When they arrived back at the Hollies they found that their deliveries had arrived, and the next hour was spent as they experimented with their new wardrobes. As they relaxed over tea, Jacobs entered.
“Mr. Burtles has returned Sir. I have taken the presumption of inviting him in to speak with you Sir.” he bowed. There was a flurry of excitement and Mr. Burtles was shown in. He was a stout, respectable looking man in his early sixties, and introductions were made. He explained that he had recieved the communication from Lady melia only that morning, and had headed straight for Okehampton.
““Arthur and I were partners.” he explained, " Several years ago, the Cotterill Armaments Company hit a lean spell. As a man of independent wealth, I was seeking an investment at the time and my broker brought me to the attention of Lord Cotterill. After several meetings, I invested heavily in the company and became a partner.”
“But why did you argue?” asked Sebastian.
“Work. It’s an old argument." continued Mr. Burtles. " Arthur and I have been partners for 15 years. He did the design work, I provided the money and used my contacts to acquire materials — some of our inventions required very precise machining. I suppose it all started two years ago, really. Arthur had just sent off his latest designs to the War Office. He was confident they would accept anything he sent them, arrogant fool that he was. He had designed an underwater weapon for these submarines everyone is experimenting with. The War Office turned him down, quoting it as being too expensive, especially since submarines were still experimental."
“Successive inventions were also rejected. Each prototype of these designs cost us thousands and thousands, and we were getting no return. The regular patents provided limited income, but our expenditure was huge."
“Anyway, the German government offered us a fortune for the blueprints for all the weapons the War Office had rejected. No idea how they found out about them. Arthur refused without even consulting me — ‘You can’t trust foreigners,’ he used to say. A Herr von Steinhagen contacted me a few days before Arthur’s death and asked me to try and change his mind. That’s why I was here. Arthur remained pig-headed, though, saying he’d rather go bankrupt than deal with a German.”
“I see” purred Sebastian, “When did you tell Herr Oberst von Steinhagen of the result of your meeting?”
“I telegrammed him from the village, just before I caught the train at nine o’clock.” replied Burtles.
“And did Lord Cotterill open the safe while you were there?” asked Lady Glossop.
“No. There wasn’t any need.” said Mr. Burtles crisply.
“Was Lord Cotterill alive when you left?” said Sebastian, staring him straight in the eye.
“I don’t appreciate your insinuation Sir" replied Mr. Burtles hotly,"Of course he was alive, just ask Jacobs. He had just summoned Jacobs to escort me from the house when I stormed off! Ejecting his own business partner!” Lady Glossop moved forward to smooth the hiccup over.
“There’s just one more thing Mr. Burtles” she asked apologetically, “Was the study window open during your visit?”
“Only a crack. I like to smoke cigars, but Arthur hated the smell.”
“And did you close the window” she persisted.
“No, no, I didn’t. After our row I stormed out. I must have forgotten to close it in my anger.”
With no further questions to ask, Mr. Burtles took his leave, indicating that he could be contacted in London over the next couple of days.