by Trevor Hopkins

"His name is Professor Urquhart Garrick," Trinity said.

I sat up straight in my chair, dropping my - fortunately, not yet lighted - cigarette on the carpet.

"Garrick," I spluttered, "How in the Hells did you get mixed up with that old reprobate?"

Trinity looked amused at my discomfiture.

"You know of him, then?" she asked snidely, then added as if an elusive memory were returning to the forefront of her mind, "Oh yes, you did know him, didn't you, at that stuck-up University of yours."

Trinity never went to a University, never gave any sign of having wanted to go to a College of any kind. But it still rankled with her that I was able to attend a moderately prestigious institution - as did Nether - funded almost entirely by our parents. Not that it had got me very far, in any case: I started a moderately good degree in an esoteric subject that would have made me practically unemployable, hence my segue into a course on Law Enforcement and thence to police work.

I leant over to recover my errant cigarette from under the chair, put it in my mouth and lit it. Unusually in the Lower Realms, Trinity didn't smoke - some misguided notion that it was bad for the health, I suppose - and I knew she disliked the pungent aroma. I blew smoke not quite in her direction. She coughed pointedly and fanned a hand in front of her face.

"Look, I had a run-in with Garrick a year or two back," I said, recovering some of my composure, "People got hurt, even killed."

"Yeah, I heard that," she sneered, "That's why I thought you'd want to find him for me."

"Maybe. Why do you want to find him?"

"He owes me money," she said, "A lot of money."

"For your professional services?" I enquired, genuinely puzzled, "I thought you'd charge in advance for those?"

"I do," she agreed, "Mostly. But we were conducting a a little business on the side. You don't need to know about that."

"Uh-huh," I responded noncommittally, nodding as if the matter was of no moment.

When somebody says "you don't need to know" to me, it's usually the case that it's vitally important that I know. And there's a good chance they say that just because it’s illegal, or immoral, or maybe just embarrassing. I didn't worry. I'd find out about it eventually. I always do, even if I have to prise it out of somebody with heavy equipment.

I took another puff from my cigarette and leaned forward to knock ash into the ashtray, which was the only thing on the low and slightly dusty coffee table which separated Trinity and myself.

"Garrick's a slippery customer," I went on, settling back in my chair, "Good at hiding. Better than most at disappearing."

"Don't I know it," she said, then added, "Look, you just find Garrick for me. I imagine your rates haven't changed? No. And I suppose there's no point in asking for a family discount. Didn't think so."

Trinity unzipped an outer pocket in her glossy black cat-suit, one over her left breast, and reached inside delicately with two fingers. She drew out a couple of folded bills and tossed them on the table nonchalantly.

"An advance," she explained sarcastically, "Against your ruinous daily rate and no-doubt enormous expenses."

I let that one slide, and looked instead at the money on the table. Two C-notes, two hundred dollars. A very modest fortune. Everybody seemed to be throwing folding currency in my direction at the moment. Still, I did have bills to pay.

"Okay," I said slowly, "You've hired yourself a private dick."

"Huh," Trinity replied disdainfully, "I don't need any more dicks in my life."

Part 20 Part 22