The Body On The Beach: 64

At dinner that evening the cast assembled consisted of Lord and Lady B, their son Charles, cousin Edith (accompanied by George Whittle), Simmonds and Piccolo. There was also the Howard family Doctor (who had latterly examined the sprained wrist, concurred with the nurse’s diagnosis, and prescribed ‘rest’), and a business associate of Lord B who turned out to be a senior Stockbroker in The City — both men were partnered by, as Piccolo mentally noted, ‘their weak and insipid wives’. Conversation was confined to the trivial. There was no mention of crime. There was a noticeable coolness between Lord and Lady B. Simmonds helped Piccolo with her food (the cutting up of meat etc) as her wrist was somewhat immobile. Both looked around the table more than once wondering if the blackmailer was amongst them. Anyone seated could have been the miscreant. Both the Doctor and the Stockbroker ate too much; both their wives drank too much. Charles frequently laughed for no apparent reason. George and Edith exchanged glances of affection.

The ladies withdrew when the meal was finished (poor Piccolo, it wasn’t her scene but she obliged). The gentlemen remained to pass the port and puff on expensive cigars (Simmonds declined both; Charles excused himself). It was quite an unremarkable evening, and there had been no sight or sound of Lady B’s plan, nor an opportunity to quiz her on it. But it was to be of no consequence, for in the end matters would be resolved sooner than anyone expected.

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