'I'm sorry but what're we looking for and what does it have to do with Liz not letting me go to my own house?'
Alison and Frank were in his living room, her stood over him, leaning forward, hands on knees while she watched him rummage in the third of three low cupboards. She'd never met anyone with cupboards as cluttered as his.
'Gotcha!' In a shoe box stuffed with papers, he found whatever it was he was after. He took it from the box, stood up, turned to face her and said, 'This is what it has to do with all that stuff.'
Whatever it was, he handed it to her. She studied it, but all the object produced from her was a frown. 'What is it?' she said.
'An address and phone number.'
'I can see that but whose?'
'Liz's boss. She gave it me in case of emergencies. You've failed with her? Tough. Get upstairs and pick out your best clothes.'
'Because, first thing tomorrow, you've got a job interview.'
Now Joe was gone, Liz climbed off her bed and headed for the door. She shut it and turned the key. She grabbed her laptop from among her luggage and climbed onto the bed with it.
She planted the laptop before her, opened it and called up the files Lou'd sent her before she'd left home. They told her all she needed to know about Tom Radcliffe, an accountant from Edinburgh; Daniel Robinson, an architect from Cornwall; and Dr Seevers, the man who'd put her on this course in the first place.
None of them had a black mark against his name, any track record of infamy or involvement in the Dark Arts. Nor did the recently deceased seem to have had any known enemies.
As for Valentyne Delgado, he'd had enemies all right. That was half the problem. He'd had so many that finding his killer had been like trying to find a twig in a forest.
According to his murder file, his death had happened just like she'd always heard it had. He was stabbed to death in the entrance hall downstairs, in his ceremonial robes and mask. His killer was never caught and the murder weapon never recovered, The file contained a list of his associates and enemies but none of it got her anywhere. Nor did it tell her why whoever'd killed him would want to kill his successors.
Right now, she had other things to do - the main one being to attract an attempt on her life. She'd made her first stab at that by placing an announcement of her arrival in the local paper. That should alert any would-be killers to her presence but that wouldn't appear till the next day, and ideally she wanted results tonight.
For that, there was only one course of action.
She was going to have to get noticed.
Liz pulled her van to a halt outside a general store and climbed out. She was in Hangerton, the village you had to pass through to get to Delgado Manor. Because the few people she saw looked to her urban eyes like refugees from The Shadow Over Innsmouth, she switched her van's alarm on then looked for a likely venue.
That didn't take much doing. The Moulting Ferret was an old-style pub on the corner, with a tree stood opposite and a cracked sign that either suggested near dereliction or a surplus of character.
When she walked in, it was hardly what you could call jumping but there were enough people in it to make sure she could get noticed. Though, by the way all heads had swivelled towards her when she'd entered, getting noticed was going to be the least of her concerns.
She stood there a moment, the subject of universal scrutiny then shut the door behind her and - watched all the way - she headed for the centre of the room.
There, she grabbed a spare stool from by a table occupied by three men, planted it in the open and climbed up to stand on it. 'Ladies and gentlemen...' Herself aside, there were no women in the place except the barmaid. '...can I have your attention please?'
She already had it.
'My name's Alison Parker. I'm twenty two-'
The barmaid snorted at that claim.
'-And, from my dress sense, you may have noticed I'm what people in cities call a bohemian. I believe in free love, expensive cars, New Labour and banning all forms of hunting. I'm also your new neighbour because I've just moved into the big house on the hill. Delgado Manor I believe it's called. I'm just here to announce that, from now on, as mistress of the house, I'll be staying there.
'I'm also a big-shot film producer and'll be making a horror movie there just as soon as I'm settled. That means I'm asking you to tell all your friends and family that I'll be auditioning for zombies within the month. So if anyone fancies Hollywood stardom, I'm the woman to deliver. Thanks for your time and enjoy your drinks.' She jumped down off the stool, put it back where she'd got it from, gave the three men at its table a wink and headed for the door. If telling the whole village that the new owner of Delgado Manor was a free-loving, Blairite who was making a horror movie didn't get tongues wagging then nothing would.
When it came to farming, Liz Sanford didn't know her arse from her elbow. She knew even less about Dranton Farm. It might have been a dairy farm or a sheep farm. It might have been a horse farm if there were such things. Maybe it grew wheat or corn or barley. Maybe it did none of the above.
All she knew was it was round the back of Delgado Manor - just on from the base of its stark black slopes. That made its owners her neighbours and that meant she was at its farmhouse door, pressing the bell.
A few moments later, the door opened, answered by a chunky looking woman in her mid-forties.
Liz took one look at her. 'Mrs Dranton?'
'My name's Alison Parker. I'm your new neighbour - and I do LSD.'
You can download the rest of Fatal Inheritance from: