The Body On The Beach: 41

‘It may surprise you to learn that I have in fact read every one of your books’ said Lady B to Piccolo. Mary brought in food and drink and then sat in a corner with her sewing – that made three of them in Lady B’s bedroom, the downstairs room that had been converted for her use. Ailments had aged her beyond her years. She continued: ‘I am particularly fond of ‘The Venetian Folly’. Blackmail is such a dirty business, don’t you agree?’. Lady Bessingham had not been so animated on the previous occasions that Piccolo had met with her – indeed they had barely exchanged a word. But now here she was discussing the plot of a novel. Piccolo was somewhat taken aback — she was totally unaware of course that Lady B faced a predicament, and had been emboldened by another whom, like the heroin in her story, had encountered a fiend and desired satisfaction.

‘Blackmail is indeed a dirty business’ said Piccolo. ‘After murder itself possibly the most reprehensible crime. Both are stalwart fixtures in a mystery writer’s tool-kit’.

‘So tell me’ said Lady B ‘if you were being blackmailed how would you deal with it?’.

‘Well like Jane Barton chose to do in ‘The Venetian Folly’ I certainly wouldn’t pay up. What guarantee would you have of the blackmailer’s silence, and what’s to stop them coming back for more? They hold all the cards’ explained Piccolo.

‘Then you would follow the solution in the book – lure the blackmailer into a trap and then kill them?’.

‘It wasn’t a trap as such, I assumed the blackmailer would be smart enough to avoid that, so if you recall it was a party where more than one of the guests had motive to be the murderer’.

‘It’s strange that you didn’t have Jane go to the police for help, with your husband being a detective’ said Lady Bessingham.

‘Ah but it’s a work of fiction, not the real world. Solutions would be somewhat different in reality’.

‘Need they be?’ asked Lady B. Piccolo didn’t know how to answer. ‘And if I told you that in the real world I was being blackmailed, what advice would you give me Miss Piccolo?’.

‘Presumably though you are not actually being blackmailed, Lady Bessingham’ said Piccolo.

‘Oh indeed I most assuredly am my dear, and in desperate need of your help. Now do have a slice of cake’.


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