A dark-haired man is sleeping in a hotel bed. The plasma screen in the corner, the heavy gold curtains, the empty half-bottle of champagne on the floor: they all mark him out as an important man. A magazine, The Lawyer, lies open at the 'sits vac' page at the foot of the bed. He must be a solicitor. All is quiet, save for the soft rise and fall of the man's chest.
The gleaming barrel of a silencer noses its way past the doorframe. The man doesn't stir. The gun bucks twice. Zzzzp! Zzzzp!
"Oh my God, it was the scariest nightmare I ever had," screams the Lawyer down the phone at me. "And do you know who was holding the gun? The managing partner!"
"Why would your managing partner want to shoot you?" I ask, surveying the kitchen and checking off the ingredients I need to make spag bol for tea.
"Because I disagreed with The Vision," he whispers.
It's partner conference time again, where they all hole up in a five-star hotel for two days and cheer themselves hoarse before getting blind drunk on the partners' profits.
"I raised a couple of awkward questions," he hisses at me. "About replacing some of the partners who've jumped ship. And how associates laugh when you try to recruit them. And I got a bit drunk and started talking too loudly at the bar about how much we spend on junkets like this. I'm really quite worried now. What if they heard me? And I only just made target! Which is not the real target. The real target is about 50 grand more, only they don't put that on paper. They'll find some way to punish me. I sometimes wish I was you. It must be so relaxing, picking the kids up from school, doing a bit of cookingÃ¢Â€Â¦"
I put the phone down quietly and mash up six tomatoes with a rolling pin.
Memo to self: go for the onions next time as less likely to turn kitchen into set of next Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie.
This is what I had to contend with while the Lawyer was away. I was just remonstrating with Deminimus over breaking the loo handle off and wondering how much a plumber would cost at the weekend when I got the call from Liability's ballet class saying that she'd fallen during an ambitious entrachat and now had an ankle the size of the Lleyn Peninsula.
The car died on me as I raced to pick her up, which meant we had to go to A&E by taxi, which meant I couldn't drive Subjudice into town to buy a new top for Saturday's teen trollop disco, which brought on a teeth-gnashing frenzy and saw her ripping all her old and perfectly pretty tops into shreds. While I was away, Deminimus, being helpful, had managed to bring the monkey wrench down on the loo, cracking the porcelain. Liability, clumsy in her plaster cast, fell downstairs and needed another trip to A&E. I told Subjudice she could go in her bikini top, which cheered her up no end, and will probably mean I'll be a grandmother at the age of 42. I ordered in pizza, two tubs of ice-cream and Pretty Woman for the rest of us and had several enormous glasses of Chardonnay, after which the world seemed a nicer place.
The phone rings again. "We were cut off," hisses the Lawyer. "Do you think they were listening?"
Do you think the firm, as part of its full-service provision, actually does offer hitmen? It is a thought...