The Body On The Beach: 4

Piccolo had been busy. And while matters were still fresh in her mind she sat in their hotel suite, with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of tea for lunch, and wrote them down. The staff at The Lynn had been surprisingly open to her enquiries, especially after she had liberally explained that her husband was the Inspector leading the murder case. The prima facie facts she discovered were these: Margaret had attended a party in the evening and left around eleven o’clock. No one recalled seeing who she left with. Nothing out of the ordinary appeared to have transpired. Staff knew Margaret well, at least they knew of her, as she was a regular visitor to the hotel. They were shocked to hear the news of her demise – the hotel manager had briefed them all that morning. (Lord Bessingham having been informed actually before the call to Simmonds and had broadcast the tragedy accordingly). From all accounts Margaret was a pleasant young woman who enjoyed life and the style which her family’s wealth enabled her to afford. Not much to go on, Piccolo pondered. Had she been a character created for one of her novels, she would no doubt have to give her some more depth. Or perhaps there was something Piccolo had simply not yet uncovered? Early days after all.

*

When Simmonds arrived back at the hotel in the late afternoon a message awaited him at the front desk. Miss Edith would meet with him that evening. Indeed a table had been booked in her name for dinner at eight. Of course, no way was Piccolo going to miss this meeting, as she made plain as she sat with Simmonds exchanging thoughts on the events of the day so far. He was in no position to disagree. It was a smart hotel so the pair dressed the part and headed down to the bar for drinks at seven.

*

‘Let’s go through this one last time’ said Piccolo as she and Simmonds descended the hotel’s elegant main staircase. They looked every inch the fashionable couple. From their appearance no one could have defined the enterprise they were embarked upon. Hidden lives lie all around, as Piccolo was fond of saying. ‘What exactly do we know about this Edith?’ she enquired, though they had examined the profile a dozen times already.

‘We only know what we’ve been told by the family’ Simmonds clarified. ‘That she is a cousin visiting from Australia, from Flinders, to be precise, a town south of Melbourne, in Victoria State. She’s been over here since July, and plans to stay for another six months or so. Wealthy family, Father a self-made millionaire, sent to Europe to broaden her horizon. Fits in well with the Howards by all accounts and has … had … become good friends with Miss Margaret’

‘And she’s been up in London Christmas shopping for the last couple of days, returned this very afternoon’ added Piccolo.

‘Correct’ said Simmonds. They reached the bar. Piccolo ordered her usual ‘Aviation Fizz’ cocktail; Simmonds a tonic water as he was on duty. ‘I thought writers were always on duty’ he joked.

‘We are darling’ retorted Piccolo ‘but sometimes one needs a lens to see things clearly’

They sat and discussed the case for twenty minutes or so. The bar and adjoining dining room was busy and noisy but had a pleasant and sophisticated atmosphere. Unbeknown to them they were pointed out by the Hotel Manager to a young couple who then approached them and introduced themselves.

‘Inspector Simmonds?’ asked the young woman. ‘I’m Edith Holloway’. Simmonds and Piccolo looked at her in shock, for what they saw before them was an exact physical likeness of the body on the beach.

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