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Mystery woman leads Alice into a surprise.

The brothels were put out of business at the end of the war and now Stephen runs half the street girls in Brum, plus a particularly nasty protection and extortion racket. He's heavily into illegal bookmaking and probably has a slice of the drug traffic to boot.

If it's the same bloke, you really should watch out for him, Philip. Most criminals are a bit pathetic really, but the odd few; men like him; are something else. They're hard, clever and cruel. They thrive on putting the frighteners on people and watching them squirm."

Seriously alarmed, Philip asked.

"What do you think I should do, Andy? I don't want to have dealings with criminals if I can help it, but I have no evidence that there's anything wrong."

Andy reassured him quietly.

"It's probably nothing at all; I should just go on as normal if I were you. But it can't hurt for me to have a quiet word with an old oppo or two in Brum and see what I can find out."

There the matter rested for some time. In the following months, Philip proposed a couple of additions to Rotkoff's portfolio, and suggested that he sell his holdings in one under-performing company and he had the satisfaction of being notified by his stockbroker that Rotkoff had implemented the proposals immediately.

Time went on, the business had another pretty successful year, and again Rotkoff paid up promptly. Andy's warnings had slipped out of his mind, and when he got a message that Rotkoff wanted a meeting, the memory revived, leaving him feeling profoundly uneasy.

It was at the very end of December, when Christmas was over and the New Year celebrations a couple of days away. The office was very quiet and Philip had gone down to the reference Library to catch up on some essential reading. Joan was off or a couple of days and Laura was manning the office when the phone rang.

"Hello, Philip Cheshire Associates."

"This is Stephen Rotkoff. Is Philip in?"

"Hello, Mr. Rotkoff; nice to hear from you. No, Philip is in town right now, and I don't expect him back much before we close. Can I take a message?"

"Yes, I am in Nottingham on the third of January, and I should like to see him later on in the afternoon. Does sound a possibility?"

"Yes, four o'clock seems fine. Shall I put it into his diary?"

"Yes, do that small thing." With that he rang off rather abruptly, leaving Laura thinking what a rude man he was.

When Philip got back to the office shortly before five, Laura told him about the phone call. She had no idea what Andy had said about Rotkoff's reputation, so she had given the matter little or no thought.

The news hit Philip like an electric shock. Laura could see he was upset but Philip decided to keep her in the dark a bit longer, so he covered up as best he could, by inventing something about maybe forgetting to mail him a receipt.

As soon as he could do so in privacy, Philip picked up the phone to call Andy Summerton.

"Hello Andy. Yes, we're fine thank you, and you? Good. You remember a few months ago you were telling me some very disturbing things about Stephen Rotkoff? Well he's surfaced again, and I was wondering if you got any information about him."

Andy's reply made Philip's heart sink.

"Yes. I'm afraid it is the same Rotkoff. He's a heavyweight gangster, associated with at least half a dozen killings as well as beatings and maimings. And there's no doubt at all that he is heavily into the heroin trade."

"Well, he's coming over to see me next Thursday. I offer all my clients an annual review meeting to see how their portfolios are going on, and I guess he's taking advantage of it."

"It may all be above board for all I know, but you need to be on your guard. Is there any chance that I can listen in to the conversation without him knowing?"

Philip thought rapidly.

"Not in the office - there's nowhere you could keep out of sight."

"Maybe we could set up a hidden mike and I could make a wire recording?"

"You really are taking this seriously, aren't you Andy?"

"You can't take scum like Rotkoff too serious

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