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datatime: 2022-12-08 06:49:10 Author:EdrQerhW

"That seems to cut him out," I said thoughtfully. "And reduce the number of suspects-though, I suppose, he could still have got an accomplice to plant the acid tube." Then, suddenly, I had what was, for me, an inspiration. "Tell me, Miss Ross, did anyone ask you earlier in the evening when dinner would be?"

"And you didn't think this worth mentioning to me," I said heavily. "No importance at all?"

"Easy. You can get a little plastic tube with a central composition shield dividing it into two compartments. In one compartment you have a free acid, in the other a different acid enclosed in a glass tube. All you have to do is to crush the tube, break the glass, drop the tube in your chosen spot, walk away and after a predetermined time the acid that was in the glass eats through the shield, meets the other acid and starts a fire. It's been used hundreds of times, especially in war-time sabotage. If you're an arsonist looking for a cast-iron alibi and want to be five miles away when the fire starts, it's the perfect answer."

"Right. And we're dealing, obviously, with hardened professional criminals. The whole success of their plan depended on causing this excitement. Do you for a moment believe that they were going to let the whole thing hinge on the mere off-chance of a smouldering butt-end setting some papers alight-especially setting them alight at the correct moment?"

She looked at me for a long moment before answering, and even in the fading light of the aurora I could see the understanding coming into her eyes.

"It doesn't matter. Who could have gone into the galley then -anybody in the front seats, I suppose?"

"I'm sorry," she repeated helplessly. "I was a little upset for a moment, then Captain Johnson was in front of me shooing everybody back to their seats and I couldn't see."

"Do you believe now that the fire was caused deliberately?" I asked.

"All right." I changed my approach. "This was the men's washroom, I take it?"

"Yes. The powder room is on the port side."

"I'm sorry," she repeated helplessly. "I was a little upset for a moment, then Captain Johnson was in front of me shooing everybody back to their seats and I couldn't see."

"Quite sure. I always peek through the cabin door from time to time, and he was always there."

"You bet there was. Can you remember who went there?"

"Easy. You can get a little plastic tube with a central composition shield dividing it into two compartments. In one compartment you have a free acid, in the other a different acid enclosed in a glass tube. All you have to do is to crush the tube, break the glass, drop the tube in your chosen spot, walk away and after a predetermined time the acid that was in the glass eats through the shield, meets the other acid and starts a fire. It's been used hundreds of times, especially in war-time sabotage. If you're an arsonist looking for a cast-iron alibi and want to be five miles away when the fire starts, it's the perfect answer."

"It's no good." She shook her head. "I was in the galley most of the time, getting the meal ready."

"Of course." She stared at me, wide-eyed.

"That seems to cut him out," I said thoughtfully. "And reduce the number of suspects-though, I suppose, he could still have got an accomplice to plant the acid tube." Then, suddenly, I had what was, for me, an inspiration. "Tell me, Miss Ross, did anyone ask you earlier in the evening when dinner would be?"

"It's no good." She shook her head. "I was in the galley most of the time, getting the meal ready."

"Are you sure?"

"Right. And we're dealing, obviously, with hardened professional criminals. The whole success of their plan depended on causing this excitement. Do you for a moment believe that they were going to let the whole thing hinge on the mere off-chance of a smouldering butt-end setting some papers alight-especially setting them alight at the correct moment?"

"Yes. The powder room is on the port side."

"I'm sorry. It-it did seem unimportant, unrelated to anything. That was hours before the crash, so-"

"Are you sure?"

"Do you believe now that the fire was caused deliberately?" I asked.

"Mrs Dansby-Gregg did, I'm sure."

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