by Trevor Hopkins

Tibbermore might have sneered at the word but his instincts were worth respecting. Especially in retrospect. I needed to read the manuscript much more closely. But there were some things I had to do first. Several things.

My immediate instinct was to return to the surface, to the hideaway at the back of Chill's Bar. I still had an overriding duty to protect my one remaining client. But I had not left Mayfield alone up there. As part of my preparations for the little trick which had flushed out Cairnie - even if it had not allowed me to lay my hands on him - I had persuaded Gumshoe to provide his services. He hadn't been hard to persuade.

After carrying out the other tasks I had set him, the human detective had turned up in the bar storeroom which contains the entrance to the hidden space. He said a few words in the Goblin tongue to reassure Mayfield - I think she was impressed and she was certainly charming in response - then produced from under his coat an impressive arsenal of weapons, ammunition and devices, as if I hadn't stashed enough of this kind of thing in the place already.

Besides, the bar had other advantages which would make things more difficult for any attacker. For a start, there would be many people around who would not necessarily be completely phased by the sudden appearance of a short creature with fangs and claws - another legacy of my brother Nether's sojourn there over the last century or so - and the bar's owner - Rosie o'Chill, Gumshoe's close friend - was somewhat familiar with the Lower Realms and its denizens.

I lifted the telephone receiver from its rest and dialled a familiar number. This was a service I subscribed to, one which provided an untraceable - according to the unsubtle advertising - connection to the telephony networks in the surface world. The number rang, then stopped; there were several mysterious clicks, a long silent pause and then a second ring tone. I dialled another number from memory; the phone inside the hidden apartment began to ring.

"Yes?" It was Gumshoe's voice.

"Gamshack, old son," I said with coded bonhomie, "How're you doin'?"

"Gask, you rascal," came the reply, "All the better for hearing from you. How's your business? You had any success?"

"Some," I said, dropping the hearty manner, "Tell you about that later. Is everything okay?"

"Quiet as the grave," he replied, "Mayfield's asleep. The bar's busy, but nothing unusual that I've spotted."

"There's some things I need to do. Can you handle things for a while longer?"

"Sure, I can hold the fort here," he said, "No problem."

"I'll be up later this evening. Call me if you need anything."

"Sure thing."

I rang off. It seemed I had time to address the next two things on my to-do list: I was starving and I was burning up with curiosity about the contents of the chapter I had received in the mail. I reckoned I could kill two birds with one stone here.

Goblins can eat human food, if we have to, but generally we find it insipid in taste and pappy in texture. We like to chew on things properly, rather than gobble it down. I did have a stock of preserved and long-life foodstuffs in the hideout - and there were ways of getting proper grub on the surface - but I did have a strong desire for a proper home-cooked meal, right now. Something hearty to keep body and soul together.

Part 56 Part 58