“. . . and according to Scotland Yard, the murdered woman was a Mrs. Samantha Christie. The crime took place at 22 Northumberland Street, Dorset. In connection with the murder, the police are anxious to interview a man seen in the vicinity, wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf, and a soft felt hat.”
“Honey, can you switch to the weather, please?”
“Of course, dear!” Mark Watson crosses over to the radio and switches to the channel his wife requested.
“Motorists are warned against ice-bound roads. The heavy snow is expected to continue, and throughout the country there will be a certain freezing, particularly at points on the south and southeast coasts of England.”
Mrs. Watson enters the Hall through the tall mahogany doors marking the entrance to Maywell Manor Guest House. She hangs her coat and hat next to her husband’s coat and scarf on a rack by the door.
“Mark, sweetie, I’m done with the flowers!” Her husband pokes his head around the corner to join her. “I’m so glad I got back from the village today in time to get the house ready for our guests. Too bad I didn’t find what I needed, though.”
“Well, at least one good thing happened this morning. I couldn’t find the right chicken netting from any of the dumps in town.” Mark and his wife walk into the kitchen to start
preparing lunch for the day. Once they were almost finished, the sound of the doorbell rings throughout the house.
“First guest! Why don’t you open the door, Zoe, and I’ll finish up here.” She nodded and scurried away to greet the man at the door.
“How do you do? . . .”
“Thanks so much . . .”
“Weather is simply awful . . .”
Mr. Watson can barely make out their conversation from his place in the kitchen, so he hurries out to meet his wife at the bottom of the stairs.
“That was Mr. Tristan Kaplan. I put him in the Front Room because he absolutely adored the four-poster. What a nice fellow! Says he’s an architect up in Paddington. Such a beautiful little town!”
The doorbell once again peals, and, after a brief pause, it begins to peal several times in rapid succession. Mark darted to the front door. An older woman wearing a red dress and brunette hair stood with a suitcase, some magazines, and a pair of white gloves. She stomps into the Hall and puts down her suitcase.
“This is Maywell Manor, I presume? Well, I am Mrs. Boyle.” She glances around in disdain and sets her gloves and magazines on a table by the door.
“I’m Mark Watson. Come in to the fire, Mrs. Boyle, and get warm. Awful weather, isn’t it? Is this your only luggage?”
“A Major – Ryan, is it? – is seeing to it. You should leave the door for him.”
As if on cue, a middle-aged man with square shoulders and an obvious military background joined them, accompanied by another woman.
She is a young woman of a manly type, and carries a case. She has a long dark coat, a light scarf, and no hat. “Afraid my car’s bogged a little ways down the road – ran into a snowdrift.” The woman speaks in a surprisingly deep voice.
“You must be Miss Violet Casewell. Let me take these.” Mr. Watson picks up the woman’s case along with the rest of Mrs. Boyle’s luggage. He leads all of the guests up the stairs and to their respective bedrooms before joining Zoe again.
“Mark, there you are. The pipes in the downstairs cloakroom are frozen.” She lets out a faint sigh. “What an awful day. First the police, then the pipes.”
Mark whispers so as not to disturb the guests. “Police? What do you mean police?”
“Oh dear, I forgot to tell you. The police rang earlier to say that they’re sending someone out here. Don’t know what it’s all about. Wouldn’t say. Just said I was to impress on my husband to listen very carefully to what the officer had to say, and to follow his instructions implicitly. A Detective Sergeant Walker, I believe.