Stealing Stones: Part Four
"Stolen?" Basal demanded, rage boiling up from beneath the Usul's face.
"Small time thieves, I'm almost certain," Rhyo answered. "No one who made an attempt on the Museum. I'd have known, they'd have had more style."
"Oh!" Basal shouted. "So not only have you, the most skilled thief we could find in Moltara, been stolen from, but it was by amateurs!? Well, that makes everything better!"
"I'd recognise them on sight," the Acara supplied.
"Yes, and the chances of you seeing them again in a city the size of this are remarkably high, I suppose?" Basal scoffed. "You've ruined everything. If they discover what the diamond is, and what it isn't, the entire Moltaran government could be put in jeopardy!"
Rhyo seemed to perk up at this, and pushed the Ambassador back.
"Stop feigning concern for the Mayor; we both know that you only care about keeping your own job!" she hissed. "I caused this, and I will fix it. I'll get you the diamond back."
"How exactly?" Basal demanded.
"I've had dealings in this city before," Rhyo answered. "I know how it works. The Thieves Guild have this place locked down pretty tight. Small timers don't last long, and they are forced to go to specific places to fence their goods. If you want to sell stolen jewels in this city without the Thieves Guild or the Defenders knowing, there's only one man you go and see. That's where we'll find our thieves."
"Where?" Basal asked.
"There's a backstreet jewellers just off the Longshanks, on the Docklands end," Rhyo explained. "Run by Crooked Tony. He's our man."
"You'd better be right," Basal threatened. "Or the cells I saved you from in Moltara City could well be opened back up. Quart! It's time to leave!"
The relic Nimmo who had been guarding the alley's entrance turned and nodded, and together the three of them left.
On the roof above, Fredrick lingered. He didn't want to alert them to his presence so didn't move until they were long gone. When he finally began to move, he almost jumped out of his skin as a voice greeted him.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?"
He already had an image of Jennings in his mind as he turned, but it was clear that someone else had spoken. For one thing, the voice had been female.
A red Gelert was sat on the rooftop, looking quite out of place in the slums by wearing a regal dress. A fancy parasol shielded her from the afternoon sun, quite how she had escaped Fredrick's attention before, he wasn't sure – she must have just arrived, pitching up silently as he was listening to events below.
"Mr. Boggins, wasn't it?" she asked, or stated.
Once again, Fredrick was struck by the similarity between Gelert and Krawk.
"I don't believe I've had the pleasure?" Fredrick replied.
"Ah, belief is a many splendoured thing," she answered unhelpfully. "Certainly, if you had met me before I would have hoped I would have left a more lasting impression."
"You certainly are now," Fredrick replied. "But you didn't give me your name."
"Correct." The Gelert smiled. "Lady Celeriac."
Fredrick's face fell. The Gelert's lit up.
"At last!" she remarked, clapping her hands together. "Someone who has heard of me! I was beginning to think this city lived in complete isolation, no one has so much as flinched at the sound of my name since I arrived. I have been most perturbed by the experience, I must say."
"What do you want with me?" Fredrick asked.
"With you?" the Gelert considered. "Very little, it must be said. Not that I don't think you'd be the type to offer scintillating conversation, but as they say I have bigger fish to fry. I'm just here to observe. Looks like it's going to be a fun few days."
"You want the diamond?"
"Gosh no," she laughed. "It's a fake, after all. I could buy dozens of Shenkuu conflict diamonds if I wanted. Anyway, if I could give you some advice, you might want to wonder who would want the diamond back."
She gave a pleasant smile that, just like Jennings, indicated the conversation had ended. Fredrick was so disconcerted by it that he lingered.
"Spit spot," she added.
This seemed to give life to his legs, and he stumbled away across the rooftops.
"Welcome! Welcome! Take a seat!" the large brown Tuskaninny boomed from behind his desk.
Rhyo, Ambassador Basal, and Attendant Quart were seated.
"Crooked Tony?" Basal asked.
"Only to my friends!" the Tuskaninny laughed. "How can we do business today?"
"We need a diamond," Basal explained.
"Diamond?" Tony said. "I can do you diamond. I have many dozens of fine specimens!"
He produced from under his desk a tray containing a jumbled array of cut diamonds. Rhyo held out her hand.
"A specific diamond," she told him. "It was stolen."
Tony's reaction was instant. "I don't do refunds."
Rhyo smiled politely. "We didn't get it from you, Tony. But we think it will be heading your way."
"We need it recovering," Basal added. "With haste."
Tony leaned back, removing the tray of stolen diamonds from sight.
"If it's haste you want, you don't want to wait for me," he told them. "Thieves these days, the Guild takes most of the good ones. The ones that are left, the ones I deal with, they are not so good. Takes time for them to filter down to me. But there is a man I know, he is good at finding people, at finding things. He gets results, and quickly."
Basal gave Rhyo a wary look. He wasn't eager to involve yet another person in their scheme. Tony seemed oblivious.
"You ever hear of a man by the name of Viridian Funk?"
Jennings was in his office when Fredrick found him. The Krawk was sat near an open fireplace he had recently installed, and gestured Fredrick to sit with him.
"I find it quite imposing," Jennings observed. "And when we dim the lights, Mr. Black has told me it makes me look substantially more menacing."
Fredrick ignored the comments about the fireplace. "I'm quitting."
"Quitting?" Jennings asked. "I didn't think Ambassador Basal was that intimidating."
"You didn't tell me that Lady Celeriac was involved," Fredrick snapped. "I'm out."
Jennings raised an eyebrow, glancing over to Mr. Black.
"I didn't know Lady Celeriac was involved," Jennings admitted.
"Basal got someone to steal the diamond; it's a scam to cover up the fact that the real one was stolen in Moltara," Fredrick explained. "I overheard them talking in the Docklands. Apparently it's been stolen from them. Could be anywhere by now. Anyway, after I finished listening to them, she turned up. I don't care what the reward, I'm not tangling with her."
"Her?" Jennings asked.
A blank stare greeted him from Fredrick.
"You don't know who she is?" Fredrick asked incredulously. "You're Mr. Jennings and you don't know who Lady Celeriac is?"
"I must confess I do not," Jennings admitted. "Should I?"
Fredrick smiled. It wasn't every day you got to tell Jennings something he didn't already know. He had to make the most of this.
"She's you," he replied.
"A cryptic if scientifically inaccurate response," Jennings remarked. "Care to elaborate?"
"She's the Meridell version of you," Fredrick added. "She's in control over there, runs the whole place, just like you."
"I understood King Skarl was in charge," Jennings pointed out.
"Oh, he's in charge, but she's in control," Fredrick explained. "She's the one who keeps the place running. You didn't really think you were the only person to have tried this 'take over the city' game in Neopia, did you? Haven't you even heard of Sheikh Al-Balim in the Lost Desert?"
"I certainly didn't think myself the only," Jennings replied. "But I have allowed myself the luxury of believing I am the best. I'm certainly leagues ahead of the Sheikh. This Celeriac, she was interested in the diamond?"
"She knew it was a fake," Fredrick told him. "She seemed more interested in seeing what happens than stealing it."
"Interesting," Jennings mused.
"It doesn't make a difference though," Fredrick insisted. "I've spent time in Meridell, I've heard what she can be like, and that's... well, you. I'm out."
Jennings produced the file on Fredrick again, "Such a pity then."
Instinctively, Fredrick lunged towards the file, hoping to catch Jennings off guard. It was an act that he knew deep down would be futile, but he had to try. The information was too important.
Jennings managed to hold Fredrick at bay with little problem, but the file carelessly tumbled from his lap – right into the waiting fire.
Fredrick's eyes went wide with horror.
"You monster!" she shouted as he watched the papers burn. "That was my history! And it's all gone, just so you can play some silly game with diamonds!"
"Not all gone," Jennings replied.
"I read the file, Mr. Boggins," Jennings revealed. "Your answers may no longer be written on paper, but they still exist. Find me the diamond, identify the other two parties, and you will have your information. Whilst you may have hoped to steal the file in the future, I can assure you that the only way you will get the information now is to help me."
"And Lady Celeriac?" Fredrick asked.
"No matter how dangerous she is in Meridell, she is in Neopia Central at the moment," Jennings told him. "And surely, if she is the same as me, that makes me far more dangerous to you at the moment."
Fredrick took the hint and agreed. It wasn't until after he had left and returned to the city streets that the convenience of what had transpired struck him. The fireplace had been specially installed that day, and Jennings was certainly agile enough to have held Fredrick and the file at the same time.
Fredrick had been duped into making sure Jennings held all the cards.
To be continued...