Seventh Circle (Chapter 3 - Alison, page 2 of 4)


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Theo Duncan-Brown looked as if he would explode every time Tom opened his mouth. To Molly's relief, Alison brought Tom's outpourings to a halt.

'I forgot to tell you there was a cat in the kitchen,' she said.

'A cat?' Tom looked alarmed.

'It had a sort of tin hat and was trying to get at the salmon.'

Theo Duncan-Brown looked up from his plate.

'You should have told your mother.'

He gave Alison a disapproving glance.

'We cannot eat fish contaminated by cat.'

He pushed his plate into the middle of the table and Alison pushed it back.

'I said it was trying to get to the fish ... I stopped it.'

Theo turned to Colin.

'Speaking of cats ...'

'Yes,' Colin said nervously.

'We were up at Tom's latest dig. I think that's the word these people use. Tom had a cat in a basket. I saw it quite clearly ... I'm sure I'm not mistaken.'

Tom rose and went into the kitchen with Alison. Paw marks testified to a cat's recent presence. He wiped them off and followed her into the garden. Colin's laboratory was in a converted stables. It was where he did experiments that were too risqué for the research hospital where he worked.

Alison produced a key and they went inside. A scene of devastation greeted them. A window was broken and surgical implements littered the floor. Tom hunted for the wicker basket and found it in a corner. There was a hole in one side and a strong smell of cat.

'It gnawed its way out,' Alison whispered.

Tom looked around. It was scarcely believable that such a small creature could cause so much damage. He picked up the basket as if expecting to find something inside. All he found were bits of straw and chewed-up electrical cable.

Alison interrupted his thoughts.

'It's the cat Dr Duncan-Brown was talking about?'

Tom nodded.

'I shouldn't have said anything about it?'

Tom shook his head.

'He's rancid.' Alison prodded Tom's chest. 'You should have seen the looks he gave you when you were priming up his wife.'

'I wasn't priming her up.'

'Yes you were.'

Tom decided that little Alison Campbell had suddenly grown up. He tapped her arm. 'We'd better get back. Play it cool ... don't say anything about the cat.'

Alison wheeled in a trolley with plates of desert and Tom followed with port and brandy. He had drunk more than his fair share and was far from sober.

Patricia looked up longingly.

'Tom. Do tell us about your latest project.'

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