The Let's Play Archive

Murder off Miami

by SelenicMartian

Part 2: Pages 16 to 30. Have the Jap cold between us.

: Today we're starting on the third report which is pretty big and will alone take three updates. There is a lot of talking.


The guests, with the exception of Lady Welter and the Bishop of Bude, who breakfasted in their respective cabins, assembled for breakfast in the dining saloon between 8.50 and 9.25. As each of them left their cabins these were locked after them and the keys brought to me.

They had finished breakfast by 9.50, so I took over a small writing room and proceeded to the examination of all parties, first recalling Mr. Rocksavage.


: Come in Mr. Rocksavage, come in. I am sorry to upset your trip like this but there are just one or two little things I have got to ask, so that we can clear this matter up. I hope it didn't give you a bad night.

: No, thank you. I slept perfectly well. Naturally I was a bit upset at anything like this happening on my yacht and it was a shock for my guests, too, but it wasn't as if Bolitho Blane was a personal friend of mine. As I had never met the man any distress I have been feeling is more general than particular.

: Sure, sure. Of course it's not like losing a personal friend. I quite see that. Now, Mr. Rocksavage, I want you to tell me the real reason for this trip.

: As I said last night, it's merely a pleasure jaunt, to get a little sunbathing and big-game fishing with a few friends.

: Contradiction! What would Inspector Jenks say?

: Mr. Bolitho Blane was not a friend of yours, so you say.

: Well, it's true I'd never met him, but we corresponded a lot and we happen to be in the same line of business, so I figured this was a good opportunity to make his acquaintance.

: Business. Now we're getting somewhere I think. Just what was the business you proposed to transact with Blane on this trip?

: It was a pleasure party I tell you.

: Now, Mr. Rocksavage, that won't do. I had a talk with Mr. Stodart last night and he seems to have known quite a bit about Blane's affairs, so I think you'd best be open with me.

: I see. Stodart let out the fact that Blane and I meant to do a deal if it were possible, did he? Well, that's true.

: That's better now. Why didn't you let me in on that the first time?

: Well, this is a quite unforeseen and very unfortunate affair. I am sure you will understand that the last thing I want in any undue publicity.

: Sure, sure.

: As you may know, I'm president of Rocksavage Consolidated, and the man behind its associated companies, which between them control the biggest share of the soap output in the world.

It is common knowledge, too, that Bolitho Blane was the big man of the British group, who are our principal competitors. A price war, ruinous to both parties, has been going on for years and I considered that the best thing to do was for Blane and me to get together, see if we couldn't arrange some sort of an amalgamation, and put our concerns on a more solid footing.

If anyone had come to know what was in the air the shares of both groups would have gone up like a sky rocket, and neither Blane nor I wanted that. It would have meant such a terrible slump afterwards if we'd failed to make a deal. You'll see, then, it was essential we should meet some place where nobody would get to know about it. I suggested my yacht, and Blane agreed. He was to have joined us before we left New York by sea plane, but he sent a message at the last moment saying that he couldn't make it, and would come aboard at Miami.

He came off in a tender just before 7 o'clock last evening and went straight down to his cabin. I have already told you what occurred after that.

: Thanks Mr. Rocksavage. That's fine. I can quite understand your not wishing your intended conference with Mr. Blane to get about, owing to its effect on the market. Now, tell me about these other guests of yours. Was it in any sense a pleasure trip, or were all of them concerned in this business with your and Blane?

: One or two were here on account of business.

: Which were they?

: Lady Welter. You'll have heard of her, I expect. She's the widow of the shipping man, Sir David Welter, who made a big pile in the war. He died soon after, but his widow's a wonderful business woman as well, although in many ways she's much more concerned with politics and social good. She runs a group of papers in Great Britain and they cost her a tidy packet I believe, but that's her business. She has an outsize income and so she can afford it. A lot of her money is tied up in my companies. In fact, she is my biggest individual shareholder and I value her opinion, so that's why I asked her to join us for this trip. She's and old friend of mine though and, quite outside any business operations, she's been my guest on this yacht and other places many times before this.

: Anyone else?

: Well, I suppose you'd include young Reggie Jocelyn. He's her son-in-law, and the old lady thinks a lot of him. Since he married the daughter she runs him around and asks his opinion on most things that she does.

: And the Jap?

: The book is from before the word became offensive, but give it a few years.

: Yes, he's business, too. I've never met him before yesterday, although we've corresponded.

: What part does he play?

: Well, he's a sort of unofficial representative of the Japanese government, and he's been playing ball with me for some time now on the proposition of our securing a monopoly of the Japanese market for our goods. He was playing ball with Blane, too, I don't doubt, anyhow neither of us had seen our way to close the deal up to date but I figured that, if Blane and I could get together, we'd have the Jap cold between us so we both postponed clinching matters until we'd had out talk. I asked the Jap along so that, if we settled things satisfactorily, we could tackle him together afterwards, and kill two birds at one sitting.

: Sounds like an odd guest. Dennis Wheatley was well-known for both detective and spy stories, but I'm not sure soap industry is something of interest to any intelligence.

: How about the others.

: They're just straight-forward guests who know nothing of the business which Blane and I were proposing to transact.

: Thank you Mr. Rocksavage. That makes the situation a whole lot clearer. I am afraid no one must go ashore yet, but I'll be seeing you when I've had a chat with these other people.

: There was a document right here, but I'll include it a bit later in the following interview.


: 'Morning Ringbottom.

: Good morning, sir.

: Have you been on board this ship long?

: Yes sir; ever since Mr. Rocksavage bought her, and before that, too, with the previous owner, Lord Foulkes. I am an ex-navy man and this was my first job on leaving the service.

: Good. Well, there are just one or two things I want to ask you about this affair that occurred last night. According to what you told me then, after you had been to Mr. Blane's suite to enquire if he wanted you to unpack, you went straight back to your pantry, id a few odd jobs there, and then read a book until the dinner bugle sounded. Now, is that correct?

: Yes sir, that's correct.

: You're quite sure you never left that pantry of yours? I'm not trying to pin anything on you, don't think that, but I want you to be quite certain that you're not making any mistakes.

: Wait a minute, sir: I did leave it just once, to slip up to the writing room to get some sheets of notepaper for the Japanese gentleman. He's asked for it earlier on, but I found the racks were empty and, as the chief steward had been ashore at Miami, the store room was locked. When the Jap rang for me again later, though, the chief steward was back again in his cabin and he gave me some from the store.

: What time was that?

: A bit before eight bells sir.

: Just before eight o'clock, eh? And, apart from that, you never left your pantry?

: No, that's the truth sir.

: Who else was on duty at that time?

: Only me sir. The other stewards who help with the cabins was at their job of laying up for dinner then; and the stewardess, Maud Briggs, what would have been on duty, went down with shingles two days ago, so she's in the sick bay. Fortunately there's only three ladies aboard, and two of them has their own maids, so they're looking after the other lady between them.

: Can you bring anybody to prove that you were in your pantry during all this time?

: Well, may be it's lucky for me sir. In the ordinary way I wouldn't be able to, the stewardess being ill, but, as it happens, I can. Syd Jenks, the ship's carpenter, was doing a job of work in the passage way during the whole of that time and we passed the time of day, as you may say, quite frequent, while he was at it. He knows I never left my pantry, except to get the Jap his notepaper, not before the dinner bugle went.

: Oh, crap. There is a Jenks on board.

: Did it strike you as unusual that Mr. Blane's cabin door was locked when you went to tidy it up?

: No sir, not particular. Visitors varies, some's open handed, some's not. Some's suspicious, some's not. Visitors who haven't sailed with us before sometimes locks their cabin doors for the first day or two out, then they don't bother no more. I didn't think nothing of it. I just unlocked the door with my master key and went straight into the room.

: Is it me, or is Ringbottom's grammar getting worse with each minute?

: That's good. Now, from your pantry you can't see the door of Mr. Blane's suite, can you?

: No sir. You see my pantry's an inside cabin, so I can't see round the corner along the passage way.

: Here's the document page from earlier. Now we have a plan.

: No. That's quite obvious from the ship's plans I've got in front of me. So you wouldn't be able to see if anyone approached Mr. Blane's cabin from the lounge, would you?

: No sir.

: But you would be able to see anybody who came the other way, from the forward companion-way, which leads to the upper and lower decks, wouldn't you?

: I would that sir.

: Was your pantry door open during this time?

: Yes sir.

: Now, think carefully, Ringbottom. Did you see any member of the crew, or any other person, come either up or down the companion-way and pass your door, going in the direction of Mr. Blane's cabin between 7.45 and 8.30 last night?

: Only Miss Rocksavage's maid sir, going along to dress her, no one else.

: But you would have, if they had?

: Yes sir. I couldn't have helped seeing them.

: Right, That's all I wanted to know.


: Good morning Jenks.

: Good morning sir.

: What do you know about Devil worship? ... I am not doing the portrait.

: How long have you been on board this ship?

: Just on two years sir. Ever since Captain Derringham took over. Her brought me with him from his previous ship, the Southern Cross.

: Right. Now, d'you mind telling me where you were between 7.30 and 8.30 last night.

: I was fitting new skirting boards to the stewardess's pantry on A. deck from just before 7.30 sir.

: From where you were working could you see the door of Mr. Blane's suite?

: No sir. I was working on the starboard side, just across from the for'ard companion-way.

: Was the companion-way in your view the whole time?

: Yes sir.

: Did you see anyone go up or down it during the time you were working there?

: Lady Welter's maid went down below just after I set to work.

: Just after 7.30, eh?

: This game book likes repeating itself like a Japanese stealth action classic.

: Yes sir. Then Nellie Orde, Miss Rocksavage's maid, came up to dress her mistress much later on, about ten past eight I should say.

: Anyone else?

: No sir.

: Could you see the entrance of the steward's pantry from where you were?

: Yes sir. It was just across the companion-way on the portside.

: Was anyone there, d 'you know?

: Yes sir. The cabin steward, Mr. Ringbottom.

: Was he in the pantry the whole time you were at your job?

: Yes sir, except when he went to answer the Japanese gentleman's bell, and then off to the chief steward to get some notepaper from him out of the store. He remarked, I remember, about the slackness of the lounge steward in letting it run out in the writing room because someone else had asked for some earlier on in the afternoon, when the chief steward was ashore, and there wasn't none.

: What time was that?

: I'm afraid I couldn't say sir.

: Can you give me any idea.

: I'd hardly like to say the time, you see I didn't notice partic'lar, being busy on my job.

: Was it before, or after, eight?

: Oh, before eight. Maybe about a quarter to, but I wouldn't like to say for certain. Ringbottom was away about five minutes then, but all the rest of the time he was in his pantry because, although we couldn't see each other, every now and then we exchanged remarks.

: Did you see anybody else in the passage-way during the time you were working there?

: Only the Bishop sir, when he went up. That was at eight o'clock, because I heard the ship's bell strike immediately after.

: But various other people must have been coming down from the lounge or going back up to it, during that time.

: That's true, of course, but the companion-way to the lounge is way aft, nowhere near where I was. I heard cabin doors shutting now and then, but you see I had my back to the passage-way most of the time and I didn't take much notice what happened behind me, being busy with my job.

: What time did you stop work?

: Just after the dinner bugle sounded at 8.30.

: Right. That's all I want to know. Thank you, Jenks.

: You're welcome sir.

: I apologize. Now, for two short examinations of people with faces.


: I see they didn't let Neame flash her.

: Good morning Miss Rocksavage. Come right in.

: Good morning.

: Come and sit down. There are just a few questions I want to ask about this unfortunate business last night.

: Certainly; anything I can do .......

: Would you just tell me, Miss Rocksavage, what you were doing, and where you were, from the time the yacht sailed until you went in to dinner.

: When the ship left Miami I was sitting on the port deck with Mr. Jocelyn.

: Did you see Mr. Blane come aboard?

: No. We were on the port side of the ship: that is, we were facing out to sea. We sat there until about 7.15, and then we both went below to our cabins. I got interested in a book, so I was a little late in changing and didn't get up to the lounge until about 8.40. The other guests were all there, except Mr. Bolitho Blane and his secretary, neither of whom I had met, and I was just looking round for my father when the steward came up with a message from him. He said to me, "Mr. Rocksavage says, Miss, would you please take everybody in to dinner. Mr. Blane has had a heart attack, so we are returning to Miami."

: And what happened then?

: I did as my father had asked me to and I didn't know anything about what really happened until father told us all after we had anchored off Miami again, just a few minutes before the police came on board.

: Did you know of any special reason for this trip?

: No.

: Are you certain of that?

: Well, it's just a pleasure trip, like lots of others we've had on this yacht, but as there were several strangers on board I naturally assumed that some big business deal would be discussed during the time were were at sea. Father often uses these trips to entertain people with whom, if he were seen ashore, comment might be aroused which would affect the markets.

: I see. Thank you, Miss Rocksavage. That'll be all for the moment.


: The embodiment of smug. It's hard not to be with socks like those.

: Good morning, Mr. Jocelyn. Now, I'd just like you to tell me anything you can about this unfortunate affair last night.

: I'm afraid I can't tell you anything.

: Well, let's hear what you were doing between the time of the ship's sailing and your going in to dinner.

: When the ship sailed I was sitting on the deck with Miss Rocksavage. We stayed there until the ship was well out to sea and somewhere about 7.30 we went down to our cabins to change for dinner. I came up to the lounge at 8.30 and Mr. Rocksavage arrived soon after. A steward spoke to him and he went below, then a message came up that Mr. Blane was ill, so we were returning to Miami. After that we went in to dinner.

: Do you always take an hour to change your clothes?

: Sometimes an hour, and sometimes two if I feel like it.

: No need to get fresh now. Were you changing all that time?

: I don't see what the devil it's got to do with you but, if you must know, I spent a long time lying in my bath.

: Thanks. Now, this trip. You were in on the object of it, weren't you?

: I don't understand what you mean.

: Oh, yes you do. Bolitho Blane and Carlton Rocksavage were using this as a meeting ground to patch up a truce in the commercial war they've been waging.

: Oh; that. Yes.

: That, yes! And how much more did you know about it?

: Nothing, except that Lady Welter, my mother-in-law, has very large holdings in the Rocksavage companies, and that she always likes me to stand by so that I can advise her where her business interests are concerned.

: Right. That'll do for the moment, Mr. Jocelyn.

: Well, that's enough talking for now. Next time: we hear someone who actually saw Blane come on board.