It was December 26th, a notoriously quiet day in all pubs of New Babbage as families in the city spent more time with visiting families. As such, today Mornington had switched off the lights of the basement bar but kept the smaller bar in the restaurant open for passing trade and folks coming in for a meal.
A little before 12 noon, some of the dock worker gang came into Brunel Hall, and seeing the lights down in the basement off sat at the bar in the restaurant and helped themselves to a few drinks, then they started to chatter as Mornington sat in the basement bar in the dark listening in.
“Aye…he was sittin right on santa’s lap he was, and him and the Boiler Elf started reading off a list of misdemenours infront of Mornington and everyone gathered…hell the list was as bad as mine”.
“Yeah, i heard all about that…theft, corruption of minors, illicit trade, illegal imports…”
“He got off with all that so he did..boiler elf got him on a technicality so he did..”
“Aye…i think his shipping practices confused them all…sure as hell confused me…”
They both laughed, and as they laughed Mornington climbed up the stairs, cup of coffee in hand and said to both of them “It’s quiet simple really Gentleman”.
Both the dock workers stood up in surprise…they expected Mornington to be in his house stocktaking.
“Ohhhh its ok lads, sit down… i’ll explain the Mornington shipping method…”
The dock workers sat at the bar intently listening to Mornington explain the whole process.
“You see, its all about give and take, my method involves both, i give, and i take…to myself”. The blank stares of the dockers made Mornington chuckle.
“In almost every port of trade call between here and Caedon, and from Caledon to Steelhead and out into the towns and villiages east and north, i know the dock quartermaster. Lets say i was shipping wood from steelhead to New Babbage ok?”
The dock workers nodded…
“So shipping wood direct from Steelhead to New Babbage would incur full shipping costs because New Babbage as a city..well..it has no trees, so i would need to pay full price. Instead of shipping direct to here, i send my shipment of wood to Caledon first…”
It was then the dock workers spoke with a confised tone…
“…but… Mista Mornington sur… Caledon has more wood than Steelhead”
“EXACTLY! I ship to Caledon, because Caledon already has a surplus the value of the wood i shipped is much much less… i then sell the wood… back to myself, load it on another cargo vessel bound back to Steelhead and once its in steelhead sell it to myself again and then ship it to New Babbage, by the time it reaches New Babbage the wood is practically worthless.”
The other dockworker started to chuckle…
“Whats the point in all that sir? All you are doing is constanrly selling the wood back to yourself over and over again, youll be incurring port taxes on all those calls right up until the wood reaches here?”
“Precisley my good man…and which port has the highest tax rate of them all?”
The two dock worker started to grin… “New Babbage sir!”
“By the time any bulk shipment of mine reaches here it is less than 10% of its original value, its why I bring all my alcohol in at bulk, same with the wood and building materials, always in bulk. When you folks unload it and the city officials like that miser Underby get their hands on it, they look at the tally sheet and realise the haul is practically worthless…and i dont get taxed”.
It was at this point of Mr Foxworth walked in, the Quartermaster in charge of the less used Clockhaven docks…
“Aye but yer still losing a large amount of money on the tax in the other ports Mornington! Then theres the extra shipping! Ya might be buying the stocks from yourself, but your losing in the tax!”
Mornington turned to old Foxworth and said “Quarter Gains”. Old Foxworth’s mouth dropped to the floor.
“Quarter gains fellas” Mornington said as he turned back to the dock workers. “In every port there is a Quartermaster like Mr Foxworth here. The Quartermaster has their own stocks and their own ‘in the red’ needs. You fellas remember the Steelhead wood price crash of last year?
The dockworkers nodded…
“…I caused that. In each Port i do business with..and yes that includes Port Babbage, i talk to the Quartermaster to see if they need the price of something…lowered…quickly. I then buy up stock of that particular item from other ports, most of which i need here for the hotel anyway, and proceed to sell to myself until i hit said quartermasters port…i then sell the excess in that port to the public for next to nothing…driving the price down.
Foxworth chimed in “Thats illegal! You wont find me doing that!”
“Actually Mr Foxworth it’s not illegal…and maybe thats why the Clockhaven docks are a ghost town…because you dont partake in a little skimming like Port Babbage does.”
The dockworkers all grinned. Finally one of them asked “So is it true Mr Morningtun that your part of some Mafia?”.
Morington turned to look at the dockworker. “If you mean the Cosa Nostra of Sicily, no…their methods are far too brutal, I am simply a member of several…trade groups…who operate in and around the major ports”…Mornington grinned…and walked back downstairs into the cellar to do some stock taking.