Chapter 12 Bugs

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Chapter 12 Bugs

In a way it was incongruous that she carried a handbag at all - he found himself examining it as they went along to see if he could spot any secret compartments or places where you might carry a gun, just as in some handbags he had noticed a place for an umbrella. But it looked like a perfectly normal bag, albeit rather larger than current fashion dictated. More like a small rucksack really - which would be useful if her route took her over the rooftops or through skylights, he supposed.

'Do you think the American had something to do with what happened last night?' he asked, just to avoid an awkward silence.

There was an uneasy pause.

'Do you know anything about him?' he persisted.

'Could be,' she said.

They walked up the road, heading, he presumed, back towards his own house. After a while Amaryllis suddenly announced,

'I've got to go this way,'

and headed off along a side street that, as far as he knew, was a dead end. Only of course she probably wouldn't think twice about shinning up a wall and jogging through a whole lot of back gardens. He stopped in his tracks. What if she were a spy? He had no idea at all how the intelligence services operated apart from the insight gleaned through various television programmes, both fact-based and completely fictitious. The different branches were always at war with each other and they all hated the Americans - everybody knew that - but he wasn't sure of some of the logistical aspects, such as what the retirement age was. Perhaps it was immaterial and spies always died in harness, as the horrible phrase went.

Christopher shuddered. Simon Fairfax certainly behaved like a spy, he reasoned as he continued walking, and Amaryllis had a few skills that might be useful to a spy, such as entering other people's houses illicitly, and getting into underground tunnels - not that she had been very successful at doing that, having got stuck. And were spies supposed to be afraid of spiders? Surely they were fearless, ready to go anywhere and do anything to protect the rest of us from evil... or was that Harry Potter? or Frodo Baggins?

Deep in thought, he arrived home. Big Dave had just gone out to take Marina to school - apparently she had insisted she didn't need an escort, but he had over-ruled her - and Mrs Stevenson had been left to play Monopoly with Faisal, who had his work cut out explaining the rules. He told Christopher in a stage whisper that he had already been through them twice. Well, it would keep him out of mischief. Christopher realised suddenly that Faisal should have been in school too, although under the circumstances it was only to be expected that he didn't feel up to it. He now had visions of the school attendance officer coming round with a whole regiment of social workers. He shut that out of his mind - it was the least of his worries, after all.

He rang the school anyway, and explained what had happened over the weekend, or at least the part of it that related to Faisal's mother being taken off in the ambulance. The school secretary said, 'But don't you think he would be better in school? - it would take his mind off things.'

'No,' said Christopher, who knew already how much Faisal hated school and was not about to enter into a debate about it with the school secretary in any case. Why have a long rambling pointless conversation with the monkey when you could have one later on with the organ grinder? He put the phone down. At least he had done his bit - they could worry about the rest later.

Amaryllis came down the stairs as he was still standing by the phone. She walked past him and straight into the sitting-room.

'Sorry to interrupt, guys,' she said to Mrs Stevenson and Faisal, 'only we need the parcel of money now, if you don't mind.'

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