فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

The Big Picture

After his interview with Mr Larkin, the Inspector went to see Mr Pryce, the Managing Director. His office was at the back of the Hall, on the ground floor.

‘About two minutes’ walk from the dining room,’ the Inspector said to himself as he knocked on the office door. ‘I must remember that.’

Mr Pryce opened the door of the office himself. He was a tall, thin man of about forty-five. He shook hands with the detective.

‘Please sit down, Inspector,’ Mr Pryce said.

Inspector Ainsworth looked around the office. There was a large desk with a chair behind it. Papers were neatly arranged on the desk, and there was a telephone. There was a smaller table with several expensive computers on it. The Inspector looked curiously at the computers.

‘Wonderful things, aren’t they, Inspector?’ Mr Pryce said proudly, ‘That’s the world of the future, you know.’

‘The Inspector laughed. ‘You’re probably right, sir,’ he said, ‘but I’m a little out of date. I keep intending to learn about computers, but I’ve never got the time.’

The Inspector opened his notebook, and looked at it.

‘I understand that you found the body, sir,’ he began.

‘Yes, that’s right,’ Mr Pryce confirmed. ‘I did.’

‘Would you tell me exactly what happened, please?’ the Inspector asked. ‘I know you’ve already told the local police, but I’d like to hear your own account, if you don’t mind, sir,’

‘Of course,’ Mr Pryce agreed. ‘I arrived here at my usual time. I came into the office and did some work. Then at about ten minutes to nine I went to the dining room to wait for Mr Mowbray and the others. We were going to have breakfast together. That’s when I saw him… when I discovered the body.’

‘What did you do then, sir?’ The Inspector asked.

‘I came straight back here and telephoned the police,’ Mr Pryce said.

‘That was at nine o’clock sir?’ the Inspector asked.

‘Yes, that’s right,’ Mr Pryce agreed.

‘I see,’ the Inspector said thoughtfully. He scribbled something in his notebook.

‘Was there anything special about the directors’ meeting this morning?’

‘No, nothing I can think of,’ the Managing Director replied. ‘It was a routine meeting, Inspector.’

‘I’ve just been speaking to Mr Larkin,’ the Inspector told him. ‘Do you know what he wanted to talk about at the meeting, Mr Pryce?’

‘Yes, I do,’ the Managing Director said with a laugh. ‘He always finds some little thing in the accounts to complain about. This time it’s Miss Markham’s market research that worries him. He doesn’t realise how lucky we are to have her in the company. She’s young, but she’s a real expert in her field. Have a look at this, Inspector.’

He passed the Inspector a book. He looked at the title.

‘Marketing Organization and Consumer Behavior, by Patricia Markham.’

‘You see,’ said Mr Pryce. ‘She really knows what she’s doing, Inspector. Larkin should be encouraging her, not making her life difficult at meetings.

Don’t misunderstand me.

Larkin’s a good man, and he takes his responsibilities seriously. But he worries too much about little things. He doesn’t see the big picture.’

‘What do you mean, “the big picture”, Mr Pryce?’

‘Let me tell you something about the company,’ Mr Pryce suggested. ‘Arthur Mowbray made his fortune with the Mowbray Murder game. He was a gifted young man, but he didn’t know anything about business. He was a dreamer, really. Brilliant, of course, but still a dreamer. Lord Sheffield was the business brains of the company. He organised everything. He made the company a huge success, not just in Britain but in America as well. It was Lord Sheffield who went to America for the company. Mowbray always refused to go. Whenever there was a serious problem, it was Lord Sheffield who managed to solve it.’

‘I’m beginning to understand something about Arthur Mowbray,’ the Inspector said. ‘Mr Larkin’s already told me that Arthur Mowbray didn’t know anything about the finances of the company.’

‘Lord Sheffield died six months ago,’ Mr Pryce continued. ‘That’s why the company is in serious trouble now. Sales in Britain and America have begun to decline. The market for children’s games is changing, you see. No one wants to play board games anymore. Products are like people, Inspector. They grow old and die.’

‘I see,’ the Inspector said thoughtfully.

‘Now do you understand what I said about Larkin?’ Mr Pryce said angrily. ‘He’s always going on about small things in the accounts, but he doesn’t understand the real problem. We’re in a crisis, Inspector, and if we don’t do something pretty soon, there won’t be a company left!’

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