The Willing Ghost

Robert Wellington

Chapter one

She opened the door of my office without knocking and came in. She stood in front of my desk and looked down at me. I was sitting in my chair with my feet on the desk and reading the sports pages of a newspaper.

'You're a private detective, I believe,' she said.

I took my feet off the desk and put down the newspaper. 'That's right.'

'Well, I have a job for you.'

'Good,' I said. 'I charge 250 pounds a day, plus expenses.'

'Money's no problem.'

'Even better,' I said. 'What's the problem?'

During these few seconds I was looking at her closely. She had beautiful, long red hair and enormous emerald-green eyes. She reminded me of a cat I had once - the eyes, not the hair. I also thought I recognised her, but I couldn't remember where from. She was about twenty-seven or twenty-eight, and very beautiful. She was wearing a tight green (the same shade as her eyes) sleeveless silk dress. Nothing on top; no coat, no cardigan: we were enjoying a very hot summer in London that year. She was also wearing expensive jewellery, very expensive; the kind many women are prepared to kill for. A gold watch, a ring with a huge emerald surrounded by diamonds on her left hand, a gold bracelet on her right wrist, and three loops of the best Australian pearls around her neck. I know quite a lot about jewellery. I know quite a lot about everything that costs a lot of money. It's a hobby of mine. For the same reason I was also receiving messages from the perfume she was using that day. It was something like the latest perfume. But not the one along with all the other 'latest' of the perfume manufacturers which flood the department stores around Christmas. This was a special made-to-order mix, the kind produced in small quantities for very rich VIPs. I know quite a lot about perfume, as well.

Definitely, she was the kind of client that I like to have, and also the kind of client that I needed at that moment.

'Well, the problem, Mr Boot, is that I have great difficulties in sleeping at the moment.'

'Shouldn't you see a doctor, not a detective?' I said.