by Trevor Hopkins

It was a short journey through the transit tubes of the Lower Realms to a familiar exit which emerged in a graffiti'd alley in New York City, close to the hidden back entrance to Chill's Bar. It was well after dark here, and I made good time through the alleyways and pack passages on the city, instinctively sticking to the shadows. Most humans would not have noticed the sound and movement of my passage.

The hidden entrance to the bar's storerooms had been installed maybe a hundred years ago when my brother Nether was a permanent resident here. The concealment glamour was of the highest quality and still functioning perfectly, unlike today's rather tacky standards in magical disguises. It probably still had another century or so of life in it yet.

I slipped through the concealed outer door and into the rather dingy storeroom, half-filled with dusty boxes of glassware stacked on grey metal shelving and a considerable array of empty beer barrels piled in one corner. Something to my surprise, I saw Gumshoe standing with his back to me by the outer door of the room, with his mobile phone firmly pressed to his ear.

I grinned to myself, then coughed loudly in a fashion intended to make my presence felt to a deaf human. You people have such pathetic excuses for ears. To my surprise, Gumshoe turned casually, unhurriedly, and waved an acknowledgement in my direction, his attention clearly focussed on whatever was being communicated by the little device in his hand. After a few moments, he took it away from his ear, scowled at it, pressed a couple of buttons, then dropped the phone into one of his inner pockets.

"Hi, Gask," Gumshoe drawled, "How's things?"

"Fine, fine," he responded wryly.

"Where's Mayfield?" I demanded. My nervousness was showing a fraction.

"She's inside. Asleep."

Gumshoe jerked a head in the direction of the invisible doorway which led to the inner sanctum, the Goblin-sized space which had been Nether's home for many decades. Gumshoe was one of the few people who knew how to open it from the outside - and the only human with that information, as far as I knew.

My tension unwound a notch or two.

"Okay."

I looked around distractedly at the nondescript room, maybe seeking inspiration. There wasn't any to be had hereabouts. But there was still something nagging at my subconscious.

"Any other news?" I added, in the absence of anything else to say.

"Some," Gumshoe said laconically, "I managed to get hold of Glen Morrison by telephone, earlier on today. It seemed he was willing to take my call, at about the tenth attempt."

"That's good news. He must be a busy man," I replied, "Did you give him my message?"

"I did. At some length, I might add."

"And?"

"I must have been very convincing," Gumshoe snorted, curling his lip disparagingly, "He's flying over here this evening. I was trying to get hold of him just now. Maybe his flight's delayed, or something."

Travel times on the surface are always a subject which makes a Goblin smirk but I chose this time to keep my mouth shut. At least the West Coast to East Coast hop wouldn't take too long.

Just at that moment, Gumshoe's mobile phone rang. He grabbed it from his pocket and answered it with a grunt. The conversation from the other end was unintelligible - even to Goblin ears - and Gumshoe's responses were monosyllabic. I waited with as much patience as I would muster - which wasn't much, so it was just as well that Gumshoe ended the call after no more than half-a-dozen exchanges.

"That was good timing," Gumshoe remarked casually, "Glen's just arrived now. I said I'd go and collect him, bring him here."

"Okay," I replied, "I want to know what you've learned about this Glen Morrison guy, but I guess it can wait until you get back."

Gumshoe nodded sagely.

"Yeah, there's a couple of things I'd like to run past you. But later, okay?"

Part 60 Part 62