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Prologue

B.B. Woolfe stood in the darkness of his office, framed by the window as he looked out across smoke-blackened rooftops. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his lambs wool waistcoat and slowly, and for no good reason, a smile began to shape his remarkably elongated face. He watched the sunrise as if he owned it; as if he and he alone dictated when it would get up in the morning, and would issue it with the strictest of warnings if it dared to rise even so much as a minute late.

As the sky grew brighter the sun changed hue, appearing as a pink bubble bobbing on the horizon. The clouds were suddenly shot through with purple and gold, and amber shadows performed a flickering dance around the walls of Mr. Woolfe's office. He glanced at his watch then closed his eyes against the glare. In the distance he heard the gentle sound of a car engine, the roar muted to a kitten's purr by the cold morning air.

Then came a smart rap on his office door. The corners of Mr. Woolfe's mouth twitched gently, but he did not speak. A moment later the door opened and a podgy, blond-haired girl came in. She shielded her eyes and squinted at the figure framed in the window.

"Do you know what time it is?" she said, making no attempt to disguise the irritation in her voice.

"I am aware of how early it is," Woolfe confirmed. "I don't suppose you've ever seen the sun come up, have you my dear? I suspect you don't usually get up until lunch time."

The blond girl sighed. "If God had meant us to get up at this time in a morning," she said, "He wouldn't have invented nightclubs."

Woolfe just smiled and said nothing.

"Well?" she insisted. "What is it? I'm not here for the good of my health. I got a message, somebody said you wanted to see me."

Woolfe stroked his unusually prominent chin with the tips of his fingers. "I have a job for you my dear," he said softly. He walked steadily across to the other side on the office, where an intricate model landscape was laid out on a table.

"A job?" the girl asked.

Woolfe ran an admiring eye over the delicately detailed complex of tiny buildings. "That's right, my dear," he said, and he looked up at her, his eyes sparkling. "It is a matter which I believe requires your own particular brand of expertise..."

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