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The Lamp Feeders of Falun

Through the large ornate windows of his executive office, Milburn Pennybags, CEO of The Pipco Mining Corporation looked out upon the lower streets of Falun. Despite the grandeur held by the spectacular architecture before him, he found his gaze drawn to a pair of simple clockwork lamp feeders. The small brass automatons were busy working their way along the maze of Falunian boulevards, topping up the street lamps’ steam reservoirs from portable tanks of liquid nutrients.

Mr. Pennybags broke out of his reverie at the sound of a cough from behind him. The small dapper business executive secured his monocle in a special velvet sleeve inside the pocket of his vest. He next, in a very deliberate manner, adjusted his top hat. Only after he was certain everything was in place did he suddenly turn to face Eatmore Flax, Pipco Corp’s head of security.

“Eatmore, what is this of some tavern hoodlum boasting of plans to rob The Pipco Mining Corporation of gold ore?” Pennybags swung his cane and brought it down with a resounding bang atop of the report sitting on his desk. “There can’t be any credibility to it, surely?”

“As unlikely as it seems,” the lean, middle-aged Flax merely shrugged in response to Pennybags’s outburst. “I have now heard the same rumours from multiple sources – most recently from a number of farmers out on the South Fells.”

“How could someone possibly be so stupid as to boast about committing a crime prior to committing that crime?” Pennybags exclaimed. The ends of his professionally twirled handlebar moustache jerked about wildly as he shook his head in exaggerated dismay. “Any idea who this fool is?”

“Yes,” replied Flax. “Al Cursengine, owner of the Snakebite Tavern, a lawless frontier bordello with questionable taste in dancers. It’s located on Main Street in Bump.”

“I’ve never heard of this Al Cursengine?” Pennybags narrowed his eyes. “Explain how he figures into all this?”

“We don’t have much on him.” Flax reported. “Most I could find, he headed some sort of riot a year or two ago, chasing a couple of showgirls out of Bump. Apparently it involved circus elephants.”

“Amusing as that sounds, he hardly seems like someone with enough imagination to carry out an operation of this magnitude.”

“Normally I would agree but we found a classified ad he ran in old Oscar Penrose’s rag down there in New Babbage.”

The New Babbage Free Press isn’t it?” Pennybags inclined his head.

“Yep, I get it sent up here special delivery everyday,” Eatmore Flax nodded. “On account of Oscar used to call upon my crazy sister in law’s second cousin, Peggy, back when the two of them was in senior school.” Flax dropped his voice. “Oscar and Peggy were something of a social item back in those days, and since that makes me and Oscar practically kin; I like to get his paper sent up as a show of support.” Flax took a folded over piece of paper from his side bag, shook it out and read:

Successful business owner/local celebrity seeking seasoned ore dealer. Experience unloading tonnes and tonnes of ore an asset. Contact Al Cursengine, ℅ The Snake Bite Tavern, Main Street, Town of Bump.

“What’s odd is this ad ain’t even the suspicious part,” added Eatmore Flax looking up from the page. “I looked into it and apparently someone has been contacting blackmarket ore dealers! Only a special calibre of businessman can navigate those channels, if you be catchin’ my drift.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Pennybags’s, cheeks were flush with concentration, “Why would someone with that kind of underworld power live in Bump? And why brag about it?” mused Pennybags. “Have you attempted to contact this Al Cursengine?”

“Of course,” replied Flax. “We had agents in Bump take a stroll by The Snakebite Tavern. But he wasn’t there. His neighbours say he left town, claiming to be going away for a week..”

“I don’t like the sounds of any of this.” said Pennybags decisively. “Double security down in the mines! I don’t want some loud-mouthed, tavern owning,  crackpot disturbing my meeting with Victor Mornington and Manuka Honey later this morning.”

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