Whilst officers concluded a final clean up of the crime scene at Bessingham Hall, they discovered a ring. It was a man’s silver signet ring, which though blackened and burned, had gone unnoticed in the snow. A quick clean revealed that it had engraved upon it three initials. The news of this discovery took some time to reach Simmonds, due to an administrative oversight, but as soon as he saw the report he deduced the identity of the crucifix victim.
Simmonds and Piccolo sat at the bar in The Lynn hotel.
‘Henry Jerome Dalling’ said Simmonds ‘H.J.D.’.
‘Can you be positive?’ asked Piccolo, somewhat taken aback by this turn of events.
‘No. Not positive’ replied Simmonds. ‘The physical remains are worthless, but it adds up unless there is some massive coincidence. McPherson flagged that Dalling was missing after finding his dog on the loose. I asked him to undertake a search of the house and there’s no sign of Dalling. Place was simply locked up. No luggage nor clothes missing so it doesn’t look like he’s gone away. Newspapers and milk have continued to be delivered so he didn’t cancel them, which surely he would have done if he knew he wasn’t going to be there’.
‘Any trace of a struggle?’ she asked. Her questions were as good as any police detective’s.
‘No. Neighbours saw and heard nothing’.
‘But why would he end up burned to death on a cross at Bessingham Hall?’ Piccolo asked.
‘Absolutely no idea’ admitted Simmonds. It was pointless being other than truthful with his wife.
They ordered a second round of drinks.
‘So’ asked Piccolo ‘are we proceeding with the working hypothesis that there is a link between the murders of Miss Margaret Howard and that of Mr Henry Dalling?’.
‘It’s tempting’ Simmonds replied.
‘Do you think he was directly involved in her death?’.
‘Well it was a drugs poisoning and he has a track record there’.
‘Presumed’ qualified Piccolo.
‘Presumed’ agreed Simmonds. ‘Of course it wouldn’t have made much sense to have killed her and then to have been the one to report finding the body, unless it was a clever smokescreen’.
‘So he killed Miss Margaret and was then killed in revenge?’. Piccolo postulated then quickly contradicted herself. ‘No. That doesn’t make any sense. Does it?’.
‘Surely it can’t be that simple’ Simmonds said. ‘And it’s the nature of the burning cross that still disturbs me. I’m still of the opinion that it was meant as a message. There are more principle players here than Dalling, we just have to unmask the rest of the cast’. He took an olive from a bowl on the bar and tried to focus his mind, but another thought occurred. ‘Excuse me’ he said catching the attention of the barkeeper. ‘Is Eric not working today?’.
‘Eric doesn’t work here anymore, sir’ said the barkeeper, polishing a glass.
Now that is odd, thought Simmonds, but then he remembered something else. He turned to Piccolo. ‘I nearly forgot to mention’ he said ‘I went over to Marwich earlier and interviewed George Whittle. He may be close to Edith, but I think he was totally besotted with Miss Margaret’.