A Case of Conspiracy in Clerkenwell 2 (Chapters 3 – 7)

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SPOILERS!!!

We already have our victim in this novel, a murder that takes place the night when Freddy attends the communist meeting in Clerkenwell Hall.

That night there are two meetings in the building. Apart from the communist gathering, there is weekly one, organized by the Women’s Abstinence Association. We get to meet Miss Olive Stapleton, a dragon of a woman, who mentions her suspicions about the people in the communist meeting, especially concerning Ivor Trevett and Anton Schuster, who she has seen whispering together. Miss Stapleton gives a hard time to Miss Phyllis Hodges, who seems to do nothing well in the eyes of Miss Stapleton. Apart from those two women, we get to meet Mrs Starkweather and her daughter Mildred Starkweather, who is friends with Freddy.

In the meeting Freddy attends, he sits next to a Miss Flowers, who used to attend the Temperance meetings, but when by mistake she once came into the room where the communist session was taking place, she found these meetings much more entertaining and left the Women’s Abstinence Association, which is something Miss Stapleton hasn’t forgiven her for.

Freddy hears the speech of Ivor Trevett, who is passionate and at the same time practical in his opinions. At the meeting he sees his friend St John, who asks him a strange favour. He is in love with his assistant, Ruth Chudderley, and wants to marry him. The problem is that Ruth doesn’t believe in marriage, but free love, and won’t marry him, so St John asks Freddy to talk to her about it. Freddy doesn’t know what he can say to this woman, who he just met, but St John is convinced that he can change her mind.

During the meeting he meets Professor Schuster and his wife Theresa, who is a bunch of years younger than her husband. He also meets Sidney Bishop, who is the treasurer of the party, and two men, Leonard Peacock and Ronald Dyer, who are friends of St John’s, but whose association with the communist party is suspect. Freddy also notices a look between Peacock and Mrs Schuster, and he suspects that these two might be playing behind Professor Schuster’s back. Theresa tells Freddy that he should attend one of the soirees she has at home, and Freddy nods his pleasure.

At the end of the meeting Freddy hears a man and a woman, talking about something happening in two weeks which will change everything, and Freddy wonders if this is what Jameson is trying to investigate.

Before he leaves the building, Miss Stapleton asks him to help them stacking the chairs for the next meeting. So Freddy does so, and gives a hand to Miss Hodges and Mildred. Mildred leaves with her mother earlier, and when all the work is done, Freddy walks Miss Hodges to her bus stop, and then he also escorts two other girls of the association to their door. When he walks back, there is still light in Clerkenwell, and he sees the shadow of a man stealthily leaving the place. Then Freddy decides to snoop around, and as he steps into the place, he can hear the voices of Schuster and Trevett. However, before he can find out anything, Peacock and Dyear appear and walk him out of the door.

The following day when he is at his desk, he hears that Miss Stapleton has been found dead in Clerkenwell. At once, he rushes to the place and the journalists who are already there tell him that the police won’t say a word. However, Freddy goes to talk to an inspector and mentions that he was in the hall the previous night and saw Miss Stapleton. Freddy tells them everything, except the part about returning to the hall and being intercepted by Peacock and Dyer. From the inspector he learns that Miss Stapleton was stabbed, and the box with the money was gone, so it seems that the motive for her murder was robbery.

Freddy isn’t convinced by the explanation, especially as he can tell that these police officers are not ordinary, but a special unit. So he calls Jameson, and he agrees to meet. Jameson tells him that the body of Miss Stapleton was dragged from the corridor into the hall where she was found, so it seems that the motive was other than robbery, because a thief would have fled straight away, without bothering to move the body. He also confirms Freddy’s suspicions about the police. They are a special unit because Miss Stapleton’s death might be connected to the investigation about the communists as the woman reported several times about her suspicions about Schuster and Trevett, and maybe she knew more than the police thought. The crime weapon is a paperknife that the woman had, and Jameson also tells Freddy that a piece of paper was found in her hand, which means that Miss Stapleton found a document of some sort, and maybe that is the reason why she was killed.

Freddy tells Jameson what he knows and what little he found out the day before, and Jameson says that he should try to get an invitation to the gathering Theresa Schuster told him about.

Interesting!!! I wonder who killed Miss Stapleton. It could be anybody. Maybe her death has nothing to do with the communists. Even Miss Hodges could be the killer for all we know. Freddy left her at the bus stop and when he walked back, the bus stop was empty, but who knows if she took the bus???

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