The Third Trial – Part 1

The next morning, Harmonia caught her before she reached Aphrodite’s office and handed her an envelope. “She’s in an executive meeting upstairs. She says you’re to fetch a flask of Loch Styx scotch for her.”

Psyche stared at her. “How? Loch Styx is known for only selling from the cellar door, and even then, only to people the distiller knows personally.”

Harmonia nodded at the envelope. “Train tickets are in there, and I’ve booked you two nights in Edinburgh, plus a hire car to get to the distillery.”

Psyche looked at the tickets, she had just enough time to get home, grab some clothes and get to the station. “And the last part?”

Harmonia gave a helpless shake of her head. “You’ve succeeded so far, maybe something will present itself.”

It would need to be a miracle, rather than kind Z Corp employees who’d seen her through so far, but that wasn’t Harmonia’s problem.

Psyche smiled at her. “Thank you, for this, and for yesterday. Hopefully I’ll be back here, flask in hand, on Thursday.”

The return smile was small, but genuine, and Psyche let it warm her as she raced from the office, running through a packing list in her head as she went.

She made it onto the train with minutes to spare, then went through the contents of the envelope in detail as her heart settled back to a normal pace.

In addition to the train tickets, there was a printout of a hotel reservation, pick-up details for a hire car, and a map to the Loch Styx Distillery.

Psyche entered the address details for the hotel and Loch Ambrose into her phone, then wondered what she was going to do for the following four and a half hours.

Her phone rang, she answered.

“It’s Harmonia. Do you have a computer with you?”

Psyche replied. “Yes, is there something you need to change?”

“No, no, all the arrangements are fine, but if you give me your email address, I’ll forward the bookings so you’re not relying on paper. It’s just that we’ve got a bit of a rush on in the social media team and your friends say you’re quite handy with digital image work. If I send you the files and the briefs, can you see what you can do?”

Psyche pulled her laptop from her bag; finally work she was trained for. “I’d love to.”

The image briefs gave clear direction on requirements and standards, and she happily immersed herself in background touch-ups, colour corrections and hue filters as towns and fields flew by.

Lunch was delivered to her seat, the train attendant grinned and said. “Order from your work I’m told, they said to tell you to stop and eat.”

Psyche laughed and did as she was told.

She’d made it through most of the job list by the time Edinburgh Waverly was announced and she closed the computer down, then stretched.

A man sitting across the aisle from her said. “You’re very focused aren’t you. Would you like to go for a drink to unwind?”

Psyche fought the urge to roll her eyes. “No thanks, I’ve got more to do still.”

He persisted. “Surely not all night.”

She resorted to lying. “Not all night. I want to get these finished, so I have time to enjoy dinner with my boyfriend, I’m meeting him here.”

If only. She could see it so clearly, Eros doing a photo shoot at the castle or in the gorgeous back streets of the older parts of town, then coming to meet her at the station. Would he smile as he caught sight of her or tip his head to one side, just a little, as he watched her race towards him?

Would they have the evening to themselves, or would he be out, chasing more perfect images under the street lights? She wanted to join the hunt.

The man opposite her shook his head. “If he makes you look that sad, love, you should dump him.”

Psyche shook her head. “It’s missing him that makes me sad.”

The hotel was an easy walk from the station and had her room ready and waiting. She finished job list and sent a note to Harmonia, letter her know. Then she grabbed her film camera and went for a walk. Twilight was a magical time in old cities, and she knew she had some glorious photos by the time she made it back to the hotel and a simple room service dinner.

An early night and not much sleep later, she presented her booking details to the car rental company and found herself following the directions of a particularly superior-sounding navigation system out of the city.

An hour later, the navigation voice was still talking, and she was puttering along a series of back country roads that looked like they hadn’t seen a car in months.

Another hour, more twists and turns, more hills and hidden valleys.

Half an hour after that, the voice finally said. “Turn left in half a mile, you have reached your destination.”

Quite how she was going to turn left into the side of a vertiginous hill wasn’t yet obvious, but it was too late to stop following instructions now.

A pair of stone gateposts appeared, framing a narrow path between two hills, she might have to fold in the wing mirrors to made it through. A sign on the wall to one side said, Loch Styx Distillery.

She’d made it! Now she just had to find the distiller and convince them to part with a flask of their whisky.

The hills opened up into an enchanted valley, half drowned in the wind-ruffled waters of a loch, the other half providing space for a cluster of old stone buildings, surrounded by gardens Psyche longed to explore, camera in hand.

There was a watermill turning in the stream of the river feeding the loch, and a series of large, high-roofed barns leading on, one from the other. The driveway turned and opened out into a gravelled parking area in front of a house, clearly loved and well-looked after.

She switched off the engine and sat for a moment, then got out, lifting her face to the breeze and breathing deeply. The rough scent of earthy smoke caught at the back of her throat, soothed by the roses covering the front of the house.

To one side of the house, a small door within the huge double barn doors swung open and a man, tall and lean with black hair tied back in a short tail walked into the sunlight. “We’ve nothing for sale to the public.”

Psyche reached for the strap of her bag, then realised it was still in the car. “Aphrodite sent me.”

The man snorted. “And what does the champagne queen want with my scotch? And why doesn’t she wheedle it out of Zeus’s stash, he’s not short of a bottle.”

Psyche bit her lip. “I don’t know. She said I had to come up here and get it, or not bother coming back.”

“Guess you’ll be looking for a new job then, Missy, I’m not about to dance to Aphrodite’s tunes, least of all on nothing more than the say-so of a pretty girl.”

There had to be a way. What would convince him? She floundered.

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