Why Didn't They Ask Evans

Why Didn "Bobby Jones, the son of the vicar of Marchmolt – a Welsh seaside town – is playing game of golf with a family friend, Dr Thomas, on the local coastal course. Having reached the seventeenth hole Bobby chips the ball over the cliff edge. Looking over they see a man lying unconscious on a shelf below and climb down to him. The doctor states that he is badly injured and has no chance of survival. Nevertheless, he goes for help. Bobby stays behind to look after the man who, in his dying moments, comes round and asks, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?”Bobby finds in the man’s pocket a photograph of a young woman. He is desperate to get back home to play the organ at the evening service for his fussy and demanding father and when, in the gathering dusk, he is joined by another man from the course who introduces himself as Bassington-ffrench, he takes up the man’s offer to leave the corpse with him to enable him to get to his appointment.Three days later, after the man has been identified as Alex Pritchard who was on a walking holiday, an inquest is called at which the dead man’s sister, Amelia Cayman, gives evidence. She is supposedly the woman in the photograph but time has not been kind to her and she has aged badly after what is possibly some twenty years. After the inquest she and her husband want to know of any last words or messages Pritchard uttered but Bobby states there were none, forgetting the strange words he heard on the cliff. Talking with a friend of his, Frankie – Lady Francis Derwent – that evening, Bobby remembers the words and writes to the Caymans to tell them. He receives a polite but brief reply in the post.Bobby is out of work and about to take up a job with a old friend called “Badger” Beadon at a garage in London when he receives an astonishing letter from a firm in Buenos Aires offering him a job there on a salary of one thousand pounds a year – a fortune to Bobby however he has to turn the job down as he has promised Badger that he will work with him.A few days later, prior to setting off to London, he goes on a solitary walk and picnic during which he falls asleep. Waking up he eats his sandwiches and drinks his bottled beer and soon falls asleep again......only to wake up in hospital with morphine poisoning. He was found by a passer-by who was unable to wake him and carried him to a nearby farmhouse. Frankie has voiced her suspicions previously that Pritchard was pushed over the cliff and that Bobby’s job offer from South America seemed strange. Now she thinks this poisoning is an attempt at murder but he laughs these suspicions off. He changes his mind when he sees in an old issue of the local paper the photograph that was apparently found on Pritchard’s body and realises that it is not the same photograph he saw at the cliffs. He and Frankie discuss the possibility that it was Bassington-ffrench who swapped the photograph and that the Caymans are not related to the dead man. Their best plan to solve the mystery is to try and find Bassington-ffrench.That proves easy as he mentioned to Bobby on the cliff that he was in the area house-hunting and a local estate agent provides his address at a house called Merroway Court in Hampshire. Frankie dreams up a plan to get herself into his household there by staging an accident outside in which a mutual friend - who is a doctor - quickly attends as a ""passer-by"" and states she should be moved into the house as quickly as possible. Frankie will then ask Bobby to come down disguised as her chauffeur. She buys a decrepit car off Badger to accomplish this plan, which works well and gets Frankie into Mr and Mrs Henry Bassington-ffrench’s house as a recovering patient. The Bassington-ffrench who was on the cliff, Roger, is the brother of Henry and he arrives at the house several days later while Frankie is still ""recovering"", having become friendly with Mrs Sylvia Bassington-ffrench but also suspicious of her husband who she thinks may be on drugs - which would connect him to Bobby’s poisoned beer. Roger is young, friendly and charming and Frankie has trouble connecting him in her own mind to the events in Wales. Roger takes Frankie into his confidence and outlines his own suspicions that his brother is addicted to Morphine. One day, Frankie manages to turn the conversation one day to the death of the man in Wales and Roger admits that it was him who was there. Frankie produces a newspaper cutting of the event and Sylvia thinks the man looks like someone called Alan Carstairs. He was a traveller and big-game hunter who was introduced to the Bassington-ffrench’s by a mutual friend, Mrs Rivington, and was also a friend of John Savage, a millionaire who killed himself a short time ago after finding out he had terminal cancer. Frankie is introduced to two neighbours of the Bassington-ffrench’s – Dr Nicholson and his younger wife, Moira. Dr Nicholson runs a local sanatorium that treats drug addicts and Roger wants Henry to be installed there for a cure. Dr Nicholson is suspicious of Frankie’s car accident and he, in turn, arouses her suspicions. She writes to Bobby and gets him to investigate the sanatorium. He breaks into the grounds at night and comes across a young girl who says that she is in fear of her life – it is the same girl in the original photograph that Bobby found in the dead man’s pocket. Bobby has to leave the grounds before they are discovered.Several days later, the girl turns up at the local inn that Bobby is staying at, pretending to be Frankie’s chauffeur. She identifies herself to him – she is Moira Nicholson. She is convinced that her husband is trying to kill her and she admits to knowing Alan Carstairs before her marriage to the doctor. Bobby introduces her to Frankie and it is Moira who suggests that they simply ask Roger if it was he who took the photograph on the body of the dead man. At the next opportunity, Frankie does so and Roger admits that did indeed take the picture, recognising Moira and wanting to avoid scandal for a family friend at the inquest, but he did not put in the photograph of Mrs Cayman. She takes Roger fully into her confidence as he makes several intelligent suggestions about the direction their enquiries should next take, namely to trace the Caymans.A short time later, tragedy strikes when Henry Bassington-ffrench commits suicide by shooting himself in his study. Dr Nicholson is quickly on the scene – a bit too quickly for Frankie’s liking – to assist. Bobby and Frankie are determined to get Moira away from Nicholson and Frankie prepares to invite the lady to go away with her for a few days but the doctor tells her she is too late – his wife has supposedly already gone away but he doesn’t know where she is.Frankie is also unable to trace the Caymans but she is suddenly struck by a newspaper mention of the late John Savage. Mrs Rivington had also mentioned him when Bobby interviewed her as the reason why Carstairs gave that he was visiting England. Interested in Savage’s will, Frankie consults her own family solicitor in London and finds out that by coincidence Carstairs consulted him too. John Savage was staying with a Mr and Mrs Templeton when he became convinced he had cancer, although one specialist told him it wasn’t the case and he was perfectly well. When he died by suicide, he left a will leaving seven hundred thousand pounds to the Templetons who have now gone abroad - though no one knows where - and Carstairs was also on their trail, suspicious of the will.Bobby is again investigating Dr. Nicholson’s sanatorium at night when he is knocked out. Two days later, Frankie receives a note from him directing her to go to an isolated cottage that night. She does so but is herself captured, her hands and feet bound, and locked in an attic room of the cottage with a similarly bound Bobby. Their enemy makes his appearance – Dr. Nicholson, who tells them that after he has completed his arrangements they are going to die. Left alone again, Bobby suddenly realises that their captor wasn’t Nicholson but Roger in disguise. They are rescued by ""Badger"" Beadon who followed Bobby to Hampshire to borrow some money and recognised Roger who was disguised as a chauffeur and using Frankie’s car (he was at Oxford with Roger when there was a hushed-up scandal over a forged cheque of his father’s). They capture Roger and find Moira drugged in another room. By the time the police arrive, Roger has managed to escaped.Continuing their investigations over the mystery, Bobby and Frankie trace the witnesses to the signing of John Savage’s will. They are the former cook and gardener of Mr and Mrs Templeton (Mr Templeton being, in reality, Mr Cayman). They are told that Gladys, the parlour maid, wasn’t asked to witness the will – made the night before Savage died and realise that it must have been because she had previously served Savage during his stay – the cook and gardener hadn’t - and she would have realised that it was Roger who was taking his place in the ""death-bed"" after he forged the will for the witnesses' signature. They also discover that Gladys’ name was Evans, hence the reason for Carstairs’ question – ""Why didn't they ask Evans?""Tracing the parlour maid after her service with the Templeton’s and her subsequent marriage, they are amazed to find that she is now the housekeeper at the vicarage of Bobby’s father. This is the reason for Carstairs visit to Wales – his attempt to find Evans and it is also the reason for the first attempt on Bobby’s life – the villains couldn’t risk Bobby (who found Carstairs’ body) being in the same house as Evans. They rush back to Wales, afraid that Roger might go there to kill Evans. Instead they find Moira who is being followed by Roger and has come to Wales for help. Frankie though is not taken in and spoils Moira’s attempt to poison their coffee in the quiet country caf? they are in. Moira was Mrs Templeton and Roger’s co-conspirator. Attempting to shoot the Frankie and Bobby in the caf? when she is exposed, she is successfully overpowered.Several weeks later, Frankie receives a letter from Roger, posted in South America, in which he confesses his part. Moira was a successful international criminal and he got in with her. Moira deliberately had an affair with Savage to get at his money and the successful duping of him over his supposed cancerous condition, the impersonation of him and the forgery of his will then took place. Roger’s motive was the need for money and his desire to own Merroway Court – to this end he also murdered Henry who did not commit suicide. By incredible bad luck, Carstairs saw a photograph of Moira at Merroway and recognised her from a picture that Savage had posted to him as the girl he was having an affair with. Suspicious of the will, he traced Evans to Wales where Roger killed him. Bobby and Frankie realise they are in love with each other and become engaged."

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Authors: Agatha ChristiePages: 123     Year: 1934

Tags: agatha detective christie
   

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