A Killer at Caulfield - The Second Installment

Just remembered the earlier first "chapter" of sorts of my idea that I called "A Killer at Caulfield" and thought it should be good fun to continue it.

The Freemans (or rather, the Freeman-Batterclays) were a that rare thing, an American feudal family, complete with the squandering son in James Batterclay, Miss Freeman's half-brother, the irrepressible spinster aunt (a distant cousin, in this case, but called Aunt Violet all the same), the lovely, distant mother whose sole pride seemed to be her son (utterly unfounded, but was was one to do?) and the large, hearty father, always equipped with an expensive cigarette, a monocle and a roving eye.

On this occasion, his eye caught the icy splendor of Miss Freeman's, and rested there for a moment before proceeding to turn to Miss Marple.

'Miss Joan Sharples?' Terence Batterclay boomed. 'And you knew my stepdaughter from her schooling?'

'Yes,' replied Miss Marple, setting down a nondescript mound of lacy knitting on a costly-looking mahogany coffee-table. 'I knew her very well indeed, and so I was, quite naturally, surprised when I found she was upset, and - er - crying into her handkerchief.'

This last phrase was uttered with such solemnity and from such a credible source that even the cynical Batterclay couldn't doubt it, however unbelievable it was that the feisty and utterly flapperish "Soup" Freeman should proceed to delicately sob into a handkerchief.

'She seemed most distressed,' Miss Marple murmured quietly.

'Oh, yes,' Soup added helpfully.

'Really?' Batterclay sighed. 'These girls - '

'Oh, no, Mr Batterclay,' Miss Marple laughed softly. 'I don't suppose for a moment that it was any fault of hers. She seemed upset about a Mrs Batterclay who passed recently - a Mrs Sybil Batterclay.'

'Sybil!' roared the man, standing up from a leather armchair to reveal his staggering height. 'You're bringing up Sybil now! I thought all that business was over with - who paid you to come here? Not those damned Redford's Seeds people? Look here Soup, you don't need to go on pretending you know her if you don't - whatever they paid you I can pay you - twofold.'

Seeing Soup's blank expression, he blustered, 'Threefold! What the hell does this old biddy want from me?'

'I want,' Miss Marple answered calmly, through the chaos of Batterclay's exploding temper. 'To know the circumstances of your daughter-in-law's death.'


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