Dear former North Tower member,
As you’ll all remember, it will be five years in July since we all left Malory Towers, so we thought we should have a reunion to mark the occasion. We hoped to hold it in Cornwall, but have found it impossible to find suitable accommodation for so many of us at that time of year. Instead, we have found a smashing hotel in a super little village called Norton Magna not far from London. Take the train to Peterswood and then get a taxi to the Norton Hotel, Norton Magna.
The North Tower reunion will take place on the weekend of 21-23 July. Please let us know whether you can make it. We hope you can! Just let us know and we’ll make the booking – and let us know if there’s anyone you want to share a room with. It’ll be just like old times and we can’t wait to see you all again and find out what you’ve all been up to!
With love from
Darrell and Sally
“Hi, Alicia! How are you?”
“I’m very well, my dears.” Alicia grinned and waved a hand to the barman. “Gin and tonic suit you both?”
“It’s a bit early,” Sally began, glancing at her watch.
“Nonsense! We haven’t seen each other since we left St Andrew’s – we need to celebrate.” Alicia ordered the drinks, while Darrell and Sally settled down beside her in the comfortable armchairs near the fire in the hotel lounge. Although it was July, it was still cold, and the fire was roaring.
“Is anyone else here yet?” Darrell asked.
“Yes – Irene and Belinda arrived together and are in their room unpacking. They’ll be down in a minute.”
“How are they?” Sally asked.
“Oh, just the same as ever – total madcaps! Irene was humming a tune as she walked in and Belinda took time out to sketch the hotel from across the street. Wizard location, by the way. Shame we couldn’t have gone down to Malory, but never mind – I hear plenty about it from June, as I’m sure you do from your sisters.”
“Not for much longer, though,” said Darrell, a little sadly. Her sister Felicity was leaving Malory Towers at the end of this term and would be going to university in October. Like Darrell, she had ended up as head girl of the school and had loved her time there. Alicia’s cousin June was leaving too – and had just sealed a place in the England women’s lacrosse squad, having been sports captain at Malory Towers during the past year.
“Oh, well, I can keep you in touch with what’s happening there,” said Sally. “Daphne’s only in the second form.”
Their drinks arrived, but their celebratory clinking of glasses was broken by the arrival of four more ex-North Tower girls – Irene and Belinda and Bill and Clarissa.
“Didn’t realise you’d both be able to get away,” said Alicia to Bill and Clarissa. “How’s the riding school going?”
“Super,” said Bill. “We’re coaching the Malory Towers girls now and we’ve put together a jolly good eventing squad. Your cousin helped a lot with that, Alicia. She’s been a brilliant Sports Captain.”
Alicia glowed. June had once been a problem at Malory Towers and on the verge of expulsion – but now those days were long gone, and she was a credit to the school.
“So who’s looking after your son this weekend, Alicia?” asked Clarissa. “Your husband?”
Alicia shook her head. “No. James is on a golfing weekend this weekend. Out in all weathers, him and his barrister pals! My mother’s looking after Stephen. She just loves having him.”
“How old is he?” asked Irene.
“Just turned one,” said Alicia proudly. “I’ve got some photos with me. I’ll show you later.”
“And how’s the PhD going with a baby in tow?” asked Belinda.
“No problem,” replied Alicia. “You know me, Belinda. I can manage academic work standing on my head! Anyway, enough about me – what about you lot? Belinda’s got an exhibition in London, Irene’s getting known as the next big thing in composing, and Darrell! Darrell’s first book was published at Christmas!”
Darrell beamed proudly. Her first book, a school story, was the first in a planned series.
“Mind you, I do think you should have credited me and Betty with those jokes your girls play,” said Alicia. “Hey – look who’s here! Little Mary-Lou!”
“Hello, everybody!” smiled Mary-Lou. “I can’t stay – I have to go off and check in at the boarding house I’m staying in … ”
“Boarding-house!” said Alicia. “But what’s wrong with this place?”
“I can’t afford it,” said Mary-Lou blushing.
“I’m not surprised, on a nurse’s salary. And I don’t suppose you’ve found yourself a husband yet, Mary-Lou?”
“Leave her alone, Alicia,” said Darrell. “Mary-Lou’s married to her job, aren’t you, Mary-Lou?”
“And you can spend the time here with us and chat, even if you’re not staying here,” added Sally to Mary-Lou, who was looking upset at Alicia’s comments.
“Well, she can stay here,” came a new voice. “I can pay for her.”
“Mavis!” cried everyone in delight.
“I didn’t know you were coming,” said Sally. “You never replied to our letter.”
“So sorry,” said Mavis. “I’ve been in New York and only got home yesterday. It’s good timing as I have to go to Rome in four days’ time. I thought I’d come along and surprise you.”
“So you really did make it after all,” said Darrell admiringly. “Remember when you used to say ‘When I’m an opera singer, I shall sing in Rome … I shall sing in New York’. And now you do.”
“Yes, I remember,” said Mavis. “But I’m not the same as I was back then, Darrell. I’m no longer just a Voice. Thanks to all of you. Now, Mary-Lou,” she went on, “I’m going to book a room for you.”
“But you can’t!” protested Mary-Lou. “You can’t pay for me, Mavis.”
“I can,” said Mavis firmly. “You were my best friend at Malory Towers, Mary-Lou, and what I’m doing now is paying back only a fraction of what you did for me. Come on, let’s go and book a room.”
They left the room together. Alicia watched them go, feeling a little resentful. Mavis was a top opera singer. Belinda, Irene and Darrell were doing well in their chosen fields. Bill and Clarissa were running the stables. Sally was a games mistress, Mary-Lou was a nurse … They were all women in their own right, whereas she … Well, she loved James and her baby, and she was doing the PhD … but, well, she hadn’t really achieved anything much had she? “And I was the one with the real brains,” she thought.
“Who else is coming?” asked Bill. “Daphne? Moira?”
“Neither of them can make it,” said Darrell. “Daphne’s expecting a baby any time now and Moira’s a games mistress at a school that’s in some big tennis final this weekend – ”
“St Clare’s,” said Sally. “St Christopher’s, the school I teach at, played them earlier this term. They’re really good. Better at games than Malory Towers, even.”
“Never!” said Darrell at once.
“What about darling Gwendoline Mary?” asked Alicia. “Is she coming?”
“She is,” said a voice behind them.
They all turned to see Gwendoline standing in the doorway.
“Well, well, well,” said Alicia. “Speak of the devil.”
“How are you, Gwen?” asked Darrell.
Gwen smiled. “I’m fine.” She looked around. “None of you have changed much.”
“Neither have you,” said Alicia. “Fat as ever and your hair around your shoulders. What are you up to these days, Gwen? Still at home with your mother and Miss Winter?”
“I’ve been married for three years,” said Gwen with dignity.
“Have you?” asked Sally.
“Any kids?” asked Clarissa.
Gwen’s eyes misted over and she shook her head. “Not yet.”
“Typical Gwen!” said Alicia scornfully. “No good at anything!”
“Be quiet Alicia,” said Darrell, feeling uncomfortable. She glanced at the clock. “Come on. We’d all better start getting ready for dinner. I’ve booked a table in the restaurant for six o’clock.”
Bets Hilton studied her reflection in the mirror and decided that she really did look good tonight. She’d had her hair styled, she’d put on make-up and she’d shoved handkerchiefs into her bra to make her breasts look bigger. She was sick and tired of Fatty thinking of her as a little girl instead of a woman. He’d had no trouble realising that Daisy Daykin was grown up – oh, no! He’d been more than aware of her womanly charms and they’d dated for a while till she’d broken it off when she found someone else. But, despite the fact Bets was now 20, despite the fact that she worked very competently for him at the private detective agency he’d set up in Maidenhead, Fatty still referred to her fondly as “little Bets” and still patted her on the head when he was pleased with her. On the head, she thought scornfully. That wasn’t what he’d done with Daisy …
But tonight they had a date. Of a sort. He was taking her out to dinner at the Norton Hotel in Norton Magna, to celebrate the successful conclusion of Frederick A. Trotteville PI’s first case. The hotel had a good reputation for fine dining and Bets was looking forward to it, and determined to use the occasion to make sure that Fatty finally noticed she was an adult. She only hoped they wouldn’t run into PC Goon, who’d recently been dispatched to Norton Magna by Superintendent Jenks. Norton Magna had a zero crime rate, Superintendent Jenks had told Fatty – it was the only place he could send Goon, who hadn’t solved a single crime in Peterswood in years. “If it hadn’t been for you, Frederick,” he’d told Fatty, “Peterswood would have had the worst unsolved crime figures in the county. I can’t keep that nincompoop Goon there for ever.” If they ran into Goon, he would start some nonsensical argument with Fatty, and it would spoil the night. Well, not Fatty’s night – he’d immediately start thinking of ways to make Goon look even more of a fool – but Bets wanted romance tonight, not banter and disguises.
There was a tap on her bedroom door and Bets called out “Come in!” It was one of the maids. “Mr Trotteville is waiting for you in the drawing room, Miss Bets,” she said. “And can I say that you’re looking really lovely tonight.”
If only Fatty thought so too, Bets whispered.
“How many of us are there?” said Darrell. “Ten. Well, that’s a nice even number.”
“It’s a shame some of the others couldn’t make it,” said Sally. “Maureen – Amanda – Suzanne … ”
“Oh well, they were only with us at the end of our time there, really,” said Darrell. “I did wonder if we should invite Jean as she was in our form for such a long time, but in the end she left Malory Towers a year before we did.”
“Yes, I’d like to have seen Jean again,” agreed Sally. “But like you say, ten’s a nice even number … ”
Gradually all the women came into the restaurant and settled down at the big table in the centre of the room. They’d all dressed up for the occasion. “Isn’t it funny,” said Belinda. “We’ve never seen each other dressed for dinner before. We’ve only seen each other in school uniform.”
Clarissa laughed. “Maybe we should save some of the food and have a midnight feast in one of our bedrooms – for old time’s sake.”
“Oh yes,” said Darrell. “We did have some fun at Malory, didn’t we?”
There weren’t too many other people in the restaurant. Just a few couples, including a very fat man and a pretty woman who was gazing at him adoringly. Darrell noticed that the man’s eyes were not on his companion, though – they kept straying over to their table and looking at Clarissa Carter. Clarissa really was lovely these days, she thought, with her auburn hair and vivid green eyes – just as Belinda had predicted she would be.
“Can I take your orders?” a waiter asked.
“Not without me, you can’t!” said a voice.
And Darrell turned around in total disbelief as her companions gave shrieks of joy. It was Betty. Betty Hill. Alicia’s old friend from Malory Towers. Not a North Tower girl at all. Typical Alicia, she thought, annoyed. She’d wanted her friend at the reunion and had just invited her, without consulting Darrell and Sally at all. Just like back in the fourth form when she’d invited her – against the rules – to North Tower’s midnight feast. And look at the trouble that had come of that. Darrell suddenly felt a sense of foreboding and began to wonder whether the reunion had been such a good idea after all.
An extra place was laid for Betty and soon everyone was chatting and laughing, catching up with news and reminiscing about their time at Malory Towers. Well, almost everyone, Sally thought, looking around the table. Darrell was quiet and looking very annoyed, speaking only when a question or comment was addressed directly to her. Sally guessed correctly that Darrell was furious with Alicia for inviting Betty and, in a way, she didn’t blame her – it was a North Tower reunion after all. But Sally herself was rather glad that Betty had turned up. If Betty was there, Alicia had a boon companion. If Betty hadn’t come, then Alicia would have cottoned on to Darrell – and despite all their differences, Darrell still had a genuinely soft spot for Alicia and found her fun to be with. She hoped Darrell would get over her bad temper soon and relax and enjoy the weekend.
Gwen was quiet too. She sat at the end of the table, ignored by everyone else. Irene and Mavis, who were next to her, were talking avidly about the music world. Mary-Lou and Belinda were talking to Bill and Clarissa. Every now and then, someone would address a remark to the table in general, and Gwen would look relieved and laugh and even comment, trying hard to be a part of things. But she wasn’t. She never had been. Sally wondered why she’d even come.
Gwen herself was wondering that. It had been her husband, Ray, who had persuaded her to come, after she’d received the invitation. She had wanted to decline, but he’d said it would be good for her to get away and have some fun after all she’d been through recently. It would take her mind off everything, he’d said. And it was, in a way. She hadn’t thought about her mother once, and not been brooding much about the baby. But it wasn’t making her feel better. It was making her remember how she’d never fitted in at Malory Towers, how she’d always been the joke. And how she’d be the joke now, the minute she was out of sight. She sighed deeply and wished she’d been honest enough to tell Ray the real reason why she hadn’t wanted to come.
“So what are the plans for tomorrow, Darrell?” asked Alicia. “I know you said something about a theatre … ”
Darrell nodded. “Yes. We’re going the matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Maidenhead tomorrow afternoon. And we’re having dinner here tomorrow night. But I’ve left the morning free for us all to do as we like.”
“That’s good,” said Bill. “Clarissa and I want to check out the local stables. See if they’re offering anything we don’t and should.”
“And Darrell and I are going to find local bookshops and rearrange Darrell’s book so it’s prominently displayed on the shelves,” said Sally.
The others laughed.
“I thought I’d do some sketching,” said Belinda.
”No surprises there,” said Alicia.
“What about everyone else?” asked Sally.
“Alicia and I will look for a joke shop,” said Betty, but Alicia shook her head.
”Sorry, Betty, I’ve got to do a bit of business tomorrow. But I should be finished by 11, if there’s still time.”
“Business?” said Darrell. “Here? In Norton Magna?”
“What sort of business? You don’t even work,” added Sally pointedly.
“When you’ve got a one-year-old, Sally, you’ll discover what work really is,” Alicia retorted. “It’s private business, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything – it’s something someone else has asked me to look into.”
“What about you, Gwen?” asked Mary-Lou, who had noticed how out of things Gwen was and felt sorry for her.
“Oh, I haven’t really thought about it yet,” said Gwen.
”Come with me for a walk,” offered Mary-Lou. “I’m sure Mavis and Irene will want to talk music all morning … ”
Gwen smiled gratefully. “Thanks, Mary-Lou. I’ll do that.” Mary-Lou had always been the nicest of the lot, she thought. She was sorry she’d ever been mean to her. She really should, she reflected, have saved spiteful tricks for Alicia.
“Enjoying your school reunion, ladies?” a voice interrupted them. Darrell looked up. It was the fat man, the one whose eyes had kept wandering in Clarissa’s direction. He and his friend had finished their meal and were on their way out.
“How do you know we’re having a school reunion?” asked Irene.
“Elementary, my dear lady,” said the man, grinning broadly. “You’ve all been talking about a place called Malory Towers all night. Your voices carried across the restaurant when you got excited … ”
“Sounds like a good school,” said the woman. “All those tricks! Those scrumptious midnight feasts! Better than the school I went to.”
“Best school in the world,” said Darrell proudly.
“I’m Frederick Trotteville,” said the man. He shook hands around the table and stared when he reached Mavis. “My goodness! You can’t be … Gosh! You couldn’t give me your autograph, could you?” He grabbed a notebook from his pocket and flicked through to find a clean page.
“Of course,” said Mavis, signing it.
“Do you live in Norton Magna?” asked Darrell.
“Close by. In Peterswood,” said Frederick. “I run a detective agency there. And little Bets here is my assistant.”
“She doesn’t look so little to me,” murmured Alicia to Betty, who giggled.
“I wouldn’t have thought there’s much detecting to do in Peterswood,” said Sally. “It looks a lovely quiet place.”
“Well, that’s what you’d think,” said Frederick. “But goodness me, we’ve been solving crimes for years, haven’t we, Bets? Since Bets here was just eight years old … ”
“Oh, come on!” said Alicia. “You’ve been running a detective agency since Bets was eight years old?”
“Not then,” said Bets. “No – we had a club. The Five Find-Outers.”
“And dog,” Fatty added sadly. “Dear old Buster. Sadly missed. Anyway, what crimes did we solve, Bets? We had an arson, anonymous letters – ”
“We had those too – at Malory Towers,” said Gwen suddenly, with a dig in Alicia’s direction.
“And we had the Mystery of Mary-Lou’s smashed fountain pen,” retorted Alicia, glaring back at Gwen.
“Which you blamed me for,” Darrell interjected. “Do shut up you two. Go on,” she said to Frederick.
“We had jewel thieves, an art heist,” Fatty continued. “Oh, lots of crimes! And now I’ve set up the detective agency and we’ve just cracked our first case, Bets and I. We were out celebrating. Anyway,” he said, “we’d better be going. Nice to meet you, ladies. Enjoy the rest of your reunion.”
“If he’s such a great detective,” said Alicia, when the pair had gone, “you’d think he’d have realised it’s no use having an eye for Clarissa. Wouldn’t he, Bill?”
Bill stared at Alicia, then shrugged her shoulders and turned to Clarissa. “What time shall we go down to the stables tomorrow? Shall we get up really early and – ”
“Can’t I come with you in the morning, Alicia?” asked Betty. “I know you have a meeting, but I could just wait. Then we could – ”
“No,” said Alicia shortly. “Sorry, old thing,” she added, seeing Betty looked upset, “but it’s really strictly private.” Yes, she thought sourly, tomorrow morning someone would be getting their come-uppance. And she couldn’t wait to see it.
Larry Daykin finished what was left of his coffee and checked his watch for the hundredth time. Quarter to eleven and she was supposed to have met him by ten. She’d obviously changed her mind about coming. A pity she hadn’t had the courtesy to let him know beforehand.
The café door burst open and Larry looked up to see Fatty coming in. “Hi, Fatty!” he called. “Over here!”
Fatty grinned broadly. “Hello, old chap! Didn’t expect to see you here this morning.”
“I had an appointment with someone. Said she had a possible big scoop for me.” Larry was Chief Reporter on the Maidenhead Chronicle, and was hoping to get a job on one of the national papers soon. “But she hasn’t turned up.”
“Have another coffee and a bun and keep me company?” Fatty offered.
“Need you ask?”
“So what’s happening with you?” Fatty asked when their food and drinks arrived.
“Oh, work’s a bit quiet at the moment. Other than your case – which was our front page lead yesterday, I hope you noticed – the only news we have is that old Clear Orf’s been posted to Norton Magna. Have you met his replacement in Peterswood yet? He seems a nice fellow.”
“Yes, an improvement on Goon, but what wouldn’t be?” said Fatty.
“I was hoping this Mrs Alicia Reynolds really did have a big news story for me,” Larry sighed. “But never mind. Did you hear that Daisy’s down from London this weekend?”
“I didn’t know that.”
“She’s brought her new boyfriend with her. Jolly nice chap – name of Roger Lynton. I was chatting to him last night and it turns out he’s been involved in a few mysteries as well. Actually, why don’t you come to supper tonight and meet him?”
“Daisy won’t mind?”
“Why should she? You’re still friends, you two, aren’t you?”
“What about Roger Linton, though? How will he feel being introduced to Daisy’s ex-boyfriend?”
Larry punched him on the arm. “Fathead! You’re an old family friend. He doesn’t have to know you’re an old flame as well, does he? I’ll invite Pip and Bets as well – we can all have a good old chinwag.”
“All here?” asked Sally, joining the group of ex-Malory Towers girls in the hotel reception.
“All but Alicia,” said Darrell frowning. “Betty, are you sure you don’t know where she is?”
“Not a clue,” said Betty. “She never came back to the hotel this morning after her appointment.”
Darrell sighed. “This is too bad of Alicia. We really have to go now or we’ll be late for the theatre.”
“Maybe Alicia’s running late and will go straight to the theatre,” suggested Irene.
“Yes, Alicia’s more than capable of hailing a taxi,” said Belinda. “Don’t fuss so, Darrell. You’re not head girl now – you don’t have to go fussing after us all the time.”
“OK, let’s go then,” said Darrell reluctantly. “Hopefully Alicia will make her own way there, as you say.”
But she didn’t.
PC Theophilus Goon was on the beat, thinking for the first time that he was actually quite glad to have been moved to Norton Magna. When Superintendent Jenks had first told him he was being re-posted, he’d been upset. But now that he was actually here, he realised he liked this village. People smiled at him and said “Good afternoon, Constable” and kids asked him what time it was. Not like Peterswood, where everyone had laughed at him. Thanks, of course, to that Toad of a Boy. Goon couldn’t bear to even think about him, and was glad that his beat no longer involved walking past the Toad of a Boy’s private detective agency. If he never saw Frederick Trotteville and his friends again, it would be too soon.
Of course, there was the problem that there seemed to be no crime in Norton Magna. Walking the beat was all very well, but he was a policeman and he was supposed to solve crimes. As he would have in Peterswood, if it hadn’t been for that Toad of a Boy and his friends, always interfering, dressing up as Mr Hoho-Ha of Bong Castle India and goodness knows who else, thwarting Goon’s investigations and aspirations. At least that Pest of a Dog had died a couple of years back, Goon thought. Life had got a little better in Peterswood without that Pest of a Dog snapping round his ankles.
Goon finished walking through the village and took the track along the river. There was a little-known track from the river through the woods and to the police house that he could take. It was going to rain soon and he wanted to get back before it started. There was something on the wireless that he wanted to listen to as well.
Goon turned left onto the track and, as usual, there was no-one along it. As he walked, though, the rain started falling and soon it was pelting down. What a nuisance, he thought – he was getting soaked. Oh well, there was a hut just along the track that he could shelter in for a while. Hopefully the rain would stop soon and he’d be able to get home and listen to that program on the wireless.
He noticed her as soon as he pushed open the hut door. A young woman on the floor, face down. At first he thought she must have collapsed, but when he bent down to touch her he noticed the blood. Then he noticed the stab wound. "Ho," he said, "there's been murder here or my name's not Theophilus Goon!"
Darrell and Sally were dressing for dinner when someone tapped at the bedroom door. “Come in,” called out Darrell, and Betty entered, looking worried.
“What’s up?” asked Darrell. “Alicia not turned up yet?” She was cross with Alicia – not only had she invited Betty without permission, but now she’d gone off without a word to any of them and missed the theatre. The fact that Darrell had had to spend time arranging an extra ticket for Betty and then ended up with Alicia’s unused ticket made her even more annoyed.
“No,” said Betty. “Darrell, I’m worried. It’s not like Alicia to disappear like this without a word to anybody.”
“Being inconsiderate of others, you mean?” said Sally. “Actually, I’d have thought it was just like Alicia.”
“Shut up, Sally. I know you’ve never liked her,” said Betty, “and we all know why. Because she might take your precious Darrell away from you.”
Sally opened a drawer to hide her burning cheeks. “Alicia’s never bothered about other people,” she insisted. “You should know that, Betty.”
“She’s always bothered about me,” Betty pointed out, with some truth. “And she’d have left word for me. Look, I thought last night something was up with her. She was so quiet - ”
“Can’t say I noticed that,” said Sally.
“Not at dinner, no. But afterwards – in our room … ” Betty looked pleadingly at Darrell. “I thought we’d sit up all night talking and catching up with things – it’s been a few months since we last saw each other. But when we were on our own, she went all quiet and broody. She’s got some problem or other, Darrell, I’m sure of it. Maybe even a health problem. She wouldn’t even tell me who she was seeing this morning or why. You know Alicia – if she had some terrible illness, she wouldn’t tell us – she’d see it as weak … Maybe she’s collapsed somewhere … ”
Darrell nodded. Betty might be right, she thought. Alicia never complained, however ill she felt. “All right,” she said, “let’s go down to reception, maybe ring the local police or perhaps the hospital … ”
But there was no need. For when Darrell opened the door, two men in police uniform were standing outside. “Miss Darrell Rivers?” asked the younger one. “I’m Superintendent Jenks and this is PC Goon. I’m afraid we have some bad news for you.”
“Dead?” Darrell stared at the two policemen in disbelief. This couldn’t, she thought, simply couldn’t be true. Dead? Not Alicia! Why only last night Alicia had been in fine form, she’d –
“I knew something was wrong!” Betty burst out. “I said only a minute ago that she was sick – didn’t I, Darrell? What happened to her, Superintendent?”
Superintendent Jenks cleared his throat. “I am sorry to have to tell you that she didn’t die of natural causes.”
“You mean,” said Betty in disbelief, “Alicia was murdered?”
“That’s right, Miss,” said PC Goon.
“But who,” said Betty, bewildered, “would want to murder Alicia?”
“That’s what we are going to have to find out,” said Superintendent Jenks grimly. “Now, I understand from speaking with her husband that she was here for a reunion?”
“That’s right,” nodded Darrell. For an instant she’d forgotten about Alicia’s husband and child. “Oh, dear,” she said. “This is awful. Alicia’s baby is only twelve months old.”
“We’ll need to speak to everyone who’s at the reunion,” said Superintendent Jenks. “Can you give us their names and room numbers, Miss Rivers? The lady on reception gave us your name and room number as you made the booking.”
Dazed, Darrell gave him the information he needed.
“What happened to her?” Betty demanded. “How was she murdered?”
“We’re not at liberty to disclose that information yet, Miss,” said PC Goon.
“But I’m her oldest friend!” Betty protested. “I need to know what’s happened to her. Oh – “ She burst into tears. “If only she’d let me go with her this morning, even if she'd just told me where she was going this might never have happened.”
“Mrs Reynolds went off alone this morning?” Superintendent Jenks asked.
Darrell explained about Alicia’s mysterious appointment. The superintendent nodded. “We’ll get straight on to that,” he said.
“If only I’d insisted on going with her,” Betty sobbed.
“You might have been in danger too,” Sally pointed out.
Betty looked up and glared at her. “I don’t suppose you’re very upset about it, are you? Given now that she’s gone you’ve got Darrell to yourself for the rest of the weekend.”
Sally went pale. “Oh, Betty, how can you say that? I feel as bad about Alicia as Darrell does – as any of us will.”
“Well, we’ll need to question you all,” said Superintendent Jenks. “I’ll ask the hotel to find a room where I can interview you. And Goon,” he added, turning to his constable, “could you start trying to find out who Mrs Reynolds had an appointment with this morning?”
“So how many mysteries did you solve?” asked Fatty.
The Five Find-Outers and Roger Lynton were all having dinner at the Daykins’ house. Mr and Mrs Daykin had greeted the guests when they had arrived, but had gone out to the theatre to give, as Mrs Daykin had explained, “you young people a chance to enjoy yourselves”.
“Six,” Roger answered. “What about you?”
“Fifteen,” said Fatty proudly.
“Gosh,” said Roger impressed.
“Do you all keep in touch the way we do?” asked Pip.
“Oh yes. Well, Diana’s my sister and Snubby’s my cousin, so I see plenty of them. And we see Barney at least one a year. He and Diana are very close and I keep hoping something will develop there. At the moment, though, he has a girlfriend. A girl he met when he went to visit a circus late last year – she’d been in the circus like him and had left and had gone back to live with her father and been sent to school and so on. So they have plenty in common.”
“It must have been great to be in the circus,” said Pip. “I don’t know how Barney could bear going to school and then having an office job after being in a circus. I think I’d have gone back first chance I had.”
A maid came in at that moment, interrupting them. “There’s a phone call for you, Mr Larry,” she said.
Larry went out to take it and returned ten minutes later, his face red with excitement. “That was one of the reporters from the paper,” he told them. “He’d just done his round of calls – someone from the paper phones the police and fire brigade every night to find out what’s happening – and there’s been a murder at Norton Magna! And you’ll never guess, Fatty,” he went on, “but the woman who’s been murdered is Alicia Reynolds – the one I was supposed to see this morning, who never turned up.”
“Gracious!” said Fatty, his eyes shining with excitement. “That is a turn up! Do the police have any suspects?”
“I don’t know – but you can bet that the murderer is the person that Alicia told me she had information about,” said Larry. “Right! I’d better ring the police myself and find out what’s happening and let them know she planned to visit me. Do you want to come with me, Fatty, listen in on the call?”
Interfering kids, Goon thought crossly. He’d been hoping that whoever Mrs Alicia Reynolds had had an appointment with that morning had been a Most Suspicious Character, and although Larry Daykin was one of those Five Find-Outers and a Nuisance of a Journalist, Goon knew it wouldn’t be worth trying to pin anything on him. He and his friends, especially that Toad of a Boy, were too pally with the Superintendent by half. So he said pompously, “Thank you for that information. Let me just double-check the time you were supposed to meet her … And did she say what it was about?”
Blow, he thought, when Larry said she’d told him about a scoop but hadn’t said what the scoop was about. Still, he thought, he’d got some good information to take back to Superintendent Jenks. A likely time-frame for the death and the fact that she’d got something on somebody. Now they had to find out who. And that person would be the murderer, or his name wasn’t Theophilus Goon.
“Good work, Goon,” said Superintendent Jenks. Goon had interrupted him at the hotel, where he’d already interviewed a couple of the guests – Alicia’s closest friend Betty Hill and Darrell Rivers, who had organised the reunion along with Sally Hope. Betty had insisted no-one could dislike Alicia, that she was great fun, always had been. “Always up for a laugh,” she’d said. “Everyone loved her.”
Miss Rivers, though, had eventually and somewhat reluctantly, admitted that many of Alicia’s ex-classmates had had reason to dislike her. One of them in particular, Mrs Gwendoline Wilson-Jones, had apparently hated Alicia throughout their time at Malory Towers and had been the victim of cutting remarks about her childlessness by Alicia this weekend. Superintendent Jenks had planned to interview Mrs Wilson-Jones next, but this news from Goon changed his mind.
“One of the party’s a famous opera-singer,” he said. “If Mrs Reynolds had a story that she thought the newspaper was interested in, who’s more likely to be the subject of it that someone who almost everyone has heard of?”
“And what did you do this morning – right from when you got up, please?” asked the superintendent.
“Well,” said Mavis, “I had breakfast with some of the others at eight o’clock – ”
“Mary-Lou, Irene and Belinda. Then I went back to my room to catch up on some correspondence before getting together with Irene. She’s a composer and she wanted to show me some music she’d written – see if perhaps I could have some influence in getting someone well known to play it,” Mavis explained.
“Hmm,” said Superintendent Jenks. “And what time did you meet up with Irene?”
“At around ten-thirty.”
“So between, let me see – around eight-thirty and ten-thirty, you were alone?” The superintendent sounded excited.
“Did anyone come to your room – someone who could vouch that you were actually there?”
Mavis shook her head. “No. I was alone all the time.”
“I see.” He eyed her for a moment, making her feel uncomfortable – what was this, Mavis thought. Surely the superintendent didn’t think she’d murdered Alicia? What reason would she have?
“The next question is a little delicate,” said the superintendent. “Mrs Reynolds had a meeting planned with a local journalist this morning. Apparently she had information about something – or someone – that would have interested him very much had she made it to the appointment. Is there anything that she might have known about you - ?”
Mavis blanched. She couldn’t, she thought, panicking, she couldn’t –
“May I remind you that this is a murder investigation,” the superintendent said. “And everything is relevant.”
"Why didn't you tell him, Mavis?" Mary-Lou asked.
She and Mavis were in Mavis's room, and Mavis had just told her all about her interview with the superintendent. She'd also told Mary-Lou her secret - Mary-Lou was, she'd decided, the only person here she could really trust not to say anything to anybody.
"Because our affair is secret, Mary-Lou," Mavis explained now. "Paul doesn't want his wife knowing about us."
"Well, then, he shouldn't be having an affair with you in the first place," said practical Mary-Lou.
"He's a prince-in-exile," Mavis reminded her, "and he hopes to return to Baronia one day and take the throne. Having an affair might lose him a lot of public support. And anyway," she added, "it mightn't do my career any good. The public will forgive young men for sowing their wild oats, but women ... " She sighed.
"He's married to the daughter of those two pilots, isn't he?" remembered Mary-Lou. "That couple who were lost for a while, missing in Africa ... ?"
"The Arnolds, yes. Paul helped to rescue them," Mavis replied. "Then he married Nora. But he says she's terrible to live with, really spoilt and demanding. And boring, too. He prefers me because I'm talented and intelligent."
"And you say the superintendent said Alicia was going to the local newspaper with a scoop?" asked Mary-Lou.
"Yes," said Mavis, "but I don't see how Alicia could have known about me and Paul."
"It wouldn't have mattered if she did," replied Mary-Lou. "She wasn't going to the local paper about you, that's for sure."
"How do you know that?"
"Because," replied Mary-Lou patiently, "you're an internationally famous opera singer and Prince Paul of Baronia is famous for being the heir to a country that's just been invaded by the Soviets. If Alicia had known about you two, she'd have taken it to one of the national papers - not to the Maidenhead whatever-you-call it."
"Ah, Miss Hope, do come in," said Superintendent Jenks to Sally, with a smile. "Sit down. I shan't keep you for very long."
Sally sat down opposite him and looked at him apprehensively. He smiled a t her. "Now, Miss Hope, Miss Rivers tells me you actually chose this village and hotel for the reunion. Why was that?"
"Well, the village near Malory Towers - our old school - was booked out," Sally said, "and we didn't really know where to go. But I'd been here with my school at around the time we were looking for places - "
"Yes. St Christopher's. We played in the finals of a lacrosse tournament at Sheepsale. In March. There were eight teams in the finals, it was quite a big weekend. Anyway, we got knocked out in the semis - by Malory Towers, actually, but they then lost in the final to St Clare's - and after that, I did a spot of sightseeing and found this hotel. It seemed a good venue for the reunion."
"So you got to know the area a little?" the superintendent asked.
"In a couple of hours," Sally returned, "yes, I suppose I got to know it a little."
Superintendent Jenks smiled. "And now I need to ask you about your movements this morning, Miss Hope."
"Not that many alibis out of that lot," said Superintendent Jenks grimly when he'd finished all the interviews. "Those two women who run a riding school - they were together all that time and claim they went to a local riding stables and talked to the owner. Visit them tomorrow morning, would you, Goon? Here's the address." He tore a piece of paper from his notebook and handed it to Goon, who nodded and put it carefully in his pocket.
"What about the others?" Goon asked.
"Miss Rivers and Miss Hope were together most of the time, but did have about an hour on their own at around the time Mrs Reynolds appears to have been stabbed. They visited bookshops, but parted for a while because Miss Rivers needed to do some shopping. She bought a couple of items from shops - here are their addresses, Goon, but checking will have to wait till they're open on Monday, unless you know where the owners live?"
"I know where the owner of the sewing shop lives," said Goon. "I can visit them tomorrow."
"Good. As for Miss Hope, she simply went for a walk by herself, but she did spend about five minutes talking to Miss Morris at some point - the rest of the time she has no-one to vouch for her. Miss Morris is the same - she saw Miss Hope, has no idea what time it was, and spent the rest of the time sketching. The rest of them all seem to have spent part of the morning on their own - the first part of the morning mainly - and got together in various pairs for elevenses. I'm very suspicious of the opera singer, though, Goon," he added. "She's definitely holding something back."
"Poor Alicia," said Bill. "Imagine being stabbed to death. I know she wasn't always a nice person, but she didn't deserve that."
It was around nine-thirty, the interviews were all finished, and some of the ex-Malory Towers girls - Bill, Clarissa, Sally, Darrell, Mary-Lou, Irene and Belinda - were sitting having drinks in the hotel lounge. The rest had gone off to their own rooms with their own thoughts. Betty had been inconsolable all evening, unable to eat anything at dinner. Darrell had been relieved when she'd preferred her own company to that of the rest of them. Darrell too was grieving for Alicia and had found constantly trying to look after Betty to be very hard work.
"Even Gwen would agree with that," said Belinda. Gwen had been the only one not to have been upset by Alicia's death. When Darrell had quietly told her the news, she'd said, "Well, I never liked her anyway, Darrell, you know that, so I won't be shedding tears for her. I do feel sorry for her husband, though, and especially her son. He's just a baby and he needs his mother."
"They seem to think it's one of us," said Sally.
"Oh, come on!" said Irene. "One of us? None of us would murder Alicia."
"They're suspicious of me," said Sally, with a sigh. She took a long slug of gin. "I arranged the weekend here. I know my way round the place, apparently - despite the fact I spent about two hours sightseeing when I was here in March. I had to be back by five to get on the coach to go back with the girls."
"That's when your team lost to Malory Towers, wasn't it?" asked Clarissa.
"Yes. Gosh, June played well that day," said Sally. "No wonder she got an England call-up. She was marvellous."
"How come they lost the final, then?" asked Darrell.
"I told you," said Sally. "St Clare's are just brilliant at all sport."
"June didn't play in the final," remembered Bill. "She was ill or something - I can't remember. I say - poor old June. She and Alicia were pretty close, weren't they? She'll be upset. I wonder if anyone's told her?"
"I'm sure they will have," said Darrell. "All her family will know by now. I wonder who did kill her," she added. "We know it's not one of us - so who?"
"Must be that person she planned to meet," said Sally. "I just wish the superintendent would take that meeting a bit more seriously instead of just pointing the finger at us."
“The thing is, Fatty,” said Bets, “it’s not like we’re the Five Find Outers and Dog any more – ”
“Ah, dear old Buster,” said Fatty. “Sadly missed.”
“The point I’m trying to make,” Bets pressed on patiently, “is that you have a private detective agency now. You’re professional. You take on cases for money. You don’t just go off trying to solve cases that no-one’s paying you to solve.”
“Dear little Bets,” said Fatty fondly. “Always has my best interests at heart.”
“And her pocket,” Pip cut in. “If you don’t get paid, she doesn’t get paid.”
“That’s not what I meant!” Bets retorted hotly.
“No, no, I know you didn’t little Bets – and you’re quite right,” said Fatty, ruffling her hair. “The point is, this is a big case – a murder case. If I solve this, I get good publicity, courtesy of Larry here.” Larry grinned. “And – bingo! More and more people hire me because I’m such a great detective. And Larry gets his promotion to a national newspaper courtesy of his brilliant scoop.”
“Oh, I see,” said Bets. “Gosh, you’re clever, Fatty. I hadn’t thought of the publicity generating more cases for you.”
“Not sure what Daisy, Roger and I get out of it,” said Pip, “but we’re in on this mystery, Fatty. Any help you want – you tell us.” The other three nodded solemnly.
“Right,” said Fatty. “First – the girls. Daisy and Bets, you’re to go to the hotel tomorrow night and get talking to as many of those Malory Towers girls as you can. Find out who they think might have murdered Alicia Reynolds.”
“Right,” said Daisy and Bets.
“Larry, you need to go through your paper’s archives and see if you can find out if any of those Malory Towers girls have ever been in Norton Magna or around before,” said Fatty. “Whoever killed Alicia Reynolds must have known the area a bit.”
“Right,” said Larry.
“We also need to find out what Alicia might have wanted to say to you,” said Fatty. “Could you deal with that as well, Larry – it’s your case in a way, after all. Perhaps her husband or other family relatives knew what she was going to tell you.”
“Right,” said Larry again.
“Roger and Pip, can you have a good look round Norton Magna tomorrow, and see if anyone saw Alicia,” said Fatty. “There might have been fishermen who saw her pass by on her way to her meeting with Larry. Someone stopped her from turning up.”
Roger and Pip nodded.
“And what will you be doing, Fatty?” asked Pip.
“Finding out what the police think happened and who they suspect, of course,” said Fatty.
“And how will you do that?” asked Roger.
“Will you ask the super?” asked Pip.
“Ask the super?” returned Fatty scornfully. “Of course not. Do you really think he’d tell me? I know we’ve been friends for years, but he’s still what Bets calls a high-up policeman and I’m just a humble PI.”
“Not so humble,” said Larry, with a grin.
“But there’s another person who’ll tell me exactly what I want to know,” said Fatty.
“Who’s that?” asked Bets in wonder.
“Why, Goon of course!” said Fatty.
“Goon?” said Pip. “Of course he won’t tell you anything, Fatty. You’d be better off asking Superintendent Jenks.”
“Nonsense,” said Fatty. “Goon will tell me exactly what I want to know. Especially if he doesn’t know it’s me he’s talking to … ”
On Sunday morning, PC Goon was putting on his coat ready to go out and visit the stables when there was a knock on the front door. He answered it and was surprised to see a burly man in police uniform standing in front of him. And not just any policeman. Looking at his stripes he seemed to be –
“Good morning, Constable,” said the man. “I’m the new borough commander. Just checking in to see how things are going with the Reynolds murder case.”
“Or – er – sir – yes … ” Goon was flustered. He’d seen the photo of the new borough commander – though he did look a bit fatter than in his photo, Goon reflected, that was life at the top for you, all meetings and food and sitting on your backside – and read that he was interested in keeping touch with policing at grassroots level. That was good, Goon had thought – it was the constables and sergeants who did the work after all, but the Superintendent Jenkses of this world who got all the glory. But he’d never expected to find the borough commander at his door! “Superintendent Jenks isn’t – ”
“I’m not interested in seeing Superintendent Jenks today,” said the borough commander firmly. “This is your patch, PC Goon! I’d like you to bring me up to date with inquiry lines to date.”
“Yes, sir, come in sir,” said Goon, showing him through to his small office. “Would you like a cup of tea, sir?”
“No, no – just your report will do, Constable,” said the borough commander cheerfully.
“Right,” said Goon importantly. “Well, sir, we’re following several lines of inquiry, but the person we’re most suspicious of at the moment is the opera singer. She’s certainly holding something back.”
Daisy and Bets ordered coffee and cakes and settled down in the hotel lounge. It was empty, which wasn’t a good start, but Daisy said they may as well have a nice gossip and enjoy their elevenses first, and then try to find some ex-Malory Towers girls and start talking to them.
“So how’s it going with Fatty?” she asked, taking an elegant-looking cigarette holder from her bag. “He’s still treating you as if you were still eight, I see.”
“Yes,” Bets sighed.
“You’ve got to show him you’re a grown up.” Daisy lit her cigarette and expertly blew rings of smoke.
“I know. I have tried stuffing my bra with handkerchiefs to make my bust look bigger.”
“Hmm. You need to make him jealous, I think.”
“In what way?”
“Of you with another fellow, of course!”
“But there isn’t another fellow,” Bets pointed out.
“No – but he doesn’t know that, does he?” Daisy smiled. “I think it’s time we organised for you to go off on a date.”
Bets was about to protest that she didn’t want a date with anyone but Fatty, when one of the Malory Towers girls walked in. Bets recognised her from the other night – long golden hair, pale blue eyes, very overweight. She pointed her out to Daisy, and when the girl ordered coffee and cakes and went to sit down by herself, Daisy called out to her:
“I say! Won’t you join us?”
Looking surprised, the woman joined them at their table.
“I’m Daisy Daykin,” said Daisy, “and this is Bets Hilton. We live around here – well, Bets does. I’m down from London for the weekend.”
“I’m Gwendoline Wilson-Jones,” said Gwen. She looked curiously at Bets. “Didn’t I see you the other night?”
“That’s right,” said Bets, “I was dining with a friend.”
“That’s right – you were with the private detective,” Gwen nodded.
“And you must be with the Malory Towers party,” said Daisy brightly. “How awful for you all that one of your friends has been murdered. It must be simply dreadful, Gwendoline.”
“It is, rather,” said Gwen. “I didn’t like Alicia, but she didn’t deserve to die.”
“Wasn’t she popular, then?” asked Daisy.
“Well, she was – but – ”
“Oh, do tell,” said Daisy.
Well, those two horsey women were definitely in the clear, thought Goon when he arrived back at the police house. The people at the stables could vouch for them. Miss Rivers seemed to have a firm alibi as well – the woman from the sewing shop remembered her clearly. The super was probably right and the opera singer had something to do with it. He took out his key and was about to open the door when the superintendent himself started walking up the path towards him.
“Morning, Goon! Anything to report?”
“Yes, sir. Miss Carter and Miss Robinson and Miss Rivers all appear to have firm alibis.”
So we can eliminate them. Excellent work, Goon. I’ll let the borough commander know. I’m meeting him this afternoon – he rang me this morning. He’s taking great interest in this case – not often we get a murder on this patch.”
“I saw the borough commander myself this morning, sir,” said Goon proudly.
“Nonsense, Goon! You couldn’t have! He phoned me from London, where he was spending the weekend with his wife.”
“No, sir, he visited me here this morning,” said Goon puzzled. He let the superintendent in, and told him about the conversation he’d had with the borough commander.
“Oh, Goon!” said Superintendent Jenks, exasperated. “You never learn, do you?”
“What do you mean, sir?” The light suddenly dawned on Goon and he groaned. That Toad of a Boy! In one of his disguises again.
“Yes, Goon. Frederick Trotteville again,” said Superintendent Jenks grimly. “And you’ve given him all our information.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Goon flopped into his chair, feeling weary. He’d really wanted to do well on this case, prove to the super he wasn’t the useless oaf he seemed to think he was. “Do you want me to arrest him, sir?”
“Arrest Frederick? Good Lord, no,” said Superintendent Jenks. “But I will have a word with him.” Indeed he would, he thought – Frederick Trotteville wasn’t a child any more, dressing up to get information out of Goon was not the joke it might once have been. “A very stern word indeed.”
“No go,” said Pip, shaking his head. “No-one seems to remember seeing Alicia. Everyone was too busy with their shopping or lawn-mowing to notice.”
“What sort of village is Norton Magna?” said Fatty, grinning. “Everybody notices strangers in Peterswood.”
They were meeting in Fatty’s shed, for old time’s sake, and because Roger had been keen to see where the Five Find-Outers and Dog had once plotted to foil Peterswood’s crooks. Fatty had made coffee and treated everyone to iced buns.
“What about you, Fatty?” asked Roger. “How did you get on?”
Fatty told them about how he’d dressed up as the borough commander and everyone roared. “I don’t know how you dare, Fatty,” said Pip. “I’d never get away with the things you do.”
“Just a talent I have,” said Fatty. “What about the girls?”
“Well,” said Daisy, “Alicia sounds as if she was a real bitch at school. I’m amazed no-one killed her back then.” She and Bets told them what they’d heard from Gwendoline – how she’d picked on people, bullied them, sneered at them. “She made Gwendoline’s life hell for years,” said Bets. “Just because Gwendoline’s mother cried when she said goodbye to her on her first day at boarding-school.”
“Gracious,” said Roger. “Fancy crying. Thank goodness my mother never went in for that.”
They all congratulated themselves on having sensible mothers. “Larry?” queried Fatty. “How did you get on?”
“Well, I didn’t find much,” said Larry. “Malory Towers was here for the finals of a big interschool lacrosse tournament in March. Their team lost in the final. Now, none of the present girls is likely to be involved, but two old girls were here with other teams – Sally Hope with St Christopher’s, who lost to Malory Towers in the semi-finals, and someone called Moira Linton, who’s games mistress at St Clare’s – that’s the team that won.”
”St Clare’s?” said Fatty. “Now why does that ring a bell?”
“Isn’t that where Hilary goes?” asked Bets. “You know, Superintendent Jenks’s god-daughter.”
“It is! Well done, little Bets!” said Fatty, beaming at her, and despite being called ‘little’, Bets glowed with pride. “She was sent there because that’s where the super’s sister teaches.”
“I know St Clare’s!” Roger said suddenly. “That’s where Barney’s girlfriend used to go – Carlotta, the ex-circus girl I was telling you about. And yes, I’ve heard her mention a Miss Jenks – apparently she turned a blind eye to a trick Carlotta played on her birthday, involving a midnight feast.”
“Well, maybe Carlotta might know something about Moira Linton?” Daisy suggested.
“She might,” Roger agreed. “I’ll ring old Barney and ask him to find out.”
“And two other people have been in the area before, too,” said Larry. “Gwendoline Wilson-Jones spent a weekend in Peterswood six months ago, when her husband played in an amateur golf tournament. And Belinda Morris was in Sheepridge painting last August. Her painting was in the newspaper – it won an award. No-one else seems to have spent time here, though – well, as far as the paper’s concerned.”
There was a tap on the door and Mrs Trotteville entered. She smiled at everyone. “Goodness, this is like old times. I came to tell you there’s a phone call for you, Frederick. Superintendent Jenks – and he doesn’t sound very happy. I do hope you haven’t been upsetting that awful police constable again?”
“Impersonating the borough commander! It’s preposterous! I could arrest you for that, Frederick!”
“I say – steady on, sir.” Fatty was perplexed – he’d never known the superintendent to be so angry. “I know I might have gone a bit far – ”
“A bit far? You’re not a child any more, Frederick, so it’s time you grew out of silly jokes. If you want to dress up in uniform, go on the stage or – or get a job in an S and M parlour.” Good grief, thought Fatty, blushing, had the super really said that? “You’re meant to be a responsible adult now,” Superintendent Jenks continued. “Which reminds me – has someone hired you to investigate this murder, Frederick?”
“No, sir, but – ”
“Then it’s nothing to do with you, is it? You get to work on the cases your clients are paying you to solve, and leave police business to the police. Do you understand?”
“Um – yes, sir.” The super really was in a bate, Fatty thought. What had happened to the “I’d like you to take a hand in this mystery now, Frederick” of old?
“Right. I don’t expect to hear anything more from you, then.”
The line went dead. Fatty stared at the phone for a while, then shrugged. Whatever Superintendent Jenks said, he was staying on this case. With Goon at the helm locally, Alicia Reynolds’s murderer would walk free for ever. And Fatty wasn’t prepared to let that happen, even if Superintendent Jenks was.
“Nobody expects you to play, June,” said Felicity Rivers. “Not at a time like this. I can easily fill in for you, you know that.”
“That’s right,” said Miss Remington, the sports mistress. “Everyone understands, June.” She exchanged concerned glances with Felicity and with Mam’zelle Dupont. Thank goodness Mam’zelle had accompanied them to the tennis final, she thought. Miss Grayling hadn’t been keen on letting another mistress come to London, but Mam’zelle had been marvellous since the news came through about Alicia. She’d sat up all night with the shell-shocked June, just holding her and giving her hot drinks and trying to say comforting things. June still looked white and shocked, and hadn’t been able to eat breakfast. And, most alarming of all, since the phone call, June had barely uttered a word.
“It’s the first time Malory Towers have ever made it through to the tennis final,” said June dully.
“I know, June, but that really doesn’t matter now. It’s only a game after all,” said Miss Remington.
“That’s right, ma petite,” said Mam’zelle. “Felicity will play for you and you must try to rest.”
June shook her head. She didn’t want to rest. She’d never felt so wide awake in her life. Nor as restless. She thought she could run and run for ever without ever feeling tired or easing her grief. And Felicity was a good player, that was true, but St Clare’s were an incredible side, and Malory Towers needed her now.
“No,” she said firmly. “When Alicia left Malory Towers, I promised her I’d carry on for her – that I’d carry the standard high. And I’m going to carry the standard higher than ever before – I’m going to play this afternoon and I’m going to win the match. I’m going to win it for Alicia.”
“I’ve heard back from old Barney,” said Roger. “He’s spoken to Carlotta and she’s met Moira Linton – she met her when the old St Clare’s headmistress, Miss Theobald, retired earlier this year. She liked her. She says she can come across as a bit abrupt, but deep down she’s a good sport.”
The Five Find-Outers and Barney were meeting again – but at Fatty’s office this time. Bets had made coffee for them all and Fatty had provided the ginger buns.
“Did she say anything else about Moira that might be relevant to this case?” Fatty asked.
“The only thing she said was that there appeared to have been some trouble when St Clare’s played Malory Towers in the lacrosse tournament in Sheepsale and Moira was upset about it,” said Roger. “Carlotta told Barney that she seemed to have fallen out with a couple of her colleagues about it.”
“Who won the match?” asked Fatty.
”St Clare’s,” said Larry. “I read about it in the archives.”
“I suppose it was a bit difficult for her having her old school playing her new school – she’d have divided loyalties,” commented Daisy.
“Yes, but Carlotta felt there was more to it than that. It was, she said, as if there’d been a big falling out among the staff about it. Oh – what a fathead I am!” Larry clapped his hand to his head dramatically.
“We all know you’re a fathead, but please go on and tell us what you’ve remembered,” said Fatty grinning.
“It’s only just struck me. One of the girls in Malory Towers’ team was June Johns – she’s been selected to play lacrosse for England. But she didn’t play in the final against St Clare’s because she was ill – I remember our sports reporter commenting at the time that the star player who could have won the match for them didn’t play.”
“And how is this relevant to Alicia’s death?” asked Fatty.
“Well, she’s Alicia’s cousin. She’s on the list of relatives I’m halfway through ringing.”
“Then you’d better get on with phoning, then, Larry,” Fatty said. “And I think one of us needs to do a bit of talking to Moira Linton. Any idea where she might be at the moment, Roger?”
”Actually I do,” said Roger. “Carlotta said St Clare’s is involved in a tennis final in London today, so Moira Linton will be there with her squad. And believe it or not, the final is against Malory Towers.”
“Here’s the proof we need,” said Superintendent Jenks grimly. “The opera singer is having an affair with Prince Paul of Baronia. That’s what she was keeping quiet about and no doubt what Alicia Reynolds had discovered.”
“Goodness!” said one of the police officers. “Prince Paul, eh?”
“He’s got good taste, I’ll give him that,” said another.
“Yes,” nodded a third. “I wouldn’t mind a fling with an attractive bint like Mavis.”
“That’s enough!” said the superintendent sharply. “PC Goon, I’d like you to come with me to arrest her.”
Goon frowned. “Are you sure about this, sir?”
“About arresting the opera singer? Of course I am!” returned Superintendent Jenks impatiently.
“It’s just that – ”
“Goon, my dear Goon, are you going to say she doesn’t seem the type to commit murder?” replied Superintendent Jenks sadly. “She had a motive, Goon, plus a window of opportunity, and it’s motive that interests me.”
Goon, though, couldn’t believe it. Not that girl – she seemed too nice. And anyway, why would Alicia Reynolds have wanted to tell the story to a lowly local reporter like that Toad of a Boy’s friend Larry Daykin when any big London daily would have been interested in a scoop on Mavis and the prince in exile? Still, he kept quiet. He’d been wrong too many times before for the super to listen to him now.
“Of course, if you’d prefer PC Martin here did the arrest?” cut in Superintendent Jenks. “I asked you because Norton Magna is your patch, but … ”
Goon’s eyes caught sight of that Toad of a Boy passing the police house with Larry Daykin; the latter was checking his watch. The instinct that told Goon that the super was wrong about Mavis also told him that that Toad of a Boy was On To Something. And Goon wanted more than anything to prove to the super that he, Theophilus Goon, was up to this job. The way to do that was by finding the real culprit in this case – and he could only do that by finding out what that Toad of a Boy was thinking.
“That’s fine with me, sir,” he said politely. “PC Martin can make the arrest. There’s something I want to look into.”
“Just ten minutes till the train leaves,” said Fatty, settling down in a corner of one of the first-class compartments. “Good to have your company, Larry.”
“Good to be with you on another case, Fatty,” said Larry. “I say, do you really think we’ll find out what happened to Alicia by going along to this tennis match?”
“I’m sure we’re on to something,” said Fatty. “London isn’t too far from Norton Magna – I’m sure either June Johns or Moira Linton would have had time to come down yesterday and murder Alicia. And either of them had time to get to know Norton Magna when they were here for the lacrosse finals. Especially June, if she didn’t play in the final.”
“I’m thinking more that it’s June,” said Larry thoughtfully. “Alicia said she had a story for me – and June now plays lacrosse for England. She would be more newsworthy than a teacher from St Clare’s, surely.”
“Yes,” frowned Fatty. “But why did Alicia come to you with the story, Larry – or try to? Why not a national paper – or a Cornwall paper, come to that, given June plays for Malory Towers. This is where it doesn’t make sense – no-one involved with the case is local, so why choose you?”
“Maybe because June played in the tournament in Sheepsale and got her England call-up as a result of that, even though she didn’t play in the final?” Larry suggested.
”Maybe,” said Fatty doubtfully. “But I can’t help thinking there’s something we’re missing here. Why – Bets!” he exclaimed as the compartment door flew open. “What’s up? Did we leave something behind?”
“No,” said Bets. “I’m coming with you, Fatty.”
“But why?” he asked.
“Because if you’re going to a girls’ tennis tournament, it’ll be easier for me to go around asking questions – they’ll just think I’m a mistress from another school,” she replied.
Fatty beamed. “Well done, little Bets! I’d never have thought of that.” He turned to Larry. “Isn’t she a marvel, Larry?”
“She is,” Larry agreed. “Oh, I say!” he protested as Bets slapped Fatty hard across the face. “Bets! Don’t do that!”
“Bets!” said Fatty, rubbing his cheek. “What on earth has got into you?”
“I am sick to death,” said Bets, “of being patronised by you all the time. I am not little, I am not eight years old, and I no longer say ‘glues’ for ‘clues’. I’d have thought if you were such a great detective, you’d have noticed I’ve grown up, but no, you haven’t – any more than you’ve noticed I stuff my bra with handkerchiefs to make my breasts look bigger.” She put a hand down her blouse and pulled out two handkerchiefs, making Fatty and Larry blush. “Well,” she said, putting the handkerchiefs in her pocket, “I’m not tolerating it any more. You either treat me with respect, Fatty, or you can find yourself a new assistant. And then who would you have to warn you that Goon is three carriages along, having followed you here?”
“Mavis?” Darrell was staggered. “Mavis – arrested? She can’t have been.”
“She has been,” said Mary-Lou grimly. “That Superintendent and a constable arrested her only five minutes ago, down in the restaurant.”
“But why,” said Sally, “would Mavis of all people want to murder Alicia?”
“Look, don’t tell everyone,” said Mary-Lou, “but she’s been having an affair – with Prince Paul of Baronia.”
“Oh, him,” said Darrell. “Has she really? Can’t bear him myself – he’s a pompous little man, really full of his own importance.”
“What does she see in him, then?” asked Sally.
“Glamour?” suggested Irene. The four of them were in Darrell and Sally’s room. Irene had been talking to Darrell and Sally when Mary-Lou had burst in, very upset, after Mavis’s arrest. When the other three looked at her incredulously – for other than his prince-in-exile status there really was nothing glamorous about Prince Paul – she shrugged her shoulders and added, “Well, if you’re famous like Mavis, it’s probably hard to find men who simply don’t want you for your fame and your money. And Paul has fame and still has money, despite losing his country.”
“Anyway,” said Darrell puzzled, “what’s this got to do with Mavis being arrested for Alicia’s murder?”
“The superintendent thinks Alicia found out about it and was going to tell the press, so Mavis murdered her.”
“Sounds crazy,” said Irene. “I don’t think any of us murdered Alicia and most certainly not Mavis. The superintendent should be looking for some – some local madman or something.”
“Don’t worry,” said Sally. “I’m sure the police have only arrested Mavis because they see she’s got a motive. Once they’ve questioned her they’ll know for sure that she’s no murderer.”
“It was definitely under her pillow, Miss Linton,” said Joan Unwin. “I saw her put it there when we went down for breakfast.”
Miss Linton sighed. “Are you absolutely sure about that, Joan?”
“All right,” said Miss Linton. “I’d better look into it. How much money was in the purse, Hilary?”
“Ten shillings,” said Hilary.
“It was rather silly,” said Miss Linton, “just to leave money under your pillow like that.”
“Well,” said Hilary crossly, “I like to think I can trust people, Miss Linton. Though of course I should have remembered that that awful June Johns was here, probably up to her old tricks again.”
“That’s enough!” said Miss Linton sharply. “I said I’ll look into it. Don’t go accusing people without proof, Hilary.”
“Well, you’d better talk to that games mistress of theirs,” said Hilary. “It wouldn’t be a St Clare’s girl, would it?”
“Look, Hilary,” said Joan, feeling uncomfortable, “I think Miss Linton’s right – you shouldn’t just jump to conclusions about June just because of what happened at the lacrosse. It could be a case of give a dog a bad name and hang him.”
“Hmm,” said Hilary.
”I’ll look into it,” Miss Linton said with a sigh. “In the meantime, I hope you two are ready for the match? Malory Towers are stiff opposition, you know.”
“Yes, I saw Susan and June playing yesterday and they’re good,” said Joan. “June’s as good at tennis as she is at lacrosse, I swear! She’s a great all-rounder – could have a career in any sport she wanted.”
“Yes – you’ll need to play very well to beat them,” said Miss Linton, “but I think you both can. I’ll see you two later – and yes, Hilary, I will try to find out what’s happened to your money.”
“If June Johns has taken my money, she won’t have a career at all,” said Hilary when Miss Linton was out of the room and out of earshot. “Not if I have anything to do with it.”
“May I have a word with you, Miss Remington?” Not for anything could Moira Linton have brought herself to call her former sports mistress by her Christian name.
“Of course, Moira.” Miss Remington ushered Moira into her room. “I meant to find you last night and tell you, but of course, June’s been so upset. It’s terrible, isn’t it?”
“But Hilary said it was just this morning – ” Moira began, puzzled.
“Oh, no – Alicia was killed yesterday morning, but June wasn’t told until yesterday evening.”
“What?” Moira said. “Alicia – killed?”
“Didn’t you know?” asked Miss Remington.
“No – not at all.” Moira couldn’t believe her ears. “What on earth happened?”
“Well, the police think she was murdered.”
“Good grief,” Moira breathed.
“Yes. June’s devastated, of course – poor child. She was devoted to Alicia. So what did you want to see me about, Moira, if it wasn’t about Alicia?”
This, Moira thought, was hardly the right moment to tell her about the missing money. But still – she had to. So she told Miss Remington, briefly, what had happened.
“Nonsense,” said Miss Remington sharply. “June couldn’t have had anything to do with it. She’s been with either me or Mam’zelle Dupont since she heard about Alicia. And in fact, if you don’t mind my saying so – ”
“It makes that other business at Sheepsale look suspicious?” Moira nodded. “I agree, Miss Remington. I never believed that June did that. I know evidence pointed that way – but June isn’t that kind of girl. She was once upon a time, but she changed.”
“Thanks to you.”
Moira blushed. “Well, yes – I suppose. But Amanda Chartelow had a lot to do with it as well. But anyway – would you mind if we searched June’s room?”
“Not at all. She hasn’t set foot in it since yesterday. She’s been in Mam’zelle’s room all night, completely shell-shocked.”
“Understandably. But if June’s being set up, then I suspect we’ll find the money in her room all right.”
“Oh, no doubt,” said Miss Remington grimly. “But this time, mercifully, she’ll have alibis – and this time, she’ll be playing in the match.”
As both Moira and Miss Remington had suspected, Hilary’s purse was indeed in June’s room, hidden among her underwear. “Someone’s framing her,” said Miss Remington grimly, “and I intend to find out who it is. But I don’t want anything said to her, Moira. She’s devastated about Alicia, she’s had no sleep, and she’s determined to play in the match. Can you warn your girls to say nothing to her?”
“Absolutely,” said Moira. “Goodness, this is a mess, though. Who would be framing June?”
“Well, at least the suspects are narrowed down this time,” said Miss Remington. “You have five girls here, we have five girls here. Nothing near the 24 we had between us at Sheepsale.”
“All five of my girls played in the lacrosse team,” said Moira thoughtfully, “and yours too. But it’s more likely to be your girls than my girls, isn’t it? None of mine actually know June.”
“I disagree,” said Miss Remington. “Two of my girls – Felicity and Susan – were told about Alicia last night. Nora and Tessie were told at breakfast this morning. They all know that June had no sleep and has been with Mam’zelle Dupont the whole time. None of them would have done it, knowing June had an alibi. I think we’re looking at your girls, Moira.”
“Goon’s still following us,” said Larry, turning around in time to see Goon duck behind a shop door.
“Oh, well, he’ll learn nothing from ending up at the tennis,” said Fatty. “He’ll just see us talking to people – nothing more. He won’t dare come close enough to listen in case we spot him.”
“Who are you planning to talk to at the tennis?” asked Bets.
“Moira Linton and June Johns,” said Fatty.
“In that case, I’ll mingle with the spectators and see what I can find out,” said Bets.
At the tennis, she found old girls from both schools occupying the stands. Many old girls who lived in London had gone along to cheer on their old schools. Although she’d hoped to find herself among the Malory Towers supporters, Bets found herself among the St Clare’s entourage. She found herself gawping at a couple of them – Margery Fenworthy the Olympic champion swimmer and Gladys Hillman the Shakespearean actress. And from the conversation it seemed they weren’t the only famous alumni.
“Margery! Haven’t seen you for years! How’s Lucy?”
“She’s fine, Isabel, thanks. She’s got an exhibition in Paris, otherwise she’d be here. How’s Pat?”
“Oh, very well. She’s just given birth to twins, otherwise she’d be here too. And gosh, I say – there’s Felicity Ray! Who’d have thought she’d turn up to see her old school play tennis? Last I heard of her, she was wooing crowds in Vienna with her music.”
“Hey, Isabel, Pat!”
“Janet! How are you!”
“Oh, fine – hey, Bobby and I have just been talking about Doris Elward. Did you know she’ll be on Opportunity Knocks tomorrow night?”
“Opportunity Knocks? You’re joking!”
“No, really. Doing impressions of famous women – don’t forget to watch it, will you?”
“Hey – the players are coming out! Oh, Joan Unwin’s playing – doesn’t she look like Mirabel?”
“Hope she plays like her,” said Isabel.
That wretched June was playing after all, thought Hilary crossly as she, Joan and their opponents walked out on court. She should have known that Miss Linton, as a former Malory Towers girl, wouldn’t lay down the law as far as June was concerned. Whose side was she on anyway? And having Mam’zelle here with Miss Linton didn’t help either – if Miss Jenks had been here, she’d have had it sorted out, just as she had at Sheepsale.
The umpire, a teacher from a school called Whyteleafe, summoned June and Hilary to her. “Heads or tails?” she asked them. June instantly called tails and won the toss. “We’ll serve,” said June looking directly at Hilary, who scowled back. June, she thought, looked very white. Perhaps she’d been punished after all?
"I say, that Malory Towers girl is playing well," said Margery Fenworthy. To Bets' delight, the Olympic champion swimmer had taken a seat right in front of her and, just before the match, had given her her autograph. "What's her name?"
"June Johns," said the woman they'd addressed as Isabel. "She's the girl who's been picked for England for lacrosse."
"Oh yes - I remember," said Margery. "Well, I should say she could play Wightman Cup tennis too, if she wanted. I say - what a shot! Well done!"
"Aren't you supposed to be cheering for St Clare's?" asked the woman they'd called Janet.
"I know I am, but I can't help but admire talent," Margery returned.
"Talent's one thing," said Janet.
"Meaning?" asked Margery.
"Well, I heard there was some trouble with June at the lacrosse championships earlier this year - she stole something, apparently, and the police were called. I'm not sure what actually came of it - there was nothing in the papers ... "
"May not be true," said Margery. "And I feel sorry for her if it is. We all make mistakes - I certainly did."
"Where did you hear this from, Janet?" asked Isabel.
"Oh, Bobby ran into Mirabel. Joan had told her about it."
"She's playing well too," commented Margery. "She's as good as Mirabel, I think. But none of the others are as good as June. There - an ace. That's the first set to Malory Towers."
After the first set, Bets tried in vain to find Larry and Fatty. In the end, she gave up, and searched for a telephone box instead. From there, she rang the Daykins' house and got hold of Daisy.
"OK, we'll go round to the police house at Sheepsale and find out what happened with June Johns," promised Daisy.
When Daisy, Roger and Pip arrived at the police house, there was no-one there. "Blow!" said Pip. "It must be the constable's day off."
"Or he's out investigating something," said Daisy.
"Or he may be round the back gardening," suggested Roger. They wandered round the back, but there was no-one there.
"Look," said Daisy quietly. "One of the windows has been left open."
"You're not suggesting we go inside the house, are you?" said Roger, horrified. "Daisy, that sort of thing might have been OK when you were kids, but how would it look now - we're all adults with responsible jobs."
"Speak for yourself," said Daisy. "I can get through easily. Inside, he's bound to have a log book of some kind listing crimes, and I can look up the date of the lacrosse match, see what happened with June. You keep cave for me. I won't be a minute."
Daisy found the books in a drawer and searched until she found the date of the lacrosse tournament. But there was no mention of June Johns and no record of there having been a problem at the lacrosse finals.
“Well done, June!” said Miss Remington. “You were fantastic.” She was delighted – Malory Towers had never won the tennis championships before, and to have beaten St Clare’s was a marvellous achievement. “Especially in the circumstances,” she added. “I’m so proud of you.”
“I did it for Alicia,” said June. She felt totally drained. The match had been tough, Hilary and Joan had played exceptionally well. But she didn’t think she’d ever been more focussed in a match, had never ever hit so many winners before.
“Well done, ma petite,” said Mam’zelle Dupont.
Felicity banged her on the back. “You were terrific, June.”
“It’s time to collect the cup,” said Miss Remington. “You receive it, June – you’re the one who won it for us, after all. Yes?” she added, as a portly young gentleman poked his head around the open door of the locker room. “Can I help you?”
“I need to speak to Miss Johns for a moment,” said the man. “And to you too, if I could, Miss Remington. My name’s Frederick Trotteville.” He handed over his card.
A private investigator – and from Norton Magna, thought Miss Remington. No doubt this was about Alicia’s murder. “Can’t this wait?” she asked, vexed.
“What is it?” asked June.
“I just want to ask you some questions about your cousin, Miss Johns,” said Fatty. “Well played, by the way. You were super.”
“Thank you. Yes, I’ll answer whatever you want,” said June.
“June, there’s really no need,” said Miss Remington.
“Ma petite,” protested Mam’zelle.
“I’ll do anything if it’ll help find out who killed Alicia,” said June. “But can we wait until after I’ve received the cup?”
“Of course,” said Fatty. “I’ll wait here for you.”
Bets was hanging around outside the telephone kiosk – Daisy had promised to ring back on the hour if she had anything to report. And, thankfully, the phone rang. Bets was surprised to hear there was no record of June’s having had a police interview – Margery Fenworthy had sounded so very certain of the fact.
”Gossip and malicious rumour most likely,” said Daisy. “You know what schools are like. See you when you get back, Bets – we’ll meet you all at the station.”
Bets put the phone down, then turned around – to see Goon standing beside the kiosk. He’d obviously overheard every word.
“Ho – so your friends have been inside the police house at Sheepsale, have they?” he demanded, taking out his notebook. “That’s breaking and entering, that is, Miss Hilton. I’m going to be having a word with Superintendent Jenks about this. Now you come along ame – ”
Bets swept past him. “I haven’t been breaking and entering, Mr Goon. If anyone has been – I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Blow Goon, she thought, as she made her way back towards the court. He’d obviously overheard all of her side of the conversation. Not that it really mattered, she supposed – he’d have access to police files, would know if June had had an interview with the police or not. But it was annoying that he’d find out what they knew.
Bets returned to the court in time to see June Johns accepting the cup for Malory Towers. Joan Unwin shook hands readily with June, but Hilary turned her back – something that made the onlooking ex-St Clare’s girls proclaim their disapproval.
“What a rotten sport!” declared Isabel.
“She should never be allowed to play for St Clare’s again,” said Janet.
“She’s as bad as those Americans I beat in the Olympics,” vowed Margery.
“What a brat,” Bets thought. Shes caught sight of Larry and Fatty near the player’s entrance and went over to join them. The three of them agreed that Hilary had been most unsporting. “The Super would be jolly disappointed in her,” said Fatty. “I think I’m going to have a word with her. We should make time to say hello, really, even if we are here on a case.”
“Forget that for now,” said Bets. Rapidly, she told them of what she’d overheard and what Daisy had discovered. She was about to tell them about Goon, when Fatty interrupted her.
“June’s going back to the locker room. I’m going to talk to her now.”
“The story about police involvement must be scandal-mongering,” said Fatty, as they waited on the platform for the train back to Peterswood. “Miss Remington says that some jewellery – a brooch and a necklace – was stolen from one of the St Clare’s girls and that it was found in June’s bag. She dropped June from the team and that was as far as it went – the police weren’t called at all. Miss Remington said she always had her doubts that June was guilty. Apparently, some money from a St Clare’s girl was found in June’s room this morning, when June hadn’t been on her own all night – so Miss Remington thinks she was framed.”
“What did June say?” asked Larry.
“She got very upset about Alicia and didn’t make much sense, to be honest. She said she was framed at the lacrosse championship, but said she couldn’t prove it at the time. When I pressed her further about what happened, she just started crying.” Fatty sighed. “I’m afraid I didn’t feel like really pushing her about it after that.”
“Perhaps I should have talked to her,” said Bets thoughtfully. “It sounds as if she was holding something back.”
“Well, it’s too late now,” said Fatty. “Here comes the train!”
Bets glanced at her watch. “The schools were staying for tea, weren’t they?”
“Yes, but – ”
“I’ll catch the next train back to Peterswood,” said Bets firmly. “I’m going to try to talk to June.”
“She won’t want to – ” Larry began.
“See you later!” called Bets, sprinting towards the station exit. June wasn’t the only person she was going to talk to, she thought. If she was holding something back, then her friends might know what it was. And it might be something to do with what happened to Alicia. And she was going to phone Daisy again as well, and get her to visit the Malory Towers girls at the hotel and get them talking about June. It was always possible that someone might know something about June that might help.
“Do you think June is involved with Alicia’s death?” asked Felicity incredulously. “She can’t be. June and Alicia were good friends. June’s devastated about what’s happened to Alicia.”
Bets was talking to Felicity and Susan in a quiet corner of the lounge at their hotel. There was only another half an hour before the coach was due to take them back to Malory Towers; Bets glanced anxiously at her watch. She needed to find out as much as she could about June before that coach left.
“I don’t think June murdered Alicia,” said Bets, “but I think that June might know something about what led to Alicia’s death. Did she mention anything about Alicia’s marriage, for example?”
“Alicia was happy,” said Susan. “Well, as happy as Alicia could be.”
“What do you mean?” asked Bets.
“Alicia was brainy,” said Susan, “and she liked being the best at everything. June said she thought Alicia wished she could have done more with her life – like Mavis or Darrell. She was doing a PhD but she’d have liked to have done something so that she could have been famous like them.”
“Did June say anything about Alicia to lead either of you to think all might not be well?”
Both girls shook their heads.
“What about her relationship with June?” asked Bets. “You said they were close. Would Alicia have confided in June about anything?”
“I don’t think so,” said Felicity. “Alicia was sort of the big sister, if you know what I mean. The one June turned to if there was trouble – not the other way round. It’s the same with me and Darrell – I confide in her but she doesn’t want to worry me with her problems, if she has any.”
Bets nodded, wishing she too could have had an elder sister she could turn to. Pip had never been a sympathetic brother.
“Their relationship wasn’t always like that,” said Susan. “They didn’t get on at one time. Then something happened – ”
“What?” asked Bets.
“It’s old history,” said Felicity. “June wrote some spiteful letters to Moira Linton – you know, the St Clare’s sports mistress – when we were in the first form. Moira was in the fifth with Darrell and Alicia. She was going to be expelled and Moira begged Miss Grayling – our headmistress – to forgive her. She did, and June stayed on – and she changed so much after that. Then she saved a sixth-former from drowning and knuckled down and worked so hard at sport, and that’s when she and Alicia got closer. Alicia was really proud of her, the way she worked and won things for Malory Towers. They always kept in touch. Alicia always cheered her on when she could.”
“And now she’s going to be playing lacrosse for England,” said Bets.
“Yes. She could play Wightman Cup tennis if she put her mind to it, or swim in the Olympics as well, but she likes lacrosse best,” said Susan.
“A shame about that business in Sheepsale,” said Bets. “It might have finished her career.”
“Well, she was innocent, so it wouldn’t have,” said Felicity sharply.
“Yes, I know, but with police involvement – ”
“She just received a caution, nothing more,” said Susan. “And she shouldn’t have received that.”
“A caution?” queried Bets. Surely, she thought, a caution would have been recorded in the Sheepsale policeman’s notes? Why hadn’t it been, then?
“Yes,” said Felicity. “That’s all that happened. And no-one really knows about it – she only told us because she was so miserable. The policeman said as long as she didn’t get into trouble again, it wouldn’t affect her being able to play for England.”
Daisy, meanwhile, was hearing the same stories about June from Gwen and Sally, the only two people she’d been able to find at the hotel who had time to have a drink with her.
“Everyone’s so upset about Mavis being charged,” Sally had explained. “This, on top of what’s happened to Alicia – ”
Sally had wanted to talk about Mavis, and Daisy had been thankful of Gwen’s presence, because she was only too happy to gossip about Alicia and June. “I didn’t really know June after she changed,” she said. “When I was there, she was always the same – bumptious, cheeky – ”
“Oh, I don’t know,” argued Sally, “after the business where she was nearly expelled, when we were in the fifth form, she became much nicer.” She told Daisy about the anonymous letters to Moira Linton.
“But up till then she wasn’t nice?” Daisy asked.
“Not at all,” said Sally. “She got Darrell into trouble when we were in the fourth form – she lost her place as head girl for a while.”
“So she wasn’t very popular?”
“No,” said Gwen. “No-one liked her at first, not even people in her own form. She wasn’t popular the way Alicia was.”
“She was nastier than Alicia,” Sally remembered. “She had the same funny stories to tell about family, but she was more of a bully.”
Daisy saw Gwen raise her eyebrows and shake her head slightly.
”You disagree then, Gwen?” she asked.
“I think Alicia was a frightful bully,” said Gwen.
“Oh, Gwen!” said Sally. “How could you?”
“I didn’t have anything good to say about Alicia when she was alive, so why should I be a hypocrite when she’s dead?” asked Gwen. “And you didn’t really like her all that much, Sally, if you’re honest.”
Sally looked uncomfortable, then changed the subject. “The thing about June was she wasn’t scared of anybody,” she said. “Nobody intimidated her when she came to Malory Towers – not the sixth-formers, not the mistresses … no-one.”
“I should think that helps her in a sporting career,” said Daisy.
“Perhaps,” said Sally, “but in a school like Malory Towers, you have to know your place. June didn’t know hers. She just wasn’t scared of anyone.”
“Apart from Alicia’s brothers,” said a voice behind them, and the trio turned round to see Betty Hill.
“Hello, Betty,” said Sally. “How are you feeling?”
“As if you cared,” said Betty. “Either of you,” she added, glaring at Gwen. “It’s me you need to talk to about Alicia,” she said to Daisy. “I was her best friend.”
“She’ll have to talk to you some other time,” said another voice, “but in the meantime, Miss Daykin, you need to come alonga me … ”
“What on earth for?” demanded Daisy, turning in surprise to see Goon.
“The Superintendent wants to talk to you,” said Goon, looking pleased, “about a little matter of breaking and entering … ”
“This is just a friendly warning, Daisy,” said Superintendent Jenks. An insufferably pompous Goon had escorted her back to his own house, where Superintendent Jenks had been waiting to see her in his office. “I’ve already spoken to Frederick about his interference in this case, and you can tell all your friends from me that this is the last time I’ll tolerate it from any of you – you’re not children any more.”
“I just wanted to find out whether June Johns had been seen by the policeman at Sheepsale during the lacrosse tournament,” said Daisy. “There’s a rumour that she was, but – ”
“And did you find a reference to Miss Johns in the book?”
“No, but – ”
“Well, there you have your answer,” said the Superintendent. “Now, no more of this, Daisy. This really is my final warning to any of you. If it weren’t for the respect I have for all of you, you’d have been charged with breaking and entering. Now, run along please, and leave this case to the police. It is closed, anyway. As you’ve no doubt heard, an arrest has been made today.”
Run along, thought Daisy crossly. How old did he think she was? She stood up and said, with dignity, “If it hadn’t have been for all of us, you’d never have made it to Superintendent. You were pleased enough with our so-called ‘interference’ when we were making your statistics look good. You never got close to gaining any results without us – any competent Superintendent would have got rid of Goon long ago and - ”
“That’s enough, Daisy!” Superintendent Jenks returned angrily. “As I said, this has been just a friendly warning. I’d advise you to go and tell your friends to keep out of this case, before I change my mind and arrest you – which is probably what I should have done in the first place.”
Roger and Daisy had initially planned to return to London that evening, but decided instead to get the earliest train the next morning. Daisy was incensed by Superintendent Jenks’s treatment of her and couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the Find-Outers what had occurred. They all met at Fatty’s house once Bets had returned from London.
“He says we’re all to keep out of the case and that from his perspective the case is closed,” said Daisy. “I can’t believe he really thought about arresting me.”
“After all we’ve done for him!” said Pip, shaking his head.
“He used to be such a nice man,” sighed Bets, “but he seems different these days.”
“Probably because we aren’t kids any more, like he says,” said Fatty. “After all what I did – impersoning a police officer – and what you did – breaking into police property – are crimes, Daisy. On the other hand, I am disappointed in him – he knows I’m a private detective, solving a case like this could make my business … Does he really think he’s got the right person for the murder?”
“Do you think he has?” asked Roger.
“I don’t think so,” said Fatty. “But I don’t know who is the right person.”
“I’m sure the business with June Johns at the lacrosse is tied up with it,” said Bets.
“What do you mean?” asked Larry.
”Well, Felicity and Susan were adamant that June was seen by a police officer. And that’s what the St Clare’s girls were saying too. Yet there’s no record of it.”
“Maybe she was let off with a caution,” suggested Pip. “Like Daisy,” she added, with a grin.
“Superintendent Jenks indicated the police hadn’t seen June,” said Daisy. “Well, he sort of did … “
“Perhaps we should ask the police straight out,” said Larry.
“And be accused of interfering with the case again?” said Fatty.
“Well, I could ask – as a journalist,” said Larry. “After all, a girl turns up at the tournament, steals something, nothing happens – and she gets to play for England. And then it turns out she was framed. There’s a story there.”
Fatty banged Larry on the back. “Well done, Larry! Of course you could do that.”
“I still think Larry will be – ” Daisy began.
“Don’t ask the police, Larry,” Bets cut in. “I tried to speak to her after the tennis, but couldn’t – the person you really need to talk to is June Johns.”
Fatty decided to accompany Larry to Cornwall and the pair caught the evening train – they would arrive in Cornwall late and would have to stay overnight at a hotel before going to Malory Towers the next morning.
“What if they can’t get into a hotel?” worried Bets as they waved them off.
“Oh, Fatty will think of something,” said Daisy. “If all the rooms are full, he’ll probably disguise himself as the hotel manager and throw somebody out of their room! Anyway, I think they’re wasting their time. June won’t talk to Larry – she wouldn’t talk to Fatty. It’s a shame you couldn’t talk to her, Bets.”
“I tried to, but the coach was leaving and their sports mistress wouldn’t let me hold them up,” said Bets.
“What shall we do now?” asked Pip.
“What about ringing Alicia’s husband?” suggested Roger. “We could at least find out from him if Alicia had seen anything of June lately and had an opportunity to confide in her.”
“She could have written letters,” said Pip.
“In that case, we find out if they corresponded,” said Daisy. “Got the keys to Fatty’s office, Bets?” Bets nodded. “Let’s work from there, then.”
At Fatty’s office, they decided that Bets should phone Alicia’s husband, as she was Fatty’s assistant. “You’re also the one he’s most likely to confide in, as you’ll be sympathetic towards him,” said Daisy. “And you are Fatty’s assistant and Fatty is investigating the case, so you won’t be telling any lies. We just need to know how much contact Alicia and June had recently.”
Alicia’s husband was reluctant to talk at first, saying that the police had told him there’d been an arrest.
“We just need to clear up some loose ends,” Bets told him. “We think Alicia may have confided in June. Had she seen her recently?”
“Not since she stayed with us in the Easter holidays,” said Mr Reynolds. “After that, they exchanged a couple of letters, but that was it. She was going to stay with us again in the summer holidays. Well, she still could, I suppose … ”
“Did they get on well in the Easter holidays?”
“They did – but June wasn’t her usual self. She was a bit quiet and seemed unhappy, which was strange given everything was going so well for her – being called up for England and so on. But she didn’t say anything to us about what was troubling her, just said she’d be glad when Higher Cert. was over. So we left it, though of course it wasn’t like June to worry about exams.”
That would have been the theft incident upsetting June, Bets thought. “And what about Alicia?” she asked. “Had she been unhappy, worried - ?”
“Not at all,” he replied. “Alicia was in fine spirits, never miserable – always full of life.” His voice choked and he was silent for a few moments.
This was getting them nowhere, thought Bets dismally. They were going round in circles, just confirming things they already knew – but hearing nothing that helped them to understand what had been the problem that Alicia had wanted to talk to Larry about …
Unless it had been the fact that an England lacrosse player had been framed? But again, why Larry? It didn’t make sense. Other than the fact the incident had happened at Sheepsale, there was nothing to connect June with the area.
“Did you know that June had been accused of stealing jewellery at the lacrosse finals in March?” Bets asked Mr Reynolds.
There was a silence. “No,” he said at last, “we didn’t. We knew she didn’t play in the final – she was ill … ”
“She was framed,” Bets told him. “Someone tried to frame her again today. Are you sure she didn’t say anything to Alicia about it?”
“No,” he said. “I’m sure she didn’t.”
“All right, thank you Mr Reynolds.” Bets was about to ring off, when she remembered something. “Just one more question, Mr Reynolds, then I won’t trouble you any more. Do you know why June used to be scared of Alicia’s brothers?”
He laughed. “Oh, Alicia said they used to spank her if she got out of line when she stayed with Alicia’s family when they were kids. Come on, though – that was years ago. You surely don’t think they’ve got anything to do with all this?”
“No, of course not,” said Bets. Brothers, she thought, glancing across the office at Pip. They were a nuisance to have when you were little. And, she thought, not much use when grown up.
It was a very subdued parting.
“It hasn’t been a very good reunion, has it?” said Darrell, as the ex-Malory Towers girls stood in the hotel foyer saying goodbye to each other. “Alicia dead, Mavis arrested … ” She bit her lip. It was all too awful. The next time some of them would see each other would be at Alicia’s funeral.
“It wasn’t your fault, Darrell,” said Mary-Lou.
“It was somebody’s, though,” said Betty. “I simply don’t believe it was Mavis – do you?”
Darrell shook her head. “No.”
“At least she can afford to pay for a good barrister,” said Sally. “The police seem convinced she’s the murderer.”
“None of us is a murderer,” said Darrell decidedly. Not even Gwen, she thought. If Alicia had received a nasty letter then she’d certainly have suspected Gwen. But murder? No. For one thing, Gwen was far too squeamish.
“Who’s going to the funeral?” she asked.
Bill and Clarissa said they were; so too did Mary-Lou and Irene and Belinda. Gwen shook her head. “We were never friends,” she said. “I’d be being a hypocrite to go to it.”
Betty glowered at her, but Sally laid her hand on her arm. “She’s right,” she said gently. “Would Alicia have gone to Gwen’s funeral if Gwen had been the one who died?”
“Oh, all right,” said Betty, pushing Sally’s hand away. “I just think she should go out of respect for Alicia – Alicia didn’t deserve to be murdered, whatever some people might think of her. Should we contact any other Malory Towers girls, do you think – those who couldn’t make it to the funeral? Like Jean and Ellen and … ”
“I’ll phone Moira,” said Sally. “I suppose she knows all about it, though, given she was at the tennis match and would have seen June. Once we know the funeral details, I’ll let Moira know. It might be hard to get time off school, though, if it’s still in term-time … ”
“Do you keep in touch with Moira, then?” asked Bill.
“Well, yes – we’re both games mistresses,” said Sally. “We visit each other sometimes. I like to pick her brain ahead of matches with St Clare’s,” she added with a grin. “I stayed with her a couple of weeks before the lacrosse tournament, not that it helped St Christopher’s at all! They do have a lot of talent there.”
“And Malory Towers still beat them in today’s tennis!” said Irene.
“Hurrah for Malory Towers!” said Belinda.
“And hurrah for June!” said Mary-Lou. “And Felicity too,” she added, looking at Darrell.
“Oh, June was the star all right, according to Felicity,” said Darrell. Felicity had phoned her after the match.
“There are those two women hanging around again,” said Bill quietly. She nodded to the corner of the foyer where Daisy and Bets had suddenly appeared.
“They’re invesigating Alicia’s murder with that fat detective,” said Darrell, also quietly. “At least they don’t seem to believe Mavis is a murderer. But they’re hanging around here so much they obviously think one of us is!”
“Oh, well, they won’t have heard anything useful in that conversation,” said Bill. “I say – there are two taxis waiting outside. They must be for us! Goodbye, then, everyone! Thanks for organising this, Darrell and Sally – as Mary-Lou says, you couldn’t help what happened!”
“Blow,” said Larry. “Blow, blow, blow.”
June had refused to talk to Larry in his role as newspaper reporter – when he’s said he wanted to talk to her about the incident at Sheepsale, she’d simply said it was all behind her. She’d been framed, everyone knew she was innocent, and now she just wanted to be left alone to get over what had happened to Alicia. They’d been interrupted by an angry French mistress, who’d told him in no uncertain terms to leave the premises and leave la pauvre petite June alone.
He met Fatty behind a shed near the swimming pool. The pool looked cool and inviting. “Wish we could have a dip,” he said. He shook his head at Fatty. “No, go. She wouldn’t talk about it.”
“We need to get her to talk somehow,” said Fatty. “Perhaps if I disguised myself as a policeman … someone she would trust.”
“Perhaps,” said Larry doubtfully. It was starting to get dark and he realised he was tired. “Let’s go and have a drink and then hit the hay, Fatty. I’m all in.”
“Yes, we’ll sleep on it,” Fatty agreed. He stepped out from behind the shed, then jumped quickly back. “It’s June,” he whispered. “She’s heading past the pool … Let’s follow her.”
Larry looked out and recognised the figure making her way purposefully past the pool. “It is June,” he agreed. “Let’s follow her.”
They followed her quietly, and ducked behind some bushes when she stopped. She looked around her, then took some matches from her pocket. The two men watched as she lit a fire. When it had got going, she flung something in it. She waited for a few seconds, then glanced at her watch and tore back up towards the school.
When she’d gone, Fatty dashed across to the fire and stamped it out. “Look,” he said, holding out the charred book to Larry. “Her diary.” Mercifully, only the edges of the pages were burnt.
The two men looked through it – the entries were short, comprising mainly training notes and occasional bits of school gossip. Fatty flipped through the pages for the date of the Sheepsale tournament. It appeared to have been torn out, but he thumbed through for any later references to it. His eyes widened with surprise when he found one.
“Let’s go and talk to her about it,” said Larry immediately.
“No,” said Fatty. “She won’t talk to us, not about this. I’m going to hire a car. We need to get back to Peterswood as soon as we can, Larry. We need to show this to Superintendent Jenks – it looks as if one of his policemen is going to be in trouble.”
“How does this tie in with Alicia’s murder, though?” asked Larry as Fatty drove home to Peterswood. “June says in her diary that she’s never telling anyone about what happened, so if Alicia didn’t know … ”
“Of course Alicia knew!” returned Fatty. “What else would she have been coming to talk to you about, Larry? A local policeman gives girls who get into trouble the choice of being spanked or being arrested … She’d see it as a story for you! I’ve no idea how she found out, but I’m guessing she read June’s diary when she stayed with them … ”
“You’re probably right,” said Larry. “You usually are. It’s a pity June didn’t name the policeman in her diary.”
“She might have done on the torn out page,” said Fatty. “Maybe Alicia was the person who tore it out. It must be the Sheepsale policeman. Either him or – ”
“Goon?” said Fatty. “Yes, that’s who I thought of too, when I read that entry.”
“It’s not a case of give a dog a bad name and hang him?”
Fatty shook his head. “Remember how he treated Ern when he stayed with him? It would be just the sort of thing he would do.”
Finally, they arrived at Peterswood. It was the early hours of the morning and Larry’s house was in darkness. “Shall we go and tell Superintendent Jenks now?” Larry said.
“No, we’ll tell the others first – they deserve to be in on this,” said Fatty. “Go and wake Daisy, Larry and then we’ll go round to tell Pip and Bets. Oh, and you’d better tell Roger Linton too. He seems a good chap, doesn’t he, by the way. I approve of him as a future husband for Daisy.”
“Well, thanks for your approval,” said Larry, with a grin. He disappeared into the house and returned with a tired-looking Daisy and Roger. Then they drove to the Hiltons’ to pick up Pip and Bets.
“What’s this about, Fatty?” asked Bets as she got into the car. “Have you solved the mystery?”
“Yes – I think we have,” said Fatty. He showed them all the entry in June’s diary.
“Gosh,” said Daisy. “How awful.”
“Better than being arrested and losing her place on the England team, though,” said Pip.
“Well, I’m sure that’s how she saw it, which was why she was so easily blackmailed into it!” snapped Bets. She frowned. “From what the Malory Towers girls have said, she was used to making that kind of choice.”
“What do you mean?” said Larry.
“Never mind that now,” said Fatty. “We need to go and tell the Superintendent. The quicker he knows about Goon the better.”
“Goon?” said Bets. “You don’t think it’s Goon, do you?”
“Well, of course it must be,” said Fatty. “Don’t you remember how he treated Ern?”
Bets shook her head. “You’re completely wrong, Fatty. It isn’t Goon June’s talking about in her diary.”
“Who then?” asked Fatty.
“It’s Superintendent Jenks,” Bets said.
“It can’t be Superintendent Jenks,” said Fatty. “He’s a fine fellow – straight as a die. You know that, Bets. We’ve known him for years.”
“You’ve gone mad, Bets,” said Pip. “Barmy.”
“No, she hasn’t,” said Daisy. “She’s right – Superintendent Jenks is the policeman June wrote about in her diary. And we think he killed Alicia because she found out about it and was going to expose him.”
“To Larry,” Bets added. Seeing the disbelieving look on the boys’ faces – well, apart from Roger’s, who, after all didn’t know Superintendent Jenks and was so in love with Daisy that he’d believe her if she said the murderer was Santa Claus – she added, “Think about it! The Super’s always been glad for us to take a hand in cases in the past. Well, hasn’t he?”
“Yes,” admitted Fatty. “The words ‘I’d like you to take a hand in this mystery now, Frederick’ do spring to mind.”
“Yes. So why has he been so different with this case?” Bets said eagerly. “He warned you off, Fatty – he threatened to arrest Daisy!”
“Because he believes Mavis is the murderer,” said Pip.
“No,” said Bets. “Because he didn’t want us getting close to the truth.”
“That’s why none of the Malory Towers girls or mistresses know anything about a policeman seeing June at Sheepsale,” said Daisy. “Because Superintendent Jenks wasn’t at the lacrosse as a policeman – he went as Hilary’s godfather, to watch her play.”
“And that’s why the St Clare’s people knew about it,” said Bets. “Hilary – or perhaps the mistress at their school who’s Superintendent Jenks’s sister – told him about June’s having stolen something and he said he’d talk to her about it.”
“Don’t look so glum, Fatty,” said Daisy. “You know it all makes sense.”
“It does. Too much sense,” said Fatty. “It can’t be right! It can’t be!”
“And who do you think framed June, Sherlock Holmes?” Pip asked his sister.
“Hilary, I’m sure,” said Bets. “She wanted St Clare’s to win the match – wanted to be the star of the match – and June was the only person who could stop her. And she knew about June’s past.”
“How?” said Larry, disbelievingly.
“Sally Hope had visited Moira Linton at St Clare’s before the finals and they’d talked about June and how she’d turned her life around. They talked about the anonymous letters she sent to Moira,” said Bets. “I think Hilary – or someone, anyway, who told Hilary – must have overheard and decided to set June up.”
“How did the Super know that Alicia planned to tell Larry – if what you’re saying is true, Bets, which I don’t really believe,” said Fatty.
“I don’t know,” Bets admitted. “It’s something that has to be investigated – but not by us. We have to go to the borough commander with this, Fatty.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Pip. “He’d think we were complete idiots! The Super has a fine record.”
“Thanks to all of you,” said Roger.
“I can’t go to him,” said Fatty. “If I’m going to say something like this about the Super, I want proof.”
“You can get it,” said Bets.
“How?” asked Fatty.
Bets tapped June’s diary. “Ring June Johns. Tell her you have the diary. Tell her to name him or at least describe the policeman she saw.”
Half an hour later, Fatty put down the phone. He felt his world had fallen apart.
“What did she say?” Larry asked.
“She was horrified we had the diary,” said Fatty. “She told me she burnt it when a reporter turned up asking her questions – that’s you, Larry – because she wanted to put it all behind her. But it was Superintendent Jenks all right.” He looked around at the rest of them – they all looked very sombre. “He was my hero,” he said in a choking voice. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever had to do.” And he looked in his contacts book for the number for the borough commander.
Alicia’s funeral took place the following Saturday, at the church near her family home. Most of her friends from Malory Towers turned up – including Mavis, happy to be released from custody in the wake of Superintendent Jenks’s arrest. The others welcomed her warmly, glad that the murderer had not, after all, been one of them.
Moira Linton turned up too, with the news that Hilary had been expelled from St Clare’s, for trying to frame June on two occasions. Miss Jenks had been very upset about the whole business, Moira said, but it was clear that while she’d gone along with Hilary’s suggestion at the lacrosse that her brother talk to June about the theft, she hadn’t known that he’d done anything other than give her an informal warning. “She was really upset about Hilary setting June up,” Moira said. “She’d always thought so much of her.”
June was also at the funeral. She did one of the readings and afterwards said she would be playing her first England international in two months’ time. She was determined, she said, to shoot a goal for Alicia.
“Superintendent Jenks did know Alicia had arranged to see me,” said Larry. “The borough commander just told me, off the record. She rang him up after reading about the incident in June’s diary, tore out the page and told him she was going to see me with the evidence when she came here for the reunion and that she was certain I’d be able to find out about other young girls and boys he’d treated that way. So he killed her before she could out him.” Larry was feeling quite happy in the wake of the superintendent’s arrest – he’d written some good articles that had gained the attention of the editor at the Times. He was due to start work there the following week.
“Was she right, do you think?” asked Pip. The Five Find-Outers were all in Fatty’s office, Daisy having returned again for the weekend. This time Roger hadn’t been able to make it – he’d gone to a school reunion of his own.
“Oh yes,” said Larry. “After I wrote the story about June and the Super the other day, I’ve had five calls from parents saying he did the same to their son or daughter.”
“Cheer up, Fatty,” said Bets, looking across at Fatty, who had been miserable about the outcome of the case all week. “You have to face it – the Super wasn’t the man we all thought he was.”
“Even Goon’s upset about it all,” said Pip.
“And he hates us even more than he ever did because we brought down the Super,” said Larry. “He won’t last long, though. PC Pippin – remember him? He worked his way up the ranks and he’s going to be the new Super. He knows Goon of old. He’ll be out on his ear in no time.”
“It’s a funny end to a case, isn’t it?” said Daisy. “Normally we’d be celebrating, but there’s not much to celebrate is there?”
“There’s my promotion,” said Larry.
“And our business has grown, that’s for sure,” said Bets. “We’ve had lots of people calling in with cases they want us to take on now we’ve caught such a big fish – ” Her voice trailed off. The first time they’d met the Super, he’d been fishing.
“Well,” said Larry. “I’d better be off – stories to write. See you all later!”
“I need to go too,” said Daisy. “I promised Mother I’d do some shopping with her.”
“And I’ve got to go,” said Pip. “I’m meeting someone.”
“Who?” asked Bets. “You didn’t say anything this morning.”
“A girl if you must know,” said Pip.
“A girl?” said Daisy. “What’s her name.”
“You don’t know her,” said Pip. “I only met her a couple of days ago, and we’re going to have afternoon tea together and take a boat down the river. Her name’s Pam. She knows a thing or two about mysteries, she says.”
The trio left, leaving Fatty and Bets alone together. “Did you want to look at some of the cases that have come in?” asked Bets. “There are quite a lot, Fatty. You’re in big demand now.”
“No,” said Fatty. “Let’s not do any work till Monday. Would you like to go down the river, Bets? Perhaps down to Maidenhead, then we could go to the theatre?”
“Yes. Would you like that? I’d like to take my mind off Superintendent Jenks for a while. What’s the matter?” he added, seeing Bets looked disappointed. “Don’t you want to go?”
“Well, yes, but – ”
Then it dawned on Fatty. “Oh, Bets, I’m sorry – you thought I was asking you on a date, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” Bets admitted. “But it doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does! I'm sorry, Bets! I do like you, you know. And over this case, you’ve changed so much – you know, I don’t see you as Pip’s little sister any more. I see you as a proper woman.”
“Well, that’s good to know.”
“I’ve been a proper fool,” Fatty admitted, “not noticing you before. Treating you like a child. But that's going to change now, I promise! How on earth did you manage to put up with me for so long?”
Bets grinned at him. “I haven’t a glue,” she said.