Chapter 35 The Blue Pearl Earrings

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Victoria held up the newspaper so everyone else could see the photograph. "But this woman is Loretta Newcastle."

"Of course it is," Woodrow said. Clyde nodded and everyone else agreed.

Winifred shook her head. "No, I saw Loretta; she was lying there on the ground."

"And she wearing blue pearl earrings?"

Winifred nodded.

"You saw a woman lying on the ground," Victoria explained, "but the woman you saw wasn't Loretta Newcastle.

"Elsbeth Snupter was the only woman present that night who could have posed as Loretta's murderer but she never could have posed as Loretta herself. That night, as soon as the film began, a woman slipped away from the party. She hurried down the driveway to the exact location where she knew she would be visible from your porch light. And she laid down on the ground with her face turned away."

"That doesn't make any sense," Philip objected. "We heard a woman scream and we saw the murder being committed!"

Victoria shook her head and turned to her friend. "Winifred, when you heard the scream you and Philip both ran through your kitchen to your back door. Philip opened the door and yelled and the man ran off. But you were behind Philip. That means that by the time you reached the door the murderer was already out of sight. Since you were behind Philip, the only way you could have possibly seen the murderer was if you saw him as you passed your kitchen window. Did you see the man from your kitchen window?"

Winifred stood there motionless. "But I saw the murderer... I saw..." she frowned and closed her eyes. "There was a shadow."

Victoria handed her friend the sketchbook. "Draw the man you saw."

Winifred took a pencil and stared at the blank page. She closed her eyes but she didn't move. "I can't. I—I didn't see him."

Clyde shook his head. "None of this makes any sense at all. Who killed Loretta? Or are you claiming she isn't dead?"

"Oh, she's dead all right," Victoria said, "But she wasn't killed for love or revenge or jealousy. She was killed for the oldest reason in the book, money."

Victoria looked at Hattie.

"What? Are you suggesting it was me?" Hattie objected. "I couldn't pose as a man even if I wanted to."

"Loretta never asked you to telephone Woodrow about the guest list. You telephoned yourself, not to check the guest list, but to check the schedule for the evening, then you planned it all to the clock. The murder would happen during the film so no one at the party would miss you, or hear the scream. You positioned yourself in the driveway by the Forester's house, and at exactly 7:46, you screamed."

Jerry stared at Hattie and back at Victoria. "But then... who was the man?"

Victoria turned to Roger and said. "I think it's time you finally told us what you saw that night."

Roger stammered, "I didn't kill her! I swear I didn't!"

"What did you see?" Riggs said.

Roger looked nervously between Riggs and Victoria. He mopped his forehead with his handkerchief. "Loretta always got invited to the best parties. I was so fed up with that woman, I decided to puncture her tires. But when I got there, her Studebaker was parked on the street. That made me curious about who else was at the party so after I'd parked, I decided to have a look. It was dark and I had only just started up Kent's driveway when I heard footsteps coming down. Naturally, I didn't want to be seen, so I turned around and I was nearly back to my car when I heard a woman scream. A light turned on the neighbor's side door, and I ducked behind my car. A man shouted and he ran down to the street."

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