by Trevor Hopkins

I told Trinity that I had no immediate idea how I would go about tracking down the missing Professor Garrick, although in truth I did have a few initial thoughts. She seemed to accept this; I suspect she has always underestimated my intelligence and imagination. Or maybe she just didn't believe anything I said.

We had little more to say to one another. I paid David for the meal using money from the advance that my sister had presented me with only a little earlier, then parted from Trinity at the door of the restaurant. She set off down the street at a brisk march, not once looking back at her elder brother. Job done, her stance said, on to the next task.

Shaking my head, I made my way back to my apartment. There, I found my cigarette packet and lit up. Then I called my answering service, one of the very few which will take messages in the major human languages - Mandarin, Spanish, English - as well as most of the variants of the Goblin tongue. The efficient-sounding voice at the other end told me I had two messages. One was from Gamshack, summarising his visit to Chill's Bar and promising a full report when he saw me. The other was from Nether, insisting that I call him as soon as possible; he left a telephone number with a New York area code. It was timed less than an hour ago. It must have arrived while I was dining with Trinity.

I picked up the phone receiver and dialled a telephone number. Not the number Nether had left; this was one I knew from memory. It was another agency I used occasionally: for a fee, they would connect your home or office phone to a number in the surface world. A voice answered on the second ring and I gave them the number that Nether had left. I don't use this service very often - which is just as well, since it is very expensive - but it is extremely convenient if you really need to speak to a human in a hurry.

There were a series of clicks, whirrs and other obscure noises on the line, then the ring tone started again.

"Chill's Bar," a gruff voice said.

A surprisingly large number of Goblins are fluent in one or more of the myriad of languages in use on the surface. All human languages are simple and unstructured compared with the elegant complexities and nuances of expression of the Goblin tongue, a language which has been in use since humans were still grunting at each other in caves. Even so, to the educated ear, there are tell-tale signs: a certain guttural quality, various tones which would be near-subsonic for the human listener, which mark out a Goblin speaking a human tongue.

"Hello, Nether," I said, "You wanted me to call."

"Rosie's back," he said without preamble.

"Glad to hear it. Is she okay?"

There was a pause.

"More or less," Nether replied eventually, the uncertainly plainly audible in his voice.

"What happened?"

Nether was clearly a little distraught and his narrative was disjointed and repetitive. In summary, then, it seemed that Rosie had just turned up, wandering the streets, feeling dazed and confused, and with no memory of where she has been or even that she has been away.

I didn't say so at the time, but she was probably suffering the characteristic effects of certain memory-modifying glamours, magics which are not widely available - even from the more disreputable vendors - but which are sometimes used by several Lower Realms enforcement agencies to remove human memories of an encounter with Goblins.

Rosie had been discovered by the New York police and taken to hospital. By the time that Nether had been in touch - by telephone, appearing in person would be far too much of a risk - she did not appear to be seriously ill, and indeed she had aready been discharged and sent home to bed. He was still worried, but not as worried as when she was missing. But her mental state suggested that she had encountered something or somebody who had very close connections with the authorities in the Lower Realms.

My brother's monologue finally ground to a halt.

"Okay, Nether," I said gently, "There's nothing either of us can do now. You go to bed. I'll come and see you both in the morning, when Rosie's had a good night’s sleep. Let me talk to her, see if she can remember anything."

"Okay," Nether assented, with something like relief sounding in his voice, "See you tomorrow." He hung up.

I sat in my best chair for a long while, musing. It looked like I was going to be busy for a few days, or weeks. Two cases to deal with, each with their own variation on demanding clients, clients who wouldn't consider moderating their demands just because they happened to be relatives.

I went to bed. Guess I was going to need the sleep.

Part 23 Part 25