by Trevor Hopkins

"Sing out if you spot anything," I instructed. There was no response: both Gumshoe and Doonira were already bent forward over the glowing globe, squinting at the scene being presented.

Guided by movements of my hands, our point of view traversed the centre of the valley; with Gumshoe, Doonira and myself surrounding the floating eye, we could effectively look in every direction at once. Not that there was much to see: snow fields, pine trees with their boughs bent under the weight of snow, crags and corries outlined in cracked and splintered rock.

"What's that?" Doonira said suddenly, pointing.

I swung the point of view around as quickly as I could so that all of us could see whatever it was that she had spotted. In the shadow of an overhang in the rock face edging one high corrie, we could make out quite clearly some marks in the snow. Marks which would rapidly be obscured by any light snowfall, or even wind-blown drifts.

Just at that moment, a pick-up truck thundered past. It was the same pick-up that had driven past not half an hour ago, now travelling in the opposite direction. According to the map, there was no habitation for fifty miles in any direction. Somebody was watching us.

"Gumshoe," I said warily.

"I saw," he replied, "We should get out of here."

Doonira looked from one to the other, confusion on her face. The glamour, which had already started flickering and jerking, suddenly extinguished itself with a pop. That was another expensive magic I wouldn't see again.

"Detective's instincts," I said by way of explanation, "Best not to question it."

Any further explanation was curtailed by the headlights of a vehicle approaching, a heavy four-wheel-drive. This time, it slowed right down and turned into the parking spot, then pulled up right behind us.

"Best to hide, right now," Gumshoe said, "Under the blankets, quick."

Doonira and I scrambled into the foot-wells and pulled the heavy and, it must be said, not particularly clean blanket over us. Gumshoe pushed the front passenger seat back into place with a thump.

I could tell from the sound that it was a different pickup. It turned out to be driven by some human law enforcement officer - a Ranger or Sheriff or something. The engine died but the lights stayed on. I could hear the thump of a car door being opened and shut. We lay on the floor as quiet and still as only a Goblin can be. Gumshoe wound down the window as the policeman approached. A powerful torch swung over the blanket hiding us and the worn leather of the back seats, then back to concentrate on Gumshoe's face.

"May I see your driving licence, sir?"

"Of course, officer," Gumshoe said in his best talking-to-police-officers voice.

He pulled his licence card from its place in the sun-visor and handed it over for a close inspection in the torchlight.

"A cold night to be out and about, sir."

"On my way to Vegas," Gumshoe said casually, "Just stopped to take a look at the view."

"Going to get colder, sir," the trouper replied, returning Gumshoe's driving licence with a flourish, "I'd keep going if I were you. Wouldn't want to get stuck up here."

As the Ranger spoke, a second vehicle approached. I recognised the sound. It was the pickup we had spotted twice before. At first it sounded as if was going to stop but, the driver having spotted the police vehicle, apparently changed his mind and kept going.

"Good idea," Gumshoe replied to the policeman, "I'll get going immediately."

The officer returned to his vehicle, restarted the engine and pulled out, turning in the direction that the other pickup had come from. Gumshoe wound up the window again then turned the key in the ignition. The engine turned over without firing for a few anxious seconds, then started with a roar.

To be honest, I had hardly been paying attention to what was said. My mind was filled with a memory of the marks in the snow we had glimpsed, high up on an inaccessible ledge in a difficult to reach mountain valley. Marks that looked suspiciously like those which might be made by the claws of a large flying lizard.

Part 18 Part 20