فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

The Conspiracy

It was late in the morning when the Inspector arrived at Mowbray Hall.

‘I think I’ll talk to Patricia Markham again,’ he told the Sergeant. ‘There are one or two things I need to find out from her.’

A few minutes later the detective was in Miss Markham’s office.

‘You haven’t been with the company very long, have you?’ he enquired.

‘No,’ Miss Markham replied. ‘I started five months ago. Inspector.’

‘Five months ago? That would be after the death of Lord Sheffield, am I right?’

‘That’s correct,’ the director confirmed. ‘Lord Sheffield died about a month before I started work here.’

‘Mr Pryce told me that Lord Sheffield was the business brains of the company. His death must have been a serious blow. I suppose?’ the Inspector asked.

Patricia Markham nodded.

‘That’s right, Inspector,’ she said. ‘Arthur Mowbray was an old man. He didn’t want to see that the company was doing badly. He didn’t have any new ideas, you see. And when Lord Sheffield died, I think he just gave up.’

She paused for a moment, and then went on.

‘It was sad, really. We all knew that the company couldn’t last much longer - the losses had been very bad in the last six months.’

‘I see,’ the Inspector commented sympathetically.

‘Mr Pryce did his best,’ Miss Markham continued. ‘He told Mr Mowbray again and again that the company was losing money. He told him that the workshops would have to be closed down, and the men laid off - but Mr Mowbray wouldn’t listen. He just wouldn’t listen, Inspector.’

She paused again, and looked at the Inspector.

‘You and Mr Pryce are quite close, aren’t you, Miss Markham?’

Miss Markham blushed.

‘I don’t know what you mean!’ she replied angrily. ‘What are you suggesting? I don’t understand-‘

‘I heard you talking in his office yesterday,’ the Inspector told her. ‘What were you talking about?’

Patricia Markham looked uncomfortable. ‘Nothing important, Inspector,’ she said. ‘We just…’

‘This is a murder investigation, Miss Markham,’ the Inspector reminded her. ‘I need everybody’s help if I am going to find the murderer. I’m sure you understand that.’

Miss Markham sighed.

‘All right, Inspector,’ she said. ‘I’d better tell you everything. It isn’t what you think. Mr Pryce is a colleague. We aren’t-‘

She blushed again.

‘Go on, please,’ the Inspector told her.

‘Mr Pryce told me about the problem he was having with Mr Mowbray,’ she explained. ‘He said the old man wouldn’t consider closing the workshops. Mr Pryce had an idea. He thought he could make Arthur Mowbray listen if we showed him some market research into the company’s prospects. We wanted to make him face reality, Inspector. That was all.’

‘I see,’ the Inspector said. ‘So the idea for your market research came from Mr Pryce, did it?’

‘Yes,’ Miss Markham replied. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t have agreed to help him, but I thought he was right, you see. I thought it was the best thing for the company.’

‘Then what happened?’ the Inspector wanted to know. ‘Did the plan work?’

‘I gave Mr Pryce the market research reports a week ago, and he took them to Mr Mowbray. I don’t know what they said to each other, but I do know they had a loud argument - everybody heard them shouting.’

She paused.

‘But I don’t see what that’s got to do with the murder, Inspector!’

Inspector Ainsworth showed her the yellow card that had been in the dead man’s hand.

‘Have you ever seen this before?’ he asked.

Patricia Markham looked at the card and shook her head.

‘No, Inspector, I haven’t. Is it important?’

‘I think it proves that Arthur Mowbray was working on a new game when he was killed,’ the Inspector said. ‘Somebody wanted to stop him -I think that’s why he was murdered,’

Patricia Markham looked confused.

‘But Arthur Mowbray hadn’t made a new game for years, Inspector! And why should anyone want to stop him?’

‘I don’t know,’ the Inspector told her. ‘But I’m going to find out.’

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