The robot butler appeared in a ballet of smooth movements. I said: "What do you think of him?"

"He's not as weak as he looks, sir."

"If he was, he'd be ready for a burial in space. What did this Regan fellow have that bored into him so?"

The butler looked at me levelly with a robotic lack of expression. "Youth, sir," he said, "And the soldier's eye." He paused then added: "If I may say so, sir, not unlike yours."

"Thanks. How are the ladies this morning?"

His shining silver body mimed a shrug politely.

"Just what I thought," I said, and he opened the door for me.

I stood outside on the step and looked down the vistas of grassed terraces and trimmed trees and flowerbeds to the tall metal railing at the bottom of the gardens. I saw Carmen about half-way down, sitting on a stone bench, with her head between her hands, looking forlorn and alone.

I went down the red brick steps that led from terrace to terrace. I was quite close before she heard me. She jumped up and whirled like a cat. She wore light blue slacks. Her blonde hair was the same loose tawny wave. Her face was white. Red spots flared in her cheeks as she looked at me. Her eyes were slaty.

"Bored?" I said.

She smiled slowly, rather slyly, then nodded quickly. Then she whispered: "You're not mad at me?"

"I thought you were mad at me."

She giggled. "I'm not." When she giggled I didn't like her any more. I looked around. A target hung on a tree about ten metres away, with some darts sticking to it. There were three or four more on the stone bench where she had been sitting.

"For people with money you and your sister don't seem to have much fun," I said.

She looked at me under her long lashes. This was the look that was supposed to make me roll over on my back. I said: "You like throwing those darts?"

"Uh-huh."

"That reminds me of something." I looked back towards the house. By moving about a metre I made a tree hide me from it. I took her little antique pearl-handled gun out of my pocket. "I brought back your artillery. I cleaned it and loaded it up. Take my tip - don't shoot it at people, unless you get to be a better shot. Remember?"

Her face went paler. She looked at me, then at the gun I was holding. There was fascination in her eyes. "Yes," she said and nodded. Then suddenly: "Teach me to shoot."

"Huh?"

"Teach me how to shoot. I'd like that."

"Here? It's against the law."

She came close to me and took the gun out of my hand, cuddled her hand around the butt. Then she tucked it away quickly inside her slacks, almost with a furtive movement, and looked around.

Part 2 >>