Double Sin and Other Stories by Agatha Christie

  It was about an hour and a half later that the two ladies, rather the worse for wear and battered in appearance, and both clasping parcels of hardly-won household linen, sat down at a small and sequestered hostelry called the Apple Bough to restore their forces with steak and kidney pudding followed by apple tart and custard.

  “Really a prewar quality face towel,” gasped Miss Marple, slightly out of breath. “With a J on it, too. So fortunate that Raymond’s wife’s name is Joan. I shall put them aside until I really need them and then they will do for her if I pass on sooner than I expect.”

  “I really did need the glass cloths,” said Bunch. “And they were very cheap, though not as cheap as the ones that woman with the ginger hair managed to snatch from me.”

  A smart young woman with a lavish application of rouge and lipstick entered the Apple Bough at that moment. After looking around vaguely for a moment or two, she hurried to their table. She laid down an envelope by Miss Marple’s elbow.

  “There you are, miss,” she said briskly.

  “Oh, thank you, Gladys,” said Miss Marple. “Thank you very much. So kind of you.”

  “Always pleased to oblige, I’m sure,” said Gladys. “Ernie always says to me, ‘Everything what’s good you learned from that Miss Marple of yours that you were in service with,’ and I’m sure I’m always glad to oblige you, miss.”

  “Such a dear girl,” said Miss Marple as Gladys departed again. “Always so willing and so kind.”

  She looked inside the envelope and then passed it on to Bunch. “Now be very careful, dear,” she said. “By the way, is there still that nice young inspector at Melchester that I remember?”

  “I don’t know,” said Bunch. “I expect so.”

  “Well, if not,” said Miss Marple thoughtfully. “I can always ring up the Chief Constable. I think he would remember me.”

  “Of course he’d remember you,” said Bunch. “Everybody would remember you. You’re quite unique.” She rose.

  Arrived at Paddington, Bunch went to the luggage office and produced the cloakroom ticket. A moment or two later a rather shabby old suitcase was passed across to her, and carrying this she made her way to the platform.

  The journey home was uneventful. Bunch rose as the train approached Chipping Cleghorn and picked up the old suitcase. She had just left her carriage when a man, sprinting along the platform, suddenly seized the suitcase from her hand and rushed off with it.

  “Stop!” Bunch yelled. “Stop him, stop him. He’s taken my suitcase.”

  The ticket collector who, at this rural station, was a man of somewhat slow processes, had just begun to say, “Now, look here, you can’t do that—” when a smart blow on the chest pushed him aside, and the man with the suitcase rushed out from the station. He made his way towards a waiting car. Tossing the suitcase in, he was about to climb after it, but before he could move a hand fell on his shoulder, and the voice of Police Constable Abel said, “Now then, what’s all this?”

  Bunch arrived, panting, from the station. “He snatched my suitcase. I just got out of the train with it.”

  “Nonsense,” said the man. “I don’t know what this lady means. It’s my suitcase. I just got out of the train with it.”

  He looked at Bunch with a bovine and impartial stare. Nobody would have guessed that Police Constable Abel and Mrs. Harmon spent long half hours in Police Constable Abel’s off-time discussing the respective merits of manure and bone meal for rose bushes.

  “You say, madam, that this is your suitcase?” said Police Constable Abel.

  “Yes,” said Bunch. “Definitely.”

  “And you, sir?”

  “I say this suitcase is mine.”

  The man was tall, dark and well-dressed, with a drawling voice and a superior manner. A feminine voice from inside the car said, “Of course it’s your suitcase, Edwin. I don’t know what this woman means.”

  “We’ll have to get this clear,” said Police Constable Abel. “If it’s your suitcase, madam, what do you say is inside it?”

  “Clothes,” said Bunch. “A long speckled coat with a beaver collar, two wool jumpers and a pair of shoes.”

  “Well, that’s clear enough,” said Police Constable Abel. He turned to the other.

  “I am a theatrical costumer,” said the dark man importantly. “This suitcase contains theatrical properties which I brought down here for an amateur performance.”

  “Right, sir,” said Police Constable Abel. “Well, we’ll just look inside, shall we, and see? We can go along to the police station, or if you’re in a hurry we’ll take the suitcase back to the station and open it there.”

  “It’ll suit me,” said the dark man. “My name is Moss, by the way, Edwin Moss.”

  The police constable, holding the suitcase, went back into the station. “Just taking this into the parcels office, George,” he said to the ticket collector.

  Police Constable Abel laid the suitcase on the counter of the parcels office and pushed back the clasp. The case was not locked. Bunch and Mr. Edwin Moss stood on either side of him, their eyes regarding each other vengefully.

  “Ah!” said Police Constable Abel, as he pushed up the lid.

  Inside, neatly folded, was a long rather shabby tweed coat with a beaver fur collar. There were also two wool jumpers and a pair of country shoes.

  “Exactly as you say, madam,” said Police Constable Abel, turning to Bunch.

  Nobody could have said that Mr. Edwin Moss underdid things. His dismay and compunction were magnificent.

  “I do apologize,” he said. “I really do apologize. Please believe me, dear lady, when I tell you how very, very sorry I am. Unpardonable—quite unpardonable—my behaviour has been.” He looked at his watch. “I must rush now. Probably my suitcase has gone on the train.” Raising his hat once more, he said meltingly to Bunch, “Do, do forgive me,” and rushed hurriedly out of the parcels office.

  “Are you going to let him get away?” asked Bunch in a conspiratorial whisper to Police Constable Abel.

  The latter slowly closed a bovine eye in a wink.

  “He won’t get too far, ma’am,” he said. “That’s to say he won’t get far unobserved, if you take my meaning.”

  “Oh,” said Bunch, relieved.

  “That old lady’s been on the phone,” said Police Constable Abel, “the one as was down here a few years ago. Bright she is, isn’t she? But there’s been a lot cooking up all today. Shouldn’t wonder if the inspector or sergeant was out to see you about it tomorrow morning.”

  It was the inspector who came, the Inspector Craddock whom Miss Marple remembered. He greeted Bunch with a smile as an old friend.

  “Crime in Chipping Cleghorn again,” he said cheerfully. “You don’t lack for sensation here, do you, Mrs. Harmon?”

  “I could do with rather less,” said Bunch. “Have you come to ask me questions or are you going to tell me things for a change?”

  “I’ll tell you some things first,” said the inspector. “To begin with, Mr. and Mrs. Eccles have been having an eye kept on them for some time. There’s reason to believe they’ve been connected with several robberies in this part of the world. For another thing, although Mrs. Eccles has a brother called Sandbourne who has recently come back from abroad, the man you found dying in the church yesterday was definitely not Sandbourne.”

  “I knew that he wasn’t,” said Bunch. “His name was Walter, to begin with, not William.”

  The inspector nodded. “His name was Walter St. John, and he escaped forty-eight hours ago from Charrington Prison.”

  “Of course,” said Bunch softly to herself, “he was being hunted down by the law, and he took sanctuary.” Then she asked, “What had he done?”

  “I’ll have to go back rather a long way. It’s a complicated story. Several years ago there was a certain dancer doing turns at the music halls. I don’t expect you’ll have ever heard of her, but she specialized in an Arabian Night turn, ‘Aladdin in the Cave of Jewels’
it was called. She wore bits of rhinestone and not much else.

  “She wasn’t much of a dancer, I believe, but she was—well—attractive. Anyway, a certain Asiatic royalty fell for her in a big way. Amongst other things he gave her a very magnificent emerald necklace.”

  “The historic jewels of a Rajah?” murmured Bunch ecstatically.

  Inspector Craddock coughed. “Well, a rather more modern version, Mrs. Harmon. The affair didn’t last very long, broke up when our potentate’s attention was captured by a certain film star whose demands were not quite so modest.

  “Zobeida, to give the dancer her stage name, hung onto the necklace, and in due course it was stolen. It disappeared from her dressing room at the theatre, and there was a lingering suspicion in the minds of the authorities that she herself might have engineered its disappearance. Such things have been known as a publicity stunt, or indeed from more dishonest motives.

  “The necklace was never recovered, but during the course of the investigation the attention of the police was drawn to this man, Walter St. John. He was a man of education and breeding who had come down in the world, and who was employed as a working jeweller with a rather obscure firm which was suspected of acting as a fence for jewel robberies.

  “There was evidence that this necklace had passed through his hands. It was, however, in connection with the theft of some other jewellery that he was finally brought to trial and convicted and sent to prison. He had not very much longer to serve, so his escape was rather a surprise.”

  “But why did he come here?” asked Bunch.

  “We’d like to know that very much, Mrs. Harmon. Following up his trial, it seems that he went first to London. He didn’t visit any of his old associates but he visited an elderly woman, a Mrs. Jacobs who had formerly been a theatrical dresser. She won’t say a word of what he came for, but according to other lodgers in the house he left carrying a suitcase.”

  “I see,” said Bunch. “He left it in the cloakroom at Paddington and then he came down here.”

  “By that time,” said Inspector Craddock, “Eccles and the man who calls himself Edwin Moss were on his trail. They wanted that suitcase. They saw him get on the bus. They must have driven out in a car ahead of him and been waiting for him when he left the bus.”

  “And he was murdered?” said Bunch.

  “Yes,” said Craddock. “He was shot. It was Eccles’s revolver, but I rather fancy it was Moss who did the shooting. Now, Mrs. Harmon, what we want to know is, where is the suitcase that Walter St. John actually deposited at Paddington Station?”

  Bunch grinned. “I expect Aunt Jane’s got it by now,” she said. “Miss Marple, I mean. That was her plan. She sent a former maid of hers with a suitcase packed with her things to the cloakroom at Paddington and we exchanged tickets. I collected her suitcase and brought it down by train. She seemed to expect that an attempt would be made to get it from me.”

  It was Inspector Craddock’s turn to grin. “So she said when she rang up. I’m driving up to London to see her. Do you want to come, too, Mrs. Harmon?”

  “Wel-l,” said Bunch, considering. “Wel-l, as a matter of fact, it’s very fortunate. I had a toothache last night so I really ought to go to London to see the dentist, oughtn’t I?”

  “Definitely,” said Inspector Craddock. . . .

  Miss Marple looked from Inspector Craddock’s face to the eager face of Bunch Harmon. The suitcase lay on the table. “Of course, I haven’t opened it,” the old lady said. “I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing till somebody official arrived. Besides,” she added, with a demurely mischievous Victorian smile, “it’s locked.”

  “Like to make a guess at what’s inside, Miss Marple?” asked the inspector.

  “I should imagine, you know,” said Miss Marple, “that it would be Zobeida’s theatrical costumes. Would you like a chisel, Inspector?”

  The chisel soon did its work. Both women gave a slight gasp as the lid flew up. The sunlight coming through the window lit up what seemed like an inexhaustible treasure of sparkling jewels, red, blue, green, orange.

  “Aladdin’s Cave,” said Miss Marple. “The flashing jewels the girl wore to dance.”

  “Ah,” said Inspector Craddock. “Now, what’s so precious about it, do you think, that a man was murdered to get hold of it?”

  “She was a shrewd girl, I expect,” said Miss Marple thoughtfully. “She’s dead, isn’t she, Inspector?”

  “Yes, died three years ago.”

  “She had this valuable emerald necklace,” said Miss Marple, musingly. “Had the stones taken out of their setting and fastened here and there on her theatrical costume, where everyone would take them for merely coloured rhinestones. Then she had a replica made of the real necklace, and that, of course, was what was stolen. No wonder it never came on the market. The thief soon discovered the stones were false.”

  “Here is an envelope,” said Bunch, pulling aside some of the glittering stones.

  Inspector Craddock took it from her and extracted two official-looking papers from it. He read aloud, “ ‘Marriage Certificate between Walter Edmund St. John and Mary Moss.’ That was Zobeida’s real name.”

  “So they were married,” said Miss Marple. “I see.”

  “What’s the other?” asked Bunch.

  “A birth certificate of a daughter, Jewel.”

  “Jewel?” cried Bunch. “Why, of course. Jewel! Jill! That’s it. I see now why he came to Chipping Cleghorn. That’s what he was trying to say to me. Jewel. The Mundys, you know. Laburnum Cottage. They look after a little girl for someone. They’re devoted to her. She’s been like their own granddaughter. Yes, I remember now, her name was Jewel, only, of course, they call her Jill.

  “Mrs. Mundy had a stroke about a week ago, and the old man’s been very ill with pneumonia. They were both going to go to the infirmary. I’ve been trying hard to find a good home for Jill somewhere. I didn’t want her taken away to an institution.

  “I suppose her father heard about it in prison and he managed to break away and get hold of this suitcase from the old dresser he or his wife left it with. I suppose if the jewels really belonged to her mother, they can be used for the child now.”

  “I should imagine so, Mrs. Harmon. If they’re here.”

  “Oh, they’ll be here all right,” said Miss Marple cheerfully. . . .

  “Thank goodness you’re back, dear,” said the Reverend Julian Harmon, greeting his wife with affection and a sigh of content. “Mrs. Burt always tries to do her best when you’re away, but she really gave me some very peculiar fish-cakes for lunch. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I gave them to Tiglath Pileser, but even he wouldn’t eat them so I had to throw them out of the window.”

  “Tiglath Pileser,” said Bunch, stroking the vicarage cat, who was purring against her knee, “is very particular about what fish he eats. I often tell him he’s got a proud stomach!”

  “And your tooth, dear? Did you have it seen to?”

  “Yes,” said Bunch. “It didn’t hurt much, and I went to see Aunt Jane again, too. . . .”

  “Dear old thing,” said Julian. “I hope she’s not failing at all.”

  “Not in the least,” said Bunch, with a grin.

  The following morning Bunch took a fresh supply of chrysanthemums to the church. The sun was once more pouring through the east window, and Bunch stood in the jewelled light on the chancel steps. She said very softly under her breath, “Your little girl will be all right. I’ll see that she is. I promise.”

  Then she tidied up the church, slipped into a pew and knelt for a few moments to say her prayers before returning to the vicarage to attack the piled-up chores of two neglected days.

  About the Author

  Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She is the author of eighty crime no
vels and short-story collections, nineteen plays, two memoirs, and six novels written under the name Mary Westmacott.

  She first tried her hand at detective fiction while working in a hospital dispensary during World War I, creating the now legendary Hercule Poirot with her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. With The Murder in the Vicarage, published in 1930, she introduced another beloved sleuth, Miss Jane Marple. Additional series characters include the husband-and-wife crime-fighting team of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, private investigator Parker Pyne, and Scotland Yard detectives Superintendent Battle and Inspector Japp.

  Many of Christie’s novels and short stories were adapted into plays, films, and television series. The Mousetrap, her most famous play of all, opened in 1952 and is the longest-running play in history. Among her best-known film adaptations are Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Death on the Nile (1978), with Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov playing Hercule Poirot, respectively. On the small screen Poirot has been most memorably portrayed by David Suchet, and Miss Marple by Joan Hickson and subsequently Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie.

  Christie was first married to Archibald Christie and then to archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, whom she accompanied on expeditions to countries that would also serve as the settings for many of her novels. In 1971 she achieved one of Britain’s highest honors when she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She died in 1976 at the age of eighty-five. Her one hundred and twentieth anniversary was celebrated around the world in 2010.

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