by Trevor Hopkins

Luncardy and I had thoroughly wasted our time travelling to Garrick's place. It was already late in the afternoon by the time we had returned to the Lower Realms. The Inspector had been morose on the trip back, immediately getting tetchy when I tried to engage her in small talk and positively snarled when I suggested that she should have something to eat. It was time to separate, I thought.

In any case, it was high time to report to my client. I guessed - correctly, as it turned out, my hunches are often pretty good - that Clunie would by now have been taken home from the police station, and the formal and convoluted process of making a statement and getting it officially signed and witnessed would have been completed. Hopefully, the cops would have had the courtesy of escorting her home and I expected I would be able to catch up with her there.

Once again I climbed the flights of steep steps and made my way along the unguarded landing which provided access to the front doors - indeed, the only doors - to the traditional Goblin residences which were only just a little more than caves hollowed from the rock face. I knocked vigorously on the door of number 514, risking skinning my knuckles on the ancient time-hardened wood. There was no answer, although I thought I could detect faint sounds coming from inside: sounds which might have been running water.

I decided to wait; hanging around in patient fashion is a skill I have honed with long practice over a great many years. I stood outside the closed door, half-heartedly watching the passers-by in the street below, and smoked two cigarettes one after the other. Eventually, the faint noises of bathing ceased. I waited a full third cigarette's worth of minutes, then I tried knocking again.

A change to the sounds from within suggested Clunie had heard my signal this time. A few moments later she opened the door a fraction and peaked through the door jam. There was a gasp as she recognised who it was, then she threw back the door. She was wrapped in a towel tucked perilously insecurely under her armpits with droplets of water beading her smooth brown skin of her head and shoulders. As I suspected, she must have been taking a shower.

"Findo!" she said in a girlish and breathless voice, "There you are! Come in, come in. I was beginning to worry about you."

"Oh, I'm well enough," I replied laconically, following her inside the apartment, "I just wanted to make sure you're okay."

She nodded.

"I'm fine," she replied, smiling wanly, "The police were very kind to me."

I was sure they were. Luncardy was completely distracted by Garrick's shenanigans, and I could imagine that even the most hard-bitten of her squad would not have been particularly hard on a pretty young Goblin with the little-girl demeanour.

Clunie threw herself into one of the too-large chairs that over-filled the main room of the tiny apartment. The bath-towel unravelled itself further. It would only take a sudden movement for me to get a full view - another full view, I should say, after Merton's photographs - of her breasts. I sat more carefully across the table from her, placing my hat on the arm of the chair.

"I know you've been through it all with the police," I said gently, "But I need you to tell me too. Tell me what happened, in your own words, in your own time."

She put her hands in her lap and sat up straight, as if she was about to recite a lesson at school. In a clear controlled voice, she went through the sequence of events from her abduction from the Starfield Club by Drummond to her release from her prison in Garrick's lair. I asked a few questions, nothing very significant; I did it more to keep her talking. It was all in all, a lesson well learned, a study in projecting the literal truth. I would have awarded her a gold star immediately.

Finally, I asked one last question, a question which was a rote part of the "victim interview" suite that I had learned at the Academy a good many decades before.

"Is there anything else? Even something you're not completely sure about," I asked in my warmest voice, "Or thought too trivial, or embarrassing, or maybe you just forgot about."

She was quiet for a moment.

"There was one thing," she said, so softly I could barely hear her.

"What's that?" I asked, leaning forward in my chair.

"I wasn't sure at the time," she announced, more loudly, almost angrily, "It was almost too faint to hear properly and I was locked in that horrid little room, practically suffocating. I was asleep, I think, or fainted. When I woke up, I heard voices."

"What was it?"

"I didn't hear it all," she replied apologetically, "First Clathy's voice, something about 'powerful friends' who ' just needed to get her hands on her husband's money'. Then Drummond said: 'she's promised us legal help' and 'get us out of here'. Then it all went quiet, then there was shooting."

"She?" I queried, leaning yet further forward, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure of it."

"Did you hear a name?" I pressed her, urgently, my face next to hers across the table, "I need a name."

Part 92 Part 94