Sinclair shake his head.
‘Scotland Yard’s not involved, Robert. The Surrey police are in charge. I just happened to be passing…’ He caught Helen’s eye. ‘But since I’m here, I would like a brief word with your father. Do you happen to know where he is?’
‘You must have put a bee in Jim Boyce’s bonnet. He rang me on Friday in a lather, right after the inquest. I couldn’t get down to Guildford till today, but he came into the office to show me the file. On a Sunday, too!’
‘I felt they’d made up their minds too quickly about the tramp. I wanted him to think again.’ Madden scowled.
Led by his guide, Sinclair had come on his quarry outside the marquee standing beside a table laden with silver cups and other trophies. The chief inspector had paused for a moment to digest the spectacle of his erstwhile partner, dressed in serviceable tweeds, a soft hat and thick-soled shoes, deep in conversation with a party of similarly attired worthies of both sexes. Catching Madden’s eye, he had winked.
‘I’ve just spotted a pumpkin of outstanding merit,’ he’d confided as they shook hands. ‘Would you like me to point it out to you?’
‘What are you doing here, Angus?’ Grinning, Madden had declined the bait. ‘Is it the Brookham murder? Don’t tell me the Yard’s been called in already.’
‘No, we’re not involved. Not as yet. Surrey are handling it. But there are one or two points I’d like to discuss with you. I’ve cleared it with higher authority.’
‘You needed the Yard’s permission?’ Madden was mildly surprised.
‘I was referring to your better half.’ Sinclair chortled at his own joke. ‘Forgive me. I couldn’t resist that. I ran into Helen a moment ago, and she spoke her mind, as always. Robert was with her. My word, he’s a fine-looking boy.’
The delight that shone on Madden’s face when he heard these words was reward enough for the chief inspector, who could remember a time when his old friend’s eyes had born a permanently haunted look; when it had seemed that the legacy of the war and the sufferings he’d endured in the trenches would pursue him to the grave.
‘How can I help you, Angus? You say you’ve seen the file?’
Madden had drawn him aside, out of earshot of the crowd milling about in front of the tent, and as he took up his stance, arms folded and head bent, his face masked in the shadow cast by his hat brim, Sinclair was assailed by a painful sense of familiarity, aware all at once of how much he had missed this man’s presence by his side these past years.
‘I’ve studied the various reports and read the interviews taken. Based on what I know so far, I’d have to say the tramp’s the most likely suspect.’
‘So he is,’ Madden agreed. ‘And they have to find him, in any case. He may turn out in the end to be their key witness.’
‘What makes you think that?’
‘Why, the evidence, of course.’ Madden frowned under his hat brim. ‘It all depends how you read it, Angus. The Surrey police have their version. Wright thinks the tramp picked up the child on the road to Craydon-’
‘The officer in charge. He’s a good detective. Sharp. No fool. He reckons the tramp brought her back to the wood and that after he’d killed her and hidden her body he ran off down the stream, wanting to get away as quickly as possible, dropping his knife and bandana in the confusion.’
‘And?’ Sinclair was listening intently.
‘It holds water, as a theory, up to a point. But there’s another way of interpreting the facts. You see, Beezy, the tramp, ran off in the wrong direction…’
‘The wrong direction – how do you know that?’
‘Because he must have come into the wood originally from the fields. He had an appointment at a camp site by the stream with another tramp called Topper.’
‘A friend of yours, I gather.’ Sinclair nodded.
‘When Beezy fled, it wasn’t back the way he came, it was in the opposite