For them that might be following these little reports, I’ll apologize right now, cause there ain’t much more to tell. The wincher-woman, Fran, led me and Clyde to my sleigh without further interference from the law. She had a pretty slick rig for working the marsh, I was right some impressed by it. The steamwinch itself was mounted to a fancy, souped up swamp jumper that took the Mellow Mush Marsh like it were a farmer’s field.
Most of the flux fuzz that held my sleigh had effervesced by the time we got to where it was stuck, so winching were an easy matter, didn’t take her more than twenty minutes.
In the course of our afternoon, though, we struck up a conversation as you would expect seeing as we spent a good three hours together in travel time. Seems she runs a bandersnatch trap line when she ain’t winching, which is right fortuitous. Bandersnatches, for them that don’t know is the main meat ingredient in the Falunian donair, a right fine delicacy in the northern parts. Been a shortage this past year ever since the main donair supplier, old lady Vorpal, was killed by a rabid dog in the overland village of Falun.
“We got us a deal then,” I said just before we parted ways. “I’ll run your bandersnatch down through Falun, Bump and Dairy and you get me a regular supply of the oysters.”
“Fair trade,” she said. We spit in our hands and put it to a good firm shake just to make it official.
That’s when we got to one of them awkward moments where you catch yourself looking too long at each other. Clyde gave us a disgusted snort to let us know we was staring at one another like pimply-faced teenagers.
“Watch yourself passing Mount Crumpet,” she said.
“Always do,” I nodded. The vicinity around Mount Crumpet, for them that don’t know is infested with a right vile creature called a who. Them buggers, the whos, be like deer ticks but meaner.
“Merry Christmas, Miss Fran.”
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Morgan.”
It were nearing midnight on Christmas Eve when me and Clyde made it back to New Babbage. It were a day later than I’d a liked but I said no later than Christmas Eve and here I was still on time. Problem is I weren’t sure where to find Boots.
I tried the foundry first, where Boots decked me out a week and a half ago, but it was all locked up tight. Not even a night watchman on duty.
Next, tried that bar on Prince Dakkar where we first met, the Gangplank. Only person inside there was some smart-ass grifter with silver hair and a silver tongue who tried to get me to serve him a drink and lend him money.
I was starting to feel a bit irate as I drove the sleigh down Abney Parkway; it’s a thing that happens when I’m under stress; makes me short tempered.
I was pulled off to the side of the road by the city hall when I seen this tall, cadaverous bugger in a stovepipe hat walking towards my sleigh. Now, I ain’t the sort to ask no one for directions, on account of I never get lost but it I was fearing I was in danger of not upholding my word, so I called out as he neared.
“Excuse me!” I holler. “You in the snooty hat. You know a short, ugly bugger with an abrupt manner and big boots?”
“I may,” says the cadaver man as though I was selling wormy wiggyfish. “What is your business with this man?”
“Told him I’d get him these oysters by today, see,” I pointed to the crate in the back of the wagon. “And there they are.”
He eyed the crate then eyed me. “Bring the oysters and follow me,” says the stovepipe ghoul. “I am on my way to see him now.”
As he was leading me inside a building I had to leave Clyde outside to guard the sleigh. I’m not sure where we actually ended up, I was just following but when we found Boots he was sitting behind a desk, head down on some papers fast asleep.
“Let him be,” said the cadaverman. “He needs it. Leave the oysters. They’ll be the first thing he sees in the morning.”
I went over to the desk and looked down. The little bugger weren’t no prettier asleep than awake. The bony civil servant behind me couldn’t see what I was doing on account of the angle but I slipped my card into the little guy’s sleeve along with the name of where I was spending the night.
“I’ll leave the oysters with you,” I said. Fact is I didn’t have much choice. I couldn’t leave Clyde too long outside on his own without fear the equinous bugger’d start a street brawl. But I didn’t really want to wake Boots neither. “Tell him I’ll be by in the morning to ensure he got them, all hundred and ten pounds.”
“Of course,” the man nodded.
As I was tipping my hat to the skinny bugger the bells of New Babbage started to ring and I’ll tell anyone who will listen, a midnight ringing in New Babbage is a wondrous experience we should all be so lucky to hear.