The Unfinished Clue
by Georgette Heyer
She walked into the morning room, carrying a bowl of sweet-peas, and found Inspector Harding standing in front of the bookcase with a volume open in his hand. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" she said. "I didn't know you were here. May I just put these on the table?"
"You can do anything you like," said Harding, with a smile. "It isn't my house, you know."
"Well, it isn't mine either, if it comes to that. I thought I might be disturbing you." She glanced at the book in his hand. "Hullo, doing a crossword puzzle?" she inquired.
Harding returned CHAMBERS'S TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY to its place on the shelf. "No," he replied. "Not a crossword puzzle. Another sort of puzzle. What has been happening to annoy you?"
Dinah looked sharply up at him. "You don't miss much, do you, Mr. Harding?" she said.
"I only thought you looked a trifle cross," explained Harding.
She grinned. "Well, as a matter of fact I'm fed to the back teeth," she announced. "At any moment now I should think we shall all turn into a set of lunatics, and start gibbering at you."
"Oh no, don't!" begged Harding. "Tell me what's fed you up instead."
Dinah sat down on the arm of a chair. "I'm not at all sure that you aren't being serpent-like," she said. "However, I'm past caring, and the sooner you arrest somebody for this murder--preferably Francis--the better."
"What has he been doing?" inquired Harding.
"Making mischief," said Dinah viciously. "I say, did he pinch that money, do you think, or did Arthur really have remorse, and send it to him?"
Harding said, watching her: "I don't know. Are you anxious about it?"
"Anxious?" said Dinah.
"I thought," Harding said diffidently, "that you seemed to be on terms of great friendship with Captain Billington-Smith."
"Then I don't think much of you as a detective," said Dinah. "I can't stand Francis. How on earth did you come to make such a mistake?"
Inspector Harding apologized. "I don't think my judgment was likely to be entirely impartial on that point," he said in extenuation.
Since this was spoken almost inaudibly Miss Fawcett did not quite gather its import, and continued briskly: "In fact, if someone's got to be arrested for having killed Arthur I'd rather it was Francis than anyone, except perhaps Camilla, and I suppose you can't manage to shove it on to her?"
Inspector Harding allowed this aspersion on his integrity to pass without demur, and merely remarked that he thought it would be difficult.
"A pity," said Miss Fawcett regretfully. "She's a frightful cad. And if she comes oiling up to you, as I rather think she may, with a whole lot of tales about anybody else, don't encourage her. You can't place the slightest reliance on anything she says, and she'll only lead you off on quite the wrong track."
"Thank you very much for warning me," said Harding meekly.
Miss Fawcett blushed. "You're laughing at me."
"I shouldn't dream of laughing at you," he said.
Miss Fawcett became aware suddenly that Inspector Harding was regarding her with a light in his grey eyes that was far from professional. She felt her cheeks grow rather warmer. "Well, I must go and do the rest of the flowers," she said with great presence of mind, and got up. "I suppose there's nothing you want? You'll ring if there is, won't you?"
"No, I don't think I shall ring for it," said Harding, with
a faint smile. He held open the door, and Miss Fawcett
retired in good order.
This section was donated by Sheri, from the Listserv