Mr. Jennings Must Die: Part Seven
Black woke to the sight of a yellow Wocky in slightly dirty pink pyjamas standing in front of him.
It was not the sight he was expecting.
Struggling slightly to sit himself upright, Black found that his hands were bound. He could see the barrel burning in the distance – he was still under the Batrin Bridge.
"What happened?" he groaned.
"Mr. Boswell thought it necessary to restrain you," the pyjama clad Wocky answered. "You were after all quite violent towards him. Lefty McCaskey hit you over the head with an iron bar."
"And you are?"
"Norm," the Wocky answered.
"You know you're wearing pink pyjamas?" Black asked.
Norm looked down at himself, before back at Black.
"No, I'm not," he answered. "I'm Mr. Boswell's assistant."
"Great, another lunatic," Black grumbled.
"We understand you had some difficulty comprehending Mr. Boswell's words," Norm continued. "I am able to translate."
The grey Aisha left the burning fire and surveyed Black.
"Cheese it," he instructed.
Norm turned to Black and explained, "Shut up."
"What you be tinkering in me ken for?" Boswell demanded.
"What do you want? Why did you come to Mr. Boswell's home?" Norm translated.
"I came to ask you a few questions about the attack on the two Defenders on Tuckly Road," Black explained. "I need information. I can pay."
Boswell laughed, confirming Black's train of thought that he understood every word and that his strange language was a choice rather than affliction.
"Ribband?" he asked. "What's the tonky with ribband? I don't know nothing about no charlies getting knocked."
"Money?" Norm explained. "What does Mr. Boswell want with money? He doesn't know anything about Defenders getting attacked."
"You're a beggar," Black said, slightly confused. "As far as I understood it, money is exactly what you want."
"A clapperdogeon," Boswell told him.
"A career beggar," Norm interpreted. "The idea is to stay poor and avoid retirement."
"Look, I need information about Mr. Jennings," Black told them. "He went home to his tower from the Museum on the night of the attack – whether you know about it or not – and had his cane stolen. I need to know how. Someone in your Guild must have heard about it."
"What can you offer Mr. Boswell?" Norm asked.
Black paused, acutely aware that Norm had just translated for the Aisha without him speaking. A sly little smile spread across Black's face.
"That's a nice little trick, that is," he said to the pyjama wearing tramp. "Producing the beggar with the odd way of talking and surrounding him with bodyguards – anyone would be fooled into believing it, and disregarding the truth."
"What truth would that be?"
"That he isn't Bampfylde Boswell – you are," Black surmised. "You're not translating at all – you're just telling me what you think."
"Perhaps," Norm, or rather, Boswell answered.
He supplied a quick nod to the Aisha, who grumbled and returned to the fire.
"And that's what I can offer you as payment," Black added. "You help me, and I won't spread around the city that the head of the Beggar's Guild is actually the one wearing the pyjamas."
"Why do you keep saying that?" Boswell asked. "I'm not wearing pyjamas. And what makes you think we're letting you go?"
"If you were planning on killing me, I'd already be dead," Black told him.
"Please," he added. "I'm just trying to free my employer. Mr. Jennings needs my help."
Boswell changed his look slightly, his features softening.
"You work for Mr. Jennings?" he asked. "Well, why didn't you just say so? That changes everything!"
"It does?" Black asked.
"Of course," Boswell continued. "Jennings is a very shrewd man, you know? The first time we met, he didn't even bother talking to Norm – the Aisha you met – he sought me out straight away. Didn't fool him for one second. Well, that, and he got me a better house."
"You live in a cardboard box," Black pointed out.
"Yes, but before I met Mr. Jennings, my box only had two walls," Boswell explained. "Now it has three."
"Then you'll help me?" Black asked.
Boswell nodded, stepping forwards and releasing Black from his bonds so he could stand.
"Someone saw Mr. Jennings getting mugged on the night you mean," Boswell informed him. "It was a strange situation, really."
"Other than the fact that it was Mr. Jennings getting mugged?" Boswell asked. "The guy who did it was a foreigner, gave some Sakhmet coins to an urchin on Wide Street a few hours earlier. He crept up behind Jennings and threw some kind of weird powder at him. Jennings stumbled about – and here's the thing, the guy who saw them said it looked like Jennings was trying to stumble about – and the mugger stole his cane in the confusion. After that Jennings went back to his tower."
"And the mugger?"
"Went over to Kensington Avenue," Boswell added, reciting the information like he was a general in some sort of war. "Delivered the cane to a desert Acara in a Sakhmet carriage – which then went off to meet a Tyrannian at the Drowned Screal before heading across the city to the opening of that fancy dam."
"The man who saw the mugging, and the delivery... they wouldn't be interested in talking to the Defenders, would they?" Black asked.
"Depends... what can you offer me?" Boswell asked.
Black smiled, "How's about a garage for your cardboard box?"
The sight of Boswell's slightly deranged face lighting up gave Black the odd sensation he recognised as hope. Combined with Flint's capture and confession, this would not only prove that Jennings wasn't involved, but that the Sheikh was.
Black had done it. Mr. Jennings would soon be free.
Solomon Moody exited the little desert shack quietly, closing the reed door behind him and beginning to wipe clean the little blade he had entered with. The desert winds were dying down, the sandstorm having passed in a rather unnatural way. The building behind him had been his last visit – Moody had managed his task just in time.
The grey Lenny stopped as he saw the throng of Sakhmetian guards waiting ahead of him in the sand dunes. There was a Tonu at their head, one Moody knew by sight – General Dacon, head of the Sakhmet Army.
"So you must be Solomon Moody," the General announced. "The one man crime wave that's all but bulldozed Sakhmet City's underworld in a matter of days."
"If nothing else I should like my epitaph to include the word 'efficient'," Moody said, finishing the wiping of his blade and pocketing it.
"We've been looking for you," Dacon added. "But we've always been one step behind."
"Then I must congratulate you, my dears," Moody laughed.
"However," Dacon continued. "I imagine we have only caught up to you now because you are no longer running. Whatever task Mr. Jennings set you – it is now complete?"
"You tell me," Moody smirked. "Is there anyone I have missed out?"
"Not that I know," Dacon admitted. "It's like you've wiped him from the map."
"Good," Moody smiled. "A job well done then, my dears."
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't arrest you right now," Dacon demanded.
"I couldn't possibly," Moody answered. "And, an old man like me, against a group as well trained as you? I'd hardly stand a chance."
"I would have said that about half the people you've tackled over the last three days," Dacon said with a hint of uncertainty in his voice.
"Of course," Moody said. "You've got to look at this from all sides, my dears... and it certainly seems as if I've done you boys a favour by all accounts. One less thorn in your side, as they say... and if you want to get technical about it, I'm a Neopia Central citizen – which means you need to talk to Judge Hog before charging me with anything. And that might prove difficult, as there aren't really any official records of anyone called Solomon Moody. Funny, that."
Moody straightened out his green coat, "I'm just going to walk off this way, my dears, and if you feel like arresting me, so be it."
Moody turned and walked off through the desert sands. The guards merely watched him go.
Sheikh Al-Balim was not quite as surprised to enter his new office and find Lady Celeriac waiting, but he still gave a little jump. His bodyguards were not quite as quick to reach for their weapons.
"Well, this is becoming quite the habit," Celeriac remarked. "I shall have to mark it in my diary, to make it official."
She gave a sharp intake of breath before adding, "But alas, that will not be possible."
"What honour do I have today?" Al-Balim asked, moving across the room and sitting behind the desk.
"I thought you should know, I figured it out," Celeriac said proudly. "I know what the trap you have fallen into is. Sadly, I imagine you now know as well if you have any faculties about you."
The look on the Sheikh's face plainly said that he had no idea what she was talking about.
"Oh dear, how unfortunate," Celeriac sighed. "You haven't heard?"
"Heard what?" Al-Balim questioned.
"It appears my couriers are faster than yours," Celeriac supplied. "The sandstorm that's been blocking communication with the Lost Desert these past few days – it has quite abruptly died."
The Sheikh smiled widely, "At last! I can leave this city – I must admit, taking over business here has been fun, but it just isn't home."
"That's not all," Celeriac said politely. "News is coming from Sakhmet. It appears there has been a short but speedy revolution."
"Amira has been deposed?" Al-Balim gasped.
"No," Celeriac supplied with a little giggle. "The revolution happened somewhat... lower down the chain. It appears most of the city's criminal underbelly has been eliminated more or less overnight. Curious, but the targets that have been attacked, they seem to be things you own. I am quite sad to inform you, dear Sheikh, that your criminal empire is crumbling. That was the trap, do you see? To keep you occupied in Neopia Central while he completely demolished you abroad."
The Sheikh tried very hard to contain his rage, but it showed plainly on his face.
"I need to return to the desert," he growled. "I will have my revenge on Jennings in time."
He turned to one of the bodyguards, "Destroy him."
As one, his loyal assassins nodded and left the room. Lady Celeriac meanwhile had stood up.
"It may be deemed unwise to have sent all your employees away, given that you'll need to be leaving rather quickly," she told him.
"Oh? Didn't I say?" Celeriac laughed. "Why, that's just the icing on the cake. Mr. Jennings's assistant, Mr. Black, stumbled across evidence implicating you in the attack on the two Defenders the other night. Now that the communications with Sakhmet are back, Judge Hog was able to secure an arrest warrant on your head around... oh, an hour ago. He's on his way here to arrest you as we speak. And you've just sent away the only people who could have defended you. Now that, in some circles, is what they call irony."
She smiled sweetly. "Good day to you."
To be continued...