The Crossing

-- Written by AD



What is real?  Maybe everything …J



JUNE, 2000


“… and I quite agree with you, his books are perfectly awful.  I should never have left those journals sitting out so carelessly for him to find, but what’s done is done, and for reasons best known to yourself, I am disinclined to do anything about it.

“I close, dear Brigid, with the hope that this letter has found you well and your family prosperous.  Drop me a line or two when you can; I know you are very busy as always, so take your time.  Take care and best of luck to you!

                                                                Yours always in friendship,

                                                                                                Jessica Fletcher


            Brigid – she had not gone by that name in many years, and it felt strange to be addressed that way again – shook her head and set down the letter with a smile.  Despite the entreaty to write only when she had the time, there was always something about Jessica’s correspondence that prompted an immediate letter in return.  For Jessica, there was always time.

She sat down at her desk overlooking her gardens to compose a reply, and as her fountain pen moved across the paper, her memories flew back to when she had first met the woman who would come to command such importance in her life.  They’d been children back then, on the same ship, fleeing the Second World War …


AUGUST, 1940

“Well, I could use someone to keep an eye out for U-boats …”

            The first officer of the Duchess of Atholl considered the ten year old twin boys who were looking eagerly up at him.  Their tired-looking older sister, Brigid, stood off to one side.  The three children, like so many of the passengers aboard the Canadian-Pacific ocean liner, were British refugees, fleeing the war that was currently raining bombs over London.

But the Duchess, which the Canadian government had conscripted into service as a troop ship the year before, didn’t offer many amenities at present for restless boys.  Having just dropped off a battalion of Canadian soldiers headed for battle, she was heading back to Montreal to pick up another regiment, carrying with her as many civilians as could be fit aboard.

And now, three days out from Liverpool with a great deal of Atlantic yet to cross, the twins were starting to get bored.  The first officer’s idea of setting them to the task of watching for submarines had been a spontaneous idea, but, judging from the enthusiasm of the boys, an excellent one.

“Yes,” the captain mused, shooting a wink at Brigid, “we definitely need men to look out for U-boats.  I don’t suppose you lads would be up to the task?”

            In no time at all, they were stationed at the rail, scanning the ocean for periscopes.


            Brigid sighed with relief.  With the twins safely preoccupied with their special assignment, she was at least temporarily relieved of the duty of looking after them and seeing that they stayed out of trouble.  With the burden of responsibility lifted from her shoulders, she set out for a walk around the decks to enjoy some rare time alone.

At length she came up near the bow of the ship, where she saw a young girl standing on the bottom rung of the deck railing, feeding a sea gull bits of roll left over from lunch.  Her long golden hair blew back from her face in the ocean breeze as she stretched out her hand with the proffered piece of stale bread, concentrating on the gull with such intensity that she didn’t notice Brigid standing a few paces off, watching her.

 At length the gull grew impatient with circling the little girl and dove down, snatching the bread in his bill and swallowing it as he flew away.  She watched him go with satisfaction, then, noticing Brigid for the first time, stepped down from the rail to face her.

Brigid took a step back in amazement: looking at this girl was as if someone had held up a mirror to her own not-so-distant past.  The face she saw was very much like her own, only a little younger – Brigid guessed that the girl was somewhere between eight and ten years old.  But the wide, somber blue eyes were much older – like herself, this was a child who had come through the horror of the London blitz and emerged much older than her years.

The little girl was equally surprised, but recovered just a little bit quicker.  “Who are you?” she asked bluntly.

“Who are you?” Brigid countered.

“I asked first.”

“I’m Brigid,” she said.  “Why are you staring at me like that?”

“Because you remind me so much of my cousin Emma, just a little older,” the girl said.  “My name’s Jessica.  How old are you?”

“Fourteen,” said Brigid.  “And it’s funny, I was just thinking how much you look like I did when I was your age.”

“That makes three, then.  Mother says it’s strong genes.  S’pose we’re related somehow?”

“No, it’s probably just a coincidence,” Brigid said.

Jessica shrugged, and fell into step beside Brigid.  Finding her amiable and refreshingly mature company, Brigid let her accompany her on the rest of her walk.  By the time they had reached her starting point, they had found out that they were both from London, and both were fleeing the war with their families – Brigid with her mother and brothers, Jessica with her parents.

“My father’s too old for the draft,” Jessica explained as they walked.  “So we sold everything we had to pay for the passage and all came on together.”

“We’re going to live in New York City,” Brigid said.  “Mum says it’s bigger than London.  I can’t wait to see it!  It sounds so exciting.  Where are you going once we get to Montreal?”

“To Maine.  My mother has friends who live in Cabot Cove, so that’s where we’re going.”

“Sounds dull,” Brigid remarked.

Jessica looked up at her.  “Not to me,” she said with a sweet smile.

“Well, to each their own.”

They started on a second circuit of the decks, Jessica running her hand along the smooth, cool metal of the railing as she gazed out over the sea.  “What d’you want to be when you grow up?” she asked suddenly.

“Me?  I want to be an actress – just like my mother,” Brigid said promptly. “What about you?”

Jessica thought about it for a minute, pushing her windblown hair out of her eyes.  “I want to be a storyteller.”

“You mean a writer,” Brigid corrected her.

Jessica made a face.  “Like James Joyce and Wuthering Heights and all that, you mean,” she said.  “No – I don’t want to write boring stuff, I want to be a storyteller.”

Brigid looked at her in surprise. “You’ve read Wuthering Heights already?”

“Of course.  Hasn’t everybody?”

The child, Brigid decided, spent entirely too much time with her books.


Every night aboard the Duchess of Atholl there was an air raid drill and blackout, just in case they should ever run afoul of the German air squadrons.  That night was no exception, and as the bells rang Brigid, who had been catching up on her reading in the ship’s small library, started toward the dining hall that her section of the ship had been assigned to report to.  Suddenly Jessica appeared at her side and tugged at her sleeve.

“Come with me,” she said.

“I can’t come with you,” Brigid protested.  “We have to get to the dining hall for the drill.”

“Forget the drill – this is the only time you can really see it,” Jessica insisted.

“See what?”

“The fairy lights!”

Despite herself, Brigid was curious to see what she was talking about, and let Jessica take her by the hand and lead her through the ship’s corridors until they came out on the stern deck.  By now all the exterior lights on the ship had been put out and the portholes covered over, and it was absolutely dark except for the light of the stars.

Jessica ran to the rail and looked over the stern.  “There,” she said, pointing down.

Brigid joined her and followed her gaze down to the water.  The ship was moving along at a good clip, and the sea was churned up to white foam in her wake.  Looking at it, Brigid could see why Jessica was so excited:  in the darkness, the wake glowed with phosphorescent greens and blues – a natural phenomenon, she knew, but under the stars it was easy to set that knowledge aside and believe, as Jessica did, in fairy lights.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

“Blackout’s the only time you can really see them,” Jessica told her.  “I haven’t actually seen a fairy mermaid yet, just the lights, but I’ll keep looking.”

“Well, we’d better get back.”

Jessica reluctantly pulled herself away from the rail to follow Brigid back below decks, when they heard the sound of footsteps and froze.

“We’re not supposed to be out here,” Brigid whispered.  “Come on, let’s hide before they catch us!”

They slipped around the corner of an on-deck storage shed, and crouched in the shadows, hoping the darkness would be enough to conceal them.

The footsteps drew nearer, until they could make out the low murmur of voices.

“I told you, everything is under control,” the first man, who seemed to have a British accent, said.

The second man’s country of origin was more obscure, owing to the fact that he kept his voice low, even though they thought they were alone on the deck.

“I hope that it is,” he said, “because certain parties will not be happy if Randolph is not dead before we are halfway across the Atlantic.”

“You don’t trust me?”

The second man didn’t answer – instead, the footsteps began to move off again in the direction from which they came.

Jessica turned to Brigid, her eyes wide.  “Did you hear that?  They’re talking about a murder!”

“It would certainly seem so,” said Brigid uneasily.  “We’d better go tell someone, security, or a member of the crew.”

She started to get up, but Jessica clutched her arm and dragged her back down.

“No!” she hissed.  “We’ll get into trouble for sure!”

“Well, we can’t just go back inside and pretend we didn’t hear that,” Brigid retorted.

“Of course not!” said Jessica emphatically.  “It’s just that … I think I have a better idea – one that won’t get us into trouble.  Come on!”

She seized her hand and pulled Brigid along into her scheme.


In the dimly lit corridor, Brigid, having listened to Jessica’s plan, looked up at the door of the ship’s purser’s office and then down at the little girl, doubt plainly written on her face.

“You think this is a better idea?” she asked incredulously.  “You think this won’t get us into trouble?  Not likely, I’m thinking!”

Jessica scoffed.  “Have a little faith, Brigid.”

“Well, why do I have to be the one who does the talking?” Brigid demanded in a furious whisper.

“Because you’re the actress, remember?  You’ll be much more convincing than I could ever be.  Ready?”

Before Brigid could answer, Jessica had run off down the hall and ducked around the corner.  She sighed, and knocked on the purser’s door.

A tall man in a crew officer’s crisp uniform opened it and looked down at Brigid.  “Yes?  What are you doing up here?”

“Please, sir,” Brigid said, looking forlorn, “I’m lost, I can’t find my family.”

“Where did you lose them?”

Brigid thought fast – it had to be someplace where Jessica could catch up with her afterwards.  “The library,” she said.  “Can you tell me how to get back there, sir, please?”

“Yes.  Turn right at the end of this corridor, then left down two flights of stairs, then halfway down that corridor, and it’s your second door on the left after the fire hose.”

Brigid looked hopelessly confused.  “Second left down this corridor …” she began.

“No, no, no,” the purser said, then sighed in exasperation.  “It’ll be easier if I just take you down there myself.”  He took Brigid by the hand, and together they went off down the hall, the carpet muffling their footsteps.

It had been a very convincing act.  Jessica waited until she heard the door to the stairwell slam shut, then ran back to the purser’s office and tried the door.  She was in luck – the purser, anticipating that he would be gone only a few minutes, had left it open and unlocked.  If luck was with her, it would take her only a few minutes to find what she was looking for.

What she was looking for – she found it tacked up on a corkboard above the purser’s desk – was the ship’s passenger manifest, the list of who was on board and what cabin number they were assigned.  Standing on the purser’s chair, she ran down the list with her finger until she hit upon the name ‘Randolph, Julian,’ Cabin 204.


“That’s jolly good, we know there’s a Mr. Randolph on board in Cabin 204,” Brigid said when Jessica, breathless from running, caught up with her in the ship’s library.  “What do we do about it?”

“We go warn him, silly,” she replied.  “And the sooner the better.  I think now would be a good time, don’t you?”

That was how Brigid came to find herself standing with Jessica outside of the door of Cabin 204.  She could tell that the little girl was simply bursting with the news, yet retained her English composure.  She stood on tip-toe, and knocked quietly at the door.

It was opened by a tall Englishman dressed in a business suit with hair greying at the temples, so tall that both Jessica and Brigid had to look up to see his face.

“Good evening, ladies,” Julian Randolph said.  “May I help you?”

For the first time Brigid saw that Jessica was trembling – though whether from fear, excitement, or just plain stage fright she couldn’t tell.  But when she spoke, it was with an air of authority that she never would have expected from a girl her age.

“Sir,” Jessica said quietly, so as not to attract the attention of the other passengers, “we’re so sorry to bother you, but there are two men aboard who are planning to kill you.”

Mr. Randolph looked down at her with his mouth agape.  Afraid of what he would do next, Brigid jumped in:  “Please don’t laugh, sir,” she said.  “My friend is right – I heard it too.”

“It is nothing to laugh about,” he said.  “Please – won’t you come in?”

He ushered the girls into his cabin, where another, younger man was busy at a table collecting plans and diagrams back into an attaché case.

“This is my aide, Mr. Malcolm,” Mr. Randolph said.  He sat down in a chair, and the girls nervously took seats across from him after introducing themselves.  “Now, then,” he said gently. “Perhaps you had better start from the beginning.”

“It’s like this, sir,” Brigid began.  “We were on deck, near the stern, when two men came along, talking.  They didn’t see us – it was during the blackout – and we overheard them talking about a murder.  It was your name they mentioned.”

Randolph looked at them intently.  “These two men – did you by any chance see them?”

Brigid shook her head.  “No, sir. It was too dark, and we were trying to stay out of sight.”

After hearing their story, Randolph took a breath and let it out, considering the unusual situation.  At length he seemed to come to a decision, and said, “Can you young ladies keep a secret?”

“Cross my heart, hope to die,” Jessica said emphatically.

“Well, I certainly hope it shan’t come to that.  The truth is, Jessica and Brigid, some people might have good cause to want to harm me.  I am an Admiral with Her Majesty’s Navy.  I’m on my way to consult with the Canadian government about the war.”

Jessica eyed him doubtfully.  “You don’t look like an Admiral,” she said flatly.

Randolph laughed.  “And how do you think an Admiral should look?”


Brigid winced at this display of the blunt honesty of youth, but Julian Randolph seemed to take it all in stride.

“Perhaps not,” he said.  “And no doubt Mr. Malcolm doesn’t look like an Admiral’s aide.  But that’s because we’re in disguise, you see.”

“Have you got any proof?”

“See, I have a little Union Jack on my tie clip,” Malcolm said, showing it to Jessica.  “Does that help?”

Jessica was plainly insulted – here she was discussing serious matters, and this man was addressing her as if she were five.  She turned away from him with childish disgust and focused her attention on Randolph, who, despite Brigid’s plea, was finding it difficult not to laugh in the face of such gravity from a little girl.

“I guess we’ll have to trust you,” she said at last.

“Good,” Randolph said.  “Now, think back – this is very important.  You didn’t see the two men, but you heard them.  What can you remember?”

Brigid thought back.  “One of them was smoking a pipe,” she said.  “I could smell it from where we were hiding.  And I remembered it because it was a strange sort of tobacco, not at all like what Daddy used to smoke.”

“Excellent,” said Randolph approvingly.  “What about you, Jessica?  What do you remember?”

Jessica squeezed her eyes shut as she concentrated.  “I could hear the footsteps,” she said, “but there was something else, too – an extra tap, not a footstep.  Like a cane tapping the deck.”

Admiral Randolph sat back and smiled at her.  “Good!  See, we’re getting somewhere already.  We now know these things: one of the men smokes an odd flavour of tobacco, and one walks with the aid of a cane.”

Jessica looked very pleased, but Mr. Malcolm was unimpressed.

“It’s a start, I’ll give you that,” he said doubtfully, “but think about how many people aboard the Duchess use a cane or a walking stick – a great many more than smoke German tobacco, that’s for certain!”

“Nevertheless, one must start somewhere,” the admiral said, getting up and escorting them to the door.  “Ladies, I thank you for the warning.  And I promise I will be on my guard every moment.”

When the girls had gone, Randolph turned to Malcolm and smiled.

“What wisdom comes from the mouths of children,” he said.  “What do you think?”

“We had received reports of rumors that you were a target, sir,” Malcolm said.  “And it is entirely possible that a German spy has managed to slip aboard despite our security.  Or the girls could be mistaken.”

“I don’t think so,” Randolph said.  “The younger one was quite vehement about it.”

“Cute little moppets,” Malcolm sighed.  “I do hope they stay out of harm’s way.”


Once outside in the corridor, Brigid let out a breath.  “Well, thank goodness that’s over and done with.”

Jessica looked at her.  “Over and done with?” she said, “Oh, no, Brigid, it’s only just beginning!”

“Whatever do you mean?  We warned the Mr. Randolph, we’ve done our part.”

“Not yet, we haven’t.  It’s past my bedtime now, but tomorrow morning you and I have to start looking for those two men.”

“Why?” Brigid said.  “I’m sure the admiral knows what he’s doing.”

“He doesn’t know everything,” Jessica said.  “He doesn’t know what that cane sounded like, he doesn’t know what that odd tobacco smelled like.  Only we know that.  It’s not much to go on, but like Mr. Randolph said, it’s a start.  See you in the morning.”

With that she ran off ahead down the corridor, leaving Brigid staring speechless after her.


There was something compelling about Jessica, something that prompted Brigid to look for her after breakfast to follow through on the younger girl’s plans for their day.

“I really should be watching the twins,” she said feebly as Jessica started off along the deck.

“The twins are busy looking for U-boats,” Jessica said.  “Leave them to it - we have other things to do.”

“And what, exactly, are we doing?”

“Looking for those two men.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for people with canes, while you test the air for that tobacco.”

For most of the morning they clambered around the ship, looking in every public room and checking every deck, but so far they had come up with nothing.  At length Jessica stopped and sighed.

“I’m getting hungry and I promised Mum and Dad I’d be back at the cabin by lunchtime,” she said regretfully.  “After that they’ll make me take a nap.  We’ll have to try again later.”

Brigid was inclined to agree with her.  Besides, the twins really did need checking on – surely they couldn’t scan the seas for U-boats forever.  But just then the wind swirled around them in a little eddy, and she stopped.

“What is it?” Jessica asked her.

“I think … I’m not sure, but I think I just caught a whiff of that tobacco smoke.”

Jessica’s blue eyes grew wide with excitement.  “Really?” she squeaked.  “Where?”

Brigid scanned the deck.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “There’s no one about – just lifeboats.”

“Maybe someone’s hiding in one of the lifeboats,” Jessica suggested.  “That’s what they do in books, anyway.”

Brigid refrained from reminding Jessica that this was real life, not a story, and went along as the younger girl examined each lifeboat along the deck in turn.  Following her lead, Brigid kept alert for the telltale smell of smoke.  Then, as they approached the last one, she stopped and sniffed the air.

“I can smell it,” she said.  “It’s very faint, but I’m sure of it.”

Jessica went up to the last lifeboat, then drew back.  Brigid,” she said in a wavering voice, “I think there’s a bit of blood on this canvas.”

Her heart starting to beat faster, Brigid took a closer look, and nodded, confirming Jessica’s suspicions.  Jessica took a deep breath, and reached for the canvas.  Brigid, afraid of what might be lurking under it, grabbed her hand.

“No, don’t,” she said.  “We don’t know what’s in there.”

Jessica fixed her with a look.  “I have to,” she said.

Brigid met her blue eyes, and abruptly let go of her hand.  Jessica took a quick peek under the canvas top then quickly turned away, her face white, and ran as hard as she could down the deck.

Brigid raced after her in alarm, catching up with her when the little girl stopped to catch her breath, having placed considerable distance between herself and the lifeboat.

“Jessica!” she said. “Jessica, what did you see?”

Jessica took a deep, hitching breath to steady herself.  “It has to be one of the two men we heard,” she said. “He’s dead, shot through the head … oh, Brigid, it was so awful!  And there was something else …”

“What?”  Brigid offered her a handkerchief, suddenly feeling very maternal and protective toward the child.

Jessica accepted the handkerchief and twisted it around in small, anxious hands.  “It was very odd,” she said, a distant look on her face.  “I could see his palm, and there was an imprint of the Union Jack on it – but I don’t know why.”  She fell silent, thinking. Brigid held her breath, afraid to say anything; an air of anticipation seemed to shut out the rest of the world.

Suddenly Jessica broke the silence.  “Maybe I do know why,” she said.  “But if I’m right, we don’t have a lot of time.”  She took Brigid by the hand and pulled her along the deck after her.


They told the first crewmember they came upon about the body in the lifeboat, then slipped away and allowed the deckside excitement sure to follow to happen without them.  Jessica had other things on her mind, and the distraction was just what she needed.

“You need to be an actress again, Brigid,” she said as they went below decks, heading for Admiral Randolph’s cabin.  “When we find a stewardess, you need to convince her to let us into the Admiral’s cabin.”


Jessica gave her hand a little squeeze.  “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

Brigid rolled her eyes.  “What are we supposed to be looking for there?” she asked.  “It’s the tobacco man that’s dead, not the Admiral!”

“Not yet,” Jessica said.  “That’s why we have to hurry.”

Around the next corner they found a member of the housekeeping staff piling blankets into a utility closet.  Brigid reluctantly approached her, and said,

“Excuse me, ma’am – my sister and me, we’ve been locked out of our Pappa’s cabin.”

“Can’t you go find your father and ask him for the key?” the stewardess asked.

“No, ma’am.  Y’see, we don’t know where he is, and we haven’t time to look for him, because my little sister here’s late for her nap, and she’s starting to get pouty.”

Jessica did her best to look tired and pouty.

The stewardess smiled.  “Well now, we can’t have that,” she said.  “Which cabin is your Pappa’s?”

“That one there, 204,” Brigid said.  “Thank you, ma’am.”

The housekeeper flipped through the key ring on her belt until she came up with the master key to all the cabins on the deck.  She unlocked the door of the Admiral’s cabin and opened it for the girls.

“There you go, now,” she said. “You get your sister into bed for that nap, before she throws a hissy-fit.”  And she left them to return to her chores.

Hissy-fit!” Jessica exploded when the door closed behind her. “I do not throw hissy-fits!”

“You’re coming close to throwing one right now,” Brigid pointed out.  “Come now, what are we looking for?”

Jessica took a deep breath.  “For a cane,” she said.  “I think that somewhere in here, there must be a cane.”


“Because Mr. Malcolm was the other man we heard last night, the one with the walking stick I heard tapping on the deck.  He killed the other man, the spy, and he intends to kill Admiral Randolph – soon.”

They searched the room with renewed urgency, looking under bunks and in dresser drawers, until Brigid came up with the brass-tipped cane, hidden in the back of a closet.

“I found it, Jessica,” she said, holding it up.

Jessica clapped her hands in delight.  “I knew it was here!”

“Yes, it was here.”

They whirled around and saw the Admiral’s aide, Mr. Malcolm, standing in the doorway.  Jessica gave a little squeak when she saw the gun in his hand.

“So young Miss Sherlock Holmes and her Dr. Watson have solved the case,” he said snidely as they backed away from him.  “Well, little ones, murder is not a game that little girls should be playing.”  He motioned for them to go into the closet with his gun:  “Get in there – now.  I shan’t ask you twice.”

Having very little choice in the matter they obeyed, and Malcolm shut the door on them, turning the lock with a sharp click and leaving them in darkness.  The girls sat absolutely still, hardly daring to breathe, until they heard Malcolm leave the cabin and shut the door behind them.

Only then did Jessica let out a breath.  “Whew,” she said.  “This closet is awfully cramped.”

Brigid, who was trying to figure out how long it would be before her mother or the twins missed her, and whether she would still be alive by then, said, “Yes.  It is.”

“And pretty dark, too.”

“Yes, and dark.”

A few lengthy minutes passed in silence.  Finally Jessica stirred and asked, “What do you think will become of us?”

Brigid considered what to say – after all, she didn’t want to unduly scare the child.  But Jessica didn’t seem the sort who scared easily, despite her tender years.  And she was awfully quick about seeing through lies.  It might as well be the truth, then.

“I think he’s gone to murder the Admiral,” she said, and added, as gently as she could, “then he plans to come back and do away with us.”

Jessica considered this in silence.  Then she said, in perfect earnestness, “That would make us late to supper, wouldn’t it?”

Brigid stifled a giggle.  So, she thought, under all that cleverness there was a little girl, after all.


How long they spent sitting in the darkness of the confines of the closet was hard to say, but Brigid guessed that it was perhaps half an hour later when she heard the soft noise of someone entering the cabin, and footsteps approaching their prison.  She nudged Jessica, who had dozed off beside her.

“Jessica!” she hissed.  “Wake up!  Someone’s coming.”

Jessica was instantly awake.  “It must be Mr. Malcolm,” she whispered.  “We’re in trouble.”

Truer words were never spoken, Brigid thought grimly.  They shrank back as far as they could into the far corner of the closet as the footsteps came closer and closer, and then the door was wrenched open.  A shaft of light spilled into the closet as they looked up, terrified, to see …

Admiral Julian Randolph, alive and well.


To settle the girls’ nerves, which were understandably shaken, Admiral Randolph made up a pot of tea and served it to them in the cabin’s sitting room.  Brigid took a sip of her tea – which was quite good, the Admiral’s own private stock – while he related to them the tale of how he had come to rescue them.

The Admiral chuckled.  “It was quite odd, actually,” he said as he passed them a plate of scones.  “Here I was, in my cabin, minding my own business with a good book, when I heard someone trying to break in!  Being the prudent sort, naturally, I removed myself to the head to see who it could be.”

He paused at the puzzled looks on their faces. 

“To the what? Jessica asked.

“To the bathroom,” Randolph amended.  “The head is the bathroom, in ship-talk.  Anyhow, imagine my surprise when I saw that the intruders where none other than the two young ladies who had warned me that my life was in danger the previous evening!  And even more astounding, they believed my trusted aide to be the villain!  To be perfectly honest, I was sure you were mistaken, and nearly came out of hiding to tell you so … but then you produced the cane.”

“And then,” Brigid said, “you saw Mr. Malcolm lock us in the closet, and you knew we were right!”

“Yes,” he said.  “It set me back on my heels, let me tell you.  But there it was – I heard the whole thing.”

“Well, why didn’t you come let us out right away?” Jessica asked crossly.

“Because I didn’t want to put you in any more danger than you already were,” the Admiral said.  “So I followed Malcolm out of the cabin – at a safe distance, of course – waited until we were in a strategic place, and … well, suffice to say, Mr. Malcolm is now in the Duchess’s brig, where he will be staying for the remainder of the voyage.”

Jessica’s eyes were wide with amazement.  “You captured Mr. Malcolm all by yourself?”

“Well, they didn’t make me an Admiral for nothing, my dear Jessica.”

Jessica sat back, clearly impressed.

“But now, tell me – it’s reached my ears by now that it was you two who discovered the German spy, Mr. Malcolm’s partner in crime, dead in the lifeboat.  How did you come to the conclusion that he was responsible so quickly?”

“It was two things, really,” said Jessica.  “When I saw the other man’s body, there was an imprint of the Union Jack on his palm – from where, I think, he grabbed Mr. Malcolm’s Union Jack tie clasp when he was killed.  And then I remembered what he said about the tobacco.”

“The tobacco?”
            Brigid glanced at Jessica, who nodded.  “When we were here last night,” Brigid said, picking up the tale, “I’d mentioned the funny tobacco smoke I’d smelt.  Then later, Mr. Malcolm said that it was German tobacco smoke.  I never said what kind it was, so how could he know that unless he knew the man who smoked it?”

“It’s all dreadfully complicated, but I think that Mr. Malcolm was afraid his German partner would betray him,” Jessica said.  “So he killed him first, and then he was going to go on and kill you.  That way he could collect his promised reward from the German government without putting himself at the mercy of his partner, who was probably under orders to do away with him once you were dead.  Then he would come up with some clever excuse for the Germans to explain why his partner – his watchdog, really - had died, and that would be that.”

Now it was Admiral Randolph’s turn to be impressed.

“Ladies, I thank you,” he said graciously. “Truly, you have done a great service to the British Empire.  The Queen, I think, would be very proud.  However,” he added, looking at his pocket watch, “it’s late, and if I do not return you to your cabins, your parents, I think, will be very upset!”



The rest of the crossing, Brigid recalled many years later, had been very smooth and trouble-free.  In fact, Bruce and Edgar didn’t spot even one submarine, friendly or unfriendly, the whole trip.  When they reached Montreal and disembarked, she had quickly lost Jessica and her family in the crowds, and it was a very long time before they caught up with each other again.  As for the ship, the Duchess of Atholl never made it back to England; she was sunk by a German torpedo on her way back across the Atlantic.  Pity the twins hadn’t been there to look out for U-boats, she thought, or the disaster might have been averted.


“I understand your reluctance to pursue the matter of the books.  In your place I’m sure I would feel much the same way.  But you and I know the truth, and that is what matters.”


Brigid paused, then after a moment’s thought, put the finishing touches on her letter.


“God bless you and keep you, Jessica Fletcher.  Try to stay clear of trouble – but not too hard!  Because that, I assure you, would disappoint a great many people - me not the least.


                                                                I remain forever yours,

                                                                                                Angela Brigid Lansbury