The Maze of Cadiz

‘Then I see three possibilities,’ said Cotton. First, that he died accidentally. Second, that he killed himself. Third, though whether this would constitute murder or manslaughter I don’t know, he was pushed. The second and third possibilities might involve his activities here. An alternative, or additional factor, might involve what you call his proclivities.’
Henderson stared at him, sucking his teeth as if sucking a very bitter lemon. ‘This is quite fantastic,’ he said. ‘What is your game, eh? What are you trying to stir up? This is an unfortunate but simple accident, entirely caused by sending someone unsuitable to do a delicate job. The matter has, as much as possible, been decently and quietly handled and here you are spinning some fantastic nonsense that could cause infinitely more problems.’
‘You misunderstand,’ said Cotton. ‘It’s my job to make absolutely sure of the cause of death. It may well have been an accident. But we must know. The considerations must be obvious to you. Blackmail is not necessarily financial, Mr. Henderson. Surely you understand that. We must be sure for our own security.’
‘Well, I know nothing of what he was doing here.’
‘That is exactly as it should be,’ said Cotton.
Henderson pursed his lips. ‘In theory, I can appreciate what you are saying but…’
‘I’d be grateful for any information, Mr. Henderson.’
‘I won’t have the consulate mixed up in it.’
‘That’s exactly what I want too, Mr Henderson. But some background information on May…?’
‘I hardly knew him, Mr Cotton.’
‘But obviously you formed an impression of him.’
‘I told you what I think,’ said Henderson. ‘He didn’t give the impression of doing anything particularly valuable.’
Cotton raised his eyebrows.
‘Oh,’ said Henderson. ‘But he was not discreet! He was…’
‘What?’ asked Cotton.
‘I was going to say of a rather fawning cast, Mr Cotton. He said he came from Worthing. I don’t know if that is useful to you?’
‘Mm,’ said Cotton. ‘Anything else?’
‘The man was … extravagant. His behaviour. He liked to recite poetry in a loud voice.’
‘What kind of poetry?’ asked Cotton.
‘Keats,’ said Henderson. ‘That kind of thing. Oh. And Hopkins. A lot of Hopkins. He had a kind of rolling Welsh voice for that.’
‘Welsh?’
‘Yes, especially when he was drunk. Declaiming Hopkins the worse for wear in a Spanish bar hardly counts as discretion. He was becoming a joke.’
‘In what way a joke?’ asked Cotton.
‘They made effeminate gestures at him in the street. He’d laugh.’
‘Ah,’ said Cotton.
‘He was letting us down,’ said Henderson.
‘Yes,’ said Cotton. ‘I see. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Henderson.’
Henderson blinked at him.
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘You’re going?’
‘Yes,’ said Cotton.
‘But you will see to the funeral expenses?’
‘Yes,’ said Cotton.
He checked he had the autopsy report and death certificates, Spanish and British, and offered his hand. Henderson looked at it.
‘I don’t think we have to stand on any more formalities, Mr Cotton.’
Cotton smiled, admitted to himself that he had enjoyed discomforting the old man and trotted cheerfully upstairs to his office.