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Authors: Margaret Yorke

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Cast For Death (9 page)

‘Suicide while the balance of the mind was disturbed,’ said Lettie promptly. ‘Tessa didn’t know of any reason, unless it was the move, but I thought Tina was looking forward to that. The doctor said he’d been treating her for nerves – she was having tranquillisers – and in the past he’d prescribed sleeping pills, though not recently. There were some empty bottles in the bathroom.’

‘She was highly strung,’ said Hugo Barry, making his first contribution to the discussion. ‘Wouldn’t you agree?’

Patrick knew that now he must confess.

‘In fact, I never met her. I ran over her dog – that poodle – she was already dead at the time, it seems,’ he said.

Both the Barrys looked surprised at this, but Hugo, at least, did not condemn Patrick.

‘Tiresome little thing,’ he remarked. ‘Always yapping.’

‘It might have caused a serious accident, running out into the road as it did,’ said Patrick. Not overfond of dogs himself, except for certain individual ones, he was about to say they could be a great nuisance when his glance lighted on a small bundle by the hearth: a chihuahua wearing a woollen jacket,

Hugo Barry noticed Patrick looking at the dog, and gazed fixedly at his own drink. He showed them to the door when they left shortly afterwards.

‘Tina wasn’t a cold sort of person,’ he said abruptly to them, in the hall. ‘I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression of her.’ He paused. ‘It was better she moved. And she’d taken up with this actor fellow - I don’t know his name.’ He gave a wry smile. ‘Maybe he’s married too.’

‘Well!’ exclaimed Patrick when they went out to the car. ‘What do you make of that, Dimitri?’

Dimitris Manolakis was clicking his tongue against his teeth and smiling.

‘Patrick, you have such a—I do not know how to say it—people tell you what they are thinking. No wonder you do not marry, the world is for you, you can choose what you like.’

Patrick felt embarrassed at all this personal speech. He changed the subject. Tina would keep – or the circumstances surrounding her death would.

‘We’ll have dinner in Thame,’ he said. ‘There’s a famous pub there – someone wrote a book about it once.’ He started the car. ‘Well, at least you’re seeing some British homes and meeting some British people. I wonder what sort of impression you’re getting of the nation.’

‘Quite good,’ said Manolakis, nodding his head. ‘Quite good.’

 

Part IX
1

 

‘I shall have to go in the back,’ said Liz with resignation. ‘I’m smaller than you, Dimitri, and anyway you must sit where you can see the countryside.’

They were standing in the quadrangle of St Mark’s and surveying Patrick’s car, which had room in the rear for only a child or a gnome.

‘I do not like this for you, Liz,’ said Manolakis solemnly.

‘Well, let’s go in my car,’ said Liz. She had arrived in Oxford soon after four, in her old Triumph Herald. ‘It’s cramped too, but not as much as yours, Patrick. You can spread yourself out in the back. Dimitri must be in front.’

It was decided. Patrick gave in with fair grace. He climbed into the back of the Triumph and arranged his legs as best he could behind the front seats. From this position he had an uninterrupted view of the two dark heads in front of him as their owners chatted eagerly all the way through north Oxford and out on to the Woodstock road. Liz had not been to Oxford since the controversial traffic amendments; she was astonished at the street closures and the bus lanes, and remarked upon them to Patrick, who, because the engine was rather noisy, found it hard to hear what she said. After a while Liz stopped trying to talk to him.

‘Did you like Devonshire?’ she asked Manolakis.

He and Patrick had spent the week in the West Country, and had been across the Severn Bridge into Wales. Manolakis expounded at length on the delights of their tour; he had enjoyed walking on Dartmoor and looking at the Atlantic from Land’s End.

Liz was a good driver, and her old car still had some zip left, Patrick had to admit as he crouched behind while Manolakis compared the wild ponies he had seen with the sheep in Crete. He interrupted the dialogue in front to explain about Blenheim Palace as they came into Woodstock. Liz broke into his account of the first Duke of Marlborough’s exploits to tell Manolakis that Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim.

‘You can see this palace?’ he asked.

‘Yes, but we haven’t time now,’ said Liz. ‘In fact there are lots of large houses in this part of the world one can look at.’

‘You have so many dukes?’ asked Manolakis.

‘They don’t all belong to dukes,’ Liz said. ‘There’s a lovely one near here where they have all sorts of conferences to do with various problems – Sir Winston stayed there at weekends during the war – it belongs to some sort of trust. Have you been to Ditchley Park, Patrick?’ she asked, over her shoulder.

He had not.

‘Or Woburn Abbey?’

‘No. I don’t want baboons on my bonnet,’ said Patrick. ‘You have to go through a jungle to get to the house.’

‘No, you don’t,’ said Liz. ‘The wild life park is quite separate. I’d love to see the house.’

‘I’d quite like to see the Canalettos,’ Patrick admitted.

‘What is this Woburn?’ asked Manolakis, so Liz told him about the home of the Duke of Bedford, now handed over to his son.

‘There are roundabouts and sideshows,’ said Patrick, shuddering.

‘There are lions and tigers?’ asked Manolakis, his face alight, like a child’s. ‘I have never seen these. Can we go there?’

Liz, catching Patrick’s eye in the driving mirror, saw a look of horror on his face.

‘You probably don’t have many in Greece,’ she said. ‘I’ll take you, Dimitri.’

‘You need not come, Patrick, if it is not your thing,’ said Manolakis, who had just learned this expression. ‘Liz and I will be happy alone.’

‘I’m sure you will,’ said Patrick sourly.

‘Dimitri, it’s very good for us to have visitors from other countries. It makes us realise what treasures we have here,’ said Liz earnestly. ‘We don’t always bother to go and see them unless we have people to show them to.’

‘It is the same for us,’ said Manolakis generously, and patted her knee.

Patrick leaned forward, inserting his head into the front of the car between the two seats, determined to break up this intimate atmosphere.

‘Sam’s funeral, Liz. You managed to go?’

‘Yes. I took some flowers.’

Patrick had wanted to go to it, but that would have meant interrupting Manolakis’s tour to come back to London. Liz had heard about his dilemma when he telephoned to make the arrangements for the weekend, and had offered to go.

‘Who was there?’ he demanded now.

‘Hardly anyone. I was so glad I’d gone. It was awful, really. Utterly bleak.’

‘No family turned up?’

‘No. There were two men I’m quite sure were policemen – they looked like them, anyway – sorry, Dimitri, no offence meant. They weren’t a bit like you, in fact – they were large and solid. And there was a young man whom I spoke to; he was from the Macbeth company. That’s all.’

‘Just the four of you?’

‘Yes. And the undertaker’s men lurking about. It was so sad.’

The idea of this dismal farewell appalled Manolakis; Greeks ordered these things differently. He looked shocked.

‘So it’s not much help to you,’ Liz went on.

‘Did you look at the flowers?’ Patrick asked.

‘Yes. Apart from the ones I took, there were some from the Fantasy Theatre – the whole cast, it said. That was all.’

‘Hm. Well, you’re right – it doesn’t give us any new information about his personal life,’ said Patrick.

‘No. But you’ll look up that girl tomorrow, won’t you? The one who’s got that house up here – she’ll have moved by now, won’t she?’ Liz asked.

‘Tessa Frayne. Yes.’ Patrick might learn something about her aunt’s life from the girl. ‘You two needn’t come,’ he said. ‘You can go and goggle at Shakespeare’s Birthplace or something.’

‘That’s a good idea. I’d like that, wouldn’t you, Dimitri?’ Liz said.

‘With you, Liz, I would like anything,’ said Manolakis, treating her to an ardent look from his large, dark eyes.

And to crown this exhibition, the play they were to see tonight was one of the most poignant tales of the power of jealousy ever created, Patrick thought, and he withdrew from them, back to the limits of his seat once more. Well, Manolakis would not be in England for long, and he certainly did not want the pair of them getting in his way while he talked to Tessa.

Stratford-upon-Avon, when they reached it, was preparing for Shakespeare’s birthday, which would be celebrated the next day, though the actual anniversary came on the 23rd of April. In recent years the festival had been held on the nearest Saturday. Flagpoles were fixed in the streets, and a huge marquee stood in the gardens beyond the theatre.

‘The ambassadors from various nations come and parade through the streets,’ said Patrick. ‘And they have a great luncheon, with speeches and so on.’

‘Will some Greek people be here?’ Manolakis enquired.

‘I suppose so.’

Manolakis was pleased to hear it.

It had been decided that the evening must be made complete for Manolakis with dinner at the theatre after the performance. Patrick went to make sure of their table, leaving Liz to show Manolakis the photographs of leading actors and actresses in the great roles which adorned the walls of the building. When he came back to them, they were beside the fountain looking at the five studies of Dame Peggy Ashcroft over their heads. They seemed to be standing very close together. Patrick hurried down the stairs to join them.

The stage, when they went into the auditorium, was set with a few pillars representing Venice. About them, the audience rustled with the air of eager anticipation that heralds an exciting theatrical experience. Manolakis was at once aware of the special atmosphere of this place.

‘I shall sit between you both,’ said Liz, and slid into place with one of them on either side of her, immediately turning to Manolakis to make sure that he knew what was going to happen in the first act of the play, so that he would not get lost when he heard language that would not be easy for him to follow.

Patrick was isolated again. He leafed through the expensive programme with which the management guided their patrons through the history of the play. Usually, when he came here, he simply took a free cast list from the slot on a pillar where they were provided, reckoning that he knew much more about all the plays than anyone involved either with the production or the programmes, but he had bought them each one tonight. There was plenty to read, he found, and it occupied him while Liz and Manolakis talked, but soon he grew restive and looked about him again.

At the side of the dress-circle, in a set of box seats, four men sat together. One had strikingly white hair and a lean profile; the others were younger, one with long hair and the other two neatly trimmed.

‘Who’s that up there?’ Patrick turned to Liz, interrupting her tête-â-tête. ‘That chap with white hair. Is he an actor? I know his face.’

Liz looked up at the men in the box.

‘It’s Ivan Tamaroff,’ she said. ‘The pianist.’

‘That Russian, you mean? The one who came over?’

‘Yes – years ago now. He’s marvellous,’ said Liz, who loved classical music and went to a great many concerts.

‘Who are those men with him?’

‘I’ve no idea. I don’t recognise any of them,’ she said.

As she spoke, violins struck up behind the stage. Slowly the lights dimmed. Liz and Patrick forgot about Manolakis, and indeed about everything as Roderigo and Iago entered, and before them began the build-up of circumstantial evidence that would end, some three hours later, in tragedy.

 

2

 

By the interval, Manolakis had become muddled with the plot, so they took their drinks out on to the terrace overlooking the river while they unravelled it for him.

‘It is so clever. All those small things which make for suspicion,’ he said.

‘Envy and jealousy,’ said Liz. ‘Self-perpetuating evils.’

‘What is envy? What is jealousy?’ asked Manolakis. ‘I think they are the same.’

‘Not quite,’ said Patrick. ‘Iago and Roderigo are envious: Othello is jealous. It’s a terrifying play. So much disaster from such a small start.’

They leaned on the parapet and looked down at the water. Two swans swam past, not too haughty to look up at the humans hoping for crumbs. Patrick thought of Sam’s hand, white in the dark waters of the Thames. But there was nothing sinister to be seen here, just some weed in the water.

‘It is very nice here,’ said Manolakis. ‘No bodies in this river, Patrick.’

‘Not tonight, anyway,’ said Patrick. The Avon must, he thought, claim its share.

‘There’s violence all round us, isn’t there?’ said Liz, with a wave of her hand that took in the peaceful-seeming playgoers now taking refreshment around them. ‘Just under the surface, I mean. People can become primitive when what they value is at stake.’

‘Or in pursuit of their desires,’ said Patrick. ‘Power, for example.’

‘Like Iago.’

‘Yes. And other seekers of power.’

They thought, in their individual ways, of tyrant regimes, student militants, and in Liz’s case of more personal threats, and were silent.

A little distance from them, Ivan Tamaroff and his companions were also looking at the water. The pianist was talking animatedly, gesturing with both hands.

‘A free man,’ said Manolakis. ‘It is good to travel, Patrick. I am enjoying my journey very much. Without you, I could not have done all these things.’

‘It’s my pleasure, Dimitri,’ said Patrick. ‘You were so kind to me in Crete. I stayed with you for many days, and you treated me like a brother,’ he added, with Greek extravagance of expression. ‘Dimitri’s wife is an angel,’ he said to Liz. Let her not forget that the Greek was married.

‘Ah yes. She is a good woman,’ said Manolakis.

A bell warned that the interval was coming to its end, and they turned to move back into the theatre. Manolakis took Liz by the elbow and guided her along. Patrick followed, his broad shoulders slumping as he felt suddenly superfluous. But Liz spoke to him as they took their seats.

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