by Trevor Hopkins

There was a business-like knock on the door. The Judge looked up sharply, then nodded to his clerk, who put down the pile of books he was about to re-shelve, padded silently around the table and opened the door. A uniformed copper stood outside, looking more than slightly nervous.

"Ex-excuse me, your Lordship," he stuttered, "I have a message for Inspector Luncardy. I'm afraid it's urgent."

The Judge looked quizzical for a moment, then laughed shortly, mirthlessly.

"Ha," he said, "A policeman's work is never done, I suppose. Well, I imagine we are just about done here, for the time being."

The Inspector and I stood up and made to leave.

"However," the Judge continued, looking sharply at me, "I will require your presence at the true reading of the will. You must be there."

"I understand," I replied, tugging my hat down over my eyes.

I followed Luncardy and her messenger out of the office. As the door closed, the Inspector spun around and glared at the junior office.

"So what's so important that warrants dragging me out of a discussion with a Judge?" she snarled.

She looked as if she was about to bite the messenger, if not shoot him. The youngster took a step backwards, collided with the stone wall of the corridor, then glanced nervously left and right as if trying to figure out an escape route.

"It's, it's, it's..." he mumbled. Fear had amplified his stutter to the point of paralysis. He took a deep breath and tried again.

"P-P-Professor Garrick's place," he managed, "It's been ransacked."

Luncardy and I looked at each other, both mouths open in surprise.

"I'd better get there right away," she gasped, sprinting down the corridor towards the stairwell.

"I'm still in," I shouted after her, "I'm coming along for the ride."

Coat flapping, I followed her along the echoing corridor.

*

By the time that Luncardy and I arrived back at the farmhouse, a large team of cops were already crawling all over the place. Garrick's establishment had been entirely cleaned out, stripped of everything useful or valuable, with just a few broken retorts and torn pieces of paper to show where the laboratories and library had been.

The Goblin police who had assigned to guard the place had been knocked out, although both swore on oath that they had seen nothing and that nothing had touched them. Of course there are plenty of magical means of rendering somebody unconscious and I didn't doubt that Garrick had plenty of tricks up his sleeve. It was probably easier for him than knocking them out with the classic blunt instrument, or getting his human henchman Rigg to do it for him.

The Professor must have returned almost as soon as we had left. He had used a third secret entrance, one I had not found, one concealed using Goblin magic in the stone walls of Garrick's bedchamber. I poked about in a desultory way for a few minutes, but there was nothing else to be seen that appeared in the least bit helpful. I mentally kicked myself for not spotting the hidden entrance, or at least deploying one of those charms that indicate the presence of concealment glamours. The other entrances had been easy to find - too easy. Garrick must have been relying on our lack of thoroughness.

"We're wasting time here," Luncardy said sullenly.

I shared her view that an important lead had got away from us. Garrick had almost certainly gone to ground somewhere or, more likely, was actually above ground, having used his human friends to transport his goods and chattels in some anonymous white panel van. We probably weren't going to be able to track him down very quickly; he was too clever for that.

But I doubted I had heard the last of Professor Urquhart Garrick.


Part 91 Part 93