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'Marvellous,' Nick said. He took one of them and spun it quickly and expertly into a rope. He put the center of it in his mouth, clamping his teeth on it to keep it from unwinding, and used his hands to flip Craig over like a human omelette.

'Let me up I demand that you -'

Then Nick did something that shocked all of them, even those who had seen the Englishman twist Craig's nose like the handle of a bathtub faucet. He drove a short, hard kick into Craig's ribs. He pulled it at the last instant ... but not much. Craig uttered a pained grunt and shut up.

'Easy now, my good old mate,' Nick said soothingly. He wrapped the tablecloth rope twice around Craig's lower forearms and knotted it tightly. Craig's elbows flapped and he uttered a strange weak scream. 'There' Nick said, standing up. 'Trussed as neatly as Father John's Christmas turkey. We've even got a spare if that one looks like not holding.' He sat on the edge of one of the tables and looked at Bob Jenkins. 'Now, what were you saying when we were so rudely interrupted?'

'Do you really have to do that?' Laurel asked quietly. 'The man is unconscious, after all, and bleeding.'

Bob looked at him, dazed and unbelieving. 'What?'

Well, she had wanted to have an adventure, just one adventure, before middle-age settled in for keeps. Wasn't that true? Yes. And here she was, proving Tolkien right - she had stepped out of her own door last evening, just the same as always, and look where she had ended up: a strange and dreary version of Fantasyland. But it was an adventure, all right. Emergency landings ... deserted airports ... a lunatic with a gun. Of course it was an adventure. Something she had read years ago suddenly popped into Laurel's mind. Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.

'Go on,' Nick said. He might have been an interested lecture-goer instead of a man sitting on a table in a deserted airport restaurant with his feet planted beside a bound man lying in a pool of his own blood. 'You had just got to the part about Flight 29 being like the Mary Celeste. Interesting concept, that.'

'I should have heard him sooner, but I was listening to the man who sounds like a teacher.'

'Marvellous,' Nick said. He took one of them and spun it quickly and expertly into a rope. He put the center of it in his mouth, clamping his teeth on it to keep it from unwinding, and used his hands to flip Craig over like a human omelette.

There was no confusion in Nick Hopewell's eyes ... but there was no mercy in them, either. They made Laurel feel shivery, and there was nothing romantic in the feeling.

Craig groaned and waved his hands feebly. Bob Jenkins stepped away from him the moment he began to move, even though the revolver was now safely tucked into the waistband of Brian Engle's pants, and Laurel did the same, pulling Dinah with her.

'Do you really have to do that?' Laurel asked quietly. 'The man is unconscious, after all, and bleeding.'

Nick gazed at her for a moment, and she dropped her eyes at once. She could not help comparing Nick Hopewell's eyes with the eyes in the pictures which Darren Crosby had sent her. Widely spaced, clear eyes in a goodlooking - if unremarkable - face. But the eyes had also been rather unremarkable, hadn't they? And didn't Darren's eyes have something, perhaps even a great deal, to do with why she had made this trip in the first place? Hadn't she decided, after a great deal of close study, that they were the eyes of a man who would behave himself? A man who would back off if you told him to back off?

Are you sure? a voice whispered, and Laurel shut it up at once.

'Let me up I demand that you -'

'And you want me to . . . to just go on?' Bob asked incredulously. 'As if nothing had happened?'

There was no confusion in Nick Hopewell's eyes ... but there was no mercy in them, either. They made Laurel feel shivery, and there was nothing romantic in the feeling.

'And you want me to . . . to just go on?' Bob asked incredulously. 'As if nothing had happened?'

'Start again, mate, and I'll stave them in,' Nick said grimly. 'My patience with you has run out.'

'Easy now, my good old mate,' Nick said soothingly. He wrapped the tablecloth rope twice around Craig's lower forearms and knotted it tightly. Craig's elbows flapped and he uttered a strange weak scream. 'There' Nick said, standing up. 'Trussed as neatly as Father John's Christmas turkey. We've even got a spare if that one looks like not holding.' He sat on the edge of one of the tables and looked at Bob Jenkins. 'Now, what were you saying when we were so rudely interrupted?'

'Is anybody dead?' Dinah asked nervously. 'No one is, are they?'

Nick pressed his makeshift napkin compress against Craig Toomy's headwound and looked up at her. 'You're Laurel, right?'

'Is anybody dead?' Dinah asked nervously. 'No one is, are they?'

Nick pressed his makeshift napkin compress against Craig Toomy's headwound and looked up at her. 'You're Laurel, right?'

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