Winter rolled his eyes. ‘You’re probably the most naturally talented witch I’ve ever met, Ivy, even if you do let those talents go to waste. If you can’t bewitch your own familiar, how would someone else manage to bewitch a sheep? Even if they could, how could they bewitch a sheep to scale two-metre high fences?’
I opened my mouth to speak but he held up a hand to forestall me. ‘If it really is sheep’s blood, then someone brought the sheep over and killed it in Bellows’ trailer.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘Although what they did with the body is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Bellows is the next target and this is a warning.’
As much as I liked my theory, Winter’s did make more sense. ‘It would have to be someone strong to get a damn sheep over the fence and through the window.’
He grunted in agreement. ‘Probably male, then.’
‘And,’ I added, ‘probably a witch, given the pentagram.’
‘Or someone who thinks of themselves as a witch. When was the last time you used a pentagram?’
I tried to think. Then I remembered: it was when I wanted to go out with Mickey Jones, the best-looking guy at school. The theory was that he would fall in love with me instantly and invite me to be his date at the end-of-school dance. It hadn’t worked. Too embarrassed to tell the truth, I just shrugged. ‘It’s been a while.’
‘Yes. They’re more trouble than they’re worth. It’s good intelligence though, Ivy. The pentagram means the Order has to be involved. I can get on set and you can go home.’ He gave a self-satisfied smile.
I sat up bolt upright. ‘Go home? Why would I do that?’
‘Oh, come on. We both know you don’t want to be here.’
‘It’s been barely a day,’ I argued. ‘And I’ve discovered a damn sight more than I’ve just told you. I’m the lynchpin of this entire operation.’
‘Really?’ he said drily.
‘Really! For example, the presenter, Belinda Battenapple, who is all things fabulous and wonderful and who I would one day like to grow up to be, is wearing some kind of magical vial round her neck.’ I described it in great detail, including how she’d hastily hidden it when it accidentally revealed itself. Winter didn’t appear particularly impressed. ‘That’s not all. Her son, Moonbeam—’
I waved a hand at him. ‘Don’t interrupt. Moonbeam told me that he wanted to scare the contestants so that one dropped out and he could take their place. He really wants to be on the show. The sheep thing might be completely unconnected to the murder. It might just be him trying to create enough of a stir to get what he wants.’
Winter looked at me. ‘Was he gone for any part of the day before the blood was discovered?’
I wrinkled my nose. I’d been watching him every chance I’d had to find out how I could copy his avoidance of work. Moonbeam hadn’t left the set. ‘Um, no. But he might have had something to do with it.’
‘All the same, Ivy,’ Winter said, ‘I think it’s best if you leave this to the professionals now.’
For just a moment, he lost some of his allure. ‘What? You plonker! You can’t say that! I can be professional. I’ve not even told you about Gareth yet. He’s the one who found the body – or what was left of it. He’s bound to have some good information to spill and I bet he’ll only want to tell it to me. I’ve already developed a relationship with him.’
Winter growled. ‘What kind of relationship?’
‘The kind where he thinks he can trust me,’ I shot back. ‘You need me, Winter. You can’t cut me loose.’
A tiny smile played around Winter’s lips. It was so fleeting that, once it was gone, I wondered whether I’d imagined it. ‘You’re asking to stay on and work?’
‘Yes! Not as a runner though. You should get me a different position. Maybe …’ I thought about it ‘…as a food tester. We’ve had dismemberment. Poison is the next natural step.’
‘It could be!’ I’d have kept on arguing with him but I had the feeling that I’d already won. Then a thought occurred to me. ‘Hang on,’ I said suspiciously. ‘Have you just been trying to manipulate me into staying?’
‘Of course not! I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.’
I watched him. The spark suddenly gleaming in the depths of Winter’s eyes told me I was right: he wanted me around.
A miniature starburst of joy exploded in my chest. ‘Of course you wouldn’t,’ I said. I leaned in towards him with a serious expression. ‘I’m glad you have a reason to be on set now,’ I told him. ‘It’ll be good to be working close together again.’
Winter’s gaze met mine. ‘Yes,’ he replied with a ring of sincerity that made my toes curl. ‘It really will be.’
He finished his drink and gave me a little nudge. ‘You should toddle off. See if you can find this Gareth and learn more about what he discovered. The more details we can get first-hand about the murder, the better.’
I’d rather hoped that he was going to suggest we have a couple of drinks to celebrate the re-forming of our relationship but I should have known he’d want to stick to work. All the same, I was feeling more optimistic where Winter was concerned.
Wanting to show that I was prepared to listen to him and do as he asked – to an extent – I gave him a quick bob of my head and slid off the stool. I was halfway to the door when I turned round and caught a glimpse of him smiling to himself in the bar mirror. Boom.
I trudged back through the streets of Tomintoul towards my hotel, ignoring the curious looks I was getting from the locals – and the odd hissed comment. They’d probably all been delighted when they’d found out Enchantment was coming here but I’d bet Brutus’s tail that they thought differently now.
I couldn’t see any sign of Gareth and I didn’t know where to start looking. It would be a waste of breath to ask around for him, even if this were the kind of place where everyone knew everyone else. I knew that this lot would be taciturn and unwilling to point him out to me. I had to find someone who was still dazzled by Enchantment and not put off by the grisly goings-on. Teenagers.
‘If I were fifteen years old,’ I muttered to myself, ‘where would I hang out?’ Bike sheds seem somewhat passé these days. No doubt there would be some kids hanging around the hotel, hoping for a glimpse of someone famous but I didn’t want any of the crew catching sight of what I was up to.
I had to think laterally. It was coming up for six o’clock, so school was out of the question. I doubted there would be a handy skate park around here – but there was a sign for a leisure centre nearby. I shrugged: it seemed as good a place as any. And it was only round the corner. I wanted to please Winter but I did have limits – and I hadn’t been lying to Amy about those damned blisters.
Fortunately, I was in luck. As soon as the leisure centre came into view, a pair of boys on bikes rode by. Concentrating, I threw out a quick rune, causing the chain on the lead bike to come undone. It wasn’t one of my best ideas – the kid on the bike behind collided with his mate with a loud clunk of metal and an even louder curse. Oops.
I darted over to help them. ‘Are you alright?’
‘Fine,’ the first one muttered from where he was entangled with his bike.
Good. I didn’t want to have to mess around with putting the chain back on for him.
He extricated his feet from the bike’s frame and pulled himself up. ‘You idiot,’ he hissed to his friend.
‘It’s not my fault, Al. You’re the one who stopped.’
‘Because my bleeding chain came off, didn’t it?’
Both boys realised I was watching them and glared. ‘Why are you still here?’
I held up my hands. ‘I thought you might need some help.’ I paused. ‘I don’t know much about bicycles but I helped fix the axle on one of the camera equipment trucks last week and they can’t be that different.’
My oh-so-subtle hint did the trick. The second boy’s eyes widened. ‘You’re with Enchantment.’