A Fragment of Fear
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James Compton, a young journalist and crime writer, becomes intrigued by and then involved in the mysterious death of an older woman British tourist apparently on holiday near the ruins of Pompeii. On his return to England he becomes further implicated in what he now knows was a murder but his efforts to help the police are sabotaged by unknown forces who discredit him to such an extent that his evidence and his theories are devalued. However, so determined is he to bring the criminals to justice that he endangers not only his own life but that of his fiancee Juliet on the very day of their long awaited wedding.
He thanked me and walked off towards Wright’s Lane. The tall man was about six feet in height, of normal build and had a round head with what seemed to be a crew-cut hair style, grey trousers, and a light brown knee-length mackintosh with a belt. He had turned the collar up, though it was not raining or cold. This obscured the lower part of his face. He wore no hat. His hair was brown. The other man was about five feet seven inches tall, stockily built, and had a square face with a cleft chin.
didn’t read about it—or didn’t know where to send a wreath.” He clutched at the last possibility. “That’s probably it—they didn’t know where to send a wreath. Otherwise I wouldn’t understand it, not after all she’d done for them.” He sounded pathetically relieved by the thin excuse I had put forward. “Why did you sign the card with the wreath as from the ‘Stepping Stones’?” He walked across to the windows and looked out. “Oh, that—the ‘Stepping Stones’—well, that was just a little name we
because of the deceptive benevolence with which the trap was set. I imagined her, tall, gracious, and gentle—and probably good-looking in those days—interviewing her victims with sympathy and understanding. Finding out by courteous probing what sort of work they were most fitted to do, in which spheres their personalities would blend most harmoniously, promising nothing at first, pointing out the difficulties, laying stress upon the need for future hard work, and above all integrity. No doubt
to place the plant in the window this evening, or even now, should you so wish. The note was dated that day. It had been typed upon my machine, using my typing paper and enclosed in one of my envelopes. But on leaving the flat I had taken certain precautions. I went upstairs and examined the mortice lock. The thin wafer of tissue paper was still in place, and when I let myself in the faint dusting of salt just inside the door was undisturbed. I sat down and read the note again. For the
over your own carpet and stuck a bit of bumph in the lock?” “Yes, I did.” “And what do you want us to do, sir? Come and sweep up the salt?” In the end I would lose my temper, and that would confirm their views of me. I couldn’t face it. But I knew now a little more, a fraction more, of what I was up against, and it was not reassuring. This campaign was planned by somebody who had acquired a knowledge of my character. It had been planned step by step in advance. Whoever had gone into my flat,