As the sun came out and gradually eased the chill from our bones, I settled into my seat with a flask of tea and a few Custard Creams I’d put away for just such an occasion. The sea lay all around us, calm and blue, and I could almost have believed we were off on some jolly jaunt, rather than keeping an appointment with a killer. While Johnny concentrated on bringing his journal up to date, I spent my time watching our fellow travellers. It occurred to me that each of them must have considered that the murder of Mr Marston might have something to do with this whole enterprise, and yet here they all were, waiting for their turn to die.
I had chastised my husband earlier for thinking Holmes might have disguised himself as the ship’s captain, but now found myself looking at the gnarled old soak as he stood in his cabin, one hand on the wheel and the other brandishing a half bottle of rum. From time to time, he glanced across and gave me a sly wink, which I at first thought was nothing more than a randy old sea-dog’s second-nature, but then I noticed a familiar twinkle in his eye and wondered if perhaps Johnny had been right after all.
My musings were interrupted when Vera Claymore sat down beside me and gave me a firm nudge with her elbow.
“Come on, then,” she said, “what’s your story?”
I gave her my best ‘honest’ face and said, “No story, Miss Claymore, simply a wife doing her wifely duty accompanying her husband.”
“Of course,” said she, with a roll of her eyes. “But you’re not here on holiday, are you? And as we’ve already heard, your husband is more than a family doctor, isn’t he?”
“If you mean his association with Sherlock Holmes, then yes, he does assist in the occasional investigation.”
“Which would imply there’s something going on that needs investigating, that this so-called invitation has some underlying purpose the rest of us are not privy to.”
She clearly had more about her than I’d given her credit for, so I decided to find out what she knew. “Why did you accept the invitation?”
She coughed. “I’m between appointments at the moment and thought this might be a chance for development.”
“A job offer?”
“As a teacher? On a remote island?”
She waved a hand dismissively. “Well I don’t bleedin know, do I? But the invite said there was an opportunity to be had so here I am.”
I noted how she’d slid easily into her native cockney twang. Presumably she kept her ‘posh’ voice for her pupils.
“Anyway, it’s all paid for so what’s not to like?”
She pulled a face. “Like that inspector said – the incident was merely an unfortunate coincidence.”
Dropping my voice, I said, “I think he was just trying to make us feel better.”
We sat in silence for a moment, then I asked the question I’d secretly been dying to ask everyone. “Do you read much?”
“Of course. I teach English, don’t I?”
She shrugged. “Some.”
She gave me a funny look. “Strange you should mention her.”
“Well, I have read one or two but a few weeks ago I bought her latest one.” She furrowed her brow. “Can’t recall the title now. Something about one or none, or summat.”
“And Then There Were None?” I prompted.
Her eyes lit up. “That’s the one.”
“So you’ve read it?”
“No. That’s what’s strange. My flat was broken into only a day or so after I bought that book. But the burglars, they didn’t take nuffin. Except for that book.” She shook her head. “I mean I ain’t rich or anyfing, but there’s other stuff around they could easily have swiped, but all they took was that one book.”
“Almost as if someone didn’t want you to read it,” I said, half to myself.
“Yes. Funny that, ain’t it?”
I wondered if anyone else had had a similar experience. Before I could pursue the matter, the captain blew a toot on his horn, announcing our arrival at Huge Island. Peering over the side, I saw the jetty come into view as we approached a sheltered inlet.
“Ah-ha,” said Johnny, putting his diary away. “Here we are.”
As the boat slid into place alongside the rickety quay, I grasped Johnny’s hand. Standing on the shore waiting, were two people – a man and a woman. From their dress, I guessed them to be the butler and his wife. If I remember rightly, the wife gets poisoned, and the husband is found dead while chopping wood. But of course, that’s what happens in the book, and this isn’t a book.
Miss Claymore nudged me as we began to disembark. “I should think that inspector was right. I mean, it’s not as if we’re all going to be murdered, is it?” She laughed gaily and followed the others down the gangplank.