Reaching the first landing, I looked out of the window and watched the others. Holmes and Mary were deep in conversation but had not yet made their move. Taking out the field glasses I’d borrowed from Holmes, I gazed at each of the other guests in turn – the General, Mr Lombardi, Billy Blah, Vera Claymore and Rogers. Apart from the latter, they were all sitting there, eyes closed and apparently completely oblivious to their surroundings. Of course, I knew that this could not be the case, since at least one of them must be the brains behind this ghastly affair and each of the others had killed, or intended to kill, someone else.
Just then, Holmes stood up and stretched lazily. He spoke to Mary and she too stood and made some indication of interest in the bird house that stood on the edge of the lawn, a few yards from the trees.
The two of them wandered over there, apparently chatting amiably with each other, though I could see the Great Detective’s nose twitching as he cast his beady eyes around the garden.
Turning my attention back to the remaining five, I trained the binoculars on them and studied each one for a few moments. First there was Rogers, and in his case, a straightforward judgement could not be made – the man had lost his wife, or at least the person he thought was his wife, and if not that, the woman he was in league with. None of which could gloss over the fact of her being dead. (Of course, it was also entirely possible Frau Klopp had been working alone with her own motives, but she must still have had some involvement in the overall set-up inasmuch as she had been invited to the island along with her so-called husband as cook and butler in the employ of the so-called Mr Owen.)
General MacArthur was a concern to me purely because of his age. I could not imagine him bounding around stringing people up from trees and the like, though as a former soldier in the Crimea, he would be familiar with guns and most likely had experienced the taking of lives. Mr Lombardi too had served in the army, though I was unclear in what capacity, so he could not be ruled out as a professional killer. Vera Claymore in fact, was the only one of the five I could not contemplate in the role of murderer. She was thin and feeble-looking with a gait that suggested varicose veins or some other leg-related malady that caused her to limp as she walked. Even so, she had worked as a teacher and may well have been responsible for some fatal incident resulting in the termination of her employment (as was the explanation in Mrs Christie’s novel).
Considering this detail, I also remembered that cardboard masks of Agatha Christie’s face had been attached to the heads of each of the victims (expect for Klopp, whose watery demise had not allowed for this macabre ritual, though the mask was still present at the scene). But no mask was found on Tony Marston’s body, which might suggest his killer had either ignored his or her instructions or had not included the item due to some other reason.
My musings on the matter were given a jolt as Tommy Rogers leaped out of his seat and began striding towards the icehouse. Lowering the glasses, I watched his progress and noted that Holmes and Mary were now loitering near the birdhouse but had also seen the butler’s sudden departure.
None of the others had moved, but Miss Claymore was looking towards the house, openly watching me. I waved limply and moved out of her line of sight, but quickly ran up to the floor above to look out of the corresponding window and saw that she too had left her deck chair and was now making her way towards the house.
Between Rogers and Claymore, I’d expected the former to be the most likely to come after me, but now I was in a quandary. If Miss Claymore intended to do me harm, I should have to rethink my strategy, as I could not imagine putting a bullet in her dull, but youthful features.
Leaning over the banister, I heard the young woman’s shoes clopping inelegantly across the hall floor below. Several seconds later her head appeared as she swung herself round onto the staircase and began to climb up towards me. It occurred to me she’d taken longer than expected to reach the stairs and as I stared down at her bobbing head, I saw that she must have made a detour – in her right hand she was carrying a large kitchen knife.