by Trevor Hopkins

"But you haven't told her?" I asked Mayfield.

"No, I haven't," she confirmed, "Of course not. She's very old, and not very strong. And I don't see any need to risk upsetting her."

"I can buy that," I said. I didn't add: especially if you held out any hope of getting your hands on a bequest in her Ladyship's will.

Mayfield's lovely eyes narrowed shrewdly.

"Is this why my grandmother has sent you here?" she demanded.

I smiled again, showing my teeth.

"No," I replied, "No, it's not. I don't think she's knows anything about your relationship."

Both young beings again stiffened involuntarily at my use of the expression. Perhaps it was just speaking the word, aloud, in English. Or maybe it was they were being forced to recognise the fact that there really was a deep and long-established relationship, after years of failing to admit to it, even to themselves. I find that people of all shapes and sizes have such capacity for self-deception.

"She certainly didn't mention it to me," I added, "The questions I am directed to ask are on a completely different topic."

Mayfield relaxed fractionally. Glen squeezed her hand encouragingly. As one, their heads turned and they looked into each other's eyes. It didn't take much of a genius to work out what was going on here.

"So what's Grandma sent you all the way up here to ask me, then?" she asked, being her attention back to me, "Couldn't it wait until my next visit?"

"Well, it's about your last visit that I'm here to make enquiries," I said with deliberate emphasis, watching both of them carefully.

She looked puzzled, even confused. There as no hint of guilt or concern in her reactions. As for Glen, well, human reactions are harder for me to interpret, but he too seemed unfazed by the prospect of being asked a few hard questions by an inquisitive stranger.

"Sometime after your last visit to Lady Strowan Westwood," I spoke carefully, "Something went missing. Something precious. Something valuable. Something of great sentimental value."

Still no reaction from either of them. Both Mayfield and Glen seemed devoid of any signs of shame, just listening attentively to what I had to say.

"It was her diamond and sapphire necklace," I went on.

Mayfield gasped and put her hands to her mouth. Glen frowned and turned towards her, instantly concerned at her distress.

"The one Grandfather bought her?" she breathed.

"Yes," I said firmly, "I believe so."

Part 12 Part 14