by Trevor Hopkins

I sat for a long while at the table in David's diner, nursing my coffee and musing on what Nether had said - and what he had not said. As I sat, the Patron himself again bustled over and swept away the plates and the bills Nether had so casually deposited. I ignored him, other than a barely acceptable minimal nod.

Eventually, I gave up conjecturing what Nether's hidden agenda might be and applied myself to the more tractable problem of what I profitably should do today. Returning to my bed to catch up with a few hours sleep had its attractions, but some hitherto unsuspected streak of professionalism prompted me to go to the office. This kind of behaviour is something I try to keep hidden, but it surfaces in times of stress and usually gets me into all sorts of trouble. In this case, I was glad - eventually, anyway - that I succumbed to the temptation.

I drained the last of my coffee, stood up, adjusted my hat to an angle which simultaneously shaded my eyes and communicated the necessary level of surly standoffishness for street credibility, and made my way onto the pavement. The few passers-by ignored me; there was nobody obviously giving me any attention at all. I could have been invisible. Of course, if there had been anybody watching me, anyone professional watching me, I would probably never have known about it.

The trip to the quiet block where I retain a small office took only ten minutes or so - I remain amazed how so many humans in the surface world tolerate journey times measured in hours or even days. I stopped only briefly to buy another bottle of cheap scotch to replace the one my dear brother had nearly finished and then made off with. I trudged up the stairs to the scruffy landing, already aware of a faint smell - a scent I recognised - emanating from the open semi-glazed door which had once had "Findo Gask - Private Investigations" painted on the glass. You could still read it if you looked closely.

I never bother to lock my office door; the landlord's door and locks are rubbish quality anyway, so it just saves on repairs. The furniture and fittings are thrift-store at best, my files and notes are both cryptic and barely-legible, and anything either valuable or irreplaceable is stored somewhere else - several somewhere elses, in fact.

Trinity was waiting for me. She had correctly identified the least disreputable of my guest chairs and was sitting with every evidence of patience: most unlike her, really. Perhaps she really hadn't been waiting very long; after all, it was still early - at least by my standards - and I had not been detained all that long by breakfast with Nether.

"Findo," she said sardonically as I entered, "Nearly keeping office hours these days?"

"Usually," I agreed amicably, "Delayed by a breakfast meeting with our dear brother."

That wiped the faint smirk from her face. She scowled at me suspiciously.

"What did he want?"

I grinned at her, then swung around my side of the desk and slotted myself into the squeaky swivel chair.

"He wanted to give me some words of advice," I replied.

"Care to tell me what they were?"


"Do you intend to follow his advice?"

"Not sure yet. Maybe."

Trinity huffed in exasperation then, perhaps realising she wasn't going to get anywhere with this particular line of questioning, promptly changed the subject. She drew out a folded newspaper which had been wedged between the shiny black leather that covered her thigh and the tatty leather that covered the arm of the chair, and flung it on the desk in front of me. She tapped urgently at a few column-inches.

I picked it up. It was the very same newspaper and the same report that Nether had brought to my attention no more than an hour ago. I did my best to hide that fact from Trinity, trying instead to give the impression of reading it closely, pursing my lips as I did so. Finally I tossed the paper back on the desk with a shrug.

"Pretty run-of-the-mill journalism, don't you think?"

"I'm not interested in a critique of the writing, you jackass," Trinity said, "It's a report of the raid on the warehouse yesterday."

"I guessed that," I agreed, "Just one of those risks you take when you run a black-market operation, I expect."

"But it wasn't supposed to be an illegal operation!" Trinity exploded, "I was set up."

Part 48 Part 50