Death on the Black Sands
Bindle asked Carolus to stay to dinner, and seemed to think it necessary to give some explanation of their continuing to maintain the household. It was, she said, the police who wanted them to remain here while they completed their enquiries. In the meantime Davy Devigne’s affairs were being sorted by his executor, Colonel Gore-Bullar, and a formidable collection of lawyers and charactered accountants here and in London.
Carolus said he would be delighted to stay to dinner, and it was true. He found this trio, each of whom certainly knew more than he or she wished to reveal, even perhaps to the other two, fascinating to watch and listen to.
“We’ve cut down a lot since Davy’s death, of course,” went on Bindle, “even on household expenses. Davy liked to do things extravagantly. You should have seen our dinners in the evenings then—all Armand could find to cook. Davy insisted on us all dressing every night and not tropical stuff, either. Every night was like a formal dinner-party.”
“You won’t starve tonight, mind you,” smiled Killain. “But it won’t be what it was in Davy’s time. We eat earlier for one thing.”
“Devigne liked to keep Spanish hours?”
“Yes. Dinner at nine—or later sometimes. That night when Davy never came it was about a quarter of an hour late I remember.”
“He gave a lot of attention to food and wine?”
“I can speak for the food. It was excellent. Paddy here is an expert on wine and can tell you about that.”
“He kept a wonderful cellar,” said Paddy. “Truly wonderful. Poor Davy!”
“You miss him?”
“What’s so awful, said Daphne, “is to think that somewhere about is the man who did that to Davy, who could actually come up when he was asleep and cut . . . oh, it’s too awful. I feel as though I were always looking for the man who did that.”
“And are you?” asked Bindle.
“In a way, yes. I see men whose eyes, you know, look as though they might be murderers’ eyes. I feel frightened all the time to think that there’s a killer somewhere about. When I go to my room alone it’s as though . . . oh, I don’t know but I have an awful feeling it may be me, next.”
“You don’t think that the murderer’s under arrest, then?” said Carolus.
“Jack? Oh, no !”
Bindle was more matter-of-fact.
“Jack Trotters a good-natured fellow, Mr. Deene. Crude, down-to-earth, not above crime of certain kinds perhaps, but not this. I’d even call him . . . chivalrous.”
Paddy Killain joined in there.
“He wouldn’t see a woman ill-treated,” he said.
“Was a woman ill-treated?” asked Carolus—one of his innocent awkward questions. He saw that it confused them. Some glances were exchanged.
“I adore Jack,” said Daphne as if to relieve the tension.
“He’s an impulsive fellow,” said Paddy Killain. “Rather irresponsible. Likeable, too. You don’t associate him with murder, though.”
Carolus turned to Daphne.
“So you don’t feel any safer because he’s under arrest?”
“No. I keep thinking that someone did it. Even if it was . . .” She stopped abruptly.
“Even if it was?” asked Carolus gently.
“Well, someone like Jack . . .”
“Someone like Jack?”
“You know what I mean . . .”
Carolus had heard quite enough and was not sorry that a man and woman came in just then, a narrow-headed man with a long thin mouth and cold eyes and a flabby-looking woman, both in their forties. The Vogels, he guessed rightly.
There were introductions and Carolus sensed instant hostility. Vogel spoke with a curious accent, thick and teutonic but with long-drawn vowels. He had learned English in America, Carolus thought, but his native tongue was German or Scandinavian.
“So you were a friend of Davy’s,” he said to Carolus, watching him keenly. “So was I. A business friend, that is. We were closely associated in several things.”
“This building, perhaps?”
“No. Not this building, as a matter of fact. But we had a pro-ject here in Los Aburridos. I’m a member of the Alber Syndicate, Mr. Deene.”
And the more you say, thought Carolus, the less you will tell me. He knew this kind of informativeness which conceals so much more than it reveals.
“Really? The Alber Syndicate?”
“You may have heard it called a gambling concern. It’s very much more than that. We started by playing a system, but we end by owning the Casinos. We have seven now and are obtaining concessions for four more.”
“You gamble yourself, Mr Vogel?”
“No. I don’t gamble. I win,” said Vogel, snapping his large mouth shut.
“In any pro-ject I undertake.”
“That must be very satisfactory. What is your secret?”
“Nerve, capital and determination. In that order.”
“I should have thought determination came first. I have always believed that if one, if anyone wants money enough, he can get it.”
“It depends on what you mean by ‘enough’.”
“I mean enough to concentrate every nerve and every minute on its acquisition, to sacrifice everything, every principle, every loyalty, even at first every comfort and appetite, health, decency, one’s family and friends, one’s time, one’s leisure, in fact ones whole life. I’m not, of course, saying that all this is always necessary, or that all self-enriched men have made these sacrifices. But I am sure that anyone who wants to be rich, can be.”
“I don’t like your point of view, Mr. Deene.”
“I’m not mad about yours. But don’t let us quarrel over it. I want to find out who killed Davy Devigne.”
Vogel turned slightly so that his face was no more than a foot from that of Carolus.
“Why?” he asked.
It was Carolus’s turn to face an awkward question.
“I’m interested,” he said quietly.
“Then how?” asked Vogel in a tone which suggested that with his previous question he had exhausted all of his reasonable explanations.
“Call it curiosity.”
“I’d call it crazy, myself. But I don’t suppose it does any harm.”
They went in to dine off a solid glass tabletop, sitting in chairs designed as interrogation marks. Someone—it was not Carolus—turned the conversation to the afternoon of Devigne’s death.
“We were all there,” said Mrs. Vogel. “I remember distinctly that we discussed music.”
It sounded incongruous.
“Was anyone with you—not of your party, I mean?”
Bindle answered without hesitation––“The Pluggetts. Well, not with us but on the playa near us.”
“Who are the Pluggetts?” asked Carolus.
“I told you he was at the Will party. They’re an English family—father, mother, daughter, son. Rough diamonds and very rich, I believe.”
“Braces and a cloth cap,” said Bindle succinctly. “The son is supposed to be an intellectual but looks like a moron, and the daughter is totally insignificant. Pluggett had some business with Davy but I don’t know the details.”
“I do,” said Vogal. “Davy was generous enough to let him in on a pro-ject.”
“I suppose he was grateful.”
“I doubt it. People rarely appreciate your helping them in that way.”
Carolus took the conversation back to the day of Devigne’s death.
“So the Pluggetts were there. Anyone else?”
“Oh, on the Imperatorio beach there were several people who have flats here. But not with us. Though ‘les girls’ came over for a minute. We always call them ‘les girls’—their names are Georgie and Sweetie.”
“Did they come and speak to us?” said Daphne. “I don’t remember. I think they’re awful. I can’t bear anyone like that. Georgie followed me into a bathing-hut once and I had to scream before she’d leave. I was terrified. I’m sorry for Sweetie.”
“You needn’t be,” said Bindle. “She’s quite capable of looking after herself.”
“Oh, I think they’re beastly !” said Daphne. “What did they want that afternoon?”
“Just to say hullo, I suppose. Davy rather liked them.”
“He didn’t!” cried Daphne. “He told me they were awful. He knew all about Georgie’s being arrested that time.”
“She smashed up a bar called the Bara del Toro just round the corner from here because someone there made a pass at Sweetie.”
Paddy Killain gave his smile.
“It took four policeman to hold her,” he said. “That afternoon Georgie and Sweetie were very well behaved. They talked to Davy for quite a while. I thought Georgie looked a bit sullen as they walked away, but I may have imagined that.”
“Who else was on the beach that afternoon?” asked Daphne rather absently. “ I suppose Lolly Mellon was.”
“Lolly Mellon’s everywhere,” smiled Paddy, “and all the time.”
Carolus watched the French maid whose husband had cooked the meal. She worked with a kind of disdainful efficiency. She clearly felt nothing but contempt for the people she was waiting on but could not help doing her job well. The food was excellent.
Paddy Killain was telling a story about Lolly Mellon.
“So she just threw her arms round this policeman and said ‘Darling, take me home’. They started walking and the policeman’s boss appeared, a tremendous figure with masses of stars or whatever they have. ‘You’re much nicer,’ said Lolly and clung on to him instead. In the end they sent her home in a patrol car and she tried to take the driver up to her flat.”
“Isn’t she awful?” asked Daphne. “She’s always trying to get off with that London boy. Hilary’s friend, I mean.”
“Tommy Watson? She only does it to annoy Hillary.”
“And it does annoy him!” said Paddy gaily. “It makes him hopping mad. There was quite a scene that afternoon we’re talking about. But what really was worries Hillary was that Davy wanted to give Tommy a job.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It would have been the best thing for him, of course. But Hillary couldn’t see it. ‘I think it’s disgraceful!’ he told me. ‘Interfering in people’s lives like that’.”
“What sort of job?” asked Carolus.
“Something quite simple, I believe. It would have to be. Tommy’s not exactly brilliant, is he? I seem to remember that when he left Davy on the beach, Hillary and Tommy were still there.”
“They were,” said Mr Vogel. “We came in to get an hour’s sleep and I remember seeing them as we left the beach.”
“Can you sleep at that time?” asked Daphne. “I cant!”
“We can and did.”
“Could you see the beach from your window?” asked Carolus.
“Not really. And anyway our sunblinds were down. Why?”
“I’d like to know if anyone approached Devigne after you all had come in.”
“Well, someone must have.”
“Exactly. I meant more than one person.”
“I seem to have been told by someone, I can’t remember who, that’s Raymond pluggett was seen talking to him soon after we came in. Raymond is the Pluggett son—the supposed intellectual.”
Carolus decided that he had heard enough hearsay evidence for the evening and as soon as he sets we could talk his departure. Daphne had left the room a few moments before he rose to say good-bye and when he reached the lift she was in it.”
“I want to talk to you,” she said. “Take me somewhere for a drink. I’ve got lots to tell you.”
“Do you think you’re wise to talk to me?”
“Yes. I think. I can kind of trust you.”
They sat in a remote corner of the Esmeralda Bar under the watchful eye of Pepe the barman but out of his hearing—or anyone else’s.
“I don’t know what to do,” began Daphne.
“Why? What worrying you?”
“Oh, lots of things. Listen. I’m going to tell you the story of my life.”
Carolus said nothing.
“Don’t worry. It’s only a short story. It’s just that I haven’t got anyone in the world. I left my parents ages ago. I couldn’t go back—ever. I’ve always been with some man or other. See now Davy is gone I don’t know what to do.”
“I shouldn’t have thought it would be difficult for you.”
“Paddy, you mean? But, Mr. Deene, Paddy hasn’t got a penny!”
“He is to have his share of Davy’s money, I suppose.”
“Oh, yes, but nobody knows about that. I sometimes wonder whether Davy was as rich as all that. He spent a lot, of course. Besides, do you honestly think Paddy’s the type?”
“For me to live with, I mean. I sometimes think he’s rather dizzy. I know he’s mad about me. Well, you can see it, can’t you? But he never said so while Davy was alive. He was dependent on Davy. So was Jack for the moment, but Jack never cared a damn whether Davy knew or not.”
“Jack and I had a sort of affair, you see. Of course I’d far rather live with Jack than Paddy but even if they let him go I should always be wondering whether he did it. Jack’s rather the sort, really. I mean I love him, but he might have done it. And he just found out about something.”
“Well, nothing really, but it meant a lot to him, I think. You see, Davy used to knock me about rather, and Jack saw the weals.”
“When was this?”
“The day Davy was killed, actually. You see, I went to Jack’s room that morning early. I’d forgotten he’d see. He was terribly upset about it. Kept asking me questions. I never thought much about it before. Davy was like that so there it was. It wasn’t the first time I’d met a man who wanted that. But Jack was wild.”
“I see. So you think Trotter may have murdered Devigne for that?”
“Oh, I’m not saying that. It sounds awful. But Jack’s a very strange man. Kind of shut up inside himself. You never knew what he might do. I’m not a girl who thinks that everyone is in love with me. I know Davy wasn’t, for instance. But Jack was.”
“Oh, Paddy, yes. He had been from long time. It seemed to be on his mind and he couldn’t leave me alone. I’d always be finding him waiting for me in odd places and sometimes he’d stare at me for hours on end. Mind you, Paddy was often fooling about and laughing but I’ve learned enough to understand that some men who are like that on the outside are the most serious underneath. Paddy was, I’m sure. He wasn’t like Jack. He wanted to marry me.”
“But you wouldn’t?”
“Well, I couldn’t, could I? We were both dependent on Davy for everything. I mean a girl needs things and Paddy had no money at all, except what Davy gave him.”
“Now tell me about the night you found Devigne’s body.”
“Oh, I’ve told you all that. There’s nothing more to tell.”
“Did you meet anyone when you went down to the playa ?”
It was all dark. I’d been sitting in my room and I just suddenly thought I’d go and see if Davy by any chance had stayed on the beach. I don’t know what made me do it.”
“You were quite alone?”
“And you didn’t see anyone on your way over?”
“Only that awful Jock Dribble. He’s always drunk.”
“Where was he?”
“Just coming from the beach, I think. Of course there may have been other people watching me. It gives me the creeps to think about it now. I’d never have gone down if I’d dreamt anything like that could have happened. What I mean is, it may only just have been done. The murderer may still have been around––hiding down there, perhaps. I could have almost disturbed him. I wake up in the night and think of that, Mr Deene. Really, I do.”
“Jack Trotter was the first person to come down after you had found Devigne?”
“He was the only person to come down. He brought me back.”
“On your way back with him did you meet anyone?”
I was in such a state. You can understand it, can’t you? I hardly knew what was happening. To find someone dead, like that!”
“Surely you can remember whether you met anyone?”
She thought for a moment.
“Yes. We met this man.”
Carolus waited with some expiration. He did not even say ‘What man?’.
“I’d never seen him before. He said he had only just arrived. He was a big man—that’s all I know.”
“You don’t know his name?”
“Yes. He told Jack. A funny name. Learner or Larner. Something like that. He said he was staying at the Maryland.”
“Did you and Trotter stop there talking to him?”
“Only for a minute.”
“He turned back with you, did he?”
“No. I think he went on.”
“Towards the place where Devigne was lying?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen him again.”
“See any one else that evening?”
“Only Paddy. I remember that because he quite startled me. He was wearing a light suit and it was like seeing a ghost against that horrid black sack.”
“Did you tell him what you had found?”
“Jack did. It seemed to bowl him over rather. Have I told you all you want to know? I didn’t mean to talk about that. I wanted your advice––sort of. I mean, about Jack. What will they do to him, do you think?”
“It rather depends on whether or not he killed Devigne, doesn’t it?”
Daphne seem to ponder this.
“Yes,” she said at last. “I suppose it does.”