The thought of being on set for Enchantment was almost enough to make me forget the strange awkwardness between us. I had sudden visions of operating a camera or snapping a clapboard and yelling ‘Action!’ It might be work but it also sounded fun.
I grinned in delight and shook out my hair. ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr de Winter.’
He gave me a blank look. ‘You will be a runner with duties involving—’
Whoa. Hold on a minute. I interrupted him. ‘What did you say?’
‘You’ll be a runner.’
My shoulders slumped. ‘That was what I thought I heard.’ I shook my head. ‘I don’t think myself and running go together.’ I raised my eyebrows pointedly. ‘You should know that.’
Winter sighed. ‘You won’t actually be running. It’s an entry-level position, which is all we could get you with your lack of experience. You’ll mostly be completing errands for the crew. It works out very well because it means you’ll have plenty of reasons to be in all sorts of places. You can get to know everyone on set and you’ll be well placed to discover any anomalies.’
‘I’m afraid I’m still focused on the word runner.’
He pressed his lips into a line. ‘You’ll be fine.’
I wasn’t so sure of that. ‘There must be something else I could do.’
‘There’s not.’ He checked the sheet in front of him. ‘You will report each morning at 5am.’ I began to splutter but Winter completely ignored me and carried on. ‘Your contracted hours will run until 6pm.’
‘That’s thirteen hours!’
‘You get a break for lunch,’ he informed me, as if that made all the difference.
‘Thirteen, Winter! I know you don’t believe in superstitions but come on! You need to get that changed.’
‘You can finish at 7pm if you prefer. Sometimes there will be night shoots so you may well be expected to stay for longer.’
‘No way. I’m not doing it.’
He looked up. ‘Are you complaining that you have to work for thirteen hours or that you have to work?’
‘It’s slave labour!’ I protested. ‘No one should have to work for that length of time. Even Order geeks probably don’t…’ My voice faltered when I saw the expression on his face. I gritted my teeth. ‘Fine.’ I’d just have to seek out a quiet corner where I could snooze for a few hours each afternoon. If all I was doing was ‘running’, that shouldn’t be too hard.
Winter took out two pieces of paper. ‘Here are Benjamin Albert’s details. It’s your job to find out more about him and whether his death is connected to the show itself or to anything magical. If you can find evidence of the latter, the Order can get involved. You’ll also need to keep any eye out for any suspicious behaviour, particularly involving the remaining contestants. We can’t have anyone else getting hurt. Check out the crew. I have details here about all of them and basic information on their backgrounds. We’ve not uncovered anything worrying yet – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.’
I stared at him. ‘I assume you want me to have time to eat and breathe as well.’
‘Don’t be facetious.’ He pointed to yet another piece of paper. There was a photograph in the right-hand corner. I craned my neck, catching a glimpse of a man in his thirties and who was wearing a witch’s hat of all things. I grinned. I knew instantly who he was.
‘This is Trevor Bellows,’ Winter explained. ‘He’s the magical consultant for the show. Any spells are run through him and he’ll sniff you out in a second if you’re not careful.’
‘I know. I’m a fan of the show, remember?’
‘Indeed. Do you know his background?’
I thought about it. Nope. He was obviously not much of a witch or he’d be in the Order rather than working for Enchantment. He’d always struck me as more of an actor than a magician.
Taking my silence as an answer, Winter continued. ‘This is his official background story, which was released by the production company several years ago. He’s not an Order witch and never has been, so we have no way of knowing what his actual abilities are.’
I put aside the long list of orders from Winter for now and focused on Bellows, glancing down at his meagre biography. ‘He grew up in Tibet? Seriously?’
‘His story is that his parents were seconded there by the British government.’
I looked up. ‘You don’t believe it?’
Winter’s lip curled. ‘We have traced him so far to Slough. It appears that the nearest he’s been to Tibet is getting his photo taken with a yak at a local petting zoo.’
Hmmm. ‘I’m not convinced he possesses much magical ability. I’ve seen him perform a few spells in previous series but they never really amounted to much.’
‘As I said, we have no idea what he’s capable of. I don’t think he can do much either but, until we know otherwise, you should assume that he’s dangerous and has a battery of abilities and knowledge at his fingertips. He has, after all, been the main consultant for Enchantment for years. There must be something to his claims.’
I frowned. ‘The target audience isn’t witches. All the magic is fairly low-level stuff which is designed to provoke loud whistles and create big bangs but isn’t really anything of substance. The challenges don’t require much in the way of magic knowledge either.’ I tapped my mouth thoughtfully. ‘For example, the big show-stopper last season when it came down to the final two contestants was to create a spell to make as many people as possible stop in their tracks and watch. One contestant designed a light show that failed epically because it was high noon and there was too much sunshine for it to make an impact. Most of what she created was simply enhanced fireworks. The other one turned the Thames pink.’ I shrugged. ‘It was more of a murky purple really.’
Winter blinked at me. ‘And you actually watch this? Regularly?’
‘It’s not about the magic,’ I said earnestly. ‘People want to see showy shebangs but they prefer it when the contestants fail spectacularly and when they fall out with each other. It’s about making good television, not about who can create the best spells, regardless of what the producers might want you to think. It’s highly entertaining. You should watch it. In any case, there’s not enough evidence from the programmes themselves to suggest what Trevor Bellows can do.’
‘Well,’ Winter said with a dismissive grunt, ‘there will be plenty of opportunity for spectacular failures and fallings-out in the Highlands of Scotland.’
‘That’s where the expedition is happening?’
He nodded. ‘I’m still working on a way to regularly debrief you.’ He reached into his pocket and took out a neatly folded map. Jabbing at what looked like a massive mountain, he started to explain. ‘Most of the filming is taking place here but there’s a small village where the crew will be based.’ Winter squinted. ‘Tomintoul. It looks like it’s pretty.’
‘It looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere.’
‘It is supposed to be the wilderness, Ivy.’
I wrinkled my nose. I’d been hoping for the sort of wilderness that involved a tropical island with swaying palm trees and butlers carrying multi-coloured drinks with mini-parasols in them. Up a freezing mountain in the Scottish Highlands didn’t sound like my kind of thing.
‘Anyway,’ Winter continued, ‘in Tomintoul, there’s a small square. Each night, at the stroke of midnight, we will meet there and you can tell me what you’ve discovered.’
‘Wait a minute,’ I said slowly. ‘You want me to start work at 5am. As a runner. I’ll be on duty for thirteen hours. And then you expect me to come and find you at midnight?’ My voice was getting higher and higher.
‘It’s the safest way.’ He checked the map again. ‘Everyone else will be tired out and sleeping by that time, so there’s no chance you’ll be seen.’