Chapter Eleven

Julian was going through the papers on his father's desk when Barnaby and Jones rang the front doorbell. "Oh, it's you," he said, opening. "I was just going through my father's things."

"Indeed, sir," said Tom, smiling. "Might we go upstairs to have a talk, do you think?"

"Upstairs?"

"Well, I presume that is where you were when we rang. In your father's study?"

"Yes – as a matter of fact, I was," said Julian, somewhat taken aback. "Please – " he indicated with his arm that Tom and Ben should go ahead, which they did. At the top of the stairs Tom walked into the master bedroom. "Oh, that's the bedroom," said Julian. "I was in the study."

"Of course, sir," said Tom, still smiling. The three were now standing in the middle of the bedroom. "Rather an empty room, isn't it sir, for someone who slept here all his life?"

Julian's face fell. "Well – yes, I suppose it is," he said with a nervous laugh. He led the way into the adjoining study, where the two detectives each pulled up a chair at the mahogany desk, at which Julian now sat. "This feels a bit like an interview," he said. There was an awkward pause. "Nasty business about Florrie Packerton," he said.

"And your aunt," said Ben.

Julian looked from one to the other. "You don't mean to say that she's – "

"Dead," said Ben.

Julian looked horrified. "Oh, no! Not Aunt Rosamund too! The food in that restaurant must be absolutely dreadful."

"But not dreadful enough to kill," said Tom. "You did that."

Julian stared at Tom and opened and shut his mouth, like a goldfish, but no sound came out.

"Tell me, how did you learn how to administer those injections of heparin?"

Julian suddenly slumped down in his chair and tears filled his eyes. "I saw Delfina doing it," he said, "the day I arrived. I saw her take the key to the safe from the pocket of her uniform."

"Which you removed on the day of the costume exhibition," said Tom.

"How do you know that?"

"After which you took a box of syringes from the safe and locked it again. I suppose that you returned the key to Delfina's uniform while the models were all downstairs, taking their bow?"

"Yes, but I never killed my father," said Julian urgently.

"We know that, sir," said Tom.

"What I don't understand," said Ben, "is why you gratuitously attacked your father when you found him dead on the stairs."

Julian composed himself slightly. "It all came to me in a flash. I had intended to use the heparin against Florrie and Rosamund, but when I saw my father lying there I suddenly realised that by injecting him I could throw the blame on Paul – or possibly the doctor, or even Delfina. And I think I did that."

"How did you know how much heparin would kill?" asked Ben.

Julian laughed again. "There is such a thing as a computer in the local lending library, you know."

"Did you possibly also remove a will from the safe?" asked Tom.

Julian calmly opened a drawer in the desk. "I think this is what you have in mind," he said, handing a neatly handwritten document to Tom Barnaby, who put on his glasses.

"But surely Delfina put the will in the safe?" asked Ben.

"She put an empty envelope in the safe," said Julian. "My father had left it lying about on this desk."

"I see that you are not named as a beneficiary in this document," said Barnaby, taking off his glasses.

"Is that why you murdered your aunt and Mrs Packerton?" asked Ben.

"No," said Julian, looking down. "No, it is not. I have little doubt that a challenge to the will in the High Court would have succeeded. I was dependent on my father, you see. That is not why they died."

As he seemed to have trouble in going on, Barnaby suggested slowly "Perhaps … it had more to do with the death of your mother?"

Julian looked up sharply. "My mother should not have died when she did," he said. "Nobody could replace my mother. I always knew that my father had an eye for the ladies, but I found out, when I came here, now, at this time in my life, that both Florrie Packerton and Aunt Rosamund had designs on him. He had proposed to both of them."

"That must have been a shock," said Tom gently.

"A shock – yes. Do you know that either my father, or more probably that Florrie woman, had removed every trace of my mother from the bedroom? Not a single photograph of her remains. He even got rid of all her jewellery," and now he broke down in tears.

"I can understand," continued Tom slowly, "though I cannot condone, what you felt about Florrie Packerton. But did you not feel a little more sympathy for your aunt?"

Julian pulled himself together and sniffed. "Aunt Rosamund," he said, "yes, I did like her. I really liked her. But when she said that he had proposed to her and would I like it if she was my step-mummy I suddenly saw my mother and – no, it wouldn't have been right. If my father had died, then why should she not die as well?"

Inspector Tom Barnaby buttoned his jacket and stood up. "Thank you for being so informative, Mr Hallingham," he said. "Perhaps you would accompany us now?"

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. . . .

"What an extraordinary story!" said Joyce Barnaby, who was adding the final touches to a dish of duck with cherries which she had found on the internet. "What will happen now to the estate?"

"I imagine that the probate court will have to decide on that," said Tom, who sat at the dining table, ready for his wife's offering.

"You know that I once went out with Rex Hallingham?"

"Really?" Tom looked at Joyce horrified as she bore the platter in from the kitchen. "Oh, yes. That was long before I met you, of course. You don't know much about my early love life."

"No. I don't."

"He was quite a dashing figure then." She laid the duck dish in front of her husband. "He even asked me to marry him." She picked a cherry from the sauce and put it in her mouth. "I nearly said yes."

"Thank God you didn't," said Tom. "But surely he must have been married then to Julian's mother?"

"Oh, I don't know about that," said Joyce. "If he had a wife he kept it quiet. One thing's for sure, I'd have been better off."

"You might also by now be dead," said Tom, taking up the carving knife. "Leg or breast?"

THE END