‘In this age of increased crime that we live in,’ said Poirot, ‘that really seems somewhat unusual, does it not?’
‘Well, I think there was a lorry driver who killed a pal of his—something like that—and a little girl whom they found buried in a gravel pit about fifteen miles from here, but that was years ago. They were both rather sordid and uninteresting crimes. Mainly the result of drink, I think.’
‘In fact, the kind of murder unlikely to have been witnessed by a girl of twelve or thirteen.’
‘Most unlikely, I should say. And I can assure you, Monsieur Poirot, this statement that the girl made was solely in order to impress friends and perhaps interest a famous character.’ She looked rather coldly across at Mrs Oliver.
‘In fact,’ said Mrs Oliver, ‘it’s all my fault for being at the party, I suppose.’
‘Oh, of course not, my dear, of course I didn’t mean it that way.’
Poirot sighed as he departed from the house with Mrs Oliver by his side.
‘A very unsuitable place for a murder,’ he said, as they walked down the path to the gate. ‘No atmosphere, no haunting sense of tragedy, no character worth murdering, though I couldn’t help thinking that just occasionally someone might feel like murdering Mrs Drake.’
‘I know what you mean. She can be intensely irritating sometimes. So pleased with herself and so complacent.’
‘What is her husband like?’
‘Oh, she’s a widow. Her husband died a year or two ago. He got polio and had been a cripple for years. He was a banker originally, I think. He was very keen on games and sport and hated having to give all that up and be an invalid.’
‘Yes, indeed.’ He reverted to the subject of the child Joyce. ‘Just tell me this. Did anyone who was listening take this assertion of the child Joyce about murder seriously?’
‘I don’t know. I shouldn’t have thought anyone did.’
‘The other children, for instance?’
‘Well, I was thinking really of them. No, I don’t think they believed what Joyce was saying. They thought she was making up things.’
‘Did you think that, too?’
‘Well, I did really,’ said Mrs Oliver. ‘Of course,’ she added, ‘Mrs Drake would like to believe that the murder never really happened, but she can’t very well go as far as that, can she?’
‘I understand that this may be painful for her.’
‘I suppose it is in a way,’ said Mrs Oliver, ‘but I think that by now, you know, she is actually getting quite pleased to talk about it. I don’t think she likes to have to bottle it up all the time.’
‘Do you like her?’ asked Poirot. ‘Do you think she’s a nice woman?’
‘You do ask the most difficult questions. Embarrassing ones,’ said Mrs Oliver. ‘It seems the only thing you are interested in is whether people are nice or not. Rowena Drake is the bossy type—likes running things and people. She runs this whole place more or less, I should think. But runs it very efficiently. It depends if you like bossy women. I don’t much—’
‘What about Joyce’s mother whom we are on our way to see?’
‘She’s quite a nice woman. Rather stupid, I should think. I’m sorry for her. It’s pretty awful to have your daughter murdered, isn’t it? And everyone here thinks it was a sex crime which makes it worse.’
‘But there was no evidence of sexual assault, or so I understand?’
‘No, but people like to think these things happen. It makes it more exciting. You know what people are like.’
‘One thinks one does—but sometimes—well—we do not really know at all.’
‘Wouldn’t it be better if my friend Judith Butler was to take you to see Mrs Reynolds? She knows her quite well, and I’m a stranger to her.’
‘We will do as planned.’
‘The Computer Programme will go on,’ murmured Mrs Oliver rebelliously.
CHAPTER 7 (#u7e53bd08-a18a-5977-a9af-7d44e346540a)
Mrs Reynolds was a complete contrast to Mrs Drake. There was no air of poised competence about her, nor indeed was there ever likely to be.
She was wearing conventional black, had a moist handkerchief clasped in her hand and was clearly prepared to dissolve into tears at any moment.
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