them a cigar. Interesting, thankyou", said the Great Detective, "Now, Sergeant, continue!"
The policeman cleared his throat once more. "I ascertained, through further questioning and..."
"Please Sergeant, I said I needed to wrap this up quickly!" interrupted the Great Detective. "Just the Facts!"
"Stevens, the butler, poured the glass of port in the kitchen at around 6pm. He always did this to allow the wine to breathe. Then he left, as it was his night off, and went to the local hostelry, where witnesses attest that he stayed until I sent for him just after 10pm.
"Vi, I mean Violet, the maid had been in the village visiting her aunt. She returned at 6.50, and took the port to the Drawing Room at 7pm sharp. Sir John was already there. She left him and went back to the kitchen, where she stayed.
At 7.30pm, noises were heard coming from here, and Violet and Mary went to investigate. They found Sir John collapsed on the floor, having convulsions. Violet telephoned for the doctor. He arrived at 7.45pm, and at 8pm, he told Violet to call for the police, since he believed that Sir John was suffering classic Strychnine poisoning symptoms. He did what he could, but was unable to save him.
I arrived at 10pm - I had to drive from a dinner party at the Chief Constable's in the city. But then you know that, since you were there, sir."
"Cause and Time of death?"
"I've already said it was poisoning, and the autopsy confirmed this. The doctor noted the time of death at 9.45pm."
"Did the victim say anything, name his killer, perhaps?"
"He did say one name, sir."
"And? Come on!"
"Mary, sir. The cook."
A large middle-aged lady, obviously the cook, said nothing, just stared down at the table.
"Mary says that she was in the kitchen between 6.30 until they heard the commotion. Violet and Jayne, Sir John's daughter, were with her." He indicated a young woman in her 20's, heavily made-up and dressed as if she was intending to spend the night on a street corner.
"We was talking about Doug, the gardener.", she explained.
Sergeant Plode took up the story again. "Doug was sacked by Sir John earlier that day, after I had discovered a stash of cannibis in the potting-shed. The young man has been responsible for several thefts in the region, and I've suspected him of dealing drugs, but I've never been able to get enough evidence. Anyway, I had stopped by here at about 4pm on my way to the Chief Constable's, and told him the bad news. Apparently, he summoned the scoundrel, and gave him his marching orders."
"Did he leave immediately?", asked the Great Detective.
"He went down to the kitchen at about 5.30pm and had a conversation with Stevens. Stevens says he was still there when he left at 6, but he'd gone by the time Mary went in at 6.30."
"I need to know one more thing, and then I think we're done.", said the Great Detective, "What does Sir John's will say?"
"Well, sir, this was a surprise. Sir John left the Condom factory to Jayne. Says in the will that he thought it was appropriate to leave it to, beggin' your pardon miss, a tart."
"Bastard!", said Jayne.
The Sergeant glared at her and continued. "However, he left the house and all his money to his illegitimate daughter, Violet."
"A surprise, you say? Who knew about this?"
"Only the solicitor, who, by the way, only came back from 2 weeks in Barbados yesterday. He did say, though, that his file on Sir John was in a mess, and he believes that someone else must have been having a peek. I should mention that his office was burgled last week, and that I strongly suspect Doug was responsible. He's had his eye on Violet, too, by all accounts."
"That's a lie!" shouted a scruffy man in his 30s, "I didn't touch no filing. I can't even read!"
There was silence in the room for a minute, and then the Great Detective spoke.
"Thank you. It's obvious which one of you committed the murder, and why."
Everyone looked round at one another anxiously.
To Be Continued...