The Unusual Suspects – Episode 7

© Andrew Joyner 2001
© Andrew Joyner 2001

EPISODE SEVEN::

It was five days before we were able to assemble the suspects. I must claim credit for the deception that accomplished this. We sent invitations to each of the people who had shared Miss Franklin’s carriage to attend a performance of Australis or The City of Zero at the Her Majesty’s. On the invitation was a request that after final curtain they remain in their seats for a private performance by Dame Nellie Melba. This skulduggery could not have been achieved were it not for the co-operation of the theatre manager. That was arranged by Victor. The manager, a small chap with an enormous polka-dot bow-tie and lavender jacket, claimed to know nothing of cricket, but said he liked Victor’s bodyline so much he would be delighted to help.

What a card! As if any man is uninterested in cricket! The show was a splendid piece of drama. It was set in Sydney in the year 2001. The sets depicted the Quay as it would be 100 years hence, with a huge bridge spanning the waters and the marble palaces of the Northern Shore rising on a green hill in the distance. When the performance finished, our suspects remained in their seats. As soon as the public had vacated the theatre, I took the stage. Borchegrevink and Thompson both recognised me and began threatening me with physical harm, until the sight of Trumper with his cricket bat silenced them. I then ran through the story of the missing document, holding nothing back. If we were to catch the knave responsible, we must, I felt, appeal to the goodwill of the innocent among the train travellers.

Daisy Bates was the first to speak, claiming that she was of unimpeachable character and therefore must be considered innocent. It was Freddy Lane, the gold medal swimmer with a physique that might have been carved from marble, who countered that she had dumped her husband and son and scooted back to England one year previously. Bates blushed, saying that was none of his business. “At any rate, young man,” she said, “it was you I saw ferreting in Miss Franklin’s bag while the rest of us were asleep – or so you thought!” Lane turned tomato red.

“I can explain,” he stammered. Our gazes were like hawks upon him. “The fact is, I was taking Miss Franklin’s underwear.” Mouths dropped open. He ran on hastily. “To raise money, my fellow swimmers and I are dressing up in women’s clothing and doing the cancan – I, um, caught one or two performances while in Paris for the Olympics. “We believe Sydney people will pay to see men in women’s clothing. Having no females in my orbit from whom I might acquire the, um, garb, I took Miss Franklin’s. I put two shillings in your bag to pay for it. I did not take your letter.”

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