Her Excellency, Robyn Macnamara, United States Consul-General in Scotland, was nearing the end of her debriefing of the US soldiers from Vietnam who had suddenly emerged from the Eildon Hills Cavern a week ago; she had rather enjoyed her stay in Melrose, where she and her staff had been accommodated in the two hotels situated on either side of the High Street just below The Square; it would be the perfect place for a little break from her duties, when she could make the time – her tutor from her days as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, Cristobal Dumbiedykes, was retired and lived in a rambling old house on High Cross Avenue, at the other end of the town, and several of Crist's neices had been of great practical help to Ms Macnamara (“please call me Robyn,” she kept saying to anyone who would listen) and her staff; the soldiers were due to leave tomorrow and the only justifiable reason Robyn had for staying on another couple of days was her wish to complete her report to the State Department in this peaceful town rather than back at the Consulate where she knew she would be surrounded by distractions – demands on her time and energy, the constant clamour for her ear – and she felt that she also needed to spend some time exploring the three famous hills herself, to get a feel for the place and not just rely on the descriptions of others; and there was a personal reason: although her father's family had it's origins in Ireland, her mother was a Scott, supposedly descended from Sir Walter himself and she wanted to check this claim out, and to meet Patience Scott – Sir Walter's daughter – who had been thought drowned in the early 19th Century, but had also been an escapee, along with Thomas Learmonth, from whatever kind of Time Lock had been holding people prisoner in those Hills; if the family stories were true then she was related to Patience and desperately wanted to spend a little time with the young girl; oh, and there was also the unlikely friendship she had struck up with Rusty Irons, licensee of The Ship Inn, where Robyn had taken to popping in for a quiet drink at the end of each day's interviews – it had progressed from Rusty's query on the first occasion: "Yankee?" through to philosophical discussions on the nature of the Universe and Man's (or more exactly, Woman's) place in it by the end of the first week and had elicited that coincidence that both women have an existential view of Life, The Universe and Everything; so much so that their often animated discussions now continued well past "Last Orders, please," and the locking of the doors after the other customers had left, and after Rusty's bidie-in Dusty Douglas had climbed the stairs to the bed they shared, until around two in the morning during which time this morning they had examined the opposing merits of flagrant spinebashing as opposed to sagacious pharisaism and reached the conclusion that a cuddle and a snog would suit them both best . . . . for starters!