The Piccadilly Detective Agency was not listed in any business directory. It wasn’t advertised in the paper nor billed on any wall. Their client numbers rivalled many of London’s most successful detective agencies, although not one of those other agencies had ever heard of it. And yet, if you were to visit a certain bar or theatre, or if you were to join a certain circle of friends, or if you were to walk in a certain district at a certain time of night, you might find yourself handed a business card.
The office of the Piccadilly Detective Agency was housed in the top floor flat at number twenty-two, Queen Street. This was also the residence of Hugo Fox and Theodore Bellamy. By all appearances, they were single bachelors sharing a flat for convenience. Hugo was a solicitor, Theodore was a freelance journalist and the Detective Agency was simply a hobby they enjoyed in their spare time. Even so, most of their home was surrendered to it.
The front door opened onto their sitting room, though that name no longer seemed appropriate. The space was dominated by wooden filing cabinets, tall bookcases, cork-boards decorated with photographs and string, not to mention the two large desks, one strewn with papers, the other perfectly clean. There was only one corner that resembled a sitting room, where a sofa and armchair had been placed as an afterthought. It was here that Hugo and Theodore were enjoying an evening pot of tea. The grandfather clock chimed eight.
‘It’s our anniversary on Sunday,’ said Hugo.
Theodore frowned. ‘We just had our anniversary.’
‘No,’ said Hugo, gently. ‘That was fourth anniversary of the agency. Sunday is the seventh anniversary of the day we met.’
Hugo Fox and Theodore Bellamy had a bad record for anniversaries. Theodore would plan grand, romantic gestures and surprise Hugo with them months late. Hugo was better with dates, but enjoyed spending time with Theodore regardless of Earth’s position around the sun. If he didn’t think to mention it, the day would pass by unmarked.
‘Let’s do something,’ said Theodore.
‘If you want.’
‘Don’t you want to?’
‘I’m happy no matter what we do.’
Theodore shut his book with a huff.
‘How about dinner at the Lilypond,’ said Hugo, quickly.
Theodore groaned. ‘We always go to the Lilypond.’
‘We like the Lilypond.’
‘I don’t know, Huey. I just think it might be fun to go somewhere new, don’t you?’
Hugo paused, his face impassive. ‘I wouldn’t mind,’ he said, slowly. ‘But since it’s our anniversary, don’t you want to go somewhere we feel safe to be ourselves?’
Theodore sighed. Hugo always had to spoil things with sense.
The conversation was put on hold when the telephone rang. Suddenly serious, Hugo crossed the room to answer. ‘This is the Piccadilly Detective Agency. How may I help?’
A moment’s silence.
Hugo turned to Theodore, his hand on the mouthpiece. ‘He wants to speak to you, Teddy.’
‘To me?’ said Theodore with a frown. He avoided the phone when he could. He enjoyed conversation, but it unnerved him when he couldn’t see the other person. Nevertheless, he lifted himself from the sofa and took the handset from Hugo.
‘Is this Mr Theodore Bellamy?’ It was a man’s voice, hoarse from a tobacco habit.
Hugo studied Theodore’s expression for a hint of the caller’s identity. Theodore shrugged with his brow.
‘It is,’ said Theodore. ‘Do we know each other?’
‘Frank Butterfield. Though you may not remember my name.’
Theodore was excellent with names. ‘I’m very sorry, I don’t.’
‘I am the managing director of the Jermyn Street Hammam. We met four years ago. You gave me a stack of business cards to advertise in our reception.’
‘Ah!’ said Theodore, the memory returning to him. ‘Good evening, Mr Butterfield. I’d ask after your wellbeing but I suspect this is not a social call.’
‘Indeed not,’ said Mr Butterfield. ‘We’ve, uh… we’ve found a body.’
Theodore nodded, forgetting that Mr Butterfield couldn’t see him. ‘Have you notified the police?’
‘No. I’m reluctant, because… perhaps you’d better come see for yourself.’
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