"There is nothing up with being romantic. Everyone needs dreams. Here's your coffee."
Hamish looked at the little blue bowl. "That bowl. Is it for sale?"
"Fifty pounds!" Hamish stared at her.
"It's a work of art," she said calmly. "Fifty pounds is cheap at the price."
A hard businesswoman as well, thought Hamish. Still, it meant he had been wrong about her. Romantically minded newcomers had caused trouble in the past.
In April there was one last blizzardthe lambing blizzard, as the locals called itand then the fine weather returned, and by June, one long sunny day followed another. Memories of the black winter receded. It stayed light even in the middle of the night. Amazingly, for Hamish, there was still no crime, not even petty theft.
He was strolling along the waterfront one fine morning when he was stopped by a tall man with an easel strapped on his back who said he was looking for accommodation.
"I don't think there's a place here with a studio available," said Hamish.
The man laughed. "I'm a landscape painter. I work outside." He thrust out a hand. "I'm Jock Fleming."
"Hamish Macbeth. You could try Mrs. Dunne along at Sea View, just along the end there. You can't miss it."
Jock looked down at the dog and the cat, waiting patiently at Hamish's heels. "That's an odd pair of animals you've got there," he said.
"They're company," said Hamish dismissively.
"Really? It's a good thing I'm not superstitious, or I'd be crossing myself," said Jock with an easy laugh. "A wild cat and a dog with blue eyes!"
Hamish grinned. He took an instant liking to the artist. He was a powerful man in, Hamish judged, his early forties with shaggy black hair streaked with grey. He had a comical, battered-looking face and seemed to find himself a bit of a joke.
"When you've got settled in," said Hamish, "drop by the police station and we'll have a dram."
"Great. See you."
Hamish watched him go. "Well, Lugs," he said. "That'll be one incomer who won't be any trouble at all."
Hamish was disappointed as two days passed and Jock did not call for that drink. But on the third day, as he walked along the waterfront in the morning, he saw Jock at his easel, surrounded by a little group of women.
Walking up to the group, Hamish said, "Move along, ladies. The man can't do any work with you bothering him."
"I don't mind," said Jock cheerfully. "I like the company of beautiful ladies."
Freda, the schoolteacher, giggled and said, "He's giving us lessons. Why don't you run along, Hamish?"
"I'll see you later for that dram, Hamish," called Jock as Hamish walked off.
I hope that one isn't going to turn out to be a heartbreaker, thought Hamish. He decided to visit Angela Brodie, the doctor's wife.
The kitchen door was open, so he walked straight in. Angela was sitting at her kitchen table at her computer. She looked up when she saw Hamish and gave a sigh of relief, pushing a wisp of hair out of her eyes.
Copyright © 2006 by Marion Chesney
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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