The Body On The Beach: 54

They let themselves into Rose Cottage. It was cold, as was to be expected for a house left empty in winter. An odour of tobacco and dog persisted. They walked around the rooms slowly and quietly, partially out of respect for another’s space, partially so as to be unhurried investigators. Dishes remained to be washed in the sink; food had gone rotten on the shelves; the fire in the lounge had burned down rather than being put out. Signs of a place no one had planned to leave. ‘A second set of keys’ said Piccolo, noticing them hanging from a hook. ‘And we already have the set found under the plant pot outside’ said Simmonds.

‘It would be unlikely he’d have more than two sets, so he appears to have left in a hurry not taking any with him’ Piccolo said.

‘Front door was on the latch when McPherson first arrived’ added Simmonds. ‘Dalling didn’t strike me as the type of man who’d leave his door unlocked though’.

‘Then he was incapacitated when he left?’.

‘He either had no intention of returning or he was taken forcibly’ said Simmonds. ‘Difficult to see any other probabilities’.

They walked around some more, occasionally moving an object or opening a drawer or a cupboard door.

‘Has that thought come back to you?’ Piccolo asked.

‘No’ said Simmonds. ‘I’m beginning to wonder if I imagined it’.

‘I’m the one with the over-active imagination darling. Now, exactly where were you when you spoke with Dalling?’.

‘In the front room’.

‘Did you go anywhere else in the house?’.

‘No’.

‘Then let’s go back to the front room’. They did so. ‘Whatever it was must be in here’ said Piccolo. Simmonds stood and tried to recreate in his mind the original encounter with Dalling. He closed his eyes for a while. It was only at this point that Piccolo noticed the Egyptian objects – she had not been privy to Catchpole’s disclosure of Dalling’s pastime, and consequently thought them somewhat unusual for such a setting. ‘Got it!’ exclaimed Simmonds. ‘It was so plain it almost passed me by … There were two pairs of men’s boots next to the fire’. He gestured in that direction. ‘But they were clearly of different sizes, yet Dalling apparently lived alone …’.

‘So who did the other boots belong to?’ interjected Piccolo, ‘and where are they now?’.

*

In light of the recollection Simmonds went through the house looking for evidence of a second person having been there. He could find none. He did however discover two other pairs of shoes, presumably both belonging to Henry Dalling. They were a size five, which was small for a grown man. If the other boots had been the larger ones that would have made them a size eight or nine, Simmonds assumed, and that was average for an adult male, so nothing out of the ordinary as a means of identifying their owner. Without evidence (and Simmonds didn’t even have the boots), he could no more than file the observation away for possible future reference. Police work was rarely linear progression, it was stop and start. He had plenty in his pending tray to be getting along with. But it was yet another something that didn’t make any sense.

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