It had been some time ago that Johnny Dawkins, the urchin that hung around with that odd chap who kept trying to kill off Sir Sir Emerson, had told them all about the caves below the Gangplank, and the weird stones that flew upwards. It was a bit of a leap, but to Tepic it sounded like cavorite, some of which would now be plastered to the ceiling of the Gangplank’s cellars.
They had considered going through the sewers to get to the Gangplank’s cellars, but since the Accord had been broken the sewers under Clockhaven had become far too risky. This operation would need more subterfuge, and some quick talking….
Charlie, Billy and Tepic kept watch outside the Gangplank, playing marbles in the gutter outside the door, arguing over shots and turns as urchins always did. They noted which of the staff had left, and finally, around mid morning, the young ex-Brother came out, sneering at the boys as usual in passing. That left just Sir Sir Emerson inside – it was time to act!
Quickly they scooped up the marbles, then spent ten minutes arguing over which belonged to which boy. Once the that situation had been resolved, the three of them burst in through the door and dashed into Sir Sir Emerson’s study, calling out that they had something for him.
“Ello Sir Sir!” Tepic greeted the Clockhaven bar owner as he casually rested his bag on the edge of the desk. “This really is a nice table you have.”
“Table…” Emerson chuckled. “You are looking at the biggest desk in the city right here, Tepic,” the self-declared knight boasted,
“In the top five, I’d say.” the boy nodded, noticing with satisfaction Emerson’s unguarded interest in the bag.
“Top five?” Emerson sounded hurt
“Mr. Underby’s got a pretty big one, an Mr Popplefot’s has a girt big…”.
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“Got something you might be interested in…
The fox boy stood centre stage in front of the desk, holding his attention while rummaging enthusiastically in his large bag. The other two boys took up station at either end of the desk, ducking and diving from each other’s sight.
“Ah, Tepic,” the man stated, “something interesting, you say?”
“Yup, here we goes…”
The boy pulled out a sparkling clear glass bottle, filled with a golden amber liquid that sloshed in a slightly viscous manner.
“Reckon this is the last of this stuff in the City, least until Mr Goa..Mornington smug…. errrr….. imports some more.”
The sight of the amber fluid paired with mention of Victor Mornington drew Emerson’s full attention. “Tepic, is that… is it….?”
Billy took this opportunity to slip into the bakery and down the steps to the hidden cellars below. Charlie doubled his efforts to be seen in the periphery of Emerson’s sight, to give the impression there were more urchins there.
Tepic placed the bottle on the edge of the desk, hands pressed to each side of it and gazed through the liquid into the man’s eyes…
“Could be..” he began, “could be… that a bottle of a certain stuff, with the initials C an R on the bottle….. sort of dropped off the back of a wagon… late one night…”
He paused for effect, and also to give his accomplices more time.
“And them as found it put it inter other bottles….. fer safe-keepin, like….”
Emerson reached for his coffee mug and dumped the remaining contents into the flowerpot then slid the empty mug across the desk to Tepic. “I’ll just make sure the transition between bottles didn’t taint the product,” Emerson winked.
Meanwhile, down in the cellar, Billy scaled the packing cases he had piled up until he could reach the ceiling. He carefully scanned the brickwork, looking for the tell-tale glitter of cavorite particles. Finding a dense patch, he pushed his pry-bar through the soft mortar and began to lever out the first brick….
Tepic looked at the mug askance, then eyed the clear amber nectar, peered into the damp depths of the ceramic vessel and gave a huge, disparaging sigh.
“Charlie, go grab a clean glass from behind the bar,” he commanded, and followed the swiftly moving urchin with the codicil “one of them fancy ones, with the glass diamonds cut on it..”
Seconds later the errand boy was back, holding a massive cut glass tumbler. He rounded the desk and began to hold it out in both hands to the now impatient man when his face began to screw up, nose quivering…
“No Charlie!” Tepic cried, but it was too late, his friend gave a massive sneeze, automatically raising his hands to his face, and the beautiful, clean glass became…. slightly less clean. He looked up at the astonished chap and tentatively offered the glass to him.
“errrr…… no, Charlie, i reckons we should get another one……”
With wearied resignation at the fussiness of his friend and the adult world, Charlie trudged back to the bar.
A clean, large glass having been safely delivered, Mr Lighthouse pushed it across the desk to the waiting lad. With great reverence and ceremony, Tepic carefully extracted the cork, then, tongue poking out the side of his mouth he tipped the bottle, pouring a small thimbleful into the massive vessel. A huge grin on his face, he slammed the cork back in and nodded to Mr Emerson, who made no move to pick the glass up.
“Is that it?” asked the chap, “Not sure I can quite tell if it is the real thing, with just a few drops…”
“Oh, Sir Sir! With yer amazin discriminatin senses at work, yer can probably tell it’s the kosher deal from just a sniff!” The boy said, troweling on the butter with a spade.
“You’re probably right,” Emerson nodded. He then opened the desk drawer and started to rummage. Tepic glanced at Charlie and the two boys exchanged shrugs. Emerson was still rummaging when Tepic asked, “Whatcha looking for?”
“My cigars Tepic, I never drink fine whiskey without a smoke, it’s just not right…” Emerson paused. “Dammit, I think I’m out.”
“That’s a shame,” said Tepic.
“Not to worry,” Emerson smiled. “There is a case in the cellar I’ve been meaning to bring up and put in the humidor. I’ll run and fetch it.”
“No!” said Tepic.
“What?” Emerson looked confused.
“Charlie, give him one of your cigars.”
“Awe, Tepic, it’s my last one and—” Charlie stopped abruptly when he saw Tepic’s eyes go wide. Charlie checked one of his jacket pockets, then another before finding what he was after. He placed a tightly rolled cigarillo on the desk muttering, “Curtesy of Mr. Goat legs.”
Just then a faint clinking of metal on rock came from the direction of the cellar.
“Did you hear something?” said Emerson, glancing toward the kitchen.
Tepic’s reply was to produce a little silver flint lighter which he struck and held. “Oh right,” said Emerson, taking the cigarillo from the desk and leaning in to accept the proffered light. “I don’t know why people grumble about urchins so much, you lot are great.” Emerson blew a cloud of smoke above Charlie’s head then reached for the glass and took a sip of the whiskey. After holding it his mouth for several seconds, swishing it from side to side he swallowed quick before making a rapid motion with his lips that looked a bit like a fish trying to catch a bubble in a fast moving stream. He then nodded his head appreciatively.
“So, it’s the good stuff then, yer agree?” Tepic asked, seeing Billy sneaking in, lighter of step than usual, both hands pushing down on his stuffed bag. As he passed behind the double knight’s chair, he rose gently into the air, feet flailing dangerously until Charlie snagged an angle and pulled him back to the ground. Billy hooked a foot round the desk leg, shoving the bag under the edge of it, hoping the heavy wood was enough to keep him from floating off.
Once secured, he rested his head on his hands, leaning on the desk, intently observing the two bargainers and began to whistle and hum in a random and off key manner. Charlie took the opportunity to vanish down to the cellars, to continue the purloining of the cavorite impregnated brickwork.
Tepic walked up and down in front of the desk, casually tossing the bottle from one hand to the other, occasionally spinning the bottle in the air for variety.
“An if this is the last bottle of the stuff in the City, what yer think it might be worth ter some interested party?”
The man was painfully aware that Tepic’s two little friends had settled down, one at each end of his desk and were both inspecting him closely, odd, impish grins on their faces. It was distracting, made worse by the tuneless meanderings of the one called Billy and the constant sniffing, with the underlying threat of another nasal explosion from the other. For some reason his desk did not give him the feeling of solid security it normally did, which was very unsettling.
“It’s worth something, there’s no doubt,” Emerson shrugged. “How about a free bowl of soup for you and your two friends for every day between now and Christmas that the temperature drops cold enough to see your breath?”
“A bowl each an throw in a bag of sticky buns to take when we’re done with the soup,” said Tepic.
“Okay, but only a dozen,” said Emerson. “And they have to be day-olds.”
“Stale is better for tea-dunking anyway,” said Charlie.
“If they’re day-olds it should be two dozen,” said Tepic.
“There’s never that many sticky buns left at the end of the day,” said Emerson
“We’ll take scones then to make up where you’re short on the sticky buns,” said Charlie
“I could do that—but not with scones, they fly off the shelf, usually gone by noon,” Emerson said. “How about I round it up with tea biscuits?
“Done!” declared the youngster, huge grin on his face as he slapped the bottle onto the leather surface of the desk. He then spat on his hand and reached it out to the man, looking to seal the deal.
Emerson spat into his palm and reached across to take the urchins hand, shaking it firmly.
As soon as the deal was sealed, the three boys joined arms and made for the door, calling out their goodbyes as they left. It struck Mr Lighthouse as slightly odd, the way they left, almost as if Tepic was towing the other lads behind him. Oh well, he thought, as they disappeared out the door. He reached for the bottle, intent on pouring himself a rather fuller glass than he had so far managed, this morning has gone very well. At that moment there was a low rumble from beneath his feet as the cellar roof, fatally weakened by the removal to too many bricks, collapsed.