by Trevor Hopkins

Another inconclusive day, another troubled night's sleep. I woke with the nagging feeling that there was something I was missing in this case, something which would be obvious with hindsight but I just couldn't put my finger on right now. I also woke remembering that I had forgotten to buy any coffee, which also put quite a crimp in my cognitive abilities first thing in the morning.

Still, I was in my office bright and early. Its brightness was enhanced by another takeaway cup of the strong coffee from David's Diner, and its earliness was entirely a result of the absence of coffee at home. I wrote the word "COFFEE" in large block letters on one of those yellow sticky things and stuck it on the inside of the office door. Worth a try as a last-minute reminder, at least.

I was sitting there, nursing my coffee and trying to arrange my thoughts in some kind of coherent order, when the phone rang. Not the ring that told me it was from the surface.

The phone doesn't very often ring in the office. Sure, I have a few contacts - not as many as I used to, sure enough - although they're more usually the kind where I contact them because I want a favour, rather than those who would contact me with some request for assistance. Or I suppose it could have been a new client. My details and number are in the telephone directory and it was just possible that my name had been picked at the point of a randomly-applied pin.

There was one other possibility. I picked up the receiver. It was Broxden.

"Gask, the police have been here," he said firmly, getting straight down to business, "Asking about an employee of mine being found dead in an alleyway."

"Ah," I replied, "This will be Mister Pow Drumfin, then?"

"So this does have something to do with your investigation, then?"

"Maybe," I answered warily, "Are the cops still there?"

"No, they've just left," he replied, sounding annoyed and confused by turns, "Not that I could tell them very much anyway."

"Look," I said, trying to put a degree of urgency in my voice, "I'll be in your office in twenty minutes. In the meantime, don't talk to anybody."

"I want you to tell me what's going on," Broxden demanded.

"Yeah, I will do, as soon as I get there," I replied, not entirely truthfully.

Well, I was going to tell him some of it, but there were some aspects where his own ignorance would protect him - not to mention me and Campsie - as well as further his own interests, assuming he was on the level. And if not, then he shouldn't know some things anyway.

"All right," he said, sounding at least a little bit mollified, "As quick as you can, Gask."

He rang off. I gulped the last of my coffee, scalding the back of my throat in the process, then grabbed my hat from the stand and tugged it on my head at an irreverent angle. I glared at the yellow note on the back of the door and then shut it behind me carefully.

Part 45 Part 47