“Mr. Bearstowe Says…” by Anthony Berkeley
Theme: Crippen & Landru Series
Source: The Avenging Chance and Other Mysteries
Story Number: 116
Roger Sheringham notices and approaches a woman who is as bored as himself in a beer-and-sausage party that he has ended up in. The woman just can’t stop talking about a Mr. Bearstowe. Roger believes that Bearstowe must either be her husband or a lover. He notices a few lone men and decides to guess who among them could be Bearstowe. When he asks her whether her husband is tall or short, he gets a strange answer from her saying that she doesn’t know.
A few months later, when Sheringham is waiting for his friend in the police station, the Superintendent asks Sheringham to tag along to interview a woman who has come to report her husband missing – whose body, the police already have in their possession. Sheringham doesn’t want to have anything to do with it and decides to skip away without being noticed but his interest is piqued when he identifies the woman as the same one whom he had met in a party and who couldn’t stop talking about a certain Bearstowe.
The woman who introduces herself as Mrs. Hutton tells a story about how she was supposed to have met her husband for lunch on the beach, how all his clothes were still on the beach but yet there was no sign of her husband. When the policeman asks her to give a description of her husband, pat comes a detailed description which even includes his chest measurements! When Sheringham mentions Bearstowe, she faints. When she is taken to the mortuary, she identifies the dead body as her husband Eddie without even opening her eyes!
The police investigation reveals that Mrs. Hutton was noticed with a clean shaven man near the beach, who ultimately is identified as Bearstowe. The police also have proof that Mrs. Hutton couldn’t have murdered her husband and all the evidence points to the absconding Bearstowe as being the murderer. Sheringham’s investigation on the other hand piles up the evidence that it was indeed a premeditated murder though he also clears Mrs. Hutton of any complicity. Just as in so many of his novels, the story ends with a final twist – a twist which is sprung as late as the final word of the story!