Big and ugly.The figure was of an animal, but not any known to me. The hindquarters were feline andstriped, like a Djanto cat, but from the waist up it looked grotesque, a blob of black stonewith long suckered tentacles streaming from a spherical blob that could have been thehead. It looked like an octopus after a rough night on the rum.“Nice wedding present,” I said as I put it down. “If it was mine I think I would be quiteglad to lose it.”I pushed the canvas away from me, turning it face down on the table, and rubbed myfingers on my jerkin, but I couldn’t get rid of a feeling of being dirtied by having touchedthe thing.“You wouldn’t want to lose it if you knew it was worth half a million in gold,” she said,and I sat back hard in my chair.I still wasn’t getting the whole truth, but I had the scent of money in my nostrils and mydream of the big case in my head.“You have other valuables?” I asked.“Oh yes. Torrson is…was… something of a collector, and we have many other pieces of equal, if not greater, value.”“And the amulet was all that was taken?”She nodded.Something still didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the stealing on demand that was wrong… ithappened all the time. She was lying about something else, and I couldn’t pin it down.“And what about the Guard?”“I would rather handle this discreetly,” she said. “If the Guard get involved, everyonewill get to know, and I’m hoping you can recover the piece without any kind of fuss.”And there was the lie… it was in her eyes, and the tightening at the corners of her mouth.I let her have it for now. My guess was there was something inherently dodgy about theamulet that precluded the Guard involvement.“Well, as I said already, I don’t want to get your hopes up,” I said. “I’ll do the rounds andask around. And I may have to visit you at some point. But you should start preparing for the worst… we may never find it.”“Just do your best,” she said. “Who knows? It might be sitting on some antique dealersstall even now, just waiting for you to walk past and see it.”The way she said it made it seem like she was dropping a hint, giving me a clue. Butwhen I looked in her eyes all I got was a small smile.She counted out five gold pieces from her bag and laid them, side by side on the table.