‘Oh, don’t worry about her,’ says Rolf. ‘She will be as new the very moment I leave.’

I kinda gurgle in response.

‘Indeed,’ replies Rolf. ‘An eventful day. I am not in fact scheduled to visit you today, since you’re not a foundling. As far from a foundling as possible, one could say. But it’s not every day a former member of the Sorcery Council is killed!’

I’m wishing I’d faint, if only I could. But I’m suspended by intense, boundless shock. I can’t speak.

‘Well, your family has certainly afforded me more than the usual excursions to earthly realms…’ says Rolf now. Some barely functioning recess of my mind seems to reckon that he isn’t as displeased as he’s letting on. ‘Let’s clean up this mess, shall we,’ he adds. The body disappears.

Somehow this releases me from my suspension. I can feel my legs giving out. I just about manage to reach a nearby chair. After a moment Rolf pulls another one up beside me and parks himself on it. He puts his free hand on his knee and sits dead straight and stock still for a minute, which I use to fret extensively and stare at Bobby. She’s breathing real regularly, with a smile on her face. For all the world she could be asleep. Just when I’m recovered enough to decide I should go check on her all the same, Rolf finally speaks again.

‘She’s fine, I assure you,’ he says. ‘Please bear with me for a moment. It does occur to me… that you… might have some questions.’

Now keep in mind that I’ve never met the guy before. All I know from mom and dad is that he’s the one who comes to foundlings on their thirteenth birthday and dishes out the licenses. He’s figured in games we played when all of us were small, in which he’d sometimes turn into some kinda bogeyman, as our parents haven’t made him sound all that benign. So maybe I should say we’ve come to regard him more like the old Saint Niklaas than the new-world Santa Claus. My point is that, while apprehensive, I’m totally unaware at this point of Rolf’s track record on answering questions. So I’m finding his behaviour pretty normal in the circumstances. ’Course I got loadsa questions! Ahm… one, actually. ‘What the hell happened?’ I burst out.