The next morning Sebastian and the others arrived at the Gore Hotel, and were directed to a private room. Seated by the fire was an attractive lady dressed in a fine, black dress. She rose as they entered, and a faint smile lit her face as she recognised Sebastian. She held out her hand, which he bowed and kissed.
“Sebastian, and Sirs,” she began, “Thank you for seeing me at such short notice. I need your help at a time of great personal crisis." She paused, and tears seemed about to well up into her beautiful face, but she managed to master her emotions and return to the point at hand.
“To put it bluntly, I wish you to look into the murder of my father.” There was a pause, and as his companions muttered their condolances. Sebastian stepped forward with a look of shock on his face. She held her hand forward.
“No please Sebastian, let me finish”, she said, “I am finding this so very difficult as it is, and I must get to the end of it.” He bowed his head and she continued.
“My father was murdered at our family home near Okehampton four days ago- you know it well Sebastian.” She looked at him and he nodded slowly.
“I have been away in India, but returned with my fiancée just yesterday and learned of the terrible news. Father had been working hard on a new invention and I returned to ensure he was looking after himself — he was not a well man.”
“Oh? Why is that Lady Amelia?” asked Henry.
“His replies to my letters were becoming more erratic. I made a few discreet enquiries among family friends and it seemed that there had been several recurrences of his malaria. Knowing his tendency towards over work I decided it might be prudent to return.”
“And what were the circumstances of your poor father’s death?” asked Sebastian.
“It seems Jacobs, the butler found him.” she replied. "He took father his evening tea and found him dead in his study. Jacobs said that my father had been stabbed by an intruder.”
“I say!” exclaimed Bertie, “Was anything stolen?”
“The safe door was open, but I do not know exactly what was inside. As soon as I learned of the murder I telegrammed you and ordered that nothing in the study be touched. Father’s body was taken away, of course, to the local doctors, for a postmortem.”
“Eh,but what about Police?” purred Marco with his smooth voice. Sebastian frowned slightly.
“And what about his visitors that day? What?” asked Bertie.
“His only visitor was his business partner, Mr. Edington Burtle.” explained Lady Amelia.
“According to Jacobs, he and father had a frightful row. Their voices could be heard throughout the entire house. Mr. Burtle stormed off without waiting to be shown out. Unfortunately, Jacobs could hear voices, but not words. Mr. Burtle is elsewhere in England on business, but I have left messages for him to come to Okehampton as soon as he receives them. And as for the Police, Sergeant Barnes is a dear man and knew my father well. His heart is in the right place, but I fear he lacks the experience to bring my father’s killer to justice”
“Hmm. And what was your father working on at the time?” asked Sebastian.
“According to father’s last telegram, which I received two weeks ago in Alexandria, he had just finished a new invention and was waiting to hear back from the War Office on the prospect of a contract. As always in these matters, father was tight-lipped and I do not profess to understand his work.” said Lady Amelia.
”But I don’t understand" puzzled Sebastian, “Why have I not read of his death in the papers?”
“Fortunately we live in a small community and I have managed to keep father’s death quiet for now. However, news will undoubtedly leak out, and as a peer of the realm murdered in his home, this will attract reporters from Fleet Street. I wish to have the case solved before then to avoid any unnecessary speculation.”
“Of course, I have some small personal resources, but…….” Just then there was a commotion at the door, and a sharp female rebuke to the hotel porter. The door swung open, and an immaculate Lady Glossop entered, smiling archly.
“Oh I hope you will forgive me for my little lateness my dears, but I had an early appointment at the Salon.” As the immediate centre of attention she smiled at Lady Amelia. " My what a lovely dress, I used to have one rather like it, until I gave it away to my maid."
Sebastian looked askance at the arrival of Lady Glossop with some irritation. He had been half-listening to Lady Amelia’s story of grief while at the same time working out how best to offer her some ‘physical comfort’ as a way of consoling her.
Lady Glossop’s arrival and the look on her face told him that this was not going to be such an easy task while she was around and so he brought his attention back to the more important situation.
“Well obviously as officers and gentlemen, there is no shadow of a doubt that we would help a damsel in distress, especially for such an … such a loyal friend,” Sebastian said, his eyes struggling to keep eyes on her rather than on her decolletage. He pulled a Bradshaw from one of the bookcases and started to thumb through it.
“Hmm…Time is obviously of the essence." he said. “We should make haste to get to Waterloo Bridge Station where we can catch the London and South West railway service direct to Okehampton. There is a station in Okehampton itself, and so the place is quite easy to get to. If we catch the early afternoon train we can be there by four.”
Thanking Sebastian profusely, Lady Amelia agreed to telegram Jacobs and have him meet the group at the station in Okehampton with the carriage. Unfortunately she needed to stay in London and begin sorting out her father’s affairs, but she promised to return to Devon as soon as possible.
“Thank you Sebastian, and thank you Gentleman. Thank you all.”
Marco grinned to himself as he noted there was no mention of Lady Glossop.