‘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.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Sorry for long delay! The story continues.....