“Absolutely, oh look, what’s hanging from that tree – golly and blazes, if it isn’t the au pair, what’s she playing at?”

“She’s playing at being dead, I think,” said Tompkins, looking at the corpse swinging from the lowest branch of the tree. He strode over, reached up, and cut the rope with his Boy Scout penknife. He laid the body on the ground.

“I hear the sound of sirens, we’re in a quandary here, dead au pair, no knickers, you were her last visitor, as it were, doesn’t look good. I will give her a quick scan with Speedy Bee’s machine and, oh look, a transmitter in her rather ample bosom and it’s the only one,” said Tompkins. He continued, “take the transmitter, Stalky, and attach it to that cow’s backside over there and then try to persuade the cow to walk back to its farm. I will take the dead au pair with me to The Old House and leave her there.”

“Thank you for your decisiveness, Tomcat,” said Stark taking the transmitter before heading towards the lugubrious farm animal who regarded him with great suspicion over the low, stone wall.

“Think nothing of it,” shouted Tompkins, tucking the au pair under his arm, “which road will the police be using, do you think?”

“Tomcat, use the coast road and you will be able to avoid them – they will be coming from the inland road, so they will be here in two minutes. Best be gone.”

“Roger and out, just tell the boys in blue that the au pair has gone out for the day as the rest of the family has left for town. Don’t mention having sex with her, either. Climb up the drainpipe, unlock the door from the inside, and put her underwear in a drawer or something, otherwise that will be suspicious. Send a pigeon and let me know what goes on.”

“Right, Tomcat,” said Stalky to himself, “and bon voyage.”

Tompkins loped to the Jaguar, put the au pair in the boot as well as his box of tricks, and then drove off towards the coast, hoping the police were coming from the other direction. Tompkins surmised that he might be being followed now, so he drove carefully around a few housing estates, and cul-de-sacs, and soon spotted a brown VW Golf containing two suspicious people who didn’t make eye contact when Tompkins did a U-Turn in the middle of the high street.

As the lights were in his favour, Tompkins put his foot down and hurtled towards the old docks five miles away, where his contacts would hopefully be. He didn’t see anyone following him as he zoomed past the small road he needed to take. Up ahead there was a vantage point where he could observe the junction. The mist was settling in for the evening and Tompkins could hear the waves gently lapping on the shore, with a regularity that Tompkins thought of as the heartbeat of the ocean. He looked at his watch and realised he was early anyway, so he waited to see who would visit the remote spot with a road that appeared to go nowhere other than the bottom of the sea.