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Unformatted text preview: for money,' said the inspector musingly. 'It may be that here we have a very important clue.'
He turned to the butler. 'You say, Parker, that nobody was admitted by the front door this evening?' 'That's what I say, sir.' 'Then it seems almost certain that Mr Ackroyd himself must have admitted this
stranger. But I don't quite see ' The inspector went into a kind of day-dream for some minutes.
'One thing's clear,' he said at length, rousing himself from his absorption, 'Mr Ackroyd was alive and well
That is the last moment at which he is known to have been alive.' Parker gave vent to an apologetic
cough which brought the inspector's eyes on him at once.
'Well?' he said sharply.
'If you'll excuse me, sir. Miss Flora saw him after that.' 'Miss Flora?' 'Yes, sir. About a quarter to ten that
would be. It was after that that she told me Mr Ackroyd wasn't to be disturbed again tonight.' 'Did he
send her to you with that message?' 'Not exactly, sir. I was bringing a tray with soda and whisky when
Miss Flora, who was just coming out of this room, stopped me and said her uncle didn't want to be
disturbed.' The inspector looked at the butler with rather closer attention than he had bestowed on him
up to now.
'You'd already been told that Mr Ackroyd didn't want to be disturbed, hadn't you?' Parker began to
stammer. His hands shook.
'Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Quite so, sir.' 'And yet you were proposing to do so?' 'I'd forgotten, sir. At least I
mean, I always bring the whisky and soda about that time, sir, and ask if there's anything more, and I
thought - well, I was doing as usual without thinking.' It was at this moment that it began to dawn upon
me that Parker was most suspiciously flustered. The man was shaking and twitching all over.
'H'm,' said the inspector. 'I must see Miss Ackroyd at once.
For the moment we'll leave this room exactly as it is. I can return here after I've heard what Miss
Ackroyd has to tell me. I shall just take the precaution of shutting and bolting the window.' This
precaution accomplished, he led the way into the hall and we followed him. He paused a moment, as he
glanced up at the little staircase, then spoke over his shoulder to the constable.
'Jones, you'd better stay here. Don't let anyone go into that room.' Parker interposed deferentially.
'If you'll excuse me, sir. If you were to lock the door into the main hall, nobody could gain access to this
part. That staircase leads only to Mr Ackroyd's bedroom and bathroom. There is no communication with
the other part of the house. There once was a door through, but Mr Ackroyd had it blocked up. He liked
to feel that his suite was entirely private.' To make things clear and explain the position, I have appended
a rough sketch of the right-hand wing of the house.
The small staircase leads, as Parker explained, to a big bedroom made by two being knocked into one,
and an adjoining bathroom and lavatory.
The inspector took in the position at a glance. We went through into the large hall and he locked the door
behind him, slipping the key into his pocket....
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