A Comedian Dies

A Comedian Dies by Simon Brett

Book: A Comedian Dies by Simon Brett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Simon Brett
there at the moment, I think I might cherchez the family instead for a bit.’
    â€˜Whose family?’
    â€˜Peaky’s family. I think I’ll get in touch with his widow.’

    COMIC: Do you know, I’m going to marry a widow?
    FEED: Are you? Ooh, I wouldn’t fancy being the second husband of a widow.
    COMIC: I’d sooner be the second than the first.
    Charles rang the phone number Walter Proud had given him the next morning. He asked to speak to Mrs. Peaky and was told he was speaking to Mrs. Pratt, who was Bill Peaky’s widow. He should have realized that Peaky was too good a name for a comedian to be genuine.
    He had decided that when he spoke to her, he would not attempt any subterfuge. Since she had not been in Hunstanton at the time, she could not possibly have been implicated in her husband’s death and she was likely to be interested to hear of any suspicious circumstances.
    She spoke slowly, treading her accent with caution like a tight-rope walker, all right at her own pace, but at speed in danger of falling into the Cockney below. ‘What’s it about?’
    â€˜You don’t know me, Mrs. Pratt, and I hope you don’t mind my calling you. My name’s Charles Paris. I was present in Hunstanton when your husband died.’
    â€˜I’m sorry. I don’t want to upset you, but I’ve since heard things that make me wonder whether his death was in fact an accident.’
    â€˜Whether it was . . . What, you mean that someone might have . . . that he might have been murdered?’
    â€˜I believe it’s possible.’
    There was a long pause from the other end of the phone. When it came back, her voice was strained, less at pains to hide its origins. ‘Do you have any suspicions as to who might have murdered him?’
    â€˜Suspicions, vague thoughts, nothing concrete. I wanted to talk to you about it.’
    â€˜Me? But I –’
    â€˜I’m sorry. Please don’t misunderstand me. Of course I’m not wishing to imply any suspicion of you. I just wanted to talk to you about your husband, ask if you know of anyone with a sufficiently strong grudge against him to . . . I’m sorry, I thought you would be interested.’
    â€˜Yes, of course I am. It’s just a bit of a shock. I mean, it never occurred to me that . . . You’re convinced that it was murder?’
    â€˜Fairly convinced, yes.’
    â€˜As I say, it’s a shock.’
    â€˜Of course. Can we meet?’
    â€˜I think we should.’
    â€˜Just say where and when.’
    â€˜Do you mind coming out here? I’m sorry, it’s difficult to park the children at short notice. Can you come today?’
    Charles’ professional calendar was as empty as usual. ‘Certainly. Tell me how to get to you.’
    There was no evidence of the children when he arrived at the house. Presumably Carla Pratt had managed to park them at short notice after all.
    The house was in Chigwell, a nice area for an East End boy like Bill Peaky to aspire to when he started to make a bit of money. No doubt all the neighbours were company directors, professional footballers and minor racketeers. The building was a bungalow that seemed to have sprawled out of control, with a double garage and hacienda-style arch-ways that had been added to take the curse off its thirties redbrick lines. The frontage was all wrought iron, black wrought iron gates relieving black wrought iron railings.
    This motif was continued inside the sitting room where black wrought iron supported glass shelves, plant pots, light fittings, marble-topped tables and a series of photographs of Bill Peaky’s triumphs. The curled black metal gave the room a coldness, a newness, as if the decor were for show, not for living in.
    Carla Pratt was also dressed in black, but she had a higher cuddlability rating than the wrought iron. Her curves were less machined and warmer.

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