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Chapter Fifteen

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« on: August 01, 2023, 10:15:42 am »

ELIZABETH had just finished her share of milking on the following morning---Sunday---when she heard the telephone ring, and she ran indoors to answer it, but Marion reached the phone first. A moment later she called to Elizabeth to join her in the parlour, and Charles Garth went to the phone in her place.

Marion’s face looked less troubled. “That was Macdonald. He asked after Malcolm---quite gently and pleasantly---and I told him I thought he’d slept all night, and that he’s still drowsy this morning and in no hurry to get up. Macdonald says he’s sending a doctor over to see him. I said, ‘Do you really mean a doctor?’ and he said, ‘Yes. Quite honestly, I think the lad’s in a poor way, and I feel a bit responsible.’ He sounds so decent, Lisa. Oh, and he wanted to talk to Charles---something about driving to Liverpool to identify a photograph of Richard, and to look through some things he’d left on board. Apparently he didn’t rejoin his ship before she sailed.”

A moment later Charles Garth came in. “Seems I’ve got to go to Liverpool with some police-wallah,” he said. “Buck up and get some tea made, Elizabeth. They’re bringing a car round for me. The Chief Inspector said they’d bring me back here before dusk. Quite a change to have a drive again.”

Elizabeth went out to expedite the tea making, and Charles added: “It’s a matter of looking at some of Richard’s things. They’ve found his ship, so I suppose it’s only a matter of time until they get him. It’s a formality, really. I don’t think Macdonald himself believes now that Richard was responsible.”

“Then why didn’t he rejoin his ship?”

“G.O.K. More reasons than one for leaving a ship.”

Half an hour later Charles Garth was driven away in a very smart police car, and Elizabeth turned impulsively to Marion.

“It’s a gorgeous day, Marion, and we’ve got nothing important to do. Let’s pick apples and play around in the orchard, and forget everything for a bit. Malcolm’s all right. He’s got piles of books if he wants to read, and he loves the idea of a day in bed. How long is it since any one had a day in bed in this place?”

“Not since Malcolm had pneumonia----Oh, all right, let’s laze over breakfast and then go into the orchard.”

“Good---and if you’ve any common sense, you’ll take some cushions out and go to sleep in the sun to make up for last night. Things always look better in the morning.”

Marion slipped her hand under Elizabeth’s arm---a rare gesture from one of her reticence. “You are a brick, Lisa. Things would have been much worse if you hadn’t been here.”

Elizabeth smiled back---she had no intention of discussing “things” just now. “We’ll make some coffee and put lashings of cream in it,” she said. “There’s still something to be said for living on a farm.”

+++

It was nearly dusk when Charles Garth returned. It had been a peaceful day at Garthmere. A doctor had come to see Malcolm---much to his surprise---and had told him to stay in bed for another twenty-four hours. Marion had asked if there were any cause for anxiety about the boy and Dr. Boyce had replied:

“No. Not anxiety---but he needs to go slow for a bit. He’s too thin, his temperature’s sub-normal and his heart is tired. Encourage him to laze and eat all that he can. What’s the use of producing milk if you don’t see that some of it goes down that fellow’s throat? He could do with it.”

Marion had felt comforted---prescribing milk for a lanky lad (who incidentally loathed milk) seemed a reassuring proceeding after the dark fears of last night’s vigil.

Charles had only been in the house a few minutes when Chief Inspector Macdonald followed him. His face was grave, and he said to Marion.

“Can I talk to you and your brother for a minute? I have bad news for you, I am afraid.”

Marion’s heart gave another sickening thump; she said nothing, but led Macdonald to the parlour, where Charles was starting on his supper. Macdonald stated his news without further preamble.

“The body of your brother, Richard Garth, has been found to-day in one of the Pot Holes on Ingleborough. It was found by one of the associations which explore the Pot Holes.”

There was dead silence for a few seconds when Macdonald had finished his sentence. Then Marion said: “What does this mean, Chief Inspector? Do you suppose now that Richard shot Father---and then killed himself?”

“I don’t know, Miss Garth. The matter will have to be investigated closely. I can’t tell you anything more until after the inquest. I am sorry to distress you with this further burden.”

“If only I knew,” she said slowly. “I don’t pretend that Richard’s death means anything to me---he has been away so long. It’s the horror of the whole thing, and not knowing what happened---or who did it.”

“I know. I’m sorry,” said Macdonald.

Charles said slowly, “I think your guess is probably right, Moll. If Richard did do the shooting, I think the rest is comprehensible.”

He got up and followed Macdonald to the door, and accompanied him to his car. Charles then asked in a low voice: “Was Richard killed by the fall down one of those infernal holes?”

“I can’t tell you. The postmortem has not yet been performed.”

“Does this let Malcolm out?”

“Again---I can’t say. That last piece of evidence you told me about the rag used for cleaning a gun will take some explaining.” Macdonald stopped, as though he had suddenly remembered something and then said: “I meant to have spoken to your sister about that. We always like to have evidence corroborated. Do you mind staying outside for a while and I’ll go back and speak to her.”

“If you must, you must---but don’t you think she’s had enough to put up with for one evening? Let her forget Malcolm for to-night.”

“I wish I could.” Macdonald spoke very gravely. “Unfortunately I can’t fall in with such comfortable counsel. There can be no forgetting until this case is settled.”

“All right. I can’t stop you.” Charles spoke wearily. “I’ll stay out here until I see you come back.”

Macdonald went back by the now familiar fold yard gate; as he passed the smaller shippon two small calves mooed to him in thin little voices, and he wished again that he could turn farmer.

It was about ten minutes later that he returned to his car and found Charles sitting dejectedly on the running-board.

“Did she admit she’d seen that rag?” asked Charles.

Macdonald nodded. “Yes. She said that she had seen it, as you said, and destroyed it---because no one but Malcolm ever used that loft.”

“Poor old Moll!” said Charles.

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