From the Inside Flap
Saffron Weldon knocked timidly at Louise Tarrant's door. She was under orders to leave her boss to contemplate the candidates until five pm, and it was only four thirty-two. But Saffron had terrible news to deliver, and felt that it could not wait.
Entering the inner office Saffron found her boss standing at the window looking out at the gray vista.
"Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched, Saffie?" asked the director.
Saffron pondered a moment and said, "Well, in pubs and nightclubs I do, but then of course people are watching me then, and sometimes when I'm walking alone and I think I feel eyes on the back of my neck, well I don't mean literal eyes rolling down my body, of course, that would be all slimy and gross-"
Louise lifted a hand gently, gesturing her assistant to silence. It was almost an automatic response in a conversation with Saffron.
"I mean, do you ever feel you're being watched when there's nobody around?"
"Like, when I'm in the bath?" Saffron shuddered, eyes wide. "Ooh, no. Not unless I've just seen a scary film or something. And I try not to watch those alone, not since that Korean one with the little boy in the house. Why?"
"Probably nothing," said Louise, shrugging and turning from the window. "I take it you have something urgent for me?"
"Yes!" said Saffron eagerly. "It's about the meeting of the Antiquarian Society!"
"Short of petty cash for biscuits again?" asked Louise, reaching for her purse.
Louise stooped to pick up her purse from the floor beside the desk.
"No, I mean the meeting has to be called off!" explained the girl. "Because he's dead!"
"Sorry, I think you jumped a track again, Saffie," said Louise. "Who's dead?"
"Professor Maspero! That lovely old man, it's so tragic! Apparently he fell over when he was chaining his bike up or something and this truck hit him, and they're saying he was killed instantly, which is a mercy I suppose."
Louise sat down heavily and let Saffron talk excitedly for half a minute more before raising her hand again.
"Saffie," she said, "you did right to tell me. Contact the other society members, and explain the situation. Then wait at reception to intercept anyone you don't talk to directly. Don't trust them to check their messages."
"Yes, Louise, good point!"
Saffron was slightly surprised to see how much Maspero's death had affected her boss. As far as she knew, Louise and the professor were merely acquaintances, people whose paths crossed occasionally at local meetings and regional conferences. She dismissed the matter, focusing as best she could on her task. She backed out of the room and closed the door behind her.
It was only when she got back to her desk at the entrance that she recalled another oddity about the conversation. It was not something about Louise - at least not directly. Saffron had assumed her boss was looking out at Weyrmouth, but just an instant before closing the office door she had seen a smear or smudge on the window. Louise had in fact been looking at this mark, Saffron felt sure.
It was in the shape of a hand, from its size that of a woman or a child. Saffron could not be sure, but she had the impression that the blurred hand-print was on the outside of the glass.