Read The Clairvoyant Curse Online

Authors: Anna Lord

Tags: #feng shui, #murder, #medium, #sherlock, #tarot, #seance, #steamship, #biarritz, #magic lantern, #camera obscura

The Clairvoyant Curse (28 page)

BOOK: The Clairvoyant Curse
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“No, no,” the other defended,
taking slight and reddening, “I saw her staring into the middle
distance more than once yesterday, like someone who has seen a

“Or Death,” interposed the
gypsy dramatically, chasing the last oyster around her bowl.

“The spilit world works in
mystelious ways,” commented Dr Hu, who felt he should contribute
something to the conversation since he had finished his oyster soup
and was about to head back to the buffet for some crayfish

“There were powerful planets in
opposition to Leo last night,” pointed out Mrs Merle portentously.
“I knew something bad was going to happen. This lobster thermidor
is overcooked. It tastes like leather. I might try another one and
see if it is any better.”

“If you knew something bad was
going to happen then why didn’t you say so?” said Monsieur
Croquemort acerbically.

The astrologer towered over the
table like a granite lighthouse with twin searchlights scorching
everything it illuminated. “Knowing something bad will happen and
knowing what that something is are quite different,” she responded
high and mightily. “The stars are a guide. I merely interpret their
configuration. I cannot stop something from happening any more than
I can stop the sun from rising.”

“Whatever is going to happen
will always happen,” offered Mr Ffrench flippantly. “Pass the white
wine, Blackadder.”

“Oh, do shut-up, Crispin,”
snapped the reverend, not having recovered from the earlier jibe as
he slapped the bottle of Moselle into a shaky hand. “I’ve just
about had enough of you! Just because you lost your god years ago
it’s no reason to mock everyone else’s!”

“I wasn’t mocking anyone’s
god,” the wild-haired cynic retorted, filling his wine glass to the
brim, “the gods do a good job of mocking themselves without any
help from me.”

“Calm down, everyone,” advised
the Master of Ceremonies in his most hypnotic voice. “Calm down,”
he repeated like a benevolent father admonishing his recalcitrant

Everyone took a deep breath and
there was enough of an intermission of silence for tempers to cool.
Everyone returned to the buffet to fill their plates with seafood

To everyone’s surprise it was
Monsieur Croquemort who returned to the subject once they
re-settled at the table.

“I also noticed Madame Moghra
behaving out of character and not looking herself all day

“I thought you just advised us
to drop it?” challenged the reverend indignantly.

“No,” replied Mr Ffrench,
grinning dangerously, “he advised us to calm down. It’s not the
same thing as dropping it. We have a dead body. We need to discuss
it. An inspector from the French Surete will be waiting to greet us
when we dock in Biarritz. The more we can thrash out now the better
it will be for us and the quicker we can get on with our

“I agree,” said Mrs Merle
shrewdly, chewing and swallowing at the same time, her neck folds
wibble-wobbling in the process. “We cannot ignore the elephant in
the room.”

All eyes dropped simultaneously
- the reference to elephants opened up a potential minefield that
needed to be tip-toed around carefully.

“Never a truer word said,”
offered the Countess, breaking the awkward silence. “Madame Moghra
mentioned to me while we were still in Glasgow that she thought she
saw a ghost from the grave come back to haunt her.”

“Were they her exact words?”
quizzed Mr Ffrench, draining his wine glass.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not
sure. So much had happened that morning. I had just finished
sitting in on the interviews with Constable MacTavish and my mind
was pre-occupied with all the details that had not yet had a chance
to sink in. I was still thinking about the death of Sissy.”

“Yes,” mused Reverend
Blackadder, salting his whitebait, “we’ve all forgotten about

“I haven’t forgotten,”
responded Monsieur Croquemort shortly. “Pass the salt,

“Do you think the two deaths
could be related?” asked Mrs Merle in her usual blunderbuss
fashion, shovelling down the last mouthful of leathery lobster.

“I don’t know what to think?”
replied Monsieur Croquemort, staring morosely at his Dover

“It doesn’t really matter what
think,” said the gypsy, spearing a curly tentacle of
pickled octopus drowning in black ink. “The French inspector will
think what
likes. If he thinks the two deaths are related
no one can say otherwise. The police are a law unto

“Let’s get back to Madame
Moghra,” intervened Mr Ffrench, who was draining his second glass
of Moselle. “Do we think she was murdered for her brooch?”

His heavily hooded eyes slowly
circled the table and one by one they all nodded. He turned to the

“You were sitting in the grand
saloon and had a direct line of vision into the library all
evening. Who went in first?”

“Monsieur Croquemort.”

Mr Ffrench turned to the Master
of Ceremonies. “Was the old witch wearing her brooch?”

“I cannot say. I didn’t look at
her. I went in and out. I was looking for a specific book –
Count of Monte Cristo
. As soon as I found it I went to the bar
to fix a nightcap.”

“Who went in second?” asked Mr

“You did,” replied the

“Oh, yes, that’s right. I
cannot recall seeing the brooch but that does not mean it wasn’t
there. I was under the weather and I never paid attention to what
the old witch was wearing.”

“Blind drunk,” muttered the
reverend offensively, “as usual.”

Mr Ffrench ignored the rude
remark, probably because it was perfectly warranted.

“Who was third?”

“It was Miss Morningstar.”

La gamine
looked up
wide-eyed from her crab and shrimp cocktail - balancing between her
delicate fingers her cocktail fork in mid-air on which was stuck a
perfectly tiny, pink shrimp. “I told the Countess this morning that
I saw the brooch. It sparkled and caught the light from the reading
lamp. It looked quite lovely.”

Mr Ffrench moved right along.
“Who was fourth?”

“Reverend Blackadder.”

“I’ve already told the Countess
that I saw it. I remember it distinctly. The old witch was
definitely still wearing it when I went into the library to get my
cigarettes and lucifers.”

“Who was fifth?”

“Mrs Merle.”

All eyes turned to the
elephantine astrologer.

She put down her fork and
burped into the back of her hand. “I cannot say because I didn’t
look. I went in to look for an almanac. I didn’t look at Madame
Moghra. I thought she was asleep so there was no point
acknowledging her presence with a howdy-do.”

“Who was sixth?”

“Madame Sosostras.”

The gypsy was leaning on her
elbows, anticipating her turn. “I cannot swear either way - she was
wearing it or not wearing it. I do not know. I went into the
library to get my tarot cards. I have eyes only for my precious
cards. I find cards and go out. It is late. I go to bed.”

“Who was seventh?”

“Dr Hu.”

The Chinaman, too, was prepared
for his turn. He had wiped the sides of his lips where food often
gathered and clung to the long thin moustache that hung down either
side of his small mouth and tiny chin. “I go to cabin and lemember
I not have my I-Ching. I go back to libaly and find I-Ching. Madame
Moghla not wearling her blooch. I notice. I notice all things. No

“Dr Watson was eighth?”
speculated Mr French, reaching across the table for the bottle of
French burgundy.

“Yes,” confirmed the

“I thought he’d gone to bed
straight after dinner,” questioned Monsieur Croquemort, sounding
like a
of the Paris court. “What was he doing
returning to the library at that hour?”

The Countess realized she would
have to say something in the doctor’s defence but she knew how it
would sound and hedged. “I have no idea.”

“Was he getting a book?”
checked Mrs Merle, mopping up the
buerre blanc
on her plate
with her finger.

“No,” said the Countess. “He
appeared to be sleepwalking.”

“There was a case in the New
York newspapers recently about a theft during a nightwalking
episode,” regaled the American astrologer divertingly. “Everyone
thought it was the paid companion of the lady of the house but it
turned out to be the lady herself stealing her own jewels in her

“Let’s not forget the doctor
wanted her dead,” reminded Reverend Blackadder grimly. “He made no
secret of his dislike of her. Let’s not forget that.”

“What about the Countess?” said
Madame Sosostras, pointing with the sharp end of her knife. “We did
not yet hear if
went into the library.”

All eyes turned toward the

“Yes,” she admitted readily. “I
went in ninth.”

“Why did you go in?” pressed
Monsieur Croquemort, pushing his plate away with a grimace.

“I went in to speak to Dr
Watson. I was concerned for his health.”

“His state of mind, you mean?”
said the reverend snidely.

“Well,” said Mr Ffrench, “was
the old witch wearing the brooch or not?”

The Countess had always prided
herself on having a photographic memory, but for the first time in
her life the image was grainy, like a daguerreotype suffering from
lack of light and faulty exposure. Never had she felt so inadequate
and so helpless. “I honestly didn’t notice.”


Following lunch the Countess
returned to her cabin to change her nautical matinee costume for
something more appropriate for the afternoon. Xenia had the oyster
grey moiré satin laid out on the bed with matching accessories and
accoutrements, including shoes, stockings, handkerchief and a
silver grey cashmere shawl that brought out the grey highlights in
her blue-grey eyes.

“How is Dr Watson doing?” she
asked her maid.

“Fedir say he is looking like
scarecrow. He is not speaking. He is sitting on bed like man of

“Has he had something to

“Fedir take him lunch but Dr
Watson no eat.”

“What about a cup of tea?”

“He no drink tea. He ask for

“How is his cough?”

“Not good.”

“Leave me, I need to think.
Find Fedir and go and get yourselves some lunch. Tell Fedir to
return the darts to the aft deck. If Dr Watson is not making use of
them there is no point leaving them in his cabin. Come back to help
me dress when you have finished lunch. I will have a lie down in
the meantime.”

Scenes rolled in and out of her
mind’s eye like the scenes from a poorly focused camera obscura in
a darkened room. Try as she might she could not call into focus the
picture of Madame Moghra and whether she was wearing her

Did Dr Watson kill Madame
Moghra in his sleep? Did he steal the brooch because he felt she
did not deserve it? Is that why she couldn’t recall seeing it? Did
she block out the vision of the brooch that wasn’t there because
the implication was too awful to comprehend?

Was Dr Watson pretending to be
asleep when he killed Madame Moghra? Did he think the charge for
murder would be lesser if he could prove he was sleepwalking? Did
he deliberately steal the brooch to divert suspicion?

Who else wanted Madame Moghra

She had not interviewed
everyone as yet but of those she had, all had good reason to see
the medium off swiftly to the Otherworld.

Reverend Blackadder was a
little man who took offence easily. He made no bones about being
annoyed at being dumped on the roadside like a broken bike. Were
hurt feelings enough to kill for?

And Miss Morningstar – she
talked like a child, she looked like a child, but she was not a
child. Her feelings for Mr Ffrench were the feelings of a grown
woman and it was the medium who had stood in the way of her
imagined happiness, not to mention her professional advancement.
Was the fairy-child capable of cold-blooded murder?

And Mr Ffrench – he had been
candid and co-operative, willingly assisting with the examination
of the dead body, yet he had the strongest motive of all. He held
the medium responsible for the tragic death of his fiancé. That was
motive enough in anyone’s eyes. Was his co-operation an act? Was
his drunkenness an act? Was he too clever by half? Who’s to say
whether he spilled the absinthe deliberately before he drank a
single drop? He could have been perfectly sober all night, able to
dispose of the weapon and plant false clues all night long.

And Mrs Merle – she knew all
about crime from her work with the Detective Branch of the New York
police. She understood about genuine clues and false clues. She
understood the importance of an alibi and the advantage of
spreading suspicion far and wide. And she had a motive – she blamed
the medium for the ruin of her marriage and the death of her dear

And what was she to make of
Madame Sosostras? What was the gypsy really doing with the wig? And
did she covet the brooch as much as Miss Morningstar intimated? It
was worth speaking to the gypsy further.

And what of Dr Hu? Did he
really have a photo of Madame Moghra as a young woman? How did he
come across it? Why did he have it? What was the significance of
it? Or was Miss Morningstar lying? She had admitted to being a good
liar. Was she lying about the gypsy too? Who would she be
protecting with her lies – herself or Mr Ffrench?

The Countess had not even begun
to consider if two or more of them were in it together. Perhaps the
entire troupe wanted to get even with Madame Moghra for leaving
them in the lurch and they conspired together, providing alibis and
lies for each other. Their constant bickering might be a ruse to
steer her away from the possibility. She hadn’t yet spoken to
Monsieur Croquemort, the master of the menagerie, the maestro of
mesmerism, the hypnotic death-eater – was he in reality the grand
puppet-master pulling the strings?

BOOK: The Clairvoyant Curse
11.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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