accept that,” and the others nodded agreement. John sat down feeling rather sulky. He had expected Maria to excuse and protest like a criminal in the dock. But she had behaved handsomely and spoilt his fun.

Priscilla bent over the table and arranged the coffee-pots. John said suddenly, “You know, my memory’s going. I feel I’ve seen someone in this group before, but in court.”

There were startled gasps. “Who?” cried Deborah, bouncing up and down on her large bottom. “You mean we might have a chain-saw murderer amongst us?”

John shook his head. “I’m probably wrong. The trouble is, I see so many criminals that everyone begins to look like one.”

Jenny Trask said, “I remember that famous case where you were the prosecutor for the Crown, that triple murderer, Jackson.”

“Tell us about it,” suggested Maria, accepting a cup of coffee from Priscilla.

He began to talk. Priscilla, standing on duty in the corner with the other waitress, remembered reading about the case in the newspapers. She felt uneasy. There never had been, surely, any really concrete evidence, and yet John Taylor had done a brilliant job and the man had gone to prison for life. Even talking about the case, John ceased to be a tired-looking man in his sixties and became enlivened with fire and venom. A columnist had once written that his success was due to the fact that he appeared to have a genuine hatred of the people he was prosecuting. The legal department of the newspaper must have had too liquid a lunch that day, for the column was printed and John Taylor had sued the newspaper for some reportedly vast sum, although the whole thing was settled out of court. And the female columnist came out of it unscathed because she was having an affair with the newspaper proprietor.

Then Priscilla saw her father coming into the room. The colonel had learned that there was an eminent Queen’s Counsel among the guests and so had decided to favour them with his presence. When the barrister had finished speaking, he asked them grandly if they were comfortable and then his choleric eye fell on his daughter in cap and apron.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing dressed up as a waitress?” he roared.

“Sheena and Heather are off sick,” said Priscilla calmly. “I had to help out.”

“Consult me next time you think of slumming,” raged the colonel. “My own daughter!”

Mr Johnson, the manager, used to averting scenes, came quickly into the room and muttered something in the colonel’s ear and drew him out.

Matthew Cowper had just learned from Mary French that she was the Earl of Derwent’s third cousin, but the news that the blonde beauty was the daughter of the house made him look at Priscilla speculatively and he hardly heard what Mary was saying. He glanced round the lounge, formerly the drawing room, of the well-appointed hotel. Must be a mint of money here, not that it was money he was after, but it all helped. This Priscilla was a stunner, and classy, too. She did not have the vulgar sultry beauty of Crystal, and any girl who mucked in and acted as a waitress wouldn’t be too snobby.

Maria was just announcing that she had arranged a trip out on a fishing boat the following morning, urging them to be ready early, for Peta slept late. Matthew wondered whether to skip that trip and try his luck with the fair Priscilla.

But when they all finally rose to go to bed, he volunteered to help Priscilla clear away the coffee-things. She gave him a cool smile and said firmly, “That won’t be necessary.”

He thought that after all she might be a sheer waste of time and went upstairs to set his alarm.

Jenny Trask lay awake a long time. No knight on a white charger had come along. She was bitterly disappointed in Checkmate. Matthew Cowper was the sort of young man she would normally have gone out of her way to avoid, that was, if such a young man had ever shown an interest in her. Nothing was as she had expected it to be. And that dreadful Peta! Someone should put that woman out of everyone else’s misery.


Hamish Macbeth was roused from gentle dreams about nothing very much by a hammering at the door. He crawled out of bed and went to answer it. “Why, Archie,” he said, recognizing the fisherman, “what’s wrong?”

“Naething’s wrong,” said Archie with a grin. “I forgot to tell you that I’m taking a party frae the castle out on the boat the day and I wunnered if you would like to come along and gie me a bit o’ a hand. Grand day and free food.”

Hamish thought quickly. Blair was away in Spain. Nothing had happened recently. “Is herself coming?” he asked hopefully.

“Aye, I think I heard Miss Halburton-Smythe wass coming along,” lied Archie.

“Yes, I’ll join you. What time?”

“Eight o’clock. They are haffing their breakfast on the boat.”

Hamish said goodbye to him and began to wash and dress quickly. He checked his sheep had water and fed his hens, and then ambled along the waterfront in the direction of the harbour. The day was as perfect as all the previous days.

Jessie and Nessie Currie were standing by their garden gate. Hamish tried to walk past quickly, but Jessie said severely, “And where are you going, young man? Where are you going?”

“Just along to the harbour,” said Hamish evasively.

“I noticed you haven’t your uniform on, you haven’t your uniform on,” remarked Jessie, who had an irritating habit of saying things twice over.

“Undercover work,” said Hamish desperately. “Drug smugglers.”

“My, my!” marvelled Nessie. “They get everywhere, don’t they. It was saying on the telly…”

But Hamish had moved on. He felt it was odd to be walking through this Mediterranean landscape. No clouds marred the sky. A normal Scottish Highland day would either be weeping misty drizzle, or high winds with cloud shadows chasing each other down the flanks of the mountains and fitful gleams of sunlight. Archie’s fishing boat, the Jaunty Lass, lay still at anchor.

Hamish climbed on board. “I thought ye would have found more help, Archie,” he said. “Where’s your crew?”

“Say to a man they willnae stir frae their beds for a lot of rich English parasols.”

“Parasites?” suggested Hamish.

“Aye, them. Anyways, all you’ve got to do is help me cast off and then take a wee turn at the wheel. Sean Gallagher, the cook frae the castle, is cooking the breakfast in the galley. All we really have tae do is sharpen up the old knife and fork and dig in wi’ the rest o’ them.”


“What?” Priscilla stared sleepily at the hotel manager, who had come to rouse her. “ What do you mean, Sean is refusing to go?”

“Just that, the wee scunner,” said Mr Johnson with feeling. “He says he gets seasick. He says nobody told him he had to cook on a boat. He says it’s beneath him.”

“What’s he gone temperamental for?” said Priscilla crossly. “He’s from Glasgow, not Paris. Did you threaten to fire him?”

“I wouldnae dare. He might go, and then where would we get another cook to match him? So I thought…you see, it’s not really cooking. Jist a kedgeree for breakfast and a cold lunch, and the lunch is all packed up.”

Priscilla groaned. “Meaning you want me to go?”

“Well, it’s a grand day out for ye.”

“All right. All right. But I know why Sean isn’t going, and it’s nothing to do with seasickness. He was raving on about that glutton, Peta, last night. Said she was an insult to his art. The idiot came up to the doorway of the dining room during the serving of the main course and he saw that big woman guzzling most of it. He went off and got drunk. I’ll handle it, but don’t tell Daddy.”


Ian Chisholm, the local garage owner, had renovated an old Volkswagen minibus, after he had learned that a party at the castle would be needing transport. He had sprayed the front of it bright red and then run out of that particular colour of paint, and so he had sprayed the rest primrose yellow. It had an odd carnival appearance, but at least the new coat of paint hid all the rust. The seats were badly damaged, as the previous owner had used it as a hen coop, but his wife had made some nice chintz loose covers to hide the defects.

Jenny, first to climb on board, felt her spirits lift. The ridiculous bus, combined with another beautiful day,

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