Truth Will Out
the fellow is – the one that’s gone missing. Lionel Somebody. It’s all my wife can talk about! She’s convinced herself that there’s a killing spree starting and she’s very nervous. I’ve told her not to frighten the girls.’
    Arturio was a singer and a reasonably good one. His speciality was opera and he sang in what passed for Italian to further impress the audience. He believed that his act lent the pier performance a touch of class and secretly no-one would argue with that. He went on. ‘Not to mention a body on the beach! If that doesn’t put Hastings on the map, nothing will.’
    Sydney said, ‘Let’s hope it doesn’t scare off the day trippers.’
    ‘It won’t. More likely to draw the crowds. You know how people are. It’s sure to be in the local paper this weekend. Our very own thriller! They’ll all stand around the spot where the body was found, gawping and chewing sticks of rock!’ He began to change into his outfit – black trousers, red cummerbund, not-so-crisp white shirt, black bow tie on a piece of elastic. ‘Oh God! Where’s the iron?’
    ‘One of the girls borrowed it.’
    Sighing, he went off to retrieve it. Arturio’s real name was Arthur Law and he was slim and almost elegant and somehow girlish, with a soft mouth and gentle eyes. He was older than he looked.
    ‘Jessie’s bringing the children to the matinee,’ he announced when he returned. ‘It’s Dora’s birthday treat and the two girls are each bringing a school friend. We’re all having an ice cream in the interval and afterwards Jessie’s taking the four children home to tea.’
    ‘Very cosy!’ said Sydney.
    Young Bill put his head round the door. ‘Five minutes to curtain! All present and correct?’
    They nodded.
    ‘What’s the house like?’ Arthur asked, fastening his cummerbund.
    ‘First seven rows of the stalls full and the first two in the circle. Not much else.’ He hurried away to alert the girls in their dressing room.
    Five minutes passed. It was the moment they longed for – and the one they dreaded. The show must go on.
    The three o’clock meeting at the Hastings police station was a gloomy affair on the surface, although privately each member of the team was enjoying the novelty of an investigation into a double-edge case – at once a disappearance and a probable murder. They sat back in their chairs as Detective Constable Fleet ran through the information they had accumulated, and racked their brains for something intelligent to offer or an insightful question to ask when their turn came.
    ‘So, Brent goes missing on Sunday eleventh, p.m. Why then? Anything significant about the time of his disappearance? Anybody?’
    Feet shifted uncomfortably.
    Sergeant Owen said, ‘Broad daylight, holiday season.’
    ‘So?
    ‘Easy to disappear in a crowd, maybe. Easier to find a reason to leave the hotel.’
    ‘Very good, Owen. That assumes what?’
    ‘That he wanted to disappear!’
    ‘Right. So question number one . . .’ He grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote on the blackboard as he spoke. ‘ Was disapearance intentional / accidental / malicious ?’ He surveyed his handiwork.
    PC Adams put his hand up. ‘There’s two “p”s in disappearance, Guv.’
    All heads swivelled in his direction.
    DC Fleet snapped, ‘You want to do this?’ and threw him the chalk.
    Adams blushed furiously, mumbled, ‘No, Guv. Sorry,’ and threw it back.
    The detective gave him a baleful glance. ‘So . . . Motive? Anyone? Come on! We haven’t got all day.’
    ‘He’s gone off with another woman!’
    ‘He wants people to think he’s dead so he can do something – a crime or something.’
    ‘Quite possible.’ The chalk squeaked on the blackboard.
    Sergeant Owen said, ‘Could be an art theft. He might be going to steal his wife’s pictures from the gallery in London!’
    ‘Also possible. Good. Anyone else?’
    ‘The murderer might have got him, Guv. He might be the next body to turn up on the

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