by Trevor Hopkins

The Goblin standing in my office stamped her feet angrily and glared at me. I suspected that the high and distinctly pointed stiletto heels she wore were doing serious damage to the carpet. Not that it bothered me; the rather tatty office floor-covering was something I inherited from the previous tenant. A moment's closer inspection would reveal numerous worn spots, cigarette burns and assorted stains caused by a variety of biological agents. Best not to look too closely, if you ask me.

"Look, sister," I said reasonably, tossing my hat on the worn green dragonhide of the desk and leaning back in the squeaky swivel chair, "You're not my client. He is. He's paid me a sum of money, in advance, to find things out. Which I've done. And it's all in my report."

I leaned forward again and tapped the sealed manila envelope lying next to my hat on the desk. It was already stamped and addressed, and I had just been putting on my hat and coat to deliver it to the mailbox on the corner when the subject of my about-to-be-completed investigation flung open the door and stomped in.

The angry stomper was a petite and slender Goblin, very young-looking - although with the strong suggestion that considerable time, effort and expense had been put into retaining that youthful appearance. Her mahogany-brown scalp was buffed and polished, her ears adorned with tastefully expensive jewellery, her dress artfully cut to flatter the boyish slenderness of her form and the absence of curves at thigh and chest, her nails long and pointed and finished in shaded tones of burgundy.

Her eyes - well, her eyes were her best features: eyes to attract and distract, wide and expressive and fascinating, eyes to keep everybody's attention on her face. With eyes like that, the rest of you could look like anything at all. You could hold anybody's gaze for an hour or a lifetime, and the rest of your body might as well not even exist.

"But you can't do that," she exclaimed, "You can't tell him."

"Why not?" I asked, genuinely curious.

She glared at me across the desk again. I ignored her. I've been glared at by experts.

"Were you, in fact, misleading my client?" I went on, "And, more importantly, being sufficiently indiscreet about it that he became suspicious, enough to employ me to dig a little. And it was only a little. You haven't really tried to hide your true nature, have you? Except from him."

"I'm not ashamed of who I am," she said hotly, "Or what I am."

"No. No, you shouldn't need to be," I replied, letting just a little sympathy creep into my voice.

Those huge and lovely eyes welled with tears. She sat heavily in one of the two mismatched guest chairs that I keep on the clients' side of the desk.

"Why didn't you just level with him?" I asked gently, "He clearly thinks the world of you. You never know, he might love just as much if he did know the truth."

I paused, while the dame produced a tiny handkerchief from her purse and dabbed at her eyes.

"But not if he finds out the truth from me," I added, more sternly, "He'll feel hurt, betrayed. He'll never be able to look at you again."

This prompted a further flood of tears. I left her snivelling into the hankie for a minute while I thought about my options. And hers.

"Okay," I said finally, "I'll do a deal with you. You've got twenty-four hours. I'll sit on this report for now."

She looked up, her eyes suddenly alight with hope and, I have to admit, genuine affection.

"Go to him," I instructed, "Tell him the truth, all of it. Stop being coy. Your relationship with my client is in your own hands. Tell him your true gender. Explain that you have been hiding it from him, and why. It's not such a difficult story. You just wanted to find out if he loved you for who you are, not just for your body. If he really loves you, he'll understand. It's your chance to make him understand."

Part 2