About The Bloodstained Pavement
The Bloodstained Pavement is one of the stories in the short story collection “The 13 Problems” by Agatha Christie. It features an amateur detective Miss Marple as the leadin character along with her nephew Raymond West, and Sir Henry Clithering.
Joyce Lempriere tells the Tuesday Night Club of an incident that occurred five years ago when she was vacationing at a small inn on the Cornish coast. She was painting a picture of the front of the inn, including details of wet bathing suits drying on the balcony of Denis and Margery Dacre, when she realised she had included blood stains on the pavement. A few days later Margery is found dead, having drowned. It’s a challenge to the club to solve the mystery.
Joyce Lempriere in Rathole
Joyce Lemprière’s story also takes place in Cornwall, in the picturesque village of Rathole. One morning, she was painting a picture of the Polharwith Arms when two cars drew up within a couple of minutes of each other. The first contained a couple and the second a scarlet-dressed woman. The man in the couple, “Denis”, recognised the lone woman as “Carol”, an old friend, and introduced her to his somewhat plain wife, “Margery”. As Joyce worked on her canvas she overheard the conversation of the three people, and Denis’s suggestion of hiring a rowboat to take them round the coast to a local cave. Carol, disliking boats, agreed to walk to the spot and meet the couple there.
Bloodstains on the pavement
That afternoon Joyce had returned to her canvas in front of the pub, spotted two bathing suits drying in the sun from the balcony of the pub, and assumed that the three people had returned. A local man engaged her in somewhat unwanted conversation and distracted her from her work. Before she realised what she had done, she seemed to have painted in bloodstains on the pavement in front of the pub, and was astonished to find that she had captured reality – there did seem to be bloodstains on the pavement that were not there a short time before. Before she could take any action, Denis emerged from the pub and asked Joyce and the local man if they had seen Carol return. The three had met at the cave, as agreed, and Carol had supposedly walked back to Rathole but not arrived, although her car was still there.
Denis and Margery drove off and Joyce inspected the pavement – only to find the bloodstains gone. Two days later, she read in the paper that Margery had disappeared while bathing in the sea, and a week later her body was found washed up with a blow to the head, supposedly caused when she dived into the water on some rocks.
The men in the Tuesday Club feel that there is very little in the story to go on, but Miss Marple points out that they do not appreciate the point about clothes as she and Joyce do. The bloodstains were on the pavement, dripping from one of the bathing suits, which was scarlet in colour. The criminals didn’t realise that when they hung them up to dry.
Joyce confirms her point and finishes the story: a year later, at an east coast resort, she saw the same set up again with Denis, Carol and another woman, supposedly Denis’s new wife. Although she didn’t know exactly what was happening, Joyce went to the police station and reported suspicious activity. A Scotland Yard inspector was already there investigating Denis who, under several names, had married women, insured their lives for large sums, and then killed them in a conspiracy with Carol – his real wife. The woman Joyce saw in Rathole at the time that the bloodstains were on the pavement wasn’t Margery but Carol in disguise. When they killed the real Margery during the trip to the cave, blood must have got onto the scarlet bathing suit.