“So, exactly how well do you know this wizard?” Justin asked.
“As well as anyone, I suppose. He lives close to where I grew up,” Tam answered. “My dad bartered with him, and he showed me round his cave when I was a kid.”
“Yeah, he’s a bit of a hermit. He lives in a cave with a load of bats, only leaves Angleshire once a year, and as luck would have it, that’s today. Um, guys?”
Justin and Freda turned round. Tam was standing several paces behind them, and jerked her thumb at the automatic doors beside her. “In here.”
Freda blinked. “Tesco? Are you sure?”
“What’s he do in Tesco?”
Tam looked at him as if he was mad. “Shopping, of course. He’s addicted to Angel Delight.”
Inside, it looked like any normal supermarket. It wasn’t too busy; Justin, Tam and Freda were quite easily able to meander through the shopping trolleys, Tam looking left and right for someone.
When Justin saw the wizard, it was with a complete certainty that that was who he was looking at. Not because of the prickles, but because he was unmistakably a wizard. He had long grey hair, matching unkempt beard, and carried a long wooden staff. He wore a long navy robe over a russet waistcoat and buckled boots, all of which was rather shabby.
The shopping trolley next to him was piled with what Justin reckoned must be the store’s entire stock of Angel Delight, along with bags and bags of salt and vinegar crisps, stacks of boxes of cheese triangles and masses of Coco Pops.
Tam walked up to the wizard, who was staring intently at the shelves of biscuits, and cleared her throat next to him. “Hobble?”
It took a moment for Justin to realise that that must be his name.
Hobble turned his head, and frowned slightly, before comprehension dawned. “Miss Walton. This is a surprise. Can you see any Party Rings?”
“Yes; the ones with the different colour icing on.”
“Sorry, no. Maybe they’re out of stock, or don’t do them anymore.” Hobble seemed to deflate at her words. “Um, how are you?”
“Quite well, quite well.” Hobble’s eyes travelled over Freda, and froze on Justin. They widened slightly.
“We’d like to ask you something, if that’s all right,” Tam said. His eyes snapped back to her.
“And what would that be?” There was a note of caution suddenly in his voice.
She lowered her voice. “It’s about the Conturbus Key …”
Copyright Alex Harlequin 2012