A Killer at Caulfield

I
'I feel so very inadequate, my dear,' Miss Marple said, gently. 'I feel as though perhaps you'd like to place your faith in someone perhaps more experienced than I am, but seeing as young people are so obstinate, I do feel as though it is my responsibility to help you, my dear. What did you say your name was?'

'Oh, Catherine Freeman, but my friends call me Soup.'

'Soup?' Miss Marple sounded faintly disapproving. 'How very unusual. In my day, one's nickname was always a shortening of one's own name, but I suppose modern children think very differently.'

Miss Freeman was an American, and blatantly one, too. Her loud orange overcoat screamed to the skies: 'I'm not one of you!' and her expensive stockings suggested a costly upbringing. Her pale, Scandinavian hair was in disarray that morning, though it was extravagantly curled, for, however unaware of cosmetics Miss Marple was, she knew that those immaculate ringlets did not exist in nature.

Soup Freeman seemed upset at being banded together with the 'children', and was about to protest, but Miss Marple cut in gently.

'What was the name of the poor young thing who died, dear? It has completely slipped my mind.'

'Sybil Batterclay,' Miss Freeman answered hotly, as though irritated by Miss Marple's lack of memory. 'She's my sister-in-law, in case you've forgotten that, too.'

'Oh, dear,' Miss Marple smiled, looking slightly worried. 'I didn't mean to make you upset - I'm not a young woman anymore, you see, and so I have to be told some things several times before they enter my mind.'

'H'm,' Soup replied, monosyllabically. 'Anyway, I shall be expecting you at Caulfield at lunchtime. I shall be introducing you as my schoolmistress from when I was at Chantilly. We will have met by coincidence in London and I will have motored you down to the Manor. Is that alright?'

'Yes, my dear, perfectly, though, I must ask you - were you at Chantilly? Finishing school, I expect.'

'Yes,' Miss Freeman answered, sharply. 'I was there for about a year - one of Mrs Osbourne's girls. I suppose you don't have any more questions to ask?'

'Dear me, no,' Miss Marple insisted. 'Only whether I'm to have an alias, my dear.'

'If you must,' Soup got up from her armchair in Miss Marple's cosy living-room. 'Then call yourself Miss Joan Sharples.'

Miss Freeman disappeared out the living-room door in a flurry of silken skirts, having tried desperately to disguise her 'soft' upbringing by acting in the most officious manner imaginable. Miss Marple, of course, took no offense of this - she accepted it as a fact of modern life, that children began to detest their own circumstances, even the most comfortably and well brought-up of children. Thankfully dear Raymond wasn't like that - her sister had brought him up well. Miss Marple felt like laughing at Catherine Freeman's clumsy attempt at originality - that trait which is so rare now.

Somewhere, in a large, rambling manor, a murderer hopes to evade discovery. But the killer has reckoned without Miss Marple.
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