“What do you know?” Sir Henry asked.
“Not as much as I would like,” conceded Rhys-Morgan on the other end of the line. “Our current working hypothesis is a murder-suicide. Or murder. Or suicide. Some combination of murder and/or suicide, anyway. Unless it was an accident.”
“Not much then, Inspector.”
Sir Henry heard what sounded like a palm hitting a forehead on the other end of the phone.
“No,” came the muttered response. “Though we’re fairly sure that your man wasn’t the target. A number of the victims were related to each other and one Peter Lloyd, who is currently missing, presumed dead or fled. I think the Professor was just collateral damage.”
“What about the ALF?” asked Sir Henry.
Rhys-Morgan paused. “Excuse me?”
“The Animal Liberation Front.” Sir Henry’s tone dropped a few degrees. It was not quite icy yet but had certainly reached frosty. “You do know about the threats made by the Animal Liberation Front against BIRD-FLU?”
There was another pause. Rhys-Morgan was too tired for this.
“BIRD-FLU?” he asked. “An animal rights organisation has been threatening a disease? I’m a little confused, Sir Henry.”
“More that an little, I would say, Inspector,” answered Sir Henry. “And more than confused,” he thought to himself. If this was the lead of the investigation, it did not bode well.
“The ALF have not threatened the disease, Inspector,” he explained, as if to a child. “They have threatened BIRD-FLU: The Brecon Institute for R&D - Flavivirus and Lentivirus Unit. The very research centre that was headed up by the late Professor Greywood.”
“Greenwood,” Rhys-Morgan corrected subconsciously, whilst he mind was processing the new information.
“Don’t be ridic...”
“I don’t think this was an ALF attack,” interrupted Rhys-Morgan.
Sir Henry did not approve of being interrupted but it happened so rarely that he did not really know how to react. He opted for pretending that it did not happen. “Explain.”
“One of the, er, victims was a tortoise,” Rhys-Morgan told him. “Right in the centre in the blast, too. That doesn’t strike me as the M.O. of an animal rights group. What’s more, they were a bunch of hippies. Druids. Tree huggers and the like. Not really your usual animal rights target.”
“I see,” said Sir Henry in a tone that suggested he did anything but. “And you prefer, this Peter Lloyd chap?”
“Well, he owns - or possibly owned - a pet shop.”
“A pet shop.”
“Yes, Sir Henry.”
“And the relevance of this is...?”
“Well, it might explain the tortoise?” replied Rhys-Morgan, a creeping sense of doubt transmuting what started life as a statement into a question.
Sir Henry was not convinced. “I am not convinced. You pursue your pet theory, Inspector. I am going to get our best man to follow up the ALF angle. I will let you know if you can be of assistance.”
It was Rhys-Morgan’s turn to be stunned.
“I’m sorry. If I can be of assistance?” he asked. “In my homicide investigation? With all due respect, Sir Henry, I’m not losing control of this one.”
“Really? It sounds like you already have. My people will be in touch to get the names of the rest of the victims.”
Sir Henry ended the call before Rhys-Morgan could muster a response and turned to the shell-shocked Johnson.
“It’s as I feared,” he confirmed. “I’m afraid Greywood’s dead. I’ve decided to bring in our best man, double-oh-one. Do you have a secure phone line in this facility?”
Professor Johnson nodded. “Yes, Sir Henry. It’s, er, in the Director’s office.”
“Wait in the car, Smithers,” Sir Henry told Watson, handing him the phone. “This won’t take long.”