"I suppose you're wondering why I asked you all here tonight."And indeed they were.The bath-chair-ridden countess who isn't quite what she seems gave her beautiful nurse a quizzical look (surely too educated for such a menial post - and what about the jewellery recorded as previously belonging to the Tsarina?).
The nurse was busy exchanging longing glances with Tom Raby-Knott, the ex-tennis professional who never seemed to remember which leg he limped with.
Beecham the butler wafted between the assembled guests distributing sherry and summoning all of his reserves of reserve to stop himself gazing in fatherly pride at his illegitimate daughter, the film startlet Janet la Pearl.Unaware that such a close relation was in the room (her mother had always told her that her father was either dead, or in Torquay - or both) she fretted endlessly at her feather boa and clung nervously to the enormous forearm of her fiancé - Enrique de la Saragossa.
If so, how could one explain his intimate knowledge of the eleventh method of dismissal at cricket, or indeed, his occasional lapse into a Wolverhampton accent. "You were of course, all acquainted with the deceased."
It would have taken perhaps a team of ten dedicated observers to document the effect of this phrase on the party gathered in the library.Tom Raby-Knott looked first out at the sun setting on the lake, then back to Beecham, who imperceptibly shook his head.
He was certain no-one had dragged the lake and he had weighted down each body himself.Enrique de la Saragossa looked enquiringly at the countess, surely nobody had found the Bolsheviks in the foundations of the new conservatory.
Janet la Pearl stared at Beecham, for the first time noticing that his nose and eyebrows were remarkably similar to her own."To the ordinary man, the passer-by, the man who does not have time on his hands, it may seem that Dipchurch Parva is indeed a quiet and unremarkable English country village.One would not realise at first glance, that a murder, or should I say had taken place."
The old man paused to pull a handkerchief from his breast pocket.
He was, Raby-Knott observed grudgingly, as he sauntered as inconspicuously as possible over to the fireplace, immaculately dressed.
The blood would make such a mess of that linen suit.
"But I, Kekulé Bíro, the greatest Lithuanian detective the world has ever seen, had that time.Time to observe, time to think.Time to reconstruct the terrible crimes that for years have..."
The huge brass handles of the library doors rattled, the doors lurching first forward and back before yawning open. "Papa!" said a cross voice, "there you are!We've been looking all over for you.What did I tell you I would do if this happened again?" "But Chantelle, this is different, this time I really think I've got something." "Oh yes!
"But cherie - they burned that man at the stake" "It was an paper-filled effigy of a seventeenth century catholic traitor.
"But cherie that man was a butcher.
Did I not notice the specks of blood on his shoes - the shreds of flesh under his nails?" "Yes, that's exactly what he was - a butcher!What did the tests from the laboratory conclude?Pork, beef and lamb every last bit of it."
The petite, but determined young woman who had just burst into the room nodded to the larger of the white coated men who had accompanied her.
In an obviously practiced manouevre they fell on the protesting detective, loosening his trousers and plunging the needle of a hypodermic deep into his thigh. "Please, listen my love - this time I'm cer...tain."
é Bíro collapsed to the ground. "Ladies and gentlemen," said the painfully embarrassed Chantelle Bíro, turning to face her bewildered audience, "I can't apologise enough for the appalling behaviour of my father.He was, many years ago a successful and famous detective - famous in some parts of Lithuania anyway.Now I am afraid, he is just a sad and deluded old man.How he could possibly accuse such decent and respectable people, I'll probably never know." There was a long pause. "That's quite all right madam," said Beecham pocketing the phial of strychnine which had, only a moment earlier hovered above Monsieur Bíro's sherry. "Don't mention it my dear lady," chorused Raby-Knott gently putting down the poker. "We very rarely get such excitement in Dipchurch Parva," said Enrique de la Saragossa (neé Eric Smethwick), sliding his stiletto back up his shirt sleeve. "Perhaps we should thank you" said Janet la Pearl laughing the tinkling laugh that had made her the darling of a million matinees and dropping her tiny two-shot pearl-handled pistol back into her handbag.
Old people can be such a trial," said the countess, chuckling to herself a little and beneath her blankets putting back the safety catch on her automatic weapon.