Dax sat bolt upright in bed, gasping, sweat pouring down his face. For a second he struggled to get a grip on himself, then took in the familiar shadows – his shirt on the back of the chair, the books piled on his desk. Just a normal London flat. He was home, and safe.

He collapsed back against the pillow, rubbing a hand over his eyes. With the other hand he felt for the clock by the bed and held it up. Through the afterimages, the numerals read 5:11.

Still early…

He sighed, feeling the familiar thick pain beginning at his temples and over his left eye. And the migraine’s up early too. I swear these nightmares are getting worse and worse. Not even as if the drugs are helping much. I’m probably off my face most of the time.

Dax rolled onto his side, turned the pillow over and closed his eyes, wondering if he could scrape a little more sleep off the morning. But no sooner had he begun to doze off when, after a minute or so, the shrill sound of the phone ringing jolted him awake. With a curse, he leaned off the edge of the bed and felt around underneath for the receiver. Even the brief chirp of the ‘answer’ button made his head throb. “Hello. Jacques West –“

“Mr West,” intoned the voice on the other end. “This is the police.”

“Very funny, Cal,” Dax answered, the heel of his other hand pressed against his eye. “Thought you were a detective, not a comedian.”

“I’m just gifted all over.”

“Well, genius, have you got any idea what time it is?”

“Huh?” There was a pause, then: “Oh, shit! I keep forgetting not everyone’s on the night shift –“

“You’re a credit to Scotland Yard,” Dax told him. “So what’s so important?”

“A sensible question, finally. You remember Rita Sayle, right? I introduced you at Richard’s housewarming -”

“Yeah, of course.” Dax gave up on sleep and swung his legs out of bed, padding towards the kitchen. “I catch her show whenever I can.”

“Well, it’s her birthday and she’s taking Ouroboros by storm tonight – your folks did the setup there, right?”

He opened the fridge, turning the kettle on with the other hand. “That’s right. It’s a great scene.”

“She made me swear to invite you. I think you’ve got an admirer.”

“And I thought the policeman was always my best friend,” Dax told him, pulling out a carton of milk and closing the fridge with his hip.

“Ha, ha. Listen, you free for lunch? Eh – breakfast for me -“

“Um –“ Dax tugged a note off the fridge door, the note he had left for himself two weeks ago, scrawled on in black marker. “Sounds great, but I’ve … kind of got other plans for today.”

 

 

 

 

 

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