The older man was about to step out of the submersible at the docks and for the first time in the month he had been in town he didn’t perceive any sign of those two boys who had been standing in the same spot nearby everyday, pretending to play or whittle. In the beginning he hadn’t thought anything of those children, but after the first few days and a couple of turned corners it had become obvious that they were following him. Not just them, but dozens of children had taken to the habit of peeking around corners and following him everywhere he went. Now that he’d noticed them he recalled what his own spy had told him about the resources the urchins had at their disposal, which until then he had discounted as irrelevant.
So long as all the children wanted to do was watch him as he went about his business in town then there was still no problem. All he had done for the past month was make orders for materials, hire the necessary people to do the renovations, and made sure the last of a few legal matters concerning the facility were completed satisfactorily. As for his other business…well he had to be patient for that and then children would be the least of his concerns.
Still, the old master did not know why they had chosen to pursue him, perhaps it was just idle curiosity towards a wealthy foreigner, but he had only begun to stare back at them in the past two days. They did not appreciate his scrutiny, though they might have been even more nervous had they known that his eyes were clicking because they were changing so he could view them in different spectrum’s. A number of them should be specimens strapped to a morticians table and slated for a dissection, but it had proven difficult in the past to make people believe that the specimens were unnatural spawn that should have no rights under the law, especially since most countries no longer choose to recognize their existence.
He had decided to find out why the children were following him, but approaching them seemed pointless as they would simply run away, and subdueing even one of the children would attract needless attention. If the authorities did not get involved it would still certaintly make the other children his enemies. Besides, there were better ways to discover what he wanted than with unnecessary roughness.
Canergak finished getting out of the submersible next to two very different children who were lounging nearby, fishing with a string tied to their toes and they seemed to be asleep. Canergak took his cane and started to walk as quickly as he could past them towards the Vernian tunnel, and then dropped the papers in his hands. He reached down and picked up most of them while still going as quickly as he could towards the tunnels.
He got to the elevator and before the doors shut he took a brief glance back. The children were collecting the papers he’d dropped, which were full of appointments he’d already fulfilled and some notes on how the asylum was to be reconstructed. There were even a few dossiers that he had compiled about the people in town, which were originally dated months before he had ever arrived thanks to notes that had been sent by his spy. Nothing he needed to hide, but perfect for his purposes today.
After he reached the bottom he stepped out and leaned against the railing. Even if the children didn’t follow him, and there was a good chance they would not be so foolish, then at least he might have satiated some of their curiosity or scared some of them off since a few of them were on the papers he had dropped. If they continued to pester him however, he would try something more elaborate in the future.
Hoyt was new to Babbage, had come with a pouch on a stick and a dog for company. Dog had run off at some point chasing a cat, and when Tepic had said just those what had cats for company should leave he hadn’t meant him of course, since dogs weren’t cats. They was bigger and tougher.
His buddy ran off with the information to Tepic, who might be really happy since those papers and drawings looked really official and important. There was even one with a picture of Tepic and their home across from the Piermont while it was still being worked on in April, so he’d be really interested in that bit.
After his friend left though, he couldn’t help but think after a few moments where the mark had been running to that made him leave behind all them important papers. He’d never walked that fast before, no sir.
He took off the string then tied it to a barrel and then skipped towards the elevator. He rode it down and was standing at the corner, till he remembered they shouldn’t be hiding like that. He had to stand all normal like and if he saw him he’d just start begging.
He was right worried though when he saw the man standing outside the glass staring at him, and all of a sudden he wished he still had his dog to go with the knife he had hidden.
As the elevator finished turning he looked at the man and gave him the best leg he could by taking his hat off and looking up and cringing a little, “Sir, aye’s been meanin ter ask…do yer happen ter have somefin tasty on ya? Or somefin ya can spare a orphan tha’ loss his dog?”
The weird man didn’t answer, he just let those strange eyes of his keep making those very low clicking noises, and Hoyt couldn’t help but back away nervously as the mark entered the elevator with him.
“As a matter of fact young man, I do have some money that I could spare,” Canergak said as he reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. “But only in exchange for some information.”
Hoyt smiled and nodded his head, “Aye know all sors o’ thins. Whatcha wanna know?”
“I want to know why you and the other children have been following me,” the elderly man said and Hoyt felt the color leave his face a bit, though he quickly put on his best confused face he had, he’d been practicing at it hard in windows and mirrors.
“Followin’ ya, sir? Can’t say that I know anythin about tha’,” Hoyt shrugged. “Maybe ya just bein a bit polanoid?”
“Do not lie to me young man,” the mark said as those eyes clicked away furiously. “I will know.”
Hoyt wanted to run past the creepy old man and his cane, but he’d have to knock the old buzzard to the side and he was pretty thick, even if he was old…and Tepic had said he could be really dangerous…he shouldn’t have ever come down here…if he got out of this alive Tepic was gonna run him till he was nothing but bones.
“Now, if you will tell me the truth about why you have all been following me, then I will give you five hundred notes in the currency of your choice,” the old man said as he opened his wallet and then removed several different currencies to show Hoyt all the money he had inside to spare in all of them. “And in exchange all I want to know is why you have all been following me.”
Hoyt wondered how a man his age and with all that money could have possibly been going around town all this time and not gotten mugged or ended up in the canals with his throat cut. Looking at the money now though this seemed like one of those ‘too good to be true’ things Tepic had warned him about, and he wasn’t about to tell on the others to this old codger.
“I don’ know wha’ ya talkin about. An’ even if’n I did know anythin, I wouldn’ tell you nuffin!”
The old man stared at him blankly, and Hoyt prepared himself to reach for the knife until the mark put the money back into his wallet, “Very well, young man, that is your decision and I shall respect it.”
Hoyt stared at the daft man, still keeping his hand on his knife and waiting for whatever trick he was about to pull.
“However, I do want you to know that this offer was not a one time thing,” the mark continued after he put his wallet away and had then proceeded to stare at Hoyt again, making him squirm uncomfortably. “If you come down to meet me then this offer will still stand and will never close, and will certainly be open to you in the cold winter months that are coming. While I understand that you are loyal to your friends, should you suddenly think that five hundred dollars is more sure and lucrative to your survival than your friends, who I suspect will be freezing and starving to death themselves in the coming months, then my offer will still stand.
“When your life is coming to an end this winter, when you are struggling to find food that has become scarce now that there is too much demand, and those who have been giving freely until then suddenly realize they do not enough resources to share anymore because they have spread themselves too thin taking care of too many of you, come to me and I shall not only save your life, but give you a future. I may be free with money, but I hoard my resources. Tell me what I want to know and I will pay you. Seek me out in the hopes of your employment, and I shall set you on a path where the danger of freezing to death the next winter will be a thing of the past.”
The old man turned and left, and Hoyt cursed himself for being so stupid. Not only had he come down here but the man had somehow walked all over him instead of the other way around as was proper. But there was just something about that man that just didn’t seem right, and it was downright unnerving, not that Hoyt had been scared, of course. Hoyt turned the elevator on and got back to his line, which had apparently been pulled out to sea, barrel and all. Maybe it had been a good thing he’d gotten that thing off his toe…
He wasn’t going to tell anyone he left, not if that meant he’d be running laps under Tubby for the next few months. If anyone had noticed he left he’d just say he lost him in the tunnels and had been skipping along all playful like, though if they somehow knew the mark had cornered him he’d tell them everything the mark had said of course. But they didn’t know cause if another urchin had been around they would have helped him. They would have turned the elevator on upstairs or made a distraction in the tunnels for him so he could get away. Anyways, the important thing was what they didn’t know wouldn’t make him look like a doofus.
Canergak was fairly confident that even if that boy would not tell him, then one of the others would because he was bound to tell them about the offer and brag about how he’d refused it. In all likelihood there would soon be an attempt to steal his wallet or give him information that was useless. But he’d done this song and dance before in other cities, and he had not lived to be his age or held onto his wallets in these cities because he was an easy target.
He rested at Huxley Hall to rest for a time and then returned back the way he came, and rode the elevator back up. Neither of the boys was there anymore, though he wasn’t surprised. He talked to the captain of the submersible and re-entered his base within the city, and put most of the money back where he usually kept it with the rest and his other valuables. It seemed beneath him to protect such unimportant things, but they were necessary…for the moment.