‘All right, then, but if you didn’t kill him, then who did?’ said Freddy. ‘And why? Who wanted him dead?’
‘Oh, we all wanted him dead, darling,’ she said without thinking.
‘Nothing,’ she said hurriedly. ‘I was just joking.’
‘No you weren’t. What do you mean, you all wanted him dead? I thought you were all terrific pals.’
‘Well, dead is a strong word,’ she said. ‘I mean, that’s probably a little bit of an exaggeration, but he wasn’t the nicest sort, and he did take advantage rather, and I really didn’t have the cash to spare quite often, but he was always very firm and wouldn’t let me off. And I expect if he was doing it with me then he was doing it with everybody—not that anyone’s confessed to it in so many words, naturally, since it’s not the sort of thing one talks about, but I have heard some strong hints—so I suppose it’s always possible that he pushed things a little too far with someone. Perhaps he caught them on a bad day, or—I don’t know—perhaps they couldn’t afford it that week, or something. You know how one can put up with things for a while, then suddenly get sick and tired of it all, and decide that enough’s enough. So if he really didn’t die of a heart attack, then I expect that’s what happened. Do you see?’
‘No,’ said Freddy, although he was beginning to have a sinking feeling. ‘Why were you paying him money?’
Cynthia looked away and said nothing.
‘Mother,’ said Freddy, as the truth dawned. ‘Do you mean to say Ticky was blackmailing you?’