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Who was spreading those rumors? (Part 3: Confrontation)

Mumsy and her solicitor were having lunch as usual on Wed, but he was having trouble enjoying his meal.

The old woman glanced up at Octavius Palmer while cutting her food and asked, “What’s the matter with you?  You’ve been blissfully silent today…cat got your tongue?”

Palmer blanched before trying to regain his composure as he put jam on his biscuit, but he had been on edge ever since that conversation with Arnold.

“I do believe you’re getting ill, man,” said Mumsy, with a sardonic note in her voice.  “You look more pale and simpering than usual.”

Palmer frowned as he wondered again what the old woman knew, or suspected.  It didn’t make sense for Arnold to investigate him so intently on his own, the cat stood only to gain by his actions.  It was when he had reasoned that the old woman might have used the cat as her pawn that Octavius Palmer started to become nauseated.  Still, he wasn’t the type of man who confronted problems head-on.

Lunch was mostly quiet after that and he made his way back to his room, constantly looking over his shoulder for Arnold, who was nowhere in sight.  

This didn’t make Palmer feel any more secure as he opened his door, and Arnold said from right behind him, “Palmer.”

The lawyer yelped, tripped, and fell into his room.  He backed away and tried to regain his feet while the cat pounced inside, holding several pieces of paper in one hand, and his claws were exposed on the other and he looked ready to attack.

“I just got off the wire with some old acquaintances of mine at the University of St. Andrews.  They had some interesting things to say about you.” Arnold thrust the papers at him.

Palmer glanced down at the reports, but his eyes kept glancing up at Arnold’s claws uncomfortably, “Well, I can’t say that I-“

“It’s too late Palmer, I already know you’re a fraud,” the cat interrupted and Palmer’s felt all color drain from his face as Arnold moved even closer. “The only thing I don’t know is why you did it.”

Palmer stared up at the cat and tried to think, but his mind failed him as the cat shouted, “Why did you do it, tell me!”  

Arnold reached forward and Palmer screamed out, “I did it because the hag was broke!”

The cat paused, “What?”  

“I only came to Babbage because I thought the old woman had money squared away!” Palmer confessed, the words coming out of him before he could take them back, and worse they continued. “But she didn’t!  I just wanted something after all this wasted time!”

Arnold paused for a few moments before he nodded and backed away, “And that’s why you were spreading the rumors?”

“I didn’t have anything to do with that,” Palmer confessed pathetically, “Those started before I even began the procedures…”

Arnold nodded again, and then started to back out of the room, still watching Palmer who was now looking down at the documents and he realized that none of them had to do with him at all.  His face turned beet red as he stared at the cat.

“I didn’t trick you,” Arnold told him.  “Well, completely.  I left the real documentation with Mumsy, just in case you did happen to take me out.  Somehow.”

Palmer lost all the color in his face so quickly that the cat asked if he needed to go to the hospital.


Arnold was talking with Mumsy about her solicitor’s confession over supper at the Cocoa Java.

“Let me tell you something, cat.  This is between you and me.  I have always known that man was a fool, but he was a useful fool.  If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have gotten back to New Babbage.”  She didn’t elaborate, but shifted the subject slightly.  “I paid him with my meager allowance, you know.  He wasn’t employed out of charity.”

Arnold nodded, but kept his thoughts about her revelation to himself.  He was skeptical that she would take him into her confidence in such a candid way. “I don’t know what else he may have done in Emerson’s name, but the paperwork involved in declaring him dead is still going through…for the moment.”

“Hah!  Paperwork.  In this city?”  She scoffed.  “Property here is acquired through cunning. A death certificate is nothing.  Rumors are everything.  I will see to the papers, you see to the gossip.”  

Arnold paused for a long time until he nodded his ascent.  The two ate for a short time until a child about twelve years old wearing an engineers cap ran up to Arnold and passed him a letter.  Arnold thanked him and offered the rest of his meal as payment.  The letter was from Petharic, agreeing to meet with him later tonight.

When he shared this information Miss Sharp pointed an aged finger at him, “Don’t be out too late.  Remember, 5 AM, cat.  Palmer may not have had the right to sign Mr. Lighthouse’s name, but I signed mine.”

Arnold nodded slowly, and then after a few moments he added, “Palmer only related my duties from Emerson and how he planned to reimburse me, and stated clearly it was Emerson’s words not his.  We still have a verbal contract, and I intend to collect…from him.”  Though he didn’t really believe that Mumsy Abigail was broke, he wanted to make Emerson pay for once in his life.

“Do you know why I have entrusted you to execute my business, cat?”

Arnold was surprised by the question.  He hadn’t considered the possibility that this was anything more than another test or a chore. “No,” he answered honestly.

The old woman gave him an uncharacteristic smirk, “Benzene ash and white lampblack.”

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