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Three Blind Mice

By Vincent Porter,2014-11-04 16:59
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SUMMARY:AGATHA CHRISTIE is more than the most popular mystery writer of all time. In a career that spans over half a century, her name is synonymous with brilliant deception, ingenious puzzles, and the surprise denouement. By virtually inventing the modern mystery novel she has earned her title as the Queen of Crime. Curious? Then you're invited to read...A blinding snowstorm -- and a homicidal maniac -- traps a small party of friends in an isolated estate. Out of this deceptively simple set-up, Agatha Christie fashioned one of her most ingenious puzzlers, which, in turn, would provide the basis for The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in history. From this classic title novella to the deliciously clever gems on its tail (solved to perfection by Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple), thi Published by Macmillan on 2001/10/14

    Three Blind Mice and Other Stories

    Book Jacket

    SUMMARY:A blinding snowstorm—and a homicidal maniac—traps a small party of friends in anisolated estate. Out of this deceptively simple set-up, Agatha Christie fashioned one of hermost ingenious puzzlers, which, in turn, would provide the basis for The Mousetrap, thelongest-running play in history. From this classic title novella to the deliciously clever gemson its tail (solved to perfection by Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple), this rare collectionof murder most foul showcases the intimtable Christie at her inventive best, proving herreputation as "the champion deceiver of our time." (The New York Times)

    Three Blind Mice

    Three Blind Mice

    See how they run

    See how they run

    They all ran after the farmer's wife

    She cut off their tails with a carving knife

Did you ever see such a sight in your life

    As Three Blind Mice

    ***

    It was very cold. The sky was dark and heavy with unshed snow.

    A man in a dark overcoat, with his muffler pulled up round his face, and his hat pulled downover his eyes, came along Culver Street and went up the steps of number 74. He put his fingeron the bell and heard it shrilling in the basement below.

    Mrs Casey, her hands busy in the sink, said bitterly, "Drat that bell. Never any peace, thereisn't."

    Wheezing a little, she toiled up the basement stairs and opened the door.

    The man standing silhouetted against the lowering sky outside asked in a whisper, "Mrs Lyon?"

    "Second floor," said Mrs Casey. "You can go on up. Does she expect you?"

    The man slowly shook his head.

    "Oh, well, go on up and knock."

    She watched him as he went up the shabbily carpeted stairs.

    Afterward she said, he "gave her a funny feeling." But actually all she thought was that hemust have a pretty bad cold only to be able to whisper like that - and no wonder with theweather what it was.

    When the man got round the bend of the staircase he began to whistle softly. The tune hewhistled was "Three Blind Mice."

    Molly Davis stepped back into the road and looked up at the newly painted board by the gate.

    MONKSWELL MANOR GUESTHOUSE

    She nodded approval. It looked, it really did look, quite professional. Or, perhaps, one mightsay almost professional. The T of Guest House staggered uphill a little, and the end of Manorwas slightly crowded, but on the whole Giles had made a wonderful job of it.

    Giles was really very clever. There were so many things that he could do. She was always makingfresh discoveries about this husband of hers. He said so little about himself that it was onlyby degrees that she was finding out what a lot of varied talents he had. An ex-naval man wasalways a "handy man," so people said.

    Well, Giles would have need of all his talents in their new venture. Nobody could be more rawto the business of running a guest house than she and Giles. But it would be great fun. And itdid solve the housing problem.

    It had been Molly's idea. When Aunt Katherine died, and the lawyers wrote to her and informedher that her aunt had left her Monkswell Manor, the natural reaction of the young couple hadbeen to sell it.

    Giles had asked, "What is it like?"

    And Molly had replied, "Oh, a big, rambling old house, full of stuffy, old-fashioned Victorianfurniture. Rather a nice garden, but terribly overgrown since the war, because there's beenonly one old gardener left."

    So they had decided to put the house on the market, and keep just enough furniture to furnish asmall cottage or flat for themselves.

    But two difficulties arose at once. First, there weren't any small cottages or flats to befound, and secondly, all the furniture was enormous.

    "Well," said Molly, "we'll just have to sell it all. I suppose it will sell?" The solicitorassured them that nowadays anything would sell.

    "Very probably," he said, "someone will buy it for a hotel or guest house in which case theymight like to buy it with the furniture complete. Fortunately the house is in very good repair.

    The late Miss Emory had extensive repairs and modernizations done just before the war, andthere has been very little deterioration. Oh, yes, it's in good shape."

    And it was then that Molly had had her idea.

    "Giles," she said, "why shouldn't we run it as a guest house ourselves?"

    At first her husband had scoffed at the idea, but Molly had persisted.

    "We needn't take very many people - not at first. It's an easy house to run - it's got hot andcold water in the bedrooms and central heating and a gas cooker. And we can have hens and ducksand our own eggs, and vegetables."

    "Who'd do all the work - isn't it very hard to get servants?"

    "Oh, we'd have to do the work. But wherever we lived we'd have to do that. A few extra peoplewouldn't really mean much more to do. We'd probably get a woman to come in after a bit when wegot properly started. If we had only five people, each paying seven guineas a week -" Mollydeparted into the realms of somewhat optimistic mental arithmetic.

    "And think, Giles," she ended, "it would be our own house. With our own things. As it is, itseems to me it will be years before we can ever find anywhere to live."

    That, Giles admitted, was true. They had had so little time together since their hastymarriage, that they were both longing to settle down in a home.

    So the great experiment was set under way. Advertisements were put in the local paper and inthe Times, and various answers came.

    And now, today, the first of the guests was to arrive. Giles had gone off early in the car totry and obtain some army wire netting that had been advertised as for sale on the other side ofthe county.

    Molly announced the necessity of walking to the village to make some last purchases.

    The only thing that was wrong was the weather. For the last two days it had been bitterly cold,and now the snow was beginning to fall.

    Molly hurried up the drive, thick, feathery flakes falling on her waterproofed shoulders andbright curly hair. The weather forecasts had been lugubrious in the extreme. Heavy snowfall wasto be expected.

    She hoped anxiously that all the pipes wouldn't freeze. It would be too bad if everything wentwrong just as they started.

    She glanced at her watch. Past teatime. Would Giles have got back yet? Would he be wonderingwhere she was?

    "I had to go to the village again for something I had forgotten," she would say. And he wouldlaugh and say, "More tins?"

    Tins were a joke between them. They were always on the lookout for tins of food. The larder wasreally quite nicely stocked now in case of emergencies.

    And, Molly thought with a grimace as she looked up at the sky, it looked as though emergencieswere going to present themselves very soon.

    The house was empty. Giles was not back yet.

    Molly went first into the kitchen, then upstairs, going round the newly prepared bedrooms. MrsBoyle in the south room with the mahogany and the four-poster. Major Metcalf in the blue roomwith the oak. Mr Wren in the east room with the bay window. All the rooms looked very nice -and what a blessing that Aunt Katherine had had such a splendid stock of linen. Molly patted acounterpane into place and went downstairs again.

    It was nearly dark. The house felt suddenly very quiet and empty. It was a lonely house, twomiles from a village, two miles, as Molly put it, from anywhere.

    She had often been alone in the house before - but she had never before been so conscious ofbeing alone in it.

The snow beat in a soft flurry against the windowpanes. It made a whispery, uneasy sound.

    Supposing Giles couldn't get back - supposing the snow was so thick that the car couldn't getthrough? Supposing she had to stay alone here - stay alone for days, perhaps.

    She looked round the kitchen - a big, comfortable kitchen that seemed to call for a big,comfortable cook presiding at the kitchen table, her jaws moving rhythmically as she ate rockcakes and drank black tea - she should be flanked by a tall, elderly parlour-maid on one sideand a round, rosy housemaid on the other, with a kitchen-maid at the other end of the tableobserving her betters with frightened eyes. And instead there was just herself, Molly Davis,playing a role that did not yet seem a very natural role to play.

    Her whole life, at the moment, seemed unreal - Giles seemed unreal. She was playing a part -just playing a part.

    A shadow passed the window, and she jumped - a strange man was coming through the snow. Sheheard the rattle of the side door. The stranger stood there in the open doorway, shaking offsnow, a strange man, walking into the empty house. And then, suddenly, illusion fled.

    "Oh Giles," she cried, "I'm so glad you've come!"

    "Hullo, sweetheart! What filthy weather! Lord, I'm frozen."

    He stamped his feet and blew through his hands.

    Automatically Molly picked up the coat that he had thrown in a Giles-like manner onto the oakchest. She put it on a hanger, taking out of the stuffed pockets a muffler, a newspaper, a ballof string, and the morning's correspondence which he had shoved in pell mell. Moving into thekitchen, she laid down the articles on the dresser and put the kettle on the gas.

    "Did you get the netting?" she asked. "What ages you've been."

    "It wasn't the right kind. Wouldn't have been any good for us. I went on to another dump, butthat wasn't any good either. What have you been doing with yourself? Nobody turned up yet, Isuppose?"

    "Mrs Boyle isn't coming till tomorrow, anyway."

    "Major Metcalf and Mr Wren ought to be here today."

    "Major Metcalf sent a card to say he wouldn't be here till tomorrow."

    "Then that leaves us and Mr Wren for dinner. What do you think he's like? Correct sort ofretired civil servant is my idea."

    "No, I think he's an artist."

    "In that case," said Giles, "we'd better get a week's rent in advance."

    "Oh, no, Giles, they bring luggage. If they don't pay we hang on to their luggage."

    "And suppose their luggage is stones wrapped up in newspaper? The truth is, Molly, we don't inthe least know what we're up against in this business. I hope they don't spot what beginners weare."

    "Mrs Boyle is sure to," said Molly. "She's that kind of woman." "How do you know? You haven'tseen her?"

    Molly turned away. She spread a newspaper on the table, fetched some cheese, and set to work tograte it.

    "What's this?" inquired her husband.

    "It's going to be Welsh rarebit," Molly informed him.

    "Bread crumbs and mashed potatoes and just a teeny-weeny bit of cheese to justify its name."

    "Aren't you a clever cook?" said her admiring husband.

    "I wonder. I can do one thing at a time. It's assembling them that needs so much practice.Breakfast is the worst."

"Why?"

    "Because it all happens at once - eggs and bacon and hot milk and coffee and toast. The milkboils over, or the toast burns, or the bacon frizzles, or the eggs go hard. You have to be asactive as a scalded cat watching everything at once."

    "I shall have to creep down unobserved tomorrow morning and watch this scalded-catimpersonation."

    "The kettle's boiling," said Molly. "Shall we take the tray into the library and hear thewireless? It's almost time for the news."

    "As we seem to be going to spend almost the whole of our time in the kitchen, we ought to havea wireless there, too."

    "Yes. How nice kitchens are. I love this kitchen. I think it's far and away the nicest room inthe house. I like the dresser and the plates, and I simply love the lavish feeling that anabsolutely enormous kitchen range gives you - though, of course, I'm thankful I haven't got tocook on it."

    "I suppose a whole year's fuel ration would go in one day."

    "Almost certainly, I should say. But think of the great joints that were roasted in it -sirloins of beef and saddles of mutton. Colossal copper preserving-pans full of homemadestrawberry jam with pounds and pounds of sugar going into it. What a lovely, comfortable agethe Victorian age was. Look at the furniture upstairs, large and solid and rather ornate - but,oh! - the heavenly comfort of it, with lots of room for the clothes one used to have, and everydrawer sliding in and out so easily. Do you remember that smart modern flat we were lent?Everything built in and sliding - only nothing slid - it always stuck. And the doors pushedshut - only they never stayed shut, or if they did shut they wouldn't open."

    "Yes, that's the worst of gadgets. If they don't go right, you're sunk." "Well, come on, let'shear the news."

    The news consisted mainly of grim warnings about the weather, the usual deadlock in foreignaffairs, spirited bickerings in Parliament, and a murder in Culver Street, Paddington.

    "Ugh," said Molly, switching it off. "Nothing but misery. I'm not going to hear appeals forfuel economy all over again. What do they expect you to do, sit and freeze? I don't think weought to have tried to start a guest house in the winter. We ought to have waited until thespring." She added in a different tone of voice, "I wonder what the woman was like who wasmurdered."

    "Mrs Lyon?"

    "Was that her name? I wonder who wanted to murder her and why."

    "Perhaps she had a fortune under the floor boards."

    "When it says the police are anxious to interview a man 'seen in the vicinity' does that meanhe's the murderer?"

    "I think it's usually that. Just a polite way of putting it."

    The shrill note of a bell made them both jump.

    "That's the front door," said Giles. "Enter - a murderer," he added facetiously.

    "It would be, of course, in a play. Hurry up. It must be Mr Wren. Now we shall see who's rightabout him, you or me."

    Mr Wren and a flurry of snow came in together with a rush. All that Molly, standing in thelibrary door, could see of the newcomer was his silhouette against the white world outside.

    How alike, thought Molly, were all men in their livery of civilization. Dark overcoat, grayhat, muffler round the neck.

    In another moment Giles had shut the front door against the elements, Mr Wren was unwinding hismuffler and casting down his suitcase and flinging off his hat - all, it seemed, at the sametime, and also talking. He had a high-pitched, almost querulous voice and stood revealed in the

light of the hall as a young man with a shock of light, sunburned hair and pale, restless eyes.

    "Too, too frightful," he was saying. "The English winter at its worst - a reversion to Dickens- Scrooge and Tiny Tim and all that. One had to be so terribly hearty to stand up to it all.Don't you think so? And I've had a terrible cross-country journey from Wales. Are you MrsDavis? But how delightful!"

    Molly's hand was seized in a quick, bony clasp.

    "Not at all as I'd imagined you. I'd pictured you, you know, as an Indian army general's widow.Terrifically grim and memsahibish - and Benares whatnot - a real Victorian whatnot. Heavenly,simply heavenly - Have you got any wax flowers? Or birds of paradise? Oh, but I'm simply goingto love this place. I was afraid, you know, it would be very Olde Worlde - very, very ManorHouse - failing the Benares brass, I mean. Instead, it's marvellous - real Victorian bedrockrespectability. Tell me, have you got one of those beautiful sideboards - mahogany - purple-plummy-mahogany with great carved fruits?"

    "As a matter of fact," said Molly, rather breathless under this torrent of words, "we have.""No! Can I see it? At once. In here?"

    His quickness was almost disconcerting. He had turned the handle of the dining-room door, andclicked on the light. Molly followed him in, conscious of Giles's disapproving profile on herleft.

    Mr Wren passed his long bony fingers over the rich carving of the massive sideboard with littlecries of appreciation. Then he turned a reproachful glance upon his hostess.

    "No big mahogany dining-table? All these little tables dotted about instead?" "We thoughtpeople would prefer it that way," said Molly.

    "Darling, of course you're quite right. I was being carried away by my feeling for period. Ofcourse, if you had the table, you'd have to have the right family round it. Stern, handsomefather with a beard - prolific, faded mother, eleven children, a grim governess, and somebodycalled 'poor Harriet' - the poor relation who acts as general helper and is very, very gratefulfor being given a good home. Look at that grate - think of the flames leaping up the chimneyand blistering poor Harriet's back."

    "I'll take your suitcase upstairs," said Giles. "East room?"

    "Yes," said Molly.

    Mr Wren skipped out into the hall again as Giles went upstairs.

    "Has it got a four-poster with little chintz roses?" he asked.

    "No, it hasn't," said Giles and disappeared round the bend of the staircase.

    "I don't believe your husband is going to like me," said Mr Wren. "What's he been in? Thenavy?"

    "Yes"

    "Yes.

    "I thought so. They're much less tolerant than the army and the air force. How long have youbeen married? Are you very much in love with him?"

    "Perhaps you'd like to come up and see your room."

    "Yes, of course that was impertinent. But I did really want to know. I mean, it's interesting,don't you think, to know all about people? What they feel and think, I mean, not just who theyare and what they do."

    "I suppose," said Molly in a demure voice, "you are Mr Wren?"

    The young man stopped short, clutched his hair in both hands and tugged at it.

    "But how frightful -1 never put first things first. Yes, I'm Christopher Wren - now, don'tlaugh. My parents were a romantic couple. They hoped I'd be an architect. So they thought it asplendid idea to christen me Christopher - halfway home, as it were."

"And are you an architect?" asked Molly, unable to help smiling.

    "Yes, I am," said Mr Wren triumphantly. "At least I'm nearly one. I'm not fully qualified yet.But it's really a remarkable example of wishful thinking coming off for once. Mind you,actually the name will be a handicap. I shall never be the Christopher Wren. However, ChrisWren's Pre-Fab Nests may achieve fame."

    Giles came down the stairs again, and Molly said, "I'll show you your room now, Mr Wren."

    When she came down a few minutes later, Giles said, "Well, did he like the pretty oakfurniture?"

    "He was very anxious to have a four-poster, so I gave him the rose room instead." Giles gruntedand murmured something that ended, "... young twerp."

    "Now, look here, Giles," Molly assumed a severe demeanour. "This isn't a house party of guestswe're entertaining. This is business. Whether you like Christopher Wren or not -"

    "I don't," Giles interjected.

    "- has nothing whatever to do with it. He's paying seven guineas a week, and that's all thatmatters."

    "If he pays it, yes."

    "He's agreed to pay it. We've got his letter."

    "Did you transfer that suitcase of his to the rose room?"

    "He carried it, of course."

    "Very gallant. But it wouldn't have strained you. There's certainly no question of stoneswrapped up in newspaper. It's so light that there seems to me there's probably nothing in it."

    "Ssh, here he comes," said Molly warningly.

    Christopher Wren was conducted to the library which looked, Molly thought, very nice, indeed,with its big chairs and its log fire. Dinner, she told him, would be in half an hour's time.

    In reply to a question, she explained that there were no other guests at the moment. In thatcase, Christopher said, how would it be if he came into the kitchen and helped?

    "I can cook you an omelette if you like," he said engagingly.

    The subsequent proceedings took place in the kitchen, and Christopher helped with the washingup.

    Somehow, Molly felt, it was not quite the right start for a conventional guest house - andGiles had not liked it at all. Oh, well, thought Molly, as she fell asleep, tomorrow when theothers came it would be different.

    The morning came with dark skies and snow. Giles looked grave, and Molly's heart fell. Theweather was going to make everything very difficult.

    Mrs Boyle arrived in the local taxi with chains on the wheels, and the driver broughtpessimistic reports of the state of the road.

    "Drifts afore nightfall," he prophesied.

    Mrs Boyle herself did not lighten the prevailing gloom. She was a large, forbidding-lookingwoman with a resonant voice and a masterful manner. Her natural aggressiveness had beenheightened by a war career of persistent and militant usefulness.

    "If I had not believed this was a running concern, I should never have come," she said. "Inaturally thought it was a well-established guest house, properly run on scientific lines."

    "There is no obligation for you to remain if you are not satisfied, Mrs Boyle," said Giles."No, indeed, and I shall not think of doing so."

    "Perhaps, Mrs Boyle," said Giles, "you would like to ring up for a taxi. The roads are not yetblocked. If there has been any misapprehension it would, perhaps, be better if you wentelsewhere." He added, "We have had so many applications for rooms that we shall be able to fillyour place quite easily - indeed, in future we are charging a higher rate for our rooms."

    Mrs Boyle threw him a sharp glance. "I am certainly not going to leave before I have tried whatthe place is like. Perhaps you would let me have a rather large bath towel, Mrs Davis. I am notaccustomed to drying myself on a pocket handkerchief."

    Giles grinned at Molly behind Mrs Boyle's retreating back. "Darling, you were wonderful," saidMolly. "The way you stood up to her." "Bullies soon climb down when they get their ownmedicine," said Giles. "Oh, dear," said Molly. "I wonder how she'll get on with ChristopherWren." "She won't," said Giles.

    And, indeed, that very afternoon, Mrs Boyle remarked to Molly, "That's a very peculiar youngman," with distinct disfavour in her voice.

    The baker arrived looking like an Arctic explorer and delivered the bread with the warning thathis next call, due in two days' time, might not materialize.

    "Hold-ups everywhere," he announced. "Got plenty of stores in, I hope?"

    "Oh, yes," said Molly. "We've got lots of tins. I'd better take extra flour, though."

    She thought vaguely that there was something the Irish made called soda bread. If the worstcame to the worst she could probably make that.

    The baker had also brought the papers, and she spread them out on the hall table. Foreignaffairs had receded in importance. The weather and the murder of Mrs Lyon occupied the frontpage.

    She was staring at the blurred reproduction of the dead woman's features when ChristopherWren's voice behind her said, "Rather a sordid murder, don't you think? Such a drab-lookingwoman and such a drab street. One can't feel, can one, that there is any story behind it?"

    "I've no doubt," said Mrs Boyle with a snort, "that the creature got no more than shedeserved."

    "Oh." Mr Wren turned to her with engaging eagerness. "So you think it's definitely a sex crime,do you?"

    "I suggested nothing of the kind, Mr Wren."

    "But she was strangled, wasn't she? I wonder -" he held out his long white hands - "what itwould feel like to strangle anyone."

    "Really, Mr Wren!"

    Christopher moved nearer to her, lowering his voice. "Have you considered, Mrs Boyle, just whatit would feel like to be strangled?"

    Mrs Boyle said again, even more indignantly, "Really, Mr Wren!"

    Molly read hurriedly out, '"The man the police are anxious to interview was wearing a darkovercoat and a light Homburg hat, was of medium height, and wore a woolen scarf.'"

    "In fact," said Christopher Wren, "he looked just like everybody else." He laughed. "Yes," saidMolly. "Just like everybody else."

    In his room at Scotland Yard, Inspector Parminter said to Detective Sergeant Kane, "I'll seethose two workmen now."

    "Yes, sir."

    "What are they like?"

    "Decent class workingmen. Rather slow reactions. Dependable."

    "Right." Inspector Parminter nodded.

    Presently two embarrassed-looking men in their best clothes were shown into his room.

    Parminter summed them up with a quick eye. He was an adept at setting people at their ease.

    "So you think you've some information that might be useful to us on the Lyon case," he said."Good of you to come along. Sit down. Smoke?"

He waited while they accepted cigarettes and lit up.

    "Pretty awful weather outside."

    "It is that, sir."

    "Well, now, then - let's have it."

    The two men looked at each other, embarrassed now that it came to the difficulties ofnarration.

    "Go ahead, Joe," said the bigger of the two.

    Joe went ahead. "It was like this, see. We 'adn't got a match."

    "Where was this?"

    "Jarman Street - we was working on the road there - gas mains."

    Inspector Parminter nodded. Later he would get down to exact details of time and place. JarmanStreet, he knew was in the close vicinity of Culver Street where the tragedy had taken place.

    "You hadn't got a match," he repeated encouragingly.

    "No. Finished my box, I 'ad, and Bill's lighter wouldn't work, and so I spoke to a bloke as waspassing. 'Can you give us a match, mister?' I says. Didn't think nothing particular, I didn't,not then. He was just passing - like lots of others -1 just 'appened to arsk 'im."

    Again Parminter nodded.

    "Well, he give us a match, 'e did. Didn't say nothing. 'Cruel cold,' Bill said to 'im, and hejust answered, whispering-like, 'Yes, it is.' Got a cold on his chest, I thought. He was allwrapped up, anyway. 'Thanks mister,' I says and gives him back his matches, and he moves offquick, so quick that when I sees 'e'd dropped something, it's almost too late to call 'im back.It was a little notebook as he must 'ave pulled out of 'is pocket when he got thematches out.'Hi, mister/ I calls after 'im, 'you've dropped something.' But he didn't seem to hear - hejust quickens up and bolts round the corner, didn't 'e, Bill?"

    "That's right," agreed Bill. "Like a scurrying rabbit."

    "Into the Harrow Road, that was, and it didn't seem as we'd catch up with him there, not therate 'e was going, and, anyway, by then it was a bit late - it was only a little book, not awallet or anything like that - maybe it wasn't important. 'Funny bloke,' I says. 'His hatpulled down over his eyes, and all buttoned up - like a crook on the pictures,' I says to Bill,didn't I, Bill?"

    "That's what you said," agreed Bill.

    "Funny I should have said that, not that I thought anything at the time. Just in a hurry to gethome, that's what I thought, and I didn't blame 'im. Not 'arf cold, it was!"

    "Not' arf," agreed Bill.

    "So I says to Bill, 'Let's 'ave a look at this little book and see if it's important.' Well,sir, I took a look. 'Only a couple of addresses,' I says to Bill. Seventy-Four Culver Streetand some blinking manor 'ouse."

    "Ritzy," said Bill with a snort of disapproval.

    Joe continued his tale with a certain gusto now that he had got wound up.

    '"Seventy-Four Culver Street,' I says to Bill. 'That's just round the corner from 'ere. When weknock off, we'll take it round' - and then I sees something written across the top of the page.'What's this?' I says to Bill. And he takes it and reads it out. '"Three blind mice" -must beoff 'is Knocker,' he says - and just at that very moment - yes, it was that very moment, sir,we 'ears some woman yelling, 'Murder!' a couple of streets away!"

    Joe paused at this artistic climax.

    "Didn't half yell, did she?" he resumed. "'Here,' I says to Bill, 'you nip along.' And by andby he comes back and says there's a big crowd and the police are there and some woman's had herthroat cut or been strangled and that was the landlady who found her, yelling for the police.

    'Where was it?' I says to him. 'In Culver Street,' he says. 'What number?' I asks, and he sayshe didn't rightly notice."

    Bill coughed and shuffled his feet with the sheepish air of one who has not done himselfjustice.

    "So I says, 'We'll nip around and make sure,' and when we finds it's number seventy-four wetalked it over, and 'Maybe,' Bill says, 'the address in the notebook's got nothing to do withit,' and I says as maybe it has, and, anyway, after we've talked it over and heard the policewant to interview a man who left the 'ouse about that time, well, we come along'ere and ask ifwe can see the gentleman who's handling the case, and I'm sure I 'ope as we aren't wasting yourtime."

    "You acted very properly," said Parminter approvingly. "You've brought the notebook with you?Thank you. Now -"

    His questions became brisk and professional. He got places, times, dates - the only thing hedid not get was a description of the man who had dropped the notebook. Instead he got the samedescription as he had already got from a hysterical landlady, the description of a hat pulleddown over the eyes, a buttoned-up coat, a muffler swathed round the lower part of a face, avoice that was only a whisper, gloved hands.

    When the men had gone he remained staring down at the little book lying open on his table.Presently it would go to the appropriate department to see what evidence, if any, offingerprints it might reveal. But now his attention was held by the two addresses and by theline of small handwriting along the top of the page.

    He turned his head as Sergeant Kane came into the room. "Come here, Kane. Look at this."

    Kane stood behind him and let out a low whistle as he read out, '"Three Blind Mice!' Well, I'mdashed!"

    "Yes." Parminter opened a drawer and took out a half sheet of notepaper which he laid besidethe notebook on his desk. It had been found pinned carefully to the murdered woman.

    On it was written, This is the first. Below was a childish drawing of three mice and a bar ofmusic.

    Kane whistled the tune softly. Three Blind Mice, See how they run -

    "That's it, all right. That's the signature tune."

    "Crazy, isn't it, sir?"

    "Yes." Parminter frowned. "The identification of the woman is quite certain?"

    "Yes, sir. Here's the report from the fingerprints department. Mrs Lyon, as she called herself,was really Maureen Gregg. She was released from Holloway two months ago on completion of hersentence."

    Parminter said thoughtfully, "She went to Seventy-Four Culver Street calling herself MaureenLyon. She occasionally drank a bit and she had been known to bring a man home with her once ortwice. She displayed no fear of anything or anyone. There's no reason to believe she thoughtherself in any danger. This man rings the bell, asks for her, and is told by the landlady to goup to the second floor. She can't describe him, says only that he wasof medium height andseemed to have a bad cold and lost his voice. She went back again to the basement and heardnothing of a suspicious nature. She did not hear the man go out. Ten minutes or so later shetook tea to her lodger and discovered her strangled."

    "This wasn't a casual murder, Kane. It was carefully planned."

    He paused and then added abruptly, "I wonder how many houses there are in England calledMonkswell Manor?"

    "There might be only one, sir."

    "That would probably be too much luck. But get on with it. There's no time to lose."

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