The petty officer stood at the door of the coal bin, watching the tall redhead in the dark blue peacoat pace back and forth inside the structure. Her anger was apparent, and the object of her anger was now obvious. Someone had built up a void space under the coalpile, to that to the casual observer it would look as if the bin was nearly full. The truth was revealed once the auger began transferring coal to the nearly empty bunkers of the Naval Squadron ship that had tied up for reprovisioning.
Jed pushed her hands a bit deeper into the pockets of her jacket, fists clenched. “Who has been in here? Has the watch been checking the gates?” The young sailor nodded “Yes’m, the only folks what been here have been workers from the city. Had papers signed by Mr. Underby, all proper like.” While he was speaking, Jed pulled a notebook out of her jacket and wrote a brief note. She tore the page from the notebook and placed it in the sailor’s hand. “Send this for me right now.” she said. Before he could say anything else, the Commodore was off and away walking towards the Depot. He threw a quick salute and headed back to the relative comfort of the wharf office.
In the distance between the Clockhaven docks and City Hall, Jed had time to think about what she was going to do. Underby was still the same weaselly paper-hanging bastard he had always been, but now he was in a position where he was a powerful and influential one. She opened the side door, tried to knock the majority of the snow off of her newly hobnailed boots, and began the climb up the staircase to the office that the Mayor’s assistant now occupied. The nails made an echoing click with each strike of the stair tread that reverberated through the largely empty building. Normally she would have tried to be much quieter coming in, but this time she really didn’t care if he heard her coming or not.
She pushed the door open, and found an unusually agitated Underby sitting in the corner of his office. Curiously, what passed for a look of relief passed his thin face as soon as he saw it was her.
“To what do I owe the honor of a visit Commodore?” he said, the voice exceptionally dry and scratchy.
Jed looked at him squarely
“You damn well know why I’m here Oswald. You owe the Naval Squadron a full load of coal for the victualing yard, and I will hold you responsible if there are any more shenanigans down there, and if you say ‘I have no idea what you mean’ I swear…”
The sound of her voice trailed off as she caught herself and stood back up from where she had been leaning over the paper-cluttered desk. She thought to herself that he almost seemed relieved to be dealing with her, and that he was not quite himself.
“I’ll expect a deliver soon, and the militia will take care of the ‘repairs’ to the coalyard.”
She saw it in his face, finally. There was something he wanted to say, an idea pressing so hard on his mind that it seemed he had to will himself to not say it. Jed paused for a short moment as the thought dropped back into the abyss of his mind, and the same old look returned to his gaunt countenance. He smiled at her as he shifted slightly in his chair.
“I’ll see what I can do to assist you. Now if you’ll excuse me…” as he looked down and began shuffling a stack of receipts from one pile to another.
Jed stalked out of the office and headed back to the Depot, hoping the coffee hadn’t run as low as the coal had.