Not long after I rang the bell a teenage boy opened the door and eyed me through the crack.
‘Hi,’ I said. ‘I have an appointment with Cassie this afternoon’ expecting him to let me in. He closed the door without saying anything. I was on time, two p.m. like she’d said in her email. I touched my pocket again to check for the lump of my dictaphone. I waited, another moment, then another. The high sun was searing the inch-wide strip of skin above my stiff collar. I wanted a glass of water. Through the front window I could see candles on the mantlepiece that had started to lean towards the heat. There was patterned wallpaper and above the fireplace an ornate mirror hung, gold coloured filagree. It was a house decorated by a woman. Hot pink rhododendrons lined the path and their flowers, heavy and browning around the edges, craned their necks to look at my brogues where they were nodded through the bannisters of the wooden front steps. The boy caught me nosing at the letterbox when, quite abruptly, he opened the door again and stepped to the side giving me my signal to enter. He pointed to the front room and upon entering it and being left alone I took the opportunity to remove my glasses and wipe the sweat from my face with a handkerchief. Not many people carry handkerchiefs these days. From the look of Cassie’s house – the lace antimacassars on her velvet sofa – I sensed she was a woman who would approve.