Press "Enter" to skip to content

An Agreement of Mutual Betterment, or The King of the Urchins

A handsome gentleman in splendid formal dress strolled down a snow blanketed street one late autumn afternoon, and happened upon an unfortunate begging urchin he had met once before somewhere.  He tried to think of her name.  “Ha, wait, don’t tell me… er… Margaret, is it not?  No—wait!”

The young girl frowned slightly.  “It’s—“

Not Margaret, where is my head?  You go by Maggie.  Maggie.” Count Bologna smiled, seemingly rather pleased with himself.

“No,” said the girl.  “It’s Myrtil.  My name is Myrtil.”

The gentleman’s smile melted.  “Myrtil? No, no… that’s not right.”

She stamped her foot in the snow.  “Yes it is! I know my own name.”

He canted his head slightly, stroking his pointed beard.  “Is it?  Is it really?” he asked.  “Hits the ear wrong.  Have you considered changing it?”

Myrtil rolled her eyes.

He continued: “I mean, you’re an urchin… there probably aren’t even any official records.  Just make something up and stick with it.  How about Patricia?  That’s a nice name.  Especially if you pronounce it a little funny.  Pah-tree-see-uh.  See?  How about that?”

“There are official records, Count, I’ll have you know.  I had parents before I was an urchin.”

“So,” said the Count.  “Patricia… or do you prefer Patty? Or maybe Trish? That has a ring.”

My name is Myrtil!

“See? still hits the ear a little tinny.  Is it even a name?  I’ve never heard it before.  Sounds like some sort of amphibious flower.  You certain you didn’t mis-hear them at the orphanage when you were a wee one?  Children are notoriously stupid.”

Myrtil stared at the man.  “Smile at me.” she said.

Bologna smiled at her, showing two rows of huge pearly whites.

How has nobody punched out all your teeth yet?” she asked.

His smile faded again.  “Wha?” he asked, seemingly taken aback.

“I was five when I went to the orphanage!  I already knew my name by then.” she said, slapping her hip for emphasis.

“Oh.” he said.  “How odd.  Are you certain?”

“Yes.” she growled.

Very certain.”


He thought for a moment.  “Were your parents bohemians?”

“No!” she exploded.  “My father was an inventor and airship pilot, and my mother was a scientist studying biology!  They died in an airship accident, with my brother.”

“Tut tut.” he said, shaking his head.  “And they didn’t set up a trust fund for you in advance.  Or… airship accident you say?  That takes some scratch.  Perhaps they did!”  He stroked his goatee again.  “We should look into that!  We could be rich!”

Myrtil folded her arms.  “ ‘We’?” she asked.

He shrugged slightly.  “Well, you would need some sort of legal guardian, yes?  At least for appearances.”

Myrtil puckered her lips slightly.  “Well.  I suppose.”

The count smiled.  “And I would require only the smallest of stipends as remuneration.”  

“Yes I see.” she said evenly.

He stroked his goatee.  “Yes yes, I will speak to Underby, he’s a bigwig in City Hall now, he owes me a few favors.”

“Unfortunately,” Myrtil said.  “my cousin and aunt already tried for that, they—”

He waved her objection away.  “They were very likely morons, whereas on the other hand I, dear Trish, am a certified genius.”

“Besides,” she said.  “I don’t trust Mr Underby.”

He scoffed.  “Nobody does.  That doesn’t mean he is without use.”

“I suppose so.” she said.  “Look into it if you want, but I doubt you find anything… but that does give me an idea.”

His eyes lit up greedily.  “Oh yes?  What’s that?  I adore ideas, especially good ones.”

Myrtil grinned.  “Well, perhaps we could come to an arrangement, work toward our mutual betterment.  You, and we urchins.”

He nodded.  “Go on.  I’m listening.”

“Well some things we can’t do, because we’re kids.”

“Goes without saying.”

“We may need a grown-up to look respectable, see?”

He nodded.  “An excellent idea.  An agent of the urchins, so to speak.  You would need someone trustworthy, like Mr Lighthouse perhaps.  Or that odd squire bartender of his.”

Myrtil slapped her forehead.  “I meant you!”

The count blinked.  “Oh ME.  Why yes of course.  That makes much more conversational sense.  How clever.  Never let anyone tell you that you aren’t clever, Maggie.” he said.

She sighed.  “I will need to speak to the other urchins about it, however.  Then perhaps we can call you in for an interview.”

“Of course.” he nodded.  “You can leave a note for me at the Merryman Pub.  You know it?”

Myrtil laughed.  “Yes, of course.” she said.  “See you soon.”

“Excelsior!” he cried to her as she wandered off to disappear into the falling snow.  “King of the urchins.” he mumbled under his breath.






Spread the love


  1. Nyanka Jinx Nyanka Jinx December 10, 2015

    A few days later, Hyde had stumbled upon a meeting of urchins in their little hideout above the old theater. Myrtil and Jimmy seemed to be leading the group, joined by Tepic, a couple of kids Hyde didn’t recognize, and Beryl for some reason. Luckily for Hyde, the urchins let him join the discussion rather than kick him out on the spot. The Creaky Gloom was a common foe, and the rumors could prove useful some day.

    Of course, that conversation ended soon enough; The urchins came to the conclusion that there was safety in numbers and musical instruments. Hyde didn’t find much sense in that, but what could he expect from a bunch of soot-covered kids?

    “So…” Myrtil changed the subject, “Next topic is, we’re thinking of hiring someone to work for us.”

    Hyde folded his arms on the plain wooden table and listened to the other urchins murmur and speculate. One redheaded girl wondered who would be dumb enough to work for the urchins. Jimmy wondered how they would pay someone who was that dumb.

    Myrtil explained, “So I met that odd fellow and he tried to get money out of me. Made me laugh, but gave me an idea, too.”

    “Odd fellow?” Hyde glanced up at the other side of the table, where the girl was sitting.

    Beryl chimed in from atop a nearby pile of crates. “That doesn’t narrow it much Myrtil, in this city…”

    “Yes,” Myrtil clarified, “New in town, eccentric, Count Bologna.”

    “That goddamned idiot?!” Hyde bitterly growled. True, he wasn’t one to get along with most people, but there were a few people that Hyde did not like at all, including the so-called count. And for good reason.

    “Count Bologna?” the redhead asked, “Did his ancestor discover Bologna?”

    “Musta either been clueless or desperate,” an older boy wearing goggles added, “or both.”

    “He’s obviously trying to extort money out of naive people,” Myrtil said, “And not very bright at that, trying to extort money from an urchin…”

    No kidding!” Hyde furrowed his brows, scowling. “And his whole count act is bloody annoying! How do people stand to be near him?”

    An albino boy, who was clearly too well-dressed to be a legitimate urchin, raised his hand. “Extort how?”

    Myrtil explained, “He said maybe there was a fund my parents left for me in case they died, and that he could ask Underby at the Town Hall if there were records and that I’d need someone to deal with it. To take care of that money… Him.”

    “Oh. A grifter.”


    Hyde drummed his fingers on the table as the children (and Beryl) tried to discuss the matter. What Myrtil got from meeting the count was an idea. Perhaps she could hire an adult to vouch for the urchins, to get them in where most children are not allowed by themselves.

    The Count though… Probably the last person anyone would want as a stand-in for Fagin, in Hyde’s opinion.

  2. Mr Underby Mr Underby December 10, 2015

    Underby was sitting at his desk, collar unfastened, reading over intelligence reports about the statue of the mayor on the front steps of City Hall when a pretty young woman with ginger hair and strawberry freckles dancing across her nose poked her head around his door.  “My Underby, sir, there is a, um, gentleman here to see you.  He says it’s quite urgent.”

    “They all say that, Willa.” he replied, without looking up from the paperwork. “Send him away… tell the silly prat to make an appointment, and then promptly lose that appointment.”

    The ginger haired girl remained near the door, and bit her lip briefly.  “But, er, sir…” she said. “the, er, gentleman claims that he was your college roommate.” 

    “…My?” he asked, slipping his pen back into the inkwell.  “But I nev— oh no.” He stood up from his desk, moved to the door, pulling Wilhelmina into the room, then pushed the door to the edge.  Underby held the girl by her shoulders.  “What does this gentleman look like?”

    Despite her abject nervousness over the situation she was currently in with her employer, a silly grin broke out across the girl’s features.  “Well, he’s rather—”

    “Say no more.” Underby said, then looked toward the door, as if he could see through it.  “Bologna.” he growled.  

    “Yes,” Wilhelmina gulped. “that was the name he gave.  Count Bologna, in fact!”

    “Count now, is it? When last we met he was merely a Baron. I suppose when one makes up a title, they might as well aim high.”

    “Oh, is he…?” she asked, her nose scrunching up at the end as she trailed off, as if she couldn’t bring herself to say the word. 

    He nodded.  “Yes. A humbug.” he said, then opened the door wider, standing behind it.  “Under no circumstances are you to ever let that man in here, do you hear me?  Never, no matter what he tells you.  He is a liar and a charlatan, so he will say anything to attempt to bamboozle you.  If he ever crosses this threshold you will be back at the Sparrow with all speed.”

    The girl gulped again. “Yes sir.” she said, then exited the office.  She looked to the seemingly insane man in highly ostentatious garb. “I’m sorry, sir, but Mr Underby is currently in the middle of a rather urgent crisis, he cannot be disturbed.”

    Bologna turned from where he had been fogging a nearby window with his breath, then writing in it. “Oh? Did you tell the ass that it was his old college chum, Rex?”

    She nodded, stifling a grin by biting her inner cheek.  “I did sir, he seemed rather strangely unmoved by the news.”

    The count twirled his mustache with one fingertip, then flicked some cigarette ash onto the floor from his holder. “Did he now.” he said evenly.  “I will be back.” he said, wiggling his eyebrows and clicking the heels of his boots together.  “And next time, I shall not be refused!” he called out as he stormed down the hall.  

    Wilhelmina began to laugh, doubling over at the waist.




    • Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs December 11, 2015

      Oh, this is definitely worth some popcorn!

  3. violet Solano violet Solano December 11, 2015

    Omig stuck his head into Violets office” Boss have you heard of Bologna?”

    Violet raised her head exasperated”the lunch meat? yes not my favorite”

    the wolf stepped into the room” no the Count”

    his employer turned her attention back to her books” oh him, he’s a charlatan passing himself off as nobility, hes not worth our notice”

    omig leaned on the desk” im not so sure about that violet, rumor has it hes trying to Fagin the urchins”

    the sound of the pen shaft snapping in the rabbits paw rang like a gunshot through the room and Violets voice was low and deadly” oh is he, well i doubt he’ll have any success, if the urchins could be Fagined i’d have done it by now, tepic’s much to canny to let any adult get control of his little pack of ragamuffins”

    Omig watched as Violet blotted the splattered ink off the ledger page, ” still there might be a problem ” she mused ” if this counterfeit count can convince enough of the little monsters to follow him, the rift in the urchin organization will be more than Tepic can manage, and could even lead to urchin gang wars, and that we can’t have”

     the wolf nodded ” that was my thinking, so what do we do about it?”

    the rabbit Moreau leaned back in her chair and idly looked at the red ink staining her fingers like blood ‘ put a tail on the Count, i doubt he has the wit to even notice,we’ll keep an eye on his progress”

    the wolf looked thoughtful” and if hes successful in gaining control of the uchins?

    Violet smiled ‘ well i understand the wiggys are quite fond of lunch meat “

  4. Emerson Lighthouse Emerson Lighthouse December 11, 2015

     Emerson leaned back on the sofa, rolling the hookah nozzle between thumb and forefinger, contemplating all the nonsense he had to put up with over the holidays. “Squire, we need to have more fun. Get out there and do something.”

     “We need to take one last run to Cleetus’s before Christmas to stock up,” Malus replied from over at the bar. “I was hoping to go by myself though. You tend to slow me down.”

     “Nonsense,” said Emerson, distracted by the purple smoke he was blowing into fantastic undulating rings.“You know, there was some guy in here the other night when you were off doing whatever.”

     “So what?” the Squire sneered.

     “He had some sort of investment he was trying to interest me in—and you know, he made a lot of sense, I mean we really should diversify.”

    “Diversify what? We have no investments.”

    “Exactly!” Emerson pointed. “We should track that guy down. Count something-or-other. He had one of those foreign looking helmets, he should be easy to find.”

    “How do you know you can trust him?” the Squire asked. “He could be a crook.”

    “Don’t be such a pessimist.” Emerson shook his head. “It’s so unbecoming for the holidays.”

    “So you just trust some foreigner drinking alone in a bar because he says ‘trust me’?”

    “Listen,” Emerson sat up a little straighter.  “Sometimes you can just tell a man’s character by looking him in the eye.”

    “He smoked the hookah with you didn’t he?”


    “That’s why you think you can trust him,” said the Squire. “Don’t be such a putz.”

    “Squire, I’m sure he’s as honest as me,” said Emerson, “and I’m as honest as a Denver man can be.”


Leave a Reply