Tim stripped off his saturated leather jacket and hung it over the back of his office chair, where it began to drip on the carpet.
Why does life never run in straight lines? Maybe if it did more people would be able live without frustration and anxiety. Hadn’t the evening been a success? Through the agency of something far beyond coincidence and luck he had found the car. In that light it was his dream come true – detection the way he wanted, using his own methods. And with the wonderful, the marvellous addition of an attractive and mysterious young woman as his accomplice. So why did he feel so low?
Whatever had made Foxy run off, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He needed to believe that. Something had happened and when she was ready she’d come back and tell him. He had to believe that too.
He fetched an old newspaper to catch the drips under the jacket then sat heavily in the chair. If he hadn’t done anything wrong, what had he done that was right? It didn’t feel like much. Jarglebaum had picked up the bottle, the pen had fallen on the map. Foxy had found the car.
Maybe it had all just been coincidence after all.
A defiant little light burned inside Tim’s head. What if these things were happening all the time? What if these clues were scattered all around and magic was no more than seeing what was hidden in plain sight? Ritual simply created moments that helped you see what was already there.
At least he’d have Dolores and Electra off his back. He’d found the car and earned their money. No more threats, no more rearrangement of the architrave.
The flaw in that line of reasoning was that Imelda probably didn’t need a reason.
The phone rang.
‘Hey. It’s me,’ Foxy said.
Relief flooded Tim, he forgot all about his doubts and worries. ‘Hey. What happened, Foxy? Why did you run?’
‘It was… Well, it wasn’t you, it was the rain. I was getting soaked.’
Tim heard seagulls faintly calling. ‘Where are you?’
‘Walking along the beach road. The sea is up, the waves wild and grey. I can taste the salt on the west wind.’
He wished he was there. ‘Thanks for helping me.’
He heard the catch in her breath. ‘I’d do it again.’
‘You mean that?’
‘I don’t know when. That was the only real case I had and now we’ve found the car, it’s over.’ Belatedly he realised how much that sounded like a brush off. ‘But there’s something else is going on and I want to discover what that is.’
‘That sounds mysterious.’
‘It’s odd. Dolores, the woman who employed me, never said the car was stolen, just missing. She also told me it was her husband’s car. The two things I do know about her are that she’s a liar, and she paid me a lot of money to find the car.’
‘Enough for you to not ask too many questions?’
‘I think that was the idea.’
‘That garage isn’t easy to get into with that automatic door.’
‘So the person who left it there works in the building. I can find out who the owner is.’
‘And there’s that sack of rocks in the boot. They bother me, there’s something about them, I’m sure I’ve seen them somewhere. We should find out what they are too.’
There was that word again: We. ‘What was on those papers you took?’ Tim said.
‘Advertising about farming and plants,’ Foxy said. ‘I’ll bring them round.’
‘In the morning.’
He kept the disappointment from his voice. ‘See you then.’
It was only after he put the phone down that Tim remembered that Asklepios had been gone for hours.
To be continued…