He noticed though.

'That arm still troubling you?'

'It's much better.'

He nodded and made no further comment. Instead, he told me of a visit he had paid the day before to an elderly uncle of Adams, whom he had discovered living in bachelor splendour in Piccadilly.

'Young Paul Adams, according to his uncle, was the sort of child who would have been sent to an approved school if he hadn't had rich parents. He was sacked from Eton for forging cheques and from his next school for persistent gambling. His parents bought him out of scrape after scrape and were told by a psychiatrist that he would never change, or at least not until late middle age. He was their only child. It must have been terrible for them. The father died when Adams was twenty-five, and his mother struggled on, trying to keep him out of too disastrous trouble. About five years ago she had to pay out a fortune to hush up a scandal in which Adams had apparently broken a youth's arm for no reason at all, and she threatened to have him certified if he did anything like that again. And a few days later she fell out of her bedroom window and died. The uncle, her brother, says he has always thought that Adams pushed her.'

'Very likely, I should think,' I agreed.

'So you were right about him being psychopathic.'

'Well, it was pretty obvious.'

'From the way he behaved to you personally?'


We had finished the pie and were on to cheese. Beckett looked at me curiously and said, 'What sort of life did you really have at Humber's stable?'

'Oh,' I grinned.

'You could hardly call it a holiday camp.'

He waited for me to go on and when I didn't, he said, 'Is that all you've got to say about it?'

'Yes, I think so. This is very good cheese.'

We drank our coffee and a glass of brandy out of a bottle with Beckett's name on it, and eventually walked slowly back to his office.

As before he sank gratefully into his chair and rested his head and arms, and I as before sat down opposite him on the other side of his desk.

'You are going back to Australia soon, I believe?' he said.


'I expect you are looking forward to getting back into harness.'

I looked at him. His eyes stared straight back, steady and grave. He waited for an answer.

'Not altogether.'

'Why not?'

I shrugged; grinned.

'Who likes harness?'

There was no point, I thought, in making too much of it.

'You are going back to prosperity, good food, sunshine, your family, a beautiful house, and a job you do well… isn't that right?'

I nodded. It wasn't reasonable not to want to go to all that.

'Tell me the truth,' he said abruptly.

'The unvarnished honest truth.

What's wrong? '

'I'm a discontented idiot, that's all,' I said lightly.

'Mr. Roke.' He sat up slightly in the chair.

'I have a good reason for asking these questions. Please give me truthful answers. What is wrong with your life in Australia?'

There was a pause, while I thought and he waited. When at last I answered, I was aware that whatever his good reason was it would do no harm to speak plainly.

'I do a job which I ought to find satisfying, and it leaves me bored and empty.'

'A diet of milk and honey, when you have teeth,' he observed.

I laughed.

'A taste for salt, perhaps.'

'What would you have been had your parents not died and left you with three children to bring up?'

'A lawyer, I think, though possibly…' I hesitated.

'Possibly what?'

'Well… it sounds a bit odd, especially after the last few days… a policeman.'

'Ah,' he said softly, 'that figures. ' He leant his head back again and smiled.

'Marriage might help you feel more settled,' he suggested.

'More ties,' I said.

'Another family to provide for. The rut for ever.'

'So that's how you look at it. How about Elinor?'

'She's a nice girl.'

'But not for keeps?'

I shook my head.

'You went to a great deal of trouble to save her life,' he pointed out.

'It was only because of me that she got into danger at all.'

'You couldn't know that she would be so strongly attracted to you and find you so… er… irresistible that she would drive out to take another look at you. When you went back to Humber's to extricate her, you had already finished the investigation, tidily, quietly, and undiscovered. Isn't that right?'

'I suppose so. Yes.'

'Did you enjoy it?'

'Enjoy it?' I repeated, surprised.

'Oh, I don't mean the fracas at the end, or the hours of honest toil you had to put in.' He smiled briefly.

'But the… shall we say, the chase?'

'Am I, in fact, a hunter by nature?'

'Are you?'


There was a silence. My unadorned affirmative hung in the air, bald and revealing.

'Were you afraid at all?' His voice was matter of fact.


'To the point of incapacity?'

I shook my head.

'You knew Adams and Humber would kill you if they found you out. What effect did living in perpetual danger have on you?' His voice was so clinical that I answered with similar detachment.

'It made me careful.'

'Is that all?'

'Well, if you mean was I in a constant state of nervous tension, then no, -I wasn't.'

'I see.' Another of his small pauses. Then he said, 'What did you find hardest to do?'

I blinked, grinned, and lied.

'Wearing those loathsome pointed shoes.'

He nodded as if I had told him a satisfying truth. I probably had. The pointed shoes had hurt my pride, not my toes.

And pride had got the better of me properly when I visited Elinor in her college and hadn't been strong enough to play an oaf in her company. All that stuff about Marcus Aurelius was sheer showing off, and the consequences had been appalling. It didn't bear thinking of, let alone confessing.

Beckett said idly, 'Would you ever consider doing something similar again?'

'I should think so. Yes. But not like that.'

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