Douglas Gold slowly ascended the stairs to the hotel, the sea and the night sky behind him. The island of Rhodes was undoubtedly idyllic, with its beaches, monuments, warm sea air, narrow market-laden streets, and the alluring exotic atmosphere. This holiday with his wife had started out heavenly, just as he had hoped, but in the last few days his world had been turned upside down.
What immense relief it had been to emerge from his brief incarceration, after being falsely accused of murder by poisoning - ignorant of any crime on his part, and clueless as to how such a gross error could have been committed, he had convinced himself that it was all a misunderstanding, and there must be some innocent explanation. Douglas was a man of simplicity and childlike faith, to whom the concepts of intrigue and conspiracy had been foreign, even while they had been carried out in his own house for God knows how long. His relief had been mixed with the shock of what his wife had done, and what she had been preparing to do. The enormity of her betrayal had stung him to the core, and still did, even as she and her brutish accomplice, the poisoned woman's husband, now sat miserably in the same prison from which he was now free. She had been waiting for him to go to the gallows, for the crime that she and her secret paramour had committed - their plan had been to poison one of their spouses, get the other hanged for it, and then widow and widower could be free to marry with their victims' money. He shivered at the thought, and praised God yet again for his timely deliverance.
As he entered the door, a familiar face greeted him. "Hullo Mr Gold," said the young lady. "I think we've seen a lot of each other over the last few days, but not actually met properly. I'm Pamela Lyall."
"Of course!" he exclaimed. "Mr Poirot told me about your work together. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lyall."
"Will you join me in the bar?" she asked.
"Delighted to," he said. After spending the last day alone coming to terms with his recent ordeal, he felt he could do with some company.
They passed through the door together, and seated themselves at a table.
"I hear that you helped Mr Poirot with his investigation, and that you visited the old woman to find out who bought the poison. But for that I might well be dead by now, and my wife..." he paused. "Anyway, thank you," he said awkwardly. "I owe the two of you my life."
"Oh, don't be silly, Mr Gold," Pamela replied, laughing and blushing slightly. "You don't owe me anything, and I'm more than certain Mr Poirot won't be claiming any debt from you. What I did just confirmed what he had already worked out. In any case," she said, "I enjoyed it. I haven't had so much fun for a long time. Not only working with him on the case together with him, but also observing the four of you. You see, it fascinated me to watch how you all interacted, even though I was completely taken in by the charade put up by Commander Chantry and your wife."
He couldn't help but smile a little at her forwardness.
"Oh dear, that must sound a bit insensitive of me," she said. "I mean, I always love to watch people, their relationships, love, anger, jealousy, tears, everything. Do you know what I said to Poirot when I observed you attending to Valentine?"
In response to his enquiring look, Pamela took a sheet of paper from her handbag, and drew a triangle, straight and sharp-cornered.
To her slight annoyance, the moment was suspended by the appearance of a Greek waiter. "May I serve you?"
After they had ordered drinks, Douglas looked down at her drawing. "Well, Miss Lyall, I'd much rather you be open about such things than keep them to yourself," he said with a harsh laugh, and then his face became more serious. "You see, after what Marjorie did, I don't think I can take any more secrecy, ever again. She was all the world to me. I loved the idea that we could spend some time together, just the two of us, on a Greek island. And then when Chantry and Valentine turned up, everything started to go wrong. I felt nothing for her more than friendship. But I also felt I had to give her some of the attention and help that she was missing, that morning on the beach." He looked pointedly down at the triangle she had drawn. "I really thought it would do no harm." he added. Beside him, the waiter who was setting down the tray of drinks glanced curiously at the paper.
"And then suddenly my wife was jealous and upset, and that brute Chantry," he shuddered visibly. "Even then I didn't suspect him, but I was confused about why they were all acting so strangely. I was jolly relieved when the four of us were all friends again. Chantry was decent then; he lost very graciously to me at billiards. And then that round of drinks..." He had lifted up his glass by this time, but unthinkingly put it down again.
After a long pause, Pamela spoke. "That was the most terrible thing I've ever seen - seeing the poison work on Valentine. Even while she was coughing and gasping for her life, and I was trying to help her, I was still in denial. I thought she was choking. I was fond of her, despite everything." She took a deep breath. "And the way Chantry turned on you so suddenly, and the poison in your pocket - I knew deep down that something was wrong. I had to bring Poirot back - he would make everything right again. He didn't quite manage that, but he came quite close at least."
"Yes, he did." said Douglas. "You both did. It's like a dream, being free again. I really thought I was for it, and I had said all my prayers and prepared myself in front of God. I remember Poirot telling me what a comfort my faith would be to me, and I didn't know what he actually meant by that."
"Had you not been Catholic, he would never have suspected Marjorie for that twaddle about you wanting to divorce her." she said. "He mentioned another case to me where the fact that a Catholic man could not marry a divorced woman put him on the right track. He's told me so much about his other cases."
"Marjorie told a damned lie behind my back," he said, with anger in his voice. Clearly he felt the sting of it on several levels: not just the attack on his life and his fidelity, but also on his religious integrity. "An unfaithful wife is one thing, but one who was planning to kill me for another man... I'm still asking myself if that was in her head from when we met. I suppose I'll never know - she refused to say."
He took a deep breath. "When I went to visit her in prison, she turned to me and said 'I don't know why you're here, Douglas. It's over. But then it has been for a while, hasn't it?' And I said, 'You know that better than I do Marjorie. How long were you planning it?' But she wouldn't tell me any more. I'm glad Chantry wasn't with her in the same cell." He took another breath. "The worst of it is, I still love her."
"I hope you didn't tell her that - that would have given her power over you."
"No, I didn't. I just said it inwardly - and I hate the thought of her hanging."
"Don't forget that that's what she very nearly did to you."
"I know, but... an eye for an eye? You don't really believe that?"
"It's not like that," she said comfortingly. "You're not the one sending her to the gallows, are you?"
"No, you're right," he said resignedly. A pause.
"You'll move on," she said, "Even if it doesn't feel like it right now."
Something in her tone caught his ear, and he turned just in time to see her momentary wistful expression. She smiled resignedly, as if to say, yes, you caught me, I'll tell you.
"I got very fond of Poirot too. I had wished he could have stayed a few more days." Another pause. "But I also know that he has a world of his own in England that he has to return to. I suppose I can't be selfish about him."
"Poirot, eh?" said Douglas with a smile. "You two certainly made a wonderful team."
"He was surprised to hear that you were staying on. He thought you should go."
"And get away from the scene of the crime I suppose," he replied. "It was my first thought too. This is the island where a murder took place, where I was in prison, and almost hanged. But something still draws me here. The sun, and the sea, and the peacefulness - I don't think England is the place for me right now. Maybe I am holding onto the past too much. But I can't help it."
"I know what you mean," she said. "Perhaps it is the best thing. I don't feel any compulsion to go back myself. The sea air is growing on me."
"As you say - growing on me. That's a good way of putting it." he said thoughtfully. "It's like a spell. You feel like you're free of all the bad things in the world. And then you find out you're not. When I think of murder, the first place that I think of is not Rhodes."
"That's true." she said. "But it happens."
"So, perhaps you can't get away from it," said Douglas, visibly downcast.
"No," said Pamela. "But look at it this way: life can and should be wonderful, but it always has dangers. Fires, floods, earthquakes, domestic accidents, and unscrupulous people who resort to killing to get what they want. Security may look very nice, but how interesting would life be if it were all safe? How would we know good without evil, winning without losing," a pause, "love without jealousy and hate?"
"I like your world-view Miss Lyall," he said after considering what she had just said to him for a moment. "There is something good about stepping back and just watching everything unfold. I have often seen things in black and white, and wanted to step in and help right wrongs - like that morning when I thought I should come and help Valentine." He paused, as it struck him that his actions had been foreseen - nay, planned - by the conspirators.
"Well, perhaps a bit of both is the best way," she said, looking down. "I watched the four of you and your interactions, and still I didn't pick up what was actually going on. I can't believe that I thought you were the killer." She meant it too, looking on the mild-mannered and innocent man. "I saw the 'eternal triangle' completely the wrong way round."
"Not to worry," he said. "Everyone thought that. I suppose a murderer has to fool everyone to avoid getting caught. They were very convincing, those two. And Marjorie - I will think of her as a sad woman who wanted to be free and rich, and who gave in to the devil. I am praying that she can redeem herself on the other side. Even after what she did to me, I don't want to think of her burning forever."
"Who knows," said Pamela. "But I don't think that there's anything that deserves that punishment. It doesn't seem a very meaningful thing to experience. Maybe she'll just have a long and painful journey ahead of her."
"Yes, I've thought of that too," he said. "Perhaps."
At that moment the Greek waiter came again with the bill, which Douglas took care of.
"Thanks," said Pamela with a smile. "I've enjoyed our talk. Tomorrow I want to walk around the island again. Will I see you in the morning?"
"Certainly," he said. "It has been a pleasure, Miss Lyall. Thank you for the conversation."
"Good night then, Mr Gold."
Pamela watched him go up the stairs. Then, with a small smile, she picked up the piece of paper on which she had drawn the triangle, and tore it in half.