The Partnership: Part Three
“Scout,” I whispered demandingly. I knew from the beginning that taking her with me would mess everything up. She clearly didn’t know how important getting this job was for her and for the Defenders HQ in general.
She was wringing her hands, still looking at the floor as I waited in agony. Finally she glanced up at me, and I gave her what I hoped was an actual encouraging smile. It either worked, or she just got bored standing there, because she quietly cleared her throat.
“Mister Firestone, I’m real good at cleanin’ and whatnot, I am. You wouldn’t be mad a speck if you hired me, I promise. I’m quiet and I don’t eat a lot or nothing. Please, Mister.”
I gave an inward sigh of relief. She pulled it off, I was sure of it. She had a bit of bad grammar, just like I told her, and I think I even spotted a tear forming at the corner of her eye. Not bad, I decided... for a kid.
Firestone stared at her for a moment before curtly nodding his head. “Very well. You will also follow Snorkle to a room. Both of you will be expected to work tomorrow morning. That is all.” And without as much as a “good night”, Firestone strolled back up the stairs and was out of sight.
“Arg gar,” grumbled Snorkle, and lumbered off down the hall.
Scout was dropped off first, and I was left three doors down. I let myself into a small, dingy room. It consisted simply of the essentials. Nothing fancy and Firestone almost surely could have afforded better, I guessed.
On the table sat that promised packet of work information, and I reluctantly picked it up. I had to make sure that I knew the job inside and out, because gaining Firestone’s confidence and trust could only help me. Stretching out on my bed, I opened up the papers and read.
* * * * * * *
The following morning began too early, in my opinion, as I rolled out of bed. Somebody had slid breakfast under my door while yelling that it was time to wake up. I greedily grabbed the tray with food and devoured it. Then, throwing on my overcoat and with random facts in my head from the packet I fell asleep reading, I ran out my door and down the hall.
When I arrived at my post, I was more than a little shocked to see Scout standing there, looking as burned out as ever. “What are you doing here?” I growled under my breath once I reached her. “It’ll look a little suspicious if somebody were to catch us talking together, wouldn’t it?”
Scout immediately sat up to her full Kougra height and glared at me. “I’ll have you know that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, thank you very much, Mr. Almighty Eyrie.”
“What do you mean? I’m supposed to be the doorman.” This job that Firestone had assigned sat well with me. Being able to know exactly who came in to see him would be helpful.
“Well good for you,” Scout retorted crabbily. “My job is to be his little messenger. I guess I have to carry letters or packages to him and stuff, and tell him that somebody wants to see him.” Scout paused for a minute here. Then she leaned in and whispered, “This is good for us, isn’t it?”
Inside I smiled, glad to see that Scout, who had clearly gotten no sleep, at least caught on to that. Outwardly, I just gave a slight nod.
Scout beamed. “I knew it! Because then I can look and maybe eavesdrop or something to see what he’s up to. This is perfect and I can do it Kat! I’ll be the best agent ever, just like you.”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be getting too confident, Scout. The last thing we need is you getting a big head... it won’t help matters.”
Scout stuck her tongue out at me juvenilely. “Your big head is taking up too much space already.”
And so our first day of real work had started, and it began very uneventfully. I had at least expected a couple seashell peddlers or something, but nobody came to the door.
“There are 124 bones in that chandelier,” Scout said, finally breaking the silence after we had been standing there listlessly through the morning and into the afternoon.
“Really? I counted 132,” I responded truthfully. And yes, I, distinguished and gifted secret agent, had indeed counted the bones. But you really have no idea how boring this job was getting.
Scout crinkled up her nose. “I’ll count again la-,” she began, but was interrupted when a knock came at the door, making both of us jump.
Brushing the wrinkles out of my coat, I hurried over to the door and opened it in a regal manner that I imagined fit the house nicely. “Good af’ernoon,” I greeted to the strange figure standing outside the doorway.
He, or she, had on a long trench coat with the collar up, and a fedora pulled over their eyes, making it impossible to tell what kind of pet they were. “I’m here to deliver this note to Raould Firestone,” the speaker, whom I now identified as female, said coldly. She took a hand out of her coat pocket with a folded bit of paper within it. I was about to grab the note, but she quickly pulled away. “Just so we’re clear,” she continued, “this is for Firestone’s eyes only. I can guarantee that anybody other than him caught looking at it will be swiftly punished. Are we clear?”
“We understand just fine, ma’am,” I assured her. “No ones but Mis’er Firestone his self will be looking at this letter.”
The figure nodded sharply and threw the letter at my outstretched hand. Badly needing more info about this pet, I allowed myself to “accidentally” drop the letter that she handed to me. Falling to the ground, it somehow landed in the right position to lay open.
The figure gasped and bent down quickly as I stared, trying to read before she grabbed it. But as she picked up the letter, her hat fell off in front of me, and revealed a brown Nimmo with an extremely angry look on her face.
“You imbecile!” she screeched, snatcing up her hat and the note quickly. “Get out of my way; I’m taking this to Firestone myself. Wait until he hears about this little incident!”
The Nimmo shoved her way past me and marched up the stairs defiantly, throwing a hateful glance back at me. The fact that she had decided to take the letter up herself told me two things. First, she was important enough that she could see Firestone when she wanted. Secondly, the letter said something important enough to hide. This meant that she definitely wasn’t delivering a grocery list or something.
My thoughts were interrupted when Scout’s high-pitched voice quietly squealed, “Oh, are you in trouble!”
Ignoring her, I returned to my thinking. There was a word that I had seen scribbled out in cursive inside that note. It had said ”dub”, but that really didn’t help. What I needed was to see this letter...
No less than ten minutes later, the Nimmo descended back down the stairs. “Firestone would like to see both of you now, in his office. Have fun.”
I would imagine she had been sneering, if it was possible to see her face. Rubbing my scar wearily, I began walking up the staircase with Scout in tow. I admit that I hadn’t thought the Nimmo would actually tell on me, and now that she had, I was getting apprehensive. The last thing I needed was to get myself fired from the job on the first day.
My thoughts were racing nervously and I began sweating. I didn’t even want to know what Scout looked like behind me. With each step closer to the door, I got hit more and more with the truth that this could be very bad. Firestone didn’t seem to be one for forgiving mistakes. You’re the best, I reminded myself, trying to get some self-confidence worked up.
Taking a deep breath, I turned and whispered quietly to Scout, “Look for the letter. We need to see it.” Then with no more hesitation, I pushed open the door.
The scene that I was met with was alarmingly calmer than I had anticipated. A big, fancy desk sat in the middle of the room, with a leather armchair behind it. A fireplace in the corner had a painted picture over it of Firestone posing with that annoying smirk on his face. But the part that I really disliked was that the Uni himself was nowhere to be seen.
Carefully, without being too obvious, I searched in every corner and under the desk of his office, making sure he wasn’t just playing some kind of twisted game of hide and seek.
Once I figured out that the room was actually empty, Scout and I quickly got to work searching for that letter.
“I found... a Neopian Lottery ticket,” I said with a disgusted sigh.
“Cool! I’m really good at guessing at the lottery. Want me to predict what the winning numbers will be for tomorrow?” Scout asked excitedly.
“Fine. All I found was this bank letter thanking Firestone for depositing a million dubloons last week,” Scout said in a dejected manner.
I narrowed my eyes. That was weird... people didn’t just run around putting a million dubloons at once into the bank. I stored that into my memory, logging it as suspicious activity.
“This is useless,” Scout finally said after we had been searching for a couple minutes. “And where’s Firestone?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, trying not to show that I was worried as I rummaged through his desk. “Maybe he took the letter with h-,”
I paused. It sat, open, in the bottom drawer of his desk. Gingerly taking it out, I read it.
I now dub thee too weak to hunt at our usual post.
I scanned it a couple times, making sure I had every word memorized before carefully placing it exactly where it was. Stealing the letter from his office would only cause trouble. I had just closed the desk drawer when a voice caused both me and Scout to jump.
“Is something in my desk of interest to you, servant?” Firestone’s cold, hard voice asked from the doorway.
To be continued...