by Trevor Hopkins

Madderfy left the office, trying unsuccessfully to conceal his frustration. He was followed by his head henchman, who seemed confused by the turn of events, and trailed by the two other goons whose tiredness had been suddenly swept away by shock and fear.

Luncardy took charge immediately. She directed the Sergeant and a couple of her squad to make sure that Madderfy actually left the building, then asked the remaining cops to wait outside in the corridor. Her eyes narrowing, she pressed both her hands on the desk in front of me and leaned forward over it.

"What kind of games are you playing, Gask?"

I looked directly into her eyes, looking grim.

"This is not a game," I said earnestly, "I've got somebody into trouble. And I think I need your help to get her out of trouble again."

Luncardy looked back at me warily, although I thought I could detect an expression of concern creasing the corners of her eyes.

"By 'her', I take it you mean your mysterious client?" she asked.

This was no time for beating about the bush.

"Clunie Ford," I confirmed, "She's been kidnapped."

Her eyes opened wider in surprise, perhaps even shock, then narrowed as her default state of suspicion reasserted itself.

"How to you know that?" she asked pointedly.

I recounted my interview with Drummond at the door of Clunie's apartment. I gave her the note that Drummond had left on my desk, now slightly crumpled from being in my pocket. I even showed her the slight tear in my favourite coat - in fact, my only coat - made by the point of Drummond's knife over my kidneys.

While I was telling her all this, Luncardy stood up straight and screwed one of her cigarettes into her holder, then lit it herself. She still didn't offer me one. She wandered up and down the office carpet looking distracted, obviously deep in thought. By now, she must have known pretty much everything I knew about this case. If she knew more then me, she wasn't letting on.

"Do you think Old Man Madderfy's involved with this somehow?" she said suddenly.

"Hmm. I don't think so, not directly," I said after a moment's thought, "I think he suspects that his son is deep in it - which he is - and maybe he wants to protect him, or cover up any scandal, at least. But he doesn't know what's really going on. Not a clue. He's really desperate to find out, but he's going about it in a really heavy-handed way. Calling in a favour with your boss, leaning on me - leaning on you, even."

"Wester's getting jumpy," Luncardy confirmed, waving her smoking stick around expressively, "His balls really are on the block. But there's no way he can instruct me to ignore the second murder, especially with such a botched attempt at a frame-up."

I found I could bear the thought of Captain Fowlis Wester's discomfiture without undue upset to my mental equilibrium. Serves the old bastard right.

"So where is Drummond now? And Clathy. I imagine they're still working together on this," she went on, "Where are they holding Clunie?"

"I have no idea," I said bluntly, "But I think there's a way. Argaty Dupplin, Clathy's grandmother. She's devoted to her. Grandma might have a clue, even if she doesn't know it herself."

"Good idea, Gask," Luncardy said approvingly, "Let's get round there right away."

"No," I said firmly, "Drummond wanted to keep the police out of this. He might be outside watching even now. If you leave me here, it'll look like I've persuaded you to leave alone. Then I'll go and talk to Argaty."

Luncardy glared at me over the desk, suspicion at full throttle. Then she looked away, took a last drag on her cigarette and stubbed it out with unnecessary force in the desk ashtray in front of me.

"Okay, Gask," she said, shaking her head, "We'll go with your plan. But I want to know everything she says. Everything, understand?"

I grinned up at her.

"You'll have to trust me," I said wryly.

"Huh. I'm not going to make a habit of that, believe me."

Part 77 Part 79