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 Chapter 29


That first post-war drink led to many more. As before, I withdrew. This time, I did it more thoroughly. Unfortunately, short of suicide, one cannot withdraw without occupying some space somewhere. In this connection, I quickly discovered that America hasn't nearly the tolerance that I had experienced in England for educated and reasonably gentlemanly alcoholics. These latter behave in ways that don't quite put them beyond the pale. Indeed, they're allowed to say surprisingly rude and obnoxious things as long as the syntax is impeccable and the tone of voice is at least vaguely reminiscent of Harrow.

In fact, an extraordinary number of eminent Britons, be they admirals, government ministers, or professors, are themselves men who have to clarify the location of their next drink before they can do anything else.

In America, on the other hand, a gentleman of my persuasion is certain, sooner or later, to overhear the remark,

"Why, he's nothing but a filthy drunk."

One might think that a person such as myself would be beyond shame, and would hardly care. Not so. It took only a few such incidents to cause me to return precipitously to London. I there picked up with many of the same people I had known during the war in my last streak of drunkenness. Unfortunately, I was drinking even harder this time, and there had been a subtle but definite change, even in England. Winston Churchill, with a cigar in one hand and a glass of brandy in the other, was still admired, but he wasn't the model for the new sort of man.

The new men, from a lower social class and much less colorful and interesting, had various sorts of technical abilities, often acquired in glorified trade schools, which allowed them to move into positions of power with alarming speed. At about the time of my return, they were beginning to appear in the clubs with their nasty moralistic glances and attitudes.

Previously, if a gentleman happened to inadvertantly piss his pants while sitting in the lounge, the porters quickly and discreetly put things to rights. When that same thing happened to me scarcely a month after my return, the matter was brought to the attention of the club secretary, probably by one of these officious newcomers.

The result was that I drifted slowly downward socially, from the clubs to the better pubs, and then to the middling pubs.

It was in one of these, an establishment in Kilburn, that I met my destiny in the shape of a particularly obnoxious old Irishman. In the course of some words I got up from my chair, not to challenge him physically, but to give my eloquence greater scope. He gave me a little push which dropped me back in my chair in an absurd fashion. Everyone laughed. I picked up my heavy glass mug and pursued the Irishman, who had turned to walk away. I got him on the back of the head and dropped him on the spot. He hadn't been robust to begin with, and was dead on arrival at the hospital.

There were a number of mitigating factors, including my own good behavior under lock and key, and I spent only one year in Holloway Jail. It was, in many respects, a good one. Muggs visited me frequently, and, together, we executed a number of commissions. The other members of our group also visited when they were in England, and I learned to be a good jail host, something which is an art in itself.

Anyone who goes to jail automatically stops drinking, I trust permanently in my own case, and I thereby returned to civility. I got on rather well with the other prisoners and guards. It came to be said that I had come a-cropper defending my honor, and, while the people who spoke thus usually smiled at the same time, it was pretty generally admitted that I was a decent sort of bloke.

When I was let out in March, 1951, I wasn't in a state of euphoria, nor was it without any regrets that I made my way to the Holloway Road tube station. Most important, I passed a whole string of pubs without being strongly tempted to enter.

My first stop was the nearest branch of the Midland Bank. My money, by this time a small fortune in its own right, had been unaffected by my troubles. I withdrew enough to cover current expenses and buy an airline ticket for New York.

While I was actually in the air, Brenda was murdered in the house in Covington. According to Ralph, who called me at my hotel in New York, the maid found her lying naked on her back on the large rug in the living room. She was hardly marked at all, with only a small wound in her back where a sharp instrument had penetrated to her heart.

According to the reconstruction, she had been killed in the middle of the afternoon, when she had been alone in the house, at least until the arrival of the murderer. From the clothes piled on a nearby chair, it seemed that she had undressed shortly before being killed. The clothes were neatly folded, the underclothes and stockings under the dress, and the shoes carefully placed on the floor.

From the small amount of urine discharged on the rug, it was concluded that she had gone to the bathroom immediately prior to being killed. Indeed, from the imprint of her bare feet in the dust on the ground floor bathroom floor, it was concluded that she had first undressed, and then gone to the toilet.

The FBI was called in because of the importance of the case and the probability that the murderer had fled across the state line a few hundred yards distant. The chief agent who investigated, a former RAF fighter pilot, conducted a more thorough investigation.

Foot-prints similar to those in the bathroom were found behind the large wooden chair on which Brenda's clothes rested, and her fingerprints were also on the upright members of the chair. She had evidently stood, holding on to the back of the chair, to be stabbed. Then, since there were no bruises on her body from a sudden fall, she seemed to have been helped or eased by her assailant into her final resting position. He was, of course, wearing gloves.

Brenda's estate, fuelled in considerable part by a meteoric rise in the value of the Ishigawa Manufacturing Company, was eventually valued at well over three hundred million dollars. It thus surpassed the sum accumulated by Wilhelmina Sanderson, at least as long as one didn't take inflation into account.

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