Miss Annersley left as planned, after church, to attend a conference in London the following day. Lucy saw the taxi drive away and resolved to be on the lookout. She felt it was a case of “now the cat’s away…..”, though she hesitated to think of Miss Annersley in such terms as she respected the quiet authority exuded by the headmistress.
On the walk back from church, Lucy had kept her eyes open for anything unusual, but there was nothing to be seen. She began to think that she must be missing something or Miss Marple was wrong about the laundry list. No, the latter was unthinkable. She needed to look harder.
At lunch, Miss Wilson asked Lucy if she would like to go and visit her aunt instead of participating in the afternoon walk. Lucy’s suspicions were aroused immediately. She couldn’t be the only girl in the school who wasn’t in on whatever they were up to but her being in the San for a couple of days and seeing Peggy emerging from there and giving the flimsiest of excuses must have spooked them a bit.
‘That’s very kind of you, Miss Wilson,’ Lucy said politely. ‘But Aunt Jane sometimes has a rest in the afternoon as she is becoming quite frail.’ Lucy sent up a prayer for forgiveness for such blatant falsehoods made worse, she knew, by looking perfectly innocent and sincere. She hoped Daddy didn’t have a line to God who might sneak on her about her dreadful behaviour.
‘Perhaps your aunt would like you to sit with her while she rests,’ Miss Wilson persisted.
Lucy gave the appearance of thinking about this. ‘Aunt Jane lives with her Cousin Maud,’ she explained. ‘Cousin Maud tends to fuss and would be rushing around making tea for me and I’m afraid it might be disturbing for my aunt.’
Miss Wilson didn’t pursue the matter and Lucy went off to get ready for the walk.
They had afternoon tea at their normal time and whilst the clearing up was going on, Peggy Bettany went over to speak to Gay Lambert. It could have been perfectly innocent but Lucy was instantly on the alert. She picked up some dishes and drifted over to where they were standing.
‘…..in the outhouses,’ was all Lucy heard before Peggy realised she was there and shut up abruptly.
Lucy wondered how she could get out to see what was in the outhouses. There was no way she could absent herself without being missed. What would Aunt Jane do? Use her brain of course, Lucy told herself.
Whatever was in the outhouses would still be there tomorrow, Lucy reasoned. Except in the most inclement weather, the girls went outside at break times and if she started a game of hide and seek, she could check the outhouses.
As luck would have it, they were given a longer break time than usual, the mistresses announcing that they had to hold a meeting. Lucy was pretty sure they were just skiving whilst Miss Annersley was away. She suggested a game of hide and seek with the younger ones to keep them out of mischief and several of her class agreed it would be a good idea.
‘You can see the kids are spoiling for a fight,’ Nita Eltringham said. ‘It would be a good thing to get them doing something energetic before they start squabbling.’
Lucy allowed several turns to go by before she headed for the outhouses. She slipped into the first one and to her disappointment it was empty. She emerged cautiously, remembering that she was supposed to be involved in a game and slipped into the second one.
It took a few minutes for her eyes to become accustomed to the gloom and then her gaze landed on a sarcophagus. Lucy peeped out of the door. No-one was in sight. With difficulty she lifted the lid and jumped back, emitting an involuntary scream.
Author's Chapter Notes:
It's the 7th of October and Lucy is on the alert.