Weeks earlier, whilst the ice village still rested out on Iron Bay, Petra had noticed that a small wooden dinghy had become frozen into the ice behind Ahab’s. At the time she spotted it, the small vessel had been stuck in there rock solid, half covered in snow, clearly abandoned. She had tried to make herself remember to come out and check on it once the ice melted, but only remembered weeks after the thaw.
Now, Petra stood on the edge of the gore strewn wharf, looking down at the pathetic little wooden boat, bobbing in the murky water, seemingly ready to sink at any given moment. The weight of the water resting inside had yet to overcome the bouyancy of the dinghy, so far, but didn’t look like it would last much longer.
“Tar.” came a familiar voice voice from behind the girl. Petra turned, looking at the small man in the brightly colored clothing, who continued: “Tar and a cork will fix that up in a jiffy, young missy.”
“Mr. Popper!” she exclaimed. “You said you were going to visit the moon.”
“Dull, missy; dull dull dull.” the colorful man stated, tapping his walking stick on a bit of forgotten blubber. “A man can only eat so much cheese before regularity is interrupted.”
Petra nodded knowingly. “A cork won’t work here, Mr. Popper. The hole is too big for a bottle cork.”
“Is it?” he asked, looking at her shrewdly. She scratched her head, thinking about a cork fitting in that large hole. “I guess the tar fills the rest of the hole?” she asked.
Mr. Popper smiled. “Not all corks are the same size, missy.” he said. “Try a bottle with a larger opening, from -say- an apothecary. Then, use the tar to seal it.”
She smiled. “Cripes, Mr. Popper. What would happen if I didn’t have you?” she asked.
“You would be considerably wetter.” he said. She laughed, then ran off to collect what she needed.
* * * * *
Five hours later, the two sat bobbing in the dinghy out in Iron Bay, fishing. Mr. Popper look around at the thick fog which squatted over the bay. “What do people fish for here?” he asked.
“Wiggyfish mostly.” she replied, baiting his hook for him.
“Wiggyfish.” he repeated. “How appalling.”
Petra finished with the worm, then tossed his line over the side. “I, er…” she started to say. “I, er… never… got a chance ta thank you. Fer helpin me out of Falun.” she said, finally.
“That’s quite alright. It is, after all, what I do.” he responded, slowly reeling in his line.
“I heard, strangely enough, that you were headed back to Falun soon.” he said, almost casually.
She looked up at him. “Who toldja that?”
“Now, missy…” he said with a shake of his head. “You know very well that I can reveal neither my methods, nor my sources.”
“Or you’d hafta kill me.” she added.
“That is correct.”
She nodded again. “Well, yeah.” she said. “I needter guide my boss around town. He has importin business to attend ta.”
Mr. Popper looked from his line to the girl. “Important business, or importing business?” he asked. She shrugged. “I dunno.”
“You will, I assume, go in disguise.” he said.
Mr. Popper nodded.
“Missy.” he said, after a long silence where the only sound was the slapping of the water against the dinghy, and the gulls in the air.
“Uh huh?” she asked.
“Do you remember Spencer Wax?” he asked.
Flinching slightly, Petra nodded. “Course I do, stupid.”
He looked at her. “Are you sure you remember him?”
Petra stared. “Have you gone mental or somethin?” she asked. “Why’re you askin if I rememmer that chump? I’d sooner ferget.”
Mr. Popper shrugged slightly. “I merely assumed you had forgotten about him, when I heard about the recent incident with the lad Tubby.”
Petra’s eyes almost bugged out. “Who toldja about that?!”
He sighed. “You know I can neither reveal my methods, nor my sources.”
She stared at him. “I bet it was Tubby who toldja.” she said finally.
Mr. Popper turned, looking out over the foggy bay. “It was.” he finally replied.
There was a long silence as the two sat in their boat. A dog howl echoed over the water, from the direction of Wheatestone. “He’s a fink, Mr. Popper.” she said quietly. “He had that comin.”
“Perhaps.” he replied, slowly reeling in his line. “But I would urge you keep Spencer Wax foremost in your in mind.”
Petra said nothing.
Mr. Popper looked to the girl. “Would you care to row back in and have a bite of lunch?” he asked.
“Yeah sure.” she responded. “What’s fer lunch?”
Mr. Popper looked at the water. “Anything but wiggyfish.”