You draw a diagram,
You think it shows your life.
So why do others keep seeing their own versions of your truth?

Tom Maddox, the private investigator, managed to get a lot of work done in his week, producing an impressive list of expenses to justify a big bite out of his advance. Driven by Caroline in the newly outfitted Kiron Sounds company van and mobile office, Pete Astor took Maddox round to see his newly recruited Promotions & Media Relations Director. Nick Pennington, an amiable-looking bloke in his middle-forties, had worked in advertising before switching to PR. He had been made redundant by a firm that was looking for a lean, hard, smart, sharp and, above all, young image.
   Nick had been hawking his CV round for seven months, according to his drinking buddy, Wendy's Jeff, and he was getting totally disillusioned with the type of people who ran PR firms. They seemed completely uninterested in someone with a proven track record for getting jobs done. What they were after was fresh, young people with fresh, young talents and different, totally new ideas that would set the world on its ear. As far as Nick was concerned, anyone who tried to bullshit a bullshitter that way deserved nothing but contempt.
   A decent salary and a matching expense account, a company car and the prospect of performance bonuses based on album sales and bums-on-seats at the concert venue made Nick a committed member of the Kiron Organization. He was still settling into his suite of offices next door to the Astoria when Astor and Tom Maddox arrived. Caroline had gone shopping, taking her mobile phone with her in case Astor finished before she did.
   "Sorry about the mess," Nick said, looking at the heap of empty boxes in his reception area. "They've just delivered the rest of my furniture. If you want to come on through to my office?"
   Astor and Maddox followed him into a furnished room with a lingering of paint solvent in the air. The office had a showroom air with empty bookcases and a bare desk and worktops. "I'm still waiting for the phones and the fax machine and the coffee machine," Nick said apologetically.
   "Don't panic," said Astor. "This isn't a tour of inspection. I know you only started organizing this place a couple of days ago. I'd like you to have a look at some material Mr. Maddox has. He's a private inquiry agent. Digging up dirt on the MX nutters who are after Kiron Sounds because it promotes black magic."
   "Nothing wrong with a bit of the old black magic," Nick remarked as he accepted a folder of office-printed documents. "What's the object of the digging?"
   "I want you to get busy on an advertising and PR campaign that ridicules these people as oppressors and kill-joys. I want their asses scorched the way they're trying to scorch mine."
   "And an opinion on how that material looks, qualitywise."
   "Right. Do I get time to read it properly?"
   "No, I want everything done yesterday," said Astor. "Do you reckon you can start banging some press releases out by the middle of next week? We'll be two weeks from our grand opening night at the Astoria then. It would be nice to have the opposition on the defensive when they start picketing us."
   "Getting something ready for next Wednesday is not a problem," said Nick, relieved. "About staff ...?"
   "You want some? Okay, Tom, now you know where Nick hangs out, if you can leave your address and phone number for him, and the incriminating evidence, we won't keep you," Astor told the inquiry agent. "I'll let you two to sort out your own working arrangements."
   Maddox put a business card on the desk. "Suits me. I'll be in touch again after the weekend, Nick. Afternoon, Mr. Astor."
   "He looks frighteningly thorough," remarked Nick when the inquiry agent had gone.
   "He seems to be doing a grand job," nodded Astor. "So what do you want in the way of staff?"
   "I need a couple of secretarial cum receptionist persons ..."
   "Female persons?"
   "Except you can't specify women in adverts. And there's a guy I know who would make a very reliable first lieutenant. Working for someone else but eager to find a better hole."
   "What about your persons?"
   "I know a girl who's temping. She's reliable and she'd like a full-time job. I can get her straight away. There shouldn't be any problem about recruiting someone else; if it's okay with you?"
   "Sounds reasonable enough to me," nodded Astor. "Offer them a competitive salary and fix up paying them and the National Insurance and so on with Walter at the Astoria."
   "Will do," nodded Nick. "What's the state of play between you and Hellen D'Amnation, by the way? As regards her claim she was offered the opening night gig at the Astoria but turned it down. Which was then corrected to offered a gig when you did an In her dreams!!! Are you involved in a mutual publicity thing?"
   "She is but I'm not, if you see what I mean?"
   "Yes, I think so. And I had a flying visit from Dominik Wekling this morning. He looked in to introduce himself. Then he buggered off when he realized his office isn't ready yet. He wanted to fly an idea for a Good Read Prize for books. To be awarded quarterly; or not, if nothing suitable comes up."
   "Yes, I like that," nodded Astor. "Prizes that aren't awarded if nothing deserves them. Gives them quality. How does it work?"
   "Basically, if someone in the organization reads a particularly good book –a new one, a library book, one that's been out a while or even one that's been out for so long it's well out of print – the author can get an award similar to the ones you discussed for things like TV commercials, titles for programmes and so on. Something like five or ten thousand pounds. Not something to be sneezed at if it goes to a deserving but struggling author."
   "Yes, it sounds a good idea. We're talking about living authors, I take it? Not enriching the heirs of dead ones?"
   "Right. No doubt Dom will want to tell you more about it next time you meet. Another thing we talked about was setting up a website on the Internet in addition to an information phone line. We could use it to provide information on gigs at the Astoria, special events, album releases, like all the ones this week and the one that's out today, the science fiction thing? From Another World."
   "It's just supposed to be a twenty-minute tone poem. I'd not seen the science fiction angle," Astor admitted. "But I suppose it works on that level."
   "And the website would be good for that sort of thing. You've got the retailers baffled because it's too long to be a single and too short to be an album. So they don't know which chart to put it in. But if you can market it direct ..."
   "Good point."
   "So we'd include info on how to order CDs or tickets or tee-shirts, and info on Dom's activities, details of up-coming events ... All sorts of things like that."
   "Using it as a mail-order set-up, you mean?"
   "Possibly. Or as a source of information so that people can send in orders by fax or post if they think that's more secure."
   "Is this something you know how to set up?"
   "Pretty well, yes. And if I get stuck, I know a couple of guys who could help out. The cost is going to be pretty much at a petty cash level. The main benefit is it will get Kiron Sounds known internationally if we can make the site particularly user-friendly and very information rich. No huge three-D files that take weeks to down-load or bits people won't be able to see without gigabytes of software."
   "I've never had the time to mess about with the Internet," said Astor. "But I'm sure there are lots of people who do. Yes, if you want to add it to your list of things to do, go ahead."
   "I think Dom's quite keen on the idea, so I'll be able to off-load some of it onto him ..." A ring on a bell interrupted Nick. "Excuse me."
   "Sure," said Astor.
   Nick hurried to the reception area to open the front door.
   "Delivery from CDT, Mister," said a hoarse voice.
   "My electronics," Nick told Astor when he joined him to see what had arrived.
   The two delivery men wheeled in a collection of cartons containing computers, monitors, telephones, a printer and a fax machine. Nick made phone calls to a Colin and a Jim, who had agreed to set up the equipment in return for a suitable fee. Astor decided to leave his PR man to get on with it. If Nick had anything else to tell him, he could unburden himself at the launch party. Astor saw himself as being concerned with the big picture, not the details of how his empire worked.

Wendy was quite surprised to find that a selection of the Sunday tabloids had come through their letterbox on the last day of the weekend. She was wondering about taking them back to the newsagent and telling him that the delivery girl had suffered a brainstorm when Astor turned to an inside page to show off the fruits of Tom Maddox's research.
   "Holy Joe Is Sex-Cheat," Wendy read. "How sordid."
   "Not just any old Holy Joe," said Astor. "The guy who's been organizing the MX demos against BMR. Do you reckon it's accurate to call him bloke a serial adulterer if he had a quick jump with one woman last year and another quick jump with another woman two years ago?"
   "If he's done it twice, it's accurate," said Wendy.
   "The FBI reckons serial killers have to do it five times."
   "You're not comparing like with like, Pete. And this bloke's obviously a rat who's quite prepared to cheat on his wife and put on a holier-than-thou front."
   "In that case, I bow to your superior wisdom on these things."
   "What's that supposed to mean?" Wendy asked sharply.
   "I don't have an opinion on the matter. You clearly do. I assume, coming from you, that it's logical and thought out? And not just some bloody woman's emotional knee-jerk?"
   "You got out of that quite well, pal."
   "They say the art of diplomacy runs in some families."
   "I suppose it has to in yours."
   "What's that supposed to mean?"
   "Repetition!" said Wendy.
   "You're allowed to repeat what other contestants say."
   "That's in Just A Minute, Pete. This is real life."
   "Prove it."
   "Prove what?"
   "That this is real life," said Astor
   "I'm not getting into that sort of argument with you, pal. I have better things to do with the rest of my life," Wendy told him. "Quite interesting lives these guys lead."
   "It's amazing he finds the time to organize pickets at BMR gigs," nodded Astor.
   "Have they reviewed your CD?"
   "The Observer have put it in the Classical section for some reason."
   "Jeff reckons it's more a Classical-style thing than a Rock thing. Why, which do you reckon it is?"
   Astor shrugged. "It's just a twenty-minute piece of music."
   "No, it's a bit more than just. Jeff reckons you could have a hit on your hands with it. As a cross-over from Rock to Classical."
   "You mean, I might not have to give all the copies to friends to get rid of them?" scoffed Astor.
   "Perhaps not all of them," laughed Wendy.

It was in the spirit of dealing with the big picture instead of details that Pete Astor decided to let his management team get on with running his empire while he took time off to look up old friends. His lieutenants needed a bit of space and they could always get on the phone to Captain Astor if they needed any decisions made for them.
   Monday is always a bad day to start any week, Astor felt, which was why he and Caroline took to the roads late on Tuesday morning, heading for Colchester. Intoxicant was touring again as the warm-up to Sindycal, an Anglo-French band that was 60% French, performed mainly in French and enjoyed a subsidy from the French Ministry of Culture as a counterblast to the pernicious influence of American and British pop music on French culture.
   Astor had given his former colleagues no warning of his visit but he was confident that a man in a white suede jacket with a mobile phone in a shoulder holster and a Kiron Sounds identity card, who arrived in a company van complete with chauffeur, would have no trouble blagging his way back-stage.
   Caroline had got hold of a dark red blazer and sewn a machine-embroidered KS logo, removed from a baseball cap, on the breast pocket. A matching pair of cords gave her an outfit that was comfortable for driving while looking quite like an official chauffeur's uniform. She too had a Kiron Sounds identity card in a holder with a plastic tag, which could be threaded through the buttonhole of her blazer.
   Astor and his driver arrived at the artistes' entrance to find the doorway blocked by a small crowd. A familiar voice with a Manchester accent was laying down the law to three young men in denims. Astor and Caroline exchanged amused looks and waited until the three hopefuls turned and left, looking far from pleased.
   A muttered, "Doshan bleedas!" followed them.
   "Yo, Bee! How's it going?" called Astor.
   Belinda looked suspiciously out of the doorway then broke into a broad, beaming smile. "Yo, Pete! Great to see you! It's okay, I know this one," she added to someone unseen further inside the building. "What brings you out this way?" she added to Astor.
   "Talent spotting for a record company. But, obviously, I'm having a day off coming here," Astor told her. "So they've not sacked you yet?"
   "Not yet. Hello," Belinda added to Caroline.
   "Bee, this is Caroline," said Astor. "She's here to stop me getting into trouble."
   "Sounds like a full-time job," laughed Belinda. "Syd and the rest of the guys are hanging around backstage, waiting to do a sound-check. Can I catch up with you later?"
   "Someone got a million and one things to do?"
   "A million and two today. But I don't have to tell you what it's like. See you later, Pete."
   Belinda hurried away. Astor nodded to the security guard as he moved deeper into the building, attaching his identity card to his lapel with a metal clip. The man on the door was big, black and bald in a shaven-head way, and he looked more than tough enough to keep out all undesirables.
   "Know where you're going?" said Caroline as she followed Astor.
   "Yep, I've played this place a few times," he said. "And the layout off all theatres follows a limited number of variations."
   "So that was the famous Bee."
   "Who's been telling you about her? Wendy, I suppose."
   "She thought it was just how the world works. You got her a job then you lost yours."
   "Oh, no, not one of Wezzer's cosmic balance theories?" groaned Astor. "For every job created one must go up in smoke to keep the total number the same?"
   "Something like that," Caroline admitted. "She said you'd think she's off her trolley if I told you."
   "She's not so much that as differently realitied, to use the politically correct term. She's a good mate but she can't be from the same planet as the rest of us. Her dad must have found her at a UFO crash site. Same with some of her mates. Present company excepted, of course."
   "A weirdo, you mean?"
   "Well, it's all relative, isn't it. I mean, she thinks I'm weird."
   "So?" laughed Caroline.
   "You mean, you think I'm weird?" said Astor indignantly.
   "You're not going to deny it, are you?" laughed Caroline.
   "What, just weird? Or really weird, like Wendy?"
   "I think you're both as weird as each other."
   "You must be a bit strange yourself, mate, if you choose to knock about with weird people like us."
   "Knocking about with you two has shown me that weird has a lot going for it. I mean, look at you. You're both doing exactly what you want to do. None of the hassles of trying to keep a job together and a relationship together. If it goes wrong, you just say ‘sod it' and go and do something else."
   "And you don't think there's anything strange about that?"
   "You're saying we're typical, irresponsible, Sixties-types? And so irresponsible, we don't go round apologizing for it?"
   "Something like that. It's weird you're not worried about all sorts of things most of the time."
   "If that's your definition of weird," laughed Astor, "guilty, M'lud! And talking about weird. Yo! Syd! How's it hangin'?"
   "Well, burn my brain! Who let this blond bombshell through the door?" grinned Syd Melchior.
   "Caroline, meet Syd, Blood Axe and Dexie. And also Ry, who used to be my mate until I got sacked and he got my job."
   "Sorry I stole your gig, man, but I needed it," said Ryan Calvin, a tall, blond, totally untypical Welshman with an English public school accent. "Excuse me while I steal your lady, too," he added with a lecherous grin in Caroline's direction.
   "I only work for Mr. Astor. I'm not his girlfriend," said Caroline.
   "Ooooh! Mr. Astor!" mocked Syd Melchior. "Anyone would think he's an A and R man from a big record company. Is it true you've signed up Belfry and some other outfit?"
   "Pandaemonium, right," nodded Astor. "And we've issued product for them. CD singles last week."
   "Talking about CDs," said Dexie Jordan, "where are our complimentaries of your sci-fi thing, you tight get? We thought about buying one but the bloody useless shop didn't have any left."
   "Caroline's got some with her," said Astor.
   "So how did you get this gig anyway?" said Blood Axe. "And how do we get in on the act?"
   "It's all a matter of knowing the right people," said Astor. "And you could always quit this band and come and join mine. If you're any good, of course."
   "Here's a brilliant idea," said Dexie. "Why don't we all drop out of this band one by one and get back together as the original Intoxicant on Pete's record label?"
   "Nice to be appreciated, guys," said Ryan Calvin plaintively. "Though I guess that makes me front-man of the survivors."
   "Bet you don't get any more dosh for it," laughed Syd.
   "Come on, you doshan lot. Get on that bloody stage and get your sound check done," called a female voice.
   "Yo, Sergeant Major, Sir!" Syd called to Belinda. "Bossy bloody women, eh? Bet you're glad to be shot of that one, Pete."
   "I heard that," called Belinda.
   "You were meant to," called Syd.
   Astor blagged cans of chilled cider for Caroline and himself while the musicians were busy with their preliminaries. Standing in the wings, he became aware of a looming presence. The big security guard was a couple of inches taller than Astor's six feet one and he could back up his height with about nineteen stones of well-proportioned bone and muscle. He looked able to supply as much trouble as anyone could possibly need.
   "Are you the same guy or his brother?" Astor remarked.
   "There's only one R.V. Johnson," the security guard told him in a West Coast American accent.
   "Oh! What does the R.V. stand for?"
   "Reckin' Vehicle," the security guard said aggressively.
   "Like it!" laughed Astor, impressed by the quality of the answer. "Hang about. Didn't you used to play American football? I'm sure I've seen your name on a tee-shirt."
   "Linebacker for the Eagles and then the Raiders."
   "You're Pete Astor, yeah? I got your bootleg. This band was going places before you got cut."
   "Keep saying nice things about him and he'll offer you a job," laughed Caroline, rummaging in her tackle bag. "Do you want his new CD, if you're a fan? I think I've still got some of the rare, unsigned copies."
   "Yeah, great, I'm up for that," beamed R.V. "I tried to buy one on Monday, but they were sold out."
   "Yeah, there was a bit of a rush on it, I'm pleased to say. Been in this lark long?" Astor added.
   "About a year. I came over here with the Abbadon world tour."
   "Right, one of the big money makers for my former Jap record company. So what made you stay, the weather?"
   "I get more respect over here."
   "Being an exotic Yank, kind of thing?"
   "Kinda," said R.V. with a grin. "The game plan is to get experience on the ground then move into management. Doing R.A. jobs."
   "That's risk assessment, isn't it? Looking for where the trouble's likely to arise rather than just rushing there when it starts?"
   "Right. I've got a master's degree in business administration and this is just building up my CV. Watching and sussing out what's going' down."
   "Actually, my firm's opening up a new music venue to the south of London. A place called the Astoria. James Faucumberg is running it. I don't know if you've come across him?"
   "Yeah, I read about him," grinned R.V. "Guy got canned then he walked into this big job at a brand new venue. Now, they're saying he arranged to get pushed out so they could give him the new gig without buying his contract out."
   "Brilliant idea," laughed Astor as he wrote an extension number on a business card and underlined one of the printed telephone numbers. "Pity he didn't think of it. Okay, if you're interested in working for the best firm in the music business, tell James you've been talking to me about security staff and he'll give you the interview treatment."
   "We're talking RA jobs? As well as on-the-ground jobs?"
   "If you reckon you can hack it, and if you think you can make James think the same, why not?"
   "Thanks, man. Appreciate it." Johnson tucked the card into the pocket of his tour jacket, which was loose enough to look as if it was concealing a shoulder holster containing a gun rather than a mobile phone. "These guys are good, but they're not as good as they were. Thanks for the CD, man."
   The current line-up of Intoxicant was attempting to melt the speaker stacks to give the sound engineers a top-end level. Astor found it very strange to be on the sidelines while they were playing one of his songs. He was sure that Syd had picked it just to show his old mate Pete what he was missing. Caroline was enjoying her trip behind the scenes. She seemed sorry to leave when the band finished the sound check and headed back to their hotel; or rather, toward their hotel.
   "So where are you staying, man?" Dexie asked Astor after telling him that Jenny was now history and he was unconcubined and cheaper for the record company to drag around.
   "What's the place called, Caroline?" Astor said, interrupting Ryan Calvin's attempts to chat up his driver.
   "It's the Parkway Plaza," she told him.
   "You bastard!" said Syd. "That's got four stars. Ours has only got about one and a bit. Change of plan, guys, all back to Pete's place."
   "Yeah, let's trash his room," grinned Blood Axe.
   Astor produced his mobile phone's headset. "Did you get that guy R.V.'s number, Caroline? I think I'm going to need him."
   "Borrow yer phone, Mister?" said Syd humbly. "Let's all be real polite to this guy. He's a big wheel."
   "Yeah? What do you want it for?" said Astor suspiciously.
   "Just to phone Ange to tell her to meet us at your hotel. She'll kill me if she's not invited to the party."
   "Oh, we're having a party?" said Astor.
   "Yeah, man. Did no one invite you?" grinned Dexie.
   Astor surrendered the mobile phone, wondering if the management of the four-star hotel would be shocked by an invasion of uncouth persons from the music business and enjoying the knowledge that he could buy the hotel and sack anyone who was unco-operative.
   Realizing that his room was much too small and it contained insufficient chairs, Astor asked the receptionist about the availability of function rooms. Five minutes later, the group was rearranging furniture and issuing orders for food, drink and a CD player for Astor's new album on the strength of a corporate platinum credit card.
   An hour later, when he had caught up on the news from Intoxicant and friends, and passed on as much as he wished of his own circumstances, Astor realized that there was a stranger in the room. Then he remembered being introduced in passing to someone called Nigel. As if on cue, the unknown Nigel drifted over to him and claimed his attention.
   "Carol-An was telling me about your grimoire," Nigel said. "I wish I could have seen it."
   "Are you another student of the occult?" said Astor.
   Nigel looked like someone his mid-twenties, perhaps a year or two older than Carol-An. "Post-grad, actually," he said. "And nearly post-doc. I'm just finishing my thesis off. Not on the occult, though. Going on the road with Derek and the others for a week is a sort of insanity break. To keep me sane, if you see what I mean?"
   "Take them all the time, myself. Known Dexie long?"
   "I'm his brother. Didn't you know?"
   "Nobody ever tells me anything. So you're into black magic as well as Black Magic Rock? Or instead of?"
   "More in finding out if there's anything in what's known as magic. If there's a scientific basis for it."
   "And is there?"
   "It's difficult to say, but you remember there are pictures of what are known as seals in the grimoire?"
   "Vaguely." Astor conjured up mental images of rather peculiar, badly drawn pictures.
   "Well, it's possible they could be psychic circuit diagrams in the sense that looking at them creates certain mental pathways appropriate for their use."
   "If you can read that sort of circuit diagram?"
   "Right. You need training – as much as you need to be able to understand electronic circuit diagrams. And a casual user has a number of real problems with the seals. Starting with reproducing them, because each user has to draw the symbol with his own hand every time he works a spell that needs it. Or as many symbols as the spell needs for what one could call 'multiple choice' spells."
   "Use once and it's used up?"
   "Right! Actually getting hold of a drawing to work from is a major problem. And if you can crack that, you just can't use a picture in a parchment or a book or a photocopy. It has to be an accurate, hand-drawn copy using just the right materials. Luckily, the pedanticisms stop there. I mean, there's no special order for drawing the elements of a seal, for instance."
   "Yeah, well, you can only make life so difficult for yourself. So you couldn't knock one out in Corel Draw on your computer and print out a copy whenever you need one."
   "Well, conventional wisdom says not."
   "But has anyone every tried it?"
   "What, whether a spell works with a hand-drawn copy or one printed out from a computer?" Nigel put on a thoughtful frown. "I suppose that could be another bit of disinformation; having to hand-draw a seal rather than print it."
   "There's a lot of that about, disinformation?"
   "Oceans of it. When the non-expert has gone to all the trouble of getting hold of a reference work, such as your grimoire, he still has to tackle the very real problem of determining what in the drawings is just defective workmanship and what's intended to be deliberate asymmetry. Complicated by the fact that people recording the diagram will include nodes and ‘grace notes' of their own to fool the amateur, knowing that an expert will recognize the deliberate falsifications and not be misled by them."
   "So using these seals is pretty exclusive?"
   "Right. Like any club, the Magic Club makes life difficult for outsiders. It's all about saying: ‘Look at me, look at what I know' in a way that doesn't give anything away. Hence the obfuscation loaded with snippets of deliberately distorted forbidden knowledge as proof that his person has ..."
   "... been there, done it, got the tee-shirt?"
   "Right. Of course, there is actually a very sound reason for it. If anyone could call up demons any time they wanted, the demons would get highly pissed off and stroppy and work out ways to counteract the summonses."
   "Interesting thought," laughed Astor, wondering how much trouble he could land in if Kiron ever turned stroppy.
   "Informed opinion seems to be that demons are summoned so infrequently that it's more convenient for them to do what the human wants, seeing as it's such a trifling task in their terms, than force them to make the effort of resisting and telling the human to piss off and stop bothering them."
   "That's an interesting slant on things. Almost like a parent giving in to a child's occasional whims."
   "More like a human feeding a cat or a dog, or opening a door to let the animal in or out," Nigel decided.
   "So you reckon demons have more of a master-pet relationship with humans?"
   "Not quite, but certainly more that than parent-child. The thinking has always been demons derive pleasure from contact with humans, or some demons, I should say. The way some humans derive pleasure from contact with animals. As long as the relationship's good and the animal's not too demanding, the human is quite content to give it food and shelter."
   "But there's a hell of a difference between having to look after one cat and having hundreds besieging your house?"
   "Right. There are, what? About seven million cats up and down the British Isles. But imagine the chaos if they all suddenly converged on Birmingham, say. And the same sort of idea applies to magic and summoning what we call demons."
   "The poor sods wouldn't know which way to turn if fifty-odd million people summoned them at once," nodded Astor. "There wouldn't be enough to go around."
   "Actually, some authors would have you believe there's no shortage of ‘demons' but only a limited number of humans can contact them; mainly because establishing a link is very much trial and error, and having established several links that work, humans are usually too lazy to keep on experimenting to create more."
   "It's like getting junk mail or junk faxes, you mean. If they know your address or your number, you cop for it while your neighbour is left alone?"
   "And if a limited number of ‘demons' suddenly started getting the equivalent of showers of junk mail from greedy humans, it would overload the system."
   "And I shouldn't think the consequences for the humans would be all that pleasant."
   "Possibly. But who knows how the mind of a ‘demon' works? So anyway, I was wondering if you could let me have photocopies of some of the seals in your book? If I compare them with other drawings of the same ones, I may be able to start working out which are the ‘real' bits of the drawings and which are just ‘grace notes' or deliberate disinformation."
   "Yeah, I guess I could. You write down your address while I check on the supplies situation."
   Astor drifted over to the buffet to refill his glass with an exceedingly good white wine. Caroline joined him almost at once.
   "Are you going to need me for any more driving today, Pete?" she asked.
   "Doubt it. Why?" said Astor.
   "I was thinking about having another glass of this wine but I daren't if I've got to drive."
   "Go ahead, enjoy yourself." Astor shrugged. "I can always get you breath-tested in the morning. Hey, as a connoisseur of the weird, check out Dexie's brother on black magic."
   "I know, Ange was telling me about him," laughed Caroline. "She reckons he's too weird even to be in the band."
   "Is that possible?" laughed Astor.
   "And he seems to know all the BMR bands. Ange said he was dead impressed you've got Feygore for the Astoria's opening night."
   "Let's hope they're worth all the money we're paying them."
   "And they bring in a good crowd to hear your band?"
   "If I didn't know you better, I'd swear someone was being a little bit cynical," laughed Astor.
   "Just learning the business," Caroline told him with a smile. "Ten per cent talent and ninety per cent hype – wasn't that what you told me once?"
   "One per cent talent in some people's case," remarked Angela Melchior, joining them with two empty glasses. "Present company excepted, of course, Pete."
   "I think I'll leave you two cynics together," laughed Astor. "I think you deserve each other."

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