Just as she was locking up the phone rang and Donna's voice, sounding clipped, informed her that Buchanan had just walked past her without even looking at her.

'I said, "Hi, Mr Buchanan. Another day, another dollar, huh?" and he never even heard me. You'd think, if you'd been sort of bringing me to his attention like you said, he'd at least hear me talking to him. Even when he does wave to me you can tell he doesn't really see me. I've seen people waving at taxi's with more affection.'

'You'll see a big difference any day now, Donna,' Fizz assured her robustly, her conscience dealing her a sharp, but passing, pang. ' Besides, I won't have to lean on you much longer. My typing speed is getting better every day.'

'I just wanted you to know how I feel about this arrangement of ours. You've got to admit it's been a bit one-sided up till now.'

Fizz mollified her as best she could but she had a feeling Donna was a bit of a loose cannon. It was never a good idea to promise something that was impossible to achieve, but when you had nothing to bargain with all you could do was bluff and pray for time. In time, after all, anything could happen: Donna could drop dead, Buchanan could drop dead, Donna could meet someone else, Buchanan could go bald, Donna could turn frigid, or Buchanan could lose his mind and fall for her off his own bat.


'Hi,' said Fizz, sparing him barely a glance as she marched past him into the lounge. 'You look like you've been recently exhumed.'

Buchanan shut the door and caught up with her as she collapsed onto the couch. 'Well, thank you, Fizz. 'You really know how to cheer a guy up, you know that?'

'It's a gift,' she said modestly. 'You've either got it or you haven't. Look what I brought you - black grapes.' She dropped a paper bag on the coffee table and helped herself to a large sprig. 'They're £1.65 a pound. I hope you appreciate what good friends you have.'

'Fizz, you're a saint. Have one if you like.'
'Well, if you insist,' she said with her mouth full. 'So, how've you been?'

'Never better.' Buchanan could recognise a rhetorical question when he heard one and besides, if Fizz ever showed a genuine interest in his health it would be because she was planning on selling his liver on Harley Street.


Zeroing in on the sound of screaming, Fizz's one thought was that the chances of a single guest sleeping through it were virtually nil. At that point she was still working on the hypothesis that this was a spider-in-the bath situation but at each step the screaming kept getting louder and higher pitched and seemed to be interspersed with the sort of whoops and gasps that could be considered indicative of total hysteria.

She met Jenny May McGill halfway down the second floor corridor, flattened against the wall and just getting into her second wind. Already there was a cluster of guests around her, begging her, with varying degrees of sympathy, to cool it.

Fizz went through the crowd like a poker through a sponge cake. "Stop that immediately,' she snapped, and completed Jenny May's neuro-linguistic programming with a slap that loosened her fillings.

This had a wonderfully therapeutic effect on both of them, cheering up Fizz considerably cutting off the scream in mid-cadenza and bringing on a flood of tears that put the finishing touches to Jenny May's make-up.
'Please try to pull yourself together, Miss McGill,' Fizz said briskly, reaching up (Jenny May being some eight inches taller than she was) and gripping the howling woman by the shoulders. 'You are disturbing the other guests.

The other guests - and by now there was quite a bunch of them - looked on with avid interest, their eyes bright with anticipation, but Fizz had no intention of satisfying their curiosity. Judging from past experience, if Jenny May had a spider in her bath they'd all want one.


This was, after all, the first time he had not responded to his wake-up call and that was hardly surprising since at seven o'clock that morning he had been in bed for barely two hours.

Furthermore he had probably still been in a state of alcoholic poisoning that would have kept him anaesthetised throughout a major earthquake.

Normally he didn't really enjoy being that drunk. Even when his every other faculty was lying on its back with its legs in the air his dignity was standing to attention, buttons polished and ready for duty.

But last night, for some reason, his dignity had gone AWOL and it had been one bloody good night from start to finish. Even this morning he regretted nothing.

'Non, je regrette rein,' he sang to himself (but gently) as he stood dozing under the shower, and even the most luridly remembered scenes from the night before failed to embarrass him.

This time yesterday he would have shrivelled like a salted slug at the recollection of being asked to leave a restaurant but today it struck him as hilarious.

The memory of dancing a thirty-ninesome reel in his shirtsleeves and Fizz's Russian hat should have been even more painful but, on the contrary, he was happy to have been, if not the life and soul of the party, at least one of the movers and shakers for a change.


Both her eyes were blackened and swollen, the left one totally closed and its lid streaked with blood from a deep cut across her eyebrow. Below the same eye her cheekbone stuck out like an open drawer and livid crimson and purple bruises covered her nose and the side of her mouth.

Buchanan had seen similar injuries often enough before, in his rugby days, but never all on the same face and never on a face so sweet and delicate and soft-skinned. Never on Fizz.

He tried to think what he should be doing for her. Keep her warm? Well, she'd done that for herself. Hot, sweet tea? Or nil by mouth till seen by a doctor? Hot water? That was it. He hadn't a clue what it was for but the first thing the doctor always called for in such cases was hot water. He put the kettle on and spent the next ten minutes between it and Fizz keeping one simmering and stroking the other's hair in helpless anguish.

Mark arrived full of calm assurance, strolling in as though he'd just happened to be passing and felt like a chat. Only a faint shortness of breath betrayed the fact that he'd run up the stairs.

'Okay, Tam,' he said when Buchanan started to babble out the whole story in the hallway. 'I'll just take a look at Fizz first and then you can give me the whole background.'

'Right,' Buchanan said, starting to relax a little now that someone else was in charge. 'I have a kettle of hot water on the boil if you need it.'

'Good thinking.' Mark nodded approvingly. 'No milk. One sugar.'


Even before the door had hit the wall, or so it seemed to her, Fizz had dived over the arm of the chair and was now crouched behind it making herself invisible. Only not invisible enough.

'You!' roared an unfamiliar voice. 'Out of there and round here where I can see you.!'

There wasn't much doubt who he was speaking to since both Poppy and Buchanan were trapped in the embrace of the couch with their eyes on a level with their kneecaps.

She stood up and moved, as if someone new at the job were operating her with strings, into the middle of the carpet discovering, as she did so, that the intruder was the centurion-type she'd suspected of tailing her. He was streaming wet, throbbing with potential violence, and waving a massive gun that would have made Dirty Harry's look like a cigarette lighter.

'Over there.' He waved the pistol and Fizz made haste to obey, flattening herself against the wall facing the fireplace.

Buchanan and Poppy were roughly the same shade of pale blue; Buchanan rigidly unmoving, Poppy clinging to him like a condom.

The centurion gave a chuckle deep in his chest which did all sorts of unpleasant things to Fizz sphincter muscles. 'Well, well, well. Now this is a pleasant surprise. Three fish in the one net: that's something I hadn't suspected.'

No-one could have called him attractive but Fizz had failed to register on their previous encounters just how ugly he was. His face was big and muscular, with a large, fleshy and discoloured nose like an aged scrotum and his jaw alone, to Fizz's inflamed senses, was a weapon of mass destruction. It was heavily boned and set with big yellow teeth that leaned this way and that like old tombstones.


As she ran out into the full sunlight she heard the guard go down in a burst of curses and knew she had gained herself the few spare seconds she needed to lose him - and his much slower partner - by doubling back to the sheds.

Okay, she was thinking, let's go, kid, when two fat arms encircled her from behind and she was lifted off her feet against a spongy gut. Frantic thrashing and biting only increased the constriction but did afford her a momentary glimpse of a face she recognised as the guy she'd called, Thicko.

A salutary lesson in the advisability of not being nasty to people, even those for whom you had no immediate use.

There seemed, however, to be no reason why she should not be nasty now, so she was very nasty indeed, so nasty, in fact, that she had almost fought her way clear before the guards arrived. One of them had a deeply cut cheek and bits of orchids in his hair, the other was holding his torn trousers closed over his arse and, clearly, neither of them was in a mood to clap hands for Tinkerbell.

'Thank you very much, sir,' wheezed Guard #1, accepting custody of Fizz and twisting her arm up her back in a professional manner. 'Very public spirited of you.'

Thicko had his eyes screwed tight and both hands hanging on to his balls as if he thought they too were trying to escape detention. 'Bloody shoplifters,' he ground out. 'They put the prices up for the rest of us.'

'Too true, sir,' said Guard #2, who was in better shape than his mate but just as short of breath. He picked up a potted orchid that had escaped the devastation and held it out. 'Have this for your trouble.'

Thicko couldn't spare a hand to accept his prize so the guard set it on the ground beside him and, half-nelsoning Fizz's other arm, started trundling her back towards the farmhouse.


The ball arced high into the pellucid blue of the evening sky and then descended like a miniature Icarus, exquisite, beautiful, bouncing once on the edge of the green and rolling gently to within a metre of the hole.

Buchanan watched its flight in humble amazement. An entire 273 yards! Damn near a hole in one but, with his second shot unmissable, two under par for the hole!

An eagle, by God! Life could not hold a sweeter paradise. Balm for all the woes that beset him daily: the work stress, the poverty, the inhumanity of man, little miracles like this were what kept him going. He floated there for a minute or two, a couple of inches above the tee, then slid his driver into his bag and followed his ball down the fairway to the green.

He took his time over the putt, confident of sinking it but not wanting to abort the eagle with a careless slip and, as he lined it up, he was vaguely aware of someone in the distance at the edge of his vision.

He recognised nothing more than a blur of movement, a flash of blue against the green of the grass, but there was something about the figure, some detail that must have rung a bell deep in his subconscious, because an obscure uneasiness took hold of him and his fingers tightened on the club.

His eyes flickered between ball and hole, joining them together with an almost visible line, waiting for the mental "click" that would tell him it was time - the gods placated, the omens favourable - to strike. Briskly, at last, and with perfect control, his wrists moved.


Buchanan remained stooped over his putter, refusing to believe the evidence of his eyes while, behind him, Fizz's voice increased in volume.

'Geez! You're losing it, Buchanan, I could have sunk that one myself.'


Fizz toyed with her pen. 'And how did they suggest I could be of service to you?'

'Actually, I haven't discussed the details of my problem with any of them - it's not something I care to publicise too widely, just for the moment.' A sliver of sunlight edged around the window frame and spot-lit Mrs Sullivan's face as she leaned forward. You understand?'

'Absolutely.' A similar, but comparatively pallid, ray of hope lit Fizz's boredom. She sat up. 'Anything you tell me will be totally confidential.'

'I understand that. Yes, dear, of course I understand that.' A gentle, almost motherly smile deepened the wrinkles around her eyes. 'But it's nice to have your assurance because, you see, what I want you to do for me is to prove me guilty of a murder.'

It was perhaps five seconds before Fizz realised she was still sitting there in her "interested listener" pose, convinced that the words she'd just heard had a totally different meaning to the one that had sprung to mind. 'Hunh?' she said, and then collected herself. 'Prove you guilty of a murder. . .Right . . . Er. . . A particular murder or just any murder?'

'A particular murder, I'm afraid, dear.' Mrs Sullivan laid a blue veined hand on the desk exposing an old-fashioned but heavy gold and pearl bracelet. 'The murder of Amanda Montrose in Inverness back in March.'

Fizz took a long look at her, searching for signs of insanity, but the grey eyes that gazed back into hers were calm and level and totally lucid. 'I see,' she said, permitting none of her sudden gleeful anticipation to show in her face. 'But of course you realise that it would be very difficult to prove you guilty of a murder you didn't commit.'

The grey eyes opened wider. 'Oh, but I did it, my dear, there's no problem about that. No, no. I'm afraid I'm guilty of the crime. Homicide. Isn't that what they call it nowadays?'

Clenching her jaw against a giggle, Fizz bent her head a drew a small, four-petalled flower on the cover of her diary. The smart thing to do was to tell this dotty old dear that she didn't handle that sort of case any more and get rid of her toute de suite but one could scarcely let her go without hearing what evidence she was able to produce to back up her allegation. Miracles could happen. She might be telling the truth.

'Actually, Mrs Sullivan,' she said, with what seriousness she could project, 'I can't say I'm familiar with the facts of Amanda Montrose's case but I seem to remember someone was tried and convicted of that murder.'

'That's true. That's the terrible thing about it. Some young man has just been put in jail for fourteen years for something I did.' Mrs Sullivan shook her head sharply, making her cheeks wobble. 'How can I live with that? For myself, the thought of confinement isn't really so frightening. Not at my age. I'm the last of my generation: all my brothers and sisters have gone before me and I have few friends left and little to look forward to. But just think of the terrible distress I've caused that young man - and not only him but his family, his wife or girl-friend - perhaps even children who'll have to grow up without a father. I can't let it happen. That's precisely why I need your help.'

She gave every evidence of being sincere, almost to the point of shedding tears, and for a moment Fizz felt her scepticism waver. What if she was actually quite compos mentis? Appearances could be deceptive, right?