Chapter 6 Signals from another world

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Chapter 6 Signals from another world

At the suggestion of Amaryllis, and because Christopher wanted to avoid another onslaught from the Quilting and Embroidery League, the PLIF steering group took the revolutionary step of arranging to meet in a different pub, the Elgin Arms down by the harbour. It was older and more picturesque than the Queen of Scots, but Christopher didn't like it as much. The doors opened directly on to a main road, for one thing, whereas the Queen of Scots was tucked away in a jumble of old crooked houses, which gave the illusion that nobody could find it if they didn't know it was there. In fact he knew the Queen of Scots had been mentioned in several tourist guides to this area of Fife, and in the high season would probably be over-run with pretentious legal personnel from Edinburgh, which was another good reason for checking out the alternatives.

'It's too twee,' said Jock McLean, furiously sucking on an empty pipe. He glared at the curtains, which Christopher didn't think most people would consider twee, since they had rather a masculine dark stripe on a kind of tweedy fabric, but which presumably offended Jock merely by being there.

'The beer's no use,' said Big Dave.

'It's full of incomers and tourists,' said Young Dave, who had been an incomer himself only a couple of years before. In his own legend he was now more local than the locals.

'Has anybody else seen the police?' said Amaryllis, pale green eyes sparkling. Christopher thought the change of scenery suited her. 'About Steve Paxman. Does everybody know?'

Mrs Stevenson struggled into the bar.

'It's too near the water here,' she said. 'Doesn't do my arthritis any good, you know. My knee's killing me after walking down that slope.'

This was quite a long speech by Mrs Stevenson, but like Amaryllis, she seemed to be exhilarated, in her own quiet way, by sitting in a different bar, though still with the same woolly hat and the same Dubonnet to drink, obviously.

'Here,' she said, taking off her coat and putting it carefully on the back of her chair. 'I've had the police round.'

'About Steve Paxman?' said Amaryllis.

'What else would bring them to my door?' said Mrs Stevenson. Her pique at even being asked the question vied with her need to share what had happened, and the impulse to gossip triumphed. 'They're saying he disappeared right after that daft meeting we had the other night up at the Castle.'

'Castle?' said Amaryllis. 'Oh, you mean the Holiday Inn!'

'It's always been the Castle to me,' said Mrs Stevenson. 'You used to get proper gentlemen staying up there, not those girls who wear glitter and nothing else.'

Jock McLean and Big Dave suddenly started to pay attention.

'Maybe we should do a reconstruction up there with some of those girls,' suggested Jock with an evil smile. 'See if we can jog anybody's memory. Or anything else.'

'I think we just need to co-operate with the police, that's all,' said Christopher.

'They asked me what time you got to the Queen of Scots,' said Mrs Stevenson, looking at him accusingly.

'I was the last to leave the room at the Holiday Inn,' Christopher admitted. 'Steve Paxman got me to close the windows. He was in a bit of a hurry.'

'So you might have been the last person to see him alive!' said Mrs Stevenson.

'I don't think there's any reason to think he isn't still alive,' said Christopher, framing his sentence carefully. 'He could have lost his memory - or fled the country - or have been called to a relative's bedside without having time to let anybody know. The policemen didn't say what they thought had happened.'

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