Chapter 5 One of our council officials is missing.

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Chapter 5 One of our council officials is missing.

Once again Christopher found himself making his way through the narrow cobbled streets near the Queen of Scots, and on up the main road with Amaryllis. The others had all gone in different directions. It was getting towards dusk, and there was a spring drizzle in the air, and the smell of fallen cherry-blossom that had been trodden into the pavement. He tried to say something that didn't mention the kids, and failed miserably.

'I've got to get back and help Faisal with his history.'

'So - how many kids have you got? And other appropriate questions,' said Amaryllis.

'I wasn't even going to mention the kids,' said Christopher, blushing. 'Are you doing anything nice this evening?'

'Not really, unless you count curling up by a log fire with a book and a large glass of Australian wine,' she said. 'And a box of Belgian chocolates within reach in case I feel like a nibble.'

He smiled.

'That sounds good. What kind of book? Let me guess - a thriller.'

She gave an unexpected start then shrugged her shoulders and replied, 'No, anything but that actually. Chick lit, history, satire.... No, I don't usually enjoy thrillers. Too much blood.'

That surprised Christopher: she seemed like exactly the kind of cool, detached, analytical person who would like the puzzle element of thrillers. And the danger, surely. It was slightly odd but there you go. They said goodbye at the school gates and went their separate ways. Christopher for his part went straight home, following a well-trodden route past the bowling-green and down the long avenue with the beech trees on either side.

Amaryllis's route was more circuitous.

Dodging behind a parked car in a street just round the corner from the school, she ran along the pavement bent almost double, shielded from view by two of the four wheel drive monsters the street was notorious for, then stood upright again to saunter down a lane leading into the next street, politely greeting an old man walking his fox terrier. Running lithely in the manner that had made Christopher think of Atalanta earlier in their acquaintance, she made her way down towards the shore: she could have been a jogger, or just someone in a hurry to catch a bus, or to get home in time to see 'Strictly Come Dancing', except that halfway down the road, after a quick glance round, she left the pavement, climbed over a garden wall and then made her way through a series of gardens. She was mostly unobserved but was shouted at once by a protective mother whose toddler strayed into her path. Emerging at the other end of the terrace, she took off her jacket, turned it inside-out and put it back on again, took a scarf out of her bag and tied it round her head, then sauntered back along the front of the houses, in no hurry at all.

Amaryllis was, in private life at least, quite an incurious person who didn't tend to wonder about other people's lives. She had spent too much time on her own to be interested. But as she sauntered round the corner and back up away from the shore again, she found herself picturing Christopher, this evening clad staidly in a green parka with a fake fur-trimmed hood worn over a tweedy sports jacket, making his way steadily home to his family. She wondered vaguely why he had discarded the worn leather jacket that had made him look so much like a teacher or youth worker.

Her information was that he lived in an unconventional setup, but she hadn't bothered to memorise all the details. How old were the children? Had he mentioned teenagers? Was he married or not? Did he, his sister and the problematic children share a house with a wife who looked like a female version of Christopher himself? Did she have wispy hair and a round shiny face; did she wear tweed a lot? Did she resent the sister's presence and nag at him constantly to get rid of his troublesome sibling? No wonder he chose to be so involved in PLIF and spend so much time at the Queen of Scots!

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