Read Cast For Death Online

Authors: Margaret Yorke

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Cast For Death (8 page)

‘So you think he was capable of suicide?’

‘He proved it, didn’t he? Yet I thought this time he was really looking forward to the season. The run at the Fantasy went well, and he’s always liked doing Shakespeare.’

‘It seems funny that he lost his nerve about Stratford when he’d done that spell at the Fantasy,’ Patrick said. ‘I should have thought that was more of a challenge.’

Leila shrugged. ‘He’d done Macduff before, in rep. He’d never played Caesar,’ she said. ‘He’s the sort of person who, when they’re gone, you forget – it’s as if he never was,’ she added. ‘A negative man.’

‘What a terrible epitaph.’ Patrick was shocked.

Leila shrugged, impatient for him to leave.

‘Had he a drink problem?’

‘Not now. In the past.’

‘Any enemies?’

‘You’re joking. He wasn’t positive enough. No friends and no foes. Now, you’ve had far more than three minutes of my valuable time,’ Leila said. ‘Goodbye.’

She started her telephoning again as Patrick left. The three men in the outer office had been joined by a dark girl. None took the least notice of him; all were absorbed by their own problems.

They were looking for roles to play. But they must have other things too in their lives – lovers – people to whom they related in some fashion. Or did they all come to life only when they were acting?

And what about Sam?

 

2

 

Patrick spent the afternoon in the cinema and then met Dimitris Manolakis outside the British Museum, where he had been keeping a tryst with the fragments from the Parthenon.

He had also visited St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey with his relations, and he was wearing a new sweater which showed he had visited another tourist mecca.

‘I have some news about your dead friend,’ said Manolakis. ‘You might like to hear it right away.’ His English sounded more fluent already, though he must have been speaking Greek with his relations. ‘I have been to see the good Colin Smithers this morning and he told me. He knew you would want to know.’

The way Manolakis gambolled about among English verbs was impressive; but Greek ones were so difficult that ours must seem child’s play to one who had grown up with those, Patrick reflected.

‘The police are satisfied. They think his death was suicide, but he died from failing heart, not drowning. He had been acting out his fantasies.’

‘I don’t believe it,’ said Patrick. ‘You mean he tied himself up, acting out some masochistic scheme, and then jumped in the river?’

After a little sorting out of the linguistics of this, Manolakis agreed.

‘And he died from fear before he is hitting the water,’ he said, letting his tenses slip. ‘His arteries were not good.’

‘So they’re stopping enquiries?’

‘That bright.’

‘What do you think, Dimitri?’

‘I did not know your friend. I cannot judge. These things happen, it is known. Colin has told me of many unhappy cases.’

‘But the shreds of sacking under his fingers – what about them?’

‘Perhaps for some time beforehand he is tying himself inside a sack?’

If this was a case of some sort of perversion, it was possible. Inconsequentially, Patrick remembered the pile of sacks in the garage at the empty cottage near Stratford- upon-Avon.

‘I’m not at all happy about this,’ he said. ‘Let’s go and ask Liz what she thinks about it.’

‘Liz? Who is Liz?’

‘She’s a friend of mine – she knew Sam,’ he said. ‘And there’s a whole lot more, Dimitri,’ and he told him about Tina Willoughby.

‘But you have no proof that this lady knew Sam?’

‘Not yet.’

Manolakis had heard from Colin about Patrick’s uncanny instinct for sensing trouble. His nose, Colin had called it, and the Greek had seen proof of it himself in the past. It was a faculty he too possessed, and he respected it in another; the owner of it would worry away at a problem until he solved it, even if it took years.

‘If it was so, you will find out,’ he said.

They had hit the rush hour, and it took some time to get from Bedford Square to Bolton Gardens. Manolakis did not mind; the London crowds fascinated him. He had never seen so many people herded together. Athens was a great and bustling city, but the population of London equalled that of the whole of Greece; it was a sobering reflection. He looked benevolently at the convoys of large red buses and the hurrying citizens; he had no responsibility for any of them, he was merely an observer.

Patrick, meanwhile, was wondering what had made him think of consulting Liz. After all, they had met only a few days before. She would be very surprised to see him again so soon.

She was, and did not hide it; she also looked pleased. She had only just got back from the office when they arrived.

She gave them drinks and asked Manolakis how he was enjoying his visit, listening with interest to his answers. She had never been to Greece.

‘Oh, but you must go!’ Manolakis exclaimed. ‘You must take her, Patrick,’ he cried. ‘All English people are loving Greece.’

‘Yes, well—’ Patrick looked uneasy. He and Liz had met by chance in Greutz; they had never started out on holiday together. He looked at her and was relieved to see her eyes were sparkling and she looked amused. Where had she been on holiday last year, he wondered, never having thought about it before; and more important, with whom?

‘About Sam,’ he said, to put his thoughts in order, and told her that Manolakis had propounded her own theory.

‘It must have been something like that, surely, Patrick,’ she said. ‘One finds it hard to accept this sort of thing when it happens to someone one knows. It’s so sad to think they were so unhappy.’

‘His lack of success seemed to be mostly his own fault,’ Patrick said, and related what Leila Waters had told him.

‘Dimitris and I might call on Tina Willoughby’s neighbour on our way home,’ he said.

‘What excuse will you offer?’ Liz asked.

‘None. I shall tell the truth – that I was passing and was curious to know how the inquest went. It’s always better to stick to the truth. Damn it, I did kill her wretched dog,’ said Patrick. ‘We’ll be going to Stratford anyway, so I can have another look around Pear Tree Cottage then. You do want to go to Stratford-on-Avon, Dimitri, don’t you?’

‘Ah—that is the home of William Shakespeare. Yes, I like it very much. What is it to be seen?
The Merchant of
Venice
? I have studied him.’

“They’re not doing that just now,’ said Patrick. ‘It’s
Othello
again this year.’

Perhaps, for a Greek, a play with a less controversial background than the troubled island of Cyprus might be a better choice, but Manolakis appeared unconcerned.

‘I would like to see that,’ he said.

He did not mind what he saw or where he went; these English friends were warm and kind; where was the well- known British aloofness? He had yet to meet it.

‘You will come too?’ he said to Liz.

She was startled, and looked at Patrick.

‘Please,’ said Manolakis, and then was inspired. ‘It will be very happy for me if you are both my guests – I buy the tickets. How can it be done?’ He was delighted at having found a way to return some hospitality, typically forgetting that Patrick had stayed with him in Crete and the debt was quite the other way. ‘You will come, Elizabeth?’ He gave each syllable of her name its full value.

Why not, thought Liz. Did Patrick want her to accept? His expression did not reveal what he felt, but it would be silly to make an issue of it; she went with him to the theatre two or three times a year, and afterwards he always quietly forgot her till the next time. This would be merely another such occasion. She would like to see
Othello
at Stratford.

‘Thank you, Dimitri. I would like it very much,’ she said.

‘We may not be able to get tickets at short notice,’ Patrick warned.

‘You sometimes can at the start of the season,’ said Liz. ‘We can try. When shall we go? I might be able to get away early on Friday, but otherwise it would have to be Saturday.’

‘Let’s ring them up,’ said Patrick. ‘It may be a different play each night.’

Liz had a programme for the first weeks of the season. From that, they saw that
Othello
would be performed on Friday, and also on Saturday for the Birthday performance. They explained to Manolakis that the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday was always celebrated.

‘We won’t get in to that. It will be booked up for the important guests,’ said Patrick.

‘Well, let’s try for Friday, then,’ said Liz. She was about to make the telephone call herself, automatically, but something stopped her. ‘There’s the telephone, Patrick,’ she said. ‘You ring them up.’

He gaped at her. She sounded so bossy; just like Jane. But he rang up the theatre and was able to book three good stalls seats for the Friday performance; the tickets had just been returned.

 

Part VIII
1

 

‘She is a lovely woman, your Elizabeth,’ said Manolakis as they drove away. ‘She is your mistress?’

‘Good heavens, no!’ exclaimed Patrick. ‘Nothing like that.’

‘But why not? Or you will marry – she is not married, is she?’

‘She’s divorced. Her husband was—her marriage was unhappy—they parted years ago,’ said Patrick, feeling flustered at this inquisition.

‘You like her.’

‘Very much,’ said Patrick.

‘Well, then, it is natural – the one or the other,’ said Manolakis in his direct, Greek way.

‘It’s not as easy as that,’ said Patrick. ‘You Greeks, with your warm sunshine and your blue skies – these things seem simpler to you.’

‘Take her to Greece, then, Patrick, and it will be simple for you,’ said Manolakis.

Patrick was so stupefied by this conversation that he drove in silence for the next six miles while Manolakis admired the countryside.

‘Perhaps she has some other lover,’ the Greek said after a while.

‘Who? Liz?’

‘Yes. She is attractive. It must be so.’

The very notion was enough to make Patrick lose his concentration and drive without proper care. He scowled at the road ahead; if Manolakis was right, the fellow might be with her now. What a thought! Patrick gripped the steering-wheel tightly and pushed the car on faster, driving the loathsome idea out of his mind.

Liz, in fact, spent a solitary evening after they had gone, listening to a concert on Radio Three.

When they reached the place where Patrick had hit the dog, he turned off across the common.

Although it was evening now, it was still light, and a few people were strolling about. Some had dogs with them. Several cars were drawn in off the road and parked under the trees. They passed houses which drew surprised and admiring comments from Manolakis. It must all seem very strange to his alien eyes, Patrick supposed. Parts of England were still lovely, despite motorways, flyovers, tower blocks and industrial complexes. He must not let this business about Sam obsess him so much that he failed to take Manolakis around the country; he had planned to show him Devon and Cornwall, and offer Wales or Scotland – even both.

He slowed down and took a left turn along a rough, unsurfaced lane. They passed several houses, then reached the approach to Strangeways. Patrick stopped the car and opened the door.

‘Let’s walk up the road a little,’ he said.

The track petered out past Strangeways and became a footpath over the common. They followed it through some trees and into a clearing on the other side. Standing there, they could see a light on in the house where Tina Willoughby had died.

‘I wonder who’s in there,’ said Patrick.

‘The dead lady’s family,’ said Manolakis.

‘There was no one here when I called before,’ said Patrick. ‘And the neighbour didn’t mention a family.’

‘She must have someone.’ It seemed obvious to Manolakis.

It did not follow. Sam had not.

‘Well, we can’t ring and ask,’ said Patrick. There were limits to what he could bring himself to do in the interests of research.

‘There is no need.’ Manolakis put a hand on Patrick’s arm.

A gate in the hedge surrounding Strangeways had opened, and a girl in jeans and an anorak came out. She walked off across the common, head down, unaware of them.

Was she a daughter of the dead woman?

‘Let’s chat up the neighbour,’ he said, and had to explain the idiom.

 

2

 

Lettie Barry was drinking a large gin when the doorbell rang. She set it down to open the door, and when she saw Patrick and Manolakis outside, she at once invited them in. Her husband was at home now, and he hospitably offered them drinks.

‘I hope we haven’t interrupted your dinner,’ said Patrick, who in fact did not mind at all.

‘We’re just going out – we always go out to dinner on Mondays,’ said Lettie Barry. ‘I get so exhausted doing the washing.’

Was there so much? Surely she was mechanised? It was the sort of house that must have machines for everything. Perhaps she had six children; but there were no signs of any.

‘We saw a light on next door. We wondered who was there,’ said Patrick, coming straight to the point.

‘It’s Tessa Frayne – you know, the niece,’ said Lettie, still assuming Patrick to be a friend of Tina’s.

‘Ah yes,’ said Patrick, and waited to learn more.

‘She inherits everything,’ Lettie went on. ‘Well – it’s really only the house, since Tina’s alimony stops with her death. And not this one, either – the new people move in any day now, and Tessa has to give possession. It was all signed and sealed, so it must go ahead. Tessa’s decided to throw up her job and live at the Stratford house. She’s going to take in lodgers – folk from the theatre, she says.’

‘Well!’ exclaimed Patrick, since he must make some sort of comment. ‘What was she doing?’

‘Some secretarial thing. I don’t remember what. She’s given it up without a qualm, it seems.’

‘I suppose she’s pretty upset, though.’

‘A bit, of course – it was a shock, and it’s tragic – but she wasn’t close to Tina. Just saw her from time to time in a casual way.’

‘The inquest,’ Patrick murmured.

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