“Sherry?”

“No. Thank you,” the inspector said, giving the bottle a dark look.

“Yes, I suppose it is a bit early.” In spite of this, Jeremy still poured himself a generous measure.

“How serious do you believe the threat to be?”

The young Mr Loughton’s eyes boggled. “The car mounted the curb!” he exclaimed, draining his glass with a practiced flick of the wrist.

“It could have been a careless driver; someone under the influence; the car itself may have been suffering mechanical issues that caused it go out of control.” Inspector Morrow listed it all in a slow, considered voice.

“It could have been,” the young man conceded. “But it wasn’t any of those things. It was one of my family trying to mow me down!”

“And what motive would there be for such an act?” Morrow asked.

Loughton shifted uncomfortably. “As you well know, inspector, my father is a very wealthy man,” he said. “He is also a very sick man. He’s in the hospital at this very moment, and the prognosis, I’m sorry to say, is not good.”

“I see,” Morrow murmured.

“What you may not see, however, is that earlier this week there was what can only be described as a cock-up at my father’s solicitor’s office. A copy of his will was accidentally sent out to my aunt who, as you can imagine, wasted no time in sharing its contents.”

“I’m assuming they favour you?”

“Putting it lightly,” Jeremy said, smiling without much humour. “It seems in recent months my father has decided to change his will; beforehand, modest sums were left to my aunt, uncle, and cousin; the remainder of the estate was to be split equally between myself and my sister.”

“And now the entirety will be left to you?”

Jeremy nodded, pouring himself another sherry. “You can imagine the outrage this caused among the family,” he went on. “I rather feel everyone was counting on their slice of the inheritance. My uncle has a terminal problem with money, my aunt is practically destitute, my cousin is directly under my aunt’s thumb, and has no life of her own, and my sister, well, she has become rather accustomed to a certain way of life.”

“So, if this vehicle had managed to hit you, and the worst had happened . . .?”

“The original will would take effect, I imagine,” the young man said indifferently.

The inspector rested his chin in his hands, considering the situation. “If they are all struggling as you say, that would give us a motive,” he said. “Why was the will sent to your aunt in the first place?”

The young Loughton shrugged. “As I said, it seemed to have all been a ghastly mistake,” he said. “My aunt, however, is the executor of my father’s will.”

“Would that not normally be the role of his solicitor?”

“You’d think, wouldn’t you?” Jeremy said. “But it seems that was another thing my old man changed. Who knows how the minds of the dying work?”

“Very well,” the inspector said. “If you give me the information of the vehicle, I’ll be sure to bring this matter to a swift close.”

“Actually,” Jeremy said, “in the chaos of the moment, I never got a good look at the car. Certainly didn’t catch its number, either. All I know is that it was black.”

“I see. That doesn’t give me much to go on, Mr Loughton.”

“I know, I know, and that’s not why I invited you here.”

Inspector Morrow gifted the young man his most stern glare. “I’m not fond of having my time wasted,” he growled.

“It’s not a waste, I promise. Tonight, I’m inviting my family over for dinner, the whole tribe: my Aunt Madge, Uncle Dom, cousin Edie, and Rosie. This will probably be the only time we’ll all be together before the funeral.”

“If your father does die, that is.”

“Of course. Anyway, I was thinking, if one of them is trying to bump me off, wouldn’t tonight be the perfect opportunity?”

“It would certainly be a risky opportunity,” Morrow said.

“We’re the Loughtons,” Jeremy said with an influx of pride. “We’re all about taking risks. How do you think my father made his fortune? And how do you think my aunt and uncle lost theirs?”

“Very well. Even considering what you say is true, what role would I play?”

Jeremy grinned. “You’ll be one of my guests, of course. Don’t worry, I’m inviting an old school friend along as well, so it won’t be awkward you being there.”

Morrow continued to frown. This wasn’t how policing worked. He had a strong feeling that the young Loughton was viewing it all as some sort of game. But, when that family name came up in conversation, the chief inspector had been very anxious for the issue be resolved, and quickly. In the end, he sighed and held his hands up in defeat.

“What time should I arrive?”

*

“Come along, Edie! Hurry up, girl!”

“Yes, mother. Where do you want to sit? The settee?”

“Yes, I want to sit on the settee! Why do you think I’m walking that way? Silly girl.”

“Sorry, mother.”

Inspector Morrow watched as the pale-faced young woman helped her crab-legged mother down. “Ow!” Margery Raine exclaimed, shooting her only daughter a venomous look.

“Oh, was it your back again?” Edith Raine asked.

“No. You trod on my foot! And don’t stand there; you’re looming over me. You know how I hate that.”

Without another word, Edie took a nervous seat beside her mother. She was perched on the edge, as if ready to leap up at any command. Morrow instantly pitied her, whilst taking a dislike to Mrs Raine. But he had to put that aside. Personal feelings were the enemy of any working policeman. If Loughton was correct, then anyone in this room could be a potential killer, even one as sympathetic and innocent-looking as Edie.

“Damned good meal that was!”

Morrow’s eyes switched to Dominic Loughton. He was a tall, balding man, whose smile didn’t quite reach his milky-blue eyes. Margery Raine turned her hawkish face towards her brother. “Don’t blaspheme, Dominic,” she commanded.

The man rolled his eyes. “It’s only natural.”

“Such language only steeps you further into sin,” the old woman stated.

“Can’t even compliment a meal without getting a bloody lecture,” Dominic murmured. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a cigar. His sister gave a disapproving snort. “What now?” the man snapped. “Do cigars endanger my soul?”

“Perhaps not,” Madge stated. “But they smell awful.”

“Breathe through your mouth then.”

The siblings glowered at one another, at a standstill. “Your father never smoked, Edith,” Margery commented, watching Dominic raise a match to the cigar. “Touched neither cigarette or alcohol. He was a fine figure of a man.”

“Speaking of alcohol,” Richard Mackintosh exclaimed, jumping to his feet, “how about I crack open the brandy?”

“Should we not wait for Jeremy?” Dominic asked, nevertheless drifting towards the cabinet.

“Yes, where is Jeremy?” his aunt asked, craning round to look at the door.

“Talking to his man servant,” Rosemary Loughton, Jeremy’s younger sister, remarked. Her eyes, smouldering like embers, gave nothing away. She lounged in one of the armchairs, entirely relaxed, and only slightly bored.

“A butler and a chef?” Margery murmured. “How does the boy afford it all?”

“Not to mention good brandy!” Dominic added, pulling out the bottle with an impressed and appraising gaze.

“Well, he won’t have to worry about money soon, will he?” Rosie stated, her eyes momentarily sharpening.

Her aunt and uncle shared a quick glance. “Don’t mention that will to me,” Margery snarled. “After everything we’ve done for your father.”

“Now, now, auntie,” Rosie said playfully. “Doesn’t the Lord instruct us to turn the other cheek?”

“Don’t take that tone with me, young girl,” her aunt warned. “You don’t know what your uncle and I have been through thanks to your father. There was a time he came to us for money. Oh yes, he wasn’t always so lucky.”

“He did pay you back though, mother,” Edie offered meekly.

Margery waved her comment away. “The money, yes. But not the sentiment. We had every right to turn him away, Edgar and I. After all, it was Henry’s fault he fell into the sin of gambling.”

“I always thought your father had the best of luck with money and investments,” Richard said to Rosie.

Margery laughed humourlessly. “Shows what you know,” she remarked. “He was a reckless rogue in his younger days; he seemed to always be either in debt or drunk.”

“Quite often both,” Dominic murmured.

“He hardly improved when he did come into his money.” Margery’s face became as dark as a thunder cloud. “Marrying that showgirl for one thing.”

Morrow’s eyes flickered over to Rosemary Loughton. On the surface the girl seemed to have taken no notice of her aunt. But the inspector saw, just for an instant, her shoulders stiffen and her eyes narrow.

“Now, now, Madge,” Dominic said warningly. “I think perhaps it’s best we not talking about family matters in front of strangers.” He looked nervously towards the silent Morrow and Richard.

At that moment Jeremy finally swept in. With his expensive dinner jacket of the latest trend, his swept back hair, and his charming grin, he looked more like a movie star attending a premiere than a man at a family dinner. But then, wasn’t that appropriate? Here he was, acting the part of bait because, around him, was a potential murderer. Or at least, that’s what he believed. So far Morrow had seen no reason to suspect anyone; yes, their anger was palpable, but were any of his guests willing to kill? The inspector doubted it. Once the night was ended, he would take the young Mr Loughton aside and again explain the seriousness of wasting police time.

“Sorry for the delay, everyone,” he said brightly.

“Were you gone? We hardly noticed,” Rosemary said.

Jeremy paid her no heed. “I see you’ve made do without me?” he said, nodding to the bottle of brandy in Richard’s hand.

“Well, someone had to play host!”

“And you went for the expensive bottle, I notice.”

“It’s not like you can’t afford it,” Margery grumbled.

“Aunty Madge is still bitter about the will,” Rosie remarked.

“Do be quiet!”

“I think we should all stop worrying,” Edie said, showing what Morrow could only suspect was a rare display of courage. “After all, the will may have been a forgery.”

“It was real all right,” Dominic said sourly. “Had Carriage confirm it for me yesterday.”

“Fortunately, the fool who sent it out has been dismissed,” Jeremy said cheerfully.

“Poor Nielsson,” Richard murmured.

“If you chaps are having brandy, what about the rest of us?” Jeremy stepped up to the drinks’ cabinet, pulling out a bottle of sherry.

“I’ll just have a small G&T please,” Edie asked.

“Is that sherry there, Jeremy?” Madge asked.

“It is,” he said, pouring his own glass. “Did you want one?”

“Careful, aunty,” Rosie purred. “Something like that could be very dangerous your immortal soul.”

The old woman gifted her niece with a poisonous glance. “Keep your opinions to yourself, Rosemary,” she hissed. “For once, at least.”

“Here you are, aunty,” Jeremy said, pressing the glass into her waiting clutches. He turned to the inspector, lingering close to the corner, a grim set to his face. “Yourself, Morrow?”

“Nothing for me, thank you.”

“Not a drinker, eh?” Dominic Loughton asked.

“I gave it up some years ago.”

“Religion?”

Morrow smiled blandly. “I’m not the most religious of men.”

Dominic laughed. “Best steer clear of Madge then, she’ll try to convert you. Didn’t you once think of becoming a missionary, Margery?”

“I did once consider it,” she said, the glass paused by her lips. “Back when dear Edith was just a child.”

“What made you reconsider?” Richard asked.

Margery’s gaze bounced around the room, taking in the members of her family. “A . . . family emergency required me to remain in England.”

“How about a toast?” Rosemary asked, suddenly rising, her glass of whiskey held high.

“And just what would we be toasting about?” Margery asked.

“The joys of being all together in one room again.”

“But we’re not all together again, are we?”

“Very soon, this will be all that’s left of us,” Dominic said morosely.

“I would like to know just why we were invited here,” the aunt suddenly asked. “It certainly wasn’t for the company.”

Jeremy sighed wearily. “There are a few papers Carriage sent over, yes.”

“Papers? What papers?” The postures of Dominic, Rosemary, and Margery all tensed, eager.

“Things to do with the business,” Jeremy said with an indifferent shrug. “And father’s estate.”

“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Margery snapped. “Where are these papers?”

“In my study, shall I bring them?”

“No, no,” Dominic said, standing. “Family matters ought to be discussed in private. We’ll come with you.”

“Very sensible, Dominic,” Aunt Madge said, getting to her feet with no assistance this time. “Lead the way, Jeremy.”

“You don’t mind if we pop out for a few minutes?” Jeremy asked.

“Not at all,” Richard said with a smile. “I’m sure Mr Morrow and I can amuse ourselves.”

“Keep my seat warm, Dickie,” Rosie said, sweeping out of the room.

*

“Cigarette?” Dickie asked, dropping into Rosemary’s chair.

“No, thank you,” Morrow said, also taking a seat.

“Don’t drink, don’t smoke. Are you sure you’re a friend of Jerry’s?” He asked this with a laugh, but there was an edge there as well. Morrow gave the young man a reassuring smile. “More like business associates,” he said.

“Business, eh? Didn’t think Jerry had any interest in that sort of thing,” he mused. “Still, people can change, especially when money becomes a factor.”

“It can certainly make people act in peculiar ways.”

“I’ll say; throwing this dinner party for one thing.” Dickie shook his head. “I always thought Jerry found them all a terrible bore. Still, it gives me a chance to spend some more time with Rosie, so I can’t complain.”

“You and she are close?”

Dickie grinned like a schoolboy. “Not as close as I’d like, but more than Jerry would. If he knew, that is.”

“What’s she like?”

“Where do I start? For one thing, I still struggle to believe she’s related to Jerry. I love the man like a brother, but . . .”

“All siblings are different though, surely?”

“Oh, yes, yes. But Rosie is . . . I don’t know. She’s so . . . ethereal sometimes. It’s like those old fairy tales about changelings. That’s what she reminds me of.” A wistfulness swam into Richard’s eyes.

“Forgive me if I cause offence,” Morrow said, leaning back, “but I didn’t sense any sort of charm from her this evening.”

The younger man snapped out of his reverie and shot the inspector a sly look. “Well, she’s not in the best of moods, as I’m sure you can understand,” he said. “None of them are.”

“So, they’re not normally this bitter around one another? The family, I mean.”

“Can’t actually say; I only meant the rest of them this evening. I won’t lie, I’m hoping it’s the last as well. The uncle’s not too bad, an accountant or something, Jerry said. But the aunt, my God.”

Morrow allowed himself an uncharacteristic smile. “I’m sure the ill health of her brother doesn’t help her mood.”

“Nor does the fact she stands to lose such a big inheritance,” Dickie added. He shook his head slowly. “That Jerry sure is a lucky bastard. Of course, I doubt the money will last him the year, not with the way he lives.”

“That won’t please the rest of the family.”

“I think the only thing that can is if Mr Loughton pulls through,” Dickie said. “Or if Jerry suddenly . . . you know.”

“Meets with an accident?” the inspector suggested.

Dickie grinned. “That sort of thing,” he said, “yeah.”

Morrow frowned. “You think one of them could do such a thing?”

Richard gave this some thought. “Not really,” he murmured. “None of them seem the type, if I’m honest.”

“I find killers rarely have a ‘type’, Mr Mackintosh.”

“Oh? And how do you find that sort of thing, Mr Morrow?”

“It’s just a hobby.”

Dickie gave Morrow another thoughtful look. The door suddenly opened. Edie stepped in, then faltered when she saw the two men. “Oh, sorry,” she mumbled. “Mother forgot her drink.”

“Ah, this must be it.” Richard sprang up, grabbed the sherry, then handed it to Edie. “How’s it going in there?” he asked. “Not got round to murdering one another yet?”

Edith gave a small jump. “What – what do you mean?” she asked.

“Just a little joke,” Dickie said, patting her companionably on the shoulder. “Just ignore it.”

“Oh, right, yes.” With that, the pallid-looking girl left.

“She might have it in her,” Dickie said, sitting back down. “But only if the victim was that vile old Madge.”

The woman herself then burst into the room, an odious look on her face. “That vicious little boy,” she snarled, hobbling back to the settee.

“Now, Madge,” Dominic said, but the paleness of his face told Morrow that he wasn’t feeling much calmer.

“He only wanted to rub it all in our faces,” she went on. “Where is Edie? I sent her here to get my drink!”

“She just left,” Dickie said.

“Where has she gone? She can’t have gotten lost!”

“I’ll pour you another.”

“I’m here, mother,” Edie stumbled into the room, holding the sherry out like an offering at a temple.

The old woman snatched it out of her daughter’s hands. “Honestly, after everything I did for him, this is how he repays me?”

“Jerry?”

“What? No, I mean his father! My brother!” She glowered darkly into the distance. “Who was the one who visited him in hospital? Not his son, oh no, and not his daughter either. It was me! Of course, I suppose neither have much reason to visit in the first place.”

“What do you mean?”

Margery sneered, and for a moment Morrow felt his bones grow cold. “Oh, I know things,” she crowed, taking a sip of her drink. “I know things about this family that could change everything. I was the only one who stood by Henry when he went through his trouble. Do you remember, Dominic? Mother and father would have disowned him if not for me! All the trouble with him and that . . . that tart!”

“Margery!” Dominic said warningly.

“Oh, you’re all back in here,” Rosie said. Dickie instantly stood up, allowing her to sit down. She gave him a distracted smile.

“Edie, help me up, will you?” Madge asked. “I’m feeling a little flush. I may just go to the bathroom.”

“Of course.”

 Once the pair were gone, Dominic heaved a sigh. “I do apologise for my sister,” he remarked.

“What was she saying?” Rosie asked, her head snapping round.

“Threatening to expose some dark secret of your father’s,” Dickie said with a childish grin.

“It was probably just his drinking,” Dominic said. “Henry was always a louse. Drove his poor wife mad.” He shook his head slowly. “She was a good woman.”

“I can’t remember her,” Rosie said, her voice lowering.

“Well, you were only young when she died, so it’s understandable.”

“Father never spoke of her,” Rosie went on, her voice sounding as if she was talking to herself more than anything.

“Yes, well, they had a . . . strained relationship towards the end.”

Jeremy finally made his return. He gave the room one look round. “Madge hasn’t left, has she?” he asked.

“Powdering her nose,” Dominic said.

“Good, good,” Jeremy said, collapsing into the last available chair. “I was worried, after her little performance just now, that she’d stormed out.”

“She’s just a little upset,” his uncle said, before adding under his breath: “We all are.”

“What’s this? Talking about me?” Mrs Raine reappeared, this time her face blanched and several years older looking. She leaned more heavily on her daughter, and winced as she was lowered down onto the settee. She instantly reclaimed her glass.

“Nothing horrible, if that’s what you were worried about,” Rosie said.

“I’m sure,” Margery murmured, taking another sip of her drink.

“That reminds me,” Jeremy said, jumping back up, “I left my drink back in the study.”

“He just can’t sit still,” Edie remarked with a small smile, watching Jerry run back out.

“How’s school, Edie?” Rosemary asked. “I hope the children aren’t too awful.”

“They’re lovely, actually,” the young woman said, her face brightening. “And Ms Wainwright, the headmistress, has said they’re looking for someone full time for next term, so I might go for that!”

“This sherry tastes odd,” the old woman complained.

“What’s that?”

“The brandy’s not much good either,” Dominic said, studying his empty glass. “Knew I should have brought a bottle of my good stuff.”

A hacking cough suddenly tore through the old woman. The empty sherry glass fell from her hand and thudded onto the carpet. “M-Mother?” Margery Raine continued to cough and splutter, raising a clawed hand to her throat. Her eyes began to bulge, filling with tears. Dominic stood there, his mouth hanging open, dumbfounded. Rosemary jumped to her feet.

“My God!” she exclaimed. “What’s happening?!”

“Stand back!” Morrow roared. But it was too late, that was plain for everyone to see. With one final, rattling cough, and one hand still around her throat, Margery Raine fell back against the settee. Dead.

Jeremy ran back into the room. “What’s going on? I thought I heard –” He froze as he saw his aunt’s prone form.

“It’s too late,” Morrow said.

Edith looked up at him, her eyes as round as saucers. “Too late? What do you mean? Too late?” With a rising whine, the young woman turned to her mother and began shaking her body. “Mother! Mother! Wake up!”

Rosemary sprang past the inspector and wrapped Edie up in her arms. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, pulling her away from the body. “I’m so sorry.”

“She – she can’t be . . .”

“Dead,” Dominic announced lamely.

*

Once Rosemary had led a sobbing Edie out of the room, Richard closed the door.

“Mrs Raine’s death was not natural,” Morrow announced, astounding two of the men.

“What?” Dominic blustered. “But – but . . . what? The woman was old, for crying out loud! Her health was – it was –”

“I’m sure I don’t know the facts of her wellbeing,” Morrow said, bending down to retrieve her dropped glass, “but if I’m not mistaken, Mrs Raine died from cyanide.”

“Poison? Don’t be absurd! But that would mean murder! Who would want to murder my sister?!”

“Perhaps you’d best take Edie that brandy,” Jeremy said, his face ashen and his body trembling.

“What? Brandy? Damn the brandy! I want to know who the Hell this man is –”

“Uncle!” The word came out as an almost strangled scream. Dominic glanced at his nephew, finally seeing his expression. “Oh, right, yes. Brandy. I suppose that is a good idea,” he mumbled. “Help with the shock.”

Richard pressed an already full glass into his hand, then saw him out.

“Did you drink your sherry?” Morrow asked as soon as the door was shut.

Jeremy wordlessly looked down at the glass in his hand. His mouth opened and closed, too stunned to speak. “Did you drink any of it?” Morrow asked, placing a heavy hand on his shoulder. This touch seemed to wake Jeremy up. “No,” he said, breathy with relief. “I – I never took a sip.”

“Mr Mackintosh, get Jeremy some water, please.”

“Jerry, what’s going on?”

“The water, Dickie. Please.”

When he was gone, Jeremy collapsed down in the armchair, his eyes drifting back to Aunt Madge. “My God, Morrow, I was right!”

Yes, Morrow thought. Not just simple paranoia. But now what?

“Should we call the police?” Jeremy asked. “Won’t someone need to . . . take her away?”

Morrow stepped back. His face darkening with thoughts. The Chief Inspector was good friends with the senior Loughton; if Morrow made any mistakes here it would be disastrous for both Loughton and for himself. He had to act wisely, and quickly.

Rosie, shadowed by Dickie, suddenly burst into the room. Jeremy leapt to his feet.

“I thought you were with Edie?”

“I left her with Uncle Dom,” Rosemary said, her eyes shifting from Morrow to her brother. “He said something about murder? Please tell me he’s being hysterical.”

“I’m afraid not,” Morrow said. “Cyanide leaves a distinctive almond-like scent. You can just make it out in your aunt’s glass.”

“So, one of us is the killer?”

“You can’t be serious?” Dickie asked, laughing weakly.

“Who had access to her glass?”

“She left it in here when you all went to the study,” Richard said. “But Mr Morrow and I were in here together, neither of us touched it.”

“I don’t believe the glass itself was tampered with,” the inspector said. “I believe the bottle itself has been poisoned.”

“Jerry was the only other person who had sherry,” Dickie pointed out.

“But anyone could have had some!”

“Was the bottle new?”

“No, it’s been open a few days.”

“That brings us back to square one,” Rosie said impatiently. “Who had access to the bottle?”

“That’s rather risky though, isn’t it?”

“Welcome to murder,” Morrow said sourly.

“Tell me, do you think Aunt Margery was the intended victim?”

“We can put that to one side for the moment,” Morrow said.

Rosie gave him a haughty, disbelieving look. “Can we? There’s a killer among us, and we have no idea who is safe!”

“None of us are safe until the murderer is caught.”

“And who’s going to do that?” Rosie snapped. “You?”

“Surely we should be calling the police?” Richard asked.

Morrow rounded on Jeremy. “You do that.”

“Err – right, yes, of course.”

His sister watched him go, a shrewd expression tattooed on her face. “Why is my brother taking your lead, Mr Morrow?”

“Because I’m calm, and your brother is not.”

“Is that what you think?” Rosie asked. “To you he may look panicked, but to me he looks thrilled.”

“Now hang on, Rosie!”

“I know my brother, Dickie. He loves a performance. It’s the only reason the pair of you are here tonight; an audience to watch our family feud. I bet having a murder take place, he feels as if all his Christmases have come at once. It’s that sense of the theatrical father always hated.”

“No one can enjoy this,” Dickie murmured.

Watching Rosemary stand there, poised and collected, her eyes burning, hiding all feeling, Morrow wondered.

“What should we do with the . . . body?” the young man asked.

Even Rosie now looked to Morrow for guidance. “Should we not touch it? Finger prints, and things, I imagine.”

“I think we’ll be safe moving her for now,” Morrow said. He didn’t imagine there would be much to find anyway.

“But . . . where?”

“Jerry has a spare room,” Rosie said, drawing herself up. “I’ll lead the way.”

*

Once they had laid Mrs Raine to temporary rest, Richard made his way back to the living room. Rosie and Morrow lingered in the doorway.

“Well? What now, Inspector?” Seeing him start caused a smile to grow on Rosie’s lips. “You think I wouldn’t notice? I’ve had plenty of experience with police officers to be able to spot one. So? What are you doing in my brother’s home? And is it just a monstrous coincidence that a murder happens to occur when you are here?”

“That’s a lot of questions,” Morrow said slowly. “I hope you’ll be as willing to answer them as you are to ask.”

“Why? Am I a suspect?”

“As of this moment, we all are, Miss Loughton.”

The young woman tilted her head, as if appraising the inspector anew. “I’ll be sure to be on my guard then.”

When they returned, Dominic was standing by the drinks’ cabinet, pouring himself another brandy. His head snapped up. “Oh,” he murmured. “That Mackintosh fellow is with Edie. She seems a little better. Stopped crying, at least.”

“I’ll go and see to her,” Rosie said. She gave the inspector one final look, then left.

Dominic Loughton collapsed into a chair, then jumped as he noticed the empty settee. “What happened to –?”

“We moved her to the spare room.”

“Is that allowed? I thought you said it was . . . murder?”

Morrow nodded. “I still think it should be okay. By the way, we think it may have been the bottle that was tampered with, not your sister’s actual glass.”

“What does that mean?” Dominic asked, frowning. “She wasn’t the target? If not, who was?”

“Who was likely to have a glass this evening?”

The man gave this some thought. “I know that I like to have an occasional glass before dinner.”

“But not this evening?”

“Err, no. No, not this evening.” He then drank half his brandy in one swallow. “Damned madness,” he hissed.

The inspector lowered himself into the seat opposite the older Loughton. “I know that I’m not a part of the family,” he began cautiously, “but Mrs Raine was speaking earlier of something –?”

“I’d pay that no attention,” Dominic said. “Just bitterness on her part.”

“It sounded as if it may have been important to the family.”

“Precisely,” Mr Loughton said, steel in his voice. “Important to the family.”

“My apologies.”

“Not all,” the man said gruffly. “I just feel such skeletons shouldn’t be dragged out into public.”

“I’m afraid, Mr Loughton, that such secrets may have no choice but to be dragged out. Especially if they may shed some light as to why Mrs Raine was killed.”

Colour drained from Dominic’s face. “You mean . . . the police?” His hands started fumbling through his jacket pockets. Finally, he pulled out a cigar. A very fine one, Morrow noticed. A lot finer than a man wearing a rented dinner jacket, trousers with the hems dropped, and scuffed shoes should be able to afford. “Damned absurd,” he exclaimed, finally lighting the trembling cigar. “Even if Margery knew something – and I’m admitting nothing – then she only knew what all the rest knew already. We’re a small family, Mr Morrow. It’s hard to keep things hidden.”

The inspector wondered if even Dominic believed that. Morrow’s gaze snapped up as Edie hesitantly stepped into the room. She was flanked by both Dickie and Rosie. The latter was watching her carefully. “Edie!” Dominic exclaimed, bouncing up. “Are you . . .?”

The young woman nodded, though Morrow knew she would be far from all right for a long time.

“Can I get you something, Edie?” Richard asked. “A brandy? Whiskey?”

“Just a water, please.” In a strange turn of events, it was now Edith who was being helped down to the settee. She visibly recoiled as she looked at the spot previously occupied by her mother. “Dominic says that it . . . it wasn’t an accident,” she said, a lump in her throat bobbing up and down.

“That is correct,” Morrow said.

“Murder, then?” Edie asked, taking the glass of water from Dickie. Again, the inspector nodded solemnly. “Jeremy,” Edith said, her eyes dropping to the floor. The others gave a violent start.

“What – what are you talking about?” Dominic blustered, almost dropping his cigar.

“He must have been the one they wanted, right?” Edith looked back up; fresh tears ready to fall. “I mean – he must have been! This was his house, his sherry – who would want to murder mother?”

“Why would anyone want to murder Jerry?” her uncle asked, resting a hand on her shoulder.

Edie gave a harsh, bitter laugh, so unnatural to her outward character it sent a cold shiver down Morrow’s spine. “Who wouldn’t?” she asked, shaking off Dominic’s hand. “Thanks to Uncle Henry’s will, the only one to benefit is Jeremy. Which of us isn’t desperate for that money? Hmm?”

“Even you, Miss Raine?” Morrow asked.

“Come now, Mr Morrow,” Dominic said, his face reddening. “What are you implying?”

“Miss Edith has raised a very good point, Mr Loughton,” the inspector calmly explained. “The death of Jeremy Loughton would greatly benefit you all.”

“Not all of us,” Rosemary suddenly declared.

“Oh?”

“What about Dickie?” she went on. “He and Jerry have been friends since they were boys. What motivation does he have to kill my brother?”

“True,” Morrow said. “On the face of it, Mr Mackintosh does seem to be innocent.”

“Only on the face of it?” Dickie asked with a weak chuckle.

“Don’t suppose there’s any brandy left, eh?” They all looked around. Jerry, now without his jacket, and his face pale and haggard, was stepping into the room. Rosie’s eyes narrowed.

“You were gone a while,” she mused.

“I . . . had to be use the bathroom,” he said, avoiding her gaze. “It all got a little too much. Sorry.”

“No need to apologise,” Dickie said, trying to sound cheerful. “Perfectly understandable.”

“How are you, Edie?”

“How do you think she is, Jerry?” Rosemary snapped.

“Right, yes, sorry. Of course.”

“Now see here, Jeremy,” Dominic suddenly barked, his face now burning. “I want some answers about this man here.” He wagged a fat finger towards Morrow. “Just who the Hell is he? Why is he in here asking us all damned questions, and acting like he can do the police’s job? He’s making some damned obscene suggestions, I think!”

“Mr Morrow is just trying to help, Uncle.”

“Help? Help?! We don’t even know for sure if Margery was actually murdered. All we have is his say-so. Well, I say we get rid of him, and try to figure this out together, as a family!”

“Uncle Dominic,” Rosemary said, easily slipping between him and the still-seated Morrow. “I understand your frustrations, and your shock. What’s happening is all happening far too fast. Why don’t you and I sort some coffee, and then talk about it properly.”

With one final, suspicious glare fired at the inspector, Dominic allowed himself to be led out.

“I’m sorry about my uncle,” Edith said, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief.

“No need to apologise,” Morrow said, gifting her with a smile. “It’s understandable that he would be in some state after all that has occurred.”

“It’s just that he’s not used to having to answer for his actions,” Jeremy said.

“What does that mean?”

“Sorry, Edie, but you don’t know everything about our dear uncle,” he answered.

“Maybe not, but is he the sort of man who could commit murder?” Dickie asked. “Is anyone here?”

“Perhaps it is time we try and work out who it could not have been,” Morrow suggested. “Firstly, let us try and determine when the bottle may have been poisoned. Did anyone drink from it before dinner?”

Jeremy shook his head. “I had a glass before Aunt Madge and Edie arrived,” he said.

“We arrived first,” Edie offered.

“And Rosie wasn’t long after,” Jeremy went on. “I don’t think anyone left the room until dinner started.”

“So, during dinner then?” Morrow said. “That’s the only time the poison could have been added.”

There was a heavy pause. “We all left the table,” Dickie said. “At one point at least.”

The inspector shook his head. Every single one of them had excused themselves at some point during the meal. So, any one of them had the chance to add the fatal dose.

Richard cleared his throat. “I think it was Dominic,” he announced. He held up a hand to stave off any objections. “I know I only met him today, but it’s just – well, a process of elimination, that’s the phrase, right? Jeremy’s the one they want to kill, right? So why would he poison his own drink?”

Jeremy gave a start, his eyes darting towards Morrow. The inspector gave a helpless shrug. “Your cousin was the one who reasoned you might be the real target.”

“Well, if I’m being entirely honest,” Jeremy said weakly, “yes, I did fear that the poison was intended for me.”

“Exactly,” Dickie said with a curt nod. “That means you’re out of the frame. As for you Edie, I know I don’t know you at all well, but you must have known your mother liked sherry.”

“It was pretty much all she drank.”

“Exactly, so why would you try and kill Jerry by taking such a risk?”

“And as for Miss Loughton?”

“Well, I just can’t believe Rosie would do such a thing.”

“Just because she doesn’t make a habit of poisoning drinks, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it,” Jeremy said bitterly.

“Just because she stands to inherit a bit of money doesn’t mean she would do it!” Richard argued back.

“Come off it, Dickie! My sister stands to inherit far more than just a bit! You know that for a fact!”

His friend’s face blanched. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I want to know who’s side you’re on!”

“Let’s stop arguing!” Edie suddenly snapped. “All we can do is wait for the police to arrive.”

“Did they say how long they would be?” Morrow asked Jeremy. The young man slapped a hand against his forehead. “I completely forgot to call them!” he exclaimed, his face reddening. “I was on my way when my stomach just –” He stopped, his face now in full bloom of embarrassment. The inspector couldn’t blame him. He had known much harder men lose control in these sorts of events.

“I’ll call them,” Dickie said, shooting a wounded glance towards Jeremy.

*

Morrow stopped Richard just a few steps outside. The inspector closed the door behind him.

“I’d like a word, Mr Mackintosh,” he murmured.

“With me? What for?”

“You made a comment earlier on that caught my interest,” Morrow went on. “You mentioned a Nielsson?”

The look of alarm appeared suddenly but briefly. “Did I?”

“You knew him then? The man who posted a copy of the will by mistake?”

Richard shifted uncomfortably. “Yes,” he admitted. “I did. I work at the firm as well. Mr Loughton – Jerry’s father – was good enough to give me a recommendation. Nielsson had only been with us for a few months, but he quickly gained a reputation for his empty-headedness. I suppose it was only a matter of time before a colossal mistake like this was made.”

Inspector Morrow continued to study the young man. “Were you aware of the contents of Mr Loughton’s will?”

“Of course not!” He proclaimed it vehemently enough, but that didn’t mean it had to be the truth.

“You have feelings for Miss Loughton? Correct?”

“Well, I –”

“Would those feelings change if Miss Loughton was disinherited?”

Fire rose in Mr Mackintosh’s cheeks. “What the Hell are you implying?” he growled, taking a step towards the inspector.

“Dickie? What’s going on?”

The two men span around. Rosie was watching them, one hand resting on her hip, the other gripping the doorframe. There was a look in her eyes Morrow couldn’t quite make out. The sight of her seemed to instantly calm Richard. Or was it cow him, the inspector wondered.

“I’d better make that phone call,” he murmured. “Get this grisly business done with.” He swept past Rosie, holding her gaze briefly, then rounded the corner. The woman, after glancing towards the closed lounge door, then stepped up to Morrow. “Well?” she asked. “Worked it out yet?”

“You all have a motive, and you all had an opportunity to administer the cyanide –”

“If it even was cyanide.”

“I’m confident the autopsy will confirm that,” Morrow said bluntly.

“So? What are you doing now?”

“There is very little more I can do at this moment.” He was loathe to admit it, but there it was. With no new evidence to go on, the best he could do was wait for the police to arrive, and then he could begin his investigation properly.

“You say we all have motive,” Rosie began, opening her purse and removing a cigarette. “That’s true. But surely what you should be looking at is which of us has the most to gain, and the least to lose.”

“And what do you have to lose, Miss Loughton?” Morrow asked, watching her through a haze of rising smoke.

“Dickie, for a start.”

This frank admission caught the detective by surprise.

“I heard you haranguing him just now,” she went on. “Richard wouldn’t hurt a fly. Even if that fly was my odious older brother.”

“Comments like that in regards to a potential murder victim hardly put you in the best light.”

Rosie gave a shrug. “Life is too short to be anything other than entirely honest.”

“If that’s the case,” Morrow said, “where did you go when you left the table during dinner?”

“I went to fetch some aspirin from my handbag,” she said smoothly. “Listening to my brother gloat gave me a headache.” She glanced back up the hall. “I’d best go and see how Dickie’s getting on. My uncle is in the kitchen; would you mind giving him a hand with the coffee? I think we could all do with one.” She started to head away, then paused. “Oh, and while you’re at it, why don’t you ask him how some of his investments are going.”

*

Dominic Loughton was indeed in the kitchen. He towered in the middle of the bright room, staring moodily at nothing, his cigar smoked down to a stub. “I was wondering if you needed any help?” Morrow asked, nodding to the cups and saucers laid out on the bench.

“Hmm? Oh, right, yes, yes. Thank you,” Dominic said, removing what was left of his cigar. “Just finishing up really. Not sure where Jerry keeps his coffee though.”

“I’m sure we’ll find it.”

“Sorry about losing my temper earlier,” the man reluctantly said, starting to rummage through a cupboard. “This whole business – well, it’s just been the cherry on a rather unpleasant cake, that’s all.”

“I can imagine hearing your own brother, on his death bed, has cut you from his will can be difficult.”

“Damned right,” Dominic grumbled. “I was looking forward to that bit of money, I’m not afraid to say. And I’m not afraid to say it,” he said, suddenly rounding on Morrow, “because I’m innocent!”

“I see,” the inspector said, smiling thinly. “Point taken.” The pair resumed their hunt in momentary silence. “Rosemary tells me,” Morrow suddenly began, “that you’ve been making some good investments recently.”

“Oh? Has she now?” Dominic shifted slightly, playing with the end of his cigar. “Yes, there have been a couple of good returns, I must admit.” Then almost as an afterthought: “Not enough though.”

Morrow frowned. Before the evening, he had managed to glean some information regarding each family member. Dominic was an accountant working in a textiles firm – a firm, Morrow discovered, that was close to financial collapse. He considered again the man’s taste for expensive brandy and fine cigars, then contrasted it with his shabby, rented clothes, and his admitted need for his share of the inheritance.

Morrow was getting nowhere in terms of finding Margery Raine’s killer, and he felt the familiar pulsing of frustration behind his eyes. He would have to take a risk. “Mr Loughton,” he said, suddenly turning. “Do you recall our earlier conversation? Regarding your sister’s statement concerning a particular family secret?”

“Do you recall my opinion on that conversation?”

“Yes,” Morrow said, smiling thinly, “but I wondered if this might change your mind.” He then handed the accountant his identification.

Dominic’s face turned a sickening yellow. “Why the Hell didn’t you say so earlier?” he breathed, collapsing against the edge of the kitchen table.

“Your nephew appreciated discretion at this time,” Morrow said. “He already suspected that his life might be in danger, hence my presence here this evening.”

“Didn’t do much good, did it?”

“That may be,” he said, “but I have a job to do. You are already a suspect – a leading suspect, I am afraid to say.” Dominic’s face changed colour again, this one a tableau of deathly white. “Any information that I think may be pertinent to the case, I would appreciate you sharing.”

Dominic ran a hand over his bald patch. “Infidelity,” he finally admitted. “But it was nothing the family didn’t already know. Henry had been like that since he was a teenager. No one girl was enough for him; but we thought he’d changed when he met Agatha.”

“The mother of Jeremy and Rosemary? The one your sister described as a ‘showgirl’?”

“She was a dancer, yes,” Dominic said. “But nothing seedy, or distasteful. Anyway, there were suspicions Henry was back to his old ways shortly before the pair were married. Nothing was confirmed, of course. Our brother would never have admitted it, and I doubt Agatha would have either. But their relationship was strained right from the start, and it didn’t improve, not even when she got sick.”

“If it was such common knowledge, why would your sister bring it up now of all times?”

Dominic shifted uncomfortably. “There were talks . . .” he began, “of illegitimacy.”

“You mean Mr Loughton may have another child?”

“I don’t believe it for a moment,” Dominic quickly said. “But Margery, bless her soul, was always eager to believe the worst of people, especially our brother. That’s all she would have said. She would have simply repeated baseless whispers and spiteful rumours, all in the hopes that Jeremy would be the one to contest the will.”

“Jeremy?”

“Well, of course!” Dominic said. “If there is another child out there, they would be the first born! Jerry would be in the same position as us.”

Morrow frowned. Whilst it was nowhere near to being evidence, it certainly gave him a new avenue to explore. “You’re – you’re not going to repeat any of this to Jerry or Rosie, are you?” Dominic asked. “I know neither of them are particularly fond of him, but it’s still a rotten thing to hear about your father.”

“Unless I see a reason for doing otherwise, I shall keep this information between ourselves.”

The other Loughton boy gave a grateful smile. “And look,” he said, holding up a packet. “I found the coffee!”

*

When Morrow stepped into the lounge carrying the tray with coffee, he found the room empty. He placed the tray onto the table, then looked around. There were discarded glasses, a couple of handbags – one of which he recognised as Rosemary’s, and a packet of cigarettes. For one moment, he enjoyed the calmness. For an instant, he could believe that the night had ended peacefully.

Jeremy burst into the room, immediately shattering that illusion.

“What’s happened?” Morrow asked, dreading the answer.

“My God,” Jeremy gasped, tears in his eyes, “It’s Dickie!”

The inspector ran after Jeremy, following him down the hall, up the stairs, and then into the study. Richard Mackintosh was slumped against the bookcase, the handle of a letter opener gleaming in his chest. Morrow ground his teeth together. This altered things. A scream erupted from behind him, sending his heart into spasms of terror. Edie was standing by their shoulders, her hands thrown against her face and her eyes saucers of horror. “What the Hell is –?” Dominic thundered up to the room, then skidded to a halt as he saw Dickie. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Good God!” he murmured.

“Murdered!” Edie babbled, tears pouring down her cheeks.

“Get her out of here,” Morrow snarled.

Dominic wordlessly nodded, then dragged his niece away from the door. He was soon replaced by Rosemary. Her dark eyes fell on Dickie’s prone body, and a small gasp escaped her. It was the most emotion Morrow had seen her show all night. “Dickie . . .” she whispered.

“What happened?” Morrow demanded.

“I – I wondered what was taking him so long,” Jerry babbled, unable to take his eyes away from the knife still in his friend’s chest. “All he was doing was making a phone call, so I – I came up to find him – and – and –”

“Wait for me downstairs,” the inspector commanded. Jeremy obeyed, bowing his head as he made his escape. Rosemary lingered. She continued staring at Dickie’s face, taking in the look of pained shock that was his final expression. “I said go downstairs,” Morrow said.

Rosemary turned away. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” she said. And then she was gone.

Morrow stood for a second, then took a step towards the body. Just to be sure, he placed his fingers against Dickie’s neck. He knew there was no chance; the blade had gone through his heart; anyone could see that. But Morrow still had to hope. Dickie was still warm, which meant it had to have only been in the last few minutes that he was murdered. Morrow’s brain whirred as he tried to piece it all together. Eventually, when his mind had exhausted all roads to run down, he returned to the lounge.

Edith was curled up in an armchair, her head resting on her folded arms. Dominic stood by the drinks’ cabinet, his hand running back and forth across his bald spot. Rosemary had peeled back the curtains and was staring out at the darkened street. Jeremy was pacing up and down fast enough to wear a hole in the carpet. All four of them looked up as the inspector closed the door behind him.

“Mr Mackintosh is dead,” he announced dully.

“We could all see that!” Dominic snapped, but the venom had drained out of his voice. Now there was only weariness. “What can you tell us?”

“Which of them did it?” Edie asked, shooting fearful glances towards the others in the room.

“I will need the exact movements of all you during the last fifteen minutes,” Morrow said, knowing that it would likely get him nowhere. They would all have been separate locations; he knew that instantly. Even Dominic, whom he had been with in the kitchen, had slipped out just before Morrow had brought the coffees.

“Can’t we wait for the police?” Jeremy asked.

“That would be my suggestion.”

“They’re here,” Rosie announced in a dull tone. But her body was taught like the string on a violin. She was watching the cars turn into the road.

“Jerry, do you have any aspirin?” Dominic asked. “I have this blasted headache.”

“I think I may have some in the bathroom,” Jeremy said, making to leave.

“Everyone stays in this room until I say so,” Morrow declared.

“It’s all right, Uncle,” Rosie said, distracted, “I have some in my bag.”

“Thank you, Rosie.” Dominic stepped up to the settee, where Rosemary’s bag lay discarded, then snatched it up. The man rummaged for a second, then pulled out a small brown bottle. “Is this it?” he asked, peering at the label. His eyes widened with horror and his mouth went slack. The bottle dropped from his hands. Both Rosie and Morrow went for the bottle at the same time. The inspector was quicker.

His mouth twisted grimly as he read the label. “Cyanide,” he said, quietly.

The other three turned to her.

“Rosie . . .” Jerry breathed.

“No . . . it can’t be!” Edie said.

Inspector Morrow sighed, then closed a fist around the damning bottle. Only one road opened itself before him. “Rosemary Loughton,” he said, as below him the doorbell rang, “I am arresting you on suspicion for the murder of Margery Raine, Richard Mackintosh, and for the conspiracy to murder Mr Jeremy Loughton. You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say may be used in a court of law.”

Rosemary folded her arms, her left eyelid fluttering. “I’m not saying anything until I speak with my lawyer,” she announced.

“Very well,” Morrow said, bowing his head. He turned to Jeremy; the young man was still staring, astonished, at his sister. “Mr Loughton,” the inspector said, “I have found your killer.”

*

“Tea, sir?”

“Thank you, Mercer, just on the table.”

 “You have an Inspector Morrow to see you, sir,” Mercer added, placing the tray down.

Jeremy frowned. “Really? Do send him in.” He popped the last of his toast into his mouth, then jumped to his feet as the inspector stepped into the dining room. “Apologies for intruding so early,” Morrow said.

“Not at all, not at all,” Jeremy said, offering the man a chair. “You’re always welcome here!”

“That’s very kind.”

“But, forgive me for asking, what does bring you around? Do I need to give another statement?”

“Actually, I wanted to offer my condolences,” Morrow said, accepting a cup of tea. “I heard about your father’s passing this morning.”

“Thank you, that is very kind of you, inspector,” Jeremy said. “You know, a part of me thought the old man would pull through.”

“May I ask, who will be acting as executor of the will now?”

“Carriage,” Jeremy said, “the family solicitor. Why?”

“I see. And no reason, no reason. Just curiosity.”

“How is Rosemary?” Jeremy asked. “Has she confessed?”

“Not as of yet, no,” Morrow admitted.

“Not surprising. Did you want me to speak to her? Is that why you came? No offence, but I’m sure you didn’t travel all the way down here just to offer your condolences.”

Morrow joined Jeremy in a light chuckle. “Quite right; I actually wanted to speak with you. There are a few matters I want to clear up.”

“Erm, yes, yes, of course. Go ahead.”

“I’ve been considering recently your father’s character.”

Jerry Loughton frowned. “I . . . don’t understand.”

“Much like your sister and yourself, Mr Loughton did not have a good relationship with his siblings,” Morrow said, adding a lump of sugar to his tea. “With that in mind, I said to myself, why would he then make his sister the executor of his will?”

“One last twist of the knife, I suppose,” Jeremy said, shrugging.

“Your aunt mentioned that she was the only one in the family to visit your father whilst he was in hospital.”

The young Loughton smiled. “That was her twisting the knife,” he said. “Loved to see him in pain, I suppose.”

“I went to the hospital, actually,” Morrow said, “just this morning. They confirmed that your aunt visited on most days. But one particular day was special, because, before she visited, he had another. You.”

“Yes, I visited my father on his death bed. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, nothing at all. Except nurses told me, in strictest confidence, of course, that you and he had a furious row. The subject matter? We don’t know. But you were seen leaving in a rage, and your father was most agitated. In fact, they had to sedate him just to keep him calm. Then your aunt arrived, which was normal. The next day, however, Mr Carriage, his solicitor, arrived to change his will.”

“And? I know all this.”

“What I find curious is: why would Mr Henry Loughton, the day after a row with his son, rewrite his will to leave everything to that same son?”

“Maybe the sedatives cleared his head,” Jeremy said, growing impatient.

“Your father was a known adulterer, your uncle confirmed it.”

Jeremy’s cheeks flushed with anger. “Why would you go believing what that old fool thinks?” he snapped.

“I don’t,” Morrow said. “I’m a policeman, it’s not my job to believe people. Instead, I started thinking about everything that I had heard, and what I knew. There was talk of infidelity before the marriage of Mr Loughton and your mother. Only talk, of course. No one knew any of the facts. Soon that talk became rumours; rumours of a child born out of wedlock. A child who would, in all probability, be older than yourself.”

“Rubbish.”

“If this were true, and your aunt became aware of it, well, how would your mother look? A wounded victim, no? Even before they had declared their vows, her trust had been broken. But how had Mrs Raine spoken of your mother? That ‘Showgirl’. Not a dancer, which is what she was. No, a very unflattering term.” Morrow’s eyes narrowed as he watched Jeremy. “Then it occurred to me. What if there was infidelity? What if that was true? But what if the perpetrator was not?”

“You shut your mouth right now,” Jeremy snarled.

“What if, in his drugged state, your father confessed the whole truth to your aunt? What if, when he became lucid, he decided that he would stand by his confession? And, to ensure that the truth came out, he made his sister, the only one who knew, his executor?”

“Ridiculous,” Jeremy said, jumping up. “How would I have known? Hmm?”

“Richard Mackintosh.”

The colour vanished from Jeremy’s face.

“He worked in Carriage’s firm. He would have known that your father had suddenly decided to change the will, and, being such a loyal friend, he would have raised those concerns with you.” Morrow’s eyes continued to hound Jeremy around the room. “You, with that argument still fresh in your mind, convinced your old friend to share the contents of that will. And, when he did, your blood ran cold. You knew the man you called your father better than most, probably. You knew there had to be more to it, and I bet it didn’t take you long to guess the truth. To realise that you were about to lose everything. That was when you concocted your scheme. And, I tip my hat to you, sir, it was very good. Very dramatic.

“You convinced Mr Mackintosh to post out a copy of the will to your aunt, who, of course, had no idea she had unwittingly inspired her brother’s change of heart. This set off a chain reaction you predicted. Soon the entire family knew that, on the face of it, you stood to inherit everything. And they were furious, just as you hoped. Even Mrs Raine, who hadn’t yet had time to think, was mad. And that is when you put into motion your scheme, to lure them all to your house for a dinner party.”

“It’s a nice story, Morrow,” Jeremy said with a sneer. “But, if I were planning on murdering my aunt, why would I invite you along as well?”

“That, I admit, confused me. Would you be so audacious? But, being the son of a performer? How could you not resist such drama? And, being raised by a Loughton, how could you not resist the risk? From the story of the car trying to run you down, to stories of your family’s difficulty and greed for money, you painted yourself as an innocent victim. You even made sure I associated you with sherry the first time I was in here, when in actual fact it was your aunt’s drink of choice. Everything was set so that, when Mrs Raine drank that fatal dose, I wouldn’t think twice that you were the original target. When did you administer the poison? Before we arrived? When you left the table during the dinner? Was that also when you slipped the bottle of cyanide into your sister’s bag?”

“This is ridiculous.”

“It was a good plan, Mr Loughton. Who knows? It may well have worked. Except for one problem: Mr Richard Mackintosh. From the very start you had planned on framing your sister for your aunt’s murder, of that I have no doubt. But your friend since childhood? Dickie? His death was a spur of the moment decision, brought on because, in the end, he chose Rosemary over you. When she was to be accused of murder, he would never have stayed silent, you knew that. He would have told us everything, and you couldn’t allow it. You had to silence him permanently, whilst also making him pay for his betrayal. But you made one vital mistake: Rosemary Loughton would never harm Richard.”

Jeremy glowered at Morrow, his cheeks drained of colour, but his eyes burning with an intense hatred. “You’ve got it all worked out, haven’t you?” he snarled. “But there’s just one problem, Inspector; you have no proof!” He walked over to the door, and swung it open.

“I’m sorry,” Morrow said, finally standing. “Did I say you only made one mistake?”

Loughton’s lips twitched. “What?”

Morrow leaned in closer, being sure to savour the reaction on the young man’s pinched face. “You left your finger prints on the knife.”

Jeremy’s entire expression, his shield of fury, collapsed. He fell against the wall, his mouth opening and closing weakly. “It was almost mine,” he murmured. “The old bitch was dead, and no one would have found out . . .”

Morrow eased the door shut again. “Oh, we’re not as slow as you like to think,” he said. “We would have worked it out eventually.”

“What now?” Jeremy asked, his face looking like that of a lost child.

“You’ll come with me, sign a confession, and then . . . well, then that’s the end.”

The young man offered a weak, pitiful smile. “It was good though, wasn’t it?” he asked, almost pleadingly. “My little drama? I had you fooled, right until the end. Didn’t I?”

“After all my years on the police force, and all the crimes I’ve seen committed, I can safely say,” Morrow said, forcing a grin onto his tired face, “your little drama was really quite dull.”

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