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10: April House

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« on: August 29, 2023, 11:06:02 am »

“WELL, that’s that,” said Meredith, when Shanks had retired to escort the bank manager to the door. “D’you think he was telling the truth, Long?”

“Yes, sir---quite frankly I do. Quite apart from his statement, there’s the hooman element to take into consideration. I’ve always upheld that the hooman element tells you just as much about a witness as his facts. In this particular case, for instance, it was obvious that the poor devil ’ad really been through the hoop. ’E’d been suffering. It cost him an effort to speak out as he did, but once ’e was off the mark I’ll betcher a penny to the Bank of England that he was telling the truth. Too much circumstantial detail about his story, in my opinion, for it to have been a fairy-tale.”

Meredith felt inclined to agree with the Inspector and went on to point out that all the facts known to the police seemed to fit in without a flaw to Fitzgerald’s statement. The tracks did not lead to the skylight of the Empty House, but to a point where, as the manager had explained, a clear view could be got through the side-window of Cotton’s study. Further he had seen Albert coming out of Number Five, a strong corroborative fact since the police had not named their witness before the interview began. Finally he had confessed, not only to the theft from Cotton’s safe, but to a falsifying of his books at the bank in order to lay hands on that badly-needed three thousand. If he had been lying then surely he wouldn’t incorporate in his false statement a confession to two crimes, both detrimental to his career? In any case, argued Meredith, this part of his confession couldn’t have been a lie because he had mentioned that encounter on the dark stairs and his subsequent flit through the basement and out of the garden gate. Take it all in all, both Long and Meredith felt fairly satisfied now that the manager had had no hand in the murder.

“Another blind-alley,” said Long miserably. “First West and now Fitzgerald. We seem to start off on a line of investigation with a handful of sizzling-hot clues and find the darn things going cold on us. We don’t seem to be able to shake West’s alibi. No further incriminating facts have come to light in the meantime. Where the devil are we now? At a full-stop, eh, sir? I don’t see how we’re bloomin’ well going to make things move again after this second squib has fizzled out.”

“Disheartening, Long. I quite agree about that. But at any rate it’s cleared the air a bit. If we can assume that neither West nor Fitzgerald did the job, then we can pretty safely say that it must have been one of the other archers in the square---namely Miss Boon, Matthews or Pratt. We have corroborative evidence that Matthews was in his sitting-room at the time the murder was committed. Shanks wheedled that, you remember, out of his maid, Prudence. She swore that she took in her master’s Ovaltine at exactly nine-thirty. That leaves Pratt and Miss Boon. We’ve now got to check up their statements---see if their alibis really hold water. To save time, Inspector, I suggest that you find out all you can about Miss Boon, whilst I tackle Pratt.”

“ ’Ere, that’s a bit thick, sir! I can’t stomach dealing with the female element. Particularly when it comes to an ole dragon like that Miss Boon. General Boon suits her style better, what with her parade manner an’ army o’ mangy mongrels.”

Meredith laughed.

“Yes and you’d better cross-question her dogs, too, while you’re about it. Perhaps she’s taught one of them to shoot with a bow and arrow.”

Long sighed and concluded in a funereal voice: “If I get murdered for my pains I only ’ope that you get landed with the investigation. Oh, Lord---what a harpy! I wonder she don’t wear trousis and a trilby!”

Pratt, thought Long as he walked back to the square for lunch---what about Pratt? He was away, at the time the murder was committed, visiting a patient. His car entered the square as Buller ran along to his house to tell him the fatal news. Shanks had been detailed to find out a few particulars about this call---name and address of the patient, time the doctor left after the visit and so on. Fishing out his note-book, Meredith turned to where he had copied down the bare outline of Shanks’ excellent statement. Yes---here it was, tabulated thus:

Name of patient---Antony John Wade.
Address---c/o Mrs. Violet Black (widow), April House, Leckhampton Road.
Occupation of Patient---None.

Mrs. Black, landlady, states that Pratt left house at (about) nine-fifteen. Wade unable to confirm this as asleep before doctor left. Wade been in doctor’s hands for some weeks. Suffering from insomnia, general debility and nerves. On the evening of 13th June, Wade, who was suffering from some form of abdominal pain, asked Black to phone Pratt. Doctor arrived shortly before nine o’clock---gave Wade morphia injection to induce sleep.


Studying these notes intently, so intently that he only just avoided walking into a lamp-post, Meredith could not help feeling that on the face of it Pratt’s evidence was genuine. He had been attending Wade for some weeks and so far there was nothing to suggest that there was any personal relationship (with the possibility of criminal collaboration) existing between the two men. On the other hand could Mrs. Black have been mistaken about the time? Fifteen minutes might have made all the difference. But until Meredith was able to study a town map at leisure he was unable to say how long it would take a car to travel from Leckhampton Road to the square. He had an idea that it was an outlying street, probably, as its name suggested, under Leckhampton Hill.

Arriving at Number Eight he found Aldous Barnet in an armchair, reading a newspaper and sipping a pink gin.

“Join me in one before lunch, Meredith? No? Sherry then? I’m afraid I’ve picked up the pernicious habit of imbibing pink gins through my brother in the Navy. It’s a pre-lunch ritual in the mess, y’know. Well, how’s the murder? Anything fresh?”

Meredith turned down his thumbs and scowled.

“A fresh dead-end---that’s all.”

“Something here in the local rag which might interest you,” smiled Barnet. “There’s been another murder in the locality.”

“What!” exclaimed Meredith, incredulously. “A murder? When? Why didn’t Long know about it? Who’s the victim?”

“A sheep.”

“Sheep?”

“Yes, and the interesting part about it is that the unfortunate animal met its end in the same way as Cotton. It was found with an arrow sticking out of its head. Read the paragraph for yourself if you think I’m leg-pulling.”

Taking the paper, Meredith settled himself down in a chair and read as follows:

An extraordinary happening has occurred on the farm of Mr. Wilfred Bates of The Dower House, Winchcombe. Last Friday a labourer employed on the farm found a ewe half lying in a stream which runs through the middle of the estate. The animal, when found, had an arrow embedded in its head and appears to have been shot at some spot distant from the stream itself. In the opinion of Mr. Bates the animal must have jumped over a low stone wall and run for nearly half-a-mile before it died. The local police are at a loss as to how the accident could have happened. Inquiries are being made in the district.

“Well?” said Barnet. “What do you make of that?”

“It’s certainly a bit of a coincidence,” observed Meredith. “I mean people who wander around with bows and arrows are not particularly numerous. I wonder who’ve got the job in hand? The Winchcombe lot, I suppose.”

“Do you think there’s anything in it?”

“Might be. I can’t see the slightest connection yet but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. I’d like to have a look at that arrow, for example. This article doesn’t go into details---but I’m wondering if that arrow was fitted with a barb or not?”

“Umph,” grunted Barnet with an understanding nod. “Have another drink?”

Although Meredith was decidedly puzzled by the death of Mr. Bates’s ewe, he was more immediately concerned with Dr. Pratt. Shortly after lunch he called in next door, found the doctor in and ready to spare him a few minutes of his valuable time.

“Can give you just ten minutes,” said Pratt glancing at his wrist-watch. “I’ve got a hospital job at 2.30. What’s the trouble?”

“Briefly this, Mr. Pratt. Some time back we took down a general statement concerning your actions on the night of 13th June. You signed the statement. To be quite frank with you, we find, at this point in our investigations, that it will be necessary for us to go more thoroughly into this statement.”

“Well, of all the damned . . .” began Pratt hotly. “You don’t mean to say that I’m a suspect? That’s rather a poor sort of a joke, isn’t it? How could I possibly have done the beastly job when I was over at Leckhampton at the time?”

“That’s just our argument,” answered Meredith amiably. “But I want you to clinch it for us. Have you any idea of the time you left Leckhampton Road?”

“9.15, as I stated.”

“I understand Mr. Wade, your patient, was asleep when you left?”

“Exactly. I’d just pumped a little morphia into him to ease the pain and give him a sound night.”

“What was his trouble?”

“Acute indigestion due to his general nervous condition. The lad’s been going the pace and now his chickens have come home to roost. Warned him to steady up, but you know what it is with these youngsters.”

“Do you know Mr. Wade socially?”

“No.”

“Which way did you drive back to the square?”

“Down the Leckhampton Road, along the Bath Road by the college, into the High Street and home via the Winchcombe Road.”

Meredith jotted down a few notes then looked up and asked: “How’s your patient now?”

“On his feet again, thanks.”

“I see.” Meredith rose. “Well, that’s all, Mr. Pratt. Sorry to have wasted your time.”

Barnet’s dark-blue Alvis “sports” was waiting by arrangement to take the Superintendent out to Leckhampton Road. Barnet was at the wheel.

“Now, sir, if you’ll keep your speedometer needle somewhere round the thirty mark, I’ll make a note of our time. Let’s see it’s now 2.25 exactly. Pratt says he took this route.”

Whilst Meredith was naming the streets which he had jotted down, the long, lean car began to nose its way out of the square. Threading his way dexterously through the High Street traffic, at this hour crowded with bicycles, Barnet drove by the college---its lovely weathered stone mellow in the afternoon sun---and cruised on down the Leckhampton Road. Suddenly Meredith called out: “Whoa! Here we are---April House, on the right, sir. We’ve taken just under fifteen minutes.”

“Good God! April House,” muttered Barnet sardonically. “Where do these people get their names from? April? It looks more like December in a black frost!”

There was certainly nothing spring-like about the square, grimy façade. Black’s establishment. A few pinched laurels and wilting geraniums straggled up behind the unpainted iron-railings, and in the lower bay stood a flourishing, ugly aspidistra. Meredith rang a rusty bell which jangled somewhere in the interior of this architectural monster, and drew the stern-faced Mrs. Black to the door.

“If it’s rooms you’re wanting,” she said without preliminary, “then I’m full up. Have been these last six months. But I dare say Mrs. Williams at Number----”

“That’s all right. I really want to see Mr. Wade---if he’s in. I should also like to have a word with you, Mrs. Black. I’m a police officer.”

Mrs. Black stepped back a pace, shocked and startled.

“Police? Oh, don’t say Mr. Wade’s been up to tricks! He’s a lively gentleman, I’ll admit, but I’m sure his heart’s in the right place.”

“Can I come in?” asked Meredith pointedly.

“This way, sir,” said Mrs. Black deferentially piloting the Superintendent into the room with the aspidistra and bay-window, a room which smelt of soot, camphor and hair-rugs. Meredith was waved into a rigid, springless armchair draped with a lace antimacassar. Mrs. Black edged herself primly on to a black horse-hair sofa, carefully avoiding the silk-covered cushions which adorned it.

“Well, sir?”

“I want you to cast your mind back, if you can, to 13th June, Mrs. Black. Perhaps I can help you to remember the date by reminding you that it was the evening Mr. Wade asked you to ring for the doctor.”

Mrs. Black brightened a little, less impressed by the law, now that it had come down to such homely details.

“That’s right---the night his pains came on so bad that he could hardly bear with himself. Poor lad. ‘Ring Doctor Pratt at once,’ he called down to me, ‘else I shall go off my head, Mrs. Black.’ ‘You’ll go off to bed,’ I ses, ‘and at once. You’ve no right to be on your feet,’ I ses. Meaning what I said too. He made some fuss about that but I did manage to get him in bed with a hot bottle before I rang the doctor from the call-box up the road.”

“Doctor Pratt had been attending him some time, hadn’t he?”

“Yes, sir---on and off for some weeks.”

“Did they appear to know each other well? I mean do you think they knew each other socially---quite apart from being doctor and patient?”

“Well, they always seemed sort of free-and-easy in their talk. But young Mr. Wade’s like that anyhow. Always chipping people. I’ve never heard him say anything about meeting the doctor outside this house.”

“What’s been Mr. Wade’s trouble?”

Mrs. Black glanced round instinctively and lowered her voice before making a reply.

“The doctor says as it’s some form of nerves and acute indigestion, but between you and me---not that I’d breathe a word to anybody else about this---but it’s my opinion that the young man is a little too fond of the drink! Not that he’s ever given me cause to complain though he does come home a little the worse for it more often than not.”

“I see. Before this attack came on on 13th June d’you think he’d been drinking then?”

“I couldn’t rightly tell about that, sir.”

Meredith switched over to another angle of approach.

“What time did the doctor arrive?”

“As far as I can recall somewhere around nine o’clock, sir.”

“And he left?”

“Just afore 9.15.”

“You seem more sure about the time he left. Any reason, Mrs. Black?”

“A very good one, sir. After the doctor had done with Mr. Wade he came down and called me into the hall. We had a few words about the poor young fellow---told me something about his food, to keep him in bed a day or two and so on. Then the doctor looked up at my grandfather clock and said: ‘Good gracious, Mrs. Black, that can’t really be the time!’ ‘Well, sir,’ I ses, ‘I’ve known that clock for the last twenty-five years and I’ve never known it wrong.’ But to satisfy him I stuck my head into the kitchen to see what the clock said out there. As both clocks were the same I knew they must be right. Yes---a minute or two before 9.15 the doctor left. I’ll swear to that, sir.”

At the conclusion of this speech there was the click of the front-gate shutting and the sound of a voice pleasantly raised in song. Meredith glanced out of the window and saw a young man in a double-breasted blue suit and a soft hat coming rather unsteadily up the path. It was obvious at a glance that the young man was, if not well lit, at least glowing with a benevolent alcoholic spark.

“Mr. Wade?” inquired Meredith.

“That’s him,” answered Mrs. Black tersely without having to glance out of the window. “He always croons when he’s been at it.”

Meredith got up. “Would you catch him before he goes up to his own room and ask him to have a word with me in here? Alone, if you’ve no objection, Mrs. Black.”

The landlady bustled out and after a short, muffled conversation, the door was opened and young Wade drifted in with an outstretched hand and an amiable smile on his face.

“Hullo, old boy. The geezer says you want to put me through a spot of third degree. I suppose you wouldn’t like to come up to my room and knock one back before we get down to it. This bally room gives me the jitters.”

“That sounds good to me,” answered Meredith with a grin. “Suppose you lead the way.”

Once up in the bed-sitting-room, Wade produced a bottle of whisky from the wardrobe and a couple of glasses. After he had poured out two stiff drinks and swished in a little soda, he flung himself back on the bed and nodded Meredith into an armchair.

“Well, what’s the charge, old boy, rape, murder, arson or obliterated number-plate? If the last then it’s a clear case of mistaken identity. I haven’t a car. Can’t afford a car. Can’t afford anything really.” Then lifting his glass. “Except this.”

“You know Pratt, don’t you?”

“Dear old Pratt---’course I do. Damn good scout is old Pratt. Owe him God knows what for his professional services---say, I got round that corner all right. Can’t be as squiffy as I thought I was. Try it out again if you don’t believe me. Profeshio---profess’nal---on second thoughts, old boy, let’s leave it.”

“He’s been treating you, hasn’t he?”

“What---old Pratt! Not him. Never met him in a pub. S’matter of fact I ran up against that young blister Cannington----”

Meredith grinned.

“No---I mean treating you professionally. You’ve been ill?”

“Ill! I’ve been feeling like death warmed up these last few weeks. Old Pratt says my bally engine wants decarbing or something. But honestly, old boy, I’ve been in pain. Had to have a shot of morphia one evening. Don’t ask me if I liked it! I floated, old boy. Like a balloon. Lovely.”

“Was that when Mrs. Black had to suddenly phone up?”

“That’s the idea. And though you won’t believe it the old geezer stung me twopence for the call as soon as I came up from the depths. I may be tight sometimes but she’s tight always. Tight as a clam when it comes to the dibs.”

“When did you first meet Pratt?”

Wade looked across at the Superintendent with a vaguely suspicious look of inquiry.

“I say, old boy---if you don’t mind my asking---what’s all this about? Has the old witch-doctor been up to some mumbo-jumbo or what? If so---wash me off the slate. I’ve never seen the fellow outside this room. Given him the happy hand up the Prom once or twice. That’s all. Have an idea he’d consider me low company outside working hours. S’matter of fact my old uncle Buller put me on to him. Nice lad, my uncle. Collects ailments.”

“Buller?” broke in Meredith, surprised. “You don’t mean Edward Buller in Regency Square?”

“I do, old boy. That’s uncle Teddy. My deceased father married his deceased sister. D’you know him? Damn it! Of course you would! Wasn’t thinking. It was in my uncle Teddy’s house that Cotton copped that packet. Nice chap the Captain. One of the stoutest. But couldn’t he shift it. Left me standing, old boy---just standing, that is.” Adding with a look of amused incredulity. “Here you’re not trying to tell me that old Pratt is suspected of----?”

“I’m not telling you anything,” said Meredith. “You’re telling me---or at least I hope you will.”

“Sounds like Mae West. Anyway, what’s the next question on the list? Something snappy, I’ll bet. Have another drink?”

“No, thanks. To come back to 13th June.”

“13th June?”

“The night Mrs. Black phoned the doctor for you. What time did Pratt leave that night?”

“What time did----? Ah, you’ve hipped me this time, old boy. I can’t supply. Not an idea. You see the last I remember of Pratt that evening was a blurred outline before I passed out under the morphia. He may have stayed to kiss me goodnight, but I doubt it. You know what these doctor lads are---all hurry and heartiness. You’ll have to ask the geezer.”

“I have.”

“I see. So all you want from me is corrorob . . . crobb . . .”

“Corroborative evidence.”

“Thanks. Have another drink.”

Meredith grinned and shook his head.

“No time. I’ve got to move. No, don’t trouble to come down. I can find my way out.”

“You’re lucky, old boy.” Wade pushed himself up unsteadily from the bed and thrust out his unoccupied hand. “Well, it’s all been very jolly. Call round again if you feel bored. Always like to keep on the right side of the law. You’re sure you won’t have another?”

“Quite,” said Meredith, shaking the hand and beating a quick retreat to the door. “Thanks for the information.”

Wade picked up the whisky bottle and looked at it closely.

“Well, I’ve heard it called lots of names before but never that. Cheero.”

“Well?” said Barnet eagerly as Meredith stepped into the Alvis.

“Interesting but negative,” said Meredith with a nod toward April House. “The evidence simply backs up Pratt’s statement. For all that, I’d like to make a second test run and see what our average time is for the journey.”

On this occasion, owing to a traffic jam in the High Street, they did not draw up in Regency Square until seventeen minutes later. As the outward journey had taken just under fifteen minutes it meant that Pratt’s arrival in the square, just as Buller was rushing along to his house on the night of the murder, fitted in perfectly with his statement.

“So Pratt,” thought Meredith, disheartened, “can more or less be ruled out, too. Matthews having a sound alibi---it looks as if Miss Boon might have something to tell us.”

He rang through to Clarence Street and got in touch with Long.

“Have you seen the lady yet?”

“The lady!” The Inspector’s voice quivered with indignation. “It’s all very well for you to laugh. You don’t know what I’ve been through. I’m only just getting my second wind now. Phew!”

“I take it you had a rough passage, eh?”

“Rough! Stormy, sir. A typhoon. Doubting her word. Daring to suspect her of having a hand in the crime. Half a mind to take the matter into the courts. Insulting and libellous conduct, et cetera, et cetera. Course I did what I could to pour oil on troubled waters and only succeeded in stirring up more trouble. After putting me properly through the hoop she shuts up like a clam and refuses to answer a question. That’s how things are now, sir. Strikes me that if she has anything to tell us it’s going to be darn difficult to get it out of her. I suppose,” added Long in wheedling tones, “that you wouldn’t like to take a ’and, sir? Frankly, she’s not in my line.”

Meredith laughed.

“O.K., Long. I’ll see what I can do. Any other news?”

“Yes---Yard report. Unable to trace marriage of Cotton and Mrs. F.---no licence on Somerset House files. So we were on the right track there. I’m getting Shanks to hand on the information to the Fitzs. Poor devil can do with a bit o’ good news for a change, eh? And what about your end---any luck in that Pratt investigation? None? That’s bad, sir. I mean, much as I dislike that female Mussolini, I don’t think some’ow that she did it.”

Although Meredith was of a like opinion, he realized that it was an essential part of the routine to re-examine Miss Boon with regard to her actions on June 13th. Metaphorically squaring his shoulders, therefore, he strolled across to Number One and rang the bell. A terrifying canine chorus broke forth, gradually increasing in volume, as heavy footsteps stumped down the hall. The door opened and Meredith was almost swept off his feet by an avalanche of dogs, behind which, like the mountain from which the avalanche had sprung, stood Miss Boon. Her formidable jaw was advanced.

“If official---good afternoon,” she snapped before Meredith could put in a word. “If not---come in and have tea. Which?

“Unofficial,” replied Meredith hastily. “I want some advice.”

“About?”

“Dogs,” said Meredith.

“This way,” said Miss Boon, shrilly blowing a whistle and striding into a near-by room. “No---down, sir! Down! Mat, Toby! Mat, sir! Under your chair, Prince. Now Flossie---stop that! Sofa!”

As soon as the excited pack had been drilled into some semblance of order and deposited in their correct places about the room, Miss Boon went out and returned with a large brass tray full of tea-things.

“Milk? Sugar? Both. Good. Have a bun? Now what’s the trouble?”

“It’s my aunt’s Airedale,” began Meredith glibly. “It’s gone off its food.”

“Tried condition powders?”

“Certainly. It was the first thing my aunt thought of.”

“Sure it’s not distemper?”

“Distemper! I don’t think she thought of that.”

“Idiotic, of course. If it’s a young dog----”

“It is,” said Meredith quickly.

“Then it’s almost certainly distemper. Some people have no right to keep dogs. Your aunt isn’t senile, is she?”

“Possibly,” said Meredith politely. “What shall I write and tell her to do?”

“Diet first---milk, bovril, eggs, minced meat. Nourishing, understand? Bathe the eyes. Frequently bathe the eyes. Best thing is a solution of boracic acid, creolin and water. Can’t go far wrong then. But in your aunt’s case I imagine a vet ought to be called in. For the dog, I mean.”

“Thanks. That’s very helpful of you, Miss Boon. I had an idea you’d know.”

From the mythical Airedale of Meredith’s aunt the canine conversation spread out to embrace other, more material dogs, including, of course, Miss Boon’s own property. She discussed their ailments with a physiological frankness which might have shocked any man other than a police officer. She began to warm to Meredith. He had a second cup of tea. Another bun. It cost him an effort to eat it, but, from a sense of duty, he persisted. Gradually he steered the conversation round to Cotton and Cotton’s death. Miss Boon seemed unaware of the fact that the interview was, in a sense, no longer unofficial.

“It was a pity that you should have been absent at the time the murder was committed,” said Meredith. “I’m sure you’re very observant. You might have been able to put us on to a clue.”

“My dear man---your confrère who was here this morning not only thinks I might supply you with a clue, but with a murderer as well. Frankly I believe that fat-headed idiot suspected me. I wonder you don’t keep him on a lead and muzzle him. A menace---that man. Utterly brainless, of course.”

Meredith, with a pang of disloyalty, agreed.

“I suppose you noticed nothing, either on your walk or on your return to the square?”

“Nothing untoward if that’s what you mean. Now if that inhuman monster Buller had been the victim I might have been able to put you on to something good.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. His nephew, Antony. He inherits, you know. Always a sound motive so I understand from detective stories. In this case very apt as the young fellow hasn’t a bean.”

“But you didn’t see him that night, did you?”

“Did I not! Careering down Victoria Road in a car. Missed my darling Flossie by inches. He was probably bottled. He usually is, you know!”

“But has he a car?” Meredith suddenly felt, not only deeply intrigued, but immensely excited by this unexpected bit of news.

“He had that night.”

“You’re sure it was Buller’s nephew?”

“Would I tell you if I wasn’t.”

“Let’s see, his surname is----?”

“Wade. Lodges out by Leckhampton Hill. Lives on an allowance provided by his uncle. But bone-lazy. A waster of the Cotton brand. In my opinion simply waiting for his uncle to kick the bucket.”

“Did you notice what sort of car it was?”

“No. I never notice cars. They all look alike to me.”

“You’ve no idea of the time you saw Mr. Wade?”

“Just after 9.30. You see, I do the same round every night. I always turn into the end of Victoria Road at about 9.30.”

Meredith nodded, glanced at his watch and simulated surprise.

“Ten past four!” he exclaimed. “Much as I am enjoying our chat I really must be off. Kind of you to advise me about my aunt’s dog. I’m sure she’ll be grateful.”

“The dog will,” contested Miss Boon as she led Meredith to the front door and nodded him a brusque: “Good-bye.”

Wade? Good heavens---what did it mean? Wade was asleep in bed at April House that evening. He had no car. Or had he? Was he rather less poverty-stricken than he made out? But how the devil, even if he had a car, had he managed to be within the vicinity of Regency Square when, according to the evidence, he was asleep in the Leckhampton Road? Something was vitally wrong somewhere. What? Who had been lying? Wade? Mrs. Black? Pratt? Or was Miss Boon putting up this curious story for some nefarious purpose of her own? This darn case was getting complex, to say the least of it!

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