Too Many Murders

Free Too Many Murders by Colleen McCullough

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Authors: Colleen McCullough
listened as if he had never heard any of this before, wondering how Holloman’s Gown segment could be so divorced from Town that they automatically assumed no townies would be interested in this new social convulsion—or be aware of it.
    “Paracelsus is due to take women next year,” Dr. Ceruski went on, “but they’ll find it easier, as they’re able to put half of the students upstairs and half downstairs.”
    An arrangement that wouldn’t please the feminists, Carmine reflected; they wanted real integration, men and women on the same floor. Quite why, he hadn’t worked out, though he suspected the object of the exercise was to make life as uncomfortable for men as possible.
    “I believe that Cornucopia has endowed the building of an allwomen’s college,” he said, straight-faced.
    “Correct, though it won’t be finished until 1970,” said Marcus Ceruski, whose doctorate was probably in medieval manuscripts or something equally esoteric; Dante had a reputation for scholars of unusual bent. He opened a door, and they entered a large room paneled in some dark wood, most of its walls occupied by books in custom-made shelves—no higgledy-piggledy sizes in here! “This is Dean Denbigh’s study.”
    “Where it happened,” said Carmine, gazing around.
    “Correct, Captain.”
    “Are the four students who were present here today?”
    “And the wife, Dr. Pauline Denbigh?”
    “Waiting in her study.”
    Carmine consulted a small notebook. “Would you send in Mr. Terence Arrowsmith, please?”
    Dr. Ceruski disappeared with a nod, while Carmine prowled. The big leather host’s chair closest to the desk was clearly where Dean Denbigh had sat; the Persian rug around it was ominously stained, as was the chair seat and one arm. When the door sounded, he looked toward it in time to see the entrance of a genuine scholar-in-the-making: round-shouldered and stooped, thick-lensed glasses over pale eyes, a full-lipped crimson mouth, an otherwise nondescript face. His breath was coming fast, the hand on the door trembling.
    “Mr. Terence Arrowsmith?”
    “I’m Captain Carmine Delmonico. Would you please sit down in the chair you occupied when Dr. Denbigh died?”
    Terence Arrowsmith went to it dumbly, sat gingerly on its edge, and stared up at Carmine like a rabbit at a snake.
    “Tell me everything as if I’m in complete ignorance of what happened. The whole story, including why you were here.”
    For a moment the young man said nothing, then he licked his impossibly red lips and began. “The Dean calls them Monday Fortnight Coffee—we all drank coffee except for him. He drank jasmine tea from some shop in Manhattan, and he never invited us to share it, even if someone said they liked jasmine tea. The Dean said his was very expensive and we shouldn’t acquire a taste for it until we were at the very least senior fellows.”
    Interesting, thought Carmine. The Dean rubbed his preference in as exclusive, and his student guests didn’t appreciate it. Though Terence Arrowsmith had scarcely begun his story, Carmine was getting an impression that the Dean hadn’t been liked.
    “You have to be a junior or a senior to be invited,” the young manwent on. “I’m a senior, and a fairly regular guest, which isn’t unusual. It was more like a coffee klatch for favored people. The Dean was an authority on Dante himself, and those of us doing Italian Renaissance literature were his pets. If you were studying Goethe or moderns like Pirandello, you didn’t get invited.”
    He’s meticulous, thought Carmine. He’ll give me the lot.
    “I’m writing a paper on Boccaccio,” said Terence Arrowsmith, “and Dr. Denbigh liked my work. He held his sessions on a Monday, every second week. The worst of it was that he ignored the time, so those of us who had a class straight after coffee break were sometimes so late we weren’t let in. If the lecture was important, it was terribly frustrating, but he’d

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