Authors: James Lincoln Collier
MURDER AT ST. BASKET'S
James Lincoln Collier
MURDER AT ST. BASKET'S
Copyright Â© 1972 by James Lincoln Collier
All Rights Reserved
First ebook copyright
Â© 2013 by AudioGO. All Rights Reserved.
Trade ISBN 978-1-62064-672-4
Library ISBN 978-0-7927-9805-7
Cover photo Â© RMAX/iStock.com
* * *
For Benjamin Beardwood
* * *
The Corn Raid
The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen
The Empty Mirror
Give Dad My Best
The Jazz Kid
Me and Billy
My Crooked Family
Outside Looking In
Planet Out of the Past
Rich and Famous
The Teddy Bear Habit
When the Stars Begin to Fall
The Worst of Times
About the Author
going to die,” Margaret said.
“He isn't going to die, Margaret,” I said. The trouble with these English girls is that every time there's the slightest crisis they start fainting and swooning all over the place. “All he's got is a broken leg.”
“You can die from a broken leg. When we lived in Brighton a boy got run over by a lorry and it broke his leg and he died.”
Leslie and I laughed, even though it wasn't the kind of thing you're supposed to laugh at. We were sitting around Margaret's room waiting for supper. It was just about five-thirty, but it was pitch dark out. In England it gets dark early in the winter, and this was March.
Leslie said, “He died from getting bashed by a lorry, Margaret. You can't die from a broken leg.” Only, being English, he said
Leslie is a boy. In England they give kids names that you'd be pretty ashamed of in the United States. Besides Leslie, there was a boy at the school called Beverley. A boy, for gosh sake. And then there was the friend of a friend of mine called Cyril, and in fact the maths teacherâin England they don't say math, they say mathsâis named Basil. They don't say
either, they say
sil. It took me a long while to get used to saying
It sounded so phony. But after a while you just sort of get into their way of saying things and you don't think about it anymore. Of course, I didn't call him
sil when I was around him. We called him Mr. Shrimpton, which is kind of funny because he is short. Most of the time we just called him “Sir.” In England if you're a kid you have to call everybody “Sir” or “M'am” whether you want to or not. It's considered very rude if you don't. Actually the grownups go around calling each other “Sir” a lot, too. When my family brought me over in August I noticed how everywhere we went everybody called my father “Sir,” including people in storesâclerks, they call them here, only they say “clarks”âand bobbies, which are cops, and even Mr. Grime, one of the heads of my school. And I got to thinking, boy, my father must be pretty famous in England for some reason or other. But then after a while I noticed that everybody was going around calling everybody else “Sir” and I realized my father wasn't famous after all.
“Well, I don't care, he
die,” Margaret said.
Let's stop talking about whether he's going to die,” I said. “The main question is, what are we going to do?”
“Perhaps it isn't broken,” Margaret said. “Perhaps it's only twisted.”
“I don't see how,” I said. “When somebody belts you with a hockey stick you don't get a twisted ankle, you get something broken.”
“I could hear it snap,” Leslie said. “It sounded just like when you give a cricket ball a good bash.”
“He just gave him a slam,” I told Margaret. “David was just goofing around out there with his mouth open staring into space the way he does, and Jaggers shouted, âCome off it, Choudhry, you're playing hockey, not writing poems,' and he ran up to him, and David said, âExcuse me, Sir, I feel sick.' And Jaggers shouted, âYou're just bloody lazy, Choudhry,' and he smacked out with the hockey stick right in the middle of his leg.”
“It sounded just like when you get a good bash at cricket,” Leslie said again.
“I guess he was trying to hit him on the tail the way he always does,” I said, “only he missed.”
What I'm talking about is not a regular hockey stick, but one of those field hockey sticks with a curved end. If you ever got slammed in the ankle with one of them you'd know they're a lot harder than an ice hockey stick. I could easily see how somebody could break your leg with it, especially Mr. Jaggers, who was pretty strong. In England field hockey is mostly a girl's game, but at our school boys play it too, because they don't have enough girls.
“Then what happened?” Margaret said. “I expect he went in?”
“Good heavens, Margaret,” Leslie said, “He couldn't walk. We had to carry him in.”
“It really hurt. He was crying.”
“But why wouldn't Jaggers send him to Dr. Corps-Deadly?”
“He bloody well knew he'd catch it for bashing him,” Leslie said.
“He can get into a lot of trouble for that,” I said. “I guess David's parents could sue him or something. So he shouted, âStow that bloody noise, Choudhry,' and sent him up to the dorm. Leslie told him, I think he really is hurt, Sir,' but he just said, âMind your own business, PlainfÃ¬eld.' ”
Then we didn't say anything for a minute, because Leslie and I knew what we had to do, and neither of us wanted to do it. But Margaret said, “I think somebody should tell Miss Grime,”
if that wasn't what Leslie and I had been worrying about all along.
Margaret,” I said.
“Oh,” she said.
We didn't say anything more for a minute. Then I said, “I think you ought to be the one, Leslie. I mean, I'm American and all, and I think she would pay more attention to somebody from her own country. Besides, I don't think she likes me very much.”
“She doesn't like me at all because my father doesn't pay the school fees on time.”
“Still,” I said, “you're English. I'm sort of a stranger.”
He shook his head. “She hates me, old boy.”
“She hates everybody,” Margaret said.
I tried to think of another argument, but I couldn't come up with one. The truth was, I knew that Miss Grime would take it better from me than anybody. It wasn't that she especially liked Americans. In fact, she thought they were inferior to the English the way everybody in England does; but she liked having Americans come to her school for the money. Most of the English are pretty poor. It's hard to believe, seeing all those Rolls-Royces around, and the huge houses that some people have, and all the silver and antiques and so forth in the shops, but it's true, mostly they're broke. I don't know why it is, but it is. Although I admit, it's a funny way to be poor. Leslie Plainfield's father has a not-too-old Mercedes, and they have a sensational house out in Kent, which is a suburb outside of London, and he looks very posh, but Leslie says he never pays the school fees on time. A lot of the kids' fathers at this school are like that, which is why Miss Grime likes to have Americans. American parents think they're fantastically lucky to have their kids get into some English school, and they pay the fees right on time. As soon as the bill for my school comes to my father in New York I just know that he dashes around to get his pen and shoots off a check airmail the same day, just so his son won't get kicked out. I could tell him he doesn't have to worry according to what Leslie says, if he pays the fees in the same year, Miss Grime will think she's lucky.
Anyway, that's why I knew that Miss Grime would pay more attention to me than to Leslie, and so I ought to be the one to tell her about what Mr. Jaggers had done to David Choudhry. But it made me nervous to think about it.
“Let's toss for it,” Leslie said.
“Why doesn't Margaret do it?” I said.
Oh no, I'm too scared,” Margaret said.
I envied her. I wished I could just come out and admit being scared, the way girls can. “What's to be scared of, Margaret?” I said. “She isn't going to bite you.”
“Oh, I couldn't do it.”
If you want to know the truth, I don't think she was really scared. It was more that she didn't like going against the grownups. In England everybody is brought up to obey the rules and not argue back, especially the girls. A girl like Margaret just
to be good and do right, because of her upbringing. Sometimes I try to talk her out of being nice all the time, but she just says, “I think people should always try to be nice to one another.” Deep down inside she isn't as nice as she thinks, but I can't get her to believe it.
Anyway, I couldn't get into that, because I knew in my heart it wasn't up to Margaret to tell Miss Grime about David's being hurt, it was up to meâand it didn't have anything to do with being American.
David Choudhry and I were special friends. I don't mean we were
friends: I had best friends back home in the States, and I guess when you get down to it, Leslie was more my best friend than David was. But David was a special kind of friend. We counted on each other more than Leslie and I counted on each other. It had to do with being foreigners. The thing about the English is, they don't like foreigners very much. I mean they're polite and all that, but they really think that England is for the English, and any foreigners who are around just get in the way. You take, for example, what happened right after I came to St. Basket's. It was David's first time there, too. We were the only new boys, and for the first two or three days we did a lot of things together. I mean, we had to take these tests to see which classes we should be in, and we went together to be inspected for disease by Dr. Corps-Deadly, and during games we were mostly off to one side of the field by ourselves practicing how to kick a soccer ball right because I'd never played any soccer before and David just wasn't much of an athlete anyway. So since we were spending so much time together naturally we got to be friendly, and usually sat together when we ate and so forth.
The one thing we didn't do was live in the same room. I shared a room with Leslie Plainfield. David had his own room up in sort of an attic on the floor above us. It didn't make much sense, because our room was supposed to be for three boys. It had three bureaus and three beds and so forth, but one of the beds was empty. So naturally I began thinking that it would be
if David came down and lived with me and Plainfield.
One night when we were supposed to be studying I asked Leslie about it. “How come Choudhry doesn't live down here with us?” I asked. “How come he has his own room upstairs.”