by Trevor Hopkins

I was back at my desk, in my own squeaky swivel chair, in my own office, for the second time that day, and with no advance in my understanding of the case. The Midnight Square Theatre seemed to be a dead end. The magically-disguised letter to Tillyfor was probably a red herring. There weren't many other places I could go, as far as I could see.

Still, I found myself wondering exactly how Mister Dalgrin Balloch made his money. Sure, these days he pulled down a pretty penny from the operations at the Midnight Square Theatre, but how did he get the cash to buy into it in the first place? It didn't seem likely it was a family fortune: possessors of Old Money generally exude a kind of class which Balloch definitely didn't have.

In all his sales patter, at Rourke's and at the Stuffed Duck and the Theatre, he never mentioned any other line of business. All very strange. He clearly wasn't stupid, even if he occasionally tried to act that way. More low cunning than a refined intellectual, perhaps. So, he originally made his money in something a bit shady, a bit hidden, something where a degree of ruthlessness would pay large dividends.

I needed an edge, a deeper insight into the history and background of Dalgrin Balloch. I toyed briefly with the idea of an afternoon in the Reading Room at the library, poring over endless archive copies of the business and crime sections of the daily newspapers. Sounded tedious and, worse still, might not turn up the goods at all.

Then, a thought struck me. Why not go straight to the horse's mouth?

A couple of phone calls later, I was on my way to the Cavern of Silences, so-called not because it is particularly quiet - Goblin caverns tend not to be noisy places anyway - but because, over the last millennium or so, it has become almost exclusively populated by those at the end of their lives. Without being ghoulish about it, it's where old Goblins go to die.

I made a couple of transit tube hops, milling about with many other Goblins at the exchanges between tubes for a few minutes, stopping only to make a couple of essential purchases. Eventually I emerged into the Cavern of Silences, where I was presented with a vista of row after row, terrace after terrace, of almost identical little residences, all very well kept caves in a deeply traditional style.

I reconnoitred the stairs and walkways with my customary caution, finding the address I had been given without difficulty. I knocked briskly on a green-painted door with polished brass fitting, then stood back to wait as patiently as I could. I fumbled in my pockets for cigarettes and lighter, then turned to take in the view across the cavern. Quiet, indeed. There was an eerie sense of stillness, too, of placid calm and peaceful tranquillity. There were worse places in the world to end up.

Part 36 Part 38