“Jemmy” Bill sat at the table in the Bucket of Blood nursing his beer. The Bucket was the sort of pub he liked. It was because they didn’t pester you or hang about the table, but he was always wary because there was only one way out. All it needed was a policeman through the door to turn everyone’s evening sour. The message had said to meet here at 6. He was little apprehensive but also curious as to what they would want him for.
The pub was quiet. The publican was rearranging things under the counter, a redhead sat at the bar toying with a cocktail stick and another woman was dozing on the couch by the fire.
Bill looked up as an odd sounding “ker-thunk, ker-thunk” came from outside the front door. When it stopped the door opened to reveal an elderly gentlemen in a mechanical wheelchair. His dark clothing sported trimmings that suggested he took pride in his appearance but his stern demeanour purged any suggestions of dandyism.
The publican approached him and bid him good evening. “Thank you Mr. Underby. You’re looking a little tanned sir.” The hint of a smile played on the Professor’s face as he continued, “have you been taking in the sun on your holiday?”
The redhead at the bar actually hissed at him. Underby’s eye twitched slightly and he gave her a sharp look. Ignoring the question Underby replied, “Can I get you anything Professor?”
“Coffee please” he said. He scanned the room, and found Bill. “And another beer for the gentleman at the table.”
Underby looked over in Bill’s direction and then back at the Professor. “Ah. Certainly.”
The Professor headed to Bill’s table, his wheelchair making quiet chuffing noises as wisps of steam puffed from a vent at the back. Bill could hear the redhead mumble something to Underby about not allowing criminal types into the pub but he focused his attention on the man in the wheelchair as he eased in to the edge of the table.
The Professor looked Bill over and nodded, apparently satisfied with what ever requirements he’d mentally set himself. He turned to look back towards the bar to see Underby bringing over coffee and another dark bottle of beer.
“Thank you” he said to Underby. Turning to Bill he said, “Drink up.”
Bill eyed the new bottle, shrugged and then took a swig from it. No point turning down free beer.
“I need to you to screw a toffken” said the Professor, looking at his coffee cup.
Bill paused his drinking for a moment, surprised at the use of the underworld cant from the well dressed gentleman. “You a voker cove then?”
“I know enough to find the right people” he said, smiling.
Bill reckoned that smiling wasn’t something the Professor did much of.
“What’s the pogue then?” asked Bill
The Professor reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper and passed it to Bill. On it was a drawing of a brooch or a badge; a large stone in the centre with with a broad metal setting. It didn’t exactly set his heart aflutter.
“That is the goal” said the Professor. “It’s a silver brooch with a ruby centre. That’s what I want. Anything else in the house you get is yours.”
Bill studied the picture of the brooch. It didn’t look like some lady’s fancy paste. Looked old too.
“Is it a deadlurk?”
“It’s occupied” replied the Professor. He passed over a second piece of paper with an address written in rather cribbed handwriting to Bill.
“Palisades. Figures.” Bill folded the address inside the picture and put both in his pocket. “When do you need it by?”
“Soon” said the Professor. “I’m a patient man but don’t try and string this out for months.”
Bill looked up from his beer into the Professor’s eyes. Yeah this guy played for keeps.
The Professor reached into his coat again, this time producing a small bag. He tossed it across the table to Bill and said, “200 now and 800 when you bring me the brooch.”
“Agreed!” said Bill, finishing the last of his beer. He pondered the empty bottle for a moment. Casing a joint was easy. Finding the safe or the hidey hole was a little harder but usually a matter of time. But Babbage houses were odd. Secret passages, caged experiments, weapons stockpiles, weird pets, and that was often just the kids! Cog knows what would be in this place.