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Unformatted text preview: out much difficulty. No suspicious strangers been hanging about anywhere?' 'Oh!' I said suddenly.
'What is it, doctor?' 'I met a man this evening - just as I was turning out of the gate. He asked me the way
to Fernly Park.' 'What time would that be?' 'Just nine o'clock. I heard it chime the hour as I was turning
out of the gate.' 'Can you describe him?' I did so to the best of my ability.
The inspector turned to the butler.
'Anyone answering that description come to the front door?' 'No, sir. No one has been to the house at all
this evening.' 'What about the back?' 'I don't think so, sir, but I'll make inquiries.' He moved towards the
door, but the inspector held up a large hand.
'No, thanks. I'll do my own inquiring. But first of all I want to fix the times a little more clearly. When was
Mr Ackroyd last seen alive?' 'Probably by me,' I said, 'when I left at - let me see about ten minutes to
nine. He told me that he didn't wish to be disturbed, and I repeated the order to Parker.' 'Just so, sir,'
said Parker respectfully.
'Mr Ackroyd was certainly alive at half-past nine,' put in Raymond, 'for I heard his voice in here talking.'
'Who was he talking to?' 'That I don't know. Of course, at the time I took it for granted that it was Dr
Sheppard who was with him. I wanted to ask him a question about some papers I was engaged upon,
but when I heard the voices I-remembered that he had said he wanted to talk to Dr Sheppard without
being disturbed, and I went away again. But now it seems that the doctor had already left?' I nodded.
'I was at home by a quarter past nine,' I said. 'I didn't go out again until I received the telephone call.'
'Who could have been with him at half-past nine?' queried the inspector. 'It wasn't you, Mr - er ' 'Major
Blunt,' I said.
'Major Hector Blunt?' asked the inspector, a respectful tone creeping into his voice.
Blunt merely jerked his head affirmatively.
'I think we've seen you down here before, sir,' said the inspector. 'I didn't recognize you for the moment,
but you were staying with Mr Ackroyd a year ago last May.' 'June,' corrected Blunt.
'Just so, June it was. Now, as I was saying, it wasn't you with Mr Ackroyd at nine-thirty this evening?'
Blunt shook his head.
'Never saw him after dinner,' he volunteered.
The inspector turned once more to Raymond.
'You didn't overhear any of the conversation going on, did you, sir?' 'I did catch just a fragment of it,' said
the secretary, 'and, supposing as I did that it was Dr Sheppard who was with Mr Ackroyd, that fragment
struck me as distinctly odd. As far as I can remember, the exact words were these. Mr Ackroyd was
speaking. "The calls on my purse have been so frequent of late" - that is what he was saying - "of late,
that I fear it is impossible for me to accede to your request..." I went away again at once, of course, so I
did not hear any more. But I rather wondered because Dr Sheppard ' ' - Does not ask for loans for
himself or subscriptions for others,' I finished.
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