by Trevor Hopkins

Madderfy senior soon regrouped and engaged a full-scale ass-covering operation to protect his own position. His tactical objective, I would hear soon enough on the grapevine, was to keep Creagan out of prison and his name out of the newspapers, and he pulled strings in high places - and less exalted ones, too - in order to prevent Madderfy junior from being charged with any offence. One of the strings he pulled had me attached to the other end.

Madderfy called in person at my office, just him: no goons. I looked pointedly at the door, as if I expected a black-garbed Goblin to appear at any moment. After a few moments, I waved him to one of the guest chairs on the far side of my desk, then looked at him expectantly.

Old Man Madderfy started with an apology. It was a good one, really good: very sincere, very heartfelt. It went on for quite a long time, and hardly sounded rehearsed at all. He had clearly heard of that well-known adage: "Always sound sincere, whether or not you really mean it."

I brushed aside his apology with my characteristic understated modesty - I'm not yet perfect, you understand - and asked whether there was something I could help him with at this time.

His gambit was to ask me whether it was right that his son be prosecuted, whether it was just for him to face the full might of the law, or whether that course of action might be considered unreasonable, especially to one such as me, so intimately connected with the case. Finally, he offered me a cigar from his own case, which contained an array of very fine hand-rolled Havanas of a kind very difficult to get down here.

I accepted his gift with alacrity and a faint knowing smile. The expression that lit up the Old Man's face was a joy to behold. He knew only too well that, in accepting the gift, I had also accepted his proposition. He further understood that my vestigial senses of pride and ethics would prevent me from accepting any substantive payment for this favour, that offering any kind of serious bribe would be counter-productive at this time.

I used my own pocket-knife to trim and prime the fine cigar, then accepted a light from Old Man Madderfy's own hand, which held an expensive-looking chunk of chromed metal which flamed instantly at the touch of a concealed button. While I smoked, I explained that, of course, what happened to Creagan was not up to me and the authorities would undoubtedly make their own decisions on the matter. Nevertheless, I promised that I would speak in confidence with the police and, if the opportunity arose, with the District Attorney himself, and express the view that Creagan's actions were surely entirely justified in the light of subsequent events.

All in all, good value for the price of a single Cuban cigar.

To be honest, I did not really want to see Creagan prosecuted. Neither he nor his father were really trying to do anything other than protect their family. Madderfy Junior's sole crime was to attempt to buy stolen property from that unmitigated scoundrel Garrick. The Professor had undoubtedly sold out to the highest bidder, and Old Man Madderfy's pockets were undoubtedly much deeper than either Clunie's or Clathy's, or even Alva's.

Creagan was just the agent, making the nerve-wracking journey to Garrick's surface hideout at the prompting of his father. It was clear that he had become partially unhinged by the experience, which was why her had become practically catatonic when I burst in, waving my gun around.

Admittedly, Merton Vale's will and the other papers might not have ended up in the hands of Judge Kirkton if the Madderfys had been successful. Even so, it was me who stole these legal documents at gun-point, after breaking an entering a private property. If Creagan could be prosecuted for wrong-doing, well then so could I.

Part 99 Part 101