Underby walked quietly down the back alley of Clockhaven, his collar turned up and his hat pulled down low. He didn’t want to chance being seen crossing past the Gangplank, and so went out of his way.
The small house was dark, and seemed to loom over him. It was difficult to see in the low light, but he knocked lightly on the door. Seemingly nobody had been around for weeks, confirming Underby’s hope that his suggestions to Berithos that she had bewitched him had caught hold and she was now truly alone.
She had one still, and with some good fortune would assist him. One last time.
Underby knocked once briskly on a windowpane, and called inside: “Pip, it’s me. I know you can hear me. I need your assistance.”
For a while there was absolutely no response. Underby took off his hat, leaned in toward the window and peered into the darkness. Nothing. Yet… he felt… observed. The moment his mind acknowledged that he felt watched, a voice spoke behind and above his head. “Ye gots nerve, ya do.”
Underby twitched, and turned to see Pip crouching on a pipe, wrapped in a small black cloak.
“I know.” said Underby.
“Our deal is done, it is. Over when ye had Bib stick me in that hole in the ground, like.”
“I’m with her now.”
Underby exhaled through his nose. “I know.”
Pip smirked. “I s’pose ye know where she is too, eh? Eh?”
Underby nodded. “That’s not why I’m here.”
“Course it isn’t. Yer time, yer business, yer mum.”
Underby winced slightly in the low light. The small man swung up onto the rooftop above himself and giggled. “We’ve nuffink t’ talk about then, do we?” He leapt to a nearby rooftop, farther up, but still nearby.
“It’s about Tenk, Pip.”
The small figure stopped, dubious. “Wot about him then?”
“He’s beginning to fade.” Underby said, then added: “Like Pocket.”
Pip stared at him for a long time. “What. Did. You. Do.”
Underby sighed. “It was part of the Lythrum Project.”
Pip groaned loudly, the sound echoed throughout Clockhaven. “I’ve toldja and toldja, but ye never listen, that plan is useless! Useless ya stupid bag of bones. All yer gonner do is get a lot of people killed or hurt, and prolly destroy half this town in the doing. It’s what he wants. Ya can’t out-think something like that Ozzie, no matter how foxy ye think ye are.”
Underby grinned maliciously. “I have a cunning plan.”
“Course ye do, ye always do, and where has it gotten ya?”
“City Hall, my diminutive friend. City Hall.”
“That’s nuffink! NUFFINK! Yer whole reason ta get into City Hall was that stupid project, and from what I hear, ya spend all yer time changin old laws or runnin around playing big boss with that desert queen.”
“Leave her out of this.”
“Yer too distracted by yer own greed to do whatcha wanta do, don’tcha see that? And he knows it. He’s not worried about ye at all. At all. This is exactly what he wants ye t’do, ya daft bastard.”
“My plan is in motion, and will succeed.”
Pip stared. “Was it your plan for Tenk to start to fade?”
Underby stopped, and frowned. “No.” he said. “That was a mistake. I got…”
“Distracted.” Pip finished for him.
Underby looked up. “Yes. It was a mistake. I-“
“Nup.” Pip interrupted. “Weren’t no mistake. T’was his intention. I imagine he’s havin a good old laugh over all this.”
Underby frowned deeper. “All of this talk is old ground Pip, I know where you stand, and you know where I stand, but the fact of the matter is the plan is now in motion. For good or ill. And despite it being the last thing in the world I want right now, I need to ask you for help.”
Pip looked down at him. “Nup. This is your carriage, Ozzie. You run it over the cliff. I’m gonner find the missus and suggest we leave town as soon as possible like.”
“Pip, please. If not for me, for Tenk.” Underby pleaded. “Please.”
The small figure stood. “No. Tenk’s been deluded by the people of this city fer too long. They’ve put him through so much he don’t even know right what he is no more. He’s better off going where he’s going. He can be with Pocket then.”
Underby stared up in disbelief, but the figure had already vanished.