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N or M by Agatha Christie
It was the spring of 1940. Tommy Beresford made sure he was smiling as he walked into the sitting-room where his wife sat knitting. Mrs Beresford looked up at him. ‘Anything interesting in the evening newspaper?’
‘Things look bad in France,’ Tommy said. ‘Well, why don’t you ask me how it went?’
‘Darling, I don’t need to ask,’ said Tuppence. ‘You are smiling the unhappiest smile I have ever seen.’
‘As bad as that?’
‘I tell you, Tuppence, it’s terrible when a man of forty-six is made to feel like a grandfather. Army, Navy, Air Force, Foreign Office, they all say the same – I’m too old. They don’t want me in any job.’
‘It’s the same for me,’ complained Tuppence. ‘They don’t want people of my age for nursing. They’d rather have a schoolgirl who’s never seen a wound than a woman who worked in the Great War.’
‘Well, it is comforting that Deborah has a job,’ Tommy said.
‘I could do as much as our daughter,’ remarked Tuppence.
Tommy grinned. ‘She wouldn’t think so.’
Tuppence gave a cry of anger. ‘Are we too old to do things? Isn’t it true that we once caught a dangerous criminal? Isn’t it true that we rescued a girl and important secret documents, and were thanked by a grateful country? Us! That was us! I’m so disappointed in Mr Carter.’
‘But he no longer works in Intelligence. He’s old. He lives in Scotland and fishes.’
Tuppence sighed sadly. ‘I wish we could find a job – any job. I imagine the worst when I have so much time to think.’ As she spoke she looked at the photograph of a very young man in an Air Force uniform, with the same wide smile as his father Tommy’s.
The doorbell rang. Tuppence got up. She opened the door to see a broad-shouldered man with a large, fair moustache and a cheerful red face.
‘Are you Mrs Beresford? My name is Grant. I’m a friend of Lord Easthampton’s. He suggested that I visit you and your husband.’
‘Oh, come in.’
She led him into the sitting room. ‘Tommy, Mr Grant is a friend of Mr Car… of Lord Easthampton’s.’…