MURDER AT DUNGAREES, PART NINE: Items Lost and Found

Dramatis Personae

The Household

  • Lord Benjamin Petty . . . master of Dungarees Castle
  • Lady Henrietta “Hetty” Petty . . . his wife, a former movie star
  • Worth . . . the butler
  • Mrs. Jolley . . . the cook
  • Peter Moss . . . the gardener
  • Gladys . . . the housemaid

The Guests

  • Countess Sophronia Lancaster . . . eldest daughter of the castle’s former owner
  • Diogenes Pratt . . . local pharmacist and Petty’s nephew
  • Lucinda Leaharian . . . buxom owner of the local bookstore
  • J.K. Diebehnkorn . . . American film director
  • Greta Frink . . . Diebehnkorn’s secretary
  • Rodney Lawrence Plum . . . literature professor at West Chiswick School for Boys
  • Zuzana Materska . . . the Countess’ maid
  • Mick . . . Moss’ friend

The Police

  • Inspector Oakleigh . . . of Scotland Yard
  • Sergeant Albert Corn
  • Dr. Chandler . . . local medico

Dungarees Castle, Wednesday, 28 March, 8:00pm

Worth guides Inspector Oakleigh, his Sergeant, and the Professor upstairs to the servants’ quarters and unlocks Gladys’ bedroom door. The four men crowd into the small, sparse chamber and look around them. Oakleigh opens the wardrobe door.

“There’s not much here,” he says, “but I imagine this constitutes the belongings of a typical young chambermaid.”

Corn examines the various items atop the dresser and makes a quick check of the contents of each drawer. “If she scarpered, it doesn’t look like she took anything with her.”

“And if she didn’t scarper – ?” Their eyes meet, and then Oakleigh turns to the butler. “When exactly did you last see the girl?”

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Worth doesn’t hesitate. “At a quarter after eleven, Gladys entered the kitchen and informed me that His Lordship wanted a cocktail. I went to the bar in the drawing room and mixed him his drink, and then I gave it to Gladys to deliver to His Lordship.” Worth gives a little cough. “I believe I have mentioned we are seriously understaffed here. Normally, of course, I would have delivered His Lordship’s drink, but I felt it important to attend to the kitchen so that it would be ready for Mrs. Jolley in the morning should she manage to make it up the hill in this weather.”

“And you saw neither Lord Petty nor the maid at any time after this?”

Worth shakes his head. “I finished the dishes and went to bed around midnight.”

“Your bedroom is . . . “

“Straight down the hall.”

“Did you hear Gladys come to her room?”

Worth gives a regretful shrug. “I’m afraid I fell asleep right away. She may have already gone to bed herself. I don’t remember noticing a light under her door.”

Oakleigh closes the wardrobe door and looks around the room, at the bare white coverlet spread smoothly on the narrow bed and the worn pair of slippers half-kicked under the bed. He shrugs.

“She might have slept here, got up early, and left the house.”

“It would have to be quite early, sir,” says Worth. “I arose at 5:30. I have to get up early as long as we are understaffed. Gladys is supposed to tend to the kitchen fire at 6am, but she never appeared.”

Corn says, “Do you think she ran away last night?”

“Stands to reason,” Oakleigh answers. “According to you, Professor, something had upset her when she delivered His Lordship’s drink.”

Plum stands at the tiny window, where only a patch of sky signals the approach of dusk. “It must have been something horrible to inspire her to run off into the stormy night!”

“I do not believe she left!”

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A new voice causes them to turn toward the door. An imposing middle-aged woman with flashing dark eyes set in a bony face gives them a grim-faced stare from the doorway.

Worth says, “Gentlemen, this is Zuzana, the Countess’ personal maid.”

“Ah, yes.” Oakleigh offers his most disarming smile. “We wanted to have a word with you.”

The woman inclines her head slowly. “So my mistress has informed me.”

Worth says, “If you have no further need of me, I need to attend to the guests downstairs.”

“Of course. Thank you, Worth.” The butler bows and exits the room, sliding past Zuzana who pays him no notice but stares intensely at the Inspector. Sergeant Corn reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out his notebook.

Oakleigh says, “Can you give us your full name?”

“Zuzana Agata Materska.”

“And you hail from . . . ?”

Her face sets in a grim line. “You would call it Republic of Czechoslovakia.” She turns her head to the side and spits drily in disgust. Oakleigh’s brows rise.

“I’m surprised. I heard things were better for you people since the fall of the royal family.”

“My father worked for the royal family.” Her eyes burn. “Always we were loyal to the Habsburgs. My parents paid for that with their lives.”

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“I see.” Oakleigh exchanges a quick glance with the Professor. “And you managed to escape.”

Zuzana snorts impatiently. “I am here, am I not? Now, do you have questions for me about this house? I can tell you very little about the high and mighty folk who live here. Always I attend to my mistress, who is a true lady, not like that – coura, that trollop who presides over this castle.” She spits again.

“Are you talking about Lady Petty?”

“Ha! I tell you she is no lady. I have  . . . oh, how do you say it?” She shuts her eyes tightly and thinks. “In my country we have a word: důkaz. You present in court – oh!“

“Do you mean evidence?”

“Ah, yes, evidence.”

“Alright. We’ll get to that in a minute. Tell me where you were last evening.”

“But I already tell you: I attend to my mistress. When she is downstairs, I wait in her room. I arrange her things. I press them. I read from Bible.”

“You were in the countess’ room  all evening?”

“Tchaa! At some point, I go to kitchen. I see butler. I fix something to eat.”

“You cooked for yourself?”

“I have no interest in this English food. I brought spices from home with me and make for myself a simple meal.”

“What time was this?”

She shrugs. “I take no notice. The lights were out. I used a candle from my room. It was dark. The others – they eat in the parlor, on the floor – like gypsies.” Her smile is painted with derision.

“And then?”

“And then I return to my lady’s chamber and wait for when she will need me to prepare her for sleep. I hear them all come up the stairs at the same time. They say good night to each other. Then I put my lady to bed and come up here to my room.”

Oakleigh folds his arms regards her sternly for a moment. “Now, I am given to understand from your mistress that you have been in this very room before.”

Zuzana regards him coolly. “Certainly I have. I come in here to get back the property that the little zlodez stole from my lady. A priceless jewel it was, and the impudent girl took it from before my eyes.”

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“And you found this jewel in the room?” The woman nods. “Can you show me where you found it?”

Zuzana’s eyes roam carefully across the floor. “I did not see the spot, you understand. I felt it – with my foot.” She shuffles across the floor, comes to a stop, and points a long finger straight downward. “Here.” She stoops and fumbles with a floorboard, pulling up a plank to reveal a small recess.

“Ah!’ Oakleigh nods appreciatively. “Very clever of you. And what did you do next?”

“I search through this hiding place and find my lady’s property, as well as other items of value.”

“And what did you do with these things?”

“I show them to my lady. I return to her the property that was stolen.”

“And the other things?” Zuzana draws herself up stiffly and stares hard at the wall past Oakleigh’s shoulder. “Miss Materska, are these other items in your possession?” After a pause, she nods briefly. “Will you show them to us?”

“They are in my room.”

“Very well. Let’s go take a look.” With a strange expression of reluctance, the maid turns her back on him and heads slowly toward the door.

The Professor coughs. “I have one question.” Zuzana turns and regards him. “When you left this room, did you return things to their original order?” She stares at him quizzically. “I mean – after you pulled these things out of the floor, did you put the board back the way it had been?”

Zuzana nods in understanding. “I put it back even better. The board, it had been – oh, how you say? It stuck up. That’s how I found it. I put it back so it would not stick up.”

Plum smiles. “I see. Thank you, Zuzana.” She bows her head almost regally then turns and makes her way out the door. The three men follow her to another door at the end of the hall. She removes a key from her pocket and unlocks the door. She enters the room momentarily and returns with her hands full of items. She places them in Oakleigh’s outstretched hand.

“Thank you.” He inspects the jewelry in his possession and shows it to the Sergeant, who writes down a quick inventory. “It appears our Gladys was a busy girl.” He looks over the items again. “Zuzana, you say you also found evidence that – how did you put it? – that Lady Petty was no lady?”

“I did.”

“And was that proof part of this collection?”

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“I found it under the floor with the bracelet and the other things. It was a book, a diary that the woman kept. It contained such awful words. I blush when I think of them.”

“May I see the diary?”

Zuzana sniffs. “I left it in my lady’s room. I showed it to her, and she said we must return it to Lady Petty. I say we should show it to her husband and let him see the kind of woman he was married to.”

“The Countess did not agree to this?”

“She has a gentler nature than I.” Perhaps she returned the diary, perhaps not. You will have to ask her.”

“Thank you, we will. That’s all for now, Zuzana. You have been most helpful.”

“But – “ She hesitates when all three men look at her. “I was told that the maid – that Gladys had disappeared.”

“Yes, she seems to have vanished in the night.”

“I do not think she vanished. I think she is hiding from you.”

“Hiding?”

“Yes. Clearly she is a thief. Maybe she is a murderer as well.”

“That is certainly a possibility. We have ruled out no possible suspects as yet.” Oakleigh looks at her meaningfully, but she does not flinch. “But what makes you think she is hiding in the house?”

“Because I heard her.”

Sergeant Corn erupts, “Heard her?”

Oakleigh asks, “Where did you hear her?”

“Right here.” Zuzana indicates the door facing her own. “Last night, she simply moved from her own room into this one. It has been empty since my arrival, but last night I heard her moving around and . . . erm . . . talking.”

“Talking? Was there someone else in the room?”

“This I do not know. I only hear one voice but I cannot make out what it says.” She looks from one man to the other. “Perhaps she talks to herself. Perhaps she is praying.” In a slow deep voice, she intones, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Oakleigh reaches out and shakes the doorknob. “Locked.” He turns to Corn and opens his mouth, then shuts it. To Zuzana he says, “May I borrow your key?”

Zuzana hands him the key. He tries the door, and it opens. He enters the room. It is simply furnished in the same manner as Gladys’ room. The wardrobe stands open and empty. The dresser is bare. He opens each drawer and finds nothing but a large spider that, disturbed by the movement, scuttles across the wood surface.

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The bed is unmade; however, a thin blanket lies piled atop the mattress. Nestled in its folds, Oakleigh finds a few scraps of dried bread. He leaves everything as it was, returns to the door, closes and locks it behind him.

Handing Zuzana the key, he says, “Thank you again. You have been most helpful.”

“What did I tell you? Now you can find her.”

“We will certainly try. Good night.” He leaves the servants hall, with Corn and Plum following. The Professor turns around before he reaches the stairs and meets Zuzana’s stare. There is a measure of defiance in her eyes. But Plum thinks he can also see another emotion at play – fear.

*     *     *     *     *

As they make their way down the stairs, Corn scratches his head.

“Do you think she’s right, sir? Was the maid hiding in a room down the hall from her own? And why would she do that?”

“Someone was hiding there, but I don’t think it was Gladys. I think either our girl did a bunk last night or someone removed her.”

Corn freezes. “Good grief. Another murder?”

Plum murmurs, “It is a great possibility, Sergeant. She might have seen something last night that put her in danger. Certainly, she was behaving oddly when I came across her outside the study.”

“Did she see the murderer?” Corn wonders. Oakleigh shrugs his shoulders.

“We can’t know anything until we find her. It’s time to get back to the village, Corn, and leave the Professor to his dinner. Perhaps on our way out, we can find the gardener and learn more about those damned rabbits.”

As they come to the head of the stairs, the three men are arrested by the sounds of loud voices from below. The two policemen look at Professor Plum, who grimaces.

“The lady of the house. She does not sound pleased. I believe the voices are coming from the dining room.”

They hurry down the stairs and cross the hallway quickly until they are standing in the archway of the dining room. The guests are seated with their heads bowed or turned away in embarrassment as Hetty, standing at the head of the table, delivers an angry tirade laced with obscenities. Her fury is directed toward one guest in particular – Miss Leaharian, who sits facing her hostess, her eyes shining, her cheeks burning red.

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“- as soon as possible, do you hear me?” Lady Petty’s voice is an ugly screech. “This farce over arranging the library – do you think it fooled me? Or anyone for that matter? Well, you’ve had your fun, you disgusting little slut. You pack your bags and get out. I’m going to burn those old books as soon as I can, along with the memory of you and my husband – “

Oakleigh steps forward.

“I’m afraid no one can leave just yet, Lady Petty. Not until I give my approval.”

Hetty whips her head around to glare at the policeman. Her face is streaked with tears, causing her carefully applied make-up to smear down her cheeks.

“I can’t look at her, do you hear me? Tell her to get out. Get out, get out, get out!” Her voice rises to an hysterical pitch, and she bursts into sobs as Diebehnkorn rises from his chair and takes her in his arms, murmuring words of comfort to her. Plum looks about the room. The butler stands at attention by the sideboard, his only sign of discomfort a regular twitch of his jaw. Diogenes grabs his wine glass and drains it, then reaches for a bottle beside him. The Countess stares in open horror at her hostess, then turns toward Lucy and catches her eye. Together, they rise. Sophronia crosses to Lucy, puts her arm around the other woman’s shoulder and leads her gently out of the room. She and Plum nod at each other as the women pass.

He turns back and regards Greta Frink who, seemingly oblivious of the drama around her, cuts her meat and chews her meal with pleasure. Plum catches her eye, and she smiles at him. To his astonishment, he realizes that she has been thoroughly enjoying the tension in the room.

The director sits Hetty down and plies her with a glass of amber liquid, which she drinks thirstily. Oakleigh gives a small bow and retreats, followed by Corn.

“May I fix you a plate, Professor?” the butler asks. Plum draws himself reluctantly from Miss Frink’s placid gaze, shakes his head and mutters his thanks, then withdraws to follow the policemen into the library.

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Lucy and Sophronia are seated together on a sofa. Oakleigh has drawn an armchair in front of them, while the Sergeant sits off to the side, his notebook in front of him, his pen poised to take notes. With unaccustomed boldness, Plum seats himself in a chair next to the Inspector.

“Are you alright, Lucy?” he asks.

“I’m fine,” Lucy says, her voice stronger than he would expect. “But I want to go home. Inspector, when can I return to the village?”

“I had planned on interviewing you in the morning. However, if you can answer some questions, I see no reason why we cannot allow you to go home tonight.”

Lucy sinks against the Countess in relief. “I’ll answer any questions you like, so long as I can get out of this cursed place.”

Oakleigh pauses for a moment, then resumes his questioning. “Given what we’ve just heard, I need to ask you, Miss Leaharian, about the nature of your relationship with Lord Petty.”

Lucy stifles a harsh laugh. “And here I thought we were both being so discreet.”

“So you and His Lordship were . . . ?” Oakleigh’s voice trails off.

Lucy regards him with dry amusement before she responds. “. . . We were.”

“Oh, Lucy!” The Countess squeezes her friend tightly. “But – why?”

“It just . . . happened. Believe me, it was not my intention. I came up here for the books.” She looks around the room with great fondness, and, to the Professor, something more: a sense of ownership. “Inspector, you may know that I own and run the bookshop in the village. It has been my livelihood and my passion for years.”

“And how did you manage to get this job?”

Lucy leans back on the sofa. “It was Diogenes. We’ve known each other since we were children. One day, he brought his uncle into my shop and introduced us. Ben – Lord Petty had recently bought the castle and was intent at establishing himself as a respectable lord of the realm. And a good lord has a library, doesn’t he?” She laughs openly. “He didn’t even read! But he had recently amassed quite a collection of books, many of them included in the sale of the house. And he needed someone to merge the old and the new so that he could show off his grand library to friends and acquaintances.”

“He offered you this job.”

“He did. Oh, I could tell that he was offering more. The way he looked at me – “ Lucy smiles ruefully. “But I figured I could handle him. I wanted to get my hands on all the books. And so he invited me to stay for the duration of this project. I hired a friend to run the story, and I moved into the castle.” Her smile fades. “And then . . .  things changed. I think Benjamin was lonely. Married to that awful woman. It was not the marriage he had thought it would be. And sometimes . . . “ She bows her head for a moment, then raises it and looks straight at Oakleigh. “Sometimes I got lonely, too.”

A silence descends on the little group, and then Oakleigh clears his throat and says, “Believe me, I’m not here to judge you, Miss Leaharian. In fact, I would like to change the subject for a moment, if you don’t mind.”

Lucy sighs, “Please do!”

“The Countess filled me in this afternoon on a sequence of incidents involving the pair of you and the gardener, Moss. I wonder if I could get your take on what happened.”

Grateful to talk about other matters, Lucy delivers an account that gibes with the one Sophronia gave earlier. She describes coming upon the gardener in the barn and then remaining with him while the Countess fetched help from the house.

“And then he took off so quickly, I simply couldn’t follow him.”

“But you believe he was searching for the man who he thought responsible for the rabbits?”

She nods. “He muttered something about catching a killer and ran out the door. I assume, from what Sophronia and Rodney told me earlier, that he caught the man – at least, momentarily.”

“So you did not see this man yourself?”

“No. I returned to my job here and did not leave the library for the rest of the afternoon.”

Oakleigh signals to Sergeant Corn that the interview is over. “Thank you, ladies. Miss Leaharian, if you like, my Sergeant and I can drive you back to the village.”

Lucy lets out a deep breath. “Thank you, Inspector. But you know what? I’m so tired. And I need to pack my things. I think, if it’s alright with you, I will hide out in my room, get my things sorted out, and leave in the morning.”

“I think that’s wise, Lucy,” says the Countess. They both rise and walk together to the door. Lucy stops, turns, and gazes longingly around the room.

“Don’t let her burn them, Inspector. Every volume is worth ten of her.” And then, escorted by the Countess, Lucy exits the room.

*     *     *     *     *

“She’s quite a woman!” Sergeant Corn opines, in frank admiration.

Oakleigh, his Sergeant and the Professor stand together on the gravel drive outside the front of the castle. Oakleigh smiles, enjoying the mild night air.

“Careful, Sergeant, you’re a happily married man.”

“I don’t mean that, sir – at least, I do, but . . . oh!”

“Miss Leaharian is woman who knows what she wants, and she’s a beauty to boot. That’s what you were going to say, eh, Sergeant.”

Corn expels a breath. “Exactly, sir.”

Professor Plum’s head is raised, and he notes with pleasure the many stars dotting the sky.

“She is quite an intelligent woman, Inspector,” he murmurs.

“Of that I have no doubt,” says Oakleigh. “You’ve grown close over the past few days?”

“We have.” Plum gazes at the sky in silence for a moment. “That is why I’m going to make a suggestion to you.”

Oakleigh regards him with interest. “Go ahead.”

“You may want to check her luggage before she leaves in the morning.” He lowers his head and shakes it with a sigh. “Most intelligent woman.”

Oakleigh opens his mouth, then shuts it and slowly nods. “We’ll do that, sir. Well, I guess we’ll take our leave of you for the evening.” He extends his hand and the two men shake. “If you can just show us the way to the barn, I’d be most obliged.”

Plum smiles. “I’ll walk you down the path and leave you there.”  He suits his action to the word and bids the Yard men goodnight at the door to the barn. Oakleigh and Corn enter and come to a stop when they spot Moss sitting crosslegged before a pen containing a fine litter of young dogs, who scamper and bark joyfully before him. One pup has its head nestled in the gardener’s lap, squirming with pleasure as Moss runs his hand through its glossy coat.

 

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The Sergeant prepares to step forward, but Oakleigh holds him back. They watch man in communion with the animal world until Moss gently lifts the puppy from his lap, stands and returns it to the pen. As he gently drops the dog to the ground, he says, “I know you’re there.”

“And I know it’s late, Mr. Moss,” says Oakleigh gently. “But as long as we’re here, there seem to be multiple deaths to investigate.”

He stares at them. His eyes are filmy, a combination of many drinks and many tears. He half stumbles past them, muttering, “They were only rabbits.” He grabs an old pail by the door, half-filled with grain of some kind, then turns around and finds himself face to face with Sergeant Corn. “’Scuse me,” he mutters. “Forgot to feed the chickens this morning.,” and he shuffles past them and stands before a chicken coop, tossing handfuls of feed into the pen. The chickens, observing the hour of day and nestled comfortably in their beds asleep, do not take the bait.

“Can you show us where the animals were kept?”

Without looking at them, Moss sets the pail down and ambles to the far side of the barn. They follow him until all three are standing before the wall of hutches, now forlornly empty, their doors wide open.

“Your men came and got the rabbits this afternoon.” Moss pulls a filthy handkerchief from his pocket and blows his nose. “I haven’t had a chance to clean them out yet.”

“That’s just as well,” Oakleigh says, and he raises a hand to pat the gardener’s slumped shoulder. “We wanted to take a moment to examine them further before you do give them a cleaning.” The sergeant steps forward and begins a minute examination of the topmost row of hutches. “I hate to make you go through this again, Moss, but I would like to hear your account of what happened.”

“What happened?” Moss stuffs the handkerchief back in his pocket and wipes his nose on his sleeve. Oakleigh senses the rise in emotion as the man speaks. “What happened was that I gave a madman my hospitality, and he repaid me with this.” He flings his hand before the wall and chokes back a sob.

“And you’re sure that this man – this Mick fellow – was responsible?”

Moss rubs his stubbled jaw. “Who else could have done it?”

“How long have you known him?”

“Not long. I met him down in the village, in the pub. He was drinkin’ alone, and so was I. I thought it would be more friendly-like to drink together.”

“How did he end up at your place? It’s quite a trek all the way up the hill.”

“I had my bike, and I rode him on the handlebars. He looked bigger than he was – that shaggy mane of his. And his clothes didn’t fit him. The man was naught more than skin ‘n bones.”

“So you brought him back to your home.”

“We closed the pub down,” Moss explains, with a rheumy grin. “And we hadn’t done drinking yet.” Wearily, he slides his body down until he is sitting on the floor, leaning his back against the barn wall. “We drank half a bottle I stole from the house.” He puts his finger to his lips. “Don’t tell Worth! He guards his gin like a turnkey!” Moss laughs, and Oakleigh wonders if he has spent the evening finishing off the stolen gin. Mindful of his back, he slowly brings his knee down until he is kneeling before the gardener.

“Moss.” He watches the man turn his focus to him. “Why do you think Mick killed your rabbits?”

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Moss shakes his head and says nothing for a moment, then finally mutters, “The man must be mad. Tain’t no rhyme or reason for it.”

Oakleigh nods. “I have just one more question for you. Do you know how the rabbits were killed?”

The gardener stops shaking his head, squints hard and gives the Inspector a puzzled look. “How?”

“Yes. You examined the animals and saw that they were dead. Did you notice the cause of death?”

“I – “ He strokes his jaw. “I never – “ He struggles to rise from the floor. Oakleigh stands up and helps him to his feet. Moss walks to the hutches and peers into the dark empty shelters. “I guess – I assumed he wrung their necks.”

Oakleigh watches him carefully. “We took the animals to have them analyzed for cause. We saw no evidence of violence having been perpetrated on them. We are working on the assumption that they were poisoned.”

There is the sound of a gasp, coming not from Moss but from Sergeant Corn, kneeling before the bottom row of cages. He looks up, his faces shadowed in half darkness. “Sorry, sir.”

Moss says, “Poisoned?” He seems genuinely surprised. “But – but that makes no sense. I didn’t know Mick well, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of fellow to – Oh, how do I explain it?” He rubs his head vigorously to clear it. “He seemed like such an impulsive creature, and poison – well, that seems more calculated, if you see what I mean.”

“I do, Mr. Moss.” The Inspector watches his Sergeant rise and walk past him toward the barn’s entrance and out the door. “This is why I asked how certain you are that Mick was responsible.”

With growing wonder, Moss says, “I’m baffled, and that’s a fact.”

Oakleigh holds out his hand, and Moss gives it a tentative shake. “We won’t trouble you any further tonight. I promise you that as soon as we have some answers, we’ll tell you. Now, can I walk you to your room?”

Moss stumbles back a step. “Thank you, sir. I’m goin’ to stay here for a bit. With the dogs.”

Oakleigh smiles and gives Moss another pat on the shoulder, then makes his way out of the barn. Sergeant Corn stands in the middle of the courtyard, an expectant smile on his face.

“I assume from your outburst of girlish glee that  you found something in there,” Oakleigh says with amusement.

“You could say so, sir.” From his coat pocket he brings out a balled-up handkerchief and unwraps it.

“I can’t quite make out what you’re showing me.”

“It’s lettuce, sir. I found a bit of it in each of the cages.”

“Good lord, man! Lettuce in a rabbit’s cage?”

“Don’t tease me, sir. Rabbits eat lettuce, I know that.” He pauses, and waits expectantly.

Oakleigh says, “Are you striving for dramatic effect, Corn?”

“Oh, there’ll be dramatic effect, sir, you mark my words. I have a good nose, wouldn’t you say?”

“It’s quite aquiline, I’ll give you that.”

Corn turns around and begins to walk away. “If you’re going to tease me – “

“Alright, Sergeant, get on with it. What did your fine nose detect?”

Corn stops in his tracks, then returns to face his superior. “Anchovies.”

Oakleigh gives a surprised grunt. “Anchovies?”

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“Yessir. Now you tell me how many rabbit owners stop to pour dressing on their rabbits’ lettuce?”

A moment of silence passes between the two men. Finally, Oakleigh says, “You’re right, Corn. Nobody does that. We’ll need to have this lettuce analyzed.”

“That was my thought, sir.”

“It’s good work – but I wouldn’t call this news a dramatic triumph.”

Corn’s eyes gleam in the faint moonlight.

“I was saving the best for last. I found this in that last cage I searched in the bottom row.” He hands a sheaf of papers to Oakleigh. The Inspector peers at them in the darkness.

“What are these?”

I may be wrong, sir, I’ll grant you that . . . but I don’t think so. I believe these are the missing submarine plans.”

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As always, I appreciate your patience with my slow progress. I figure there are four or five more chapters to go, so we should have this wrapped up by the end of July. Whether that’s July of this year or next is anybody’s guess! See you soon.

9 thoughts on “MURDER AT DUNGAREES, PART NINE: Items Lost and Found

    1. Well, a funny thing happened: this was intended at the start to be pure parody, but almost immediately I unfortunately started to get ideas, so it veered into pastiche territory. And now it’s . . . just a mystery. At any rate, I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and while I can’t lay claim to many original ideas, if you see something on an abstract level going on here – I’ll take it! 🙂

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    1. Hello, there, Mx! I’m okay – I’ve just been dealing with a lot of stuff, including a very unexpected decision to retire from teaching. I also realized that, in the time since my last installment, I’ve forgotten things. So please give me a little time, and then I will get down to concluding this whatever-it-is! 🙂

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