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CHAPTER 8

‘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.’



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