Sydnee didn’t press it.

They talked in a desultory fashion, but there didn’t seem that much to talk about. Charles recognised what was happening. He’d experienced it before at the end of television series. For three months, or longer, you work intensely closely with a group of people, their concerns become your concerns, you are bound together by the overriding imperative of the programme. You spend all your time with them. You work with them, eat with them, not uncommonly sleep with them.

Then suddenly the series ends, and you’re back to being a selection of disparate individuals. Without the link of a mutual project, you realise that you never really had that much in common.

With the murder solved, that was what had happened to him and Sydnee.

He offered her another drink, but Jim Trace-Smith had just bought around, and a hand snaked out of the If The Cap Fits group to pass her one. She asked if Charles was going to have another, but he looked at his watch and said, no, he’d better be going. She kissed him on the lips without passion, thanked him again for everything, and with something like relief coalesced once again with her group.

It was not yet seven, but Charles moved purposefully towards the exit. Just as he got there, though, he encountered a fellow-actor who had just emerged from ‘the most dreadful, but the most dreadful day in the studio on this bloody bomb disposal soap opera’. He was in desperate need of a transfusion of alcohol. Surely Charles had time for one little drink with him.

‘Oh, all right,’ said Charles, looking at his watch again. ‘Just one.’

It was nearly ten to nine when he got to the Italian restaurant in Hampstead. There was no sign of Frances.

‘Hasn’t she arrived?’ he asked the proprietor. ‘She would have asked for a table in the name of Paris.’

‘Oh yes, signor. The lady was here. She left about five minutes ago.’

‘Did she leave any message?’

‘No, signor. No message.’

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