by Trevor Hopkins

Or, more precisely, there was nowhere for Gumshoe and his beloved Oldsmobile to go. Goblins, especially ones experienced in the ways of the surface world like me, always have a few options up our sleeves.

The presence of a roadblock was a worrying development, even though it was entirely a human affair. I could tell this from the profusion of powerful and brightly-coloured lights. It was manned, it was becoming obvious, by an eclectic collection of agents from a variety of law enforcement forces. The blockage itself was formed from an equally esoteric assortment of vehicles, including at least one those black unmarked vehicles with obscured windows where it is best not to enquire too closely exactly what agency the unsmiling personnel actually represent.

"Get your bag," I instructed Doonira, "Time to bail out."

She nodded in quick understanding, then pulled together her pack. I stuffed the folded map into one of the inside pockets of my coat. I might need that again soon.

Gumshoe also knew what I was planning. There were far too many humans around for any disguise to be effective for long. And hiding in the car wasn't an option either; any serious search stood a good chance of locating one of us regardless of whatever glamour we might employ. Doonira and I had to get out of the car.

Goblins are instinctively good at hiding, and at moving quickly and silently in the darkness. In so many human myths, we are famous for it. Besides, I had in my pockets certain glamours which are particularly effective against observation by humans. I wouldn't have been surprised if Doonira also had a few useful little magics in her rucksack either.

"When I get clear, I'll wait on the other side," Gumshoe muttered, barely moving his mouth, "Park up as close as I can. Somewhere discreet. Until it gets light."

"Thanks. But if they pull you, arrest you," I said sincerely, "I'm not going to be able to help much. At least immediately."

"Don't worry about me," Gumshoe said, nodding sagely, "There's too many of them for any serious bending of the rules. My paperwork's good, up to date. So we'll be in touch. The usual methods. Okay?"

Generally, Gumshoe could look after himself. A grown man and an experienced PI to boot. I should not have to worry too much about him. But there was so much manpower deployed here, which could mean one of two things: something entirely unrelated and just a coincidence. Or, some human with some influence had taken an interest. I don’t believe in coincidences.

"Okay."

Gumshoe slowed his vehicle steadily, giving every impression he was driving extra cautiously given the weather conditions. He pulled up thirty yards short of the roadblock, tucked inelegantly into a drift at the side of the road just where a stand of trees came within ten yards of the kerb. The pickup behind us also slowed, keeping well back, and stopped when we did.

Gumshoe killed the engine. The headlights went out as the engine died. Just as the lights dimmed away to nothing, I activated a cheap invisibility glamour I had pulled from my pocket. I'd already given a second one to Doonira. We were also holding hands; all very romantic, I'm sure, but just at the moment, this was simply to avoid losing each other when we couldn't see one another.

Gumshoe got out of the car slowly, leaving the door open for just long enough for two Goblins to sneak out at his feet. He shrugged up his overcoat collar, adjusted his hat so that the wind didn't whip it away, then slammed the door closed. Keeping his hands clearly in sight - a sensible precaution in the presence of so many trigger-happy cops - he walked slowly towards the lights.

Part 20 Part 22