Back at the police station in Doom City we sat in fresh clothes in one of the interrogation rooms, sipping camomile tea. I had my arm around Goldberry, who snuggled up close to me and couldn’t stop shuddering.

Grishnakh sat across the desk and we pondered what to do next. Right now Guthmud would be making his way back to Minas Ithil to launch the kidnap attempt.

“Imalad and Elandrine are the biggest puzzle,” I said. “Imalad told me he was travelling back to Minas Tirith to make final arrangements.”

“Did he now,” pondered Grishnakh. “Well, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t go to Minas Ithil first. Our intelligence tells us he’s one of the plotters—and from what you’ve told me he’s suborned Lady Elandrine too.”

“I can’t believe that of Elandrine,” protested Goldberry. “She’s as crystal clear as a mountain stream—not a drop of guile in her. Totally loyal to her mistress the Queen.”

“M-mm,” said Grishnakh doubtfully. “Perhaps Imalad’s been telling her some tale or other. He’s clearly a double-agent. He gives the impression he means to thwart the kidnap attempt on his own account… but only time will tell if that’s the case.”

“So you’re certain he’s going to stick to Guthmud?”

“They’re not travelling together. Imalad checked out immediately after breakfast, as he told you he would. Guthmud waited till your little send-off party, but left soon afterwards with the palantíri and the fake ring, which without a doubt he’s now convinced is genuine. He hasn’t parted the palantíri because he doesn’t want to risk losing contact with the Ruling Ring. Did you see him there when you fed Grimwald to the wolves?”

“He was probably there but I didn’t notice. I had other things on my mind. But he was at the send-off banquet. Have the gang found out yet that Grimwald’s dead?”

“No, but they’re mighty puzzled by his disappearance. The gang think you’re dead, but they know Gee has escaped. In fact they’re pretty impressed by that feat. The gangsters we’ve interrogated admit they’ve seriously underestimated you all along, Miss Gee. So you’re a marked woman—if you weren’t already! You’re not planning on going back to Minas Ithil and taking up where you left off, are you?”

Goldberry gave me a tiny kiss on the ear. “No, I’m staying with Goss.”

Grishnakh looked at us from one to the other. I could see he still wasn’t happy about Goldberry.

“How long do you think it will take Guthmud to get back home?” I asked him.

“Longer than it’s going to take us. We’re only fifty miles from Minas Ithil here, via Spider Pass. It’s an easy journey these days with the new ropeway—you don’t have to use the Stair any more to make the descent into Ithil Vale.”

“But is that the way he’s gone?”

“It’s the way Imalad has gone. He was spotted passing through around midday. I guess by now he’s in Minas Ithil, waiting for Guthmud to arrive.”

“On the other hand it’s a perfectly good way to go if he was heading straight for Minas Tirith like he told me.”

“We’ll see. But as for Guthmud I very much doubt it’s the way he’s gone. He knows we watch Spider Pass, so he’s probably gone via Udûn and he’ll be well past the Iron Gate of Isenmouthe by now. It’s much harder to watch the Morannon—the traffic through it is enormous. But it’s a 180 mile journey round that way. Even on his fire horse he won’t arrive back at Minas Ithil until some time tomorrow. If we mount a dawn raid on his headquarters on Saturday we’ll be in plenty of time to nab him and stop the kidnap. That’s if they’re keeping to their schedule—the one you got from them.”

Grishnakh had been delighted when I presented Grimwald’s hand to him. With stunning professionalism he said that, apart from a pinky ring for Ratbog’s mam, he’d leave all the jewellery on it—it wouldn’t look anywhere near as impressive without it. Now that Grimwald had been eliminated at long last, and most of his gang rounded up at Hotel Doom, he maintained that Ratbog’s death hadn’t been altogether in vain. He waved aside my expressions of regret, saying it wasn’t me that was meant to be looking after Ratbog but the other way round. Anyway I’d had my work cut out looking after myself, not to mention Goldberry. He bade me keep the palantír ring as a souvenir.

“If you go on bringing me gifts like this,” he said, holding up Grimwald’s hand by the little finger, “I’ll soon have enough body-parts for a whole new person!”

…to be continued.