The midnight apothecary

Unwell, unloved or simply unimaginative, he offered an unguent for every condition. You could find his door if you stood between the birches when the clocks chimed twelve, or, if built to military precision, silently rang in the day.

Fred hammered on the heavy oak. The man who peered from the hatch had a neat beard and grey eyes; he handed Fred a bottle and an invoice. Conscious of the instructions, Fred looked at neither until he was home.

The medicine, it transpired, was for trepidation, to be paid for in monthly installments of tightrope walking and talking to strangers.