Naturally, it occurred to me that Mr Owen and his wife (if they existed) were not included in the eleven Indian braves depicted on the dining table, and that the butler and his wife made up the numbers, just as they did in the book. Of course, as Mary keeps reminding me, this is not a book.
“Ah,” said a gruff voice behind me. “Red Indians, eh?”
I turned to General MacArthur. “Native Americans, actually,” I said.
“Some sort of parlour game, is it?” He waved a finger at the figurines.
Though I opened my mouth to reply, an explanation was not forthcoming. Luckily, my dear wife took up the challenge.
“No, no,” she said, approaching the old soldier and patting his arm. “I should think it’s something to do with the old nursery rhyme.” She pointed to a framed poem on the wall above one of the cabinets, and began reading. “One little, two little, three little Indians. Four little, five little, six little Indians. Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians. Ten little Indian boys.”
“Ah,” muttered the General, immediately losing interest.
“Except, that’s not quite right, is it?”
Mister Lombardi had slid silently into the room. He stood pointing at the table. “There’s eleven. Not ten.”
He gave me a hard stare and I coughed in a bid to distract him from the fact that I did not have an answer.
Billy Blah and Vera Claymore had also arrived, and they too looked at me as if I might be the fount of all knowledge.
“He’s right, you know, Doctor Watson.”
We all turned to look towards the window where Justice Warmonger stood staring back at us. How he’d managed to get into the room and reach that spot without my noticing, unnerved me rather and I made a mental note to keep a sharp eye on his movements.
The judge continued. “There’s something you’re not telling us, isn’t there Doctor? Something about this whole adventure.” His supercilious smile convinced no-one, but his voice held a menacing tone that threw me off balance and I saw no option but to tell the truth. Or most of it, at least.
Striding to the door, I peeked out and saw Emily Bent hurrying down the stairs. I waited for her to join us then closed the door.
“Has anyone read a novel called ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie?” I said.
Miss Claymore stuck her hand up. “I had a copy of it,” she said, nodding to Mary, “but someone swiped it.”
“That’s odd,” said Billy Blah. “I was given a copy for my birthday recently.” He paused and glanced around as if expecting a chorus of congratulations to ring out. “Anyway, I’d left it on my bedside table one night and when I came back from having a sh– I mean, a wash, it was gone. Just vanished.”
“So no-one’s actually read it?” I said.
They all shook their heads.
Warmonger piped up again. “Not about a murder, this book, is it?” Again, that supercilious smile.
“It’s about a group of people who are invited to an island…”
“Ooh,” yelped Vera Claymore, clapping her hands excitedly. “Just like us, then?”
“Invited to an island,” I went on, “and murdered.”
The silence was deafening.
Eventually, Emily Bent (or, Bob, as I’d begun to think of her) stated the one thing I hadn’t wanted to mention.
“It’s about secrets, isn’t it? Secrets about stuff we’ve done. Stuff we oughtn’t to ‘ave done.”
“Humph,” snorted Warmonger. “I for one have no sordid secrets in my past.”
“Didn’t say they was sordid, did I?” moaned Emily.
I flapped my hands in a calming motion. “Let’s not get carried away. What we have to remember is that we’re talking about a book. And this quite clearly is not a book – it’s real.”
“Marston was the first, then?” said a voice behind me.
I looked at Dilip Lombardi. He shrugged and said, “Well, he was, wasn’t he?”
“The main thing,” said Mary, stepping forward and taking control, “is to stick together and not go off by ourselves.”
“But we are by ourselves,” whined Emily/Bob. “Up in our rooms. Alone.”
Mary bit her lip. “I meant, stay together when we’re together and when we’re not, keep the doors locked.”
They all fell silent again, until Billy Blah noticed the damaged Native American.
“Bloody Nora. That one’s got a flaming great spike through him.”
“Yes,” said Warmonger, striding over to the table and picking up the offending item. “Representing Mister Marston, I believe.”
“Bugger,” said Blah. “So if he was the first, one of us will be next.” He gazed around at the others. “What d’yer think – stabbed, hung, drowned, poisoned?”
At that, the door swung open and the butler appeared carrying a tray. “Luncheon is served.”
We all looked at him, no doubt wondering the same thing – would the meal be safe to eat?