At six am Simmonds telephoned headquarters. A squad of police headed by Chief Inspector Dawson arrived promptly. The Chief exchanged words with Lord Bessingham before addressing Simmonds: ‘I didn’t expect to see you again quite so quickly’ he said. ‘What on earth is all this about? It’s obviously not a random act’. Simmonds nodded in agreement. ‘I think someone’s sending a message’ he said. They walked together through the Hall towards the crime scene at the rear.
‘His Lordship has taken a roll-call’ said the Chief ‘no one from the household is missing, so I wonder who the poor chap is’
‘Assuming it’s a man’ said Simmonds.
‘Oh don’t go there. This is messy enough’ said Dawson. He paused before adding ‘Lord Bessingham has asked if you can handle both investigations. He seems to have taken quite a liking to you. Could you manage both?’
Simmonds desperately wanted to say ‘no’ but he knew that would not be well received. Instead he replied ‘I’ll give it my best shot’
‘Excellent. Obviously I’ll place extra resources at your disposal should you need them’
Simmonds felt apprehensive. He was good at his job but this sort of workload was a step change.
‘I perhaps shouldn’t be telling you this’ added the Chief Inspector ‘but I will – Bessingham asked to see your personnel file a couple of days ago. I was ordered to hand it over’
They exited on to the snow covered lawn and crossed to what remained after the conflagration. Now uncovered and in the cold light of day the sight was truly gruesome – as if charcoal had been crudely sculpted into the shape of a body on a cross, parts that had separated in the heat lying beside. A respectful but uncomfortable silence surrounded the scene. ‘Best leave this to the scientific chaps’ said the Chief wisely, quickly holding a handkerchief to his mouth as he gagged.