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Authors: Margaret Yorke

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Cast For Death (7 page)

‘But if it wasn’t suicide, what could have happened?’ Liz asked.

‘I don’t know. No one could have had a motive for murdering him.’

‘Professional rivalry? Someone else wanting to be Friar Lawrence?’

‘Hardly. He wasn’t successful enough for that. Besides, do you think actors really go round killing one another out of professional jealousy? I doubt it.’

‘Who’ll get his parts now?’

‘I’ve no idea.’

‘It must have been an accident. He fell in the river – I don’t know – after a few drinks. On his way to the theatre.’

‘But the rope marks on his wrists – how do you explain them?’

‘Some sex aberration?’ hazarded Liz.

‘Well—I hadn’t thought of that,’ Patrick admitted. ‘It’s possible, I suppose. But Sam, surely not?’

‘How can one tell about other people?’ Liz asked.

‘You thought he wasn’t interested, when we met him in Greutz,’ Patrick remembered.

‘He was nervous of women. Some men are,’ said Liz. She hesitated, then plunged on: nothing was altered: this was Patrick, with whom for half her life she had felt free to discuss any subject. ‘They’re afraid that more may be expected of them than they’re prepared – or perhaps able – to offer. An inverted form of conceit, when you think about it. He was a nice man, though. He relaxed, once he was sure no one was trying to trap him.’

‘He was very unsure of himself. I realise that now,’ said Patrick.

‘Yes. Covered it up by fleeing,’ said Liz. ‘One does, doesn’t one—’ She let the sentence fade away, looking suddenly embarrassed, and inspected the small posy of flowers arranged on their table.

Patrick regarded her curiously. He knew little about her day-to-day life now. In Austria, where they had met Sam, she had been attracted to one of the men in the group she was with; Patrick had thought her oddly naive at the time, and he knew she had not enjoyed the experience. Had she indulged in more rewarding amorous encounters since then? Looking at her, he could not believe that she had no emotional life, yet he knew very well that many people who would have chosen otherwise were obliged to accept such a condition.

He told her about Manolakis, the poodle, and the death of Tina Willoughby. It broke the tension between them.

‘But it’s sheer coincidence that this Tina woman was moving to Stratford when Sam was going there. There can’t be any connection. Or if there is, the police will find it,’ said Liz.

‘I suppose you’re right. But I do wonder why she killed herself,’ said Patrick.

‘Why did she want to move to Stratford?’

‘Because of her interest in the theatre, the neighbour thought. As Sam was going there so soon there could be a link.’

‘How can you find things out about her? Knowing you, I imagine you mean to try,’ said Liz.

‘Chat casually to someone who knew her – see what comes up in the course of general conversation.’ Patrick ignored Liz’s sardonic tone.

‘Mm. Couldn’t you suggest to the police that they should do it?’

‘Yes. But if this is a red herring, it’s a pity to go stirring things up,’ said Patrick.

‘I see your point. If something came up at the inquest on Tina to show she knew Sam, the police would automatically follow it up.’

‘Yes.’

‘But it wouldn’t be the same police force, would it? Dealing with both?’

‘No, but if something like that was disclosed about Tina, I think London would hear about it,’ said Patrick.

‘So you’ll wait and see what happens?’

‘I think so. More or less.’

As they drove back to her flat she commented on the car.

‘I like it. Much more dashing than the Rover,’ she said. ‘What made you choose this?’

He could not tell her that he feared the onset of middle age and sought to enliven his image.

‘It’s fun to drive,’ he said. ‘You’re close to the road – there’s immediate, precise control. Like riding a horse – which I’ve done quite a bit, though you may find it hard to believe.’

‘Is there anything you haven’t done, Patrick?’ she asked.

‘Skin-diving,’ he answered at once. ‘I’m scared of it.’

The thought of Patrick being scared was disarming.

‘I thought you had no nerves,’ she said.

‘I’m afraid of a lot of things,’ he told her. ‘Not all of them requiring physical courage.’

He went up with her to the flat, where she made coffee and put on a record. It was Mozart.

‘Nice,’ he said.

‘Yes.’

‘The manuscript – the one you were going to read tonight. What is it?’

‘Oh – a biography of Florence Nightingale,’ she said.

‘Any good?’

‘Yes, I think so. We’ll probably do it.’

‘Have you been to Claydon House?’

‘No.’

‘Neither have I. We should be ashamed of ourselves. It’s so close to Oxford.’

‘Yes.’

‘We could go, of course.’

‘Why not?’

The weekend stretched blankly ahead of Liz; she had made no special plans, and to spend time with Patrick, whether or not they visited Florence Nightingale’s former home, would be very pleasant.

‘We might take Dimitris. He wants to see various sights and I mean to take him to some stately homes. I’ll ring you about it,’ said Patrick.

‘All right,’ said Liz, deflated, and decided that she would not, after all, encourage Patrick to stay very much longer this evening.

Driving through the starlit night, Patrick reflected on the evening. In a way, it had ended in a disappointing manner, with no repeat of their warm embrace. Whose fault was that? He tried to work it out. Liz had seemed less approachable, and his own reserve had returned. Perhaps, on the whole, it was just as well.

Patrick spent Saturday writing an article about Ben Jonson, and on Sunday he went to lunch with Jane, where he spent the afternoon clipping a hedge with his brother-in-law, and burning the trimmings. Andrew helped them both. Patrick left after tea, pleasantly tired and smelling of wood smoke.

‘Patrick’s broody,’ said Jane, when he had gone.

‘Oh?’ Michael was used to her speculations about her brother. She often fretted rather crossly about his mode of life.

‘Mm. His mind kept wandering. Didn’t you notice?’

‘Not really. We were just busy with the hedge,’ said Michael, who was blessed with an equable disposition and did not go looking for trouble.

‘We’re very good for him. He’s gone back to college now to dine in grandeur,’ said Jane. ‘If it wasn’t for us he’d know nothing about daily life and hedge-cutting. He’s got that suicide business on his mind, I suppose. I wish he’d leave it alone.’

‘He’s been useful, several times.’

‘I know. But he finds things out about himself while he’s uncovering crimes, and it’s not always happy for him,’ said Jane.

‘Darling, he’s a grown man – and he’s been a fellow of his college for a good many years now. Don’t worry so much about him.’

‘I’m not exactly worrying. I just think he compensates in some way for his own personal failures by sorting out other people’s,’ said Jane.

‘Is there anything wrong with that?’

‘No, not if it helps all round in the end. But it’s vicarious living. Don’t you agree?’

‘Well—’ Michael was not sure. ‘Up to a point, perhaps.’

‘He likes running home to St Mark’s when he’s had enough of the real world,’ said Jane. ‘It’s a retreat.’

‘Well, at least he makes little forays outside,’ he said. ‘He doesn’t shut himself up the whole time, like some academics.’

‘I hope he brings his Greek friend to see us,’ Jane said. ‘I want to meet him.’

‘He probably will,’ said Michael. ‘He’ll want to show him our English way of life.’

Back at St Mark’s, Patrick was not dining in the grandeur imagined by Jane, for the college staff were having a rest and the kitchens were closed. He was, in fact, opening a tin of soup and eating biscuits and cheese for his supper. He had forgotten to shop, and the bread in his plastic bin was covered in flourishing mould.

He was delighted when, at nine o’clock, Manolakis rang up to report his business in London concluded and to ask if he might return the next day.

 

Part VII
1

 

Manolakis was eager for the experience of travelling by British Rail; trains were not a feature of life in Crete. However, Patrick insisted that he had a call to make in Dean Street and would collect him afterwards.

He parked in Soho near the office of the agent whose address he had been given at the Fantasy Theatre. It was above a pizza restaurant, and strong, cheesy smells filtered up the stairway to the dark passage above, where a glass door bore the name
Leila Waters,
painted in black, and a sign instructed
Enter and Wait.

Patrick entered.

In a small room with green walls and a cream ceiling, and an unvarnished board floor, three men sat on chairs ranged round the sides of the room like patients waiting for the doctor. Two looked despondent, the third desperately alert. None was young. Over their heads were ranged a variety of blown-up photographs, none of which showed a face which Patrick was able to recognise.

A thin girl with frizzed hair and high platform soles sat typing at a desk in the corner.

‘She won’t see you without an appointment,’ was the response when Patrick asked for an audience with Leila Waters.

‘Please take her this and ask her if she would be good enough to spare me five minutes,’ said Patrick, as he took a card from his wallet and wrote a few words on the back of it.

The girl looked at him suspiciously.

‘I’m not an actor. It’s about something else,’ said Patrick, and felt the atmosphere in the room change as the three waiting men stopped silently registering horror at his effrontery.

‘Well, I’ll ask,’ said the girl. ‘But I’m sure she won’t see you.’

She disappeared through a chocolate-brown door. Certainly Sam’s agent wasted no percentages on the premises, thought Patrick. He sat down, well away from the trio of men. The alert one was fidgeting, twitching his foot up and down and snapping his fingers. Patrick wondered if he was mentally practising some dance routine. The other two men stared into space. As the girl came back, the telephone on her desk rang.

‘You’re to go in,’ she said to Patrick, swinging her hips behind the desk and seizing the receiver while she spoke.

Watched resentfully by the other men, Patrick went through the chocolate-brown door.

A fat, white-haired woman sat behind a scratched desk talking into another telephone. She had stubby fingers with chunky rings on most of them, and her nails were painted blue. The walls here were covered with more photographs, and this time Patrick recognised nearly all the faces. He saw Joss Ruxton, the actor who had played Othello last year at Stratford, and his Desdemona, and a print of Sam taken long ago dressed as Jaques.

‘Yes—I know you’ve an audition on Tuesday, but this would be better for you – eight weeks filming and who knows what might come after that if the film’s any damn good. Now, you get along there,’ the woman was saying, and she waved a hand at Patrick to sit down.

He did so, watching while she talked on, cajoling and bullying, and eventually reached agreement with her client, after which she slammed down the receiver.

‘Now. Three minutes, that’s all,’ she said, fixing Patrick with a bright blue stare from tiny, deep-set eyes. Her voice was youthful, and her diction crisp; he guessed she had once been on the stage herself.

‘Sam’s funeral – do you know when it is?’ Patrick asked her.

‘He can’t be cremated – some ban by the coroner. It’s on Wednesday at ten,’ said Leila Waters. She scribbled something on a piece of paper, tore it from a pad and gave it to him. ‘There. That’s the cemetery and the name of the undertaker.’

‘Thank you,’ said Patrick.

‘Well, Sam’s troubles are over. Pity,’ said Leila. ‘He had talent.’

‘Why didn’t he get any further?’ Patrick asked.

‘It was his own fault. There was that business years ago – you knew about it?’

Sam had been mixed up in a drug scandal; he had been acquitted in court of any complicity in what had gone on but he had had a breakdown, broken a contract, and been out of work for years.

‘He needn’t have dropped out of sight then,’ Leila went on. ‘But his nerve went – he wouldn’t turn up for auditions, or if he did, he dried – couldn’t do a thing. He was almost washed up.’

‘What made him keep at it?’

‘I did. Told him to stop wallowing in self-pity and get on with it, and found fresh opportunities for him when no other agent would have bothered. I always believed in his ability, but his temperament was too much – it beat him in the end.’

The telephone rang, and she spoke into it again for some minutes. It was a call about finding an actress for a commercial. Patrick listened with interest to the conversation. He thrived on seeing aspects of life so different from his own.

‘Stratford,’ he said, when Leila had finished. ‘Sam was going to be Friar Lawrence and Cinna.’

‘Not Cinna – Caesar,’ said Leila. ‘That could have made him. He might have settled down and become a regular part of the company.’

‘Caesar himself, indeed,’ said Patrick thoughtfully. Denis had got it wrong.

‘Yes. Another actor was picked first, but he couldn’t do it in the end – a film part came up, and he took that.’

‘So it was offered to Sam? He was already going up there for
Romeo and Juliet?’

‘Yes.’

‘He seemed to have no friends,’ said Patrick.

‘He was a loner. I doubt if anyone ever got close to him,’ said Leila. ‘I can’t help you, if you want to know why he did it. I told the police the same thing.’ She reached out for the telephone. ‘I’ve got to find that actress,’ she said, and, as Patrick still remained sitting in front of her, added, ‘I sent him off several times to audition for really good parts – things he could do on his head if only he’d kept it – but he didn’t turn up. You can’t keep on indefinitely with someone like that.’

Yet she’d done it: persevered for years, and thought at last that she’d found him a niche where he might take root.

‘Nerves?’

‘No confidence. Many actors lack it – some of the greatest never get over their nervousness – but the obsession with acting overcomes it. The business is harsh—tough—unless they fight they don’t get on. There are hundreds of people with talent and someone unreliable won’t be chosen if there’s a reliable actor around waiting to grab what’s going.’

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