by Trevor Hopkins

By the time we got there, the reinforcements called for by Luncardy's Sergeant had already arrived and had positioned themselves at a discreet distance from the front door of the Starfield Club. The cops weren't trying to make themselves inconspicuous and the club doormen must have noticed something untoward. As I watched, the two rotund bouncers conferred, looking uneasy and glancing at the massing force, then one went inside, presumably to ask for instructions.

Luncardy herself did not delay. She split her team in two. Half of the group she sent, under the charge of the Sergeant, to stake out the not-at-all secret rear entrances where waiting staff and performers arrived, beer and bottles were delivered, and drunks and malcontents evicted. The remaining section, which she led herself, peeled away down the familiar alleyway on the other side of the building. I tagged along, keeping close to the Inspector's side.

The signal to move in was given by two sharp blasts on an official police whistle - the damp rock walls and buildings make radios useless down here. Thuds and crashes from battering rams being applied to the service entrance doors started even before Luncardy and I had reached the point marked by several overflowing refuse bins where, if my memory was correct, a small doorway was concealed.

The Inspector drew a small box from her pocket. A quick glance showed that it was a reveal-all spell, a glamour which was only legally available to the police - although I was pretty certain I could get my hands on one if I really put my mind to it. She held up the little package and spoke the inaudible words - no showy hand gestures seemed to be required - which activated the magic.

This time, there was none of the gentle transition between states or rippling water effects I had seen earlier. Instead, the concealment simply clicked off like a switch for the kind of electric light popular in the surface world. I guess the official magic must be particularly puissant. Or maybe just no time for cute effects in the service of the state.

The same small wooden door was now clearly visible. Luncardy jerked her head and four officers stepped forward with a heavy battering ram. Frankly I doubted whether the flimsy-looking door would require much more than a good kicking to get it open. In any case, one decent swing of the ram and the door flew open. Luncardy herself was first inside, closely followed by the members of her squad who were not encumbered with the ram and with me making up a close fourth in the pack.

Inside was all chaos and confusion. There was no attempt at resistance, which would have been futile anyway. The band stopped with a screech as the cops entered the main auditorium, which made the audience swivel their necks to see what was going on. A hush fell for a few seconds, where the only sound was the clearly-audible clatter of a ball in the roulette wheel, before a hubbub of disconcertion and outrage swelled up on all sides.

Luncardy's squad were evidently experienced in undertaking raids on nightclubs, while the bouncers milled about in a confused fashion, leaderless and unused to making their own decisions. In just a few minutes, the cops had rounded up all of the waiting staff and casino croupiers, the enforcers and security staff, and the musicians and performers. Most of the junior staff were subjected to a short interview, then released, while those remaining in positions of responsibility were detained for more formal questioning.

The punters were politely directed to go home, or at least leave quietly. There was no suggestion that the guests were doing anything illegal, Luncardy quietly made it clear, and the current raid was the result of a long-running police investigation. This was not quite true, of course, but it calmed the situation rapidly, so that the clientele soon left in twos and threes, muttering and gossiping to each other. The cops even turned a blind eye on at least two individuals dealing in drugs of some kind, and the working girls were treated exactly the same as any other customer. I guessed that trade at the Starfield Club would be slow for days afterwards.

It soon became apparent that nobody knew where Hosh or Drummond could be found - nobody was letting on that the former was by now chilling at the morgue, of course - and none of the other waitresses could tell Luncardy where Clathy was. Several of the girls said that she had been around only a few minutes ago, but exactly how long was usually unclear and always inconsistent.

On a whim, I asked first one and then another of the girls about the whereabouts of Clunie. Nobody seemed to know, which was a little bit worrying, although she might just have gone home early. I checked out the little storeroom where Clunie - and who knew how many others? - had carried out her romantic little trysts. It was empty, the candles and bedding undisturbed and looked as if it had not been used since I had last been in there.

By the time I caught up with Luncardy again, she was holding interviews in Monzie Hosh's office. Hosh's office looked exactly as it was when I glanced in there on my previous visit: preternaturally unsoiled and neat, almost as if it had recently undergone a careful and thorough cleaning.

When I arrived, Luncardy was grilling one of the more senior waiters. From the look of frustration on her face, I got the impression that she was learning nothing useful.

"Can I ask a question?" I said to Luncardy.

She looked at me askance, then nodded brusquely. I smiled at the aged figure, who looked as if her had been lifting trays for at least two hundred years.

"Is there anything missing?"

The old boy looked around carefully, taking his time.

"No, everything seems to be in its accustomed place," he replied eventually.

"OK." I said, "Thanks."

I wasn't sure what I was asking for, anyway. Just a hunch. They don't always work out.

Luncardy jerked her head in the direction of the exit. The waiter moved to go without a word. Just as he was leaving the office, he turned and said: "Good to see the redecorations have finished at last."

Luncardy narrowed her eyes.

"What do you mean?"

"Hosh's had the walls and ceiling repainted," he said, looking confused, "The furniture and carpet's been under plastic covers and dustsheets for days."

That would explain the cleanliness of Hosh's office - no bloodstains. The winding-sheets that wrapped his body had been formed from painter's rags.

Part 68 Part 70