Underby finished the last of the paperwork, dabbed the went ink with a blotter, grabbed his coat and hat and exited the office. Murg stood outside the door, bulging watery eyes quivering as if on the verge of tears… as always.
“You called Mr Underby?” he asked.
Underby continued to walk, and Murg trotted beside him. “Wexhome, do you know him?”
“Mmm…” Murg mused aloud.
“Fancies himself a swashbuckler. He’s been sending me ridiculous amounts of paperwork to read through, sort, and sign. Well, have the clockwinder sign. Anyway. It’s become increasingly idiotic. He is obviously up to something… attempting to bog me down with red tape. He can’t play the filibuster card with me forever and think I won’t notice.”
“Of course not sir.”
Underby stopped. Murg stopped as well. “Find out what people think of him.”
“Nothing obvious. Try not to bring him up yourself, if possible. Steer conversation the way I showed you.”
Underby looked at the small man. “It is completely impossible to tell if you are comprehending a word I say sometimes.”
“Find out what people think of Wexhome without bringing him up.”
Underby nodded, still sizing Murg up. “Alright, piss off, you. I have other matters to attend to.”
Murg shuffled off, mumbling under his breath once he had stepped ten feet away. Underby watched him leave, deciding to have someone follow Murg himself around to see what he did with his time. Should have done that from the start, Underby thought as he felt a tug on his coat.
A small round urchin was pulling on his coat. “Missa Undap-uh-bee… I hearded that you was gettin married!”
Underby looked down on the revolting child. “Rather rotund for an urchin, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Rotund?” the child repeated, puzzled.
The child looked surprised and hurt.
“I’m a… it’s a… the Church… giveses out free food, sir, I can’t help it.”
“Ah yes, the Church… but tell me boy, have you ever stopped to wonder what it is they serve to the poor?” Underby asked with a malicious smile, some voice in the back of his mind telling him to stop, he needed these kids. It was too amusing to see the child’s face work while he struggled to think, though.
“I… I… well… what would they serve?”
Underby shrugged, with a small smile. “Now… what was the news you had to tell me?”
“That you was getting married.”
Underby sighed softly. “Yes. I am. What else did you have to tell me?”
The urchin shuffled his feet. “That was it, sir, I hearded that and came to tell you right away. Like you said to.”
Underby looked at the boy. “You heard I was getting married…”
“And, so you rushed right over here to tell me that I was getting married.”
“Despite the quite obvious fact that I am the one getting married, and therefor would already be well aware of this alleged news.”
“Do I have that right?”
“Yes sir, for the seven dollars.”
“Yes sir. Two ifs it was a rumor, and five extra ifs its true. It is true, ain’t it Missa Under…bee?”
Underby scowled. The little bastard. The insidious little bastard. He fished into his pocket and dropped some coins on the cobbles. “Here. And don’t spend it on any goddam food, boy, one more chocolate bickie for you and you shall be the newest amuse-bouche on the menus of Bump.” he stalked off, angrily.
After a few steps he jerked to a halt. Underby turned back to the urchin.
The urchin looked up from collecting the coins on the ground.
“Do you know who Byron Wexhome is?”
The urchin beamed. “Course I do, sir!”
Underby made an effort to control his face. “Excellent. Here’s a chance for a lazy boy to make even more of my hard-earned money… poke around and find out what people think of him… how well he is liked, whether he has any skeletons in his closet… got that?”
The boy nodded, a little uncertainly.