by Trevor Hopkins

In the quietness of Gamshack's office, I told him everything that Nether had told me, as well as something of our background together. Throughout the briefing, Gumshoe didn't make notes of any kind; he just sat motionless, like a monolith in a white shirt, and committed it all to memory. He did this for every case. I asked him about this one time. He said that written notes were too insecure, too dangerous, that you never knew whose hands they might fall into.

When I ran out of steam, Gumshoe asked me a couple of pertinent questions, then sat silent, digesting all he had heard. Beneath that pugnacious exterior, there was a very considerable brain at work. Many people - including more than a few Goblins - had been fooled by the bulky man's apparent slowness and phlegmatic character. And, yes, he had me fooled for a while on first acquaintance, too.

"Okay," he said finally, "What do you want me to do?"

"You still have contacts in the NYPD?"

"A few, I guess," he replied uncertainly, "We're not looking at a homicide here, are we?"

"I don't think so," I replied, "If there was, there's nothing we can do. Perhaps Rosie has genuinely gone off on her own - an overdue vacation, a new lover, a family emergency - something that Nether was too drunk to remember being told about, or maybe he just couldn't be roused before she left."

Gumshoe squinted at me shrewdly.

"You don't believe any of that, do you?"

I grinned, something I rarely do in human company since it shows off a large number of my teeth.

"No, I don't," I said with conviction, "Nether made it plain Rosie loved that bar, enjoyed socialising with the regulars, being the centre of a certain amount of attention. And all her immediate family are dead. I think she's been taken."

"Newspapers, or the media?" Gumshoe asked, probing as always, "An imminent exposure of the existence of your kind?"

I snorted derisively. He had always had something of a bee in his bonnet about that particular possibility.

"If it is, then the whole matter will very shortly be taken right out of our hands. The governments - yours and mine - and the more secret of its agencies will step in, the press and TV will be directed what they can or cannot reveal. No," I went on, "There's a more private matter at stake here, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with old man Tighe and Chill's Bar."

"Money, then?"

Gumshoe can get very terse when he's under a certain amount of pressure.

"There's good money in the bar, but not a huge sum," I replied, "Not enough to do anything this overt to get your hands on."

Gamshack nodded slowly, his mind turning over the possibilities.

"So, you want me to talk to the police? See if there's been any official report of a missing person?"

I nodded in response.

"Sure, I can do that," Gumshoe answered, "Might take a day or two. I'll start this afternoon."

"Thanks," I said warmly, "And maybe you'd have a look at Chill's place yourself. It's too risky if I go; I doubt anything I could use to disguise myself as a human would stand up in a place where too many people have seen a real Goblin. Sit at the bar, talk to people. Nobody knows you there and perhaps you'll be able to shake out a lead or two."

"Top o' the mornin' to you," Gumshoe said in an Irish accent so marked that even my Goblin ears picked up on it.

"Pretty good," I observed, "But you might want to tone that down just a little."

Part 12 Part 14