Rich folks is queer.
The phrase ran through Naracotts mind as his boat
pulled up alongside the jetty. It was an odd thing to recall one of the last
sentences said in his presence by the wife of a good friend before both were murdered. It
was a sensible enough statement in its own right, however. Especially given the passengers
and destination of this mornings voyage.
Hed only really made the trip to the island a handful of
times over the past few years. After the whole messy business there, there really
hadnt been the call to. There was a brief flurry of police wanting transport to and
from, investigating the scene. Sometime after that, an estate agent came across to see the
house, but it didnt seem that they ever managed to convince anyone else to even
consider the hideous building that occupied the island. Its infamy had spread too far and
wide for any hope of selling it.
Fred Naracott glanced in a mirror set up on the edge of the
window and caught sight of his passengers. The woman, neatly dressed with shoulder length
hair and a light shawl, looked back across the bay, almost as if she were deliberately
avoiding looking at Indian Island. In no small measure, such was the truth. The woman held
her hands close to her chest, drawing the shawl tight across her shoulders, but it was not
the cold sea spray that chilled her, nor the stiff breeze that made her shiver.
An arm wrapped itself around her slight frame.
We shouldnt be here, Phillip, the woman said
quietly. We shouldnt have come back.
I know its difficult for you, my sweet, the man
replied, crossing his other arm over her body, embracing her from behind, but I
truly think this is for the best. The only way youll conquer these nightmares of
yours is to face them head on. And unfortunately, that means coming back here.
He was right, of course, and Vera knew it. For several weeks now
she had woken in the night in a cold sweat, the most recent image in her mind that of a
ghostly magistrate throttling the life from her with a noose made of seaweed. It had been
nearly three years, and Vera had thought she had forgotten about that terrible weekend,
just as Phillip had promised. But the dreams... the dreams brought it all back with such
terrifying intensity. She had felt her very sanity come dangerously close to slipping from
her on more than one occasion over those few days so long ago. She feared the dreams might
well succeed where the insane Justice Wargraves machinations had only just failed.
But its different this time, Phillip said.
No insane homicidal lunatics loose on the island, no accusations of murder, and no
house full of rogues and scoundrels... just the one by your side.
The gold bands each wore on their left hand chinked slightly as
Phillip pressed his fingers between Veras.
Theres no danger here, my love. I swear to you.
The door was stiff. The frame had warped somewhat, making it
difficult to move, but it soon gave way to Lombards efforts.
Phillip stepped inside the house cautiously, his hand lingering
near his revolver as he did so. Though his conscious mind told him that any threat here
had been dealt with years ago, the instinctual, emotional, primal reaction to the house
was still strong.
As was the smell.
The air was dry, stale. Sheets covered the furniture and dust
covered whatever else lay exposed. It was silent within. Lombard rather felt like he was
stepping into a tomb from a bygone era.
Vera paused at the door. Her face was ashen. Phillip turned back
to her and held out his hand. She took it and crossed the threshold. As she did so, she
gripped his hand tighter.
There, nothing to worry about, you see? Lombard said.
His own pulse had quickened, and his senses were on edge, but he displayed naught but a
cool mask of calmness to his wife.
Vera did not reply. She slowly paced the room, her eyes tracing
the familiar landmarks the couch Anthony Marston had choked to death behind, the
chair Emily Brent had been sitting in when she was poisoned, the door to the dining room
that lead to the scullery where they had found Rogers cut in half. Each and every item in
the room held memories of that horrible, horrible time.
She didnt even dare look above the fireplace.
Standing outside on the balcony, Narracot cleared his throat
Ifn ydont mind my asking, sir, he
said to Lombard, why exactly am I here? Youre not staying here, so you
dont have any bags to carry up. I could have just as easily stayed down with the
Given the trouble we had the last time we were here, I
think youll forgive us if were... cautious about the possibility of the
boat leaving without us aboard it.
Narracott sighed and shrugged slightly. If y say so,
sir. Rich folks is queer.
Lombard turned his attention back to Vera, who now stood at
the study door, staring into it. He joined her there.
Not quite as full as the last time we were here, is
it? she said.
Lombard looked at Vera with a surprised expression.
What? she asked.
Youve been hanging around me too long, my
sweet, he said. Youre beginning to pick up my sense of humour."
It could be worse. I could pick up your awful snoring
I dont snore, Lombard said, I just
thoroughly enjoy my sleep.
Veras face brightened slightly with a weak smile.
Have we seen enough to shake loose those ghosts that haunt
you, my dear?
Vera drew her breath in. I... I dont know. I
cant say I feel any better for having come back here.
Perhaps what you need is a more active form of therapy
then, Lombard suggested. He strode over to fireplace and picked up a few pieces of
coal before returning to Veras side. He handed a lump to her. Here we
And what do you expect me to do with this?
Follow your instincts I suppose, he shrugged.
Yes sir? the boatman asked, poking his head in
through the open balcony door but not setting foot inside.
Be a good man and move away from that window, would
yes sir, Narracot replied, stepping aside
as he did so.
The moment Narracot was out of the way, Lombard took one of his
pieces of coal, threw it up in the air, caught it again, and then hurled it through the
Vera let out a shriek as the glass shattered. She cuffed Lombard
on the arm. What do you think youre doing?
Oh come now, he said, pleading his own defense.
The only reason that this place has any windows intact at all is because its
so damned difficult to get to. Otherwise, I guarantee every child within five miles would
have come and smashed all the window years ago.
And that somehow makes it alright for you to do so?
The ten year old in me cries out for it, my sweet. I expect
a part of you does too. Try it.
Vera looked at Phillip oddly. You expect me to take this
piece of coal and smash a window with it?
And you expect that will make me feel better?
Maybe. Certainly be entertaining enough to me, he
said, dusting his hands off and placing them in his pockets. But youll never
know unless you try.
Vera bit her bottom lip slightly as she considered it.
I shant tell anyone it was you my love, Phillip
whispered with a devilish smile. Neither will you, eh Narracot? he called.
Absolutely not, sir, came the reply from outside.
Lombard placed his head near his wifes ear. Go
on, he said, his voice barely more than a breath.
Vera wrestled with herself for a moment before she made her
The window shattered with a satisfying smash and tinkle of glass.
Lombard smiled. Doesnt that feel better?
Vera breathed deeply, a great weight lifted from her chest.
Yes. Yes, it does.
Then imagine how much better youll feel after a few
more like that, eh? he said, producing several more lumps of coal for her.
You are positively wicked, Phillip, she smiled at him
as she took another piece from him.
And you love me for it.
Vera let fly and another window fell. A third and fourth fell in
rapid succession as Vera found herself caught up in the moment. A window for Marston, a
window for Rogers and his wife, a window for General Mackenzie, a window for Emily Brent,
one for Dr. Armstrong, one for Blore...
Finally, Vera spun to face the fireplace. The final lump of coal
would be brought to bear on Wargraves whole damn mad scheme. No more Little Indians,
no more rhyme, and no more nightmares. She wound all her strength into her arm, ready to
hurl the black lump.
And then she stopped.
Her eyes went wide and her grip became loose. The piece of coal
fell to the ground from her hand.
Lombard looked at his wife, concern evident on his face.
Vera? Whats wrong?
Vera Elizabeth Lombard stared straight ahead at the fireplace.
Like everything, the molding and mantle were covered thick with dust. But above it...
Above the fireplace hung a frame, brightly polished and brand
new. And in the frame, a poem.
Dark clouds hung low over Indian Island, the rumble of distant
thunder held the promise of a wild night to come.
Lombards face was almost as dark and serious as the sky as
he leaned against the window frame, looking out at the bay. He had had some misgivings
about coming back here, but had put them aside, feeling that it was the only way for Vera
to conquer her demons. He had never intended to inflict more pain on her. It had seemed
such a sensible notion at the time...
Damn it! And damn him for doing this to her. Well
intentioned or not, he should have known better than to think that old wounds could be
healed by reopening them. And of all the people to be hurt, it had to be her - the one
person in this world that meant anything to him. The only good thing that had happened to
him in this life. Whoever was responsible for this new torment would pay, and pay dearly.
Lombard would see to that.
Lombard turned away from the window. Vera was awake and trying to
sit up in bed. He moved to her side and sat on the edge of the bed.
How are you feeling?
A little light headed Im afraid, she answered.
Hardly surprising. You did faint.
Vera held a hand to her forehead. I had the most horrible
we were back on Indian Island
and there was another terrible, terrible
Lombard almost began to say something, but fought back the
impulse. Youre safe, Vera.
His hesitation, however brief, was noticed. Vera eyed him
suspiciously. Were not back on Indian Island, are we?
No, of course not, Lombard answered. Were
all the way across the bay from the Island
Vera sat bolt upright in bed. My god. Then it wasnt a
dream, it was all true! Theres another poem and another homicidal lunatic on the
Lets not jump to conclusions, my love, Lombard
said, trying to ease his wifes fears. Yes, there is another poem, but what
that might mean is anyones guess.
What other possibility is there? Someones decided to
pick up Justice Wargraves old bag of tricks and finish off what he started!
Vera said, her gaze somewhere off in the
Wargraves still alive."
Now thats nonsense and you know it, Lombard
snapped. I shot him myself. Hell, I even attended his funeral to make damn sure.
Wargrave is dead.
I thought you were dead when I shot you. And the police
thought us both dead when they arrived on the island.
Slightly different situation in those cases, my sweet. But
the fact remains Wargrave is dead.
I wish I could be as sure as you are, Phillip, Vera
said, pulling the sheets tighter to her body.
Lombard rose, shaking his head slightly. Ill be back
in a minute.
? Vera began to ask.
Just popping downstairs for a minute to get a brandy.
A drink to calm her nerves
yes, that was the ticket.
And just maybe he might get something to sooth his own
The Seven Stars was unusually quiet as Lombard made his way
down the stairs. When he had passed it on his way to Indian Island last time, he had
rather thought that the place would surely be the center of activity in the village come
nightfall it was certainly the biggest building in the sleepy little town.
But tonight it was, at best, subdued. A young woman stood behind
the counter, scribbling something in a large leather-bound register, the sole member of
staff on duty. An old man with wispy strands of gray hair swept over his crown in some
sort of vain attempt to pretend that he had a full head of hair sat by the fireplace
reading from a small black book. A fellow in his mid-thirties had taken over one of the
tables, with papers from his satchel spread across it as he poured over them a
taxman? Lombard wondered. The final guest, a matronly woman with a small watch
attached to her jacket, sat across from him, listening to the wireless.
Lombard eyed them as he descended, but none met his gaze. The
woman behind the counter greeted Lombard and he placed an order for two small brandies
The news report on the wireless ended, and the woman leaned
toward it to turn the volume down significantly.
Good gracious, she said as she leaned back in her
chair. Seems this business on the continent will only get worse, eh Reverend?
The politics of man hold no interest for me, the
gray-haired man replied, not looking up from his reading. And I am not an ordained
priest, so I would ask you to be more careful with your suppositions.
Oh, Im sorry, she replied. I thought you
said you were a preacher.
That I am, he answered curtly. The Northern
Revivalist Church does not believe in titles and regalia. Only in the Message.
Lombard had to stifle a slight chuckle. That old prune-face
couldnt revive a very light sleeper, much less anything else...
Im sorry, but would you mind keeping it down?
interrupted the man with his papers at the table. Im trying to get some
depositions finished here. Its very important.
Depositions? My, that sounds important. What line of work
are you in, Mr...? asked the woman.
Edwards, Charles Edwards, he replied, clearly
somewhat irritated at the utter ignoring of his request for quiet. Im a law
clerk and I have an awful lot of work to get through if you dont mind.
Why arent you doing that at your office?
Because the office is back in London, and Im trying
to catch up a bit while Im on holiday.
Lombard grinned slightly. Bit odd to take a holiday so you
can get some work done, isnt it?
Edwards looked up at him. I work at a very busy office
Lombard. Phillip Lombard.
... Mr Lombard. And I have rather a lot to make up for.
Its a very different kettle of fish working against the court instead of for
Oh? Were you a policeman? asked the woman.
Hardly. My previous position was as a Judges
Sounds like that job suited you better than your current
one, she said. Why did you leave it?
I didnt have a choice in the matter, Edwards
answered, turning back to his papers. I wasnt required any longer.
The front door burst open as a young man, probably no more than
his mid twenties, entered the building. A fierce wind followed him and howled through the
open door, which the young man had completely ignored to close behind himself. Edwards
scrambled to clutch at his papers, trying to keep them from flying off the table, as
Lombard took it upon himself to close the door.
I say, the young man said, strolling up to the
counter, how about a room for the night, eh? Been travelling all day and I need
somewhere to bunk down.
Im sorry, sir, the girl behind the desk said,
but were full up. Weve no rooms left.
Full up? In a tin pot little town like this? Nonsense! Look
over your books again, there must be a space somewhere.
Im sorry, sir, the girl said once more,
but there isnt. Never had a week like this before, Ill grant you, but
weve only five rooms and we already have five guests.
Now listen here, the young man said, leaning toward
the girl, Ive said I want a room. Youd do well to give me what I
Ill see what I can find, sir
Good! the young man said, slapping his hand down on
the counter. I think Ill go have a drink, and you can tell me my room number
once Ive got one.
The young woman quickly disappeared from sight. As soon as she
was gone, the brash young fellow made his way to the bar and leaned cross, helping himself
to the bottles that lay behind it.
Bit rough on that poor girl, werent you?
Lombard asked as he approached.
You have to remind these people of their place sometimes,
old boy, the younger man said while he continued to rummage through the liquor
available. Otherwise they start to get ideas, think they can talk back to you.
Wont do to have any of that nonsense. Now lets see what we have here
good god, a Chateau Farbrisse 32? Looks like Ill have to stick to whiskey if
thats the best they can manage around here...
Excuse me, sir, but I have your room and key for you
now, the returning girl said timidly. Seems I was wrong after all I
hadnt realised that Captain and Mrs. Lombard were sharing a room.
There, you see? the young man said as he took the
key. If I hadnt been firm on the girl, I would have been out on the
If you would just sign the register... He did so and
returned the book to the girl. Thank you Mr. Berkley.
Im sorry, Lombard interrupted, but did
she say your name was Berkley?
Yes, Berkley replied as he leaned back on the bar.
Friends call me Badger.
I think we have somewhat of a situation on our
Vera looked back at Phillip in the reflection of her mirror as
she did up the broach at her collar. I tried to tell you that earlier.
Yes, but I think its more serious than either of us
realised, he said. Young chap just bowled in, demanding a room.
His name is Badger Berkley.
Vera stopped dead for a moment. But
that was the name
of Martsons friend. The one who got Marston to come to Indian Island.
Thats not the half of it, Lombard said, moving
across the room to his wifes side. One of the other guests here used to work
for a judge until the position became redundant, and another is an old bible
thumper who to my mind bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Emily Brent, at
least in temperament.
You dont think
Im beginning to.
The poem, Vera said. Wheres the poem? If
it is like last time...
...then our first clues will be found there, youre
quite right, Phillip said as he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out
the cloth he had torn from the frame on Indian Island. He spread it out on the dresser
table, so both of them could look at it clearly.
Seven Pale Faces
Seven pale faces, asked for God to bless,
One said his prayers and then there was one less.
Six pale faces, knowing not what to do,
Ones time ran out and they were down by two.
Five pale faces, trying desperately to flee,
One went too fast, and the dead numbered three.
Four pale faces, knocked to the floor,
One saw too much, and the count reached four.
Three pale faces tried to get out alive,
One was strung up, and the death toll was five.
Two pale faces, in quite a fix,
One came unstuck and struck down the last of six.
One pale face left, never to see Heaven,
Took his own life, to account for all seven.
Vera pushed herself away from the table slightly and
looked up at her husband. He returned her gaze with a dark, serious look of his own.
Phillip took a deep breath. Well, I would hazard a guess
that the first is likely to be the Bible-basher. Time ran out... woman downstairs has got
a watch on her blouse, but thats probably pretty tenuous at best...
But if Mr. Berkley is anything like Anthony Marston,
Id have to say hes more than likely to be the one going too fast, Vera
Lombard nodded. Quite right. But I cant see anything
in the rest of the verses that might give us a clue as to whos the intended victim
for each one.
Except the last one. Surely thats the murderer
Or someone with a fragile mind, unable to cope with it all...
Lombard thought, darting a quick glance at Vera.
Well, regardless of that, if were right about the
rest of this, then we have the upper hand. Our mystery friend has revealed his hand, and
we know this game already. We shant fall for the same tricks again. And with any
luck, Lombard said as he checked his revolver, we just might be able to stop
him before he can start.
No, its too late for that Vera said. If
were right, then the game is already underway.
Bit of an odd name Badger, isnt it?
Parents bit lost for ideas when it came to naming you, were they? asked the
watch-woman with a gentle smile. Dinner conversation had been sporadic at best, with Mr.
Edwards and the clergyman doing their level best to get through the meal as quickly as
they could to return to their prior activities. The watch-wearing lady, one Victoria
Haining, a nurse come to Sticklehaven to see about position with the local GP who had sent
her a job offer quite out of the blue, had endeavored to get some sort chat going, but had
thus far failed to generate any substantial conversation.
Nickname, actually, maam, Barcley replied.
Given names Percival pretty much speaks for itself as to why I go by
Badger, eh? But anyway, Tony Marston and I were slumming it one night down the
south end, found a charming little pub real blue-collar stuff. Somehow ended up in
the middle of a brawl. Just like in the Westerns. Tony got off with barely a scratch, but
I was rewarded with a couple lovely shiners. Looked like a damn badger for nearly two
Could have been worse, Lombard said, casually sipping
his drink. You could have been nicknamed Panda. Phillip said as he
placed down his glass. For tonight at least, he had forgone a stronger drink in favour of
water he had seen poured from the tap itself, as had Vera, and both had waited for the
others to take a bite of their meals first before touching their own food. So what
exactly did you say it was that draws yourself here, Badger?
Berkley finished chewing his current mouthful before answering.
Bit of an odd story, actually. Got a wire while I was on the continent, saying
Id been named in a will and that I needed to attend the reading. Rather a hassle to
drop everything and get back here, but I was told itd be worth my while.
And the reading of the will is here in Sticklehaven?
Apparently so, Berkley said, loading up his fork
again. Though I must admit, Im surprised that thered be anyone around
here with the sort of money I was told about. Still, far be it from me to look a gift
horse in the mouth. Funds were getting a bit on the low side. The money old Tony left me
hasnt gone quite as far as I hoped.
Where were you on the continent, Mr. Berkley?
inquired Sister Haining. Nowhere near this terrible mess in Germany, I hope. They
say we could be headed into another Great War.
Utter stuff and nonsense, sister, Berkley replied.
Lombard raised an eyebrow. Sorry, Berkley, but I
wouldnt have taken you to be the type to be up with the political situation.
Well, being closer to the action than anyone else around
this table, its a bit hard to avoid it. But for the life of me I cant see what
the big fuss is about.
The rebuilding of the Austro-German Empire doesnt
concern you, Mr. Berkley? asked Mr. Edwards, quite unexpectedly.
Far from it, sir. Theyre merely putting back together
what is rightfully theirs. I imagine we would do the same if positions were
And if they do not decide to satisfy themselves with what
they formerly had? If they should decide to lay claim to, say, the rest of Europe?
Badger smiled patronizingly at her. My dear lady, I should
say we let them have it. Look at how theyve turned themselves around since the war.
Can you imagine the sort of progress wed make if they could apply those lessons to
the rest of Europe? Or here even?
I shudder to think, Vera said under her breath.
At the very least, wed get the trains running on
time, eh? Berkley laughed.
Lombard glared at Berkley, who made no acknowledgement that he
was aware of Lombards disapproval. Others at the table, however, did.
Perhaps a little music might lighten the mood, eh?
suggested Sister Haining. Mr. Edwards obliged, turning on the wireless at a low volume.
I could quite happily do without that racket, the old
man one Mr. Joshua Brent, according to the register Lombard had managed to sneak a
look at - said, fixing a piercing gaze on Edwards.
Its just a little music, Vera said. To
help us digest.
No, madam, it is not. It is noise, nothing more.
I suppose any harmonies made outside the confines of a
church is just noise in your eyes, eh? Lombard asked.
Or ears, rather, Badger added.
The old preacher drew himself up in his chair. Quite right.
Music is to be made to the Lord in His house. Anything else is the Devils
Lombard smiled. Then I must ask, why exactly do you choose
to ever step outside of your church if everything else offends your sense so?
The old man sneered. Given the choice, Captain Lombard, I
would not. However, I was asked to come here by the local pastor, and could not refuse a
fellow man of the cloth. That said, I would think twice before accepting such an
invitation in future.
Problem with your visit, sir? Vera asked. To her
mind, it was perfectly clear that this invitation must have been the lure, so any further
information gleaned regarding it might be a valuable clue.
To say the least, Brent answered, placing his fork
down on his plate. First the minister claims to have never heard of me, let alone
invited me down here, then they say they have no room to put me up for the weekend, so I
shall have to stay here. I should have a right mind to turn around and head home at
Not on a night like this, pastor, Ms. Haining said as
the wind howled. Id not put a dog out in this weather.
Mr. Brent huffed. Quite.
The plates were cleared away and coffee served to those who
wanted it the Lombards politely refused. Joshua Brent too passed, though was far
less courteous about the subject. Badger Berkley took his cup and headed for the wireless,
determined to find a better channel than the one it was currently tuned to, while Sister
Haining persisted in annoying Mr. Edwards, who was apparently trying to make notes from a
judgement he was reading.
Vera and Phillip stood back from the group slightly, watching
them carefully. Vera leaned in to her husband. Ive just noticed
Oh? Do tell.
The poem said Seven Pale Faces and yet there
are only six of us here.
Thats a point. Number seven still to turn up you
I dont know. Perhaps the poor girl on duty here makes
the seventh, like the Rogers did.
Perhaps, Lombard said, a slight scowl on his face.
But everyone else here is in some way connected to Wargraves little game. I
dont see why our new friend would break that pattern by involving
someone who isnt.
Whatever happened to "Yes, there is another poem, but
what that might mean is anyones guess"? Vera asked.
Must you drag up every rash statement I make?
Of course, Vera said. Im your wife.
Its my job.
Lombard smiled, but that quickly faded as he noticed Mr. Brent
heading their way.
Going somewhere, pastor? Lombard asked.
If you must know, grunted the old man, Im
off to bed.
What, already? Vera asked. She shot Phillip a quick glance.
The first is likely to be the old Bible-basher...
The nights still young, sir, Phillip added.
Its quite late enough by my reckoning. Besides, if
the Lord had intended us to stay up so late, he would have made us able to see in the
Or he would have invented fire, Lombard quipped.
Joshua Brent glared at him. You, young man, have quite a
mouth on you. I should be careful if I were you. And you, madam, should take greater pains
to curb your husbands wicked tongue.
I shouldnt have thought... Vera began.
Brent stopped her with the holding up of his hand. I am
going to bed. Now. And with that, the old man headed for the stairs.
Badger Berkley switched the wireless off, frustrated at the
lack of clear signal in the area. Shant get a halfway decent tune out of this
thing, Im afraid, he said. Shame I didnt bring my travel
gramophone and some records with me.
Edwards sighed. As much as I may regret pointing this out
to you, but I believe theres a perfectly functional gramophone over there, he
said, waving his hand in the direction of the dust covered machine. I expect someone
around has something to play on it.
Oh, right you are, Berkley said. He opened up the lid
and adjusted the bell. Matter of fact theres already something on it.
Berkley set it going and placed the needle down.
Phillip and Veras attention was suddenly wrenched away from
their attempts to keep Mr. Brent downstairs when an all too familiar voice boomed out.
Ladies and gentlemen, silence, please. You are charged
with these indictments...
Whats that youve put on, a radio drama or
something? Sister Haining asked.
...that you did respectively and at diverse
Sounds like it, Berkley said. Have to see
if there isnt something better to listen to...
Victoria Margaret Haining, that you did cause the death
of Louisa Mary Clees.
At the mention of her name, the nurse stiffened, shock
registering in her eyes.
Joshua Stephen Brent, that you were responsible for the
death of Beatrice Taylor.
The old man, only a few steps up the stairway turned and
descended more rapidly than anyone thought him capable of. What did you
Lombard silenced him with an upheld hand.
Percival Gerald Berkley, that you were responsible for
the deaths of John and Lucy Combes. Charles Edwards and Fred Narracot, that you were
complicit in the murders of Edward George Armstrong, William Henry Blore, Emily Caroline
Brent, John Gordon Mackenzie, Anthony James Marston, and Thomas and Ethel Rogers.
The Lombards exchanged glances, awaiting the announcement of
Phillip and Vera Lombard, that you murdered Sir
Lawrence John Wargrave. Prisoners at the bar, have you anything to say in your
The record ended, leaving a shocked and still silence in the
room. A tense moment passed before Lombard looked to his wife and then headed to the
gramophone. He peered at the record and gave a slight ironic laugh.
You find something funny, Captain Lombard? Joshua
"The Last Post", he said. The title
on the record. Even worse than the last one.
Last one? Haining asked
Needle on the gramophone is brand new. And as for the
record itself, label says its a Braversons, Lombard said. Same lot
that made Wargraves one.
Vera noted Edwards reaction to the very mentioning of the
late judges name.
Do you know something about this? Berkley asked.
Yes, but not as much as wed like Im
afraid, Vera said, taking up a central position in the room. Both my husband
and I have been through something altogether frighteningly like this before. Three years
ago. On Indian Island.
You dont mean... you were involved in that horrible
business? Sister Haining asked.
Not as a matter of choice, Lombard said, taking up
position at Veras side, but yes, we were. And so was Narracot.
Our mystery seventh pale face, Vera said.
Exactly, Phillip replied.
What are you talking about? Edwards asked, half
panicked. Pale faces? Murder accusations? Its crazy, all of it, sheer
Oh, I have no doubt about it that its indeed
madness, Vera said, but the fact remains that were all in grave
Danger? That loony record said nothing about danger!
Did you even bother to find out just how Anthony Marston
died, Berkley? Lombard asked. Because I saw him die before my eyes. So did
Vera. And so did eight other people who joined him not too long after. So yes, there is
danger here, make no mistake about that.
You! Edwards said, shaking his finger at the couple.
You knew about this beforehand, didnt you?
We... had our suspicions, Phillip answered.
And yet you kept mum about it all through dinner!
Edwards continued. Why, we could have been poisoned!
The important thing is that we know where this is headed,
and we can stop it now. The killer is hiding in our midst... Lombard said.
Killer?! Edwards raved. Nobodys dead and
youre already saying theres a killer? Youre mad!
I know it sounds crazy, but...
Wait, Vera interrupted her husband. Are we
really sure no-ones dead yet?
Cant speak for anyone else here, but I know Im
not, Badger said.
Narracots not here, Vera said. He could
be dead already.
Lombards face was cold and hard. Youre right.
Somebody has to check. If hes not, then at the very least we need to tell him
hes in danger. He headed toward the door, grabbing his coat.
You cant go out there in that! Nurse Haining
A mans life may depend on it, sister, Lombard
You cant go out there alone, Phillip, Vera
said. It could be just what the killer is counting on!
Lombard drew close to his wife. You think I should take one
of these people with me? There are fairly decent odds that one of them is the
Please, Phillip, Vera said, clutching his arm,
dont go out there alone.
Lombard sighed. Alright, alright. Berkley feel up
for late-night stroll?
Cant say its top of my To-Do list,
but under the circumstances... he said, grabbing his own coat. Shall we take
No point. Naracott cant be more than a couple of
streets over. Little water never hurt anyone. Lombard turned back to Vera.
Youll be alright here?
Vera did her best to smile at him. Ill be fine,
she said as she patted her handbag.
Lombard nodded and made his way to the door. A fierce blast of
wind that greeted him as he opened the door, but it did not deter him or Berkley. The door
closed behind them with a slam.
Nobody noticed Joshua Brent sitting in the corner, staring ahead
into the fire, his head shaking slowly from side to side in disbelief.
How could they have known? How could anyone have known?
TO BE CONTINUED