by Trevor Hopkins

"Why'd'ya call the cops?" the voice behind me growled, "I thought you were smarter than that."

I recognised the voice, the hulking presence behind me. It was Drummond, of course.

"You dumped a body in my rooms," I explained in a reasonable tone of voice, "A dead mobster. I've got a professional reputation - and a PI licence - to maintain. Besides, why wouldn't I call the cops?"

There was an exasperated sigh in my left ear.

"Jeez, don't you ever pick up your messages?" he muttered, "Half a dozen calls to your answering service. I even left a note on your desk."

I started to turn, a barely perceptible movement to try and get the drop on him. But he was too smart for that. The sharp pricking over my kidneys increased.

"Don't try it, Bud," he warned, a nasty tone creeping into the edges of his voice, "I've killed more Goblins with this pig-sticker than you've had hot dinners."

Given the number of meals I've been missing over the last few days, this was quite possibly true.

"Look, I'm a busy guy. Things to do, places to go," I said, laying on the reasonableness thickly, "Besides, that stakeout at my office certainly put me off going there."

There was a frozen moment of silence. I got the distinct impression that this was news to him.

"Yeah, well," he said eventually, sounding sheepish, "I don't count that as an excuse."

"So what's this message you're so fired up to deliver, then?"

"We've got Clunie," he said bluntly.

I stiffened.

"So listen, and listen good," he went on, the menace in his tone returning full-force, "Things at the Starfield Club don't concern you. So, if you want to see Miss Clunie Ford alive, butt out. And get the cops off the case, too."

"But ..." I began.

The knife at my waist jerked.

"No buts. No excuses. Get the message to that lady cop friend of yours."

"Luncardy? She's not a friend."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just get the message to her, right? Leave the Starfield Club alone, or you'll end up getting your client back in pieces."

"The cops won't take kindly to that kind of message," I said, more than a tinge of real worry in my voice, "They won't listen to me. No chance."

There was another sharp jab in my back.

"Look, Mister Professional Private Dick, it's your job to persuade 'em. Get them to lay off, soon, or the lady gets it."

Part 72 Part 74