Having spent most of the last twelve hours in the company of a most interesting woman, I am now back in my room, taking the opportunity to update my journal on recent events.
Since the Watsons departed for the island, I had begun to regret my decision to remain in Dolphin Cove. Though I’d agreed to report back to Holmes on the post-mortem of Mister Marston and related matters, I failed to appreciate the foolhardiness of staying at Mrs Miniver’s Bunk-Up in the village. Having been advised by that same lady’s niece that the aforementioned lodging-house is held in the highest regard in this locality, I soon learned this fact has less to do with Mrs Miniver’s ability to deliver the requisite services usually provided at such establishments, and more to do with her penchant for climbing into her guests beds of a night-time. So far, I have been the victim of roaming fingers, an extraordinarily long and inquisitive tongue and an inclination to indulge in the local nightly pastime of ‘fisting’.
I should point out that although this latter practice has been mentioned several times by my hostess, with the explanation that it is the ‘ultimate delight’ for many of her male lodgers, I have not as yet been on the receiving end, so to speak. Following her rather detailed description of the activity, I made it quite clear I would not be a party to such deviant practices and if she attempted to realise such an act, she would find herself in very hot water indeed.
However, I digress.
Yesterday morning I determined to follow up on one of the suggestions put to me by Holmes before he departed for the island, and it was with this objective in mind that I made the journey to Greenway House in Devon in a little under an hour, thanks to the generosity of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and the provision of one of his flying contraptions. (I don’t mind admitting that the experience of being whisked into the air at great speed, surrounded by pounding pistons and hissing steam, scared me half to death and I was only too glad to reach my destination and clamber down from the infernal machine.)
A chap in a butler’s outfit greeted me on the lawn and led the way up to the house. One of Mycroft’s minions had alerted the lady in question to my imminent arrival and I was gratified to learn she had proffered no objections to my visit.
The house is quite magnificent, and I confess to feeling somewhat overawed by its daunting immensity and the sheer bloody opulence of the furnishings.
The butler chappie spoke kindly to me as we crossed the great hall, advising that The Mistress would be delighted to meet me, so long as I made no attempt to persuade her to divulge the plot of her latest book – currently titled An Excruciatingly Painful Murder is Announced.
“Ah,” said Miss Christie, rising from her chair, “Inspector Lestrade. How the buggering hell are you?”
I blinked at this unexpected use of colloquialisms, but took her hand and shook it firmly.
“I ‘ope you ain’t gonner find my questions objectionable, Miss Christie, but a copper ‘as ter do what he ‘as to do, eh?”
“Bloody good show, Inspector,” she said, waving me into a seat by the window. Dragging her own chair across the carpet in order to sit opposite me, she plonked herself down heavily and spread her legs wide, in a rather mannish manner.
“Hope you don’t mind the plus fours,” she said, brushing a hand down her tweeds. “Stops the servants looking at my snatch.”
When I’d finished coughing, I pulled out my notebook and stared at it until the blood had once again drained from my face. “Right, then, Miss er…”
“Call me Aggie. Everyone does,” she said, with a snort.
“Right,” I said again. “Now I ‘ave ter tell yer that the private investigators Messrs Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are involved in a case what I am also examining, so…”
“Oh, jolly good,” she erupted, rubbing her hands together gleefully. “Love a nice bloody murder.” Her face went serious and she leaned forward, eagerly. “There has been a murder, has there?”
“There has, Miss, er, Aggie. The victim is one Mister Marston.”
At this, the famous novelist sat back, rubbing her chin. “Marston, you say? That’s interesting.”
“Yes, and that’s what I was wantin ter talk to yer about.” I hesitated, unsure how to continue.
“Don’t tell me, “she said with a sly smile. “It’s a copy-cat killer.” She leaned forward again and squeezed my knee. “I’m bloody right, aren’t I?”
“Actually, yes. Mister Holmes was of the opinion that someone may be replicating the murders in your novel, And Then There Were None, though if yer ask me, I fink it’s all a bit far-fetched.”
Agatha gazed out of the window, her mouth slightly open. “I wonder…”
“Although, to be fair,” I continued, “so far there ‘as been only one murder.”
“Mister Marston. Hmmm.” She nodded. “Yes, but Holmes expects there to be more, in fact I wouldn’t mind betting twenty bloody quid that another one has already occurred.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, Miss…”
“Sequential Killers rarely hang about, you know. Best nip this one in the bud, before he or she does it again, eh?”
“Exactly.” Glancing at my notebook, I steeled myself for the next question. “Now, I was wonderin…that is, Mister Holmes was wonderin, if you yourself had, by any strange coincidence, in recent days, visited a place called Huge Island. Or perhaps Dolphin Cove?” Licking my lips, I watched her face for any tell-tale sign of guilt.
“Well now, Inspector,” said she, a crafty smile sliding across her thin face. “If I was the murderer, pretending to follow the plot of a highly successful and very well received crime novel, I’d most likely also pretend to be the author herself.” She winked at me. “Wouldn’t you?”
“Oh, I might, I suppose,” I stuttered. “Though…”
“Well, Mister Holmes and me, we was wonderin, if that is indeed the murderer’s intention – pretending to be you, I mean – how might an individual do that in practice?”
She shrugged. “If it were me, then obviously I would just be me. But if the murderer were someone else, then he or she would simply wear a mask.”
With a sudden spurt of energy, she leaped out of her chair and slapped her thigh. “Now, d’you fancy tea and scones before we go for a quickie?”
“A round of golf, dear. What’d you think I meant – a fuck?” And with that, she collapsed into gales of laughter before ringing the bell for tea.