âJonah is a good boy, he is just instinctive and at this point Lawyer Tedder should know him,â she said to Carol and excused herself for her stepsonâs behaviour.
âCan I do anything else for you, Mrs. Tompkins?â The antique dealer had a scornful smile and stretched out her hand. âIt was nice meeting you, countess.â
The big, almond-shaped black eyes of the other sparkled, and Carol could not help but think that she was an undoubtedly beautiful and charming woman. âMe too,â she said simply.
She set off, followed by Gilbert. They went through the corridor, and descended the stairs, where the lawyer was waiting for her in an overcoat that he had meanwhile donned. While she was walking down the last step, they could hear a dull thud, like that of a heavy body disastrously falling on the floor. âWhat was that?â cried the countess, who had appeared on top of the stairs. âI do not know, perhaps the wind made something tumble down!â exclaimed Gilbert.
âYes, may be. Take a look around though.â Even the lawyer started because of the strange noise. They went to the park while it was still raining, and the thunderbolts were brightening the trees around, followed by a rumble of thunder.
âWhat weather!â grumbled Carol, while shrugging her shoulders, cheering herself up to have found somebody who could take her back home.
2) Finding of the corpse
When Carol woke up, it was late. The clock on the bedside table marked a quarter to ten. It was Sunday, so she did not have to open the store. She could have lain around for longer, but she remembered that she had left the car on the main road, hence she got up, lazily prepared a warm bath, and had an abundant breakfast of toast, bacon, and coffee. She came down to the garage at a quarter past eleven. She took a strong rope to tow the car, and slowly drove off. The mechanics were closed, therefore, she was thinking of towing the car with a rope and getting it repaired the following Monday. The road was almost deserted, it was not raining anymore, but the sky was still grey and dark, and for sure another downpour was looming ahead.
She went through George Street and at the end of the road she took the A120 to Colchester and London, travelling on the same road backwards. After about half-an-hour of driving she found the car where she had left it the day before. Luckily, she managed to pull it over close to the guardrail. She quickly steered and parked the car in front of it. She got off the car with the rope to tie it, and looked inside to make sure that everything was fine.
As she stooped down, she was horrified. On the rear seat a woman with a slit throat lay motionless on her back, curled up.
To shake off the horror which had immobilised her, Carol stepped backwards, banging her back on the trunk of a tree bordering the road.
She let out a sharp scream. Then she tried to pluck up courage and re-examined the inside of the car attentively. The woman seemed to be young, about twenty-five to thirty years old.
She had big, green, wide-open, and gaping eyes, and seemed to look in front of her in bewilderment. She was slightly folded on her right hip with bent knees, and positioned in such a way as not to be easily seen from the outside. Her face was completely unknown to Carol. She did not remember to have ever seen her before then.
She had a wide wound on her neck and red of the coagulated blood.
A thousand questions overwhelmed Carol. Who was she? How did she end up in her car? Didnât she put the safety catch on? She did not recall it well. The locks did not show any sign of break-in. Had anybody noticed the car having a breakdown, opened it, and killed her inside it? A thought-out crime in the world of ill repute? Perhaps a prostitute, who had withdrawn with a client, and ended up in tragedy? Or a premeditated murder, consummated in the neighbourhood and the corpse then transported to her car? Like a robot, she opened the car door, noticing that the safety catch was deactivated, and tilted over the rear seat.
A hand dangled inactive, touching her skirt. That contact made her shiver. She became scared and, incapable of dominating her nerves, she screamed like a mad woman. She feared that somebody could hear her, she closed the car door, she alighted on Alfredâs car again, and went back home. Once she arrived, she tried to recover and pluck up courage. She drank a sherry, and spent some time to think about what to do. She decided to call a dear friend, Timothy King, to get some advice.
The latter was a judge on pension, the most suitable person to steer her in the right direction. She called him, and explained what happened to her. The man, very upset by the story, could not refrain himself from calling the police of Harwich district to report the incident.
That same afternoon, Superintendent Baxter knocked on the door of Carolâs house. The man entered the house by showing his police badge. He had a limpid and severe glance. He was a fat and stocky man, with a round and bristly face on account of the short beard that encircled it, and he had piercing, small green eyes.
He gave his fattish and humid hand to her. She showed him into the drawing room, to the floral-patterned sofa near the wide wind overlooking the sea, which that day had the dark colour of the leaden sky.
The sea was surging, âlike herself,â she thought. They sat facing each other; the man coughed slightly and lit his briar pipe after having asked for permission. A cloud of smoke assailed her. The man spoke in a clear and cold voice:
âI am Superintendent Adam Baxter. Judge King, who almost all of us in our milieu keep calling thus, despite him being retired for about couple of years, instructed us to go on the main road to London, the A120, where about a mile from Dovercourt we found a red Austin with the registration number HM453. Inside the car was the corpse of a woman. Is the car yours?â
âIn the rear seat of your car a corpse of a woman was found. She was probably killed with a sharp knife or a similar weapon. The forensics doctor will provide me with a detailed report about the time and cause of her death.â
The man cleared his throat and continued. âWe have identified the woman as Sally Barnes, daughter of the defunct Earl Barnes, whose villa is situated in the neighbourhood. She was wearing a pair of trousers, in whose pockets there were documents that allowed her identification.â
âOh!â muttered Carol hiding her face with her hands. The investigator looked at her with interest.
âDid you know the victim? Did you have any relation with her?â Carol removed her hands from her face. âNo,â she said resolutely, âbut yesterday evening I was at their villa because of a strange coincidence of destiny.â
The man blew a puff of smoke. His small green eyes flashed with interest. âPlease, tell meâ he said, removing a small notebook from the pocket.
âThere is little to say.â
âFirst of all, please tell me your full details and your profession.â
âMy name is Carol Tompkins, and I have been living here in Harwich, I would say sinceâ¦ always. I have been living in this house since I got married about twenty years ago, while before I used to live on the Main Street. I manage an antiques store on the Kingâs Head street with another partner. This, I am afraid, is it.â
âWhy were you at the Barnesâ villa yesterday?â
âYesterday early morning I went to СКАЧАТЬ