ABC谋杀案 32
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Mr. Cust put the receiver back very gently on the hook.
He turned to where Mrs. Marbury was standing in the doorway of the room, clearly devouredwith curiosity.
“Not often you have a telephone call, Mr. Cust?”
“No—er—no, Mrs. Marbury. It isn’t.”
“Not bad news, I trust?”
“No—no.” How persistent the woman was. His eyes caught the legend on the newspaper he wascarrying.
“My sister’s just had a little boy,” he blurted out.
He—who had never had a sister!
“Oh, dear! Now—well, that is nice, I am sure. (‘And never once mentioned a sister all theseyears,’ was her inward thought. ‘If that isn’t just like a man!’) I was surprised, I’ll tell you, whenthe lady asked to speak to Mr. Cust. Just at first I fancied it was my Lily’s voice—something likehers, it was—but haughtier if you know what I mean—sort of high up in the air. Well, Mr. Cust,my congratulations, I’m sure. Is it the first one, or have you other little nephews and nieces?”
“It’s the only one,” said Mr. Cust. “The only one I’ve ever had or likely to have, and—er—Ithink I must go off at once. They—they want me to come. I—I think I can just catch a train if Ihurry.”
“Will you be away long, Mr. Cust?” called Mrs. Marbury as he ran up the stairs.
“Oh, no—two or three days—that’s all.”
He disappeared into his bedroom. Mrs. Marbury retired into the kitchen, thinking sentimentallyof “the dear little mite.”
Her conscience gave her a sudden twinge.
Last night Tom and Lily and all the hunting back over dates! Trying to make out that Mr. Custwas that dreadful monster, A B C. Just because of his initials and because of a few coincidences.
“I don’t suppose they meant it seriously,” she thought comfortably. “And now I hope they’ll beashamed of themselves.”
In some obscure way that she could not have explained, Mr. Cust’s statement that his sister hadhad a baby had effectually removed any doubts Mrs. Marbury might have had of her lodger’s bonafides.
“I hope she didn’t have too hard a time of it, poor dear,” thought Mrs. Marbury, testing an ironagainst her cheek before beginning to iron out Lily’s silk slip.
Her mind ran comfortably on a well-worn obstetric track.
Mr. Cust came quietly down the stairs, a bag in his hand. His eyes rested a minute on thetelephone.
That brief conversation reechoed in his brain.
“Is that you, Mr. Cust? I thought you might like to know there’s an inspector from ScotlandYard may be coming to see you….”
What had he said? He couldn’t remember.
“Thank you—thank you, my dear…very kind of you….”
Something like that.
Why had she telephoned to him? Could she possibly have guessed? Or did she just want tomake sure he would stay in for the inspector’s visit?
But how did she know the inspector was coming?
And her voice—she’d disguised her voice from her mother….
It looked—it looked—as though she knew….
But surely if she knew, she wouldn’t….
She might, though. Women were very queer. Unexpectedly cruel and unexpectedly kind. He’dseen Lily once letting a mouse out of a mousetrap.
A kind girl….
A kind, pretty girl….
He paused by the hall stand with its load of umbrellas and coats.
Should he…?
A slight noise from the kitchen decided him….
No, there wasn’t time….
Mrs. Marbury might come out….
He opened the front door, passed through and closed it behind him….

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