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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XVIII The Telegram
|Page 7 of 9||
"Though I doubt if it's the kind of place to suit you, sir. In a terrible state of repair. Ceilings leaking and all. 'Twould need a lot of money spent on it."
"Thanks," said Tommy cheerily. "I dare say it'll be a washout, but houses are scarce nowadays."
"That they are," declared the woman heartily. "My daughter and son-in-law have been looking for a decent cottage for I don't know how long. It's all the war. Upset things terribly, it has. But excuse me, sir, it'll be too dark for you to see much of the house. Hadn't you better wait until to-morrow?"
"That's all right. We'll have a look around this evening, anyway. We'd have been here before only we lost our way. What's the best place to stay at for the night round here?"
Mrs. Sweeny looked doubtful.
"There's the Yorkshire Arms, but it's not much of a place for gentlemen like you."
"Oh, it will do very well. Thanks. By the way, you've not had a young lady here asking for this key to-day?"
The woman shook her head.
"No one's been over the place for a long time."
"Thanks very much."
They retraced their steps to the Moat House. As the front door swung back on its hinges, protesting loudly, Julius struck a match and examined the floor carefully. Then he shook his head.
"I'd swear no one's passed this way. Look at the dust. Thick. Not a sign of a footmark."
They wandered round the deserted house. Everywhere the same tale. Thick layers of dust apparently undisturbed.
"This gets me," said Julius. "I don't believe Tuppence was ever in this house."
"She must have been."
Julius shook his head without replying.
"We'll go over it again to-morrow," said Tommy. "Perhaps we'll see more in the daylight."
On the morrow they took up the search once more, and were reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the house had not been invaded for some considerable time. They might have left the village altogether but for a fortunate discovery of Tommy's. As they were retracing their steps to the gate, he gave a sudden cry, and stooping, picked something up from among the leaves, and held it out to Julius. It was a small gold brooch.
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. I've often seen her wear it."
Julius drew a deep breath.
"I guess that settles it. She came as far as here, anyway. We'll make that pub our head-quarters, and raise hell round here until we find her. Somebody MUST have seen her."
Forthwith the campaign began. Tommy and Julius worked separately and together, but the result was the same. Nobody answering to Tuppence's description had been seen in the vicinity. They were baffled--but not discouraged. Finally they altered their tactics. Tuppence had certainly not remained long in the neighbourhood of the Moat House. That pointed to her having been overcome and carried away in a car. They renewed inquiries. Had anyone seen a car standing somewhere near the Moat House that day? Again they met with no success.
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