Death Has Deep Roots

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Authors: Michael Gilbert
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“The motion is of the calmest. I thought I would like a little fresh air.”
    He took up on deck with him one more little problem. He was wondering why Madame Delboise should have known enough to refer to McCann as “Major McCann.” Some of his friends still called him that, but Angus himself had not used the title since the war.
    The night was darker. The moon had gone. Behind the ship the wake was barely visible on the black sea. Ahead, the lights of Dieppe were already in sight.

Part Two

Chapter Ten
    The Clerk: Victoria Lamartine, is that your name?
    The Prisoner: Yes.
    The Clerk: You stand charged upon this indictment with the murder of Eric Paulton Thoseby, a Major in His Majesty’s Army, upon the fourteenth of March of this year. Are you guilty or not guilty?
    The Prisoner: Not guilty, sir.
    The Clerk: The Prisoner at the Bar, Victoria Lamartine, stands charged upon this indictment with the murder of Eric Paulton Thoseby. To this indictment she has pleaded not guilty and puts herself upon her country, which country you are. It is your duty to hearken to the evidence and to determine whether she is guilty or not.
    “Members of the Jury,” said Mr. Claudian Summers in his clear, uninflected, Oxford common-room voice, “I shall direct your attention first to the events which took place on the night of Wednesday the fourteenth of March of this year in a small residential hotel called the Family Hotel, comprising Numbers 41 and 43 Pearlyman Street, near Euston Station.
    “Now, I do not mean to imply that this was the beginning of the story. It was not. A good deal must have happened in the past to bring about the events of that night. The roots of this tree are longer than its branches. Nevertheless, I think it is as well to emphasize at the outset of the case that, although we may often have to turn to the past to explain the motives of the actors and the reasons for their actions, yet it is with their actions on this one particular night, at this one particular place, that you and I are actually concerned, because on that night, at that place, Major Eric Thoseby was killed.
    “He was killed, as you will hear, with a knife, by an upward left-handed blow above the top of the stomach, a blow which passed through the liver and the heart wall and caused almost instantaneous death. It will be your duty to say who struck that blow.
    “There has never been any suggestion of accident or suicide and I will not, therefore, waste your time with fanciful speculations about such possibilities. This was a deliberate blow, delivered with intention and, I may add, with considerable skill. Who struck it?”
    Mr. Claudian Summers paused. He did not look at the jury. Nor did he look at the prisoner. He scarcely seemed to be looking at anyone in the court. His eye was turned inward, down the long intricate perspective of his argument, a needle-etched landscape in black and white, comprehended in its entirety in his own capacious mind.
    “First of all,” he said, “I will try to give you an idea of the sort of place where these things happened. The Family Hotel is in Pearlyman Street, near Euston. You must not suppose from its position that it is what is often referred to as a Station Hotel – you will know the sort of hotel I mean – where passengers stay for one night or perhaps two when they arrive by train in London or are waiting to catch a train on their way home from London. On the contrary, the Family Hotel, as run by Monsieur Sainte, who came here from France in 1946, appears to have been a quiet, well-conducted residential hotel. All of the people who were there on the night of the fourteenth – except Major Thoseby himself – had been there for some weeks, and two of them were living there on what you might almost call a ‘residential’ basis – a Colonel Trevor Alwright and a Mrs. Roper. Both of them were present on that night and both will be giving evidence before you, here, in these

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