The Body On The Beach: 73

In Paris a diamond was found inside an apple. In Japan people mourned for the passing of their Emperor. But none of that mattered here, nor had what occurred here mattered there. Distance was still, for the moment, the defining factor in assigning the importance of events. The calendar turned and 1926 transformed into 1927. The big old world continued to spin. Flying machines would soon make it appear much smaller.

Cedric Smith was sent to prison for a good many years. He had made some ludicrous defence in court, denying any involvement in a blackmail plot, instead saying he had confronted Lady Bessingham over an embezzlement of monies he had uncovered at The Lynn Hotel (where, coincidentally, on the opening day of the trial, a small fire destroyed the office). He gave no explanation as to his possession of the knife or of his assault on Piccolo except saying that his mind was blank in that respect. Lady B’s testimony however was sufficiently clear and coherent to gain a conviction. It was accepted that Smith had indeed been blackmailing Lady B over the illegitimacy of Miss Margaret (dismissed by the Judge in his summing up as ‘pure fantasy’), and had threatened her that evening with menaces after being lured into believing he was being paid off, only to discover a trap.

Miss Margaret’s cause of death was revisited by the coroner (in private) and another verdict given to replace ‘murder’ (viz ‘accidental death’ rather than ‘suicide’, so as to spare public anguish for such an important local family). The question of her parentage was never mentioned again.

Simmonds pleaded George Whittle’s case and he escaped with a reprimand. He resigned his partnership putting an end to his legal career. But all was not lost for his redemption – he had after all only acted with good intent. George and Edith set sail for Australia in a matter of weeks where they married soon afterwards and lived out a long and successful life together, George demonstrating his worth in his Father-in-Law’s business. Whether the truth of what had passed was told on the other side of the world we do not know, one of the many beauties of that place being that so much of what longs to be forgotten can be discarded in transit.

Whatever happened to Henry Dalling was never established (his being the burned body was never proved beyond doubt), and Eric and Agnes were never traced. Mortimer Catchpole was not charged with anything – indeed the contents of the letters between him and Miss Margaret indicated that he was nothing but a confidant. Undoubtedly he could have helped matters by disclosing what he knew, but there was little point in pursuing that point. The secrets Miss Edith thought she had overheard remained unexplained.

The maid Mary returned to Ireland, putting to rest her fear that she would never see the place again. Some months later she gave birth to a baby girl, who she named Margaret. Much shame was relieved shortly thereafter, when she married a kindly but hopeless man, she having little prospects otherwise. Like so many of their kind they gambled on a new life across the Atlantic, not realising how hard it would be in the crowded tenements and brutal sweatshops of New York. There Mary would dream of her days back at Bessingham Hall.

So much, perhaps inevitably, remained unresolved — as was often the outcome of a case. Simmonds knew that well, but the writer that was Piccolo abhorred the incomplete ending. Some things would become clear in the fullness of time, but those were stories for another day.

Piccolo was just glad to see an end to it, vowing to confine herself to crime fiction in the future. Of course she did no such thing.


Simmonds Investigates will return in early 2016.


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