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3. A hand rules heaven - The Ballad of Lady Smallwood by A.J. Hall

“Frieda Nordstrom? She’s just finishing her Bikram class.” A driving rock beat pounded through the door the attendant indicated.

“I’ll wait outside.”

The instructor emerged, towel round her neck. Nothing like the photographs. Heavier musculature, spiky blonde hair, work on jaw, nose and ears. Hazel eyes, not ice-blue. Accent, as she spoke to lingering students, native New Jersey.

“Frieda Nordstrom?”

“Yup, that’s me. Can I help?”

“You’re my only hope.”

Smile perfectly judged: flattered, amused and just a bit baffled. “Obi-Wan Nordstrom?”

“Ms Nordstrom, when you were in Europe, I believe you collaborated on some memorable performance art. Bond Air 2012, for instance.”

“I helped. But if you contacted the artist —”

“I’m sorry to break bad news, but I’m afraid he took his own life. Two years ago.”

Her hand went to her mouth, well-judged. “Oh my God. But — it’s a shock, but not really a surprise? A guy like that —”

“Leaves a gap impossible to fill. Not someone to go gently into that good night. So a friend of mine thinks. I believe you know him? Holiday romance, maybe? Anyway, he asked me to mention the Vatican cameos to you. He wants to give your collaborator the tribute he deserves, and told me you could help. Will you?”

“Oh, yes. Sod Bikram!”