Feathers says you were the only one he invited home for dinner and he told her to make a special effort and you were very rich and probably used to the best.’
Agatha felt herself grow red yet again with mortification.
Wilkes turned to Mrs Bloxby. ‘Was he particularly friendly with any other women in the village?’
‘It’s hard to say,’ she said wearily. ‘I think they mostly invited him for meals. Miss Jellop was one. Then there was Peggy Slither over in Ancombe. Oh dear, let me think. Old Colonel Tremp’s widow, Mrs Tremp, she lives up the hill out of the village in that converted barn. So many were smitten with him. He was very handsome.’
‘And what about the two of you? Did he offer to invest any money?’
‘No, he said he had a little money from a family trust. He didn’t ask us for any.’
‘How come you got him as a curate?’ asked Agatha.
‘I was told he’d had a nervous breakdown,’ said the vicar. ‘I was glad of help in the parish work.’
‘And did you find him helpful?’ asked Wilkes.
‘The first week was fine. But then he became – selective.’
‘What do you mean – selective?’
‘I found he had not been calling on any of the elderly or sick, unless – I now realize – they were wealthy. I took him to task for neglect of duty and he simply smiled and said of course he would attend to it. Then I fell ill and he took over the services in the church. I felt it churlish of me to dislike him – for I was beginning to dislike him – and I feared I was envious of the way he could pack the church.’
‘It looks as if he might have surprised a burglar,’ said Wilkes.
‘Or,’ interrupted Agatha suddenly, ‘been robbing the cash box himself.’
‘If he had a private income and if, as we fear, he had been taking money from gullible women, why would he want a few hundred pounds?’
‘He was very vain,’ said Mrs Bloxby. ‘It was because of his sermon that there was such a large donation. I think he probably saw that money as rightly his.’
‘And he had a key to the vicarage,’ said Wilkes, who had already established that fact. ‘Those long windows into the study, do you keep them locked?’
Mrs Bloxby looked guilty. ‘We do try to remember to lock them, but sometimes we forget. Up until recently, we never bothered to lock up at night, but with the police station having been closed down along with all the other local stations, there have been a lot of burglaries recently.’
‘So far, we can’t find any sign of a break-in and no fingerprints at all, not even the vicar’s,’ said Wilkes. ‘Excuse me, I’ll see how they’re getting on. Come with me, Reverend, and check again to see if there is anything else missing.’
The vicar, the policewoman and Wilkes went indoors. ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ asked Agatha, taking Mrs Bloxby’s hand in hers. ‘You’ve helped me so much in the past when horrible things have happened to me.’
‘You can find out who did it,’ said Mrs Bloxby. ‘Because they suspect Alf. You see, a lot of the women were smitten by Mr Delon, and before he died, there was a lot of talk about how Alf should step down and leave the sermons to Mr Delon. My husband,’ she sighed, ‘can be, well, not very tactful and when Miss Jellop suggested such an arrangement to him, he told her not to be such a silly woman. The police are already beginning to think that Alf was jealous of Mr Delon. He was in bed with me when the murder took place and so I told them, but they look at me in that way which seems to say, “You would say that.”’
‘We’ll do our best,’ said John. Agatha looked at him in surprise. She had forgotten he was there. A man as good-looking as John had no right to be so forgettable.
‘I think,’ pursued John, ‘that we should start off with whichever church he was at in New Cross in London before he came down here.’
‘But the police will dig all that up,’ protested Agatha.
‘I still think we
Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, Realm, Sands