by Trevor Hopkins

Gumshoe had always had a slow and methodical style of speaking to the point that, on first acquaintance, people tended to assume he was stupid. Not so, of course; his phlegmatic countenance effectively concealed highly observant eyes and an intensely analytical mind.

"So why, we must ask ourselves," he said steadily, "Would anyone want to smuggle a few spy cameras into the Lower Realms?"

I already knew the answer to this one. But, I also knew Gumshoe's style, so I decided to play along for Campsie's benefit. I threw a glance in her direction.

"Surely the risk of detection and discovery would outweigh the value of any Peeping Tom pictures," I added, taking the little camera from his fingers and waving it around, "So what's the real reason?"

Campsie frowned, thinking deeply, then said with complete honesty: "I have no idea."

"Which is the correct answer," I said grinning, "Well done!"

The smuggling of goods from one world to the other is of course completely illegal, and the legitimate trade is very carefully regulated and policed, if only to ensure that the swingeing customs duties are always paid into the appropriate government coffer. To this end, there are powerful glamours permanently installed at all the official entrances specifically to detect proscribed goods and alert the customs staff.

The problem is that there are other entrances to the Lower Realms which are not known to the authorities; indeed, even after all these years, it has somehow never been possible to close them all down. Goods entering this way have to do things the hard way; rather than an instantaneous transit in the portal, some poor sod - a mule, in several senses - will have to walk down miles and miles of stone staircases. A tough job, especially since going down is often harder than walking up, so anyone doing this is going to make sure the business is really worthwhile. So, all this leads to an interesting hypothesis: if sophisticated electronic cameras are getting into the Lower Realms, what else is coming down with them?

"A smuggling operation?" Campsie exclaimed, when we had explained all this to her. The thrill of the chase was already getting to her; she was now noticeably less perturbed than when we entered Gumshoe's apartment.

"Yup," I agreed, "And one where we might just be able to wangle a decent reward for Information Received."

"Great," she said, her eyes lighting up, "So how do we go about pulling that off?"

"We've got two lines of enquiry," I said, ticking them off on my fingers, "Gumshoe will use his contacts up here" - his big head nodded solemnly at this suggestion - "to work out where the cameras are coming from, and maybe what else is being traded. Meanwhile, you and I will get back to the Stalactite Saloon and work the angles from that end."

"Let's go!" she exclaimed, turning to leave at that very instant. The impetuousness of youth, indeed!

"Not so fast," I said, "We owe Gumshoe here an explanation of our end of the enquiry, don't we?"

Campsie nodded, looking shamefaced.

"So give him the five minute précis," I suggested, adding, "In English."

It was a test, of course. After a slightly fumbling start, actually she did a pretty fair job of it. Gumshoe sat motionless throughout, absorbing every word, while I toyed with the little gadget.

"So let's see where this one leads," I said when she had concluded, "And you'd better hang on to this."

I tossed him the little bug. I couldn't have taken it back to the Lower Realms in any case without upsetting the customs officers; it's only because they can't be bothered to check outbound travellers that allowed me to get it back up here in the first place.

"Look after it," I suggested, as I retrieved my sunglasses from my pocket and stuck them back on my head, "Those things have a habit of disappearing."

Part 16 Part 18