by Trevor Hopkins

I grinned back at Luncardy, both of us at severe risk of bursting into giggles like a pair of naughty schoolgirls.

"That was fun!" she exclaimed, her eyes bright.

"You might not want to make a habit of speaking like that," I said wryly, "After all, that's my job."

She nodded enthusiastically, still unable to wipe the smirk off her face.

"Come on," I said, taking her by the hand, "Time to talk to the Judge."

She looked confused for a moment, then realised I meant Kirkton. I wondered for a moment what else she could be thinking of.

*

Obtaining an interview with Judge Kirkton was a lot simpler this time. Perhaps it was just the brooding presence of a police Inspector - Luncardy had recovered her usual stern demeanour by the time we got to the Court of Probate - or maybe because some word of warning had filtered down to the reception desk. In any case, less than ten minutes elapsed between our arrival and me knocking on the stout wooden door of the Judge's chambers.

"Come."

I pushed open the door and entered, taking off my hat and followed closely by the Inspector. Judge Kirkton sat, as it seemed he always did, at the head of the vast table which served both as desk and meeting-place. There was just a single clerk visible, pottering around behind the Judge's back with a pile of heavy reference volumes in his arms. A further collection of dusty tomes was spread out in front of Kirkton, and it looked as if he had been interrupted in the middle of some intense legal study.

As the Judge recognised who it was, a ghost of a smile flitted momentarily across his face. Then he composed his features into the image of legal rectitude that he no doubt imagined was an essential part of his position. He set aside the heavy book, linked his fingers and rested his hands on the table in front of him.

"Mister Gask," he acknowledged, looking at me carefully.

He then glanced meaningfully in the direction of Luncardy. I took the hint.

"Judge, may I introduce Inspector Harriet Luncardy of the fourteenth precinct," I said formally.

"Inspector," he nodded, looking slightly surprised. Perhaps he was expecting her to be a floozy or, still worse, another PI.

Kirkton waved us both to chairs at the side of the table.

"I suspect," the Judge said levelly, "That you have something of interest to communicate. And, perhaps, there is something you would ask of me, yes?"

"There have been some developments," I replied, "In the case I'm working on. I've been able to assist the Inspector here in the safe release of a kidnap victim, and the apprehension of two Goblins who are, I understand, likely to be charged with conspiracy and murder."

Judge Kirkton said nothing, although his expression communicated his interest clearly enough. I gave him the short version, a précis of the events that led up to the arrest of Clathy and Drummond, and the release of Clunie. I left out the bit about Argaty.

"You have been busy," Kirkton said ironically, after I finished, "But what has all this got to do with me?"

I glanced at Luncardy, who once again seemed content to sit in silence and let me do the talking.

"I suspect there is yet more to be discovered," I replied, "Other parties involved, conspiring, perhaps, or at least profit from the events."

"Ah," Kirkton said, "The partnership of Vale, Madderfy and Logan, Accountants, perhaps?"

I nodded slowly. You don't get to be a Judge by being stupid.

"Besides," I added, "We still have the little mystery of who killed Mister Merton Vale."

The Judge sat in silence for a minute. Even the clerk ceased his soft padding about the office and stood quietly by the bookcase. A Goblin could certainly have heard a pin drop.

"Perhaps I should suggest a way forward," Kirkton said eventually.

I sat up and looked attentive.

"I dare say your case might be progressed by further sight of the materials in Vale's briefcase," he said, "And perhaps we should get somebody to review the partnership's accounts in some detail. This may be of some assistance to your investigations."

I sat stony-faced. This wasn't quite what I had hoped for. Kirkton ignored my reaction.

"In any case," he went on, "You do realise I will have to re-read the Last Will and Testament," he added, almost as an afterthought.

"Yes, I do, sir," I responded carefully.

"And that the Vale and Madderfy families will have to be present in this office once again?"

I grinned broadly, and even Luncardy cracked a smile. Kirkton ignored that reaction, too.


Part 90 Part 92