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Once Bitten

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"Miss Jones!" Adam gave the vase another look, as if to confirm that what he had seen had not been the product of a momentary hallucination. "What in the name of—"

"Don't tell me you've never seen a bunch of daffodils before?" Georgie asked innocently. "They brighten the place up no end."

Adam took a deep breath. "My views on artificial flowers have not changed. And my flat does not require brightening."

"It's just a few flowers. It's not like I crept in at night and painted the walls orange." A worrying expression flitted across Georgie's face. "Actually, that's an idea. Why don't we get a few of the gang round and have an art party? Brenda Yolland does abstracts. I bet she'd love to paint one right across that wall. It'd be the hottest wall in London."

"In that case, I shall thank you for your thoughtful gift of the daffodils," Adam said firmly. "And I shall accept them by all means, provided there is no more talk of Miss Yolland and her associates defacing my walls."

"There." Georgie smiled sweetly. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

"A gift from Miss Jones, sir?" Simms asked, giving the vase a withering look.

Adam looked up from his newspaper. "I fear so."

"What are they, plastic again?" Simms tapped one of the daffodils. "Feels like it. All of a piece, too. If I might be so bold, sir, who's giving them away with what this time?"

"As I understand it, an itinerant seller on the street was handing them to passers-by. Miss Jones presumed that he had his reasons. It seems that in this day and age any behaviour is excusable if it allows more money to be milked from those least able to afford it."

"As you say, sir. Shall I remove the flowers forthwith?"

"No." Adam set his newspaper aside. "Were I to dispose of her gift, however unwelcome, that would be most lacerating to Miss Jones' delicate sensibilities."

"If she has any," Simms couldn't help remarking.

"The proper place for artificial flowers," Adam went on, "is under a bell jar. If I am to share my house with these embodiments of raw commercialism, at least they can be decently confined."

"Very good, sir. Will that be all?"

"For now." Adam gave the vase another thoughtful look. "I think, Simms, I shall investigate the source of these flowers in a little more depth. It could well be that whoever is behind this plans to lure defenceless young ladies into his sinister clutches. Today, Miss Jones accepts a bunch of frankly vile artificial blooms from a street trader..."

"Tomorrow, the world, no doubt. Or perhaps there's nothing in it beyond selling bathroom cleaner."

"Quite possibly. In which case, no harm will have been done." Adam rose to his feet. "But bitter experience has taught me not to give such promotions the benefit of the doubt."