by Trevor Hopkins

There was a crash from behind me, the door flew open and a female Goblin stormed into the room.

"Alva!" Clunie screamed, clapping her hands to her face.

That was the name I had expected, although the sudden arrival of the female herself was as much a surprise to me as it apparently was to Clunie.

Alva waved a gun around, not wildly but steadily, with complete control, as if she knew exactly what she was doing. It was a delicate little thing, all smooth curves and chromium plate; the sort of thing that a lady could easily conceal in a handbag for self-protection, but deadly enough for all that.

She was dressed in the dark and nondescript outer clothing that she had donned when I followed her to the Starfield Club, on that recent occasion which now seemed like several hundred million years ago. She kicked the door behind her closed, at some risk to the elegant and expensive high-heeled shoes she wore. She didn't take her eyes of us for a second.

"Hands up, both of you," she instructed in a calm clear voice, as if she was merely demanding a second cocktail from a servant.

I raised my hands slowly. There was no point in antagonising the desperate in situations like this. Clunie sat frozen, wide-eyed, her hands still pressed to her cheeks.

"And you too, slut," she added, with more than a touch of venom in her voice.

I nodded at Clunie, who lifted her hands cautiously. Miraculously, the towel stayed in place.

"Gask," she sneered, pointing the muzzle unequivocally in my direction, "I'm sure a gumshoe like will carry a gun. Pull it out - slowly - and toss it over here."

I dropped my weapon, heavy and slightly oily, on the floor. Alva looked at it disdainfully. The gun oil had already left a stain on Clunie's carpet. Without taking her eyes off me for a second, she kicked my gun into corner of the room behind her.

"What do you want?" Clunie asked with a tremor in her voice.

"Huh," Alva said, "You really are as dumb as you look. You couldn't just content yourself with playing with my husband, could you? You had to get involved, get him to sign away what's rightfully mine."

"What do you mean?" Clunie squeaked indignantly.

"Who do you think arranged to have photos of you and him taken?" Alva sneered.

Clunie's eyes rounded even more. She looked completely shocked, outraged at the suggestion. I guessed Alva needed to get her hands on the accounts, and the easiest way was to get one of her friends at the Starfield Club to accidentally capture a few images from the back storeroom with which to blackmail her husband.

"And then you had to keep this snoop involved," she added, waving the shiny pistol at me, "It was bad enough when Merton blabbed. I didn't think you'd keep him on. You should've taken your pretty baubles and left well alone. So now you both know far too much."

It was time to make a move, before Alva did something rash. I stood up suddenly and rounded on her, trying to make it obvious that I was heroically placing myself between her and Clunie, and, more importantly and less obviously, between her and my own gun, the one I had carefully made immune to my own glamour.

Part 93 Part 95