by Trevor Hopkins

I put the money in one pocket and the folder of documents in another, and stood up, jamming my hat back on my head. The infusion had restored some sense of energy to my body and intelligence to my brain, but I was sure it couldn't last long. I felt light-headed, almost entirely detached from reality. I needed a proper rest, and very soon.

"What are you going to do now?" Clunie asked, her soft voice husky and concerned.

"I'm going to Judge Kirkton, of course," I explained, "He'll be interested in this lot" - I patted the thick wad of paper inside my coat - "and I'll let you know what his reaction to them is. As soon as I get there."

Clunie sighed, a lost and forlorn sound in the tiny apartment.

"I guess you gotta do that," she said sadly, "And I suppose there's nothing I can do to stop you."

"No choice, doll," I replied, just a shade too jauntily and adjusting my hat to a more rakish angle, "Just leave it to good old Findo Gask."

I turned to leave.

"Be seeing you," I said around the closing door.


It was mid-morning by the time I staggered through the door of my own apartment. I was barely awake and entirely sub-sentient, the stimulating effect of the infusion having worn off before I left the last of the transit tubes. It took all of my remaining concentration to set my alarm clock - a classic timepiece with two shiny brass bells on the top - for two hours hence.

I knew nothing more. Somehow my sleep was filled with images of blast-blackened steel and glamour-riddled leather, of duplicitous Goblins in evening suits and mysterious humans in jeans. Faces seemed to blur one into another, suit coats turned to short skirts, name-tags and jewellery swirling and changing before my unshaded eyes.

I awoke with a ringing in my head. I turned over, my body suddenly aching from the exertions of the previous evening, and indeed those of the rest of the night. The ringing in my head turned out to be the ringing of my clock, the brass bells clamouring furiously until I managed to find the toggle to shut off the alarm. For the second time in two days I had awoken, face-down and fully-dressed on my own bed. I was making a habit of it. At least this time my head didn't ache so much.

I was ravenously hungry - a condition even more disabling for a Goblin than it is for most humans - but I felt I had to make some token gesture towards personal hygiene before I ventured out in search of sustenance. Twenty minutes later, showered and changed, I was hurrying down the street towards my favourite diner. David the avuncular patron was, as always, on hand to greet me and to guide me to a seat. I ordered food; to this day I have no idea exactly what I ordered, although it arrived with the minimum of delay.

I lost no time in shovelling a portion of the heaped plate of comestibles into my face. Unusually, David hung around nearby, looking perplexed or perhaps just concerned. He waited until I had managed to get a dozen mouthfuls inside me, then he approached.

"Gask, old boy, what's up?" he asked earnestly, "You look terrible. I haven't seen you looking this worn out in ages."

I drew a breath, tempted to reply along the lines of "Can't talk, eating." Instead, I decided to confide - at least partially - in the patron. I paused between mouthfuls and sketched something of my current case - names and personal details all carefully suppressed, of course - and some fairly disjointed thoughts on the motivations of the main protagonists.

"What about the ladies?" David asked suddenly.

"What do you mean?"

He shrugged his shoulders - always an expressive gesture on a Goblin.

"Well, in my experience, the female of the species is at least as devious and ambitious as the male," he said slowly, "And you didn't comment at all on what they wanted."

I shook my head slowly. David wandered off, leaving me to finish the rest of my breakfast at a slightly more leisurely pace. But he had definitely set me thinking.

Part 60 Part 62