by Trevor Hopkins

"Murdered? How? When? By whom?" I spluttered, shocked by the sudden revelation.

"You don't really expect me to answer any of those questions, do you?" Tewel said calmly, his eyes taking in every aspect of my reaction.

I blinked. He was right, naturally. Police procedure was dead set against leaking any information to those who might be under investigation in an enquiry. Too easy to tip off a suspect. And, make no mistake, in Tewel's mind, I was a suspect. After all, apart from the servants, I may have been the last person to have seen Strowan Westwood alive. Apart from the murderer, of course.

I had something of a history with Detective Mergie Tewel. He had investigated the rather bloody murder of a shady businessman a few years ago, a murder more than tangentially associated with a case of mysterious disappearances I was engaged with. Worryingly, it was also another occasion when yours truly seemed to fit the frame for the deed. Finally, it was proven to everybody's satisfaction - especially Tewel's, who had apprehended the true villain himself - that I had nothing to do with the crime.

After the dust settled, Tewel and I had parted on good terms, not friends but more professional acquaintances; the kind fuelled by sharing a few beers in a bar or two. I had acquired a high degree of respect for his intelligence and integrity. He seemed to be able to find at least a little time for me; he was one of my few contacts in the Police department who might grant me a favour or two if I asked for it.

Since I had nothing to hide, I decided I would let the normal police procedure take its course. Tewel was somebody who would play things by the book. Even so, there was a certain degree of coolness in his attitude which was out-of-line with our professional relationship.

"I need you to make a statement," he said, taking a little black notebook from his pocket and flipping it open.

"Sure," I replied, "Anything to help."

"At the police station," he added as if he hadn’t heard my response, making a neat annotation in his book.

He glanced to one side and jerked his head in my direction. A couple of uniformed police officers detached themselves from the scenery and moved forward in that wary way that coppers everywhere adopt when they are not sure what to expect. Before the cops drew close, Tewel suddenly lunged forward and tugged on my collar to bring my ear down to the level of his mouth.

"If I find you've had anything to do with Strowan's death," he hissed, the venom in his tone at odds with the cool detachment he normally exuded, "You're a dead Goblin. Understand?"

"Hey!" I exclaimed, "I've been out of touch. Been on the surface all day. Besides, Lady Strowan was my client. She asked me to investigate a theft."

Tewel stared at me for a long moment, looking as if he had seen a ghost. Something must have been eating him, something powerfully strong, for a Goblin like that to have acted so unprofessionally.

"All right," he said finally, a semblance of calm settling over him again. He turned to the two uniformed types who were waiting just out of arms reach.

"Escort Mister Gask downtown. I'll be along to ask him a few questions myself shortly."

Part 20 Part 22