by Trevor Hopkins

I got out of there as quickly and as quietly as I could. Sure, I could have hung around waiting for the cops to arrive, but that would have tied me up in any amount of questioning and delays, even if the police played it by the book. While I still have some friends on the force, the chances were that any copper coming across a recently-dead body in the presence of a PI of dubious provenance would take it into his head that there was more going on that met the eye. Correctly, maybe, in this case, but I would rather have freedom to work out the details to the advantage of my employer, without having to explain it all to the cops first.

I stopped at a public call box after about ten minutes of ducking and diving along the back streets, narrow staircases, dark tunnels and twisting alleyways which make up a large percentage of the environment down here. I've built up quite a useful working knowledge of both the routes and the phone boxes after all these years, and I used every trick I knew to make sure I wasn't observed. I think it worked.

Back in the office, I slumped in the chair behind the desk and threw my hat on the worn leather surface, then sat back to take stock of the situation. It was clear that Pow Drumfin had been the perv who has been using hidden cameras to spy on Fordun and others in the dressing rooms at the Stalactite Saloon, but how had he managed to get his hands on sophisticated technology - and expensive, too - which had very recently been smuggled down to the Lower Realms.

Sure, Drumfin could have just bought a few cameras to take advantage of the access he would have to areas backstage at the Saloon, and maybe he planned on making money with blackmail prints or the kind of candid shots which appear - very lightly censored - on the front pages of the kind of red-top newspaper which would pay for such materials. But he had never struck me as an individual with loads of ready cash to blow on equipment like this, nor the brains to plan out a money-making scheme of this complexity. No, there was a different game in play.

Drumfin was a dead end, quite literally. He had been silenced quickly and efficiently, by parties unknown, and with only the thinnest shred of evidence to link him to anything at Broxden's place. One careful murder, and the connection collapses to a scrap of paper whose import would be hard to convey to anybody who had not seen the entire photo print beforehand.

I was still sitting in the office chair in a funk when Campsie bustled in and flung her bag on the desk next to my hat.

"Hey," I exclaimed, "Mind the headgear!"

She ignored me, and focussed instead on pulling out her notebook, flipping to the right page and sliding it across the desk in my general direction. She looked at me expectantly while I drew the book towards me and studied the carefully-transcribed notes.

Ten seconds reading was more than enough to engage my interest. I looked up at Campsie, seeing immediately that she too understood the importance of what she had discovered.

"Somebody," she said slowly, "Is putting the gang back together."

Part 28 Part 30