by Trevor Hopkins

With Gumshoe supporting Rosie by the arm and me hopping along behind, trying to remember how to walk like a human, we made the few blocks to his automobile. I slid into the back, tugging Rosie in behind me; Gumshoe folded his bulk in the front seat, turned the key in the ignition and, after an anxious moment listening to grinding pistons and rattling crankshafts, the vast engine rumbled to life.

Gumshoe drove through the night, two - maybe three - hours on the highway. I don't know how he managed to stay awake. There was little traffic on the road - perhaps that was a good thing. We didn't hit anything, anyway. Rosie collapsed in the back seat and snored with her head against the window for the entire trip. The sleep would do her good, I thought. I myself catnapped, jerking awake a time or two when the movement of the car made a more than averagely violent wrench. We barely spoke, mainly because I didn't want to risk distracting him from his driving.

Years before, Gumshoe had inherited a rambling clapboard house set in many acres of woodland, now entirely untended, more a jungle than a plantation. The exact circumstances under which he has come by the old place were unclear to me, although I knew he had spend some summers of his childhood there, a mere thirty or forty years ago. It was apparently a bequest from a maiden aunt, after some detective service he had performed for her very early in his career. The full story, I thought, would probably keep for another day.

At one time, I understood, the house was a grand country residence maintained by a small army of servants and marking the centre of the social scene for miles around. Most of the property was now tumbledown and uninhabitable. Gumshoe had neither the money nor the inclination to restore the place to its former glory. But one part he did maintain: one of the outbuildings, a small apartment over the garages once occupied by the chauffeur.

The apartment had just two rooms, a kitchen-diner and a single bedroom. I knew that Gumshoe spent a few days there every now and again, resting between professional assignments and applying a few coats of paint to the timbers in between walks down to the lake that lay at the foot of the old gardens. I had visited just once before, Gumshoe taking it into his head that somewhere away from most humans would be more relaxing for a Goblin. It was okay, although I had to work on my tolerance for an open sky over my head rather than the solid protection of rock ceilings. But that did mean that I am now more comfortable in the surface world, even in daylight, than almost any Goblin I know.

He turned the car into the weed-strewn and overgrown track - once a grand entrance driveway but now reduced to a simple gap in the hedges - that led to the old house, and took the right at the fork that led to the garages. We stopped with a crunch of weed-strewn gravel outside the closed doors of the three-car garage and tumbled out, anxious to stretch our legs after being cooped up in the vehicle for so long.

I followed them, Rosie being supported in a gentlemanly fashion by the private investigator, up the creaking wooden steps that led to the upper floor. He turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door. I tailed him inside, looking cautiously around at the tiny living space. He flicked the light switch instinctively - nothing happened, the power must have been turned off - then blinked in the gloom.

My brother Nether was sitting calmly on the davenport. I guess I shouldn't really have been in the least bit surprised.

Part 79 Part 81