Agatha's First Case
Written by M.C. Besaton and narrated by Alison Larkin


Half an hour later, seven reporters clutching various glasses of liquor looked up as Agatha marched into the room.

Agatha felt her courage draining away. She somehow could not find her voice. She looked at the press and they looked at her.

“Are you the maid, or what?” demanded one voice.

A spurt of humiliation helped Agatha find her voice. The maid, indeed. She’d show them.

“I have some news for you,” said Agatha. “I represent Sir Bryce Teller. I am head of the Agatha Raisin Public Relations Agency. On the night of the murder, he had taken a heavy dose of barbiturates, which is why he did not hear a thing. His doctor is Giles Friend, three doors down. You can check. Here is the prescription. Examine it and let me have it back. Now, if you want any more titbits from me, you will need to play nice and stop crucifying the man.”

“How can we contact you?” asked the man from the Daily Mail.

As Agatha hesitated, the door opened and Bliss came in. He handed her a box of business cards. Agatha stared at them in delight. How had he managed it so quickly? But they looked like the cheap ones which could be got from a machine in one of the stores in Oxford Street. She passed them around.

“That will be all for today. Except Mr. Rothmore. Just a word in your ear.”

When the others had left, Jerry said, “Yeah, what?”

“I am sure you would not want your wife to know about Cynthia,” said Agatha.

He stared at her, appalled. “You wouldn’t!”

“Write something nice and I won’t. Otherwise, I damn well will. Now, push off.”


When Agatha returned to the sitting room, George South, Bryce’s man of business, was waiting for her. He told her to come round to his office in Hinde Street close by so that she could sign the necessary paperwork. He was a pleasant, friendly man, almost bald, and impeccably dressed. Agatha could feel a clutch of pure fright in her stomach. How could she, at her young age, run her own company? A trapped bluebottle buzzed against the window, looking for escape. Agatha sympathised with it, feeling trapped herself.

When all the business was finished, Agatha longed to escape and treat herself to a gin and tonic and a cigarette, but the offices had to be examined and the keys handed over. Her new kingdom was over a jeweller’s shop. It consisted of five rooms. George strode through them, writing in a notebook. “You’ll need desks, computers, and stationery, things like that. But leave it all to me.” When he finally left, Agatha locked up and walked to South Audley Street and began collecting her file on the press and her other belongings.

“What the hell are you doing?” shouted Jill.

“I’m getting out of your slave labour camp,” said Agatha.

“You can’t!”

“You didn’t give me any contract,” said Agatha. “You said, ‘If you don’t match up, I can fire you any time I like.’ So, get this, horse-face, I’m firing you!”


Bryce was beginning to regret the impulse that had made him want to set up Agatha in business. But he had used his business acumen to set up other people before and had never been wrong in his judgement. The next morning, he asked to see all the newspapers. He began to smile. They had all covered the fact that he had taken sleeping pills and the surprise came in the Sketch, where Jerry had also written a fulsome report of all his charity work and stated it was time the police looked elsewhere.


Agatha Raisin walked around her new offices in South Molton Street and felt quite sick with elation. George South called again. An account had been opened for her and she had been given a credit card. George South had even employed a secretary for her, a woman called Freda Demer, middle-aged, quiet, and polite.

“Put advertisements in all the newspapers for public relations officers. I need two to start, and an office boy. I have been told to pay well.”

“Yes, Miss Raisin.”

“You may call me Agatha. Now, where do I go from here? Snakes and bastards. If only I could find out who actually murdered his wife. Get me Sir Bryce Teller.”

When he came on the phone, Agatha excitedly cut short his thanks. “When your late wife went out in the evenings, how did she go? Taxi?”

“No, we used a limo service. Mayfair Limos. Usual driver Peter Black. You’ll find their garage in Clarges Mews. What are you after?”

“Finding out where she went. May I also speak to your housekeeper?”

“She resigned.”

“Did she, now. Where does she live?”

“Wait a minute and I’ll find her address.” Agatha waited impatiently. At last he came back on the line. “Here it is. Bertha Jones, 201A Mill Hill East High Street.”


I must stop wearing such high heels, thought Agatha, as she strode along the High Street an hour later, feeling her ankles beginning to swell in the heat. She located the housekeeper’s address, which was in a basement flat under a betting shop.

“Bertha Jones?” she demanded, as a plump, grey-haired woman answered the door.

“I ain’t talking to no press,” she said, and began to close the door.

Agatha shoved her foot in it. “I’m not the press. I am representing Sir Bryce Teller. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” she shouted.

“I got nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Yes, you have. Walking out on your boss when he needed you most.”

The door opened again. “It was my Bert, my husband,” said Bertha. “He made me leave. ‘You’ll be next,’ he kept saying.”

“Well, he was wrong. If you look in this morning’s newspapers, you’ll find that Sir Bryce took sleeping pills and so didn’t hear a thing.”

“You’d better come in. I’m that shook up.”

Agatha followed her into a living room which was chilly and damp as if summer had shunned it. It was neat and comfortably furnished, though. “What I really want to know,” said Agatha, “is what Lady Teller was like.”

“I don’t like to speak ill of my employers,” said Bertha primly.

“They’re not your employers anymore and you damned poor Sir Bryce by walking out on him. Come on. Let’s have it. Warts and all.”

“Sit down,” said Bertha, collapsing into an armchair. “She was a slut, that’s what. Threw her dirty clothes on the floor for me to pick up and launder. Never gave me nothing for Christmas except insults.”

“Do you know if she was having an affair?”

“I don’t. But she went out on her own a lot and didn’t come back till the small hours. You make me feel that ashamed. I wish I’d never left.”

“Want your job back?”

“I would. I told Bert he’d made me go and I’d never forgive him.”

“Got a phone?”

“Over by the window.”

Agatha phoned Bryce and said, “I am sending you your housekeeper.”

“Well, I’m not employing her again.”

“Yes, you are,” said Agatha. “I’ve got to have something to tell the press. Ashamed housekeeper returned to the best boss she ever had. ‘I am that ashamed,’ she said yesterday.”

“Oh, all right.”

Agatha rang off and turned to Bertha. “Get your things. It’s too hot. I’m damned if I’ll getting on that train to King’s Cross again. We’ll take a cab.”


Having deposited Bertha and ordered a delivery from Selfridges, Agatha returned to the office and began to phone round the newspapers about the return of Bertha, finishing with “‘Mrs. Teller was a slut,’ she sobbed.”

“Now, for that garage. Go home, Freda.”

“I’ll stay on if you like.”

“No, I’ll see you in the morning. You look tired.” Agatha opened the petty cash and fished out some notes. “Here. It’s too hot for the tube. Take a cab.”

Ignoring Freda’s gratitude, Agatha said good-bye and went downstairs.


She was in luck at the garage. Peter Black had just come in for a job. At first, he curtly told Agatha that he did not discuss clients, but then she let her handbag fall open to reveal it was stuffed with notes. “Let’s go for a drink,” she said. “What about the Ritz?”

Peter Black was tall and rangy, with a foxy face and thick brown hair. He was never to know the courage Agatha had to sum up to walk into the bar of the Ritz without any apparent qualm. He ordered whisky and soda and Agatha collected a gin and tonic for herself and guided them to a small table.

“I’ll pay you for information,” she said. “I represent Sir Bryce Teller. So, where did Lady Teller go?”

“The Pink Lady.”

“What’s that?”

“A club in Charlotte Street.”

Agatha thought quickly. The colour pink was often a favourite of homosexuals. “A lesbian club, by any chance?”

“Yeah. You going to give me the money or what?”

“Not yet. So, did she go there on the night of her murder?”

“Yes. I dropped her off, but she never rung for me, see? Must ha’ got a cab.”

“So, let’s say she was a lesbian. Ever see her with a woman?”

“Naw. She’d take the limo there but never got me to pick her up. I think she switched both ways. Drunk one night and come on to me. Didn’t bite. I like Sir Bryce Teller. Real gent. Sorry for him. Money?”

“Another minute. Did the police interview you?”


Agatha handed over a bundle of notes and sent him on his way.

She looked dreamily about her. Here she was. In the Ritz! Blimey.

Agatha became aware that a tall, handsome man at the next table was smiling at her. He was about six feet tall with thick black hair and intense blue eyes. She smiled cautiously back.

He came over to her table and sat down. “What’s a pretty girl like you doing on her own?” he asked.

“I am a public relations executive,” said Agatha proudly. “I have just been dealing with some business.”

“I’m Colin Fitzwilliam. Hullo.”

“And what do you do?” asked Agatha, feeling she had walked through the looking glass into this strange world where it seemed natural to chat in the Ritz with a handsome man with an Etonian accent.

“I’m in the Household Cavalry. Off-duty. Look, why don’t we get together later? Have a drink and chat? I feel like a night out.”

“All right,” said Agatha cautiously. “Where?”

“What about Jules Bar in Jermyn Street at eight o’clock?”

Agatha grinned. “See you there.”

She dreamily watched as he was leaving. A porter waylaid him and said something. He looked startled, glanced back at Agatha, and then hurriedly left.


When she returned to her office, Freda was still there. “Why haven’t you gone home?” asked Agatha.

“I thought I would wait for you because just as I was leaving, that big parcel arrived. You’ve got a delivery from Selfridges. And you said something about a press conference tomorrow and I wondered if you wanted me to go with you?”

“Yes. Fine. Now, off you go!”

After she had left, Agatha unwrapped the large package. It contained an airbed, duvet, pillows, and bed linen. She hauled them into a small room at the back of the office where she had placed two suitcases containing all her belongings from Acton. It never dawned on Agatha that Bryce and his business manager expected her to spend lavishly with the funds at her disposal and that would include a flat in central London. She pumped up the airbed, arranged the bed linens. With Agatha, the habits of thriftiness died hard. Then she checked Freda’s computer. All the press were invited to a conference at Bryce’s at ten-thirty in the morning. Agatha did not want them round at her office until she had a full staff.

A little voice of caution was telling her not to be a fool and to phone Jules Bar at eight and say she could not make it. She had allowed herself to be picked up. But Agatha was easily seduced by what she considered as posh.

So, at eight o’ clock on the dot, she entered Jules Bar, found a table, and sat nervously waiting … and waiting.

Over in his home in Kensington, Colin cursed himself for having nearly forgotten his wife’s dinner party. That little girl would be waiting in Jules Bar. Oh, well. Hard luck.


Agatha left the bar at eight-thirty feeling very young and vulnerable. She bought herself a sandwich and coffee before returning to the office and preparing for bed. She had found, to her relief, that the offices boasted a shower as well as a toilet. She fished two towels and a bar of soap out of one of her suitcases, showered, and finally rolled into bed. The airbed let out a sound like a loud fart. Agatha hoped the gods were not pronouncing judgement on one overambitious girl and then fell asleep.

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