by Trevor Hopkins

After Busby Logan had bumbled off, I sat back at my desk and pulled out the folder of documents I had shot out of the hand of Professor Garrick. I had glanced through them a couple of times while I had been travelling, but I couldn't concentrate on them and in any case I had to keep the paperwork hidden from the prying eyes of any nearby humans. The spiky runes of the Old Language would have raised eyebrows and attracted interest from even the most dopey.

I spread the papers over the worn green dragon-hide of my desk and pulled the desk lamp closer to shine a little more light on the fine print. I picked up and carefully read every sheet of paper, front and back, sorting them into piles on the desk when I had completed each one. I built up three piles, three topics - which was at least one more than I had expected. Mister Merton Vale was a Goblin of many parts, it seemed.

When I had finished, I sat with my face in my hands for a long moment, knuckling my eye sockets in an attempt to massage my brain into something resembling order. I wasn't going to let these documents out of my sight any time soon. They were dynamite. Eating or sleeping or showering or changing my clothes - all these could all wait for a while longer. I gathered together the piles of documents and shuffled them into the folder, which I returned to the capacious inner pocket where I had concealed it earlier. It was time to make a report to my client.

*

Twenty minutes later I was at Clunie's increasingly familiar door. I knocked rapidly, then stood back slightly, still trying to shake off the degree of lassitude that stress and sleeplessness had induced. Despite the relative earliness of the hour, there was audible movement from within as soon as I knocked. Clunie opened the door a crack, then threw it wide. She rushed out as if she intended to sweep me into her arms like a child or a lover, then stopped herself at the last moment. Her breasts heaved in some apparently strong emotion I could not positively identify, or perhaps it was just the effort of running to the door.

"Findo!" she exclaimed, "Are you all right?"

"I'm OK," I muttered, barely able to raise my voice above a whisper.

Clunie took me by the elbow and guided me inside. She made me sit at a table as if I was in kindergarten with my hat on my lap. I declined whiskey - it would have knocked me flat in my current state - but I accepted a mug of a hot herbal infusion widely sold as a pick-me-up in the Lower Realms.

"I thought you would come sooner, last night," she said, sounding worried.

"I've been kinda busy," I said, the restorative potion beginning to do me some good, "But I've got some news for you."

Clunie sat opposite me and I looked at her across the small table. Between sips of the hot brew, I told her what had happened since I saw her at the Starfield Club. Sure, I glossed over some of the more violent details but, all-in-all, it was a very fair description of events. Clunie lapped it up, never taking her eyes from my face as I spoke and gasping several times during my narration.

"So who was the human?" she asked breathlessly, "And what was he doing there?"

"Rigg," I responded shortly, "Looks like an ex-military type to me. Garrick needed his help to get the papers out of my supposedly secure hidey-hole."

"So Garrick took the papers?"

"I'm sure of it. No doubt my old Professor used his specialist knowledge of magic to open the store while bypassing the glamours I had installed. It would have been child's play for him. But he couldn't have been sure that I wouldn't have notice that the locker and briefcase had been opened. So he needed Rigg."

Clunie's face was a picture of incomprehension.

"A small explosion," I explained, "Which Rigg would have been responsible for. It had the two-fold effect of concealing any evidence of tampering and ensuring that I would be hurrying to avoid detection by the upper world cops."

She thought for a moment, then asked shyly, "Can I see what was in the briefcase?"

I pulled the folder of papers from inside my coat. I rifled through them for a moment and pulled one out. "You might be interested in this document," I said, laying it on the table in front of her.

It was Merton Vale's will, featuring a more recent date than the one which had been read in the Judge's chamber. She gasped prettily and leaned forward over the table for a closer look, running her finger over the lines of dense runes like a child.

"I have to take these documents to Judge Kirkton," I said, removing the document from under her hand.

"Why?" Clunie pouted.

"Because they're not mine, and they're not yours either," I explained gently, "Vale clearly expected them to be presented to the Court of Probate in the event of his death."

She looked sulky for a moment, then her face cleared with a look like the moon rising.

"You must be out of pocket by now," she said, moving closer to me again, "and I still want you to find out what really happened to poor Merton."

She pulled another fifty dollar bill from between her breasts and presented it to me. Perhaps she was manufacturing them down there. Or, more likely, she was getting them to breed.


Part 59 Part 61