Tepic left the hospital rather down, but at least there were some things he could do about the situation. He would have to go over the Blacking Factory and arrange to start work there on Monday morning, couldn’t start before then because even the factories stopped work on the Sabbath. Still, there should be someone there to ask about the morning shift. That would wait till later though, first he had to pay a visit to the Spider, a little earlier than normal, but it was a quick way to raise some cash, and completely legitimate!
He ran over the steps at the City Hall and ran into Jimmy and Myrtil outside the Wax Museum. He greeted his friends and started to fill them in on his situation. Both were puzzled that he had been given the responsibility for Miss Rouse’s medical bills, and especially that Miss Bookman had supported Canergak’s claim. Myrtil did wonder if the man was somehow blackmailing Miss Bookman, and it seemed to all three of them that this was most likely. They were even more horrified that if Tepic didn’t pay up, Miss Rouse would be left to die, and immediately offered to help out where they could.
It came as a blow that they could not use the usual methods of raising large amounts of cash, due to the need for written proof any raised was legitimate. He told them about the work he was going to have to do at the blacking factory, and that he was on his way to the Spider’s to hock his jacket and boots, something he would normally do as the weather became warmer. On hearing this, Myrtil, who had already doffed her winter gear, ran into the Wax Museum, returning a few minutes later with her own jacket and boots, though she was unsure if the Spider would give a note for the things.
Tepic explained how for genuine sales the pawnbroker would always write a ticket, and for things you intended to redeem later this was always best, as it showed what you had been paid, and what price you had to pay to get the stuff back. You also knew when you had to go get them, though as long as you turned up you could always extend the loan. Sometimes it was safer to store your winter gear with the Spider that way than to try and stash the stuff somewhere you hoped was safe.
Buoyed up by the support of his friends and more hopeful for the future, Tepic headed off to Clockhaven with his burden of boots and jackets. Pushing open the door to the Spider’s Lair, he was greeted by name by the unusual proprietor. They had done regular business before, and as far as anyone could be, the Spider was trusted by the urchins and his other clients, after all, good fences make good neighbours. He was not surprised at Tepic’s mission, though the need for a note was not too common in dealings with the younger inhabitants of the City.
The boy was careful to point out the good condition of his items, especially the hidden pockets inside his own jacket, crafted to hold up to two rabbits each. To a man of discernment such as the Spider, this was an obvious selling point, and Tepic could see the value going up. Jimmy came in on an errand of his own just as the fox boy was concluding his business. He waited until his friend had also finished and they left the Lair together, though it was not long before Tepic headed off to the factory, and from there on to Miss Bookworm’s place to pay over the money he had just raised. It would be hard work, but with the help of his friends, he was now sure they could save Miss Rouse.
Mr Spider is nice! *nods*
Bookworm, walking by Port Babbage, heard a voice call out, “Watcha, Miss Book!” She turned and waited for Tepic to catch up with her. “Hello, Tepic,” she said. “How are you faring with your work?”
He shrugged. “Ain’t difficult, just mixin stuff from bottles an’ putting it in the jars.” He began digging into his pocket. “Oh… got some dosh the other day, all legit. Here it is, an’ the note from the Spider.” He handed over a small amount of money, wrapped in a crumpled sheet of paper. Bookworm took it and stowed it in her purse. “I’ll make sure Canergak gets this.”
“Ye’ll keep a good account for it, Miss? Make sure he don’t gyp us?”
“I certainly will,” she replied, nodding solemnly.
“The Blacking Factory bloke says he’ll give the stuff I earns ter the bloke. It’s all written down on a card we puts in a machine. Carlie an’ Billy are lookin’ after the cheese an’ milk business. I still has ter catch the little bu… creatures, though. An’ Myrtil an’ Jimmy is helpin’ out, too.”
Bookworm smiled. She’d known Tepic would find ways to raise the money, even without recourse to… creatively borrowing it. “I’m glad.”
“Did yer see the fox when yer went in?” he asked eagerly.
Bookworm had already carefully thought over what she should do when Tepic asked this question. She had, albeit reluctantly, come to the conclusion that it was better to keep the truth from him, at least for now. The last thing she wanted was for him to go charging in there again. So she said, “No, I didn’t see it.” Which was, actually, the truth–she hadn’t seen the fox itself, just its cell.
“Oh.” He looked down, and kicked at the ground a little. “Err… Miss…”
“He ain’t… err… got somethin’ on yer, does he? Like Lisa?”
She stared at him in surprise for a few seconds, then realized that that could be one way to explain why she was siding with Canergak. “No, he doesn’t,” she hastened to assure him. “I… I can’t explain right now, but I will when I can.”
Tepic didn’t look entirely convinced, though. “Mmmm… OK… an’ yer sure he ain’t–naw. Don’t yer worry, Miss. If he is, we’ll scupper ‘im somehow.” He smiled, then shivered a little in the chill of the evening air. “Well, I’d best be off, Miss. Busy life!” He waved and scurried off, her “Good night!” following him down the street.