He went reluctantly back to the police station. Hetty sitently pointed to the sheaf of notes. Her stomach gave an unmaidenly rumble. Kindness warred with dislike in Hamish’s and kindness won. “I’ve been offered free food at the restaurant,” he said. “Care to join me?”

She never knew later why she had accepted, any than Hamish knew why he had asked her instead of Priscilla. Perhaps it was because this police station with scent of roses coming in the open window in the soft evening air seemed so divorced and far away from the noise of Strathbane, but she found herself saying, “Yes, thank you.”

“Right! I’ll just change. The bathroom’s outside on your left if you want to put any make-up on.”

Hetty picked up her handbag and went into the long narrow bathroom. She washed her face and then surveyed her prim neat features. She took out a brush and brushed down her hair until it waved on her shoulders. She had put her hairpins in the handbasin and, twisting her hair back into its bun, she scrabbled to retrieve the fine black pins, which promptly fell down the gaping open plug-hole and disappeared. She stared down crossly into the sink. Only a Highlander would have an open plug-hole like that without any sort of grid to prevent things from falling down it.

She brushed her hair again. She would just need to wear it down.

Hamish looked at her with something like surprise when the finally appeared. He was dressed in one of his well-tailored thrift-shop finds and a striped tie. “We’ll walk,” he said. “It’s just a wee bit along the front.” They walked along in the calm evening. People stood by garden gates or over at the sea-wall. “Evening, Hamish,” they called, “grand evening,” while Highland eyes curiously studied Hetty walking at his side.

Willie and Lucia gave Hamish an effusive welcome, as if to make up for their previous bad behaviour, and Hamish was given the best table at the window. Willie was determined to do them proud, as was Lucia. They were given Negronis to drink and then a bottle of Chianti. They had crisp mixed sallads sprinkled with fresh basil to start with, followed by penne in a cream sauce, followed by large portions of chicken breast in a white-wine sauce, and then zabaglione. It must have been the wine, Hetty was to think later, that had made her laugh so hard at Hamish’s tall stories. But she found she was enjoying his company immensely. She had been out with police officers and detectives and usually the evening had ended with coarse jokes, innuendoes, and then he inevitable proposition. But Hamish just seemed happy to chat. She found herself telling him about the difficulties of coping with her mother and father, who always seemed to be shouting abuse at each other, about her sister, who had gone to Glasgow and disappeared and never phoned, about how the police force and living in a policewomen’s hostel had seemed so wonderful after the mess and violence of home. She had planned to drive back to Strathbane that evening, but time drifted by and she found herself asking Hamish if he could put her up for the night.

Two days later, Mr. Daviot buzzed Helen and said, “Is Hetty Morrison not back with that report yet?”

“Not that I have heard,” said Helen.

“Phone Lochdubh police station and find out what’s going on.”

Helen disappeared and then returned some minutes later. “I spoke to WPC Morrison,” she said primly, “and she said the reports were taking longer than she had expected.”

“That’s strange. There’s a mountain of work, but it would take our efficient Hetty no time at all, and she did not intend to stay more than a day in Lochdubh.”

“She is probably trying to knock some sense into that idiot’s head,” said Helen crisply. “Hetty Morrison is a woman of iron.”

Mr. Daviot looked at her doubtfully. “If you say so.”


Priscilla emerged from Patel’s with a shopping basket over her arm. It was another glorious day. She slung the basket into the passenger seat of the car and decided to go along for a chat with Hamish. She had rather hoped that he might have phoned her but perhaps he thought she was still in Inverness.

She walked along until she had nearly reached the police station when she heard the sound of Hamish’s laughter. Disappointed that he was not alone, she approached slowly and looked over the hedge.

Hamish and a woman with long, glossy black hair were sitting in deck-chairs in the garden, drinking chilled white wine.

She backed away before they could see her and turned on her heel and walked back to her car.

It was just as well the engagement to Hamish had been broken off, she thought as she drove quickly and competently out of the village. He would never have been faithful.

Perhaps she needed a break, perhaps she needed to go back to London.

Perhaps she would go the following morning…

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