The Body On The Beach: 62

Simmonds drove for the remainder of the journey. Now it was Piccolo’s turn to be the uncomfortable passenger, in more ways than one. The Inspector ground the gears a number of times en route, much to his wife’s consternation.

Upon arrival at the Hall Simmonds immediately telephoned the station with an account of the incident. Unfortunately he’d not caught sight of the car’s number-plate. It would be almost impossible to find without such detail – though he suspected it was stolen and would soon end up being dumped, its occupants making a hasty escape on foot. An alert was issued nonetheless. Lady B’s nurse, Mary, was told to take care of Piccolo who was by now showing some signs of shock. Hot sweet tea was called for. Luckily the right wrist was badly sprained and not broken and was bandaged accordingly. Lord B’s chauffeur, who doubled as a mechanic to His Lordship’s Rolls Royce, was asked to inspect the couple’s tourer and assess the damage, which turned out to be cosmetic rather than structural.

There was much animated discussion as to motive for the assault, but no conclusion was reached. Simmonds, naturally, pondered a link to the investigations. Piccolo was of the same mind. Were their lives in danger? The consequences could have been far worse, but still the injury to Piccolo was inconvenient enough for a right-handed writer used to taking copious notes at any opportunity. Nevertheless she remained commendably stoical in the face of such adversity. Hopefully it would be fully functional ‘in a day or two’. In other words she would have to endure a painful and creatively unproductive Christmas. It was not an auspicious beginning.

Piccolo was given some aspirin and she and Simmonds went up to their room. Thoughtfully their hosts had allocated them a different one to their previous stay so as not to remind them directly of that horrid night. Of course it was the sort of thing that was impossible to expunge from one’s mind irrespective of location. A member of staff carried up their bags which unusually, but fortuitously, had been placed on the back seats rather than strapped to the boot and so had escaped damage. The same could not be said of the bottles of fine and relatively expensive wines they had brought as gifts. That mess would require some deep cleaning. Simmonds unpacked and transferred clothes from cases to wardrobe and drawers as best as he could under Piccolo’s more expert direction. It was mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve, but not entirely spent as they had anticipated.

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