by Trevor Hopkins

Luncardy was understandably anxious to return to the Lower Realms as soon as possible, before the harsh light of day - a light that could not be turned off at the flick of a switch - made conditions increasingly unpleasant, and before we were all at risk of interruptions from daytime human activities.

The two of us set off for the station car park, having left behind a couple of her squad that she had singled out for this particularly dubious honour. One was a senior with a pock-marked face and an irregular series of jagged notches in both ears that I hoped were the results of close shaves in a long career of policing, as opposed to some bizarre form of self-mutilation. But he looked like an experienced old boy, although I couldn't help but think that his experience was mostly engaged with taking it easy and getting away with the minimum amount of effort.

The other designated guard was a fresh-faced cadet with a crisply-pressed uniform and an eager-to-please attitude straight out of Police College. He had stood ramrod-straight as the Inspector had delivered her briefing, as if he had a steel bar down the back of his shirt. I strongly suspected that Luncardy had deliberately selected these two for this watch because they would annoy each other sufficiently to stay awake and alert while up here.

We were chauffeured back to the hidden entrance under the station by Tarsapple and Glenshee with another virtuoso display of high-speed driving that once again caused me to feel green and pasty-faced from motion sickness, and even the iron-clad Luncardy suffered a few white-knuckled moments. Can't they just drive slowly for a change?

Once below, we separated, Luncardy shaking my hand and formally thanking me for assisting the police with their enquiries. Her mind was someplace else. She turned to follow her squad back to the precinct, while I returned home to shower and get some sleep. I tamed my queasy stomach and swirling head with a shot of whiskey, and was dreamlessly asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next thing I knew was the ringing of the phone. It was Luncardy, of course.

"Come downtown," she said brightly, the usual steel in her voice tempered by what seemed to be genuine puzzlement, "I'll buy you breakfast."

I threw on some fresh clothes and made it to the police house in twenty-five minutes. Luncardy was looking as fresh as an overnight mushroom. She had clearly had managed to find time to get home, shower and change her clothes - another sharply-cut business suit - although how much sleep she had managed to catch was open to speculation.

I was shown to Luncardy's office without delay by one junior officer. The Inspector was talking animatedly on the phone, making a report of last night's activities in a manner that suggested this was the thirty-seventh time she had communicated all these details. She waved me to a seat and held up two fingers; privately, I doubted it would take her only two minutes to finish the call.

The young copper returned a few minutes later and stuck in front of me a greasy and steaming paper bag containing, I would shortly discover, a genuine copper's breakfast. My stomach rumbled and I lost no time in investigating the contents.

Finally, Luncardy slammed down the phone with a disgusted snort and threw herself into the chair behind the desk. I looked at her expectantly, mouth full.

"We've been interviewing Clathy and Drummond all night," she said, "They've admitted killing Hosh and attempting to cover it up. Clathy's saying it was an act of self-protection; she just snapped having been assaulted by her boss once too often. Then pursuaded Drummond to help her afterwards. A cool customer, that one."

She was right. Her grandmother dead by her boyfriend's hand not ten hours before and she was already positioning herself for an insanity plea.

"What do you need from me?" I asked around a mouthful of crisply-fried meat slices. Never ask what kind of meat.

"They're protecting somebody," Luncardy said bluntly, "I'm sure of it. I need a lever, an angle."

"Follow the money," I said.

"What?"

I swallowed the last of my breakfast and leaned forward over her desk.

"Who stands to gain financially from this situation?" I asked her, "And who would have the money to pay for expensive lawyers to help a poor waitress to cop an insanity plea?"

Luncardy's eyes narrowed to a feral stare at the thought.


Part 87 Part 89