Saturday, 25 November 2017

20 - A litte Deus ex Machina

Tuesday October 9

Cleo phoned the hospital first thing to see how Lisa Keys was getting on.
Dorothy made sure that the chorus rehearsal had been cancelled for that evening, but she was going along to the church hall anyway to make sure that everyone who came not knowing about the chorus director’s appendix operation went home.

***
Before breakfast, Cleo phoned Dorothy to find out if she wanted to be at the questioning of Barbarella Knowles. Cleo felt guilty about not including Dorothy as much as usual.
“It’s nice of you to invite me,” Dorothy commented, swallowing her pride. She was tempted to display sour grapes, but instead she said she could be at the cottage by ten fifteen if that was early enough.
Dorothy did not want to miss that event even if she was semi-retired and preoccupied with trying to arrange a Christmas special.
Cleo was a little crushed by Dorothy’s snippishness, but she was fooling herself if she thought that leaving Dorothy out of some of the ongoing drama was doing her a favour. On the contrary, Dorothy bitterly regretted mentioning the word retirement.
***
Gary went to HQ early. His phone-call to Lisa Keys from there was on a purely official level. There would be no more danger now, he told her, so he would call off the police guard. Lisa was curious about why she had had a guard at all.
“You noticed that exchange of pills by the chorus women, Miss Keys,” Gary explained once again.
“Oh, but I never let on to anyone that I knew about it, except Miss Price.”
“That’s just as well, Miss Keys. People don’t like to be observed doing subversive things and they might take it into their heads to dispose of the observer,” said Gary. “We could not know if someone had noticed that you saw what they were doing. Miss Knowles is due for questioning this morning. Did she visit you yesterday?”
“No. but I’ve been under guard all the time. I don’t suppose anyone was allowed in. Some of the women are still in hospital, aren’t they?”
“As far as I know they’ve all gone home except for the two who did not survive. If anyone turns up to see you, please call us immediately and make sure that someone else is in the room. Don’t eat or drink anything that is given to you except the hospital food. There’s a poisoner around and we would not like you to become a victim.”
“What if the poisoner can get at the hospital food?”
“That’s unlikely, Miss Keys.”
“If you say so, Mr Hurley. I assume that my brother, Miss Hartley and Miss Price are allowed to visit me.”
“Of course. Have a nice day.”
“I will,” said Lisa. “I can go home soon.”
You’d better not tell anyone when,” said Gary.
***
Gary had plenty to do quite apart from all the recent poisonings. Yesterday’s revelation that HQ data could be freely accessed by anyone with elementary hacking skills was alarming. Something would have to be done about it, and fast. Nigel volunteered to follow that up. Should he get Stan Butterworth in to talk about Dr Fargo? No. Greg should go to the villa and meet Dr Fargo, who was presumably unaware of the drama his supposed disappearance had caused.
***
Gary wanted to talk to Ed Fargo before he found out about his uncle’s return, if he did not know already, but there would not be enough time before Miss Knowles. On the other hand, since Fargo was behind bars without means of communication except via the security guards, his cell phone having been confiscated, he could not react even if he did know. Sally Fargo would be informed when she came next day. Meanwhile, it would be a good idea to get Dr Fargo into HQ so that they could all observe the confrontation of uncle and nephew. Greg agreed. No problem. Greg would fix it up.
***
Cleo and Dorothy arrived before Knowles. For reasons best known to himself, Gary did not want Dorothy to question Miss Knowles, so she was to sit in the observation room. Of course, he did not tell her that was the reason. He wasn’t even sure that it was justifiable, but he was, he said, relying on her judgement of the woman’s sincerity.
Dorothy asked Gary a few very searching questions about Miss Knowles. Where had she come from? Where did she work? Was she all she seemed to be?
Gary did not seem able to answer her questions.
“What impression have you gained up to now?” he asked back. “I can see that you want to tell me something.”
“She’s sham, Gary. She’s pretending to be what she isn’t.”
“In that case she’s pretending to be a criminal. On what do you base your theory?”
“I had a chance to observe her when Laura was alive and I was playing for chorus rehearsals. Knowles was always loud-mouthed and her tall figure was imposing if not crushing. Stories about her bullying any gate-crashers at that gay bar and wielding a butcher’s axe in a threatening way behind the counter of a small shop were common knowledge. Her short employment at the Moses Meat Market in Middlethumpton lasted until she had apparently flagrantly overcharged for so long and pocketed the difference that she was no longer sustainable. But who ever heard of a butcher undercharging except for Robert Jones, she conceded. She had in her mind the extra chops, sausages and bacon she found wrapped in the greaseproof paper with ‘your family butcher’ printed all over the outside. She did not order much and she only ever paid for half of it.
“You’ve never said that before about Miss Knowles, Dorothy,” said Cleo.
“You have rather left me out recently, Cleo. I haven’t been able to communicate the way we used to.”
“I didn‘t leave you out. You knew about Miss Keys first and have made valuable contributions all along, but you are supposed to be enjoying your retirement,” said Cleo.
“Semi-retirement and I’m not,” said Dorothy, “I’d thank you not to think of me as old hat.”
“Nobody has ever thought that, Dorothy,” said Gary.
“Mark my words,” insisted Dorothy. “Miss Knowles is definitely not what she seems.”
Knowing that Dorothy was prone to having hunches and had Argus eyes, Gary thought it wise to pursue her line of thinking.
“What isn’t she?” he asked.
“Well,” said Dorothy. “She is anything but dumb. In fact, I would say that she’s making fools of everyone.”
“You’ll have to expand that theory,” said Gary.
“For a start, she made a fool of Laura, who found her intensely annoying, but was afraid to throw her out. She has apparently starting selling those chorus women aspirin and diuretic pills saying they were personality-enhancing and good-mood pills based on common drugs but not habit-forming. That is not the thinking of a simple-minded person.”
“Even simple-minded people can swindle, Dorothy,” said Cleo.
“That’s as may be, but Miss Knowles is not one of them.”
***
Cleo was sceptical about Knowles reappearing. Gary was sure she would and relieved when she did. It was high time to find out what the woman was playing at.
Dorothy disappeared into the observation room through a side door that had actually been constructed recently and shrunk Gary’s office by several feet in the process. Observers no longer had to go into the corridor to get behind that one-way mirror, but Gary did not like his office getting smaller. He thought it might be ploy to get him into a managerial position on the top floor, but he was comforted by being told that the wall between his office and the next one would be replaced by a sliding door over the whole width so that the two offices could be used as one. However, no one could tell him when that would actually happen and he was sceptical. If the wall was supporting the ceiling, you couldn’t just remove it.
***
Cleo and Gary were still discussing what Dorothy had said when Knowles literally barged in.
Dorothy had forgotten her handbag, so she said when she and came back into the office through the side door, startling everyone.
“Bad timing, Dorothy,” said Gary.
“The blind was drawn. I didn’t know you had company.”
“What are you doing here, Miss Price? Shouldn’t you be playing the piano?” said Knowles.
“Good morning, Miss Knowles,” said Dorothy.
“We were just discussing professions,” said Gary.
“Which professions do you mean?” said Miss Knowles.
“The legal ones,” said Dorothy.
Gary took a deep breath and waited. Dorothy was about to shock him and Cleo. He knew that voice and Dorothy had a glint in her eyes.
“You are a lawyer, aren’t you Miss Knowles?” said Dorothy triumphantly.
Cleo and Gary held their breaths. Gary thought ‘blast the woman’ of Dorothy. Nigel, who had been sitting quietly at his own laptop, said he would deal with the IT man later and went to his table bearing notebook and biro. A knock on the door announced Greg’s arrival.
“Is this a party?” said Knowles.
Cleo wondered if Knowles had made a fool of Phyllis or just used her. Or was Phillis the guilty party on all counts? There was no time to discuss that eventuality.
“I just need to go to the restroom,” said Cleo. Beyond hearing distance she phoned Robert and asked him to send Phillis to HQ as soon as a patrol car arrived to collect her. She could not explain why for the moment and the woman should not be forewarned. Robert was alarmed at the urgency in Cleo’s voice.
***
Back in Gary’s office, Cleo signalled to him that they should make coffee in the little pantry-sized storeroom that housed his files, espresso machine and a tiny washbasin. Gary listened to Cleo’s request for the patrol car. He ordered a team to go to the butcher’s shop in Upper Grumpsfield urgently and collect a lady called Phillis. Cleo was convinced that Phillis must confront Knowles without delay. Gary had allowed himself to agree, although he far from relished the idea of witnessing those two awful women together.
“It sounds like the last act of a whodunit,” Gary commented.
“It probably is,” said Cleo.
***
“Sorry about that interruption,” said Gary. “Black or white coffee, Miss Knowles?”
“Black, please.”
“Are you really a lawyer?” Cleo asked.
“How did you find that out?” Knowles asked after a short pause, thus confirming Dorothy’s statement.
“Just a hunch, but now you’ve verified it …”
“I don’t think of myself as a lawyer,” said Knowles. “I see myself as a sort of adviser.”
Who do you advise?” Gary asked.
“I’m discrete, Mr Hurley. I do not snitch on my clients.”
“I accept that, Miss Knowles. What do you advise them?”
“Not to reveal who advised them,” said Knowles.
“I suppose I asked for that,” said Gary, realizing that if this woman was highly educated he could not treat her as a common or garden butcher’s assistant.
“You’re very secretive,” said Dorothy. “I’m sure your clients pay you well for your discretion.”
“They do, Miss Price.”
Gary put two and two together. The clients probably included the Nortons and others in their fraternity. It was useful to have someone qualified to tell you how to avoid being held responsible for your criminal actions.
“Do you know Dr Fargo or his nephew, Miss Knowles?” said Cleo.
Knowles smiled.
“Ed Fargo is chicken-feed, Miss Hartley. He’s for the high-jump.”
”Why?” said Gary.
“That tramp, Mr Hurley. Didn’t Fargo confess?”
“Heaven forbid! He organized it so that his wife takes the rap,” said Gary, knowing that there was no point in prevaricating. Miss Knowles had probably advised Fargo to do just that. Faced with the kind of intellectual duel in which he found himself taking part, Gary was starting to enjoy himself.
“Would it be indiscrete of you to tell me that you had advised him to pass the buck?” said Gary.
“I’m only indiscrete about clients who don’t pay their bills, Mr Hurley.”
“So he hasn’t paid his, I suppose,” said Cleo.
“Not lately and I’m not a charitable institution, Mrs Hurley.”
“So you know him quite well, I expect,” said Gary.
“People with problems confide in others. I got to know him through a client,” said Knowles. She was not inclined to say that Ed Fargo had found her through dark channels. He was not the kind of client she normally cultivated, preferring elegant connoisseurs of crime who let other people do their dirty work. It was only the promise of a fat fee that had persuaded her.
“What did Fargo want you to do,” Cleo asked.
“I don’t know? My clients pay before I advise them.”
“Very wise,” said Cleo.
***
“What are we waiting for,” Knowles said. “Why don’t you tell me why I’m here instead of wasting time with idle chat? I’m not going to say any more about my work.”
“I don’t see it as idle chat,” said Gary. “The business of Margie Busby’s death behind the church hall, for instance, is still a matter of concern. You will have to sign a written statement on that. Perhaps you’d like to change the version you gave last time.”
“Even if you had witnesses, I would still deny any complicity, Mr Hurley. There are no witnesses because everyone else was in the rehearsal room. If there had been any, surely they would have come forward by now.”
Knowles paused for a moment to judge the effect she was having on her audience.
“Margie wanted to tell me something. I don’t know what, but she insisted that it could not wait until after the rehearsal. Maybe she wanted to twist my arm. She had tried unsuccessfully to blackmail me on more than one occasion.
“So she knew about your true calling, I suppose,” said Gary.
“I did not find out, Mr Hurley. She was drunk. I did not realize how drunk until we were outside and she started to badger me. Then she went for me, I sidestepped, she lost her balance, tripped over the edge of the rockery and fell over. End of story. I thought she’d sleep it off if I left her there.”
“What did you do after the rehearsal that night,” Gary asked.
“I went home to bed,” Knowles replied with an unmistakeable invitation in her voice.
At least, that was how Cleo interpreted it. Gary either ignored the innuendo or hadn’t noticed it.
“Whose bed?” Gary asked.
“Would I tell you?” said Knowles.
Gary felt it was time to modify his approach.
***
“On Wednesday afternoon you visited some of the chorus ladies in the intensive ward, Miss Knowles. How did you know they were in hospital?”
“One of the girl’s husbands rang me.”
“But surely you already knew what had happened, Miss Knowles,” said Cleo.
“Not until the man rang me,” said Knowles.
“That’s not true, Miss Knowles. You had planned it with Robert Jones’s assistant, hadn’t you?” said Cleo.
“What makes you think that, Mrs Hurley? I went to the hospital and talked to some of the girls before calling on Phillis on Wednesday afternoon. She had a problem she wanted to discuss. It was a prearranged visit to her flat.”
“But you’d been there before, Miss Knowles,” said Cleo.
“So what?”
“How friendly are you with Phillis?” Cleo asked. “Are you a pair?”
“Who told you that?”
“Phillis.”
“Phillis is up a gumtree! She wanted advice and would have to pay for it.”
“Just as you would pay board and lodging, I suppose.”
“It’s part of the service, Mrs Hurley.”
***
Gary was sure that Knowles was leading Cleo on and he was finding it rather fascinating. Rescuing Cleo from her line of questioning was regrettable, but he would have to. Cleo was getting irate and Knowles was playing it cool. That was not Cleo’s normal reaction to suspects.
***
“You returned to the hospital during that night, didn’t you?” said Gary firmly. “Someone saw you.”
Knowles swung round to face Gary.
“Who?”
Eventually, Knowles said that she had emptied a bottle of port with Phillis that evening, after which she was obliged to spend the night there. Phillis was asleep. Knowles lay down on the vacant side of the bed. There was unfortunately no guestroom. They had not got round to discussing Phillis’s problem because she was overexcited about what would happen now she had been able to try out her potion. Knowles suspected that the basic was poor cash flow with a child to rear.
***
“Did you get up during that night, Miss Knowles?” Cleo asked.
“Not that I know of,” said Knowles.
“Were you drugged?” said Dorothy. “Knockout drops in your port, for instance?”
“It’s odd that you say that, Miss Price. The same thought went through my head. I’m normally an insomniac even after a whole bottle of fortified wine, but why would Phillis drug me?”
“She must have had an axe to grind, Miss Knowles,” said Dorothy, who was not at all sure what it was all about, but sure that she had hit on something.
“Phillis is much too stupid, Miss Price.”
***
“Your friend Phillis told me that you brewed your own medicines, Miss Knowles,” said Gary.
“Correction, Mr Hurley. She brews medical potions. I don’t have time for such nonsense. Her skill was quite useful at times.”
“Supposing she did not know that she had brewed a deadly concoction and then someone who did know advised her to add it to Mrs Barker’s homemade soup, wouldn’t that explain the food poisoning?” said Dorothy.
“I suppose it would.” Knowles admitted. “It’s a nice theory.”
“You said you worked as an adviser, so advising your friend Phillis would be quite normal, wouldn’t it?” said Dorothy.
“I was joking. I did not believe she had actually brewed a poison.”
“Supposing she had?” said Dorothy, giving Gary a triumphant look.
“Tell us more,” said Gary.
“I expect she wanted you to try it,” said Dorothy.
“It was all a joke,” said Knowles. “I told Phillis to put some of her potion in the soup because it tasted awful anyway and in that dilution it would be harmless, even if it did not have the medical value Phillis said it had, but was poisonous.”
“A dangerous assumption, Miss Knowles,” said Dorothy. “Haven’t you everr heard of homoeopathy.”
***
Let’s start over, shall we? said Gary. ““Why did you go back to the hospital on Wednesday night?”

“Those KO drops did not have the desired effect. I saw Phillis decanting them and I swapped the glasses. I wanted to check on those sick women and I had no time slot for the following day.”
“But you’d already been visiting in the afternoon,” said Cleo.
***
“Spit it out,” said Dorothy. “Something is wrong with your story.”
There was a long pause while Knowles made a decision.
“OK. You’re right, Miss Price,” she said. “I pretended to be asleep at Phillis’s place. I did not swallow the KO drops Phillis tried to give me, and neither did she. She got up, dressed, and left the house on foot. It isn’t far from her place to the hospital and I had a hunch that she was going there, so I followed her.
***
“Let’s stop there, Miss Knowles,” said Gary. “I want you to go into the observation room and watch Phillis when she arrives. Her story contradicts everything you’ve said, and knowing Phillis, I’m inclined to believe yours.”
Gary gestured to Knowles where to go and Cleo followed her. She could return when the observation room door had been locked from the outside, but in fact Cleo wanted to watch Knowles’s reaction to Phillis and eventually challenge her about her undisguised admiration for Gary.
***
Gary was indeed fascinated by the sheer animal attraction of Barbarella Knowles and Cleo could feel resentment coursing through her veins. He escorted Miss Knowles and Cleo into the observation room, ostensibly to make sure they were sitting comfortably. He kissed Cleo demonstratively, sensing that she was for once insecure.
***
Back in the office, Gary asked Nigel to find out where Phillis was.
Nigel went to meet the woman downstairs. Gary went into his tiny storeroom and Dorothy followed him.
“What’s the matter with Cleo, Dorothy?
“You were rather familiar with Miss Knowles. I think she’s jealous,” said Dorothy.
“You’d better swap with Cleo, Dorothy. I’ll have to talk to her before she gets a chance to attack one of us.”
Dorothy went to change places with Cleo, who acquiesced although she did not want to.”
***
“Cleo, I’m puzzled. You know how I feel about you. Please get a hold on yourself. We have lot of talking to do with our suspects.”
“I’m sorry. It hurt to see you being nice to that woman.”
“I had to be nice to her, Cleo. It meant nothing. Get that straight right now.”
Gary pulled her to him and held her tightly for some time. Cleo was quite unable to resist the intimacy that sprang up between them immediately.
“Better now, my love?” he said. “Je t’aime.”
“OK, Sweetheart,” said Cleo, but she was still too hurt to respond to the French endearment.

***

After a decent amount of time given over to Cleo and Gary so that they could solve the problem that Nigel rightly interpreted as the one Cleo had with Gary’s attraction to Miss Knowles, Nigel came into the office with Phillis after knocking, which was not something he normally did when he entered his workplace. Gary nodded his thanks to Nigel and went towards the woman. Cleo emerged from the little storeroom and followed. She was confused by her own emotions and not in the mood for a questioning.
***
But Gary was. He could not wait to get Phillis to repeat what he had decided was the pack of lies that she had told previously.
“What’s your surname, Phillis?”
“Cartwright. It should be Mrs Bartolo, but it never got that far,” she snapped.
“Shouldn’t it have been Mrs Morgan, Miss Cartwright?”
“’That f***ing organist? He went home to mother, didn’t he?” said Phillis. “Isn’t Babe here?”
“Should she be?” said Cleo.
“I thought she would be.”
“Why?” said Gary.
“We are in this together,” she sad defiantly.
“In what?” asked Cleo.
“In the chorus, of course,” said Phillis.
“Can you see Miss Knowles here?” said Gary.
“No, but I need her now,” whined Phillis.
“You’ll have to make do with me, Miss Cartwright,” said Cleo.
“You can call me Phillis, but you don’t love me like Babe does.”
“I don’t love you at all, but I’m good at advising people with problems,” said Cleo.
“I haven’t got a problem except that I want to talk to Babe,” said Phillis.
“Talk to me instead,” said Gary. “Tell me again what you said about Jane Barker’s soup!”
“She poisoned it.”
“Who?”
“Babe, of course.
“I suppose you mean Miss Knowles, do you?” said Gary.
“Isn’t that what I said, Mr.?””
Gary was glad that Dorothy was in the observation room with Knowles and hoped she would restrain the woman for a moment.
“Is there more to say about that, Miss Cartwright?” said Gary.
“She made the poison then forced me to put it in the soup, didn’t she?”
“Did she really?” Cleo said with astonishment in her voice. That provoked Phillis to embroider her story.
Phillis looked at Cleo as if she thought the sociologist was stupid.
“Let me explain,” said Cleo.
“Go on then” said Phillis.
“If you knew it was poison, you didn’t have to put it in the soup, Phillis,” said Cleo “You could have taken it to the police.”
“I didn’t know it was poisonous and Babe promised to love me forever.”
“So she knew it was poison, did she?”
“No. At least … I don’t think so. We wanted to improve the singing.”
Gary detected a crack in Miss Cartwright’s defences.
“Miss Knowles is married, isn’t she?” he said, rubbing salt in Phillis’s wound.
“She’s leaving him for me.”
“I admire your loyalty, Miss Cartwright,” said Gary. “But I don’t admire you for putting the blame for that soup drama on Miss Knowles if you love her.”
“But if she told me to put my potion in the soup?”
Cleo picked up on that statement immediately.
“YOUR potion? Didn’t Miss Knowles make it?”
Phillis sniffed. She did not like being in the room with these smart Alecs. She would have to tell them a thing or two that would impress them.
“I make ‘erbal remedies for inside and outside beauty,” said Phillis. “I wanted to give her one for her hands, to make them softer and more loving.”
“For her husband? Cleo asked.
“For me,” said Phillis.
“That’s interesting, Miss Cartwright,” said Gary, thinking that the outside potions had not done much for Phillis. A glare from Cleo told him that she had read his mind and he was not to comment.
“So it was a special potion for inside on Tuesday, wasn’t it?” said Cleo.
“Very special. A creamy mushroom magic in liquid form,” said Phillis. “Mushrooms grow overnight and so the potion will make your skin smooth overnight.”
“Wow. But soup is eaten, so the potion should not have gone into it, should it?” said Cleo.
“The internet said that you could take it like cough mixture if you were hoarse.”
“Iv understand,” said Cleo.
“About time too,” said Phillis, who now thought she had the upper hand in the discussion.
“So it would improve the singing if the chorus ladies got some, wouldn’t it?” said Gary.
“Yes. We were experimenting with a cure for bad singing.”
“We? I wasn’t there,” said Cleo.
“Me and Babe,” said Phillis.
“A dangerous game, Miss Cartwright,” said Gary.
“What about people not wanting to sing or if they were living outside. Would it improve their health?” said Cleo, now wondering if Phillis had made money out of her potions by selling it as a panacea.
“Outside?”
“Camping, jogging and stuff like that,” said Cleo.
“Yes. I gave some to a friend once, and he was going give it to his friend. He was camping out.”
“The friend wasn’t a Mr Fargo, by any chance, was it?” said Cleo.
Phillis looked startled.
“How long have you known Mr Fargo, Phillis?” said Gary, thinking that it was a ridiculous coincidence.
“Not long,” said Phillis.
“Where did you meet him,” said Cleo.
Phillis bit her lip.
“I don’t get much money in my day job,” she said finally. “So I advertised my ‘erbal potions in the Gazette.”
“And Mr Fargo got in touch, I expect,” said Cleo.
“He gave me some special mushrooms. He said they were precious and could I make up a potion from them.”
Talk about Grimm’s fairytales, thought Gary.
Cleo also wondered about the coincidence, but now was not the time to wonder. Other people advertise their skills and hobbies in Bertie Browne’s Gazette. Why not Phillis?
“Did Mr Fargo say where the mushrooms came from?” Gary asked.
“All natural,” said Phillis. “But foreign, Mr Fargo said. That’s why he needed a skilled person to make them up. He was grateful to find me.”
“I’m sure he was,” said Gary. “So you brewed the liquid and he paid for it, did he?”
Phillis nodded proudly.
“I’ll let you into a secret, Mr Hurley. I kept some of it back because I did not know if I would ever get any more of those specially imported mushrooms. They don’t grow on trees.”
That was a non sequitur.
***
On the whole, Phillis had exonerated Miss Knowles, though there was still the problem of knowing if Knowles or even Phillis knew that the potion was an unhealthy mixture laced with amatoxins. Gary thought that Knowles probably did know, but it was knowledge he could never prove.
“I made some sweeties from some of the mushroom juice,” Phillis said. “I didn’t tell Babe, but I gave some to Phoebe – that’s the woman who died of a heart attack. She was always coughing during the rehearsals.”
“Did you give any to Miss Norton, Phillis?” Cleo asked.
“No, but she was friends with Phoebe. Maybe she had a cough, too.”
“Eileen Norton was smothered, Miss Cartwright,” said Gary.
“I didn’t know that. I didn’t do it,” Phillis squeaked.
***
Gary now had the unenviable task of deciding how to proceed, but his thoughts were interrupted by the loud arrival of Knowles, who had finally broken Dorothy’s resistance to her leaving the observation room and crashed into the office through the side door.
“You are a terrible liar, Phillis,” she shouted.
Phillis rushed to her with open arms.
“What have I done, my Sweet?”
Knowles pushed her away roughly.
“I’m not your Sweet and you told lies about me. I am not interested in you and I did not know that the stupid potion you turned up with was poisonous.”
“Neither did I,” wheezed Phillis.
“Come on, Ladies,” said Gary, skilfully separating the two aggressive women. ”If you did not know, why did you go traipsing to the hospital at dead of night?” said Gary.
“How do you know that,” Phillis said.
“You were seen,” said Gary.
“But I wasn’t there,” Phillis protested.
“Yes you were,” said Knowles. “I followed you.”
Phillis had tied herself in knots. Knowles was not going to untangle them for her.
“So I was,” said Phillis. “I forgot.”
“You thought I was asleep, didn’t you?” said Knowles.
“I went to hospital to make sure the women were all right, but Phoebe was dead.”
“She died of a heart attack,” said Gary. “We had no proof that her death is connected to the soup, but now I understand that Miss Cartwright made up some poisonous sweeties and gave them to that woman. She was getting better, like all the others. Make a note of that, Nigel!”
“You are a bitch, Phillis,” said Knowles.
“And you, Miss Knowles, frightened the life out of the nurse on duty,” said Gary.
“You mean Crown, don’t you? The midwife in disgrace. I put something in her vodka so that I could leave without her making a fuss. She drank it all in one gulp and collapsed in a heap, silly woman.”
“I didn’t see you there, Babe,” said Phillis.
“I made sure you didn’t,” said Knowles.
“OK Ladies,” said Cleo. “That still does not explain the death of the other chorus lady. We’ll assume that Phoebe shared her lozenges with her.”
“I left the hospital immediately, but Phillis didn’t,” said Knowles.
“Why did you smother Eileen Norton, Miss Cartwright? Gary asked.
That was a shot in the dark, since none of the sleuths had considered Phillis to be involved to that extent.
“She was making eyes at Babe,” said Phillis, who seemed to have lost touch with the fact that she was giving evidence in a murder case. “She didn’t like being under that pillow.”
***
“I arrest you for the murder of Eileen Norton”, said Gary.
Nigel broke off his note-taking. He was astonished and the curve the investigation had taken. Gary advised Phillis that anything she said could be used as evidence against her.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” said Phillis.
“Shut up, Phillis,” said Knowles. “Don’t say another word. I’m your lawyer now and I’ll have to get you out of this mess.”
“You’re not a lawyer, Babe.”
“Yes she is, Miss Cartwright,” said Gary. “Take Miss Cartwright down to the arrest cells, Nigel, and make sure she is thoroughly searched. She might have a bonbon or two somewhere on her person.”
Must I,” said Nigel looking aghast.
Phillis put her hand on the pocket of the blood-stained overall she was still wearing, Nigel looked appealingly at Cleo and she obliged, removing all the contents of every pocket. The lozenges looked like commercially available cough sweets.
“They’re mine,” screeched Phillis.
“We’ll get you some from the canteen,” said Nigel.
“And we’ll get these analysed, Miss Cartwright,” said Gary.
“Did you use a syringe to inject them, Phillis?” said Dorothy, who had been watching the unfolding events from the door to the observation room.
“What if I did, Miss Price?” said Phillis. She was proud of her ingenuity.
“Take her away,” said Gary.
***
“Conclusion,” said Gary, when both the suspects had been removed, Phillis to a cell and Knowles to a neutral room where she would be kept until a decision about her immediate future had been reached.
“The soup did not kill anyone, as far as I can judge,” said Cleo.
“It was lozenges, wasn’t it?”
“You’re probably right, Dorothy,” said Gary. “Soft centred cough sweets are often bitten through. I expect Chris will tell us that there was enough pure amatoxin in one to kill a horse.”


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