I slept soundly and late, the sleep of the exhausted, and would have slept later still if I hadn't been woken at 9.30 by the phone ringing off the hook. I tried to ignore it. It rang and rang, stopped, then began to ring again. Somebody really wanted to speak to me. Finally, I tossed aside the bedclothes, stamped across the apartment to the kitchenette, grabbed the receiver from the rest and barked "Yes?"
"Gask, it's Madderfy," came a familiar voice.
"You again! Now what do you want?"
I'm never at my finest first thing in the morning even at the best of times. I'd been rudely awoken from a restorative sleep, and I hadn't had either a coffee or a cigarette. I toyed with the idea of slamming down the receiver and going back to bed.
"I may have been a bit hasty yesterday," Madderfy said before I could convert that thought into action, and with a hint of apology in his tone.
"Okay," I said, very slightly mollified, "I take it you do want something from me, then? Something else, huh?"
There was a grunt from the other end of the phone, and a pause.
"It seems that poor Merton wanted you to be involved," Madderfy said slowly, "I've just heard from his lawyers. They've been instructed that the will can't be read until certain conditions are met."
"I thought that would be another one of those private, family events you were telling me about yesterday?"
Madderfy grunted again.
"One of the instructions that Merton Vale gave his lawyers just before he died," he said, speaking slowly as if to a moron, "is that you are personally present when the will is read, together with his family and business partners. And another is that his private briefcase is there too."
I swore repeatedly under my breath. My hands were now tied in this matter. These conditions have the force of law in the Lower Realms. The existence of the briefcase was now a matter of public record. Merton knew that I knew where it was. If I refused to cooperate, all he had to do was tell the lawyers, who would slap me with a writ so fast my head would be spinning for weeks. Any hope I had of using the case as some kind of lever or bargaining chip was now completely lost.
My best course of action was to accede as gracefully as I could.
"Gask? Are you still there?" came Madderfy's voice, now faintly tinged with anxiety.
"Yeah, yeah. Just trying to wake up."
"Good. So, you get the case and come to the probate hearing this afternoon. 2.30pm. Got that?"
"Be there." Madderfy hung up.
I shook my head and returned the receiver to the rest gently. It seemed I had been given my instructions. But nobody was suggesting that I shouldn't report to my client first.