The next day at breakfast the Inspector received two handwritten notes: one on Constabulary paper; the second on that headed ‘THE LYNN HOTEL’. The first explained that the victim’s missing shoe had been found. Despite an extensive search of the hotel grounds during daylight, it had only been discovered around midnight, in the loading bay at the rear of the premises, when the beam of the watchman’s flashlight caused something, tucked back under a ramp, to glint. (Like Dalling’s ‘sparkle’, thought Simmonds).
The second note was from the hotel’s barkeeper. He apologised for having overheard the Inspector’s discussion of the case at the bar the previous evening, but believed he had something useful to say and requested a meeting – a time and a place was suggested.
‘I think the staff have been afraid to tell you the truth’ said the barkeeper. Simmonds had meet with him, as arranged, in a cheap local cafe, the sort of place where there was the constant chatter of workmen and the smell of fried bacon. It was a busy lunchtime. Sleety rain tapped across the windows, good weather for indoor trade.
‘Afraid?’ asked Simmonds’ ‘How so?’
‘Because of who she was’. He looked around as though fearful of being seen. ‘That’s a powerful family, and they own the hotel and much more besides’ the barkeeper explained. His name was Eric, he was in his early thirties and had worked at The Lynn for a couple of years, having previously been at a ‘dull as dishwater’ establishment in nearby East Hampton, a retirement enclave, where there was little demand for cocktails. Here was a man who liked the sound of his own voice and was keen to tell his life story. Simmonds knew the sort. Police work was full of attention seekers. The private meeting was often sought to give an air of added intrigue, but the Inspector also knew that intelligence came in all shapes and sizes — you ignored it at your peril, irrespective of the source. The pressure was on and this case needed solving. He planned to listen intently, but he was completely unprepared for the twist to come. Eric unburdened himself …
Inspector Simmonds was now placed in a very difficult position. If he didn’t add all this new information to the victim’s profile it would then be incomplete and the investigation compromised; but if he did, it would undoubtedly come to the attention of the Chief Inspector (God forbid the Chief Constable!) and eventually reach Lord Bessingham himself, then all hell would surely break lose.
He recounted Eric’s tale and his disclosure dilemma to Piccolo.
‘Sit on it’ she counselled ‘until you can check it’s validity’. Sage advice, thought Simmonds. He had used Piccolo as a foil in the past on many cases and she was proving to be utterly indispensable. He would bide his time. He just hoped it wasn’t going to be for long.