The morning after the beads and doormat thing? I felt most peculiar. Very peculiar indeed. I slept like I very rarely do – I don’t sleep well, haven’t done for years, but that night I dropped into sleep like driving off a cliff. And I woke in the morning feeling really good, and with an armful of Fran which improved things no end. We had coffee in bed, and she made me roll over to inspect for possible damage, and traced her finger along two neat double lines across my backside. I was faintly surprised by them: well, I hadn’t taken on board that a cane leaves a double mark. They didn’t hurt but the skin was still slightly ridged, and when she patted me and said in some satisfaction, “you’ll carry those a day or two,” I got a terrific kick from it.

Later, though, it began to feel odd. Reaction, I think. I can remember feeling much the same way after I made my first arrest and after I solved my first case. Fran saw it – more, I think Fran had been watching for it. She took me by the hand and dragged me back to the bedroom, pushing me down on the bed and lying down beside me, facing me.

“Now talk to me. Talk about last night.”

“What do you want me to say? I loved it.”

“No second thoughts? Nothing you want me to do differently? Or maybe more to the point, now that you’ve tried some new things, have you got a better notion of what you want to do again, and what you don’t?”

“I didn’t think I got to choose.”

She grinned at me. “You don’t get to choose the detail: that’s my job. But the more you tell me about what works for you, the better. Sooner or later I’m going to do something you don’t like, that stands to reason. With a little luck and some forward planning, it should only be a slight thing. What’s not good for you?”

I lay back, working an arm under her to pull her close, and thought. “I – yes. There was something. Actually, I hardly noticed at the time, but afterwards. . .”

“Ah. Important. Particularly the first time, it can sweep you along, and then when you think about it. . . Tell me.”

“It’s stupid.”

“Tell me anyway.”

“When you put me flat on the table, you said: good boy. I don’t. . . Can you not do that?”

“Just that phrase, or is there more?”

“Anything that. . . Look, what it is, is that I had eight months work on a team trying to break a child porn ring. We weren’t wholly successful. I find myself a bit. . . a bit sensitive about. . . oh, hell, this is stupid.”

“Nick, it isn’t stupid at all. This is something that pushes your particular buttons in a way you don’t like. You don’t have to have it.”

“It’s like – it isn’t just with you. I was still married then, and I found I couldn’t use any of the pet phrases giving children’s names to Kate, or answer to them myself. I couldn’t call her ‘babe’, or ‘girl’, ‘child’, that sort of thing.”

“Yes, I see. So if I say: want to play, little boy?”

“I love the tone, I love the way you say it, but the phrase itself creeps me out.”

“Mm. Big boy?”

“Makes me laugh. Sorry. Sounds to me like something from a bad porn film. General endearments, you know, sweetheart, love, darling, no problem. But not baby and not boy.”

“O.K. I can manage that, I think. I’ll certainly try. Anything else?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Well, if anything else occurs to you, you tell me, right?”

“Yes, Fran. Fran? I loved it. I loved it all. Only. . . it’s a bit scary, thinking about it. Last night, I think I would have. . . I would have let you do anything. I would have gone a lot further than that. I didn’t know I could do that. It’s – disconcerting is the least of it. And I do want to do it again and do more, only. . . Hell, I don’t know what I want.”

“Why do you think we’re talking about it now? I know you were there last night. I’ve rarely had a Bottom fall so easily into it. And that almost makes it more risky, Nick. I know you would have let me do a lot more, I know you wanted me to do a lot more, but you aren’t used to it. So we talk about it calmly now. I’ll push you a little further next time, if I feel like it – if I do, not if you do – but you tell me now what your limits are and that’s where we stop. We set the boundaries in the cold light of day, not when you’re over my knee or blindfolded or anything. Last night I could have asked you for anything and you would have tried, and it would have been too much. Limits are a sober morning decision, not a hot Saturday night one. If you want to extend them, you’ll have to tell me when you’ve got all your clothes on and I know it’s your head talking, not your balls.”

I pushed my face into her neck. “Fran, I don’t think my head has engaged since I met you. I can’t think at all.”

She chuckled. “Then I shall think for both of us. Can we go a little further?”


“What about. . .” and she made several suggestions and after the fourth it must have been obvious that my head absolutely wasn’t entering into this discussion, particularly since the speech centres in my brain more or less closed down and all I could say was: yes, please, and soon.

The DCI noticed something: he said a fortnight later that it was good to see that I was being more sensible about my hours and taking my leave allocation. And that it was doing me good to be getting out and meeting people, and getting over my divorce. And he was sorry, but could I review the cases he had just dumped on my desk? They wouldn’t interfere with my date, would they? I nearly asked how the hell he knew, and then I thought: he’s a bloody senior detective, how do you think he knows?

And Fran and I were exploring. Not every time. That sort of scene is actually fairly exhausting, I found. Intense, emotionally, as well as physically. God, but she’s imaginative! She found ways of making me hers which had never even occurred to me, and some of them gave me an adrenaline rush and a fairground-ride scare, but none of them was deep-down frightening or threatening or. . . I’ve read the books and the magazines. I’ve read some of them for my own pleasure and some of them in the course of work, and believe me, there’s some really nasty stuff about. And a lot more which leaves me cold: funny, but the descriptions which are nearly right are further from right than the ones which are well off course, if you see what I mean. A lot of the literature comes over to me as the Top despising the Bottom, scornful, contemptuous. The degradation thing doesn’t do it for me. I know that for a lot of people it doesn’t work unless the Bottom is unwilling, ostensibly or actually, but Fran seemed to see it that we were in this together. It wasn’t just something that she did to me; I was an equal participant. I don’t know, I haven’t got the words for this. Ask me again in three months. I’ll be here, unless Fran has put me out. I think I’m here for the long term. Unless Fran puts me out. Unless. . . Now, that really does scare me if I think about it too long. She’s got so much more experience than me – what if she gets bored? What if where I want to go isn’t where she does?

So sometimes I pressed for the game to be played by her rules, not mine. Do you know, the vocabulary of this is dreadfully inadequate. All the rules are her rules, because she’s Top and I’m Bottom, but she likes primarily to spank and perhaps restrain a little, and I like to be restrained mentally but not physically and then spanked as well, so it’s only fair that we do things both ways. She’s very good about letting me top from the bottom, and I try not to do it too often. And she debriefs me (bad joke there if I’m not careful) meticulously: she doesn’t ask about new things in advance, because I love to be surprised, but afterwards she wants to know what worked for me. From what I’ve read and heard, it’s significant that I’ve never yet used either of my safe words.

That’s how it was for us; then there was the week that my leave actually fell on the weekend for once, and I went to Fran on Friday night and we played. And on Saturday, she had a wedding to photograph, and I said that I could amuse myself until she came home again. She rolled over in bed, and examined my backside again, and patted it lightly – unmarked after a night’s sleep – and then looked at my hands. “I think,” she said, placidly, “that you can keep those on until I come home again.” ‘Those’ were the loops of red thread around my wrists: an alternative to the beads. Ordinary sewing thread, used to tie me to the arms of the chair I was bent over, while that leather paddle was applied smartly to my rear. I had broken one, but not the other, pulling it off the chair, and she had eventually taken scissors and snipped the ends off short on both sides, leaving me with a single strand bracelet on each wrist. “Just to keep you in mind that you’re mine while I’m out. I shall expect to see them both intact when I come home.”

I get a huge buzz from that, you know: from Fran marking me as hers. I kept the threads. We had breakfast together and then she went off to put together her working kit and I pulled on some sweats and picked up my key (I’ve got my own key to that ghastly flat now, so perhaps I worry unnecessarily about the relationship not lasting) and went out. It’s part of my conditions of employment that I’m supposed to keep myself fit, and I like to run, so I trotted through the streets to the park and then started to pick up the pace a bit across the grass. It’s a big park, and there’s one of those wood-chip tracks round the outside, and every couple of hundred yards there a set of wooden equipment. Trim Trail, I think they call it: you know, looks like a child’s adventure playground but it’s in adult sizes to let you step up, or do braced crunches, or whatever. Unsophisticated, but effective. Anyway, I did a couple of laps of the track, and then started a third, stopping to use some of the equipment, and presently I came up behind somebody who obviously had the same idea. He was working steadily on pull-ups on a bar, and the flash of red hair was unmistakeable.

“Good morning, Hansie. How are you?”

He dropped back to the ground and looked over his shoulder.

“Nick. Good morning. I am well, thank you, and you? And Fran?”

“Fine thanks. Fran’s working today so I thought I’d come out. This is a nice park.”

I struggle a bit with Hansie. I still haven’t worked out what it is between him and Fran. I’ve met him three or four times now, and we’re formally courteous to each other. He doesn’t like me much, but I get the impression that he’s trying hard to conceal it. 

Ja, I like it. Makes a change from the gym, now that the weather is improving.”

I reached up for the bar, intending to do a dozen pull-ups myself, and my sleeves slipped up my arms. The thread on my right wrist slid into view and Hansie's gaze fell on it; he made an odd sound in his throat, and his hand shot out, grabbing my arm. I pulled back in surprise, and looked into his face: he had an expression of blank – I didn’t quite know. Horror? Terror? Some very strong, and unpleasant, emotion.

“Oh,” I said, rather foolishly, “Fran and I were playing silly games.”

He dropped my arm – he threw it away from him as if it were a spider – and took two steps backwards, still with that look of stunned horror, and then he twisted away into the undergrowth and I heard the unmistakeable sound of somebody losing his breakfast.

Well, what would you have done? I went after him. He was on his knees when I found him, retching uncontrollably.

“Hansie?” I managed to avoid the stupid “Are you all right?” because patently he wasn’t.

“Fuck off!”

Yes, well, nobody likes to be watched while they heave.

“What brought this on? Come on, up you get, have you got a handkerchief? Now, come away.” He dodged my extended hand and backed away from me. It was fear then. And he was frightened. . . he was frightened of me.

“Fuck off!”

“Look, you’re not well, you need to go home. Where do you live? Is it far?”

He bolted past me, but his knees wouldn’t take him and he staggered. I caught him up.

“Come on, where do you live? I’ll come home with you. . .”

“Will you just. . .”

“Fuck off, I know, you said. No. Look at you, you aren’t fit to go home on your own. Just let me see you get home O.K. and I’ll leave you alone.”

“No! I don’t need. . . just go, will you? I’m all right. It is. . . I have an upset stomach. I do not need you to fuss round after me. Go away.”

“Oh yes, likely. If I go home and say to Fran: I met Hansie today, he wasn’t well so I left him puking in a public park and came home; am I likely to survive the weekend? Get real.”

“Fran? Oh, God, Fran. . .” and he was back into the bushes and I could hear the coughing heaves again. I went after him. He was leaning on a tree, and his breath was coming in panicky spasms.

“Come on, now. Home. Which way?”

“I don’t bloody want you!”

Tough, I thought, and when he began to walk unsteadily towards the gate I fell into step a little behind him. I couldn’t make him take my help, but I was going to see him safely home whatever he thought.

Fortunately it wasn’t far. I followed him in at the gate, and took his key from his hand when he couldn’t get it into the lock. “Is there anybody here? You shouldn’t be left alone.”

He shook his head. “Nee. Tim is visiting his mother. I am fine, I do not need anything. Thank you. Just go, will you.”

I took a proper look at him. I’m not a medic – I’m not even the registered first-aider – but we do a certain amount of first aid training, and I knew the look of shock. We see enough of it, after all.

“Sit down. Hot drink. You look dreadful.”

“Ach, for God’s sake! If I drink your damned drink will you in the name of heaven just go away?”

I didn’t answer that, simply followed him into the kitchen and filled his kettle. He sat heavily at the table with his face hidden in his hands. I found a teapot and milk (well, I’m a detective, it wasn’t difficult) and searched the tins on the worktop for tea. “Can you drink this if I put sugar in it?”

He shook his head. I set the tea to stand, and looked again at him. He was beginning to shudder, although he tried to conceal it. I glanced into the hall where there was a coat rack, and went out to look. A fleece.

“Put this on. You need to keep warm. Now, tea. Here. Can you tell me what brought this on?”

He looked up as I stretched across the table, and my cuff rode up again, and he bolted for the sink. His retching was painful – he had nothing left to bring up, but his body hadn’t stopped trying. For a moment I wondered: how do you comfort a gay man in this state? and then the voice at the back of my head said: the same way you do anybody else, you dozy dingbat; and I hooked an arm round his waist to support him – his legs were trembling – and rubbed his back gently. “Breathe. Again. Don’t gasp. Steady. That’s better. Now, stay there, don’t move. Here, this is just hot water. It’s better than drinking cold when you’ve been sick. Sip it, don’t gulp at it. A bit more. That’s right.”

And that, thank God, was when Tim came home.

“Hansie? What’s going on? What’s the matter? Nick? What’s happened?”

Nick cast a glance over his shoulder, but he didn’t let go of Hansie, and he didn’t stop rubbing at his shoulder. I didn’t know what to make of it at all.

“I met Hansie on the exercise trail, and suddenly he was like this. I don’t know why and he won’t tell me, but it isn’t just a tummy upset, it’s shock. He needs to be lying down.”

I came over and Hansie twisted away from Nick and into my arms. His skin was clammy and chilled.

“Nick’s right, sweetheart, you need to lie down. And a hot drink and. . .”

“Ach, the pair of you and hot drinks! Nick has talked of nothing else since we got here.”

“Well, there’s nothing you can tell me about stress making you sick. Happens to me a lot more often than I like,” put in Nick. “I wish you would tell me what’s wrong, though. It’s something to do with me, I can see that.”

I frowned. “With you? Why should it be something to do with you?”

Nick shrugged, and I turned to Hansie in puzzlement. “Hansie, what is all this?”

His face twisted, and I could hardly hear him. “He has thread on his hands. Fran did it.”

I knew at once. “Oh, heart! But if he doesn’t mind. . .”

“But Tim, Fran? I got. . . How could she do that?” He dragged himself away from me and leaned over the sink again.

Nick came forward, ignoring me, looking at Hansie. “Hansie? It’s this, is it?” (indicating the thread on his wrist). “It’s only thread. Fran said I was to keep them until she came home. Is this what’s bothering you?” Hansie nodded, without raising his gaze to Nick’s face, but he watched Nick’s hands as Nick slid a finger inside the thread and snapped it, and then repeated it on the other wrist. He lifted the two red worms and dropped them in the sink and Hansie jumped a little, backing away. “Will you tell me? Fran and I were playing, that’s all. Tell me what it is that upsets you. Or let Tim tell me.”

“Not Tim, no. I will. . . I will tell you. It is not an edifying tale. And there is rather a lot of it.”

Well, I wouldn’t have expected that. Wouldn’t have thought that Hansie would bring himself to tell Nick the lot. Later, when I thought about it, I wondered if it had something to do with the way Nick had been touching him, rubbing his back when I came in. You can get through to Hansie with a physical touch when nothing else will do it – the way he goes to Phil for hugs shows that. He places his trust in the people who touch him. Nick came round me to sit at the kitchen table, not opposite Hansie but diagonally from him. Not the nearest seat, so he had chosen deliberately. A moment later I saw why: Hansie could look him in the face if he wanted to, but he didn’t have to.

It took hours, but Nick got, in one sitting, the stories which had taken months to get from Hansie; the stories which I, and Piet, and Phil, and Fran had extracted like teeth. They didn’t emerge any more easily this time, either. They still came out of order, mangled, knotted into each other. I tried to help at first, explaining who some of the people were, reminding Hansie that this bit of the story didn’t make sense because he hadn’t told him that bit yet, but Nick eventually caught my eye and shook his head, and I shut up, and concentrated on keeping the tea coming. Nick just sat, and made little ‘mm-hm’ noises, and occasionally asked a question. He seemed to get the point of what he was being told much faster than I had done when Hansie told me: I suppose he’s used to being given a complicated and incomplete story and getting the guts of it. He didn’t chase after irrelevancies but he didn’t try to make Hansie keep to the point, either. He just let him talk, and talk, and talk, and Hansie would stop for breath and Nick would slip in another quiet question. It was really odd to watch. Nick almost wasn’t there – conversation doesn’t work that way, but it wasn’t exactly a monologue either, and every so often Hansie would get to a particularly difficult bit and... sort of skirt round it like a horse being pushed at an obstacle it doesn’t want to jump. And while he sidled, Nick would ask a question which got Hansie going forwards again. When Hansie tells us – me and Piet and Phil – this stuff, we respond, we’re angry for him, or unhappy for him, or whatever, but Nick was just. . . just what? Not unresponsive, that’s not the word. That sounds as if he didn’t care, and I think he did. But he was like a sponge: he just absorbed it all. He seemed to be able to keep track in his head of where we were going, too.

Hansie was hoarse and exhausted by the time he stopped. I was mortified. Well, you see, to make a lot of it make sense, it had been necessary – I could see that it had been necessary, but that didn’t mean I had to like it! – for Nick to hear a great deal more about my sex life than I liked. And after all that, we still hadn’t had the story which had started all this. Nick prompted, quietly, for it.

“Tell me about the thread.”

And Hansie did. Nick thought about it.

“What bothers you? That I did it? Or that Fran did?”

“Her. At least. . . God, I don’t know. It was that anybody should, anybody at all, ever, ever, and then after, that it should be Fran.”

“Is it just the thread? Or the whole thing? I mean, would you feel the same way about, oh, I don’t know, rubber bands, or a scarf?”

“Thread. Ja, I know, it is foolish, it is ridiculous. I can see you are not harmed. You are not as big as me, but you are bigger than Fran. You are not doing anything you do not wish. But for Fran – I love Fran, you see.”

Nick nodded, taking that at face value too. “So for her to do something that your father did. . .”

Ja. That was what I could not bear. It is not. . . I do not. . . Ach, hell, you will play the way you and Fran like, and I will. . . It is not my business. It was a shock, is all. I will not think of it, and you will excuse me for being. . .” He couldn’t find a word. Nick frowned a little.



“I won’t play that way again. I’ll tell Fran I won’t.”

Hansie stared. “But if she wishes to. . .”

Nick shook his head. “She doesn’t particularly, I don’t think. Not that specific way. And when I say I don’t want to, she won’t push it. That’s the difference, Hansie. You weren’t allowed to say no. I am. I can say: I don’t want to do that at all; or: I don’t want to do that any more. I don’t think she’ll even press me to say why not if I tell her I don’t want to talk about it, but it would be better if you let me tell her.”

“Ach, but why should you not do as you please? It does me no real harm and if it is something you like...”

“There are other things I like – I can’t believe I’m sitting here talking about my sex life to a gay man I hardly know! – if it comes to it, there are simple variations on that which we’ve done before and will no doubt do again. Not that one. Now that I know, it would make me uncomfortable. And either you don’t want me to tell Fran, in which case I’ll be uncomfortable about that too, or I tell her and if I tell her she’s going to refuse to do it anyway.”

Hansie looked down. “There is really no need for that. It is – it is simply something which I could not do myself. That is no reason why you should not do it, just because I cannot.”

Nick shrugged again. “We’ve all got things we can’t do. We’ve all got our own preferences. I do: I can’t be rough with a partner, you know, pretend force. I’ve worked too many rape cases, and far too many of them with victims who were very young or very old or just in no position to fight. Lots of people like to play that sort of game, act out that sort of fantasy. And they do it safely and without it meaning that they would actually rape; but I can’t do it.”

I didn’t catch Hansie's eye. There had been an evening not so very long ago when I had been trapped against the wall, held still by a hand in my hair, pinned by superior weight while a hand explored my body (we’re in the territory of words like ‘plunder’ or ‘ravish’ here), carried struggling (not very hard!) to bed, spanked soundly and assured throughout that I could fight all I liked because it would do me no good. I had loved it; Hansie still had the marks of my nails on his back. But if I had seriously wanted to get away I would have used the safe word which Piet had effectively beaten into me, and Hansie would have let me go, and I knew it. Nick was right and Hansie knew that. Consent was everything.

“May I tell Fran what you have told me?” asked Nick. “Or would you rather I didn’t?”

Ja, tell her. Some of it she knows already. I thought she would have told you.”

“No. All she said was that your family was rather dysfunctional and that you had trouble with relationships. And that the relationship between you and her was important to her. She wouldn’t tell me anything about you that she thought you would mind me knowing.” There was just the slightest emphasis on the ‘me’ both times, just the faintest hint that he was wounded and trying to disguise it.

Hansie heard it. He’s much better at seeing and hearing that sort of thing than he used to be. “You are jealous? Why are you jealous? When you and she fit together so well?”

Nick shrugged. “You were there first. She doesn’t tell me your business, but she’s made it plain that she isn’t giving you up and if I don’t like that I can. . . I can do the other thing.”

“Ach, no. It is not that way. She is my big sister; I love her. We do not compete for her.”


“Definitely not.”

Nick nodded and let it go, and presently he got up and excused himself and went away.

“Hansie? Are you feeling better?”

Ja, but a little shaky still. I hate to say that Nick was right about anything but I think perhaps I need to lie down.”

“Go and get the duvet and lie down on the sofa. I’ll make us something to eat. Find something on the TV. We’ll just stay home and be quiet this afternoon.”

He went to sleep after he had eaten something, tucked down on the sofa. He didn’t wake when the doorbell rang mid-afternoon.

“Come in, Fran. I wondered if we might see you.”

“Tim, I. . . I don’t know what to say. Nick says it was horrible. I really wouldn’t willingly have done anything to upset Hansie that much. I didn’t know! I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known!”

“He knows that. He’s calmed down enough now to realise that it was just unfortunate. And he’s made some sort of accommodation with Nick, which should make things easier for you, too.”

She nodded. “It took him ages to tell me, Tim. And he went all, I don’t know, remote, while he did it. He sat and looked past me, and repeated what Hansie had told him, and after a while I realised he was giving evidence. Even the phrasings were Hansie's, you know, the occasional phrases that aren’t quite colloquial, and the verbs sometimes in the wrong places. He was trying to give me what Hansie had said the way he said it, not filtered through himself.”

I nodded. “He’s worked bloody hard today; I was impressed. And it was work, Fran. If you say he gave evidence to you, he did a full-scale investigation in here. I can believe he’s a senior detective. And you know, he was very good with Hansie, and I’m inclined to wonder if we haven’t been quite fair to him. We’ve all tried to make sure that Hansie came to terms with Nick, but it hadn’t occurred to me at least that Nick might be as jealous of him as he is of Nick.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, God, am I going to have two snarling dogs to handle?”

“No, I think they’ll be all right. Only, I think it would be nice if we all went out somewhere, or got together somewhere which didn’t have a lot of overtones, and talked about the rugby, or the weather or something ordinary. I know more about you and Nick than I really feel I needed to, and Nick knows more about my private life than I’m comfortable about.”

“I know. I don’t like it either. I was happy with just the rough outline, I didn’t think we needed the detail. Oh yes, and I have a message for you from Nick. He says he is decidedly not asking if Hansie meant what he thought Hansie might have meant about you and him and Phil and Piet. And personally, I’m not asking anything about that. I most definitely don’t want to know. But Nick says, would you please remember that he’s a policeman and be careful not to tell him anything that might link your names with the word ‘illegal’ in his head. He said he knows that large chunks of the law are dead ducks but he’s not supposed to think so and. . .”

“I get the point. Do you want to see Hansie? Go and wake him up. He’ll want to talk to you. I’ll put the kettle on again.”

I gave them fifteen minutes together before I made loud ‘bringing in a tray’ noises in the hall. They were sitting side by side on the sofa and they were both a bit red-eyed, but they seemed to be friends again. They didn’t need me: I went away and left them to it. Fran came through presently to say goodbye, but she seemed uneasy and didn’t meet my eye. I went back to Hansie, who shifted up the sofa to make room for me.

“She was very upset. I have rarely seen her upset like that, she is either in control or she is angry, like Piet, but this time she was grieved and distressed. She said he was angry. She said he was angry about what he had done to me.”

I sorted through the pronouns in this. “Fran said Nick was angry? Because he had upset you?”

Nee, domkop.”

“What, then? More nouns, Hansie. And don’t call me stupid.”

“Nick was angry about my father.”

“Angry. What. . . I don’t quite get it.”

“She said he – Nick – was enraged. That he said my father was – she says Nick called him several rude names.”

“Good for Nick.”

“She said he was ontstette.”

“I’m sure he was, if I knew what it meant. And which ‘he’ are we talking about this time?”

Affected sigh. “Fran said that Nick was – was very upset. Disturbed. Horrified. Something like that. Appalled. She says he has dealt with cases involving violence and children, and he suffers for them. That night we all went to the pub? There had been an attack on a young woman, and the police could not get enough evidence for a jury, and Nick was distressed.”

I pulled Hansie closer and began to slide my fingers through his hair. He relaxed against me. “How does he do that, Tim, do you think? All of his work is because somebody has been doing something they ought not. Somebody has been behaving badly to someone else. He sees people at their worst. I would not have his job for anything. Not for any money they could pay me.”

I nodded. “Me neither. Although, I suppose there’s a lot of – well, of dull, mundane stuff. Break-ins, and frauds and small petty things. It can’t all be rapes and murders and best-seller plots.”

“I suppose. But he is quite senior, ja nee? He will get the big cases. The important ones. And from what Fran says, his nerves are not good.”

“Do you think that’s what he meant? He said something about knowing about stress giving you an upset stomach.”

Ja, I think so. And I think. . . I think he is a good man, and he and Fran are happy together.”

“I think so, Hansie, yes.”

“But Tim?”


“I still don’t like him.”

Idris the Dragon

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