The complexity of the various goings-on was rapidly outgrowing the board Simmonds had started back at The Lynn. Although many of the connections were no more than assumptions, instinct dictated to the Inspector that they were all part of one big picture, if only he could discern what that was. Of course, catching Miss Margaret’s murderer was still the prime focus, and Simmonds had to ensure that other matters did not detract from this goal. But at the same time he could not afford to ignore what was evolving around him. He remembered what he had said at the bank – Yes, Mortimer Catchpole was certainly the person of interest. Did his absence now reinforce this opinion? Was the investigation the reason he had gone away, or was it mere holiday coincidence?. If he was indeed Lady B’s blackmailer (and that was just another assumption), had he been ‘tipped off’ to avoid the trap?. And if that were the case, what then was the point of Simmonds and Piccolo staying at the Hall for Christmas?. Should he put an end to the speculation and outright demand that Lady B disclose the name of the blackmailer?.
Chief Inspector Dawson wasn’t lying when he said that Bill Ransome was the best paperwork officer they had on the force. He’d done a fine job in a short period of time identifying and auditing Mortimer Catchpole’s accounts, but had found nothing untoward. His report cautiously noted however that the existence of monies in accounts under assumed names, or cash or other financial instruments not banked, could not be discounted. Somehow Simmonds was not surprised at these findings, but something did grab his attention. At the end of the report Ransome wrote that he had discovered that Catchpole had an ex-wife, and that she was alive and living in a northern county. Simmonds made a request to that local constabulary to trace the ex Mrs Catchpole. The Inspector wasn’t a great believer in profiling, but he was keen to learn more about the unusual character that was Mortimer Catchpole, and a former wife could well prove to be invaluable in this respect. But even if she were traced immediately time was not going to permit Simmonds to interview her straight away. He’d already discussed with the Chief Inspector spending Christmas at the Hall, and although he had taken some convincing, Dawson had approved it as official business — so that would take priority. In the end it had been an unwillingness to contradict the wishes of Lady Bessingham that had swayed the argument, though eventually he also accepted the potential for such an exercise to bring a criminal to heel. Any questioning of the ex Mrs Catchpole, no matter how fruitful it may prove, would therefore have to wait.