At the sound of the opening door, Victor Mornington looked up from his seat behind the bar where he sat reviewing the day’s ledger, “Welcome Mr. Lighthouse.” he called out “What brings you all the way up to the Academy this fine evening?”
“Rumours, Mr. Mornington, rumours.” replied Emerson Lighthouse smiling as he closed the door behind him.
“And what would be the nature of these rumours?” Victor replied confident in the tone of his guest that these were the rumours of a friendly nature.
Emerson Lighthouse wasn’t quite ready to tip his hand just yet. “The Muirsheen Durkin seems a little quiet tonight Mr. Mornington.” Emerson smiled offering his hand before taking a seat opposite Victor.
“It’s a Monday night… and it is still early yet,” Victor replied with a shrug, “but don’t let that stop you.” he smiled. “What can I offer you…” he paused before adding “Sir.” The two men laughed.
“Well,” Emerson began “That brings me to the rumours of which I just spoke. Word is you have some fine Chivas Regal… aged 25 years.”
“Well, that ‘word’ would be correct…” Emerson held up his hand before Victor could continue.
“… and perhaps even, dare I say it, Montecristos.” Emerson looked smug.
“Really…” now it was Victor’s turn to be coy, “and where might you have heard that ‘word’?”
“Oh, I have my sources.” Emerson watched as Victor free poured two rocks glasses half full of Chivas Regal adding, “I assume you take it neat.” It was more a comment than a question.
Now as to that other item…” Victor’s pause had the desired effect of heightening Emerson’s anticipation, “…the Montecristos about which you heard word…” Victor continued, retrieving a box from the humidor below the bar, “well, those are fine for casual smoking…” Emerson leaned forward sensing something of a tease in Victor’s voice, “But for those of truly discriminating tastes I have….” Victor raised the hinged lid of the dark wooden box
Emerson’s jaw dropped, “Sagrada Lucias” he whispered barely able to believe what he was seeing. He was about to add: those look genuine, but he caught himself before the insult slipped out because beyond doubt Victor would never be one to offer knock-offs. “May I?” Emerson hesitated.
“Of course.” Victor grinned.
Emerson reached out, taking one of the cigars, marvelling at the exquisite craftsmanship that went into winding the red, gold and green leaf with such precision.
“How is this possible?” Emerson asked, “The Hoja del Diablo Dulce only matures once every 100 years. It is exceedingly rare. Families spend generations in an effort to cultivate just a single crop.” Emerson stopped himself noting Victor’s grin. “Okay Mr. Mornington, we all have our secrets.” Emerson conceded.
“You know Mr. Lighthouse,” Victor retrieved a guillotine cigar cutter from beneath the bar. “There is a remote island I know of, just south of the equator…” Emerson watched as Victor expertly sliced the end off of one of the cigars before handing it to him, “celebrating the 100-year harvest this very month of October.” Victor continued, returning the guillotine to its place below the bar after preparing one for himself. “But as you know, sales are brisk and such limited stocks won’t last long.”
Emerson nodded, “And how quickly could you deliver the product Mr. Mornington?”
“I could deliver the product yesterday Mr. Lighthouse.” Emerson laughed though something in Victor’s joke rang true. “But I have no need myself, being fully stocked.” Victor held a flame from a small flint-action gold-plated lighter.
“But you know the exact location of this island?” Emerson leaned in accepting the light.
“Of course,” Victor paused to light his own cigar, “but you will never make it in time.”
“The devil I won’t sir,” Emerson felt the heady aroma sending waves throughout his entire body. “For a box of these I would make sufficient haste. Why I could be there and back by my Birthday, November 11th.”
“Come now Mr. Lighthouse,” Victor said not unkindly as the purple tinged smoke drifted lazily from his mouth, “even if one were to take an airship there and back, it is extremely unlikely one could meet those time constraints.”
“If one were to catch just the right airstreams… the southerly flow which is accessible from just north of Bump, for example.” Emerson said. “Why I bet one could quite easily manage it.”
“An interesting boast” Victor mused “but for a truly sporting wager, such a voyage would have to have some restrictions.” Victor continued. “For example, at least seven means of transportation must be used, and you would have to send a telegram, or other message, marking your progress not less than once per week.”
“Are we negotiating the terms of a wager then, Mr. Mornington?” Emerson drained the Chivas and held the glass out for more. Victor refilled both the rocks glasses to the halfway mark.
“Well that depends entirely on what we have to bargain with.” replied Victor. “For my part I’m willing to offer a year of Chivas on the house, whenever you come to the Muirsheen Durken.”
“Okay,” Emerson began, “how about I offer you the services of my Majordomo, Arnold, for a year… in the unlikely event I lose.” Victor didn’t look quite convinced, “He could mop up the floor in the bar for you every night.” Come on, Emerson thought, the odds are in your favour. It was several moments before Victor nodded, “That would do.”
Emerson drained his glass again as Victor wrote out the island’s name and coordinates. “Very good then,” Emerson said, glancing at the information before slipping it into his pocket. “I best get started.” He stood, clenching the Sagrada Lucia in his teeth as he shook Victor’s hand. “Thank you for the Chivas, Mr. Mornington, put the drinks on my tab,” Emerson grinned, “after-all it should be my last bill of charge for about a year and a month.”
Victor shook his head, “Tonight was on me Mr. Lighthouse.” He paused before adding with all sincerity, “Good luck Emerson. Be careful out there.”
“Thank you Victor.”
Malus had just sat down to enjoy the steak and onions he had only moments ago finished preparing for himself. Even before he had cut his first bite, Emerson burst through the door, a cloud of purple smoke still emanating from the soggy cigar stump he clenched between his teeth. “Pack it up to go Malus.” Emerson sounded manic. “Start the fire in the boiler of the carriage and get word to Mr. Arnold to get here ASAP. He starts house sitting tomorrow. You and I are off to Bump before the sun rises.”
((I would like to thank Victor Mornington who’s input helped make this story a lot more fun to write))