Chalet Girls on the Orient Express by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Summary: It's 1948 and the Chalet School has been invited to visit a new school which has opened in Briesau on the Tiern See. Having managed to rebuild the school's reputation over the previous two years and avoid closure, Miss Annersley is understandably keen to have an uneventful trip. But of course nothing is simple when Lucy Thomas and her Aunt Jane are around. Not to mention Madge having ideas for changes at the school which could have far-reaching consequences, particularly for Miss Annersley. What starts out as a pleasant winter break from the school routine, rapidly turns into a nightmare....

Readers of "4.50 from Haddington", "Murr-durr Most Chalet" and "The Body in the Chalet School Library" will meet some old friends.
Categories: St Clare's House Characters: Hilda Annersley, Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Madge (Bettany) Russell, Matron Lloyd, Minor character(s), Miss Bubb, Peggy Bettany, Robin Humphries
School Period: Armishire
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Adventure, Crossover, Humour, Mystery, School Story
Series: Miss Marple, Lucy and The Chalet School
Chapters: 12 Completed: Yes Word count: 13795 Read: 28737 Published: 20 Sep 2012 Updated: 23 Oct 2013

1. Chapter 1 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

2. Chapter 2 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

3. Chapter 3 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

4. Chapter 4 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

5. Chapter 5 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

6. Chapter 6 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

7. Chapter 7 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

8. Chapter 8 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

9. Chapter 9 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

10. Chapter 10 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

11. Chapter 11 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

12. Chapter 12 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

Chapter 1 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
Embarking on what should be a pleasant trip to Austria, Miss Annersley notices an unwelcome passenger embarking on to the Arlberg Orient Express.
Winter 1948

‘Bloody Hell,’ Miss Annersley said, peering through her spectacles at a figure about to board the Arlberg Orient Express in Paris. She turned to the girl by her side. ‘Lucy, did you know that your Aunt Jane was catching this train?’

‘Aunt Jane’s here? Really?’ Lucy Thomas, Head Girl of the Chalet School was incredulous. ‘Of course I had no idea, Miss Annersley. If she’s going all the way to Innsbruck, it has to reduce our chances substantially of all getting back alive.’

Lucy’s “Aunt Jane”, was the well-known amateur detective Miss Marple, famed for causing a trail of deaths everywhere she went. The only people who were in favour of her frequent excursions were the (ever-diminishing) residents of St Mary Mead, who were always glad of a few weeks’ respite from sudden deaths.

The Chalet School had been stuck on Guernsey during the German occupation and escaped to set up on the borders of Wales only to be embroiled in black-marketeering, tax evasion and several deaths.
One school of thought had it that Miss Marple’s arrival to solve some of the crimes had increased the incidence of deaths and the consequent near closure of the school. Fortunately it had survived and been scandal-free for several years.

Lucy, the daughter of a Scottish clergyman, had arrived at the school just after the Second World War and had helped considerably in bringing the malefactors to justice. As said malefactors included the husband, sister and niece of one of the school’s owners, Lucy’s efforts had not been met with enthusiasm in all quarters. However Lucy had made firm friends at the school, including the headmistress, and had stayed the course with quiet determination. Miss Annersley had vigorously opposed Mrs Russell’s proposal to appoint Peggy Bettany as Head Girl following the latter’s return from Reform School and had insisted that Lucy’s leadership qualities and loyalty to the school be properly rewarded.

As a direct consequence of the school’s improved behaviour and charitable works, an invitation had been issued to visit a new school which had been established at Briesau on the Tiern See. Austria had been partitioned after the war and Briesau was in French territory, so Madge had traded on her war-time work for the French Resistance in Guernsey to allow her sister Joey, newly released from jail, to be included in the party.

To Madge’s and Joey’s great joy, Robin had obtained leave of absence to make the sentimental journey back to the place where the school had been founded. Robin had just arrived on a train from Nouvion and a joyous reunion was taking place.

‘That’s a bit of a racy outfit for a novice nun, isn’t it?’ Lucy said to Miss Annersley.

‘Don’t be silly, dear. Madge and Joey are the only ones who think Robin is in a convent. The couple she lodged with in Guernsey have adopted her and she works in the café with them. Though René and Madame Edith would have a fit if they saw her in that garb. No doubt she was wearing something more demure when she left home this morning.’

‘Won’t Mrs Russell and Mrs Bettany think her outfit a bit odd for a nun?’

‘They’re absolutely clueless about clothes. Joey thinks anything in lime green is haute couture.’

Robin came over to greet Miss Annersley, who introduced her to Lucy. The two girls eyed each other warily. When the school had been in Guernsey, Robin had been the driving force and Lucy was concerned that Robin might decide to regain her former ascendancy. For her part, Robin eyed the Scottish pretender to her throne with caution.

A welcome interruption was caused by some typically Middle-behaviour by the late Colonel Black’s youngest girls.

‘Patience and Prudence Black, come over here now!’ Miss Annersley scarcely had to raise her perfectly-pitched voice to gain the twins’ attention. They ceased trying to push each other on to the track and presented themselves, the picture of innocence, to their headmistress.

The girls to be included in the party had been selected by Miss Annersley, but Lucy had begged her to include the late Colonel Black’s daughters who were supported at the school by an army charity.

‘The Black girls rarely get any treats,’ Lucy had pointed out. ‘It can’t be very nice for them knowing that their mother is in a mental hospital because she killed their father.’

‘But the little twins are such imps,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘We can’t afford any bad behaviour on this trip or our reputation as a school will be smirched again.’

‘We’ve got to take some Middles with us and they’re better behaved than many of the others. And we could ensure that their elder sisters keep an eye on them. Since they became Seniors, the quads have improved enormously.’

‘They had plenty of room for improvement,’ Miss Annersley retorted. ‘Faith and Hope being identical was a real trial – they were forever pretending to be each other. And Charity and Verity were such pranksters!’

Lucy deeply disapproved of her headmistress’s tendency towards slang but had held her tongue. It had been her own intervention on numerous occasions which had prevented the quads from spending even more time in solitary confinement, sewing sheets or going to bed early.

Back in the present, having reduced the twins to snivelling wrecks with a few well-chosen words, Miss Annersley returned to wondering how soon she could sneak off for a gin and tonic.

‘Look, Miss Annersley!’ Lucy exclaimed, breaking into her thoughts. ‘Isn’t that the famous Monsieur Poirot getting into the same compartment as Aunt Jane?’

Miss Annersley wished she had polished her spectacles. ‘I think so, Lucy. Maybe his influence will cancel out your aunt’s.’

Lucy thought this unlikely but was happy to encourage Miss Annersley in the idea. In any case, it was time to ensure the Middles and Seniors were on board and in their proper seats. Lucy knew that Miss Annersley would be no use – she would be nipping along to the toilet to down a miniature of G&T, Madge and Joey were too wrapped up with Robin to help and Miss Denny was busy with the Juniors. Matey was organising the sick compartment, which would undoubtedly be needed before the first stop, so it was all down to Lucy. She was used to it.

Miss Annersley returned, staggering slightly, from the toilet compartment. ‘It’s the motion of the train,’ she explained.

‘We haven’t left the station yet,’ Lucy said quietly. ‘And as no-one at the Chalet School ever goes to the lavatory, you’re going to draw attention to yourself if you don’t sit down right now.’

‘I have to see to the girls,’ Miss Annersley said, with a noticeable slurring of her words.

‘They’re all seated in their allocated places,’ Lucy said patiently. ‘I suggest you sit in that compartment until you feel a little better.’ She opened a door for her headmistress.

Miss Annersley stepped into the compartment and sobered up abruptly. ‘Miss Bubb! What on earth are you doing here?’
Chapter 2 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
Thank you for all the reviews welcoming Lucy and Miss Marple back!

Miss Bubb's reason for being on the train is revealed!
Miss Bubb smiled. ‘Good afternoon, Miss Annersley. I gather that Madame hasn’t taken you into her confidence about her discussions?’

‘Discussions?’ For the first time, Miss Annersley noticed that Miss Bubb was not alone in the compartment. ‘Oh I do apologise,’ she said. ‘How are you? It’s so many years since we last met. Such a coincidence that we are all on the same train. Are you going all the way to Innsbruck too?’

‘My business partner and I,’ Miss Bubb said, with emphasis on the first three words, ‘are not here by coincidence. We are in discussions with Madame about a merger of the schools.’

Miss Annersley sat down abruptly and found she could not speak.

‘I’m sorry to be the bearer of what will no doubt be bad news,’ Miss Bubb said, with clear insincerity. ‘Of course it means your post will no longer be needed but perhaps we might be able to offer you a senior mistress post if you’re prepared to put more emphasis on academic results.’

Fortunately Miss Annersley’s response, containing several expletives and uncomplimentary remarks about Miss Bubb and her “business partner”, was drowned out by the noise of the train leaving the station.

When she could make herself heard, Miss Bubb continued. ‘Our school is highly successful and has never had a trace of scandal attached to it. We could not have contemplated a merger with the Chalet School, had the last two years not been free of crime. Of course the examination results are lamentable, but that can soon be mended.’

Miss Annersley had regained control of her emotions and continued to say nothing.

‘We only take girls from the best families and train them to take their place in the highest echelons,’ Miss Bubb went on. ‘We would never lower ourselves to take the daughter of a publican, for example.’ Disdain dripped from her words and expression.

Rising to her feet, Miss Annersley favoured Miss Bubb with the look she saved for the most hardened malefactors of Lower IV and left the compartment without speaking.

Lucy came along the corridor and saw Miss Annersley lurching towards her, scrabbling in her handbag. To Lucy’s astonishment, a miniature of G&T appeared and was downed quickly. Reckless behaviour like this was a first and Lucy feared that her headmistress was under a severe amount of pressure. She found an empty compartment and ushered her headmistress in, sliding the door closed behind them.

‘Miss Annersley! Whatever is the matter? Any of the girls might have seen you!’

‘Well it won’t matter when I haven’t got a job, will it?’ Miss Annersley said belligerently. ‘That cow in that compartment down there is going to take over the school.’

‘Grammar, Miss Annersley!’ Lucy said with severity. ‘We must never forget that we belong to the Chalet School.’

‘Not for much longer,’ Miss Annersley muttered, reaching for her handbag. ‘Good thing you’re leaving Lucy. I shouldn’t think even the daughter of a clergyman will be suitable for her exclusive establishment.’

Lucy removed the handbag from Miss Annersley’s reach. ‘I don’t think more G&T will help. Tell me all about it and we can decide what to do.’

Miss Annersley related her conversation with Miss Bubb. ‘I need to speak to Madge,’ she finished.

‘Not at the moment,’ Lucy said. ‘It’s too soon. I suggest you wait until you’re calmer.’ And less under the influence of gin and tonic, she added silently.

‘I’m sure you’re right, Lucy.’ Miss Annersley settling back in her seat for a snooze.

Lucy got up and went to check on the girls. The prefects were keeping order – they were used to it as the staff never bothered with the girls outside lessons. Satisfied that things were much as normal, Lucy made her way to where Madge, Joey and Robin were ensconced in a compartment on their own. It was difficult to eavesdrop, due to the noise of the train, but she managed to catch some of the conversation whilst standing back so as not to be seen.

She could hear Robin telling the others about life in the convent. Pure invention obviously but Madge and Joey were evidently believing every word.

‘But tell me about the school,’ Robin said eventually, to Lucy’s relief. ‘How are things?’

‘It’s been pretty dreadful,’ Madge said. ‘There was so much scandal we nearly had to close. It was difficult convincing the parents to keep their daughters at the school. Not the ones who are abroad of course – they don’t care what happens as long as we keep the girls out of their hair. But then we had to do a whole load of charitable works – giving afternoon teas for snotty-nosed orphans, raising funds for a bed in the hospital for poor people who should be left to die at home and doing gardens for ungrateful pensioners.’

Robin’s response was lost to Lucy but when she could hear again, Madge had moved on to talk about the future.

‘Miss Bubb has started a school. She says it’s highly successful but I think she’s lying. She needs the numbers of girls we can provide.’

‘She’s really keen on good exam results though,’ Joey said. ‘Not our sort of teacher at all.’

‘Still, if it helps to keep the Chalet School going ……..’ Robin started.

‘Oh, it won’t be the Chalet School,’ Madge said. ‘Miss Bubb is insistent about that. Not that I could give two hoots as long as we get free education for our daughters and I can move nearer to Jem.’

Madge’s husband, Jem Russell, was still in prison for his part in the kidnap and death of Marie Varick. Marie had died whilst giving birth to a stillborn child, Jem being the father. Visiting Jem in prison was difficult for Madge, with a business to run and her own – and during Joey’s incarceration for ration card fraud, her sister’s - children to look after.

Lucy heard another compartment door slide open and moved away hastily. She was thinking hard. Something had to be done to prevent the merger. Perhaps a scandal would help………
Chapter 3 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
The identity of the mysterious "business partner" is revealed and things take a nasty turn......
Lucy decided there was only one thing to do. She had to speak to Aunt Jane. The other parts of the train were out-of-bounds and even elevation to the dizzy heights of Head Girl would not save Lucy from punishment if she were caught. Consequently she checked carefully that there was no-one around before she left the school’s part of the train.

Miss Marple was not, in fact, Lucy’s aunt, but it had suited both of them to let the school think they were related when they first set off on their adventures. The truth had eventually emerged but everyone was so used to regarding Miss Marple as Lucy’s aunt that the real situation had been forgotten.

Aunt Jane was sharing a compartment with a dapper little man with a huge black moustache who rose to his feet and bowed as she entered. Lucy was reluctant to pour out her troubles in front of a stranger but Miss Marple waved her objections aside.

‘Monsieur Poirot is the soul of discretion, Lucy dear. You can speak freely.’

Lucy explained what she had discovered. ‘Some of the older girls were at the school when Miss Bubb was temporary Headmistress,’ she finished. ‘It was really dreadful.’

‘So, Mademoiselle Lucy, you need something to put off the so-dreadful Miss Bubb, n’est-ce pas?’

‘Yes, Monsieur Poirot, but I don’t know what.’

‘Fear not, ma petite, you are a young lady most inventive, from the stories your Aunt Jane has told me. And we will also put on the caps for thinking and let the leetle grey cells do their work.’

‘Thank you, Monsieur Poirot,’ Lucy said politely, getting to her feet. ‘I must go back before Miss Annersley wak-, er, notices that I’m missing.’

Lucy hurried back along the corridor and let herself back into the school’s first carriage.

‘And what, may I ask, were you doing out-of-bounds?’ Miss Annersley said, from nowhere Lucy could see. Lucy jumped. She had bargained on Miss A being out for the count for a lot longer, the amount of G&T she’d swallowed. Then she realised what it was.

‘Charity Black! Come out here right now! How many times have I told you not to impersonate the mistresses?’

Charity appeared, grinning, from the first compartment. ‘Well, what were you doing?’

‘I was on school business,’ Lucy said loftily. ‘And it’s nothing to do with you.’

‘We’ll see what Miss Annersley thinks about that. Or Madame,’ Charity retorted.

‘If you sneak on me, I’ll make sure you’re on hobby club duty with Lower IVb for the rest of the term,’ Lucy told her.

‘Ok,’ Charity said sulkily. ‘I’ll keep quiet.’

Organising Kaffee und Kuchen and later Abendessen for the girls and getting them all to the right compartments at bed-time kept Lucy occupied for the rest of the day. Miss Annersley was snoozing again, after a top-up of G&T, and Madge & Co stayed resolutely in their compartment and were no help at all. Luckily she was able to rely on some of the other prefects.

‘Phew!’ Nita Eltringham, Lucy’s particular friend, said as she flopped down on a seat. ‘Those Middles were absolute little devils tonight!’

‘You’re telling me!’ Daphne said. ‘I had to threaten Patience and Prudence with Joey’s tales of her school-days before they would shut up and go to sleep.’

Nina Williams arrived in the compartment. She had been helping Miss Denny with the juniors, who were in a separate carriage further along the train.

‘I’ll swing for those bloody triplets of Joey’s before this journey’s over!’ she said. ‘Budge up, Lucy.’

‘Slang, Nina? That will be a double order mark,’ came a voice from the corridor.

Lucy got up and opened the compartment door. ‘Charity Black! Go back to bed right now unless you want to be put on the first train back to Wales!’

When she was sure they were on their own, Lucy told the others about the proposed take-over of the school. There were howls of indignation.

‘Shush!’ Lucy said. ‘They’re only two compartments down from here. What I want to know is, who is the business partner and how does Miss A know her?’

‘Simple,’ Nina said. ‘I heard Madame telling Joey that it was a shame that Miss Bubb had teamed up with someone as horrible as Matron Webb, but needs must.’

‘Matron Webb! Wasn’t she here in the olden days?’ Daphne asked.

‘Yes,’ Lucy said. ‘Joey told me all about her when I was sent to listen to her Chalet School Legends talk.’

Nina was shocked. ‘Lucy! Whatever did you do that was naughty enough to deserve that?’

‘Well you know that Miss Wilson has always had a down on me since I exposed the exam scam,’ Lucy said. ‘She caught me day-dreaming in her geography class and so she sent me to the talk.’

‘Didn’t you complain to Miss Annersley?’

‘Yes, but it didn’t do any good. Miss A said that Bill would go into a rage if she was thwarted and would come up with a nastier punishment.’

‘There isn’t one,’ Nita said with feeling. ‘Even Miss Annersley only uses that for really bad misbehaviour.’

‘Never mind all that,’ Daphne said. ‘What are we going to do about this take-over?’

Three heads turned in Lucy’s direction.

‘I’ve no idea,’ Lucy said. ‘I’m going to sleep on it and see if anything occurs to me by the morning.’

After a surprisingly good sleep, Lucy woke early. Something seemed strange but at first she couldn’t work out what it was. Then she realised. The train wasn’t moving. It must be in a station, she thought, but which one. She pulled the curtain back a tiny bit but there was no station in sight – just miles of snow. They must be stuck!

She got up and washed and dressed quickly before setting off to find the guard. Thoughts of being cooped up in a train with stir-crazy Middles were horrific. She had to find out what was happening about getting to civilisation. There was no sign of any member of staff, but mercifully the Juniors and Middles were still sleeping.

Lucy decided to see if Miss Annersley was awake and knocked gently on the door of her compartment. She heard a sound which she took to be permission to enter and slid back the door, to be greeted with a truly horrific sight. She stepped back quickly and shut the door, running straight along the train and through to the next carriage.

Miss Marple was seated in her compartment, knitting when Lucy burst in.

‘Aunt Jane! There’s been a murr-der!’
Chapter 4 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
Who's going to win the battle to be Chief Investigator?
Miss Marple’s knitting didn’t miss a beat. ‘That was only to be expected dear, with Monsieur Poirot and myself on the train. Who is it?’

‘It’s that awful woman. Miss Bubb. She’s in Miss Annersley’s compartment.’ Lucy’s voice faltered. ‘I thought for a moment that it was Miss Annersley.’

Monsieur Poirot appeared at the door of the apartment. ‘Mademoiselle Lucy, what is the matter? Tell Poirot all about it.’ Lucy explained.

Lucy led the way back to the compartment, followed by the two detection experts. She declined to look in the compartment again and stood back whilst the others did so.

‘Mademoiselle Lucy, you did not tell us that Miss Annersley was in here also,’ Poirot said. ‘She is still, grey and to all appearances, dead.’

‘She always looks like that when she’s had a few G&Ts the night before,’ Lucy said. ‘I could see she was breathing and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wake her to get her out of there.’

Miss Annersley woke, confused by the invasion of her compartment. With the aplomb of a born headmistress, she listened to the explanation, averted her gaze from Miss Bubb and gathered the things she would need.

‘I must go and make myself presentable,’ she announced. ‘Then we will get to the root of this unfortunate business. Monsieur Poirot, would you be kind enough to inform the train conductor and Lucy, please stay here and prevent anyone entering.’

Before long, Miss Annersley returned, now looking every inch the headmistress and with her spectacles on. At the same time, Monsieur Poirot reappeared with the train conductor who was understandably upset at murder having taken place on his train.

‘Mon Dieu, what shall we do?’ he wailed. Then he thought. ‘There is a director of the train company on the train. I shall speak to him.’

Miss Marple and Monsieur Poirot took over guard duty whilst Lucy went to organise the Seniors and Middles. Miss Annersley went to find Madge to let her know that her proposed business partner had snuffed it.

It was with some satisfaction that she saw Madge pale.

‘I don’t know when you were planning to tell me that you were selling out to Miss Bubb,’ Miss Annersley said, at her most icy. ‘However that plan seems to have been thwarted by person or persons unknown.’ She left without waiting for any comment from Madge.

After breakfast, a meeting took place between Miss Marple, Monsieur Poirot, the train company director, Miss Annersley and Lucy. As a result, Miss Marple and Monsieur Poirot were given joint responsibility for the investigation.

‘That’ll be a disaster,’ Miss Annersley said to Lucy as they walked along the corridor to check if the Middles had wrecked their carriage yet. ‘Monsieur Poirot is used to being top dog.’

‘So is Aunt Jane,’ Lucy said, voicing the thought Miss Annersley had been too tactful to mention. ‘I sense trouble ahead.’

The only way to stop the Middles going completely over the top was to let them work off some energy. There was plenty of snow so they were told to wrap up warmly and go outside. There was some insurrection from the Middles but the Prefects thrust them bodily outside, sent the Seniors outside to look after them and locked the doors.

‘Good, we can have a sly cup of tea and a fag,’ Nita said, leading the way to the dining car. They had just got settled with cuppas and had lit up when Robin appeared. The girls hastily tried to conceal the cigarettes.

‘Don’t bother on my account,’ Robin said, producing a pack from her pocket. ‘Anyone got a light?’

‘I thought you were a nun,’ Nina Williams said, aghast.

Robin looked at her scornfully. ‘Don’t tell me you bought that story as well. Madge and Joey think I’m a nun. I work in a café in Nouvion.’

‘With those people you stayed with during the war?’ Daphne asked. ‘Joey said they were really common.’

‘Joey is a crashing snob,’ Robin said. ‘Just because the girls in the café were having affairs with Rene and entertaining the Germans, she thinks they were common. It was war time and people had to do what they had to do.’

‘Did you get to entertain the Germans?’ Lucy asked.

‘No,’ Robin said regretfully. ‘I tried, but Rene and Madame Edith were very strict. Still are. They seem to think I’m their adopted daughter and I’m only allowed out once a week and then only until ten o’clock.’

‘But you’re grown-up now, Robin!’ Nita said. ‘How can they insist you’re in by ten o’clock?’

‘French parents are like that, until you’re married,’ Robin said. ‘At least Rene and Madame Edith are. And I’m busy working in the café so I only get one night off a week.’

‘Any young men on the horizon?’ Nita asked.

‘One or two,’ Robin admitted.

‘How will you explain to Madge and Joey if you get married?’ Lucy asked. ‘It’s going to be difficult keeping up the story of the convent when you’ve got children!’

‘I’ll worry about that till when the time comes,’ Robin said. ‘So, who do you think killed Miss Bubb and scuppered the merger?’

Meanwhile Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot were interviewing potential witnesses and met in a spare compartment to compare notes.

‘The Mademoiselle Annersley must be suspected,’ Poirot announced. ‘She was in the compartment with the so-detestable Bubb. And she has a very strong motive.’

Miss Marple bristled. ‘It would be quite out of character. And, though I hate to admit it, Lucy is right when she says Miss Annersley is out-for-the-count when she has had a few G&Ts.’

‘And so what is your theory?’ Poirot asked.

‘It’s early to say,’ Miss Marple responded. ‘Though Mrs Russell has always rather reminded me of the vicar’s wife.’

‘And did the wife of the vicar murder someone?’ Poirot asked, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

‘Yes. The vicar,’ Miss Marple said sharply. ‘In any case, it is too soon to be suspecting people. We need to review all the information first.’

Before long, they had agreed that the Juniors, Middles and Seniors were ruled out because of the location of the compartments and the supervision arrangements which Lucy had put in place. However the prefects and all the adults were very much in contention as suspects. The discovery of the murder weapon – a large, blood-stained knife, beside the body, put an unfortunate spotlight on Miss Annersley.

‘It is as I tell you, Miss Marple,’ Poirot said gleefully. ‘The Miss Annersley has the best motive, access to the murder weapon and voila – she has to be in the frame!’
Chapter 5 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
Many apologies for the long gap but have been in sunny Portugal and then really busy since I got back!

Hope you enjoy the latest instalment - the rest will follow with a bit more regularity!
Miss Marple declined to respond to Poirot and picked up her knitting. Silence reigned in the compartment whilst Poirot set his “little grey cells” to work. Annoyingly, they kept coming up with alternatives to Miss Annersley, rather than providing additional evidence of her guilt.

‘Bah!’ he said. ‘Being cooped up here is not good for my leetle grey cells.’

Miss Marple knitted on placidly. ‘When we get to civilisation, the local police will take over the investigation,’ she pointed out. ‘So if you want to enhance your reputation as the famous detective, we’re better off being stuck here for longer.’

Poirot flounced out of the carriage without replying.

‘So like Percy Shufflebottom,’ Miss Marple sighed.

‘There’s someone in St Mary Mead like Monsieur Poirot?’ Lucy said, coming into the carriage.

‘Not entirely, Lucy dear,’ Miss Marple said. ‘But Percy is highly intelligent and he can’t bear criticism either.’

‘So who did it then, Aunt Jane?’

‘Don’t you mean “whodunit”? Isn’t that the phrase?’

Lucy gave her Aunt Jane a severe look. ‘Certainly not. I don’t have such words in my vocabulary.’

Miss Marple thought Lucy was becoming so much like dear Charlotte Worthington-Smith.

‘I heard that!’ Lucy said, though Miss Marple knew she had not spoken.

‘I really have no idea who was responsible,’ Miss Marple said. ‘Monsieur Poirot and I have interviewed everyone and I have categorised all of them into people in St Mary Mead and elsewhere but nothing occurs to me.’

‘That’s not good news,’ Lucy said. ‘What about Monsieur Poirot?’

‘He’s convinced it’s Miss Annersley.’

Lucy jumped to her feet. ‘I’m going to put him straight on that. She’s not capable of killing anyone, even someone who was going to get her job. And he’s not taking account of the G&T.’

But Monsieur Poirot, when Lucy put this to him, dismissed her reasoning.

‘I understand and admire your loyalty to your head mistress, Mademoiselle Lucy,’ he said. ‘However anyone is capable of killing when roused. And I have checked her G&T miniatures. Some of them are a very weak mixture. My leetle grey cells conclude therefore that she was faking!’

Lucy stamped out of the compartment to supervise lunch for the Seniors and Middles, then locked them out in the snow again.

‘That Monsieur Poirot is the most patronising person I’ve ever met,’ she told the other prefects and Robin over their ritual after-meal cuppa and fags.

‘More than Jem?’ Robin said.

‘I’d forgotten about him,’ Lucy said. ‘He’s been in prison most of the time I’ve been at school. No, I suppose he is less patronising than Dr Russell. But only just!’

‘What can we do to get Miss Annersley off?’ Nita said. ‘Poirot is so well known, the local police will believe what he says. Once they cart her off to jail we’ve got no chance.’

‘We need to get some evidence against someone else,’ Robin said. ‘It doesn’t have to be conclusive, just enough to show that Miss A isn’t the only suspect.’

There was a loud battering on the window. Nita opened it a tiny bit. ‘Prudence is really cold. So cold she’s fainted,’ Faith Black said.

Lucy stubbed out her cigarette and got up. ‘I’ll go,’ she said. ‘If I leave it to Matey she’ll let the whole rabble back in.’ She walked along the train to the sick compartment.

‘Matey, please could you open the door a crack and let the Seniors pass Prudence Black inside. Don’t let any of the others in.’

Matey went into turbo-mode, getting Prudence in, wrapping her in seven blankets and force-feeding her cocoa. Lucy left her to it and returned to the others.

‘I don’t think we can leave them out there until Kaffee und Kuchen,’ Nina Williams said. ‘It’s starting to snow again.’

‘Let’s finish our tea first and then we can let them in,’ Lucy said. ‘We need to decide how to look for evidence.’

They agreed between themselves whom they would each interview and then reluctantly opened the carriage doors to let the other girls in. Several of them were suffering badly from being out in the cold, so Lucy organised cocoa for everyone, before heading for Mrs Russell’s carriage to do her share of the interviews.

She was not met with a great deal of enthusiasm. ‘Why are you interviewing people?’ Joey asked. ‘Surely that’s the job of Monsieur Poirot and your precious Aunt Jane.’

‘My “precious Aunt Jane” as you describe her, Joey, is trying to save Miss Annersley from being wrongly arrested for the murder of Miss Bubb,’ Lucy said coldly. ‘I assume that meets with your approval?’

Joey muttered something inaudible.

‘Whilst Monsieur Poirot, whom you are so keen to have in charge, is convinced of her guilt,’ Lucy continued.

‘I wish you wouldn’t be so grammatical,’ Joey complained. ‘It’s very unnerving in a schoolgirl.’

Lucy ignored this and set about establishing where Joey and Mrs Russell had been during the previous evening and night. As they were each other’s alibi and Joey was a convicted criminal, Lucy wasn’t impressed.

None of the others had fared any better, as they discovered over Kaffee und Kuchen. There was only time for a brief discussion as Miss Annersley, now devoid of fresh supplies of G&T, had refused to allow Lucy to put the younger girls out into the snow again.

‘It’s nearly dark, Lucy,’ she said firmly. ‘And Prudence has hypothermia. We can’t afford any more cases.’

Lucy privately thought that Matey would be in her element with more people in the sick bay, but she was a well-mannered girl and did not argue with her headmistress.

‘What are we going to do to keep the little beasts entertained?’ Nita asked.

‘We’ll start a game of Sardines,’ Lucy said. ‘I’ve bribed Patience to hide in the furthest away carriage.’

‘Good thinking,’ Robin said, with admiration. ‘I always got fed up looking after the younger ones. It was a relief to be sent to work in the café in Guernsey.’

‘How did you manage to escape from Mrs Russell and Joey and live in France?’ Lucy asked.

‘When we escaped from Guernsey, I got into the wrong boat – accidentally-on-purpose,’ Robin explained. ‘I couldn’t face going back to helping Joey with the bloody triplets. Michelle from the Resistance got a message to Madge that I’d escaped and after the war I wrote and told them I’d joined a convent.’

Yells and scuffles told the prefects that the other girls had finished their Kaffee und Kuchen, and they got up hastily to get the game of Sardines under way.

It was only when Abendessen was served that anyone was missed.
Chapter 6 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
Nemesis (now G&T-free) catches up with the 6th formers.....
‘Where are the Middles and Seniors?’ Miss Annersley asked, as the Juniors, marshalled by Miss Denny, took their places quietly, waiting for the grace to be said.

The prefects looked at each other, horrified. Lucy got up. ‘I’ll go and find them, Miss Annersley,’ she offered.

‘Don’t bother, Lucy. I’ll go myself,’ Miss Annersley said, giving the prefects a look which boded ill.

She returned a couple of minutes later, followed by some very dishevelled girls, several of whom appeared to have been crying. Most of them were also shivering.

‘Go to your compartments very quickly girls and tidy up,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘Then come straight back here. The prefects will have hot drinks waiting for you.’

The Middles and Seniors disappeared quickly and Miss Annersley turned to the prefects.

‘I don’t know whose idea it was to lock them in the guard’s van,’ she said, coldly. ‘However all of you are responsible for the younger girls and should have noticed they were absent. I shall see you all in my compartment after Prayers and I will deal with you then.’

The younger girls reappeared and Abendessen was eaten in near-silence. The tension in the room could have been cut with a knife. Prayers followed, and then all the Middles and Seniors were despatched to bed.

‘We’d better go and get this over with,’ Daphne said. ‘We can reckon on double order marks at the very least. My parents will have a fit when they see my end-of-term report with those on it.’

But even worse was in store. ‘You have sadly failed in your duty,’ Miss Annersley said, finishing a full five-minute lecture. ‘I am very disappointed in all of you. You will each receive a double order mark and you will attend Joey’s “Chalet School Adventures in Austria” talk every Saturday until the end of term.’

Nita, Daphne and Nina escaped from the compartment, gasping in horror. ‘That’s unbelievable!’ Nina exclaimed as they went back to their own compartment. ‘How could she be so mean? No-one has ever been punished as badly as that before. She usually only uses Joey’s talks when solitary confinement has failed to bring someone into line. And only for one session!’

‘She’s run out of G&T and she’s taking it out on us,’ Daphne said. ‘I wish I’d never locked the little sods in. But all those tears of theirs and the shivering were just play-acting.’

‘You locked them in?’ Nina said. ‘It was me!’

‘What do you mean?’ Nita said. ‘I did it.’

They looked at each other and started to giggle.

‘We won’t be giggling a week on Saturday,’ Nina pointed out when they had recovered.

‘Do you remember when we were on Guernsey and the older girls said the Germans used to put cheese in their ears not to hear Robin’s adopted mamma singing?’ Nita said. ‘Maybe we should try that with Joey’s talk!’

That set them off giggling again and they were still laughing when Lucy rejoined them.

‘What are you laughing at?’ she asked, flopping down beside them. ‘I would have thought you would have been sunk in gloom!’

Daphne explained.

‘Well no problem, anyway,’ Lucy said. ‘Now she’s had her say and come down off her high horse, she’s rescinded the punishment.’

‘All of it?’


‘Order marks as well?’

They all spoke at once. Lucy held up her hand for silence.

‘I talked to her and she realises she reacted too angrily. She’s still very disappointed in us, especially me as I explained to her that I did it and forgot to let them out again. However she won’t give us order marks and we don’t have to go to Joey’s lectures.’

‘You did it?’ Daphne said, aghast. ‘We just discovered that we all had the same idea and we all went and locked the door.’

‘Only one of us can have locked it,’ Lucy said. ‘Are you sure you didn’t go back and unlock it in between?’

‘Of course we’re sure,’ Daphne said. ‘We all forgot about them – that’s why we were surprised at Abendessen. They went completely out of our mind while we were playing poker with the guard and the stewards.’

Lucy covered her ears. ‘I don’t want to hear what you were doing. Joey’s lectures for the rest of the academic year would be the least of it if Miss Annersley found that out. And why didn’t you call me?’

‘You were busy detecting,’ Nina explained. ‘We know you like detecting more than anything. But how on earth did you get the Abbess to relent?’

Lucy simply shook her head. She wasn’t about to tell them about her conversation with Miss Annersley. It had pained her to do it, as she was very fond of her headmistress, but she had pointed out what would happen if it became common knowledge that a very expensive boarding school relied completely on its prefects to baby-sit the younger girls whilst the mistresses drank G&T or fragrant, nectar-like coffee. Not to mention that Miss Annersley herself had spent most of the time since leaving Paris in a drunken stupor.

‘I’m troubled by the door of the guard’s van mysteriously unlocking itself,’ Lucy said. ‘I need to speak to Aunt Jane. Can you cover for me?’

‘You’ll get into fearful trouble if you’re caught,’ Nita said. ‘It’s not worth it.’

‘It is,’ Lucy insisted. ‘There’s something wrong about it.’

‘The girls will realise you’re not there,’ Daphne said. ‘Your voice is very distinctive.’

Lucy thought for a moment then went out, returning with Charity Black in tow.

‘Can you mimic me?’ Lucy asked.

Charity nodded. ‘There’s been a murr-der,’ she said.

‘I hope not,’ Lucy responded. ‘I need you to check on the girls with the others, but in my voice.’

‘What’s it worth?’ Charity wanted to know.

Lucy gave her a stern look. ‘Hobby Club. Lower IVb. Rest of term,’ she said, with meaning.

‘Ok,’ Charity replied.

‘And NO SLANG,’ Lucy said. ‘Or they’ll know straight away it’s not me.’

Charity slouched out, muttering.

Lucy started shedding her clothes hastily.

‘You surely aren’t going through the train in your – erm – U-N-D-E-R-W-E-A-R?’ Daphne said, spelling out the final, forbidden word.

Lucy shook her head.

‘Or your N-I-G-H-T-D-R-E-S-S!’ Nita gasped.

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ Lucy produced a guard’s uniform from under a cushion. ‘I borrowed this earlier in case I needed to go along the train.’ She put it on and tucked her hair under the cap.

Miss Marple and Poirot were arguing good-naturedly about their respective theories, and looked up in surprise when Lucy came into the compartment.

‘Mademoiselle Lucy!’ Poirot got to his feet. ‘How enchanting you look. This is so the Miss Annersley does not miss you, n’est-ce pas?’

‘Yes, Monsieur Poirot,’ Lucy said, taking off her cap and sitting down. ‘I’ve got something to tell you both, but I’m in Miss Annersley’s bad books so I couldn’t ask for permission to visit you.’

Miss Marple smiled. ‘Well it was a little naughty to lock the Seniors and Middles in the guard’s van, my dear.’

‘How did you know about that?’ Lucy asked, astonished.

‘One of the stewards told us when he brought supper,’ Miss Marple explained. ‘But tell us what has happened to cause you to break bounds, Lucy.’

Lucy told her tale. Miss Marple and Poirot looked grave.

‘Mais certainment, this is most serious,’ Poirot exclaimed.

‘I’m inclined to agree,’ Miss Marple said. ‘And it suggests that it’s not Miss Annersley who is the culprit.’

‘But it could be the double-bluff, Miss Marple.’

‘I don’t think so, Monsieur Poirot,’ Lucy said earnestly. ‘She was absolutely furious with us. I’m sure it wasn’t put on.’

Poirot smiled indulgently. ‘It is good that you are so loyal to your dear Head Mistress,’ he said, separating the title and sounding as though he gave it capital letters. ‘However, you are not the judge the most objective, Mademoiselle Lucy.’

Good manners prevented Lucy from telling Monsieur Poirot what she thought of being patronised.

Behind Poirot’s back, Miss Marple winked at Lucy.
Chapter 7 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
The following morning the train occupants woke to the sight of falling snow.

‘Fortunately there’s plenty of food and fuel on the train,’ Miss Annersley said to Miss Denny and Matey over breakfast in a private compartment. The prefects were overseeing the girls’ meal, as usual, as the staff never bothered with the girls out of lessons if they could help it.

‘At least we’ll be able to stay warm and well fed whilst we’re marooned here,’ Miss Denny commented. ‘It’s worrying being stuck on a train which must contain a murderer, though.’

‘Well, the Chalet School has always been a pretty dangerous place,’ Miss Annersley replied. ‘Avalanches, accidents, escaping from the Germans in Austria only to run into them in Guernsey. This is just one more event along the way.’

The door burst open and Madge burst in. Miss Annersley raised her eyebrows at such behaviour. She hadn’t got over Madge plotting to sell the school and do her out of her post of headmistress – and she was making sure Madge knew it.

‘Matey!’ Madge said. ‘We need you now! Joey went to the door for a minute without her coat, hat, boots, gloves and thermal U-N-D-E-R-W-E-A-R and now she’s got pneumonia!’

Matey charged through the train like a rhinoceros escaping a predatory lion, scattering orders as she went.

Miss Annersley and Miss Denny were left looking at each other. ‘Should we see if we can do anything to help?’ Miss Denny asked.

‘Matey hates anyone invading her territory,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘However there is something we need to do. The prefects can’t throw the younger girls outside because it’s snowing. I’ve put a stop to them locking them in the guard’s van. So I think we’d better organise some light-hearted quizzes and games for the girls before the prefects kill them.’

‘I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the prefects,’ Miss Denny admitted. ‘I heard them trying to deal with those bloody triplets of Joey’s. Like mother, like daughters, in my opinion.’

‘Locking the kids in the guard’s van wasn’t on though,’ Miss Annersley said, with a distinct lack of grammar (which would have had Lucy throwing her hands up in horror). ‘The little sods could have frozen to death and we’d have had parents suing us right, left and centre. However we should give the prefects a break and take care of them for a while.’

This idea met with much favour from the prefects, who settled down for their usual cuppa. Cigarette supplies were running low but Robin rescued the situation by producing a pack when she dropped in. She handed them round.

‘How’s Joey?’ Lucy asked politely.

‘Milking it, if you ask me,’ Robin told her. ‘Miss Annersley told her that if her bloody triplets caused any more trouble, Joey would have to look after them herself. So Joey made sure that couldn’t happen. She’s never had to look after them on her own. She always had me and Daisy or a nanny to take them off her hands. And she packed them off as boarders as soon as they turned five.’

Robin was more interested in the mystery of the self-unlocking door. ‘Have you found out who kept unlocking it?’ she asked.

‘We’ve narrowed the suspects down,’ Nita said. ‘We know it wasn’t the train staff because they were all playing poker with us. And it definitely wasn’t the Abbess as she’d have let the little horrors out earlier.’

‘Miss Denny was with the Juniors, so she’s out of it,’ Daphne added.

‘That only leaves Madge, Joey, Matey, Lucy and me,’ Robin said. ‘Unless it was someone from another part of the train.’

Nita shook her head. ‘It couldn’t have been,’ she said. ‘They would have had to pass the guard’s compartment and we had the door open. No-one came past the whole time we were there.’

‘But you must have gone in and out of the compartment,’ Robin pointed out. ‘You all locked the door at different times so you couldn’t have been there the whole time.’

‘That’s true,’ Daphne said. ‘We didn’t know at the time, but each of us decided to go and lock the door. So we made the excuse that we had to go to the L-A-V-A-T-O-R-Y.’

‘But Chalet Girls never go to the lavatory,’ Robin objected.

Lucy paled at the use of one of the words they were never allowed to voice. ‘Yes, but the train staff wouldn’t know that. It would seem like a reasonable excuse to them.’

‘So it could have been one of you who did the unlocking,’ Robin said.

The prefects looked at each other.

‘That is possible,’ Nina allowed. ‘But what would our motive be? We get stuck with babysitting the little beasts all the time. Why would we want to let them out?’

Robin had to concede that this was a fair point. She had been fortunate enough to leave the Chalet School when she was fifteen and go to work in René’s café. It had opened up a whole new world to her, but she remembered how much responsibility prefects had had when she had been a sprog herself.

‘There is one other person it could have been,’ Lucy said.

The others looked at her enquiringly.

‘Matron Webb. She’s in this part of the train and she’s not accounted for,’ Lucy said.

‘She wasn’t at breakfast this morning,’ Robin said.

‘She might have asked for it to be served in her compartment,’ Nita pointed out. ‘We wouldn’t eat with the brats if we didn’t have to.’

‘And I don’t see her unlocking the door,’ Robin said with feeling. ‘She’s more inclined to lock people in.’

‘Still she has to be in the frame for trying to let them out,’ Lucy said.

The steward came in to see if they wanted another pot of tea.

‘Have we got time before the brats get their break?’ Nina asked. ‘I don’t see Miss A and Miss D lasting beyond break time so it’ll be down to us to keep them amused after that.’

‘I won’t serve their milk and biscuits for another half-hour,’ the steward said, winking at Nina as he left.

‘You’d better watch yourself,’ Robin said. ‘If Miss A thinks you’re getting too friendly with the staff she’ll put you in solitary confinement.’

‘As long as she doesn’t send me to Joey’s lectures I can put up with anything,’ Nina said.

Robin passed round the cigarette packet again and they had just lit up when Madge appeared.

‘Don’t put the fags away on my account,’ Madge said. ‘Budge up, Robin.’

Robin poured Madge a cup of tea and offered her a cigarette, which Madge took. ‘I’m just having a break from the sick bay,’ she said. ‘Matron’s managed to get a primus stove and she’s rigged up a sort of steam tent for Joey. I can’t stay in there with all the steam.’

The girls made polite enquiries about Joey’s health which Madge answered tactfully. Lucy privately thought that Mrs Russell was about as convinced about Joey’s illness as Robin had been.

Madge had just finished her tea and cigarette when Matey came to get her and shortly afterwards, sounds from the next carriage indicated that the girls were on their break.

‘Oh well, back to the fray,’ Lucy said, getting up. ‘Miss A and Miss D will need us to take over.’

They went through to the carriage and supervised break time whilst Miss Annersley and Miss Denny had a well-earned cup of tea. After break, the prefects were just about to take over, when Miss Marple and Monsieur Poirot appeared in the carriage.

Poirot bowed to Miss Annersley. ‘We apologise for this intrusion, Mademoiselle Annersley. We urgently need to question all the prefects and the Head Girl.’

‘Now?’ Miss Annersley asked faintly.

‘Yes, immediately,’ Poirot said. ‘Please come with us, young ladies.’

The prefects looked at Miss Annersley, who nodded, then followed Poirot and Miss Marple along the train.

When they were all seated in the compartment being used for interviews, Monsieur Poirot explained.

‘Miss Marple and I have been considering why the door of the guard’s van was unlocked when you went to it. We have a theory and we need to question you about when you went there. And, young ladies - you owe me one, n’est-ce pas? I have saved you from looking after the leetle brats!’

Poirot was just about to start his questioning, when Miss Annersley appeared, untidy, breathless and without her spectacles.

‘There’s been a murr-derr!’ she exclaimed.
Chapter 8 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

‘Miss Webb, I assume?’ Miss Marple said.

‘Yes, how did you know?’ Miss Annersley gasped.

‘It’s nearly always the objectionable characters who are for the chop when I’m around,’ Miss Marple said serenely. ‘So Joey’s bloody triplets will need to watch out for themselves because they’re next in the nuisance stakes.’

Poirot brushed aside such trivialities as more potential deaths. He shooed the prefects, with the exception of Lucy, out into the corridor and turned back to Miss Annersley.

‘So, Mademoiselle Annersley, where did you find the Mademoiselle Webb?’

‘We opened up the guard’s van to let the girls play hide and seek,’ Miss Annersley explained, avoiding the prefects’ gaze. ‘Luckily Miss Denny and I went in first and found Matron Webb who was still, grey and to all appearances, dead.’

Mon Dieu, how terrible,’ Poirot exclaimed. ‘But you described it as a murr-derr, Mademoiselle. Was she not in fact dead?’

‘For once, the appearance was the real situation,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘When we turned her over, there was a bash on the back of her head and loads of blood.’

Lucy thought this wasn’t an appropriate time to remonstrate with her headmistress about slang. In any case, Miss Annersley was pale with shock and had sat down suddenly.

Miss Marple opened her handbag and produced a miniature of G&T which she handed to Miss Annersley, who downed it in one go.

‘It’s pretty weak,’ she protested. Lucy and Monsieur Poirot exchanged a glance. One mystery solved.

‘Was the door open or locked when you got to it?’ Miss Marple asked.

‘It was definitely locked,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘But the key was on the hook beside the door anyway.’

‘So much for security,’ Lucy murmured.

‘Did you lock it when you came out?’ Poirot asked.

‘Yes, and I put the key back on the hook,’ Miss Annersley said.

‘Bloody Hell,’ Lucy said, heading for the door. ‘It would be just like the Black quads to go in there for a look!’ She went out and could be heard marshalling the prefects.

‘We need to find out when Mademoiselle Webb was last seen,’ Poirot said. ‘My apologies if I am teaching my Granny to suck eggs, as you English say!’

Miss Marple’s look would have rivalled Miss Annersley. ‘I can assure you that I am nowhere near old enough to be your grandmother.’

By lunchtime, order had been restored. Lucy and the prefects had managed to keep the girls occupied in the carriage normally used for dining. They had been allowed to play Consequences with as much use of slang and comments about the mistresses (but not the prefects) as they wanted. This had kept the Seniors and Middles happily occupied whilst the Juniors played a more genteel game of I Spy.

Poirot and Miss Marple had established that Matron Webb had last been seen the previous evening, at Abendessen, though each of them was claiming the credit for this discovery. In fact the bickering several times reached a volume which caused Lucy to threaten them with being sent back to their own compartments.

Lunch passed peacefully enough and, as it had stopped snowing, the girls were shoved out into the snow again. Miss Annersley and Miss Denny went off to plan activities for the girls for when it got dark and they couldn’t be left out in the snow. Madge returned to the sick bay to sit with Joey but Robin stayed for her usual cuppa with the prefects.

‘Now then,’ Miss Marple said, producing a pack of cigarettes and passing it round. ‘I think we need to review the evidence.’
Chapter 9 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
‘I didn’t know you smoked, Aunt Jane,’ Lucy said.

‘I don’t dear, but I bribed one of the stewards to sell me a packet as I thought you girls would be running out of them. I find that thinking is much better when one feels relaxed.’ Miss Marple produced her knitting and started to ply her needles industriously.

‘Well we know that Matron Webb was last seen at Abendessen,’ Robin said. ‘But what we don’t know is if she spent the night in her compartment or if she had been in the guard’s van all night.’

‘The body temperature, without the benefit of a proper thermometer, seemed to suggest that she had not been lying there all night,’ Poirot announced. ‘Though it is not possible to be absolutely sure. But I would like to know what Miss Annersley was doing finding Mademoiselle Webb in the guard’s van. That is very suspicious.’

‘There’s a more important question, Monsieur Poirot,’ Miss Marple said firmly. ‘But I’m sure you know what that is.’

Lucy thought the point-scoring had gone far enough. ‘But we don’t, Aunt Jane. So please tell us.’

Miss Marple put down her knitting for a moment and looked at them over her spectacles. ‘Why was Miss Webb there? Was she looking for something or meeting someone?’

The girls pondered this. ‘An assignation doesn’t seem terribly likely,’ Robin said at last. ‘Matron Webb was not the type to inspire romance. And if she had business to discuss about the school take-over, she could have gone to see Madge openly.’

‘So that means she went to the guard’s van to find something,’ Lucy said. ‘But what?’

‘I would venture to suggest, Mademoiselle Lucy, that it was not something belonging to the Miss Webb herself,’ Poirot said. ‘If that were the case, she could have kept it with her.’

Miss Marple looked at Poirot approvingly. ‘Ah, I see where you are heading with this, Monsieur Poirot. You think that it must have been something belonging to her erstwhile business partner?’

Poirot was clearly annoyed at having his moment of glory cut short, but he answered civilly. ‘Indeed, Miss Marple.’ He turned to the girls. ‘And that may have solved another mystery, n’est-ce pas?’

Lucy got there first. ‘You mean that it was Matron Webb who kept unlocking the door yesterday afternoon?’

Poirot inclined his head in acknowledgement of her cleverness. ‘It would seem so, Mademoiselle Lucy. Who else would have wanted to unlock the door when it risked letting out the students?’

Everyone thought this was a fair point. ‘The mistresses hate having to look after the girls out of hours,’ Nita said. ‘It’s nearly always left to us. So they wouldn’t have let them out.’

‘Though Miss A was pretty cross with you lot,’ Robin pointed out.

Lucy shuddered at the grammar and slang but refrained from commenting on it. ‘That was only because she was worried the little beasts might have frozen to death,’ she said. ‘She wouldn’t actually have wanted to look after them.’

‘But how come we didn’t see her? Daphne asked.

Miss Marple gave Lucy a sympathetic glance before responding. ‘There’s a small compartment opposite the entrance to the guard’s van which can’t be seen by someone coming along the corridor. Miss Webb probably slipped in there every time she heard footsteps.’

‘So why did they end up locked in there?’ Nina asked.

Robin answered. ‘I should think Matron Webb kept unlocking the door hoping that the girls would come out. She wouldn’t have been able to look for something with them in there as well. So I imagine she just gave up in the end. She hates children so she wouldn’t want to let them out either if it didn’t suit her purpose.’

Nina had a thought. ‘Whatever it was Matron Webb was looking for must still be in there.’

Poirot agreed. ‘One would think so, Mademoiselle.’

‘So what are we waiting for?’ Daphne said.

Cups of tea were hastily finished and cigarettes stubbed out. ‘We’d better go before we have to bring the little horrors in,’ Lucy said.

A procession headed along the corridor and into the guard’s van. It was cold, not very clean and full of boxes. Just as the battering on the doors by the Middles and Seniors was becoming deafening, Poirot was heard to exclaim.

‘Ah! This is what Miss Webb was seeking, I have no doubt.’
Chapter 10 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Author's Notes:
Sorry for long delay! The story continues.....

‘What is it, Monsieur Poirot?’ Robin asked.

Poirot assumed a superior expression which was the last straw for Miss Marple. She pushed past him and looked at the trunk at his feet.

‘Miss Bubb’s attaché case, in her trunk,’ she said, ignoring Poirot’s look of fury at his thunder being stolen.

‘Why would she keep it in her trunk, instead of with her?’ Lucy wondered.

‘Well, Lucy dear….’ Miss Marple began. She was interrupted by Poirot.

‘You are becoming such a fine detective, Mademoiselle Lucy,’ he said. ‘I am sure you can work it out.’ He turned to Miss Marple and made a small bow. ‘I think we should talk to the train director before we make our ideas public.’

Miss Marple inclined her head graciously, though Lucy could tell by the set of her lips that she was not amused at being outmanoeuvred by an undersized Belgian upstart.

‘Can’t you tell us whodunit, Monsieur Poirot?’ Robin asked. ‘Please?’

Poirot shook his head. ‘Miss Marple and I need to do a proper denouement with everyone there,’ he said.

‘I don’t think it’s suitable for the children to hear,’ Miss Marple pointed out.

‘No, that is true, Mademoiselle,’ Poirot allowed. ‘And it will be too late to put the little beasts out into the snow again.’ He turned to the girls.

‘Young ladies, you must attend to your duties with the enfants,’ he said. ‘Miss Marple and I will speak to the officials and we will all meet in the Salon after dinner, when the Juniors and the naughty Middles are in bed.’

He stood back for Miss Marple to precede him and they disappeared along the train, with the attaché case.

‘That’s really mean,’ Nita said. ‘He knows perfectly well whodunit and he’s not saying.’

Lucy shuddered. ‘Nita! If it wasn’t that I’m so worried about Poirot accusing Miss Annersley, I’d tell you to report yourself for using slang.’

Nita made a face but Lucy had turned away and didn’t see it.

‘Let the brats in and keep them occupied,’ Lucy said to Daphne. ‘I need to speak to Miss Annersley.’

Miss Annersley didn’t seem too alert and Lucy wondered how she’d got hold of more gin.

‘Your compartment is the nearest to the guard’s van of all the compartments,’ Lucy said. ‘Did you hear anything during the night?’

‘Only some of the Middles having a midnight feast in the dining car,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘I sent them back to bed.’

‘Didn’t you give them a lecture? Did they get order marks?’ Lucy asked. ‘Are they going to Joey’s talks for the rest of term?’

‘No, of course not!’ Miss Annersley said. ‘They’re only children. It was quite different from the prefects behaving badly. I thought it was pretty damned smart of them to offer me a share of the feast in exchange for no punishment.’

Lucy was outraged but kept her comments to herself. She had a fair idea what the brats had used as a bargaining counter, and it came in a green bottle.

‘I must find out what’s in the attaché case,’ Lucy muttered to herself as she left Miss Annersley’s compartment and headed along the corridor. ‘But how do I get Aunt Jane and Monsieur Poirot out of the way?’ A thought struck her and she doubled back, making sure no-one was watching.

At the door of the sick bay compartment, Lucy was relieved to find that Matey was absent. Joey was lying back, reading. She looked the picture of health.

How egotistical is that, reading one of your own books? Lucy asked herself, reflecting that Joey should never have been allowed to continue her writing in prison.

‘Right, Joey, I need your help,’ Lucy said.

Joey saw Lucy and immediately flopped back on her pillows. ‘I’m too ill,’ she said, in a pathetic voice.

‘No you’re not,’ Lucy told her. ‘And I’ll prove it to Matron and stop you skiving off from looking after your children.’

Joey went pale. ‘Lucy! You used slang! You never use slang!’

‘These are desperate times,’ Lucy told Joey, dragging her out of bed. ‘Now put on your bed jacket, dressing gown, bed socks, slippers and nightcap and come with me. I need you to faint.’

‘I think I’m going to do that anyway,’ Joey said faintly.

‘Not here,’ Lucy told her. ‘You’ve got to faint near Poirot’s compartment.’ She started bundling Joey into the necessary garments, without which no Chalet Girl could leave sick bay, and dragged her along the corridor.

‘Now faint,’ Lucy instructed, when they were near the sitting compartment which housed Poirot and Miss Marple. Lucy slipped past the compartment window, leaving Joey on the other side.

‘I can’t faint to order,’ Joey protested.

‘I don’t see why. You’ve done it plenty of times before.’ Lucy thought for a moment. ‘You’re going to have to look after the bloody triplets tomorrow.’

There was a satisfying thump as Joey slid to the floor.

Lucy ducked into the next, empty compartment, as Poirot came rushing out to help Joey. Whilst his back was to her, Lucy slipped into Poirot's compartment.

Miss Marple smiled at her. ‘I wondered how you were going to get in to see what’s in the case, whilst he was out of the way. Well done.’ She thrust her hand into the case and brought out some papers. ‘Look, Lucy – that’s what Miss Webb’s death was all about.’
Chapter 11 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

‘Oh,’ Lucy said, wishing for once that she didn’t have such a Puritanical attitude towards slang. ‘Miss Webb would definitely not have wanted anyone to find this one. But why didn’t the person who murr-derred her take it away?’

‘Yes, that is a puzzle, dear. Though I do have a theory…..’ Miss Marple stopped suddenly. ‘I can hear them taking Joey back to sick bay. I’d know that foghorn voice of Matey’s anywhere. You’d better scram. Mr P will be back imminently.’

Lucy took a moment to give Aunt Jane a disapproving look, then slipped out of the compartment and into the one next door. Not a moment too soon, as she heard Poirot enter his compartment and speak to Miss Marple.

Eh bien, Mademoiselle, you must admit that this only confirms the guilt of the Mademoiselle Annersley.’

‘I wouldn’t be getting the guillotine out any time soon, Monsieur Poirot,’ Lucy heard her aunt say, in a waspish tone she didn’t normally employ.

‘So how do you explain Miss Webb’s death and Miss Annersley being the only person in the right place at the right time?’ Lucy could almost see the flourish of the moustache.

‘I don’t understand, Monsieur Poirot,’ Miss Marple answered. ‘What makes you think Miss Annersley was there at the appropriate time?’

Lucy could hear Poirot pacing up and down the small compartment and dearly would have loved to slap him.

‘Because, Mademoiselle, the so-naughty Middlings told me of the midnight feast. They left the dining carriage before their head teacher so enfin she was the last person around.’

Lucy didn’t wait to hear any more. Heedless of being seen passing the compartment, she stamped off down the train and burst into the dining carriage, where the girls were being looked after by the other prefects.

‘I want the Middles out here now,’ Lucy roared, striding through the carriage and out towards the guard’s van on the other side.

Shocked faces turned towards her. Lucy had never been heard to speak like that in all her years at the Chalet School.

‘Better go, girls,’ Nina told them. ‘She means business.’

Lucy pointed to the guard’s van and the girls went sullenly. She shut the door and leaned against it.

‘What on earth were you thinking about, telling Monsieur Poirot about the midnight feast and Miss Annersley. How could you be such traitorous little beasts? Don’t you realise he’s trying to pin the murder on Miss Annersley. How is it going to look when you’re at a school whose headmistress has been executed for murder?’

Heads drooped and Lucy pressed on.

‘Miss Annersley let you off any punishment and this is the way you repay her? I’m ashamed of you. And you needn’t think you’re going to get away with the midnight feast. I’m Head Girl here and I’m overturning your agreement with Miss Annersley.’

By the time Lucy had finished, eight very shaken young girls, most in tears, filed out of the guard’s van and back to the dining carriage.

Nina, Daphne and Nita looked at the snivelling children in astonishment. ‘Whatever happened?’ Daphne asked, passing her handkerchief to Prudence Black, who was crying uncontrollably.

‘Lucy has set the punishment for the midnight feast,’ Patience explained. ‘Letters home to our parents won’t affect us, as Daddy is dead and Mummy is in a secure mental hospital. But we’ve all got two double order marks so we’ll miss the cinema trip at school and the end-of-term party and we have to look after Joey’s bloody triplets the whole time we’re in Austria!’

‘Get Matey,’ Daphne said crisply to Nina. ‘Lucy’s taken leave of her senses. She needs a dose of something.’

‘But Lucy hates Matey,’ Nina objected.

‘Can’t be helped,’ Daphne said. ‘We’ve got to get her calmed down before she does any more damage. Now hurry, I’ve got my hands full here with these kids. And tell Matey to break out her secret stash of chocolate biscuits for the Middles!’

A few moments later, Matey raced through the dining car and into the guard’s van. Raised voices could be heard but no-one emerged. Suddenly silence fell.

‘Do you think Lucy has killed Matey?’ Patience asked.

‘She will if she get half a chance,’ Nina muttered, only audible to Daphne. In a louder voice she added. ‘Let’s get these chocolate biscuits and some cocoa distributed.’

Matey staggered out of the guard’s van, just as Robin came in the other end of the carriage. ‘I can’t do anything with her,’ Matey said, sounding injured. ‘She’s the only girl who’s never responded to my brisk-kindness-which-covers-a-heart-of-gold and real understanding of young people.’

Robin raised an eyebrow. Daphne explained what had been going on.

‘I’ll drag her out here for a coffee and a fag,’ Robin said, heading to the other end of the carriage. She emerged a couple of minutes later with Lucy in tow.

The Middles hastily finished their cocoa, grabbed their coats and threw themselves out of the door and into the snow.
Chapter 12 by Dizzy Miss Lizzie

‘So what’s going on, Lucy?’ Robin asked, offering a cigarette. ‘I know you’re devoted to Miss Annersley but weren’t you a bit hard on the brats?’

Lucy took a puff of her cigarette and smiled gratefully at Nina, who had put some fragrant, nectar-like tea in front of her.

‘I was so cross with them for falling into Monsieur Poirot’s trap like that,’ she explained. ‘He’s been determined from the start that Miss Annersley is the culprit.’

‘It doesn’t follow that the Austrian police will agree with him,’ Robin said.

‘Don’t you read the newspapers in Nouvion?’ Lucy asked. ‘Everyone thinks Poirot is infallible. If he tells the Austrian police it was Miss Annersley, then they’ll clap her in irons before you can say ‘Joey Maynard’. He’s been right a couple of times when the police got it wrong and now they’re all scared of looking stupid if they don’t listen to him.’

‘So what’s the answer?’ Robin laid her cigarette on the ashtray and looked at Lucy earnestly. ‘Do you think you can convince him?’

Lucy shook her head. ‘He won’t listen. I’ll have to provide positive proof of how it was done. I need to speak to the Middles again.’

Nina intervened. ‘Not a chance. They’re out in the snow getting hypothermia because they won’t be in the same room as you, even with all of us here.’

‘What about if I act as an intermediary?’ Robin suggested.

‘It might work,’ Nina conceded. ‘They thought you were a nun till they saw you smoking. They’re pretty impressed.’

‘What do you need me to ask them?’ Robin asked Lucy.

Lucy explained and Robin nodded.

‘You’d better make yourself scarce now,’ Robin said. ‘They won’t come back in while you’re here and if Matey locks them all in sick bay we’ll never find anything out.’

Lucy put out her cigarette and made her way back to the prefects’ compartment. She felt like a pariah but she was honest enough to admit it was her own doing. There was a message for her to see Miss Annersley.

As soon as she entered her headmistress’s compartment, she knew she was in trouble.

‘I want to hear what has been going on,’ Miss Annersley said, pointing Lucy to a seat opposite her. She kept a grave composure whilst Lucy told the tale and her soft grey eyes, which now frequently required spectacles, never left Lucy’s face.

‘Lucy, I appreciate your loyalty but this must not cause you to act in a manner unbefitting a Chalet School Head Girl. I am very disappointed in you. Taking out your anger on younger children is quite wrong. I cannot imagine what your dear father would say.’

‘Shall you tell him?’

Miss Annersley looked at Lucy sternly. ‘Provided that this remains an isolated incident, I shall refrain from informing him. But you must be on your best behaviour from now on.’

The other prefects were in the compartment when Lucy returned. ‘What did the Abbess say?’ Nita asked. Lucy told them.

‘Well at least she isn’t telling your father,’ Daphne said. ‘And so I should think after all you’ve done for the school, and particularly for her.’

‘Who’s got the brats?’ Lucy asked.

‘Miss Denny has got the Seniors helping her with the little ones,’ Nina explained. ‘And the Middles are still with Rob.’

‘Good,’ Lucy said. ‘I found some more papers in the guard’s van and I need to study them properly. I could do without having to deal with the girls.’

‘She sounds just like one of the mistresses,’ Nita said to Daphne as they left the compartment to give Lucy some peace. ‘If she doesn’t marry a doctor she’ll probably come back and teach.’

Dinner passed quietly, after which the Juniors and Middles were sent to bed. The Seniors were also despatched, protesting, though they were told they could read for half-an-hour. Lucy had spent the whole meal talking to Robin and the other prefects were consumed with curiosity.

Monsieur Poirot waited until everyone else was gathered in the Salon, so that he could make an “entrance”. He was surprised to see that Lucy was on her feet, addressing the company, who were already settled with cups of tea. He bustled in, expecting to take over the floor but he was shushed and hastily waved to a seat.

‘It all begins,’ Lucy was saying, her Scottish accent a little more pronounced that usual, ‘when Miss Bubb and Miss Webb encountered difficulties in maintaining the numbers in their school.’

‘Not surprising,’ Matron interjected, bridling. ‘So much emphasis on teaching and exam results instead of letting the girls have a healthy outdoor life. Provided that they wear coats, hats, boots, gloves, scarfs and thick stockings of course.’

Lucy ignored her. ‘They hit upon the idea of merging with another school. Most of them were not interested but due to the –er, chequered – recent history of the Chalet School, Mrs Russell was willing to consider it.’

Madge broke in, defensively. ‘We were having difficult times too. It was the only way to secure the school’s future.’

‘Quite,’ said Lucy. ‘And the perilous financial state of the Chalet School made it imperative that the deal took place.’

Everyone was staring at Lucy in astonishment, except Madge who was looking at her with horror.

‘How do you know, Lucy?’ Miss Denny asked.

‘Amongst Miss Bubb’s papers were some Chalet School accounts. The school is not as profitable as it should be, based on the number of girls attending.’

‘You can read accounts?’ Madge asked, incredulous.

‘Of course,’ Lucy answered. ‘I do all Daddy’s parish accounts. Churches are big business.’

‘We’ve never had a girl who could understand accounts before,’ Madge said faintly. ‘Normally girls like that would go to a commercial college.’

Lucy bit back a retort and continued. ‘Mrs Russell had avoided telling Miss Annersley and the other staff about the merger, as she couldn’t afford for anyone to jeopardize it.’

‘Why would someone want to jeopardize the merger if it saved the school?’ Nina asked.

Lucy looked straight at Madge as she answered. ‘Because Miss Annersley, and possibly some of the other senior staff would lose their jobs.’

A gasp went round the room. The only ones unaffected were Miss Marple, who continued knitting placidly and Poirot, who was still cross about being upstaged.

‘From the beginning, Monsieur Poirot was determined that the culprit was Miss Annersley, as she had the most compelling motive,’ Lucy went on. ‘However, motive is not everything.’

‘There is also opportunity, Mademoiselle Lucy,’ Poirot said, bouncing to his feet.

Lucy quelled him with a look learned from her headmistress. ‘Indeed so, Monsieur Poirot,’ she responded. ‘And Miss Annersley played right into your hands by having the opportunity, both for Miss Bubb’s murder and Miss Webb’s death. Though you wouldn’t have known that if those wee sleekit, cow’ring, treach’rous beasties hadn’t told you.’

‘Lucy, my dear,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘Please do not misquote your national Bard in such a fashion. Remember that you are the moral standard for language in this school.’

‘Sorry, Miss Annersley,’ Lucy said. ‘To resume the story, Miss Bubb evidently decided not to go ahead with the merger, as she had not signed the contract, though Mrs Russell had.’

‘How do you know that?’ Robin asked.

‘I’m coming to that part of the story,’ Lucy said.

‘And traditionally Chalet Girls call my sister 'Madame',’ Joey said.

‘I never have,’ Lucy said flatly. She continued. ‘The merger not going ahead would have been a disaster for Miss Webb and I believe she murdered Miss Bubb and tried to frame Miss Annersley.’

‘And what evidence have you?’ Poirot asked, his voice dripping sarcasm.

Lucy wasn’t perturbed. ‘Firstly, there is the fact that Miss Bubb hadn’t signed the contract, though Mrs Russell had.’

‘Miss Bubb did suggest she might still back out,’ Madge admitted.

Lucy threw a triumphant look at Poirot. ‘Then there is the fact that she was in Miss Annersley’s apartment. They hated each other, so she would never have gone there willingly. And finally, although there was a great deal of blood in the compartment, there would have been more if she had been killed there.’

‘Very true, dear,’ Miss Marple said. ‘Monsieur Poirot must have known that, but conveniently overlooked it in his determination to pin the crime on Miss Annersley.’

‘And where was the killing then?’ Poirot asked, rallying.

‘I don’t know,’ Lucy said. ‘But if she had any sense she’d have got Miss Bubb outside on some pretext and then covered the scene of the crime with snow.’

Poirot didn’t seem entirely convinced, but Lucy pressed on.

‘Miss Webb knew that she had to find the contract. It wasn’t in Miss Bubb’s apartment and Miss Webb went looking for it amongst Miss Bubb’s possessions in the guard’s van.’

‘And why was it so important for Miss Webb to find the contract?’ Poirot cut in. ‘It was because….’ He stopped and yelped in pain as Miss Marple had stuck a knitting needle into him, unseen by anyone except Lucy.

‘Interrupt her once more and you’re toast,’ Miss Marple hissed as he collapsed on to the chair beside her.

‘Is something wrong, Monsieur Poirot?’ Lucy asked. ‘Would you like some help from Matron?’

Poirot shuddered. ‘No thank you, Mademoiselle. I am well.’

‘Miss Webb needed to find the contract to try to forge the signature, so that the deal would still go through, despite Miss Bubb’s demise.’

‘Wouldn’t all Miss Bubb’s assets have been frozen?’ Joey asked.

‘They would, but Miss Webb was the beneficiary in Miss Bubb’s will. So, although it would have taken time to sort out the estate, the school would have been allowed to continue operating and, with the merger deal secured, Miss Webb could have borrowed to keep it going.’

‘So how do you know it wasn’t Miss Annersley whodunit?’ Joey asked.

‘When Robin questioned the Middles, they admitted that they had seen Miss Webb go into the guard’s van before Miss Annersley caught them. They had heard all the Chalet School legends, as they were all regular attenders at Joey’s talks.’

Joey preened, but everyone else in the room, including Poirot, knew exactly why the Middles were always at the talks.

‘They knew that Miss Webb wasn’t a nice person, so they locked her in as a prank. Unfortunately, Miss Annersley left with them and locked the dining car so they couldn’t go back and resume their feast.’

Lucy saw Poirot’s mouth open and spoke before he could. ‘And before you point out that it gives Miss Annersley the opportunity, Monsieur Poirot, I should tell you that she took the key straight to the night steward.’

‘How do you know she did not slip back and bash the head of the Miss Webb with the bottle she was carrying?’ Poirot asked, edging away from Miss Marple's chair.

Lucy said, with exaggerated patience. ‘Because she was still carrying the bottle when she saw the night steward and she’d never have wasted a bottle of gin by bashing Miss Webb with it.’

The only gasp this time came from Miss Annersley, but this was ignored.

‘How did Miss Webb die then?’ Robin asked.

‘I think she slipped while she was looking for the attaché case,’ Lucy said. ‘When we were searching the guard’s van, I noticed that there were lots of boxes with sharp corners. I’m pretty sure we will find blood on one of them. And the temperature in the guard’s van won’t have helped.’

Mon Dieu,’ Poirot exclaimed. ‘So it was the naughty Middlings, in a group.’

‘What shall we do?’ Miss Annersley asked.

‘Nothing,’ Miss Marple said. ‘They are only children and must never know. We shall tell the Austrian police that Miss Bubb was murdered by Miss Webb, who then had an accident whilst searching for Miss Bubb’s papers. That is the truth after all.’ She looked around the assembled adults. ‘More tea?’
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