‘No, it was just a casual encounter.’
‘I see. The third contact from abroad was a woman, Mrs Carol Speeder, also from the States. How did that come about?’
‘She was something to do with UNO, I believe. She’d known Tom in America, and she rang him up from London to say she was over here, and asked if we could come up and lunch one day.’
‘And did you?’
‘You didn’t, but your husband did!’
‘What!’ She stared.
‘He didn’t tell you?’
Olive Betterton looked bewildered and uneasy. The man questioning her felt a little sorry for her, but he did not relent. For the first time he thought he might be getting somewhere.
‘I don’t understand it,’ she said uncertainly. ‘It seems very odd he shouldn’t have said anything about it to me.’
‘They lunched together at the Dorset where Mrs Speeder was staying, on Wednesday, August 12th.’
‘Yes, he did go to London about then … He never said anything—’ she broke off again, and then shot out a question. ‘What is she like?’
He answered quickly and reassuringly.
‘Not at all a glamorous type, Mrs Betterton. A competent young career woman of thirty-odd, not particularly good-looking. There’s absolutely no suggestion of her ever having been on intimate terms with your husband. That is just why it’s odd that he didn’t tell you about the meeting.’
‘Yes, yes, I see that.’
‘Now think carefully, Mrs Betterton. Did you notice any change in your husband about that time? About the middle of August, shall we say? That would be about a week before the conference.’
‘No—no, I noticed nothing. There was nothing to notice.’
The instrument on his desk buzzed discreetly. He picked up the receiver.
‘Yes,’ he said.
The voice at the other end said:
‘There’s a man who’s asking to see someone in authority about the Betterton case, sir.’
‘What’s his name?’
The voice at the other end coughed discreetly.
‘Well, I’m not exactly sure how you pronounce it, Mr Jessop. Perhaps I’d better spell it.’
‘Right. Go ahead.’
He jotted down on his blotter the letters as they came over the wire.
‘Polish?’ he said interrogatively, at the end.
‘He didn’t say, sir. He speaks English quite well, but with a bit of an accent.’
‘Ask him to wait.’
‘Very good, sir.’
Jessop replaced the telephone. Then he looked across at Olive Betterton. She sat there quite quietly with a disarming, hopeless placidity. He tore off the leaf on his desk pad with the name he had just written on it, and shoved it across to her.
‘Know anybody of that name?’ he asked.
Her eyes widened as she looked at it. For a moment he thought she looked frightened.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Yes, I do. He wrote to me.’
‘Yesterday. He’s a cousin of Tom’s first wife. He’s just arrived in this country. He was very concerned about Tom’s disappearance. He wrote to ask if I had had any news and—and to give me his most profound sympathy.’
‘You’d never heard of him before that?’
She shook her head.
‘Ever hear your husband speak of him?’
‘So really he mightn’t be your husband’s cousin at all?’
‘Well, no, I suppose not. I never thought of that.’ She looked startled. ‘But Tom’s first wife was a foreigner. She was Professor Mannheim’s daughter. This man seemed to know all about her and Tom in his letter. It was very correct and formal and—and foreign, you know. It seemed quite genuine. And anyway, what would be the point—if he weren’t genuine, I mean?’
‘Ah, that’s what one always asks oneself.’ Jessop smiled faintly. ‘We do it so much here that we begin to see the smallest thing quite out of proportion!’
‘Yes, I should think you might.’ She shivered suddenly. ‘It’s like this room of yours, in the middle of a labyrinth of corridors, just like a dream when you think you will never get out …’
‘Yes, yes, I can see it might have a claustrophobic effect,’ said Jessop pleasantly.
Olive Betterton put a hand up and pushed back her hair from her forehead.