فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

The Best Products

It was now late in the afternoon, and Inspector Ainsworth was drinking a cup of tea with the Sergeant in the kitchen of the Hall.

The Inspector consulted his notebook.

‘I’ve spoken to all the directors except Mr Johnson,’ he told the Sergeant. ‘I’d better see him next.’

The Inspector found Mr Johnson’s office empty when he got there. The office was very different to Mr Pryce’s. There was an untidy heap of papers on his desk, and there were chart and diagrams on one wall. There WAS a large bookcase full of Mowbray games.

The Inspector took down one of the boxes. The lid had a brightly painted battle-scene on it, and the words War and Peace in large letters.

The Inspector was struck by the beauty of the illustration.

‘Good, isn’t it,’ a voice said behind him. The Inspector turned. The speaker was a man in his late fifties.

‘Mr Johnson?’ the Inspector asked.

‘That’s right,’ the man said. ‘You must be Inspector Ainsworth.’

Mr Johnson studied the board again.

‘Look at the detail there,’ he said enthusiastically, ‘just look at it, Inspector! Every piece of it is based on a real battle that took place in France. You can’t get that kind of detail from maps and books, you know - you have to go there and see for yourself.’

‘It’s wonderful,’ the Inspector said.

‘Ah, yes, War and Peace is one of my favourites. I was a young man when I painted that. I spent three weeks in France working on it.’

‘You painted it yourself, sir?’ the Inspector asked in surprise.

The Production Director laughed softly.

‘That surprises you, doesn’t it? But I was an artist when I was a young man. That’s how I started here, you see. Mr Mowbray liked my work, and he offered me a job. I was the chief illustrator at first, and then I became the Production Director. I illustrated all the Mowbray games, Inspector,’ he said proudly. ‘That’s the part of my job that I love best. Mr Mowbray told me the success of the company was due to my paintings and illustrations - I’ve always been very proud of that!’

Mr Johnson reached out and took the board from the Inspector. He studied the picture on the lid once more.

‘Quality, Inspector, that’s the secret of the Mowbray games. Everything has to be the best, Arthur Mowbray came up with the best ideas for games, and I turned those ideas into the best products.’

He placed the box gently on the office desk.

‘It isn’t just the paintings on the lid, you see. Have a look at this.’

He opened the box, and passed a little figure to the Inspector.

‘That little fellow there is one of the French soldiers,’ he explained. ‘Look carefully, Inspector. Every aspect of his clothing and equipment is historically accurate. It’s a work of art!’

The Inspector examined the figure carefully. Mr Johnson was right. Every detail was rendered perfectly.

‘It’s wonderful,’ he said, handing the soldier back to the Production Director. ‘How did you manage it, sir?’

Mr Johnson smiled proudly.

‘We’ve got some of the best craftsmen in England in our workshops here,’ he explained. ‘It’s been my life’s work to bring them all together. But the results are worth it!’

‘I can see that,’ the Inspector agreed. ‘Is it possible that Mr Mowbray was working on a new game, sir? We found this in the dining room.’ He handed the yellow card to the Production Director.

Mr Johnson looked at the card for a moment, and then gave it back to the Inspector.

‘I suppose it’s possible,’ he replied. ‘He never mentioned it to me, but when he was working on a new game he kept everything a secret.’

‘Even from you, Mr Johnson?’ the Inspector asked. ‘How could your department design a new game if he kept everything a secret?’

‘It was simple,’ Mr Johnson told him. ‘He gave me a broad description of the game first, so that the craftsmen could design the characters. Then I worked on the board itself, from a general outline he gave me. But he never showed me the cards for the game until we were ready to go into full production. So I knew what the game was about. Inspector, but I didn’t know how to play it. That’s how he kept the secret!’

Mr Johnson looked triumphantly at the Inspector. It was obvious that he delighted in Arthur Mowbray’s cleverness.

It was getting dark when the Inspector drove away from Mowbray Hall. It had been a long day, and he was tired. He had a lot to think about.

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