Board Games by Butler James



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CHAPTER 1: The Body

Inspector Barry Ainsworth considered the problem carefully. The general’s body had been found in the dining room of the house. He had been shot through the heart with his own revolver. No one had broken into the house, and nothing had been stolen. Someone in the house must have killed him – but who?

He looked again at the list of people who were in the house. Any of them could be the murderer. There was the general’s servant, Deakin. Everyone had heard the general shouting furiously at Deakin the day before the murder. What had they quarrelled about, the Inspector wondered? Or was the murderer one of the general’s sons, perhaps? They were a peculiar bunch, the Inspector thought to himself. The eldest, Arthur, was the owner of an art gallery in London. He had beautiful clothes and he drove an expensive car, but the Inspector had made his inquiries. He knew that the art gallery was losing money. Perhaps Arthur had asked his father for money, and the old man had refused to give it to him. Had Arthur killed him in a sudden outburst of anger? Then there was Reginald, the second son. Reginald certainly knew how to use a revolver – he was the editor of Gun Monthly. Reginald loathed his father, everyone knew that. The two men had usually avoided each other. Why had Reginald come down to the house for the weekend? And what about the third son, the shy and innocent-looking doctor Richard? The Inspector had made inquiries about him, as well. He knew that Richard gambled heavily. Was he in financial trouble, too? Was that why he had come to see his father?

It was a difficult case, the Inspector said to himself.

Suddenly the answer came to him. He looked at the small boy in front of him.

‘I know everything,’ he said very seriously. ‘It was you. You took the general’s revolver when no one was looking, and you carried it up to your bedroom. You waited until everyone had gone to bed except the general. You knew that he always listened to the midnight news on the radio in the dining room. You came down the stairs just after midnight, and you shot him. It was you, I tell you!’

The small boy laughed excitedly and clapped his hands. Then he picked up the little metal figure of the general and began waving it around his head.

‘Well done, uncle!’ he cried. ‘You’ve solved it again. That’s the third Mowbray Murder game you’ve won in a row! I don’t know how you do it, really I don’t!’

‘It’s because I’m a detective in real life,’ Inspector Ainsworth told him with a laugh. ‘And you know the police always win in the end, Tommy!’

‘You two aren’t playing that old game again!’ Tommy’s mother said, as she came into the room. ‘We must have had it for years. We used to play it when we were children, do you remember, Barry?’

‘Of course I remember, Mary – I should think every family in England had a copy of the Mowbray Murder game in those days. It was a huge success, the first really popular board game.’

Tommy’s mother picked up the little metal figure, and looked at it.

‘Poor old general! You’re always the victim, aren’t you? I used to feel so sorry for you,’ she said with a laugh.

Inspector Ainsworth looked cheerful as he climbed the stairs to his office on Monday morning. He had enjoyed the evening at his sister’s house, and he was very fond of his nephew Tommy.

‘You’re pleased with yourself,’ the Superintendent said, catching sight of the smile on the Inspector’s face.

‘I had a good weekend,’ the Inspector replied. ‘Now it’s back to work, I suppose. What is there today. Bill?’

‘The Chief wants to see you in his office,’ the Superintendent told him.

A few minutes later Inspector Ainsworth was sitting in the Chief’s office. He wasn’t smiling now.

‘Mowbray, sir? Did you say “Mowbray”, sir?’ he asked.

‘That’s right,’ the Chief said. ‘Mowbray. You know, the Mowbray Murder game. Come on, Inspector, surely you’ve heard of that!’

The Inspector took a deep breath.

‘Of course I know the game, Chief. But I didn’t know there was a real Mowbray Hall. And now you’re telling me there’s been a real murder there!’

‘That’s correct,’ the Chief told him. ‘Arthur Mowbray has been murdered.’

‘I think you’d better tell me everything, sir,’ the Inspector said slowly. ‘From the beginning, if you don’t mind.’

‘Very well,’ the Chief agreed. ‘We had a telephone call earlier this morning from the local police. Arthur Mowbray, the head of the Mowbray company, was found dead at his home, about nine o’clock this morning.’

‘Where was the body found?’ the Inspector asked,

‘You won’t like this part. Inspector,’ the Chief said with a grim little smile, ‘Arthur Mowbray’s body was discovered in the dining room.’

‘The dining room!’ Inspector Ainsworth interrupted.

The Inspector began to feel rather strange. He felt weak, and a little dizzy. He tried to concentrate. Then he asked as casually as he could,

‘I suppose he was shot?’

‘Precisely,’ the Chief confirmed. Again he gave a grim little smile. ‘With his own army revolver, naturally.’

The Inspector took a deep breath.

‘What do we know about the victim, sir?’

‘The Mowbray story is pretty well known, Inspector, but I’ll give you the background all the same. Arthur Mowbray came from a rich family, but his father lost most of the family money through bad investments. The father died when Arthur was still at university. The young man suddenly discovered that he didn’t have a penny. He had the house, of course, but apart from that, nothing.’

‘What happened then?’ the Inspector asked.

‘He invented the Mowbray Murder game,’ the Chief explained. ‘That was a long time ago. He made the first game himself, out of cardboard and Plasticine figures. Then he thought of a clever plan for raising the money he needed to start the company. He invited another student, Lord Sheffield, to his rooms at the university to try the game out. Lord Sheffield enjoyed the game so much that he lent Mowbray 1,000 pounds to produce it commercially.

‘The rest is history, Inspector. Mowbray sold copies to everyone he knew. Within three years he was a rich man. He made other board games, and the company grew from there.’

He paused for a moment.

‘That’s all we know at the moment,’ he said, ‘except for one other thing.’

‘What’s that, sir?’ the Inspector asked.

Again the Chief smiled.

‘Just this. You are going to investigate the murder, my dear Inspector!’

 

 

CHAPTER 2: Mowbray Hall

Inspector Ainsworth drove to Mowbray Hall, which was fifty miles from London. He knew that he was approaching the Hall when he saw a line of police cars parked by the side of the road. The Inspector stopped his car, and showed one of the policemen his ID. ‘I’m investigating the case,’ he said. ‘Tell me how to get to the Hall, will you?’

‘You go through that gate over there, sir,’ the constable told him, ‘and follow the private road. The house is about half a mile down – it’s a big place, sir, you can’t miss it.’

The Inspector got back into his car, and drove down the private road. The grounds of the house were very large. There were well-kept gardens, many fine trees, and a number of low buildings that looked like workshops.

Then he saw Mowbray Hall itself, a large old building on the top of a small hill. Once again there were policemen standing outside the front entrance to the Hall. He parked his car.

A few minutes later the Inspector entered the dining room of the Hall with one of the local policemen. He looked down at the body on the floor.

‘Right, Sergeant, give me the details,’ he ordered. ‘I want to know everything.’

‘Yes, sir,’ replied the Sergeant. ‘The victim’s name is Arthur Mowbray. He’s been shot. Through the heart, sir. The revolver was found next to the body. There are no fingerprints on the weapon, sir, and the doctor tells us that the crime probably occurred between eight and nine o’clock this morning. There are no signs of burglary. That’s all we know so far.’

‘Good,’ said the Inspector. ‘What do we know about the victim?’

‘Arthur Mowbray was seventy years old. His wife died ten years ago. He lived here alone.’

‘Any relatives?’ the Inspector asked.

‘No, sir,’ the Sergeant replied. There was a son, Charles, but he was killed in a car accident in America about five years ago.’

‘I see,’ the Inspector said. ‘Is there a will?’

‘We’ve spoken to Mr Mowbray’s solicitor,’ the Sergeant told him. ‘He tells us that Mr Mowbray made a will ten years ago, when his son was still alive. He didn’t make a new one after his son’s death, sir.’

‘So the money goes to the closest relatives, I suppose?’ commented the Inspector. ‘Do we know who they are?’

‘There are some cousins in London, sir,’ the Sergeant said. ‘We don’t know anything about them yet.’

‘Who was in the house when the murder took place?’ the Inspector asked.

‘I’ve got it all written down here,’ the Sergeant said. He pulled out his notebook, and began- to read from it.

‘There was Mr Larkin, the Finance Director of the company, Miss Markham, the Marketing and Sales Director, and Mr Johnson, the Production Director. And Mr Pryce, he was here as well. We had a call from Mr Pryce at nine o’clock this morning, sir,’ he began.

The Inspector interrupted. ‘Mr Pryce? Who’s he?’

‘Mr Pryce is the company’s Managing Director, sir,’ the Sergeant told him. ‘He told us that he had an appointment with Mr Mowbray this morning. He discovered the body when he came into the dining room.’

‘Why did he come into the dining room?’ the Inspector asked.

‘He explained that, sir,’ the, Sergeant went on. ‘Apparently the directors all have breakfast at the Hall once or twice a week. That’s when they discuss business matters, you see.’

‘I’d better speak to everybody.’ the Inspector decided. ‘I’ll start with Mr Larkin, the Finance Director. Is his office here in the Hall, or in one of the workshops I saw in the grounds?’

‘His office is in the Hall,’ the Sergeant replied. ‘All the directors work in the Hall, sir.’

CHAPTER 3: Money Matters

Mr Larkin was a serious-looking man in his middle fifties. He was standing in front of his desk when the Inspector entered his office.

‘I’m Inspector Ainsworth, sir,’ the detective told him. ‘I’m investigating the murder, and I need to ask you some questions.’

‘Yes, of course,’ Mr Larkin said nervously, ‘I quite understand. It’s been terrible, Inspector, a terrible shock. Who would have thought…? Such a nice man. But really…’ He coughed, and made an effort to control himself. ‘I’m sorry, Inspector. Please ask your questions. I’ll tell you everything I can.’

‘I want to know as much as I can about the company and about Arthur Mowbray,’ the Inspector said. ‘It might help me in the investigation.’

‘Yes, I see,’ Mr Larkin agreed. ‘Well, Inspector, let’s start with the company finances, shall we? That’s my main responsibility.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ the Inspector said politely.

‘The company’s performance in the last year has been disappointing, I’m afraid,’ the director said. ‘Revenue is down on last year, and we’re facing some difficult decisions. We may have to make some people redundant in the near future, I’m afraid. That’s the fundamental situation.’

‘I suppose the death of Arthur Mowbray will make things worse.’ suggested the Inspector. ‘He must have played a big part in the financial decision making of the company.’

Mr Larkin smiled. The Inspector noticed the smile, and looked curiously at him.

‘I’m sorry, Inspector,’ the director said, ‘I shouldn’t smile. But the idea of Arthur Mowbray playing an important role in financial decision making is a strange one! He didn’t know anything about the world of finance,’ he explained. ‘He didn’t even know the difference between a bull market and a bear market, Inspector! I had to tell him…’

The director paused suddenly.

‘Let’s just say that Arthur Mowbray wasn’t interested in that side of the business, and leave it at that.’

‘I understand, sir,’ the Inspector said. ‘It’s interesting, what you say. Very interesting.’ He wrote something quickly in his notebook.

‘What about this morning’s meeting, Mr Larkin? Were you going to be there?’

‘Oh, yes, it was an informal meeting of the directors. We were all going to be there. There were one or two things that I thought we should discuss.’

‘What things in particular, Mr Larkin?’ the Inspector asked. Mr Larkin looked embarrassed, and then said quickly,

‘Just company matters, Inspector – nothing that would interest the police, I’m sure.’

Suddenly the Inspector spoke very seriously.

‘This is a murder investigation, Mr Larkin,’ he said quietly. ‘Withholding information is a serious offence, sir.’

‘Very well,’ Mr Larkin said unhappily. ‘If you put it like that I suppose I have no choice. The fact is, Inspector, I had noticed some unusual expenditure in the accounts, and I wanted to discuss it with the other directors. That’s all.’

‘What kind of expenditure?’ the Inspector asked.

‘It was in Sales and Marketing – Miss Markham’s responsibility, you know. I noticed that she had commissioned a lot of market research in recent months. I wondered if the expenditure was justified, that’s all. Miss Markham is quite new to the company, and she’s young. She’s very enthusiastic, of course, but I was worried about her judgement, that’s all.’

 

 

CHAPTER 4: 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!’

CHAPTER 5: The Card

Just then there was a knock at the door. Mr Pryce looked quickly at Inspector Ainsworth, and then called out, ‘Come in.’

A young woman entered the office. She was about thirty years old, slender and dark-haired. She was dressed in a business suit.

The woman stopped when she saw the Inspector.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said to Mr Pryce. ‘I didn’t know there was anyone with you.’

‘This is Patricia Markham, Inspector,’ Mr Pryce said. ‘She’s our Director of Marketing and Sales.’

The Inspector stood up to shake hands with the young woman.

‘What a terrible thing this murder is!’ the young woman exclaimed. ‘I really can’t imagine why anyone would want to hurt Arthur Mowbray. It doesn’t make any sense at all.’

‘Not at the moment, perhaps,’ the Inspector agreed. ‘But we’ll find out everything in the end, I can promise you that. That’s why I’ve been talking to Mr Pryce. He’s told me quite a lot about the company.’

The Inspector thought he saw Patricia Markham exchange a quick glance with Mr Pryce while he was speaking. She looked worried.

He stood up.

‘I won’t take up any more of your time just now, Mr Pryce,’ he said. ‘We can continue our conversation later.’

He turned to Miss Markham.

‘At some point I shall have to ask you some questions as well,’ he said to the young woman.

Patricia Markham looked at him in surprise.

‘Me, Inspector?’ she asked.

‘Of course,’ the Inspector told her. ‘I want to talk to all the directors, Miss Markham.’

The Inspector left Mr Pryce’s office, and closed the door behind him. He stood outside the door for a moment. He could hear the two directors talking. They seemed excited and nervous, but the Inspector could not hear what they were saying. They were talking in low voices.

‘I wonder what that’s all about,’ the Inspector thought. ‘Those two seem to have a secret.’

He went back to the dining room. The Sergeant came up to him.

‘We’ve photographed everything, sir,’ he told the Inspector. ‘Can we take the body away now?’

The Inspector looked down at the body on the floor. How small the old man looked!

‘All right,’ he told the Sergeant. ‘Pick him up, and carry him away. Gently now!’

Two policemen stepped forward and began to lift the body. Something fell out of the dead man’s hand.

‘Wait!’ cried the Inspector. He moved forward quickly, and picked up the fallen object carefully with his handkerchief. He showed it to the Sergeant.

‘What do you suppose this is?’ he asked.

‘It’s a card, sir,’ the man said slowly. ‘It looks like one of the cards from the Mowbray Murder game. You know, sir,’ he went on, ‘the cards with the clues written on them.’

‘You’re right, Sergeant,’ Inspector Ainsworth said. ‘But the cards in the Mowbray Murder game are all blue, and this one is yellow. Let’s see if there’s anything written on the other side, shall we?’

The Inspector turned the card over. There were some hand written notes on it. The Inspector read:

 

“57 Press reports frighten investors DOWN 30.000 pounds”

 

‘It looks as if Arthur Mowbray was working on a new game,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘I wonder if that’s why someone killed him, Sergeant?’

 

 

CHAPTER 6: 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.

CHAPTER 7: 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.’

 

 

CHAPTER 8: The Inspector Sees the Truth

Inspector Ainsworth went back to Mr Larkin’s office in the afternoon. He found the Finance Director studying the company accounts. He seemed depressed.

‘It’s bad, Inspector,’ he confided, ‘very bad I’m afraid. We’ve been in difficulty since Lord Sheffield died, and now!’

‘What will happen to the company, Mr Larkin?’ the Inspector wanted to know.

‘I think we’ll have to close,’ Mr Larkin said sadly. ‘It’s bad for everybody, but there’s no other choice. I’ve been looking at our expenses for the last few months. We can’t afford it any more, Inspector. And look at this!’ he said angrily. He pointed to the section of the accounts dealing with telephone expenses. ‘2,000 pounds on international calls in the last four months – just four months. Inspector!’

‘I’m sorry,’ the Inspector said kindly. He paused for a moment.

‘I’m afraid I have some more questions for you, Mr Larkin.’

‘Of course, Inspector,’ Mr Larkin said. ‘I know you have your work to do. How can I help you?’

‘I’m convinced that Mr Mowbray was working on a new game before he was murdered,’ the Inspector explained. ‘Can you tell me anything about that, sir?’

‘No, I don’t know anything about it,’ the director replied. ‘But you don’t think that had anything to do with the murder, do you?’

‘It might do,’ the Inspector replied. ‘Perhaps somebody wanted to stop him, Mr Larkin.’

The Finance Director smiled.

‘I can’t see why anyone would want to do that, Inspector. What would be the point?’

‘I don’t know,’ the Inspector said gloomily. ‘There must be a reason somewhere!’

He paused.

‘There’s one other thing,’ he said. ‘Apparently Mr Pryce and Mr Mowbray had a fierce quarrel about a week ago. Can you tell me anything about that, Mr Larkin?’

‘Not very much,’ the director said. ‘I was in Bob Johnson’s office when the argument was going on. Mr Mowbray and Mr Pryce were in the dining room. I couldn’t hear what they were saying because the door was shut. They sounded very angry. Then the door of the dining room opened, and I heard Mr Mowbray say, “All right, we’ll do it your way, Mr Pryce. I don’t like it, but we’ll do it your way!” That’s all I heard, Inspector.’

‘What do you think they were arguing about?’ the Inspector asked.

‘They’d been arguing for months about the workshops,’ Mr Larkin said. ‘Mr Pryce said they were too expensive, and he wanted to close them. I imagine they were arguing about that.’

The Mowbray Arms pub was empty when the Sergeant and Inspector Ainsworth got there at about nine that evening.

‘It’s the quietest place I could think of, sir,’ the Sergeant said. ‘And the local beer’s good, I can promise you that!’

The Inspector smiled. It had been a long day, and he wanted to relax. He looked around the pub, and was pleased to see that it was comfortable and old-fashioned. There were pictures on the walls, and there was a large fire in the corner of the bar.

‘This is certainly different to the pubs in London!’ he commented happily. ‘They’re all full of music and noise. At least we can talk in here.’

‘Yes, sir,’ the Sergeant said. ‘Are you making progress with your enquiries?’

‘I don’t know,’ the Inspector replied, ‘it’s too early to tell. But I think I’m beginning to understand what kind of man Arthur Mowbray was. And that’s useful.’

‘He must have been a strange kind of man, if you ask me,’ the Sergeant said. ‘Spending all his life making games for children! Still, I suppose he made a lot of money from it.’

The Sergeant drank some of his beer.

‘That reminds me of something else,’ he added. ‘One of the policemen at the Hall comes from around here. He told me the whole story about the old man and his son. Apparently Charles and his father had a terrible fight over some girl Charles was seeing in London. That’s why the boy went off to America. They never saw each other again. No letters, not even a phone call. Then Charles was killed in the car accident. It’s sad to think of, isn’t it? The old man living alone up there at the Hall. All the money in the world, and no one to share it with.’

‘What worries me,’ the Inspector said, ‘is that any of the directors could have killed Arthur Mowbray. But why, Sergeant? Why? We don’t have a motive yet!’

‘That’s true, sir,’ he said thoughtfully.

‘My job’s difficult enough as it is,’ the Inspector complained, ‘and some of them are making it more difficult because they keep lying to me.’

Just at that moment a group of young people came into the Mowbray Arms. There were about twenty of them, and they were laughing and calling out to each other. The peace of the country pub was broken. One of the young men went over to the jukebox, and inserted a coin. Instantly loud music filled the bar. Another young man approached an electronic game, and inserted a coin. The machine sprang into life, making strange sounds and sending bright colours around the crowded bar.

The Inspector frowned.

‘Mr Pryce thinks computers are “the world of the future”, Sergeant! That’s what he told me. Let’s finish our drinks, shall we? The future’s too noisy for me. This is worse than London!’

Inspector Ainsworth slept badly that night. He dreamt he was playing the Mowbray Murder game with his nephew Tommy. Once again he was going through the list of suspects. He was sure that the answer was there, in front of him, and he tried to concentrate. Suddenly the room was full of noise and flashing lights, and young people laughing and shouting.

An idea began to come to him. He tried to think, but all he could remember were some words from his conversation with the Sergeant.

‘Children’s games… the world of the future… never saw each other… children’s game… no letters… all that money… world of the future… not even a phone call…’

It was no good. He couldn’t think… then the answer came to him.

He was so surprised that he woke up.

‘Of course!’ he said to himself quietly. ‘Now why didn’t I think of it before?’ He smiled happily, and went back to sleep.

CHAPTER 9: The Suspects

Inspector Ainsworth looked very determined when he arrived at Mowbray Hall the next morning.

‘Good morning, Sergeant,’ he said briskly. ‘It’s going to be a busy day. I want you to ask all the directors to come into the dining room. We’re going to have a meeting. Make sure that they’re all there in five minutes.’

‘Yes, sir,’ the Sergeant said. ‘I’ll tell them now.’

‘One other thing, Sergeant,’ the Inspector told him. ‘When everybody’s here, I want you to do something for me.’ He handed the Sergeant a piece of paper. ‘Get on the phone to my office in London, and ask them to check this for me, will you? Tell them it’s urgent.’

The Sergeant took the piece of paper, and glanced hurriedly at it. He looked very surprised.

‘Are you sure about this, sir?’ he asked.

‘Just do it, Sergeant,’ the Inspector ordered. ‘And bring me the answer as soon as you get it.’

The Inspector went into the dining room and sat down at the head of the table. He watched in silence as the directors came into the room. They looked nervous and uncomfortable.

The Inspector stood up, and began to speak.

‘We all know what happened in this room on Monday morning,’ he said very seriously. ‘Somebody came in here and shot Arthur Mowbray. The murderer is sitting here now.’

The tension in the room increased. The directors looked at each other suspiciously.

‘You’ve been playing a very dangerous game, Mr Pryce,’ the Inspector announced. ‘That game is now over.’

‘Me!’ Mr Pryce cried. ‘You can’t mean me, Inspector. I didn’t kill anyone – it’s ridiculous!’ He looked around the table at the faces of his colleagues. Everyone looked away from him. ‘It’s a mistake!’ he cried. ‘You’re making a mistake, Inspector.’

‘You lied to the police from the beginning,’ the Inspector told him coldly. ‘Let’s go over what you said about events on Monday morning, shall we?’

He looked at his notebook.

‘You said you left your office to go to the dining room at ten to nine. When you arrived there, you saw the body. Then you went straight back to your office, and rang the police at nine o’clock.’

‘That’s right, that’s what happened,’ Mr Pryce said. ‘I was telling the truth.’

‘But it only takes two minutes to walk from your office to the dining room,’ the Inspector said quietly. ‘I know because I made a note of it. If you left your office at ten to nine, you should have telephoned the police at six minutes to nine, not at nine o’clock. What were you doing for those extra six minutes, I wonder?’

Suddenly Mr Pryce went very white.

‘I… I was… I can explain…’ he said desperately.

The Inspector interrupted him.

‘Then there’s the question of your disagreement with Mr Mowbray,’ he went on. ‘You knew the company was losing money, and you wanted to close the workshops. But Mr Mowbray was against the idea, wasn’t he? He didn’t want the people in the workshops to lose their jobs. Isn’t that right?’

‘That’s right,’ Mr Johnson said quickly. ‘You did want to close the workshops. Everybody knows that.’

‘So you began the dangerous game you’ve been playing,’ the Inspector continued. ‘The game that ended with Mr Mowbray’s death.’

‘It’s not true!’ Mr Pryce cried. ‘You don’t understand…’

‘You persuaded Miss Markham to do something for you, didn’t you? You asked her to commission some market research on the company’s products. You hoped that would make Mr Mowbray do what you wanted. But it didn’t work, did it? You had a serious argument with Mr Mowbray. Everybody heard that.’

Mr Pryce was very excited, and his voice trembled as he spoke.

‘Wait!’ he cried. ‘Let me explain. Inspector. I did lie to the police about what happened on Monday morning, I admit it. But I didn’t kill Arthur Mowbray. I didn’t kill him, I tell you! Just let me tell you what really happened.’

‘Very well,’ the Inspector agreed. ‘Tell us what really happened, Mr Pryce.’

‘Arthur Mowbray and I disagreed about the workshops, that part’s true. I knew they would have to be closed. I knew that six months ago, when Lord Sheffield died. But Arthur Mowbray didn’t want to close them. He didn’t want people to lose their jobs. He was very unhappy about it. Then one day he came to me, and said that he had invented a new game.’

‘What kind of game was it?’ the Inspector asked curiously.

‘It was a stock market game,’ Mr Pryce explained. ‘All the players were stock market investors – they had to buy and sell shares in different companies. The winner was the player who made the most money. Mowbray thought the new game would be very popular. He thought it would save the company. But I…’

‘You didn’t agree with him,’ the Inspector suggested. ‘You thought board games were out of date, didn’t you?’

The Managing Director nodded.

Inspector Ainsworth gave a little smile.

‘Now we’re getting somewhere at last, Mr Pryce,’ he said. ‘Tell us what you decided to do. Tell us everything, Mr Pryce.’

‘The game was a brilliant one,’ Mr Pryce said, ‘but it was old-fashioned. I knew no one would buy it. Then I realised how we could still make the game and save the company. The answer was simple!’

‘A computer game,’ the Inspector interrupted him. ‘You wanted to bring Arthur Mowbray’s game into “the world of the future”, didn’t you?’

‘You’re right, Inspector,’ Mr Pryce replied. ‘But how did you find out? No one else knew!’

‘Never mind, Mr Pryce,’ the Inspector told him. ‘Let’s just say that the idea came to me over a beer.’

‘I went to see him about a week ago,’ said Mr Pryce. ‘I showed him the market reports that Miss Markham had prepared, and I told him my idea. I offered him a deal, Inspector. I said we could keep the workshops open if we made a computer version of his game.’

‘That was clever of you,’ the Inspector commented with a little smile. ‘How did he react to your deal, Mr Pryce?’

‘He didn’t like the idea at first. We had a fierce argument about it, but in the end he agreed.’

‘I see,’ the Inspector said. ‘One other thing. What did you do in the dining room after you found the body, Mr Pryce? During those missing six minutes?’

‘I can explain that, too,’ the Managing Director said quickly.

‘When I saw Arthur Mowbray lying on the floor, I knew immediately that he was dead. But there was something else in the room, Inspector. I saw the cards for the new game on the floor beside the body. I picked them up and took them away with me, Inspector.’

For a moment Mr Pryce looked ashamed. Then he went on.

‘I’m a businessman, Inspector. The cards are a valuable company asset, and I wanted to keep them safe.’

‘Did it take you six minutes to collect the cards, Mr Pryce?’ the Inspector asked sharply.

‘I couldn’t find all the cards, Inspector,’ Mr Pryce explained. ‘You see, all the cards had a number on them. But card 57 was missing. I looked everywhere for it, but I couldn’t find it.’

‘Good,’ said the Inspector. He seemed pleased. ‘At last you’ve told me the truth; but you should have told me earlier, Mr Pryce.’

‘Then you know I didn’t kill him… You believe me?’ Mr Pryce asked.

The Inspector smiled cheerfully at the Managing Director.

‘Oh, yes, I believe you. I didn’t think you were the murderer.’

‘You knew that it wasn’t me! Then why all these accusations, Inspector?’

‘I wanted to hear what really happened,’ the Inspector told him. ‘I knew you wouldn’t tell me unless you had to, so I decided to frighten you. I said you were playing a dangerous game, Mr Pryce, and that’s true. I told you the game you were playing ended in the murder of Arthur Mowbray, and that’s true as well. But you weren’t the murderer. I know that.’

Mr Pryce looked very relieved.

‘I suppose I should be glad you believe me,’ he said quietly.

 

 

CHAPTER 10: The Arrest

Inspector Ainsworth glanced at his notebook again.

For a moment he said nothing, then he looked at the people around the table.

‘I wasted a lot of time trying to work out why Mr Pryce had lied to the police. I should have been thinking more about the murder itself. Things became clearer when I started to do that.’

‘I don’t see what you mean, Inspector,’ Patricia Markham said. ‘Remember the Mowbray Murder game?’ the Inspector asked. ‘It always starts the same way, doesn’t it? The general’s body is found in the library, isn’t it? And the murder weapon is always the same, isn’t it? The general’s own revolver.’

He paused.

‘Just like the murder of Arthur Mowbray, you see. That made me think that perhaps the person who murdered Arthur Mowbray wasn’t interested in money. The murderer was interested in the games themselves! That made me think of you, Mr Johnson.’

‘Me?’ the Production Director asked in surprise. ‘Why me, Inspector?’

‘You love your work here, don’t you?’ the Inspector asked. ‘The Mowbray games are very special to you, aren’t they? They’re not just games to you: they’re your whole life. Then Mr Larkin gave me an idea.’

The Inspector turned to the Finance Director.

‘Do you remember what you told me about the argument between Mr Mowbray and Mr Pryce?’ the Inspector asked. ‘You heard Mr Mowbray say, “All right, we’ll do it your way, Mr Pryce. I don’t like it, but we’ll do it your way!” You thought they were arguing about the workshops again, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, I did,’ Mr Larkin agreed. ‘They were always arguing about that.’

The Inspector looked at the Production Director.

‘You also heard what Mr Mowbray said,’ he reminded him.

‘Of course!’ Mr Larkin exclaimed. He looked at Mr Johnson as well. ‘I was in your office at the time. You heard what Mr Mowbray said.’

‘What are you trying to say, Inspector?’ he asked. ‘What does that prove?’

‘It proves a motive,’ the Inspector said firmly. ‘You loved the games, and you thought Mr Mowbray was going to close the workshops. That would have been a disaster for you. You told me yourself that the workshops had been your “life’s work”. Revenge can be a powerful motive for murder, Mr Johnson.’ The Inspector paused for a moment. ‘You were a strong suspect for a while.’

‘For a while, Inspector?’ Mr Larkin asked. ‘Do you mean Mr Johnson didn’t do it?’

The Inspector smiled.

‘No, sir, Mr Johnson didn’t kill Arthur Mowbray.’

The Inspector looked at his notebook once more.

Then I thought of something else. There was something that bothered me about Arthur Mowbray’s new game,’ he said. ‘It was a game about the stock market. But Arthur Mowbray couldn’t have invented a game about the stock market by himself. He didn’t know anything about business or finance. Somebody helped him. I wanted to know who that person was, and then I remembered a little conversation with you, Mr Larkin.’

‘What conversation, Inspector?’ the Finance Director asked nervously.

‘It was at the beginning of the investigation,’ the Inspector explained. ‘I asked you if Arthur Mowbray played an active role in the financial decision-making of the company, do you remember? You smiled, and said the idea was ridiculous.’

‘I don’t see what that shows, Inspector,’ Mr Larkin said. ‘Arthur Mowbray didn’t know anything about company accounts – everybody knows that.’

‘I agree,’ the Inspector said. ‘But then you said something a little strange. We were talking about company finances, and you suddenly said, “He didn’t even know the difference between a bull market and a bear market. I had to tell him.” Bull markets and bear markets don’t have anything to do with company accounts, do they? You must have been talking about the stock market. Arthur Mowbray was asking you for information about how the stock market works, wasn’t he? You helped him with the new game, didn’t you?’

‘You’re quite right, Inspector,’ Mr Larkin admitted.

‘Why did you tell me you didn’t know anything about it?’ the Inspector asked.

‘I thought the murderer killed Mr Mowbray because of the new game,’ Mr Larkin said. ‘I didn’t say anything because I was frightened.’

‘I thought so, too,’ the Inspector told him. ‘But we were wrong. The murderer wasn’t interested in the new game at all. You knew that, didn’t you, Miss Markham?’

Miss Markham laughed.

‘Surely it’s time to stop all this, Inspector?’ she asked scornfully. ‘Why don’t you just admit that you don’t know who killed Arthur Mowbray? Then we can all get back to work.’

‘I’m afraid you won’t be going to work for a very long time,’ the Inspector told her. ‘In a few minutes I shall ask the Sergeant to arrest you for murder.’

‘This is too much!’ Miss Markham protested. ‘What makes you think I killed Arthur Mowbray?’

‘It was a number of little things,’ the Inspector said. ‘I should have put them together earlier, hut I didn’t. I couldn’t see a motive for the crime. At first I thought the motive was greed. That made me think of Mr Pryce and Mr Larkin. Then I thought the motive might be revenge, and that made me think of Mr Johnson. It was confusing, you see. Then I realised that the motive was greed and revenge. Once I saw that, it wasn’t difficult to identify you as the murderer, Miss Markham!’

The Sergeant came quietly into the dining room. He was holding the piece of paper that the Inspector had given him. He looked at the Inspector, and nodded his head.

Mr Pryce now spoke. He looked very angry.

‘This is absurd, Inspector!’ he said. ‘Why do you think Miss Markham is the murderer?’

‘The first piece of evidence is the book you showed me, Mr Pryce. You remember the title, I’m sure – Marketing Organization and Consumer Behavior. The spelling in the title is American. The publishing company is American as well. Did you ever think about that?’

‘What does that prove, Inspector?’ Mr Larkin asked.

‘It made me wonder if Miss Markham had ever been to America,’ the Inspector said. ‘And that reminded me of something. The Sergeant told me that Arthur Mowbray had a son called Charles. Apparently he had an argument with his father over a girl he was in love with. Charles went to live in America. He died there in a car accident. Isn’t that right, Miss Markham?’ he asked coldly.

Everyone looked at Patricia Markham.

Then the Inspector spoke again.

‘Or should I say, Mrs Mowbray?’ he demanded. ‘Mrs Charles Mowbray?

Patricia Markham went very pale. She began to cry.

‘All right, Inspector, you don’t have to say any more. I can see that you know everything,’ she sobbed. ‘It’s true about Charles,’ she said. ‘We met in England, and we fell in love. We wanted to get married, but Arthur Mowbray said Charles was too young. He wouldn’t even meet me! Charles was very angry with his father, and he went to live in America. He found a job there, and then he sent for me. We got married. It wasn’t easy for us. I studied at the university, and I did very well. Then Charles had a terrible car accident.’

‘What happened then?’ The Inspector asked her gently.

‘He didn’t die immediately,’ she explained. ‘He was in hospital for three weeks. I wrote to Arthur Mowbray. I asked him for money to pay for the hospital treatment. He never replied to my letter, Inspector. Charles knew that his father had never forgiven him. He died unhappy.’

‘Is that when you decided to punish Arthur Mowbray?’ the Inspector asked.

‘Yes,’ Miss Markham agreed. ‘I hated him for what he had done to Charles. Then I read in the paper about Lord Sheffield’s death. I guessed that the company would be in trouble, and that gave me an idea. I applied for a job here. Arthur Mowbray had never met me, you see – he didn’t know what I looked like.’

‘Did you plan to murder him?’ the Inspector wanted to know.

‘Yes, but I didn’t just want to kill him,’ she confessed. ‘I hated him, and I wanted to make him suffer. That’s why I shot him with his own revolver, like in the Mowbray Murder game. But before I shot him, I did something else. I humiliated him, Inspector. I told him who I was…’

‘It wasn’t just revenge, though, was it?’ the Inspector wanted to know. ‘It was greed as well, wasn’t it? You haven’t told us everything yet, Miss Markham.’

‘Isn’t that enough, Inspector?’ Patricia Markham said. ‘I’ve told you I killed Arthur Mowbray. What else is there to tell you?’

‘Mr Larkin told me someone was making a lot of international phone calls,’ he said softly. ‘Tell me about those, Miss Markham.’ Patricia Markham said nothing. She began to cry again.

The Inspector made a sign to the Sergeant. The Sergeant came forward, and gave the Inspector the piece of paper. The Inspector read it quickly.

‘I said the motive for this crime was revenge and greed,’ he said. ‘We’ve just been in touch with the authorities in America. They confirm that you and Charles had a son. That’s why you killed Arthur Mowbray, isn’t it? Your son was his closest relative – you wanted him to inherit all Arthur Mowbray’s money!’

The Sergeant led Patricia Markham away. Inspector Ainsworth sat back in his chair, feeling very satisfied. He had solved the Mowbray Murder… again.

 

– THE END –




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