The Hydro Murder

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The Hydro Murder

Post by AArdvark » Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:10 pm

The Hydro Murder

"I have a complaint to make," said Raymond Nardgarbles, looking around at the assembled company. Colonel Mustard-gas had his legs stretched out before the fire and was frowning at the mantelpiece as though it had offended him somehow. Doctor Boathole was reading an underwear magazine with lurid pictures. The reverend Paedophile was gazing with frank admiration at Joyce Cuntly's legs and she was letting him. Only elderly Miss Marble, was sitting upright. She looked at him with a twinkle.

"A complaint?" she murmured. "Surely not the quality of the whiskey."

"The Whiskey is first rate, but don't call me Shirley. No, I protest that you are all boring sods."

"Well, we could get naked and take the party upstairs," suggested Reverend Paedophile.

"Oh, balderdash!" said Doctor Boathole without looking up. "He means he wants a mystery."

"Exactly," said Raymond Nardgarbles. "But none of your boring random murders. Something good, eh Colonel?"

"What?" said Colonel Mustard-gas. "But I don't know any. I've never been surrounded by blood or mystery, at least not in this country."

"I absolutely insist upon blood," said Raymond, grinning. "But I'm sure one of you has got a good mystery. Come now, Miss Marble. 'The Curious Case of the Chinese Crabs' or the 'Mystery of the Mung Mutton'. Don't disappoint us."

Miss Marble shook her head. "Nothing that would interest you, Raymond. There was that case of crabs that spread throughout the village but that wouldn't interest you because it turned out to be so trivial. Simply casual sex between the most unlikely persons. It did throw a considerable light on human nature."

"Crabs will do that," said Raymond.

"What about you. Miss Cuntley?" asked Colonel Mustard-gas. "You must have had some interesting experiences."

"No doubt," said Dr Boathole.

"Me?" said Joyce. "You mean, you want me to tell you something that happened to me?"

"Or to one of your friends," amended Reverend Paedophile. "As long as there's sex involved."

"Oh!" said Joyce. "I don't think anything has ever happened to me, I mean not that kind of thing. Guns, of course, and queer messages, but that's just city life, isn't it? I don't think..." She paused, lost in thought.

"We may have to have that epic of the crabs after all." said Raymond. "Now then, Miss Marble?"

"You're fond of your little joke, Raymond dear. The crabs were cured with a prescription cream and vinegar; but now I come to think of it, I do remember one incident, at least not exactly an incident, something much more serious. A tragedy, really. And I was mixed up in it. But it didn't happen here."

"That disappoints me," said Raymond. "But I will endeavour to bear up. I knew we should not rely upon you in vain."

He settled himself in the attitude of a listener. Miss Marble frowned a bit in memory.

"I hope I shall be able to tell it properly," she said. "I fear I am very inclined to become rambling. One wanders from the point, altogether without knowing that one is doing so. And it is so hard to remember each fact in its proper order. You must all bear with me if I tell my story badly. It happened a very long time ago now. As a matter of fact, it had to do with a Hydro."

"Do you mean on a seaplane?" asked Joyce with wide eyes.

"No, she means a spa," said Colonel Mustard gas. "That's the modern word for it. Beastly places, absolutely beastly! Got to get up early and drink filthy-tasting water. Lot of old women sitting about smelling of body odor and peppermint. God, when I think..."

"Couldn't be bad as all that," said Joyce Cuntley.

"Oh yes. Lot of old women farting, queefing and sweating and never once washing themselves," grunted the Colonel. "Terrible places."

"It's true, I'm afraid," said Miss Marble. "Worse than the stockyards."

"My dear Miss Marble," cried the Colonel. "But you wash regularly."

With a little gesture of the hand, Miss Marble stopped him. "Yes, I wash regularly, no problems there. It's the ones that gather together to knit and gossip, and not half a bar of soap between them. Those are the problems. You'll be saying this has nothing to do with what went on at Chiggly Spa and Hydro, but it has in a way. It explains why I was confident the first moment I saw the Slathers together that he meant to kill her."

"Eh?" said Raymond, leaning forward, "the Slathers did you say?"

"Yes. As I say, I felt no doubt in my own mind. She was a fair girl, rather washed-out complexion, and untidy hair on her neck. Mr Slather was a big, sloppy, florid-faced man, very hearty in his manner. And nobody could have been nicer to his wife than he was. But I knew. He meant to kill her."

"My dear Miss Marble!" interjected Doctor Boathole.

"I know. That's what anyone would say. They'd tell me I hadn't any proof. But I remember Mildred Clapsnatch. She went to Switzerland on a climbing holiday with her husband. I warned her not to go but she only laughed. It seemed to her funny that a queer old thing like me should say such things about her Harry. Well, there was an attack, by a polar bear no less. Harry is married to another woman now. But what could I do?"

Col Mustard-gas leaned forward. "A polar bear? In the Swiss Alps? Surely you're joking."

"It was no joke and don't call me Shirley," said Miss Marble.

"But a polar bear in the Alps?" exclaimed Reverend Paedophile.

"Well, it must have gotten lost that's all I can say. Probably ravenous from lack of penguins to eat. I understand Mildred was quite mauled."

"Oh! Miss Marble," cried Joyce Cuntly. "You make me want to spew!"

"Bear attacks are very common, my dear, very common indeed. But what was I saying? Oh. I knew at once with Mr. Slather. It was on a tram. It was full inside and I had had to go on top. We all three got up to get off and Mr. Slather lost his balance and fell right against his wife, sending her headfirst down the stairs. Fortunately she landed on a nice strong young man and didn't suffer a scratch."

Doctor Boathole looked puzzled. "But surely that must have been an accident."

"Of course it looked like an accident and please, stop calling me Shirley. Nothing could have looked more accidental. But Mr. Slather had been in the Sewage marine Service, so he told me, and a man who can keep his balance on a rolling shit-boat doesn't lose it on top of a Chiggly tram if an old woman like me doesn't."

"So you'd made up your mind at that point?" asked Raymond.

The old lady nodded. "Now I ask you, what could I do? Here was a nice little married woman shortly going to be murdered, I was sure. Another incident while crossing the street not long afterwards made me doubly sure."

"Dubbly-Sure? Dubbly-Sure sounds like an Irish body soap," commented Paedophile.

"The old stink-bags at the hydro could use some Dubbly-Sure," said Mustard-gas, "they'd smell better."

"If you want to stay pure, use Dubbly-Sure," sang Joyce Cuntly, sounding like a radio commercial.

Miss Marble simply looked at the three of them for a long moment. "May I continue please?"

"Oh please, do go on"

"My dear lady, only having a bit of fun. We apologize."

Miss Marble nodded. "So there I was. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't go to the police, I had no proof. I couldn't warn Mrs. Slather, She was devoted to the man, she wouldn't believe me. All I could do was to find out as much as I could about them. Gladys Slather was only too willing to talk as we sat by the parlour fire. It seems they had not been married very long. Her husband had some money that was coming to him, but for the moment they were very badly off. In fact, they were living on her little income. She could not touch the capital. But the money was hers to will away, She mentioned she and her husband had made wills in favour of each other directly after their marriage. Very touching. In the meantime they were very hard up. Indeed, they actually had a room on the top floor, all among the servants.

"Oh! Amongst the servants," said Joyce, "that's horrible!"

"How demeaning," said Paedophile.

"And so dangerous," continued Miss Marble. "There was a fire escape just outside their window. I entreated her to stay away from it. Dangerous things, fire escapes. One push and it's street jelly. I made her promise not to go out on the fire escape; I said I'd had a dream. That impressed her, one can do a lot with superstition sometimes.

"But I was still very worried because I couldn't see how to stop him. I began to believe that the only thing I could do was lay a trap for him. If I could induce him somehow to attempt to kill her in a way of my own choosing, then he would be unmasked, and she would be forced to face the truth."

"Oh my, you take my breath away," said Doctor Boathole. "What conceivable plan could you adopt?"

"I'd have shot him out of hand," said Colonel Mustard-gas. He aimed an imaginary rifle at the mantle. "Thirty-ought-six at a hundred yards. Bam! No questions."

Miss Marble shook her head. "The man was too clever for me, he didn't wait. He thought I might suspect, and so he struck before I could trap him. He knew I would suspect an accident. So he made it... murder".

Joyce Cuntley uttered A little gasp.

Miss Marble nodded and set her lips together. "I'm afraid I've wet myself," she said. "If you'll excuse me for a moment." She stood up, pink-faced, and went upstairs to change her clothes.

"Well, that put a damper on things," mused Colonel Mustard gas after Miss Marble was out of earshot.

"A real wet blanket, if you pardon me saying so," added Reverend Paedophile.

Five minutes later Miss Marble was back in her chair by the fireplace. "Now then, I must try and tell you exactly what occurred. I've always felt very bitter about it, it seems to me that I somehow, ought to have prevented it. There was what I can only describe as an eerie feeling, it seemed to hang in the air."

"Probably just the hag-odor," muttered Mustard-gas.

"To begin with," said Miss Marble, "there was George, the hall porter. He'd been there for years and knew everybody. He passed away on the fourth day. He suffered from a case of death. Terribly sad. A real blow to everybody, and only four days before Christmas too. He wasn't getting an envelope on Boxing Day. And then one of the housemaids, Marion, died twenty-four hours after that."

"How did she die?" asked Doctor Boathole.

"The official verdict was exhaustion but really it was soup drowning."

"Soup drowning? Never heard of such a thing," said Raymond.

"It seems they found her bent over at the dinner table, face-down in her bowl."

"Soup drowning is terrible way to go," said Doctor Boathole, "especially if it's a heavy soup like cream of mushroom."

"Oh! With those little green sprigs of parsley on top like they do at the Savoy grill," said Joyce with a shudder.

Miss Marble nodded. " Yes, terrible. The next day I was in the drawing-room with Miss Bladdersnatch and old Mrs Twatwaffle. Mrs Twatwaffle was being positively ghoulish, relishing the deaths, you know."

"'Mark my words,' she said, pointing a crooked finger at all of us, like one of those fortune teller machines you see at the Brighton shore. 'This isn't the end of it, oh no. Never two without three, as the saying goes. It's been proved time and again. There'll be another death. Not a doubt of it. And we shan't have long to wait. Never two without three.' And then she cackled and rubbed her hands like a fly.

"As she said the last words, nodding her grey head and laughing like a demented witch, I just chanced to look up and there was Mr. Slather standing in the doorway, listening. It's what put the idea into his head. I saw his mind working.

"He came towards us, smiling in his genial way. "'Heh heh heh. Any Christmas shopping I can do for you ladies?" he asked. "'I'm going down to village presently. To buy presents. To present to my wife, who is not present, at the moment.'

"He stayed for a minute, talking in his curious way, and then went out. As I tell you, I was troubled, and I asked straight away: 'Where's Mrs Slather? Does anyone know?"

"Miss Bladdersnatch said she'd gone out to some friends of hers, the Thurkgurglers, to play hide-the-fiver, and that eased my mind for the moment But I was still very worried and most uncertain as to what to do. About half an hour later I was going up to my room and I met Dr. Scurvy. I happened to want to consult him about my dry and raspy parts. He told me (in confidence) about the soup death of the poor maid Marion. The manager man didn't want the news to get about, he said, because they were serving soup all week, so would I keep my mouth shut. Of course I didn't tell him that we'd all been discussing nothing else since the poor girl bubbled her last. She was only a servant after all. These things are always gossiped about. A man of his experience should know that but Dr. Scurvy was a simple fellow who believed what he wanted to believe. He said as he was leaving that Mr. Slather had asked him to have a look at his wife. It seemed she'd been getting really fat like a monkey recently.

"Now earlier that very day Gladys Slather had said to me that she'd only got big bones and wasn't fat at all. You see? All my suspicions of that man came right back. He was preparing his scheme. Dr. Scurvy left before I could make up my mind whether to speak to him or not, though really I wouldn't have known what to say. As I came out of my room, Mr. Slather came down the stairs from the floor above. He was dressed to go out and he asked me again if he could do anything for me in village. I ask for him to get run over by a beer lorry and went straight into the lounge and ordered a gin giblet. It was just half past five, I remember.

"It's always five o clock somewhere," said Mustard-gas. I read that on a wall plaque in the pub."

"I'm sure," said Miss Marble. "Now I'm very anxious to explain clearly what happened next. I was still in the lounge at a quarter to seven when Mr. Slather came in. There were two gentlemen with him and all three of them were on the lively side of drink. Mr. Slather left his two friends at the sideboard and came right over to where I was sitting with Miss Guntbugger. He explained that he wanted our advice about a Christmas present he had picked out for his wife. It was..a personal massager.

"'You see, ladies,' he said, 'I know nothing about dil...massagers. I've had three sent to me on approval and I'd like an expert opinion on them.'"

"We said, of course, that we would be happy to try them out and help him, and he asked if we'd come upstairs, as Gladys might come in any minute and spoil the surprise. So we went up with him. I shall never forget what happened next. I can feel my little fingers tingling now."

"That's a sign of diabetes," said Reverend Paedophile.

"Yes, best have that looked at straight away," said Doctor Boathole.

"So which massager did you like the best?" asked Joyce Cuntley.

Miss Marble ignored all this. "Mr. Slather opened the door of the bedroom and switched on the light. I don't know which of us saw it first ...

"Mrs Slather was lying on the floor, face downwards, dead. I got to her first. I knelt down and took her hand and felt for the pulse, but the arm was cold and stiff. Just by her head was a stocking filled with sand, the murder weapon. Miss Guntbugger, silly creature, was vomiting and moaning by the door and holding her head. Mr. Slather gave a great cry of "My wife, my wife," and rushed to her. I stopped him touching her. You see, I was sure at the moment he had done it, and there might have been something that he wanted to conceal.

"'Nothing must be touched!' I said. 'Pull yourself together, Mr. Slather. Miss Guntbugger, please go down and fetch the manager man.' She wouldn't take any notice of me until I slapped her to get her out of it."

Reverend Paedophile leaned forward eagerly. "Did you leave a mark?"

"Yes, my handprint showed clearly on the side of her face for a day afterward."

"Oh, that's bad'" Said Colonel Mustard-gas. "You should have used oranges. Swing 'em round in a stocking, they don't leave marks."

"But stockings are much too expensive to go about stuffing oranges and hitting people," said Joyce Cuntly.

"Well, perhaps oranges in a burlap bag, then," said Reverend Paedophile. They're cheap, and strong too."

"How would you know?" asked Mustard-Gas with a twinkle. "Been using them on the altar boys?"

"No indeed, they use them on me." His gleeful tone brought the conversation to a screeching halt. Everyone studied their shoes in silence.

"Er, quite," said Colonel Mustard-Gas after a long pause.

Miss Marble cleared her throat. "Yes. As I was saying, I stayed there, kneeling by the body. I wasn't going to leave Slather alone with it. And yet I was forced to admit that if the man was acting, he was doing a good bit of it. He looked dazed and confused and scared out of his wits.

"The manager man was with us in no time. He made a quick inspection of the room then ordered everyone out and locked the door, taking the key. Then he went off and telephoned to the police. It seems that the line had been cut however, and the manager man had to send a servant on foot to the police station.
"Old Mrs Twatwaffle was ever so pleased at her prophecy of 'Never two without three' coming true so quickly. Slather wandered out into the grounds, clutching his head and groaning and displaying every sign of grief.

"The police came at last. They went upstairs with the manager man and Mr Slather. Later they sent down for me. I went up. The inspector was there, sitting at a writing table. He was an intelligent-looking man and I liked him at once.

"'Miss Marble?' he said.


"'I understand that you were present when the body of the deceased was found?'

"I said I was and I described exactly what had occurred. I think it was a relief to the poor man to find someone who could answer his questions coherently, having had to deal with Slather and Emily Guntbugger, who was completely demoralized, the silly creature!

"'Thank you, madam,' said the inspector, rising from his chair. Now I must ask you to step over and look at the body once more. Is that exactly the position in which it was lying when you entered the room? It hasn't been moved in any way?'

"'Except for the underpants, yes,' I replied.

"'What do you mean?'

"I explained that her underwear had been on poor Gladys and now they were around her ankles. I thought that the police had done this during a bout of necrophilia. The inspector, however, denied it emphatically. Nothing had been moved or touched. He stood looking down at that poor prone figure with a puzzled frown. Dead Gladys was dressed in her outdoor clothes, a big dark-red tweed coat with a grey fur collar. The underwear was around her swollen ankles.

"The inspector stood for some minutes in silence, frowning to himself. Then an idea struck him.

"'The lady's jewel case has been turned out and the rings were taken from her fingers. The murderer must have come back and had his way with her after the murder was discovered. A cool customer. He glanced round the room and said slowly, "Or perhaps he may have been concealed in this room all the time."

"But I had glanced under the bed earlier while the manager man had opened the door of the wardrobe. There was nowhere else where a man could hide. The underwear cupboard was locked, but as that was only a shallow affair with shelves, no one could have been concealed there.

"A monkey!" exclaimed Joyce Cuntley. "A monkey could have hidden in there."

Miss Marble looked at her.

"A monkey?" said Reverend Paedophile. "How extraordinary."

"Exactly," said Cuntley, warming to her idea. "It could have hidden in there while Miss Marble and the others were in the room, then taken the jewels and things and escaped out of the window."

"Nasty creatures, monkeys," said Colonel Mustard-gas. "In Bombay they're forever riding about on bicycles, begging for bananas and pennies."

There was a silence while the others digested this.

"Did you go about with a banana on your person to give them?" asked Doctor Boathole.

"No, thank god," Said Mustard Gas. "But I heard about a greengrocer that was assaulted by a gang of 'em. Nasty buggers."

"What, the greengrocers?" asked Doctor Boathole.

"May I continue?" asked Miss Marble in a quiet voice.

Joyce Cuntley looked around. "Oh! Miss Marble, I forgot you existed. Yes, please carry on, do."

"Thank you, dear. Now, as I was saying, the inspector listened whilst I explained all this.

"'I'll take your word for it, madam," he said. "In that case, as I said before, he must have come back. A very cool customer."

"'But how? The manager man locked the door and took the key."

"The inspector shook his head. "The window was open. Like as not, you actually disturbed him at work. He pulls up his trousers and nips out of the window and hides on the fire escape. And when you're all gone, back in he comes and finishes his business."

"'Are you sure," I said, 'that there was a thief?'

" The inspector scratched his head. 'Well, her jewels are gone and she's dead. It could be gas-gangrene but I doubt it.'

"Now I was absolutely convinced that Mr. Slather was behind it all. I was sure of it. The man was a fuck-bag and his grief didn't deceive me for a minute. The only thing that puzzled me was why he should creep back and have his way with her; It wasn't a sensible thing to do, and Slather was a very sensible man, that's why he was so dangerous."

Miss Marble looked round at her audience.

"You see, it's so often the unexpected happens in the world. I was so sure, and that's what blinded me. The result came as a shock to me. For it was proved, beyond any possible doubt, that Mr Slather could not possibly have committed the crime."

A surprised gasp came from Raymond. Miss Marble turned to him.

"I know, dear, that isn't what you expected. It wasn't what I expected either, believe me. But facts are facts, and if one is proved to be wrong, one must just be humble about it and start over. I knew Mr Slather was a murderer at heart.'

"And now, I expect, you would like to hear the actual facts themselves. Mrs. Slather, spent the afternoon playing hide-the-fiver at the Thurkgurglers. She left them at about a quarter past six. She must have come back to the hydro about six-thirty. she went straight up to her room. There she washed up and changed and was preparing to go out again when she was murdered. A sandbag, I understand, is a very efficient weapon.'

"It's not efficient as a hand-grenade said Colonel Mustard-gas. "You only need to get close."

"Or a tommy gun," said Reverend Paedophile, clutching at an invisible firearm. "Rat-a tat-tat-tat; done and done."

"Or a needle full of cat urine," said Doctor Boathole.

"Cat urine?" asked Joyce. "Is that deadly?"

Boathole nodded soberly. "Ever smell it? Just you try injecting yourself with some. If it doesn't kill you it'll make you very late for supper."

Miss Marble rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took a deep breath to compose herself.

"Now," she went on in a determined manner. "Mr Slather went out, at about five-thirty or so. He did some shopping and at about six o'clock he went to the Green Bladder pub, where he encountered two friends. They played billiards and had a good many whiskeys and sodas together. These two men (Hitchcock and Ballcock, their names were) were actually with him the whole time from six o'clock onwards. They staggered back to the Hydro with him and he only left them to come over to me and Miss Guntbugger. That was about a quarter to seven, at which time his wife must have been already dead.

"I must tell you that I talked to these two friends of his. I did not like them, they were low and rude. But they were speaking the absolute truth when they said that Slather had been with them the whole time.

"There was just one other little point that came up. It seems that while the hide-the-fiver game was going on Mrs. Slather was called to the telephone. A Mr. Digdoug wanted to speak to her. She came back from the telephone smiling and blushing, so what does that tell us?

"A pervert call," said Reverend Paedophile.

"Yes, all huffing and muttering dirty words," said Joyce Cuntley. "I get them all the time. The last time, some pervert said he'd like to pickle my thatch. I don't even know what that means."

"I said 'tickle your snatch,'" said Paedophile. "It was a bad connection."

They all stared at him. Paedophile turned a shade of pink and coughed into his fist. He gestured to Miss Marble to continue.

"Anyway, said Miss Marble, "that's the problem. There's the random burglar story, which seems unlikely, or the alternative theory that Mrs. Slather was preparing to meet this Mr Digdoug on the sly. Possibly she let him in by the fire escape and he killed her, then he stole her jewelry."

Miss Marble stopped and looked at them.

"Well?" asked Raymond. "What's the answer?"

"I wondered if any of you could guess."

"I'm never good at guessing," said Doctor Boathole. "It seems a pity that Slather had such a wonderful alibi; but if it's right with you it must have correct."

"Why was the unmentionable cupboard locked?" asked Joyce Cuntley.

"How very clever of you, my dear," said Miss Marble, beaming. "That"s just what I wondered myself. Though the explanation was quite simple. In it were a pair of embroidered underpants and some anal beads that Gladys was going to give to her husband for Christmas. That's why she locked the cupboard. The key was found in her handbag."

"Well, fuck," muttered Joyce. "Then it isn't very interesting."

"Oh, but it is," said Miss Marble. "It's the one thing the thing that made the murderer's plans go wrong."

Everyone stared at the old lady like a dog at a phonograph.

"I didn't see it myself for two days," said Miss Marble. "I puzzled and puzzled, until my puzzler was sore. And then, suddenly there it was, all clear. I went to the inspector and asked him to try something."

"What did you ask him to try?" asked Raymond.

"I asked him to fit the underwear on the poor dead girl. It wouldn't fit. They weren’t her pants, you see."

Colonel Mustard-gas leaned forward. "Not her pants?"

"But they were on her to begin with," said Joyce, "you said so."

"Ah, but it wasn't her." Miss Marble stopped to let her words sink in, and then went on.

"We took it for granted that it was poor Gladys there; but we never looked at the face. She was face downwards, remember."

"Hang on a minute," interjected Raymond. "You never looked at her face?"

"No, not once."

"Well, why in heaven's name not?"

"I just assumed it was Gladys Slather. The body was in her room and wearing her dress and coat. Mr Slather was groaning and carrying on, Guntbugger was a mess. It was an intense moment."

"But it was Gladys Slather?"

"Yes, later it was, when the police came."

"You mean it was someone pretending to be her?"

"Not pretending, it was a dead body, right enough," said Miss Marble.

"But, hang on," said Colonel Mustard-gas, "you can't get hold of dead bodies right and left.

"You can if there's a medical college nearby," said Doctor Boathole. "I remember a few times in my college years when we borrowed fresh corpses for fraternity pranks."

Raymond waved a dismissive hand at Doctor Boathole. "So what happened to the first corpse?"

"Mr Slather put it back," said Miss Marble. "It was a wicked idea, but a very clever one. The body of poor maid Marion. The Slather's room was up amongst the servants' quarters. Maid Marion's room was only two doors off. The manager man had left maid Marion's room window open to keep her from spoiling. Mr Slather crept in through the window and carried the body back along the fire escape. He got to his room and began dressing it up in his wife's clothes and big red coat. That's when he found the underwear cupboard locked. He went back and fetched one of the poor girl's own pair. He hoped nobody would notice. He put the sandbag down beside her. Then he went off to establish his alibi.

Nardgarbles stared in incredulity. "He carried a dead person to his room and dressed it in his wife's clothes?"

"Impossible," said Colonel Mustard gas. "Matter of specific gravity. The body would have been stiff as a pine board. Rigor mortis and all that."

"No, merely very improbable. He telephoned to his wife from the pub, calling himself Mr Digdoug. I don't know what he said to her but he got her to leave the hide-the-fiver game early. Must have been pretty racy."

"He returns to the Hydro with his drunk friends and arranges that Miss Guntbugger and I discover the crime with him. He even starts to turn the body over, and I stop him! Then the manager man sends for the police and he wanders out into the grounds. Nobody asked him for an alibi after the crime. He meets his wife outside with some story and they go up the fire escape. When they get inside he picks up his sandbag and strikes!"

"Boomph!" exclaimed Reverend Paedophile with a gleeful grin, making a swinging motion as if he was hitting an invisible body. "Another soul for our lord."

"... Oh, dear, it makes me sick to think of it. said Joyce Cuntley.

"Mr Slather strips off her coat and clothes and discovers that she's not wearing any underpants, she was playing hide-the-fiver earlier, you see. He tries to fit maid Marion's pair on his wife's body but but the underpants won't go on. Gladys Slather really was getting fat like a monkey, so he is forced to leave the undergarments around her ankles and hope no one will notice. Then he carries poor maid Marion's body back to her own room and puts it back in her death bed."

"I bet he had his way with her as well," remarked Reverend Paedophile, "I would have."

"Of course you would," muttered Colonel Mustard-gas.

"It seems incredible," said Dr Boathole. "The risks he took. The police might have arrived too soon."

"That's why he cut the telephone line," said Miss Marble. "He couldn't have the police there too soon. When they did come, they spent some time in the manager man's office before going up to the bedroom. That was the weakest point, the chance that someone might notice the difference between a body that had been freshly killed and one that had been dead a day earlier. He counted on the fact that the people who first discovered the crime would have no expert knowledge."

Doctor Boathole nodded. "Agreed."

"The crime was supposed to have happened about a quarter to seven," said Miss Marble. "It was actually committed at seven or a few minutes after. When the undertaker examined the body it would be about half past nine at earliest. He couldn't possibly tell. I felt the poor girl's hand and it was icy cold. I assumed that because the window had been left open."

"So what ever became of Mr Slather?" asked Raymond

"It’s funny. Mr Slather and old Mrs Twatwaffle were found dead the next day," said Miss Marble. Her mouth turned down. "The coroner's verdict was asphyxiation. They found him in old Mrs Twatwaffle’s bed. Apparently he was overcome the midst of passion." She flushed at this indecency then added; "She died with a smile on her face at least."

“I don't feel bad for him." said Joyce Cuntley. "He got what he deserved.”

“’Kill them all and let God sort them out' is the best way." said Colonel mustard-gas.

"That's the Church's motto, you know." said Reverend Paedophile.

Miss Marble looked round at him for a long moment. "Amen to that," she said and reached for her sherry glass,