Chapter Twenty Two

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I was in my office when my mobile phone rang. It vibrated in my pocket and chirped merrily like a polyphonic songbird. I screwed the top back on the bottle of water I had been drinking from and squeezed the phone from my jeans.

It was Martha.

She seemed distracted when we spoke but we arranged to meet for a drink. She had been shopping with the money Ty had provided. Although persuading her to take it had not been easy, she did concede that there were a lot of things she needed.

On the drive from Pebble Deeping that morning, Martha and I had discussed who could have known about her father's work. She had given me a series of names; mostly academic colleagues and a journal editor or two. I had spent my morning phoning round these people and asking if they had been aware of what the Professor had been working on before he died.

The results had not been promising; many of the academics poured scorn on everything Professor Wimple had worked on and derided his mental faculties in general. One even laughed out loud.

It occurred to me that if I just spoken to a potential murderer, he or she would have lied. However I was less than convinced that a rival professor of archaeology was masterminding a campaign of death and intimidation in order to be first to find treasure that the bulk academic opinion thought to be a fairy-tale.

I finished the brief phone call with Martha; she gave me directions to a trendy coffee shop and I said I'd be there soon.

I shuffled some notes into a buff folder, and then dumped it on a pile on the floor. A small puff of dust rose from the impact like a mushroom-cloud testament to laziness; a sign of how little use my office had got in recent times.

I had become so entwined in Ty's life that my already-pitiful standing in the firm was suffering and if it went on much longer I thought I might find myself frozen-out completely.

I balanced the possibility of losing my place in the business, and with it the last link to my past, against my inextricable ties to the Edge case. I included in this calculus the fact that I needed the money, and the illegalities I had been a party to.

Then there was Martha, of course. She needed help and the way my mind was at the moment I would have done anything to provide it.

I gathered my phone, donned my jacket and patted my back pocket to check my wallet was there. I had to pick my way carefully back out of the room, tip-toeing between the piles of files and old newspapers and magazine clippings. When all of this was over, I promised myself that I would tidy the cubby hole up and make it a little more professional.

"Off again so soon, Satchmo?" Joan inquired, her voice thick with sarcasm. "We were enjoying your little stay. When can we expect to see you here again? Christmas?" I wasn't in the mood to bandy barbed comments with her, so I smiled wanly and strode for the door before one of the Yeoman twins caught me.

"I hope you know what you're doing!" She called after me.

In that, at least, we were agreed. I hoped that I knew what I was doing too.

*

I sat in a deep black leather sofa; the seat low to the floor and the arm rests unnaturally high. I cradled a large mug of hot chocolate in both hands, the surface of which was pleasingly frothy and a single marshmallow melted in the middle like an iceberg in the Caribbean.

I don't drink coffee and the bewildering array of options chalked onto the board above the serving counter made me question the sanity of the world. What was the point of a mocha-choca-latte, with the option of any combination of seven flavoured syrups and a dusting of your choice?

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