Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Bargain with a Goddess

Venus hobbled to the window and closed the curtains against the rain. Satisfied that no-one could see into her house, she stood up straight and dropped her shawl onto the arm of an easy chair that had seen better days when Churchill was Pope.

With the sound of tinkling bells she transformed into the Roman beauty she was always depicted as. I brushed glitter off my trouser leg. “That was a bit over-showy,” I said. “What’s with the bells and glitter?”

Venus shrugged. “I got it off watching Xena re-runs,” she said. “People expect showy. Are you still doing the smoke and hellfire?”

I laughed. “Only for new recruits,” I said, “but I take your point.”

She sat down, smoothing her toga over her perfectly shaven legs. She noticed my look and preened.

“They named the razor after me,” she said. “I get free samples and a commission on every case they sell.”

“Good deal,” I said, wondering if they’d ever make something named after me. An aftershave, perhaps, or a luxury soft top car.

She topped up my mug with Bordeaux. “I haven’t seen you in years,” she said. “When was it?”

“1895,” I said. “Oscar Wilde’s back garden. You were shagging Bram Stoker behind the elderberries.”

She giggled, bringing up a hand to cover her mouth in a classic cinematic gesture. “I remember him,” she said. “He was very taken with my lacy toga.”

“That sounds about right.” I nodded. I still regret introducing him to Count Dracul. I’d never hear the last of it. I should have asked for royalties instead of just the standard contract. I tried to change the subject. “This bloke that collected Lydia and Missy,” I said. “Can you remember anything more about him?”

She swilled the wine in her mug while she thought about it. “He had long hair,” she said. “And he had a beard. I remember that because it was unusual for a man to have long hair in those days.”

“Long hair and a beard,” I said. “Anything else?”

“A hammer.” Venus slapped the table with the palm of her hand. “He had a hammer on his belt. It didn’t mean anything in those days but now I’d think he was a serial killer.”

“Nah,” I said. “I’d already have him listed if he was. “

“Can’t you go back in time and have a look yourself?” she said.

I shook my head. “I’ve already used one this week,” I said. “I’ve still got to chase up the father of the child but I think that’s a dead end.”

“Well then,” she said. “I could go back for you, for a price.”

“What sort of price?” A goddess asking for a favour always rings warning bells. Never agree to anything if the price will cost you more than a week of worry, that’s my advice. Fortunately, her idea would cost me that much.

“Nothing an overnight stay wouldn’t pay for,” she said, walking her fingers up my leg. “Or maybe two.”

Until the morrow (or perhaps the day after if my luck’s in).

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