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datatime: 2022-12-03 21:38:36 Author:ojyZvzIi

"Who were in the front two seats-those nearest the galley?"

"An hour? But the cigarette end-"

"There way a funny smell-" she began slowly.

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

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

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

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

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

"Because by knowing who was there, we might find out who wasn't."

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.

"An hour? But the cigarette end-"

"Who were in the front two seats-those nearest the galley?"

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

"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."

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

"They? Who were 'They'?"

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

"Can you remember who went in there, say, any time up to an hour beforehand?"

"There way a funny smell-" she began slowly.

"They? Who were 'They'?"

"Yes. They all seemed to crowd down past the middle-"

"They? Who were 'They'?"

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.

"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?"

"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?"

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