âYesterday one of the Universal people was in to see me about some business. He happened to mention a case they had about six months back. It was very similar. A youngish man drowned in his own bath. He carried Â£5,000 life andÂ£15,000 accident, both with the Universal. At the inquest there was evidence he had complained of not sleeping well and that he had been taking veronal or some such drug. The Universal wasnât at all happy about it. But thereâs nothing you can do without proof, and they had to pay.â
âI think Iâll slip round and see them,â Bobby said.
âIâll give them a ring to let them know youâre coming,â the manager volunteered. âFor us a case is closed when the check has once been cleared. But if thereâs been any crooked work, the whole profession would be glad to see it cleared up.â
Thanks to the friendly offices of the manager of the Priam, Bobby was admitted without delay to the presence of the chief of the Universal. He remembered the case well, and gave Bobby details very similar to those he had already listened to twice that day. The name of the dead man had been Samuel Sands. The insurance had been in favour of his partner, a Mr. Alfred Briggs, to compensate for the capital Mr. Briggs would have to refund to the Sands family, represented by a Mrs. Ellis, his sister. Everything had seemed quite in order; all necessary documents were produced at once. No suspicion whatever had been roused at the time that the affair had been anything but pure accident. It was of the essence of the insurance business to be prepared to meet such unexpected losses.
Bobby agreed, and secured the address of the business, of Mr. Alfred Briggs, and of Mrs. Ellis. The business was that of a metal merchant, and Bobby got permission to use the Universal office telephone to make a few inquiries. He was not altogether surprised to find that the metal merchant business had been closed down, the premises were vacant, and no one knew what had become of the late tenants, nor was he more astonished when he found that Mr. Briggs had been a resident of Ealing, but that the address given was that of a flat consisting of three rooms on the top floor of one of those large old-fashioned houses that, as it is difficult to find occupants for them, have now in all the London suburbs been turned into flats. The apartment had never been occupied, however, as Mr. Briggs was staying at an hotel until his wife arrived from the north, and when she did arrive she disliked the flat so much that Mr. Briggs had paid another weekâs rent in lieu of notice, surrendered the key, and vanished, whither no one knew.
âLooks very much like an accommodation address,â Bobby remarked.
Mrs. Ellis had given her address at a small Hampstead hotel. But over the phone Bobby was informed that she had never occupied her room, which she had secured, not for herself, but for a friend expected from Australia. The friend had never arrived, the room had never been occupied, Mrs. Ellis had been very apologetic, had paid the bill without a murmur, had collected one or two letters that had come for her, and so had disappeared into the wide world, as hotel guests do, leaving no more behind than a vague memory and an entry in the hotel books. Mrs. Ellis had, of course, been asked for her address, and Bobby was given it. It sounded familiar, and, referring to his notebook, he assured himself it was that of the Islington flat in which the man he was now convinced was his cousin, Ronald Owen, had met his dreadful death.
âI suppose,â Bobby said, returning from all this telephoning to the managerâs office to thank him, âI suppose thereâs no one here who could give me any description of this Mr. Briggs or of Mrs. Ellis?â
The manager did not think so, but he would inquire. He had never seen Mr. Briggs, but he had had an interview with Mrs. Ellis, who had been the