The Nice Niece

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The Nice Niece

Post by AArdvark » Tue Feb 11, 2020 5:33 pm

The Nice Niece

Miss Marble looked around at her assembled guests. Raymond Nardgarbles was leaning on the mantle piece in a causal attitude, a glass of scotch in one hand. Colonel Mustard-Gas, the ex police officer, was in one of the wing back chairs with his drink. Next to him in a matching chair was the reverend Paedophile, looking rather too thin and balding, wearing a nervous black suit. He was sipping his sherry from a water glass. Sitting on the davenport opposite the fireplace was Joyce Cuntley, the dishy looking but rather brainless adult film actress.

"I have some news, it's about a problem I must address," Miss Marble said at length.

"Something really spicy, I hope" said Joyce Cuntley. "Like putting some of those Spanish peppers in one's hynder."

Nobody said anything to this, but reverend Paedophile stopped playing pocket snooker and looked up.

"Must you people always think of putting things up your nether exit," asked Colonel Mustard-Gas. "If it wasn't the late doctor Boathole with his entire vegetable garden stuck up his arse it's Paedophile and small rodents, and now you want peppers." He shook his head in an exasperated manner. "Bloody hell."

"Well-" she started to retort, but Miss Marble cut her off.

"Now people," she said, in a strict tone that Raymond had never heard before. "Let's don't start off on a sour note. I think we'll be sorting this problem out together."

"Oh God," said Raymond with a glance at reverend Paedophile. "It'll be worse than wrangling kittens."

She turned to him. "Mr Nardgarbles," she said in a flat voice. "Wrangling kittens is easy, if they're dead."

Colonel Mustard-Gas snorted into his whisky and soda but everyone else became quite still. Miss Marble was in a mood.

"On reflection, I think perhaps only the Colonel and Mr Nardgarbles need accompany me, I'm sure the reverend and Miss Cuntley can find suitable diversions."

"Well, there's a gerbil store in Brighton that stocks extra-large Longtails that I've heard about," said Paedophile. "The regular gerbil store got behind in their taxes so they've been in arrears."

Nobody laughed.

"That," said Colonel Mustard-Gas after a moment, "was a terrible gerbil joke."

Raymond reflected that Paedophile was possibly the only person in England that could tell a joke like that and actually mean it.

"And I couldn't help you anyway," said Joyce Cuntley, "I'm scheduled to make five guineas tomorrow, the hard way."

"Fine," said Miss Marble, dismissing the nonsense. "Let me tell you the news. Earlier today I received a telephone call from my niece. Not my real niece, mind you, but a member of..." She paused for emphasis, "a member of my extended family."

Everyone knew she was talking about her crime family, from back when she was the head of London's biggest criminal organization.

"Mabel's a nice girl. I knew her father, Ratbark Bill Morgan, until he got kacked back in 1925. She's a nice girl, but just a trifle melodramatic, and will say a great deal more than she means, especially when she's upset. She married Barleybeef Silinayme when she was twenty-two, and it was not a happy marriage. Mr Silinayme was a man of very violent temper. He hit her, more than once, you know. I learned that there was insanity in his family. Crazy as shithouse rats, all of them. I tried to talk her out of marriage but she wouldn't listen. But like I always say, if you want to teach silly girls to swim you have to throw them in a lake."

Raymond raised his eyebrows but nobody said anything to this.

"And so Mabel married him, the little fool. I didn't see very much of her after the marriage. She did stay with me once or twice, until the bruises healed. Each time I tried to talk her out of going back to him but you know that never works. They've been married some little time now. Earlier today I got a hysterical telephone call from Mabel, begging me to come to her. She said that her life was going from bad to worse, and she couldn't stand it much longer. So now I must go all the way down there and get her out of this mess."

"What's the matter with her?" asked Mustard-Gas.

"It seems her husband, Barleybeef, died suddenly."

"Was he sick?" asked Raymond

"Not exactly. It was an acute onset of lead poisoning, as the slang goes. Someone shot him five times. I've made arrangements to keep the police off the case until we have a look around, but only for a day. So tomorrow you and the Colonel will accompany me to to her villa to look into the matter and see if we can't clear up the mess before the police. Mister Nardgarbles, we'll use your motorcar. If you can be here by six tomorrow morning we should arrive just before noon."


The Silinayme house was a fairly large one, set back in a wooded estate. The name plate on the entrance gate proclaimed the villa to be Farting Pines. It was a sprawling estate surrounded by an tall, ivy-covered brick wall. As he parked the car inside the gates Raymond could see Barleybeef Silinayme had done well for himself. Miss Marble had given them some background information on the drive down. She told them there was a cook and a housemaid as well as a private nurse to look after old Mr Silinayme, Barleybeef's father, who was mostly bedridden and suffering from crabs and premature insanity.

The three of them were admitted by the maid and led into the parlour. Mabel Silinayme was sitting with her friends, the Gallaghers. They were a couple of balding watermelon farmers from down the road. They politely made their exit as the three came in. Mabel Silinayme was glad to see Miss Marble. Raymond could see she was a mass of nerves. Her hands fluttered nervously as she greeted them and the teapot spout chattered on the cups as she poured. Miss Marble put a hand on her wrist.

"Never mind the tea, dear. Please, sit down and tell us how matters stand."

"I didn't do it!" she blurted out. "Everyone thinks I did, but I've done nothing. My neighbors came to tell me about the rumors in the village."

"My dear, I don't believe you are capable of shooting anyone," said Miss Marble. "But rumors don't start by themselves." She looked at her intently. "Have you done something foolish?"

"That's the thing about rumors," offered Colonel Mustard-Gas. "There's never smoke without fire, and sometimes hot-dogs."

She nodded. "He's right. Please tell us what started the rumors. There must be something."

Mabel was partly incoherent, and declared there was nothing at all, except, of course, that Barleybeef's death had been a shock. She told them that he had gone upstairs around eleven o'clock. Around three in the morning the house had been awakened by gunshots. They had discovered Barleybeef shot. The doctor had been sent for, but the poor man had died as he arrived. It seems someone left an anvil atop the main gate and it fell on the doctor's head as just he entered the villa.

"An anvil? How absurd," said Raymond.

"Hmm, sounds like a coyote problem," said Mustard-Gas. "They should have sprayed for them."

Miss Marble simply nodded and let that one go. "Mabel, did you have a quarrel with Barleybeef or anything of that kind?"

"Yes, at breakfast, the day before yesterday."

"And the servants heard it, I suppose?"

"No, they weren't in the room."

"That doesn't mean they weren't polishing the key plates with their ears," said Mustard-Gas.

Miss Marble nodded silently. She knew the carrying power of Mabel's high-pitched hysterical voice only too well. Barleybeef Silinayme, was also a man given to raising his voice when angry, as the Gallaghers, who lived a mile down the road, could attest.

"What did you quarrel about?"

She shrugged. "Oh, I don't know, the usual things, blood, sex, sugar, magic. Barleybeef said some abominable things about me, but I gave as good as I got."

"So there's been a lot of quarreling, then?" asked Miss Marble.

"It wasn't my fault� "

"My dear child," she said, "it doesn't matter whose fault it is. In a village like this everybody's private affairs are public. You know the servants have talked about how you and your husband were always quarreling. Now you've had a particularly bad quarrel one morning, and that night your husband was shot. Think about that. Now tell me, is there anything else?"

"I don't know what you mean by anything else," said Mabel with a sullen look on her face. Even Raymond could tell she was holding back something.

"If you've done anything silly, girl," said Miss Marble in an ominous tone, "don't hide it now. We're only here to help you."

Mabel dropped her teacup on the coffee table with a crash. "Nothing and nobody can help me," she cried wildly, "except death!"

With a fast flick of her hand Miss Marble backhanded her across the chops. Mabel fell back against the davenport in shock.
"I won't have any of that attitude," Miss Marble said in a severe tone, pointing a finger at her. "We didn't come all the way down here for hysterics. I know perfectly well there is something else that you're keeping back, now out with it."

Raymond was wide-eyed. This was a side of Miss Marble that he had never seen before. Usually she was the sweetest person in England. Suddenly Raymond could understand the more sinister rumors surrounding the old lady.

With a hand to her cheek and tears in her eyes Mabel admitted in halting tones how she had gone down to the chemist's the day before yesterday and had bought a pistol and a large quantity of rat poison.

"You went there right after the quarrel?" asked Miss Marble. "Why did you buy rat poison?"

Mabel burst into fresh tears. "There's rats!" she wailed. "Rats on the west side...and bedbugs uptown!"

Mustard-Gas coughed into his fist and muttered; "Shayubay."

Miss Marble turned and gave him the hairy eyeball for a brief moment. "The chemist will have talked." She turned back to the girl. "Do you still have the gun?"

Mabel took out a lace handkerchief from her sleeve and held it to her eyes. She nodded and in a small voice said: "It's in my underwear."

"Whaaat?" said Raymond in surprise.

"I mean my underwear drawer, upstairs in my bedroom," she sobbed. "I never used it. I wanted to, at first, but I never did."

"Are there any other guns in the house?"

Mabel just shook her head.

"And the rat poison?" asked Miss Marble.

"I gave the rat poison to Willard, the gardener. There really are rats."

"Oh there's rats all right," said Miss Marble. "Now, tell us what happened that night."

"Well," said Mabel, wiping her eyes. "The shots woke up maid Enjupan first, and she woke up cook Edo, and they both came down. When maid Enju-pan saw Barleybeef's dead body she shit on the carpet. That's when I got there. Nurse Wanacrasker, who looks after old Mr Silinayme, was away on a boning date for the night, so there was no one who knew what to do. I sent cook Edo to call the doctor, and maid Enju-pan and I stayed with the body."

"You say the maid shit on the carpet?" asked Mustard-Gas.

"Like a rhinoceros."

"Well, this is a bad business," mused Raymond.

"Indeed," agreed miss Marble. "Colonel Mustard-Gas will want a look at your gun later to see if it's been fired. Did you notice any signs of prowlers?"

"Nobody looked. At least I don't think so. Everyone's upset."

"Colonel, perhaps you and Mr Nardgarbles could also have a look around the property and see if there are any signs of a break-in. But first we should have a talk with the servants and get their stories."


In the kitchen, cook Edo was preparing a squirrel salad and wild turkey surprise for lunch. Maid Enju-pan was helping her at the table, rolling out the nuts.

"Old man Silinayme didn't drink his lemonade again," Raymond heard the maid say to the cook as they entered the kitchen. "Nurse Wanacrasker thinks his condition is getting worse.." she let the sentence trail off.

Good afternoon, Ladies," said Colonel Mustard-Gas. "We're looking into the death of Barleybeef. We'd like to ask you a few questions."

Cook Edo was all too eager to tell them about the dinner mushrooms, almost too eager. Cook had admitted that the mushrooms looked 'a little queer', but she claimed the mushroom witch that sold them was trustworthy.

Miss Marble stopped her. "Enough with the mushrooms. I want to know about Barleybeef's last supper, did he say anything?" she asked.

Cook Edo scratched her ample rear. "Well, he said: 'there's fish fur on Jesus,' didn't he." The maid nodded in agreement.

"Fish fur on Jesus?" asked Raymond.

"Why would he say something like that?" asked Mustard-Gas.

The maid shrugged. "I don't know. 'Oh the fish fur,' he said, some nonsense like that. Then he sang a gospel song."

"What gospel song? asked Miss Marble.

"You know the one," said maid Enju-pan. She hummed a few bars. "It's from the old country, from Lumania."

"I still don't know it," said Raymond, "how does it go?"

Maid Enju-pan cleared her throat and in a froggy warble sang:

"Fish fur, fish fur.
Roly-Poly fish fur.
Fish fur, fish fur.
Beat them up, young."

Cook Edo nodded and said: "Right after that he asked me if I knew that roly-poly fish fur is never seen drinking cappuccino in Italian restaurants with Oriental women."

"Yeah," added maid Enju-pan.

"Hum," exclaimed Mustard-Gas. "The man sounds positively demented."

"He was on about fish fur for a while," cook went on, "but now I come to think of it, I am pretty sure that he named the fish with the fur." She scratched her head. "The fish began with C, but it wasn't a cod or a crayfish..."

"A cuntfish?" suggested Mustard-gas.

"I -severely- doubt it," said Miss Marble without looking at him.

"A carp?" asked Raymond.

"Yes! That was it, a carp." said cook Edo.

"A carp?" said Mustard-Gas. "I should never have guessed that."

"Did Barleybeef have any enemies?" asked Miss Marble.

"We didn't have any," said cook Edo, "we had chicken and mushrooms that night. All the seafood is purchased from Fishmonger Phil's."

Miss Marble found herself reaching for her clutch pistol. She stopped herself. "Not anenomies, enemies," she said through partly clenched teeth.

"Oh!" Cook Edo thought about it. "No, nobody would want to kill him. Except possibly miss Mabel."

"And she didn't. What time did he retire to his bedroom?"

"About eleven," said maid Enju-pan, "as far as I remember."

"And he didn't say anything else?" asked Mustard-Gas.

"He said a lot of things, but nothing I agreed with. He was having one of his loony days."

"I see. I think we're through here. Thank you, ladies." said Miss Marble. "Let's go upstairs and have a word with the nurse."


Nurse Polly Wanacrasker was a gaunt, twenty-something American woman who looked about thirty. She was sitting in a chair next to the old man's bed. Her traditional nursing whites were rather rumpled. Old Man Silinayme was asleep, snoring lightly.

"Gee, it's a pity that I wasn't here that night," said nurse Wanacrasker, "It sounds like a lot of excitement. I understand Barleybeef was off his head at supper and blathering on about Jesus."

"Yes," said Mustard-Gas, "there was talk of that nature."

"Too bad," said Nurse Wanacrasker. "He could have made us rich. I read about a toasted cheese sandwich that had a picture of Jesus on it and they sold it for five hundred pounds. Imagine how much we could have got for a nut-jobber like Barleybeef."

Mustard-Gas glanced at miss Marble, who was slowly reaching for her clutch holster again. "Er, quite," he said, gently pulling her arm back to her side.

"Was he really crazy?" asked Raymond.

"Oh, so-so," said Nurse Wanacrasker, twisting her hand for emphasis. "Some days he was quite normal and other days he was johnny wack-jack."

"Johnny wack-jack?" murmured Raymond to himself.

"How is old man Silinayme getting on?" asked Miss Marble looking at the sleeping form.

"She shook her head. "He's pretty bad," she said, "he hardly eats and has stopped drinking his lemonade, won't touch it anymore, and he used to love it so."

"So we've heard, is he weak?" asked Raymond.

"Oh no, he's strong enough but his mental capabilities are failing. He may outlive all of us, but he won't know it. When that happens I'll be ready with my euthanasia shotgun. I told both Mr and Mrs Silinayme that he ought to be in a mental institution, but Mrs Silinayme wouldn't hear of it."

Miss Marble gave a thin smile. "Mabel always had a kindly heart."

"Hardly. It would be better for the old bodger if he was in an asylum. He could get the care he needs instead of him just seeing faces in the wallpaper and me emptying his bedpan into his water-glass every day. But those decisions aren't up to me. Do you suppose Barleybeef shot himself? He could have shot himself, just to spite us."

Miss Marble shook her head. "Shoot himself five times? I hardly think so. Twice maybe, but not even a shithouse rat could shoot himself five times."

"Unless he was like a cat with nine lives," said the Colonel. "Of course, he'd also need a tail and have tuna breath."

Miss Marble just looked at him. "I am not going to dignify that with a response."

"Well, it was just a thought," said Nurse Wanacrasker. "I've heard of nutters doing all sorts of crazy things and I wouldn't put it past him."

"So Barleybeef had a gun?" asked Raymond.

"Oh sure. It's in his nightstand. I saw it once, when I was giving him the happy ending. I was looking for a tissue to wipe up-" She turned pink. "I was looking for a tissue and I saw it in there."

Raymond arched his eyebrows. "Really. I didn't know private nurses did...extra duties."

Nurse Wanacrasker shrugged. "He paid me a fiver for it. I'm not really a nurse, not like a medical nurse, I mean. In America being a private nurse means something quite different than in England. I was a flapper in New York City and over here I'm a private nurse; go figure. But the pay is better and Old Mr Silinayme never asks me to do the turkey trot in a speakeasy, so there's that."

"I see," said Miss Marble. "Thank you, nurse. Colonel, perhaps you and mister Nardgarbles should have a look around the grounds now and see if you can find traces of burglars. I'm going for a walk to think this over. Meet me back in the parlour in an hour or so."


Raymond and the Colonel went outside. The Colonel began examining the windows and grounds for signs of forced entry or footprints while Raymond tagged along.

"Colonel, there's something I don't understand," said Raymond as they walked along the side of the big house. "Everyone says Barleybeef was a nutter, but look at this place, how did he make so much money?"

"I don't know, but I'd bet it wasn't legal. I'm sure Miss Marble knows but I'm not asking her. She's been in a mood lately and rather touchy lately."

"Yes, I've noticed."

They made their way around to the back of the house, checking the windows and flower beds.

"That nurse would be my guess," said Raymond after a minute. "She has that look."

"But she wasn't here at the time of the shooting," said the Colonel.

"That's my point, it's the perfect alibi. She could have sneaked back in to the house and shot Barleybeef with his own gun. She knew the layout of the house and the movements of the people."

"She could have. But what's her motive?"

"I dunno, maybe someone paid her to do it. She has a mercenary heart. I imagine the right sum in her pocketbook would entice her to kill."

"I imagine it would. But still, who would want to see Barleybeef dead?"

"Maybe Miss Silinayme paid her."

The Colonel stopped examining the back lawn and though about this for a moment. "No, it doesn't stand up. Mabel Silinayme wouldn't put herself in her power of a murderer. She might be high-strung but she's not stupid. Besides, she had every opportunity herself. She even bought a gun but then had second thoughts."

"What if that was just a blind," said Raymond, "to throw us off the track."

"Then why buy a gun in the first place? asked the Colonel. "That only throws suspicion on her. It was very foolish, impulsive thing for her to do. It was a sure way to spread rumors around the village. No, the problem is motive. She's the only one that had a reason to kill Barleybeef and she didn't."

"Or so she says."

"Yes, so she says."

They turned the corner and were walking along the back side of the house on a flagstone path. The Colonel was checking for footprints under the windows when Raymond gave a cry.

"Hello, what's this?" He reached down into a hedge and pulled out a revolver. "Someone threw this into the bushes," he said.

"A third gun." said colonel Mustard-Gas. "The house is infested with guns."

"I'm betting this is Barleybeef Silinayme's gun," said Raymond. he smelled the barrel. "And it's been fired." He opened the magazine and checked the load. "Five empties. This is the murder weapon all right. Someone threw it in the bushes." Suddenly he realized what he was doing. "Dash it, I forgot. Now my fingerprints are all over it."

"Doesn't matter," said the Colonel, taking the revolver. "There's never been a case yet where fingerprints were conclusive evidence. Besides, Miss Marble is hardly going to turn it over to the police. He looked around. "Someone could have been sneaking around the back of the house and tossed the gun while they were getting away."

"But why throw it away at all?" asked Raymond. "Why not take it away and hide it where nobody would ever find it?"

"Maybe that's what the murderer was going to do. But someone saw them and they didn't want to have the weapon on them so they threw it into that bush."

Raymond nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, it could have been like that. "And perhaps they intend to come back for it. We should keep watch."

"And perhaps they aren't going to come back," said the Colonel. "I'm not going to hide around out here watching some bush. We still don't know if the murderer is an outsider or a member of the household." He checked his pocket watch. "There's a half hour left and we haven't finished checking the grounds yet, so let's get cracking."


Raymond and the Colonel finished their inspection and went back to the parlour to report. They showed Miss Marble the murder weapon and advanced their theories. She listened to them without saying a word. When they finished she said: "You two have done well but you're too late. I have already solved it."

"You have?"

"Yes, the whole thing. I took a walk to the village, it's only a mile or so down the road. I was walking along the main street and I shut my eyes, and when I opened them, what do you think was the first thing that I saw?"

"A motorcar bearing down on you." said the Colonel.

"A government man in a trench coat and dark glasses watching your every move?" asked Raymond.

"A fat naked man riding a unicycle with no seat?" offered Mustard-Gas.

"I saw," said Miss Marble, "a fresh trout. In the window of fishmonger Phil's."

"A fresh trout?" asked Raymond. "You saw a fish in a fishmonger's shop? Amazing!"

"Yes, Mr Nardgarbles, It was. The first thing I saw were it's fish eyes looking back at me, black eyes, like doll's eyes. And then the answer popped into my head."

"You're not suggesting that a fish shot Barelybeef, are you?" asked Colonel Mustard-Gas.

"Of course not. Has it ever occurred to you," the old lady went on, "how much we go by what is called, I believe, the context? There is a place on Dartmoor called Grey Wetters. If you were talking to a farmer there and mentioned Grey Wetters, he would probably conclude that you were speaking of a set of stone circles laid down by a tribe of neolithic ooka-ooka stone crabs, yet it is also possible that you might be speaking of elderly ladies with incontinence."

"Why would anyone be talking to farmers about old ladies wetting themselves?" asked Mustard-Gas, "that's silly."

She pointed a finger at him. "Exactly, Colonel, now you've hit it. It's insane, just like everyone in this household. Shithouse rats indeed. And I find it quite disturbing."

"Because of Mabel living here, you mean?" Asked Raymond.

"Yes, Mr Nardgarbles. I tried to dissuade Mabel from marrying Barleybeef in the first place. I tried to keep her from coming back here after her troubles started, yet she still came back, against my advice. Now she's in real trouble and she calls me down here to save her chestnuts from the fire. As if I'm some sort of fairy godmother with a magic wand! And I have to come all the way down here, into this house of bedlam and sort everything out among these insane people. Fish fur on Jesus; what bollocks! It's lucky for Mabel that I used to hold Ratbark Bill in such high regard or I'd fire the whole estate right now with everyone inside. And spread salt on the ashes!"

She stopped, panting slightly from this outburst.

"Perhaps you'd like to have a rest," suggested Colonel Mustard-Gas.

"Later," she said, "first we'll get down to the bottom of this case and have it out with the murderer. Then I'll have a lie-down."

"An excellent idea," suggested Raymond, "Please, lead on, Miss Marble."


They went up the stairs to old Mr Silinayme's room. I knew it, thought Raymond. It was the nurse that shot him.

Nurse Wanacrasker was sitting in her chair reading a magazine. The old man was awake and just looking at the ceiling. Miss Marble marched right up to them.

"We know everything," she announced. "Mr Silinayme, why did you shoot your son?"

The old man slowly looked over at her for a minute with his dead black eyes and then he burst out laughing. It was one of the most creepy laughs Raymond had ever heard. It sounded like a sixpenny nail being pulled from green wood and it made his flesh creep. Raymond had only heard something like it once before, when poor Miss Biggijugs went off her head in the sub-editor's office of House Fancier magazine.

"Yes!" cried Mr Silinayme, rubbing his withered old hands together like a fly. "I got even with Barleybeef. Going to put me away, was he? Have me shut up in an asylum like a tuna-noodle freak, hah? Never! Oh, I heard all about it. Polly here told me about those two arguing downstairs. Mabel stuck up for me but I knew she wouldn't stand up against Barleybeef. He would get his own way; he always did. But I settled his hu-hash for him, didn't I. He-hee! Polly told me where Barleybeef kept his gun. And then she went out for the night, a-boning everything in pants. I crept through the hallway in the night, like Niagara Falls. Slowly, I crept, step by step, inch by inch. It was easy. Nobody thinks I can walk that far, but I can. I can walk to the moon if I want! Barleybeef was asleep. I took his gun from the nightstand and I shot him down like a sleeping dog! I threw the gun out the hall window on the way back to my bed and pretended to be asleep. Hee-heee! They came to me in the morning and broke it to me very gently. They were afraid it would upset me. Upset me! Heee! Heee! Heeee! Heeeeeeeeee!"

"There you are," said Miss Marble over the drooling giggles coming from the old man. "There's your cold blooded murderer, a simple old man that isn't in his right mind. Of course he'll have to be put in an asylum now. They'll probably say he isn't responsible for what he's done, except he is. When the truth comes out everyone will be sorry for Mabel, except me. It was her own doing by getting mixed up with the Silinaymes in the first place. If she had listened-"

There was a very long pause as Raymond and the Colonel stared at the old man in revulsion. "Shithouse rat," muttered the Colonel.

"Nurse," asked Miss Marble, "how much are you being paid to tend to him?"

"Six pounds a week," nurse Wanacrasker replied, "and all the side tricks I can make in village on my days out."

"Fine," said Miss Marble. "That's...two hundred pounds a year. I'll double that right now if you leave here and go back to America this instant."

Nurse Wanacrasker looked both amazed and a little frightened. "But what about him?"

Miss Marble gave the nurse a meaningful look. "Don't worry, I will see that Mr Silinayme gets what care he deserves."

After thinking about it for another second Nurse Wanacrasker stood up and said: "Done."

"Good. My chequebook is in my purse downstairs."

Nurse Wanacrasker smoothed out her white uniform and looked at the drooling old man. "He was becoming insufferable anyway, with his crabs and everything. Besides, it takes him forever to finish. My arm would get dreadfully tired and I've got a case of hand crabs to beat the band."

She went to a closet and removed a topcoat and a suitcase. "Just give me a half hour to get my things and get down to the train station." She looked at Miss Marble. "I don't want to be around when you take care of him. I hate the sound of gunfire."


Back at Miss Marble's house the next afternoon the Colonel and Miss Marble were sitting on the back porch. The tea trolley was between them.

"Miss Silinayme is having a lie-down in the spare room," announced Raymond, stepping out of the French doors and sitting in one of the white iron lawn chairs. He poured himself a cup of tea. "She's feeling much better, but still tired." He dropped a cube of sugar in his tea and stirred thoughtfully. "Miss Marble," he said after a minute, "you really are amazing."

She flushed a little. "Nonsense. It's just an application of pressure where it's needed most," she said. "Just a little push, you might say. Once the estate is settled Mabel will get everything. With my assistance she can get some real household staff instead of those barking-mad loonies Barleybeef had."

"They were all crazy then?" asked Raymond

"Except for the nurse, yes. The cook and the maid were escapees from Bedbhug Asylum. I made several telephone calls this morning, including one to the Bedbhug asylum. Professor Daniel Druff is the warden there. He says they've been looking for those two for the past year. Apparently Barleybeef was hiding them in his house and didn't tell anyone where they came from."

"What about the police?" asked the Colonel.

"Nobody will know anything about anything," she said. "It's not like the death of an old man, a maid and a cook will attract too much attention way out there. The police report will say old mister Silinayme got hold of Mabel's revolver, shot Barleybeef, both servants and then turned the gun on himself twice, just to show he really was crazy."

"And they'll believe that?" asked Mustard-Gas.

"Money buys belief," said Miss Marble, "just look at the Church. Mabel can pay me back when the estate clears probate."

"Just amazing," Raymond repeated. "You seem to know everything."

"Yes, I do," said Miss Marble. "Including what you and Mabel were up to when you were out by my back gate last night." She clicked her tongue. "You simply ruined my hydrangea hedges, rolling around like that."
She took a sip of tea. "Did you know that's the same spot where the milkman knocked up Annie, the gardener's girl. Five in the morning and they were making the empty milk bottles rattle like a fork lorry on cobblestones."

"Dash it all, Miss Marble," said Raymond, "why must you spoil the romance. Miss Silinayme and I aren't like the milkman and Annie."

"Yes you are, dear," said Miss Marble. "Except the milkman only comes twice a week. By the look of my hedges, I'd say you matched that in an hour."