Turning to ascend the staircase from Dee Wells’ store up to her workshop, Alowishus Bligh heard her whistling. Stepping up into the workshop, he was greeted to a whistling Dee polishing a large golden sheep.
“My!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t that an impressive sight.”
Dee turned to him cheerfully and smiled. “Hi Allowishus! Just finishing up the buffing. It turned out quite nicely, I think.”
Alowishus grinned, and admired the idol, and gestured toward it. “May I?”
“Of course,” smiled the young jeweler standing aside.
Carefully picking up the object, he judged its weight and balance, finding it to be just what he had needed. “Is the parchment inside? The chart I gave you?”
“The map to nowhere? Yup. I noticed Death Island was called something else and had a big X on it. I’m not going to ask what that was about,” Dee muttered with a concerned look on her face.
“You know about the plague island?” he asked, setting the idol back on the bench.
Dee looked at him sideways as she commented, “My father used to tell us if we ever went sailing to stay well away from it. There’s folklore about Zombie Flu all over the place.”
Alowishus suggested, “Yes, folklore,” and tried to move the conversation on to other topics. “You’ve done excellent work. This will be of service to some very decent people at the expense of some dangerous cowards. I’ve not had need of the silver blade, but I am most comforted at its presence every moment I walk these streets. I thank you sincerely.”
Dee smiled, trying not to wonder why he had shifted the conversation along. “Any time.”
He continued, “And the tea, how was that received?”
“It was very much appreciated. The purchaser needed it badly, so it worked out quite well. I was able to buy enough gold to hammer into leaf for this piece, plus a bit extra, if—“
He interrupted, “Keep it, dear Dee. Well earned compensation, assuredly.” Picking up the large sheep he wrapped it in rags, then looked at her for a moment and began to say goodnight.
This time she interrupted him: “Do you know a man named Rootbeerstein?”
He stared at her, half-turned to leave, for several long seconds as he wondered how much she knew about the man she mentioned. “It’s a familiar name. How have you heard of him?”
“He was asking about you, actually,” she offered slyly.
He turned back toward her and said, “Oh?”
“And he was asking about tea for sale. He’s not a policeman is he?” asked the girl, showing less composure than usual.
Alowishus sighed, “He owned the tea consignment that went down with the Tea Hag, or rather he would have. He should have been paid out by the dispersal of company assets as Cooper was killed at sea with no next-of-kin.”
Dee looked very uncomfortable, “Ummm, he seems to think Cooper is alive.”
The colour faded from Alowishus’ face and he felt himself becoming very uncomfortable. Sensing no time to absorb all of this, he calmly announced “I am at risk of tardiness for a crucial engagement. I want to hear more of this, I shall return later this week.”
Dee gave him a nervous smile, “Okay. Be careful, I’ll see you soon.”
Alowishus mustered the necessary resolve and turned to set down the stairs and out into the night, offering, “Indeed you shall. Keep well.”
Alowishus hurried through the back streets, attempting to keep the large valuable-looking idol from the scope of curious eyes. Rounding the corner into the prescribed alley, Alowishus observed that Noddy Vin Klaus had arrived before him.
“Evening,” he said simply, standing firm.
“Eve’nin’. Gotta present for me, do ya?” the grinning miscreant inquired.
“There is rather possibility of a bargain,” the elder man countered, unflinching. “If I may be so bold as to assume that you’ve something to exchange. A particular ship would be a suitable offering.”
“Oh, I gots yer ship alright. She’s a fine ol’ tub, if I do say,” mumbled the ruffian, eyeing the elder man’s bundled mystery. “Less see the good’s then, eh?”
Alowishus discretely checked for onlookers before removing the rags covering the spectacular golden idol.
Klaus immediately gasped, seeing what he—indeed what everyone—had only heard about until now. Sensing he would never pry it from the older man’s grip, he gestured toward the seafront. He and Alowishus walked carefully and deliberately over to the docks.
He stood and allowed Alowishus a cursory examination of the ship. Smoke could be seen from the boiler stack, steam was indeed visible from the exhausts, and the sail rigging seemed intact. The general appearance of the ship was that adequately crewed it could put to sea at once.
Alowishus observed these details while standing near enough the dock that he could throw the golden statue into the water if attacked, looking about for any sign of ambush. Finally, he signalled his satisfaction, and passed the idol to Klaus before turning to cross the plank onto the Aspect of Whitby.
The two men bid each other good riddance, though Alowishus wondered if he could be so fortunate as to have seen the last of Klaus, who made off with his ‘prize.’ Verifying that he was alone on the ship, that it hadn’t been sabotaged, and that it was truly sea-worthy, he indulged himself in new concern: What was the nature of this Rootbeerstein dilemma? Could Cooper really be alive?
He sighed and consoled himself that in a short time, the criminals who had stolen this ship would pay an awful price for their crimes.