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Author's Chapter 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.

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