16. Jun, 2021

'Mystery at Bishop's Mitre'

Clovis Biggs had a rich American mother.  There was no wealth left now, but Clovis had excellent teeth due to her attitude to dentistry.  In comparison with the crammed mouths of others, his flashing white smiles cut a dash on the dancefloor.  Clovis needed to meet money thanks to his improvident English father but tended to fall for people he liked.  So far, the two had not coincided.

Clovis was winging it at present as a fellow house guest with his new best friend, Wiggins.  Clovis was rather better at acquiring new best friends than rich fiancées.  Gentlemen’s clubs, billiard rooms and so on, were a good haunt to cosy up to the semi-sloshed who, before they knew it, were bosom buddies with,

“Hello, there!  It’s yours truly!  Clovis Biggs!  Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten?”

It was a hearty greeting which rarely failed.  By now Wiggins was half convinced they had met even before Clovis had claimed they did.  Clovis’s sunny aspect, widely innocent and perfectly pegged smile, together with his casual manner breezing in and out of places as a mostly welcome guest, had opened many doors for him.  He was disarming, too, never claiming to be what he wasn’t, but carried a certain cosmopolitan air with his American credentials.

“Crude oil!” he would laugh, “that’s where Grandpa made his money.  Not even refined oil.  Of course, the well’s long since run dry and mother’s money with it but she gave my old man a good run with it before he blew it all on the stock market.  You win some, you lose some, huh?  But hey, he was following the dream and what’s life for, if it isn’t to follow some kind of  dream?”

Here, Clovis would open his arms expansively to conclude the story, which he had told around the dinner table last night to as much sympathetic approval and laughter as it usually received.  Anyone checking up on his background (and that did happen) would find no fault with his account.

He was staying with Wiggins for a week long house party at Bishop’s Mitre, the home of family friends of Wiggins.  A Victorian oddity, it had never had any ecclesiastical purpose, the shape of the clock tower dome having given it the name, or so Wiggins had told him on their arrival.   Clovis was presently idling about beneath this item in cricket flannels with a cigarette, waiting for someone to tell him it was time.  There was some match on, house to local yokel, an excuse for a bit of a gala day, it being Summer.  Clovis was a secret demon bowler, but he knew to make calculated success look like an accidental fluke.  He was more about holding on to his welcome guest status than seeking sporting acclaim.  In fact, sport, being an effort if it were not a sporadic occupation, bored him.  Application was not Clovis’s forte while, in his view, keeping people entertained was.  Of that, he felt he did a pretty good job.

Mooching outside through the French windows next, where she was tastefully framed by wafting wisteria, came Dahlia.  She had squashed cherry lips and freckle dusted arms which were athletic from all her violin playing which Clovis, like all the guests, had had to listen to after dinner.  All very well, Mozart, but what was wrong with putting on the gramophone for a few lively tunes, Clovis would like to know?  She was all right, Dahlia, although he’d be blowed if he could tolerate all that practising at close quarters.  It was bad enough for a few days here with it pervading the place from the music room!

“Dahlia, good morning!  You’re looking as lovely as the day in that yellow dress,” he greeted her.

Actually, it wasn’t her colour in his view, but it never did to say so.

“Oh, Clovis, I didn’t see you there!” she responded, peering fretfully across the daisy sprung lawn towards the small, formal garden beyond it.  Clovis was a handsome man who knew perfectly well that she had seen him just fine but was probably shy.

“Lost your glasses, sugar?” he asked kindly as she squinted out over the view.

Clovis affected Americanisms of choice.

“I was sure they were on the music stand, but I can’t find them now,” she answered.  “Have you seen Izzie anywhere?”

This was her sister, curvaceously more Belle Époque in figure than Dahlia was and, if his own eyes didn’t deceive him, rather spoony with Wiggins right now in the formal garden and probably not desirous of interruption.

“Has anyone ever told you what pretty eyes you have?” asked Clovis as a standard matter of courtesy and to delay her.

Dahlia looked pleased but didn’t react.  What harm to compliment, Clovis always thought?  It made people happy.

“Mother’s always telling me I shouldn’t wear glasses because it will make my eyes worse.  But what’s the point if I can’t see?”

“There is that,” agreed Clovis.

“Oh, there she is!” exclaimed Dahlia.

She left him and went on out across the garden to where Izzy and Wiggins’s figures appeared by now to be separated, so hopefully she would not ruin their moment.  Clovis went on with his cigarette and having finished it, took out and admired the silver cigarette case that Addie, another guest of recent introduction, had given him last night.  She was an attractive and stylish woman and there was some money.  The trouble with war widows, though, was that they came with children.  Clovis didn’t mind them but he didn’t want to get too entangled.  He wanted a comfortable berth for himself, which wasn’t too much to ask for, surely?  Right on cue, out came one of Addie’s two infants.  Olivia was an eager kind of child.

“Clovis!  Come and see my dragon!” she demanded, catching him by the hand and towing him down.

“I say, steady old girl,” he advised.  “I’ve got cricket in a mo.”

Ignoring this, Olivia pulled him over to the garden’s wilder part, of which there was quite a lot these days, gardeners being short on the staff.

“Look!” she declaimed.

Under a silver birch the small dragon lay curled up on a pile of leaves, apparently sleeping.  It bore a remarkable resemblance to Olivia’s younger brother, with some cut out paper wings wonkily fastened on somehow to his jumper.

“I say!” whispered Clovis.  “Cracker of a dragon, that.  Don’t disturb it, mind.  I don’t want my shoes singed if it wakes up and starts breathing fire.”

“It’s sleeping on its crock of gold, you know,” Olivia informed him with authority.

“Isn’t that leprechauns?” asked Clovis doubtfully.

“Hoard, I mean,” hastened Olivia. “Did you know that when a dragon’s scales fall off, they turn into gold and silver coins?  That’s how they make their treasure, you know.”

“I say!” said Clovis again.

“It’s only a small one, so it doesn’t have a lot.”

“No, well, it wouldn’t” said Clovis gravely.  “How do you know?”

“I stole some earlier.  Crept right up!”

Olivia revealed a handful of coins. The dragon twitched, finding its recumbent role hard to maintain.

“Good filching skills,” admired Clovis, wondering whose purse had been denuded of coin for this little game.

That was the trouble with thinking somebody else was minding the offspring.  They usually weren’t if the offspring were astute enough to play one authority off against another.  He always had been himself.  Happening to have a photographic memory was another.  He had never needed to bother learning things to reel them off by rote.  He had a certain fellow feeling with young Olivia.  A fine imagination was essential for striving towards the feel good factor in life.

“Where’s your mamma, this morning?” he asked.  “I’d like to say hello to her.”

He got another cigarette out of the case Addie had given him with a certain careless élan. 

“That was Uncle Clive’s,” said Olivia keenly.

“Yes, well, since he’s no more, and I have the same initial, C for Clovis, you know, your mother thought I should like to have it as a keepsake.”

“Oh,” said Olivia asking in a rather grown up way which imitated what she had heard others say at such times (and she had probably heard it often), “I’m sorry, did you know him well?”

“We were like that,” said Clovis, crossing his fingers to show how close they had been.

Clovis had never met the man but he just couldn’t help himself.

“He was blown up, you know,” observed Olivia.

“Awful thing,” agreed Clovis.

They contemplated this in respectful silence for a moment and then Olivia, for whom this seemed more myth than reality, perked up again.

“Mother’s in the morning room with Mrs. Vickery,” she said.

“Ah.  Good.”

Clovis took the opportunity of the dragon having quite had enough of his passivity and insisting on getting up again to retreat back across to the house, a bit cross that his flannels were getting soaked by long wet grass and undergrowth.  He wondered what Olivia knew of her father’s wartime death.  Markham senior was rumoured by Wiggins to have been shot in the back, supposedly a mortal wound from combat, although Wiggins darkly impugned that there was only one way to get that kind of injury.  It was possible that Wiggins simply hadn’t liked him, of course.  Like most of these kind of circles, with the exception of Clovis himself most of them seemed to have known each other for years.  Having found Addie in the morning room and observed the social decencies, he was rounded up again for the cricket.

“I’ve been ready for ages!” he declared.  “Where was everybody?”

There was no knowing.  It was a big house and things were not terribly organised.  The loosely assorted cohort of players declared themselves ready for the fray and, being supplied with old cricket bats from various cupboards, set off for the sports field.   There were not enough guests for the house team so some of the locals would have to play on their side.  Wiggins was looking self-satisfied.  Worryingly so, in Clovis’s view.

“What were you talking to Izzie about for half the morning?” he asked.  “You were tooling around that formal garden together forever!  Dahlia came out looking for you.”

“I know.  She found us.  In time to hear the good news.”

“You haven’t!”

“I have!  You need to congratulate me, old man.  I thought I ought to pip you at the post just in case.  You seem to be on very good terms with all the eligible girls here already!” said Wiggins.

“Oh, don’t mind me.  I always am,” observed Clovis.  “That doesn’t mean anything.  I’m sure she’s a lovely girl and all that…”

“I’ve been in love with her forever,” said Wiggins.  “But she always hankered after Charlie Cowper.  Now he’s thrown her over, I’ve got my chance.”

“But – on the rebound, Wiggins?” cautioned Clovis.

“It’s fine,” said Wiggins.  “She’s agreed to have me and that’s all I care about, now he’s out of the picture.”

“He was here at breakfast, so he’s not exactly painted out, is he?”

“He broke it off a month ago, although he told me there never was an official understanding.  I talked to him over a brandy snifter or two after a game of billiards last night.”

That was another ghastly and long winded game that Clovis, whilst proficient, deemed a waste of time.

“I see?” he prompted.

“Once it was clear to Izzie there was no going back, well, there was my opportunity and I seized on it!”

“Well, congratulations, if that’s what you want, Wiggins but, second best, old boy!”

“Give me time,” winked Wiggins.  “I grow on people.”

Arriving at the sports field, no longer rolled as smooth as in days of yore by the look of it, the teams were made up together for the ‘friendly’.  Clovis was standing about at the far edge in silly midfield, or whatever it was.  A ball struck with wicked speed by one of the fit young artisans on the village team shot past his head into the undergrowth.  The villagers were doing a bit too well, Clovis thought, trudging off to retrieve it.  He might have to put on one of his accidental spin bowls when it came to it at this rate.

Tripping over something, Clovis nearly went down, then saw a stoutly brogued foot, rather than a tree root or stone, had caused him to stumble.  He doubted, when he looked at the rest of the prone form, that he had tripped over another sleeping dragon guarding its hoard.  The foot, in fact, belonged to Charlie Cowper himself.

“Good God!” exclaimed Clovis.

He peered more closely at Charlie, whose good looks had not been improved by being dead.  In fact, for an intelligent faced sort of man, he was looking rather stupid.  There was clearly no point in feeling for a pulse.  Clovis moved hastily back to the edge of the field and began semaphoring wildly.  A couple of players began to come down, calling,

“What’s up?  Can’t you find the ball?”

To the first to reach him, Clovis said,

“Man dead.  In there.  Don’t scare everyone and call the police.  Best keep people back.  It doesn’t look like natural causes.”

“Have you checked to see if he’s alive?” asked the village team man.

“No point.  Stiff as a board.  Definitely gone,” said Clovis, his usual fluency deserting him.

“Who is it?  Do you know?” asked the other, a house guest.

“Yes.  It’s Charlie Cowper.”

“What?  Are you sure?”

“No doubt about it.”

“Listen, I’m a policeman,” said the village man, still holding the bat with which he had struck the mean ball past Clovis’s ear.  “Let me take a look.”

“Gladly,” said Clovis, grateful to hand over to a figure of authority, and he seemed a capable sort.

He was gone only for a few moments and then returned.

“We’ll have to call this off,” he said of the match.  “That man’s been murdered.”

“I thought as much,” said Clovis helpfully.  “Knife in the chest sort of thing.  Direct to the heart, I’d say.  Not a lot of blood.”

The policeman gave him a sharp look.

“Are you a medical man?” he asked hopefully.

“Not really,” said Clovis, who couldn’t help spuriously hinting that he might have some kind of expertise.  “Just observation.”

“I see.  Did you know the deceased?”

“Not really,” said Clovis again.  “I mean, only the barest acquaintance over the last day or two.  We’re all house guests staying on for the weekend.  The twelfth, you know.”

“Grouse,” said the policeman.  “Yes.  A lot of the locals do the beating.  One of the things that’s still kept up.  My mother worked here as a maid once.  She said there was game hanging everywhere in those days.”

Clovis found himself picturing dead hares dangling by their heels from the chandeliers, long ears brushing the coifed hair of the ladies passing below.  It was a slightly unhinging image, and he was in danger of inappropriate giggling.

“I don’t see the point of grouse,” he said hastily, to prevent it.  “Like quail.  Too damn small.  A turkey now, that’s worth shooting.  But then, I am an American,” he drawled, flashing his famous smile.  “Born there, raised here,” he added.

“A turkey? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one,” said the policeman.  “I believe they’re getting popular in London at Christmas.”

“Excuse me!” interrupted the house guest.  “What about poor old Charlie back there?”

At this moment, Wiggins arrived with another man from the village team.  It was as though they were making sure it was still fair dos, thought Clovis, one from one side and one from the other.  Really, the whole thing was quite peculiar.

“I say, what’s all this carry on?” Wiggins demanded.  “The natives are getting restless up there.  Surely we can find another cricket ball for the game?”

“It’s not that,” said Clovis.   “I’m afraid your rival, Charlie Cowper, is dead in the bushes over there.  Seen off, as it were.”

“Rival?” exclaimed the policeman, his interest raised a level.

“No.  I’m engaged to his ex-fiancée as of this morning.  Not that they were really engaged at all, or so Charlie told me.”

“Bad blood?” enquired the policeman with quasi sympathy.

“No.  He was delighted with me.  Izzy was a bit of a nuisance as far as old Charlie was concerned.”

“Who wasn’t a nuisance to him, then?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Wiggins carelessly.

“He was making a quiet play for young Edna Percival,” said Clovis.  “I noticed because so was I.  Pretty girl.”

Edna was the reason for the house party really, the last fledgling to be launched on the social circuit.  Izzy and Dahlia, her older sisters, were of an age to have been out for several years.  Edna was adenoidal, with a retroussé nose and a grating giggle but otherwise bearable in Clovis’s view.  Wiggins was looking agitated now it had sunk in.

“Izzy’s going to be devastated!  This will ruin things between us.  I mean, she’s never going to get over him now he’s dead, is she?” he asked, sounding anguished.

The other player who had arrived turned out to be another policeman and colleague of the first when he too was apprised of the situation and also went to have a look at the body.  Wiggins stayed where he was,

“Good job no crimes are being committed,” said Clovis when the man returned, with misguided flippancy.  “There’s nobody left on duty!”

Both men turned to stare at him.

“I’d better tell the inspector.  He’s the umpire,” said the second man.

“See?” said Clovis and they couldn’t help smiling back at him.  People rarely could.

The cricket match was over and the party host and hostess, Mr and Mrs Percival, would have to be told that one of their guests was dead.  Charlie was one less eligible bachelor in their sights, then, thought Clovis.  Of all the sisters, though, he had rather liked Dahlia the violinist best.  If it weren’t for the violin aspect of things, that was.  He supposed the parents thought showcasing her talent might hook in the artistic type, not that there seemed to be many of them knocking about here, as far as Clovis could see. 

When the news arrived back at the house with them all, everything got rather dramatic.  There was a fluster of screaming and smelling salts.  A scheming looking maid brought them in on a tray.  Strangely, it was Dahlia who actually fainted and Clovis caught her rather neatly in his arms.

“Don’t you worry about her, sir,” the maid said sniffily.  “That’s not shock.”

“What is it, then?” asked Clovis.

“Guilt.  Mr Charlie Cowper would be safely married to Miss Izzie by now if her sister hadn’t been messing everything up by going all soppy on him.  Shoving poems under his door whenever he came to stay!  Besotted, she was.  Put him right off.”

Clovis thought that it was probably his own fault the maid was so familiar with him but since she was the best looking girl in the house, what was a fellow to do?  When he’d knocked on her attic door last night, she hadn’t held back.  It turned out Mr Percival was also rather partial on occasion and so she had a room to herself in the servant’s quarters and no fear of losing her place, since Mr and Mrs Percival, by agreement, had been bedroom strangers for many a long day.  A remarkably frank girl, Mary, Clovis had found, and being clever, was enjoying her power whilst being discreet enough not to parade it.  She wafted the smelling salts without mercy under Dahlia’s nose.

“If I didn’t know how drippy she was, I’d think all this fainting meant she was in the family way,” said Mary trenchantly, as they ministered.

“Really?  Maybe… he was stabbed, you know.  Through the heart, “ said Clovis.  “She’s pretty strong with that bowing arm, I’d say.”

“No, not her.  Not a chance,” said Mary, with borderline contempt for her betters.  “Like I said.  Besotted.”

“Love and hate.  Close bedfellows,” said Clovis sagely. 

Dahlia moaned slightly, coming round.  Izzy rushed across, seeming furious and dashing off Wiggins’s restraining hand of commiseration.

“What are you carrying on for?” she fairly hissed at her sister.  “I was the one who loved him!”

“But – Izzy – that’s all in the past!” said Wiggins.  “Dead and buried.  Sorry.  You know what I mean…” he tailed of awkwardly.

The girls’ mother appeared.

“Oh, poor Dahlia.  It’s being musical,” she told Clovis, not wasting the opportunity of finding her daughter, however accidentally, in a single man’s arms.  “She’s always been so sensitive.”

Izzy’s fine bosom forged past them in a froth of righteous ire, Wiggins behind her bowsprit like an anxious pilot boat.  The police wanted to know who had last seen Charlie Cowper.  Nobody remembered.  Why wasn’t he playing in the cricket match?

“Well, I expect, because he was dead, you know,” Clovis beamed at them.

“No.  Why wasn’t he part of your team?”

Nobody seemed to know.  It hadn’t been a very organised affair.  Just those who happened to be around after breakfast with nothing else on.  After a while, the police went away again, because it could just as easily, and preferably,  have been a random attacker from outside the house.  They would be looking into Charlie’s circumstances.  Meanwhile, nobody was to leave.  Mr and Mrs. Percival wished to press ahead with the grouse shooting.  The police had constables among the beaters and the inspector, a man with a fine set of expressive eyebrows, was among the shooters.  They saw no reason to prevent the occasion in spite of the sad occurrence and, post war, there was a lot more mingling among the classes, who were all short of menfolk.  Excuses for the shoot going ahead were made along the lines of keeping things steady at a difficult time.  A constable remained with them overnight, the burly hitter who had first come down to speak to Clovis.

Afternoon tea time arrived and everyone perched where they could around the long, rectangular room where there were eclectic furniture collections acquired by previous owners.  Bishop’s Mitre was a bit threadbare on the creature comforts front, as Clovis’s internal ready reckoner had already weighed up.  The family were trying to settle their daughters where others would be able to afford to marry.  Given what Mary had just told him, perhaps Charlie had been paying Edna a bit of attention to put Dahlia off his scent now he’d told Wiggins to go for it with Izzy.  It was not a place for Clovis to bride hunt among the host family.  Only a fellow guest, Addie, had any money to speak of and the blockage there was the children.  Having found Mary, Clovis was settling for courtly dalliance only with Addie but the cigarette case had been welcome.  She would probably be good for a few dinners and dances later on before she realised he had no serious intentions.

Mary brought in the afternoon tea trolley and Clovis was able to exchange pertly bright glances with her as she poured for him.  He was not especially pleased to notice the cricketing copper exchanging friendly smiles with Mary as she went out again, but of course, he might just know her as a local girl, Clovis comforted himself.  Charlie Cowper was much talked of.

“Fine young man.”

“Often stayed with us.”

“Invaluable for financial advice.”

A commotion started again shortly after this.  Dahlia made an abruptly public confession.

“It’s my fault he died!  I told him Izzy was going to accept Wiggins if he asked again.  I wanted – I wanted him to feel free to love me!  He must have challenged Wiggins and…”

Here she broke down.  Izzy and Wiggins were  not in the room.  Bells were rung.  The constable, under duress, was forced to say he would have to interview Dahlia again without the inspector’s authority.  Mary reappeared with the smelling salts, on standby.  She stood, a sylph in a pinny, holding the bottle on a tiny silver tray.  She looked entirely charming.

“Drama queen,” she opined to Clovis.

“Frankly, I’m inclined to agree,” he said, his opinion of Dahlia moving rapidly from musical to flaky as the debacle progressed.  Mary looked at him and smiled.

“I know what you’re after,” she said.

“My dear girl,” he hushed her, alarmed.

“A wife with money,” she said instead, though.  “You’re a fortune hunter.”

“Well, it is a bit of a family tradition, Mary,” said Clovis, flashing her his golden smile.

“I want someone a bit more active, myself,” said Mary, her eyes drifting over to the constable.  “Fun’s fun but for the long term, well…”

“All right!” said Clovis, a little piqued in spite of himself.  “So who do you think did it?” he asked.

“Oh, I know that already,” said Mary, poised to move in with the smelling salts as Dahlia revved up.  “They’ll never work it out.”

“Who?” demanded Clovis.

“Izzie, naturally.  She told Charlie she’d accept Wiggins and he said go right ahead.  So she stabbed him.  Then she had to go through with it, of course.  Accepting your friend, Mr Wiggins.”

“Good God!” exclaimed Clovis, sotto voce.  “Are you sure?”

“Certain.  Who else could it have been?  Only, as far as the police are concerned, she and I were in her room and I was helping her to get changed for the gala .  I won’t give her away.  Those two girls wasted quite enough of their time on Charlie Cowper.  He’s like you, you see.  Or was.”

“How do you mean?” asked Clovis, alarmed.

“After marrying money.  If you ask me, it’s Mrs. Adelaide Markham over there that’s lost out.”  She winked at Charlie.  “He wouldn’t have minded there being a couple of children thrown in” and with that, she moved in on Dahlia with the smelling salts.

“Poor old Wiggins,” Clovis said to himself.  “Well I’m not going to tell anybody about Izzie, either.  I’ll give Wiggy an alibi too, no problem, save him from any bother because of Dahlia’s mad blurtings.  I’ll say we were together until he went off to propose to Izzy in plain sight of me.  And after that, the sooner I break off all these new friendships after this weekend, the better.  I say!” he called over to one of the other male visitors.  “Didn’t I hear you mention you were running into town after the weekend?  Mind if I cadge a lift when they let us out of all this ballyhoo?”

“Certainly!  Where are you headed?”

“My club,” said Clovis, naming one he had heard the young man mention previously.

“Really?  That’s my club!”

“Now, there’s a lucky strike!” said Clovis, flashing his old buddy grin, and another of his instant friendships was neatly set in train.

The constable soon concluded that this outburst was only further hysterics on Dahlia’s part and the grouse shoot went ahead the next day without incident.  The imposing inspector with the expressive brows was on very good terms with the family and assured everyone that they were looking elsewhere for Charlie Cowper’s killer.  There were a lot of odd types knocking about these days, touched after the war, the inspector said, a conclusion no doubt comforting to all.  Dahlia was prevailed upon for one last recital and Clovis, regarding the strength of her bowing arm, wondered again if he, in fact, had been right after all.

That memory of his told him that Dahlia had grass stains already on her shoes when she went across to join her sister and Wiggins in the formal garden and he hadn’t mentioned to anybody that a small pair of glasses had crunched under his own feet when he bent over Charlie’s body.  He hadn’t noticed Dahlia wearing hers again.  But, Charlie might have had reading glasses in a pocket himself, mightn’t he, and Dahlia had told him that her mother didn’t like her to wear her glasses?  Mary might despise the young woman but, if Charlie Cowper had turned her down at the very moment she thought he might become hers, who knew what Dahlia might have done?  If she had done it,  she had gone prepared.  Probably to threaten some harm to herself as a declaration of her devotion, what with being the artistic type, and it had all gone dreadfully wrong.

If Clovis were right about Dahlia’s guilt, it was quite impressive the way she had held it all together afterwards for a while.  No wonder she had collapsed in such a heap.  He didn’t think artistic types were good on guilt.  At the moment, she seemed to be suffering nobly over her violin.  Izzy sat watching like a frozen but statuesque statue, while Wiggins still looked quite deplorably smug to be engaged to her and off the suspect hook.  It was a good thing Clovis had made sure to provide him with an excellent alibi given that Dahlia had tried to finger him for Charlie’s murder.  Probably more to do with Dahlia not wanting her sister to have any kind of happy ending either than malice towards poor Wiggins himself.  Nobody had questioned Clovis’s very convincing account of what they had been up to during the morning, even Wiggins quite persuaded that they had been together until Wiggins went to fetch Izzie out for a walk to propose in the formal garden.  If there was one thing Clovis excelled at,  it was  believable invention as to when he had been in company with someone previously.  

It really was time Clovis thought, looking at Wiggins now, that he tried to sort something out more permanent for himself.  Perhaps his next new best friend would know some well off and eligible ladies?  He glanced around to find Addie giving him a very searching look indeed.  Mary had just served her with coffee.  No coincidence then, probably.  Oh, well, he hadn’t been going to go too far down that road anyway, he told himself, fingering the cigarette case fitting so tidily into his breast pocket and deciding that he certainly wouldn’t be offering to give it back before he left.  After a while, and mercifully in Clovis’s view, the recital ended.

He made sure, given his intention to flit in the morning, to bid everybody present a particularly fond goodnight.  Clovis probably wouldn’t even see Wiggins again since he was leaving so early to make sure of his lift.  Clovis liked to leave warm impressions behind just in case there might be a next time.  At the bottom of the attic stairs, he hesitated a moment and then decided that it might be as well to leave things, or in this case Mary, alone there too.  Murder had been done here after all, and a man like Clovis couldn’t be too careful.  He had his future to think of.

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