The lean black-eyed credit jeweller was standing at his entrance in the same position as the afternoon before. He gave me the same knowing look as I turned in. The store looked just the same. The same terminal glowed on the small desk in the corner and the same ash blonde in the same black suede-like dress got up from behind it and came towards me with the same tentative smile.

"Was it - ?" she said and stopped. Her silver nails twitched at her side. There was an overtone of strain in her smile. It wasn't a smile at all. It was a grimace. She just thought it was a smile.

"Back again," I said airily, and waved a cigarette. "Mr Geiger in today?"

"I'm afraid - I'm afraid not. No - I'm afraid not. Let me see - you wanted - ?"

I took my dark glasses off and tapped them delicately on the inside of my left wrist.

"That was just a stall about those first editions," I whispered. "I have to be careful. I've got something he'll want. Something he's wanted for a long time."

The silver fingernails touched the blonde hair over one jet-buttoned ear. "Oh, a salesman," she said. "Well - you might come in tomorrow. I think he'll be here tomorrow."

"Drop the veil," I said. "I'm in the business too."

Her eyes narrowed until they were a fain greenish glitter, like a forest pool far back in the shadow of trees. Her fingers clawed at her palm. She stared at me and chopped off a breath.

"Is he sick? I could go up to the house," I said impatiently. "I haven't got forever."

"You - a - you - a," her throat jammed. I thought she was going to fall on her nose. Her whole body shivered and her face fell apart. She put it together again slowly, as if lifting a great weight, by sheer will power. The smile came back, with a couple of corners badly bent.

"No," she said. "No. He's out of town. That wouldn't be any use. Can't you come in tomorrow?"

Part 2