The River Runs Deep – Episode 13

Trescanton admitted that Franks was a money-lender, pursuing the nobleman for a very substantial debt, and threatening to tell the earl should it remain unpaid.

“The earl and the countess had to be arguing about a child of theirs, or money.”

“Or both,” Terence agreed. He shook his head slowly.

It was a sunny morning, and they were seated opposite each other in the corner of the Copper Kettle tea room.

“Your way of getting inside the characters of people,” Terence remarked. “It’s frightening.”

“Don’t be frightened,” she said, and he laughed. “The earl has told us they knew nothing of blackmail, though Franks had hung about their London house in the hope of threatening their son. Lady Trescanton wanted to give her son one more chance.”

“The poor lady,” Ruth said. “Sometimes I think that money is only a curse.”

On the day of the attempted murder, Trescanton had given utterly misleading directions to Fred.

“He told the inspector,” Terence said sadly, “just how cynical he was in his manipulation of his friend and of the truth. He sent Fred Carter down the most dangerous stretch of a swollen river in half-darkness, with a map clearly guiding him to the spot where he would push him.”

“What fooled me for a long time,” Ruth said, “was that map of the gentle stretch. It seemed that it was indeed the note and map that Trescanton had left for his friend.”

“I fetched it from Carter’s room.”

“I realised that Trescanton could have seen us approach the college once we had saved the life of Fred Carter. He hurried to Fred’s rooms, made a note showing the good stretch of the Cherwell, and exchanged it!”

Terence shuddered.

“He was watching from some window.”

“Fred had not remembered wrongly! It was when I realised the unusual quality of his memory that I knew he could not have been so mistaken. Trescanton had indeed sent him to his death. The weapon was hidden in the willows, the time settled on.”

“And he told us quite openly how well he would have known the river and its dangers,” Terence said thoughtfully.

Ruth nodded.

“Generations of the Earls of Hardstone have been at Magdalen. They are familiar with every turn.”

What chilled both Ruth and Terence was the wasteful death of Philip Fulshaw. George Trescanton had tried to divert suspicion on to Dr Morris, and had chosen an innocent man to be the instrument of his deception. George believed that Philip Fulshaw was taught by Morris. He hoped that the murder would heap enough suspicion on the doctor to condemn him. Then he could work out a way to be rid of Fred Carter.

“Clever Fred Carter,” Ruth said. “Fred, whom Eleanor loved. It began to eat away at Trescanton.” Her face was pale with thoughts of the crimes committed.

“Ruth,” Terence Greene said gently. His hand stole across the table almost unconsciously.

“More hot water?” the waitress asked suddenly, her ample form bumping against the sergeant’s chair. He withdrew his hand just as the waitress noticed it and giggled.

“No, thank you.” Ruth examined the embroidery on the tablecloth, and the waitress waddled cheerfully away.

“Will Fred and Eleanor get through this?” she asked him, looking up to meet his gaze.

“They are in love.”

There was a long pause. Terence signalled for the bill.

“Well, the case is over,” he said.

Ruth tried to work out from his voice what he was feeling. Usually she could make a good guess at what a person was thinking. But now, as she looked at him, she found that she had no idea. For the first time in a long while she lost the nerve to speak.

He stood, tall and handsome in his uniform, his helmet in his hands.

“Shall I see you back to St Hilda’s, Ruth?” he asked.

“I have errands,” she said. There was a dull pain in the region of her heart.

“Of course.” He nodded several times. “If I should, um, have need of advice on a case that may emerge at a later . . .”

Ruth looked up.

“Yes?” she said.

He frowned, and then he sat down again.

“I clean forgot,” he said, leaning towards her across the little round table, “that the chief inspector has had several most annoying visits from a librarian at the Duke Humphrey Library.”

“Oh, yes?” Ruth sat forward, her pretty chin tilted towards the sergeant in a way that almost made him lose his train of thought.

“The man is convinced that something sinister is going on with the books. It’s sure to be nothing. But one never knows.”

Ruth raised a hand and looked about for the waitress. She had a sudden desire for that hot water.

“Yes, indeed,” she said. “One never knows.”

The End.


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