Read an Excerpt
‘Good heavens, Mr Costello, there is absolutely nothing life-threatening about what I’m asking you to do.’
Jimmy gave her what his mum would have called an “old-fashioned” look.
‘No, there never is, is there?’
Professor McBride didn’t answer. Jimmy didn’t expect her to. On her last non-life-threatening outing he’d got a knife in his side. But his real reason for kicking was the way she had summoned him, like some bloody junior office clerk. ‘Come to my office’: no ‘please’, no explanation, just the command to be there.
‘You are, of course, at liberty to refuse, although I have to say…’
‘No you don’t. You don’t have to say anything.’
They sat in silence. The office was at the top of a tall block in a modern business suburb and through the windows Jimmy could see the sun shining on the distant blue hills of Frascati. It was a lovely view made all the lovelier by the glory of the April day. After a moment Jimmy pulled his mind back from the glories of nature. Yes, he could refuse. But if he did, what else was there? This woman was all he had, without her his life had no point, made no sense. She had given him some sort of life back, so he put away his petulance and gave in.
‘What is it I’m supposed to do?’
‘Simply what I said. Find a missing person.’
‘What missing person?’
‘I don’t know.’
He threw up a hand in frustration.
‘You see! There you go again. You give me a hurry-up call because you say there’s a job. I come running and you tell me that I’m to look for a missing person, but you don’t know who it is. What is it about you? Why can’t you be straight? Why can’t you just tell me…’
Professor McBride’s voice was sharp. Jimmy almost expected her to lean forward and rap her knuckles on the desk.
‘Mr Costello, I’ve heard all that before. You don’t trust me, you think me, in your own words, a devious bastard. Very well, I agree you may have grounds for thinking as you do…’
Jimmy sat in silence as she went on. It didn’t matter what she said. Whatever it was, she was right, she was always right, so he sat and listened and, when she was ready, she began to explain what it was he was going to do for her, the job that absolutely couldn’t be life-threatening.