Mr Eastwood's Adventure is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Novel Magazine in August 1924 under the title The Mystery of the Second Cucumber. Subsequently it was collected and published as Mr Eastwood's Adventure in the anthology The Listerdale Mystery which came out in 1934 in the U.K. In the U.S. the story was first published in 1948 as part of The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories. In this collection the title was The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl.

Synopsis

Anthony Eastwood, a writer of crime thrillers, is suffering from writer's block. He can't get further than the title of his latest work. Then he gets a mysterious call for help from a woman named "Carmen"....

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Anthony Eastwood is suffering from writer's block with a commission from an editor. He has typed a title - "The Mystery of the Second Cucumber", hoping that it will give him some inspiration but to no avail. He suddenly receives a mysterious telephone call from a girl identifying herself as Carmen. She begs for his help to avoid being killed, gives him an address to go to and tells him the codeword is "cucumber".

Interested in this coincidence, he goes to the address given, which is a second-hand glass shop. Trying desperately to avoid buying anything expensive, he finally lets slip the word "cucumber". The old lady who runs the shop tells him to go upstairs. Once there he meets a beautiful young woman of foreign extraction. She praises the saints that Anthony has come to save her, but is worried that he has been followed to the shop and tells him not to underestimate "Boris", who is a fiend. Suddenly the police arrive and arrest Anthony, calling him "Conrad Fleckman", for the murder of Anna Rosenburg. Anthony, not too worried about this turn of events because he knows he can prove his identity, begs for a moment alone with the girl and tells her the truth and also asks her to ring him at him later.

Once outside the shop, Anthony again tries to persuade the police of his innocence. The more senior of the two men – Detective-Inspector Verrall – seems interested in Anthony's story while his subordinate – Detective-Sergeant Carter - is more sceptical. Anthony persuades the two men to take him back to his flat where he has documents to prove his identity. At the flat, the porter Rogers at the flat confirms his identity. Anthony then takes the policemen up to his rooms to show them various documentary proofs.

Verrall says he is satisfied but they need to do a proper search of the premises, just in case Conrad Fleckman and him are the same person. Anthony suggests leaving Carter to do the search which he and Verrall go to another rook for a drink. Over whiskeys, Anthony persuades Verrall to tell him the story of Conrad Fleckman. It goes back over ten years and involves the sale of a Spanish shawl from the impoverished family of a man called Don Fernando to Anna Rosenburg. After buying the shawl she seemed to have large sums of money at hand. Fernando was stabbed to death shortly afterwards and eight attempts have been made to burgle Anna Rosenburg's house in the intervening years. A week ago, Fernando's daughter, Carmen Ferrarez, arrived in Britain and threatened Rosenberg over the "shawl of a thousand flowers". Carmen then disappeared but the police found the name "Conrad Fleckman" in a note in her hotel room. Following up on Fleckman, it appears he met Rosenburg at her house. Servants reported Rosenburg being highly shaken after the meeting. Later she went out by night and did not return. She was subsequently found dead in Fleckman's house. On the floor, near the body, was something which explained the whole mystery.

Verrall does not finish the story as he is called away by a call at the front door. Anthony ponders the story he has been told. After a while, he realises that all has gone quiet. He goes out of his rooms to find that the two policemen have left. His flat looks strangely empty. All his valuables such as his collection of silverware, enamelware and other collectibles have gone. Rogers, the porter, tells him that he helped the two men pack his goods into two boxes. As Anthony was talking with one of the two men in the other room, he decided not to disturb him. Rogers then helped the two men load the boxes into a vehicle and they drove away.

When Anthony describes his experience to Inspector Driver of the police, Driver tells him the modus operandi sounds like that of the Patterson gang. Anthony has been the subject of an elaborate hoax to get into people's houses and distract them with wild stories while they are robbed. Anthony is annoyed until he realises that the story Verrall had told him could be completed. What was on the floor which could explain the whole mystery? He rips out the draft of "Second Cucumber" and starts typing a new story - "The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl". His writer's block has been cured.

Characters

References to other works

  • Anthony Eastwood misquotes from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám when he states "Tomorrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's ten thousand years". The quote should be for seven thousand years.

Publication history

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