Time seemed to stand still, and it was only gradually, as though through a fog, that Simmonds recognised the man holding Piccolo. It was the Hotel Manager! How could this be? How had he overlooked this character? He’d always been there, in the background, but was so ordinary that Simmonds could hardly remember his name, let alone think him capable of this. A feeling of abject stupidity washed across the Inspector. What else had he missed?
Rarely is the solution to a dangerous situation handed to you, but in this case it literally was as Lord B passed his revolver to Simmonds. Of course his military service meant he was well versed in the use of firearms, but this was the first time he had need of one on police duty. There was no protocol to follow, it was a decisive moment.
‘Don’t do anything stupid man!’ Lord B unexpectedly shouted out to Smith (for that was the Hotel Manager’s name — Cedric Smith; even the name was unremarkable). ‘It doesn’t have to end like this’ Lord B concluded, alluding to some tragic outcome — for whom remained moot. Simmonds said nothing, he was too focused to speak. This wasn’t about blackmail any more, neither was it about the Howard family, it was about his wife. His course of action now became clear.