|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!’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Who's going to win the battle to be Chief Investigator?