to purchase a controlling share in a Japanese imports agency known as the Yen Developments Syndicate.
âRather an odd name,â commented Bobby, remembering the E. & O.E. Syndicate.
âIt was a short-term policy,â the manager continued; âten years â to cover the risk of anything happening to young Priestman during that time and the business having to be sold again, probably at a loss. It was explained to us that at the end of the ten years the elder Priestmanâs loan would probably have been paid back. Young Priestman also carried a Â£3,000 insurance policy, as well as another Â£1,000 given by the proprietors of a popular diary to everyone who bought it and filled up a coupon and paid a small registration fee.â
âEleven thousand pounds in all,â Bobby said.
The manager agreed. Then young Priestman had been found dead in his bath in the flat he occupied alone in the West End, where it had to be admitted he had been living somewhat riotously. But none of his disreputable associates appeared to have any interest in his death, and it was proved that none had been near the flat on the day of the tragedy. The weather had been exceptionally warm â a heat wave towards the middle of September â and the doctors suggested that possibly the young man had entered the bath while hot and perspiring, and that the shock of the cold water had brought on a fainting fit. No other cause of death was discovered, and a verdict of âAccidental Deathâ was returned, the jury adding an expression of sympathy with the elder Mr. Priestman, who, it was mentioned in the newspaper accounts, had shown great emotion in court.
âQuite a painful scene,â the manager told Bobby.
Bobby asked if the manager could give any description of Mr. Priestman. He got no very clear reply. It was so long ago. The only interesting detail remembered was that Mr. Priestman had worn beard and moustache, and this fact had apparently tended to soothe suspicion as going to confirm his claim to be an Australian â the manager apparently thought that all Australians lived in the bush, far from civilization, and would have little time or opportunity for such refinements as shaving.
âThere was nothing to lay hold of,â he concluded.
âAnd yet...â said Bobby.
âPrecisely,â said the manager.
âCould you give me the address of the Yen Developments Syndicate?â Bobby asked.
âI can get it for you if you like,â the other answered, âbut I donât think you will find it any help. The business was wound up after young Priestmanâs death, and the father returned to Australia. I may say that, as we were a little troubled about the case, we â er â kept in touch with him without â er â his knowledge. Thereâs no doubt about his having sailed for Australia a few weeks after his sonâs death.â
Bobby thought to himself that keeping in touch with a person without that personâs knowledge sounded much less crude than just saying watch had been kept upon him.
âWas anything said at the inquest about the financial position of the syndicate?â Bobby asked.
âIt wasnât too satisfactory, but there was nothing to suggest young Priestman had been worrying about that. In fact, he had been neglecting it and enjoying himself. The elder Mr. Priestman admitted that Â£7,000 had been an excessive price to pay; and I gathered that most of the insurance money would have to go to clear off liabilities. He let us see the books, as well as the documents concerning the sale of the business. Everything seemed most satisfactory, quite straightforward. And yet...â
Bobby waited. The room was very quiet; again it was as though the silence of death itself brooded there on the big roll-top desk, the telephones, the files, all the common everyday appurtenances of everyday business. The manager said, half to
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