course he was killed,â I said abruptly. âSorry. But there was no other possible explanation, was there?â
âYou donât mean you know who might have done it?â
âGood God, no. I meant that he could hardly have got in there accidentally. And if thereâs one thing I know about Marcus, itâs that he was not the suicidal type. Thatâs ruled out both by temperament and by religion. Someone killed himâbut as to who had motivesÂ .Â .Â . Of course, thereâs been all this unpleasantness recently about the appointment of Father Battersby, but I find it difficultÂ .Â .Â . After all, itâs all so trivial , isnât it?â
Harold McPhail smiled.
âI can imagine you would think so. Youâre not really a wholehearted churchwoman, are you, Helen?â
âIâm an agnostic, converted by marriage rather than reason,â I admitted. âStill, even if I were passionately involved, I canât see myself getting that het up about one kind of vicar rather than another. I mean, youâd have to be a pretty funny kind of Christian to murder for your point of view, wouldnât you?â
âOther things get involved,â said McPhail.
I sat there thinking about that for a while, toying with a piece of lettuce.
âTrue,â I said at last. âOther things like vanity, hurts to your senseof your own importance. Thatâs the only way I can make sense of thisâas the result of wounded vanity. Some nasty little worm of conceit that couldnât bear to be defeated and humiliatedÂ .Â .Â . But I still think that Father Battersby would have been a more likely victim.â
âI was only at the fÃªte briefly,â said McPhail, âbut I wouldnât have thought that Father Battersby was a very get-at-able victim, from what I saw.â
âNo,â I admitted. âHe certainly wasnât.â
âWhat the police are going to want to know,â said McPhail, looking at me thoughtfully, âis where everyone was.â
âI know. Iâve been trying to think of that myself. What sort of time is it theyâre interested in?â
âFrom about three onwards. Until the time heââ
âWas seen floating. Yes. I understand. The trouble is that itâs all so chaotic in my mind. The fÃªte was beginning to wind down then. I think Mary was still around at about three, but I canât be sure. Thyrza I hadnât seen for quite a bitÂ .Â .Â . Mr Horsforth was conspicuous by his absence most of the day. Whereas Franchita was conspicuous by her presence. She was lady of the fÃªte, and was here, there and everywhere most of the time. I canât believe it could be her, because I think we would have noticed if she had let up for the time it would takeÂ .Â .Â . Timothy and Fiona were swanning it around in their non-stop Bolero, and I kept seeing Timothy with Father Battersby, but I noticed them most during the morningÂ .Â .Â . Mrs Nielson sold out and went homeÂ .Â .Â . The Mipchins were in and out, but the Westons were mostly with the outside games, so I donât know about themÂ .Â .Â . Itâs all so difficult.â
âWhen I said that the police would want to know where everyone was,â said Harold McPhail carefully, âI really meant that you should try to remember where you were.â
I looked up at him, and suddenly I flushed bright red as a spurt of anger flashed through me.
âOh, my God! I see what youâre getting at! You mean that the police will see me as the prime suspect! Christ! I only need that!â
As I marched to the mantelpiece to get another cigarette, Harold McPhail said:
âI didnât say you would be the prime suspect. But obviously youwill be among those that they have to consider. You donât stand outside the investigation just because you know you didnât do it.â
Craig Spector, John Skipper