The Partnership: Part Four
I froze for a split-second, but quickly recovered to respond, “No sir, I was just looking for a pencil, see. I want to write a le’er to my family.”
Firestone kept his eyes on mine as he slowly strode to the chair behind his desk. “Please... sit,” he said quietly, as much an order as it was a request. Both Scout and I took seats across from him. Scout once again seemed to find an interesting spot on the floor to stare at, while I matched Firestone’s gaze.
“It seems that my,” he paused, “comrade has had a bit of a qualm with you. Would you agree with that sentiment?”
Not knowing whether this was a rhetorical question or not, I chose to remain silent, knowing that Scout could easily do the same in Firestone’s presence.
The Uni vainly pushed back his mane of hair, before continuing on. “Very well, no argument, I see. Now apparently, you had been given a note for me, with strict instructions not to look at it. But you somehow dropped said note, which was your first mistake. You then—and I am only saying what my friend told me—you then seemed to stare rather intently at the fumbled letter until she was able to pick it up. Do you have any amendments to make to that story, Kat?”
Let me state here that even the best agents get themselves into messes like I just have. And even they, like me, draw blanks when asked unanticipated questions. So once again, I remained silent, and Firestone unfortunately took that as agreement.
“I see, I see. Continuing on, I just now caught you suspiciously rummaging through my belongings, quite uninvited, looking for what you call a pencil. As you can probably see yourself, this is not looking good for you, is it?”
I wished to Queen Fyora that this Uni would stop asking me so many questions, or at least stop making all of these negative observations about me. With each sentence he spoke, I knew that I was sinking deeper and deeper into a hole that I wouldn’t be able to dig my way out of.
“And so, I think that you will understand quite well why I must permanently dismiss you, Kat,” Firestone finished with a sneer.
I gulped as my mind raced trying to figure out if I could convince him of my allegiance. Stalling for time, I asked, “And Scout? What of her?”
“Scout? Oh yes. Well as far as I have heard and seen, she has done absolutely nothing wrong. She may stay.”
There was no way that Scout could do this mission on her own, I thought. Glancing over, I saw her face was turning pink, I guess the white Kougra’s version of paling, and knew that my belief was confirmed. She was too young and inexperienced.
I now dub thee too weak to hunt at our usual spot.
This sentence from that cursed note flashed through my head. If I did leave, I would have more time to figure out what that meant, as I was convinced it was code for something. I could certainly snoop around by myself without attracting attention. And I already knew that there was no way of changing Firestone’s mind. If I could just build up Scout’s confidence, this might work out....
“Well, as far as I am concerned, this little rendezvous is over.” Firestone got up. “You may pack your things now, Kat, and vacate my premises as soon as possible. Scout, you may return to work, covering both Kat’s post and your own. Do not let me catch you making the same mistakes as our previous friend here.”
I was relieved to see that Firestone had no one escort us downstairs, giving me the opportunity to speak to Scout privately before I had to leave. As I had imagined, she was furious when we left the room.
“How could you let this happen!” she screeched in a hushed voice, which was something I hadn’t previously thought possible. “What am I supposed to do here without you? I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t believe you didn’t at least try to keep your job.”
“You’re worrying over nothing. You said yourself that you can be a good agent, and now is the time to prove it. This will give me a better chance to look around and put together some clues. I’ll make sure that we find ways to communicate so you won’t actually be alone.”
We had reached the end of the staircase, which meant that I couldn’t risk loitering around anymore. “Just keep doing your job, and find out as much as you can about this Uni,” I reminded her.
“I know, I know,” she replied impatiently. “I know what to do. But I don’t feel like being in this house alone. It’s weird here and I’m bored. Where’s the action? I thought I would get to at least use the cool karate moves they taught us in training.”
One thing about youth is that they complain a lot. “Listen, you’ll be fine, but I have to go. Just trust your instincts and make sure you don’t raise any suspicion about yourself. Oh, and kid?” I had remembered one last important thing to tell her. “Don’t tell Judge Hog about this little firing incident, okay?”
Scout smirked. “No worries, Katty.” I would like to add that I did glare at her for calling me that. “Bye.”
I nodded a goodbye and swiftly walked to my room. I didn’t allow myself to look back, fearing what I might see in her face. It didn’t take long to gather my belongings, as I didn’t exactly have time to unpack during my day there.
Quietly letting myself out a back door in the mansion, I ambled down the hill, unsure how to handle my newfound freedom. In all my years as an agent, I had never managed to get myself fired from my undercover job. I supposed my best bet for now was to rent a room at the Krawk Island Inn, at the expense of the HQ of course, and begin doing as much research as I could.
About an hour later I had found some decent food, and was settling into my temporary residence. Since I wanted to be able to lurk around incognito, I chose to shed the shoddy attire Dart had gotten for me as Kat, and opted for a simple hat instead.
Now the question was, what would my next plan of action be? Staring at the clothes I had discarded at the floor, I thought of Dart again and sat up. He was a trusted agent who knew every nook of Krawk Island. He might know have some idea what the random note meant, or who this Rimlen, the Nimmo, was.
I scribbled out a quick Neomail to him, sending it express. Then, deciding there was really nothing else productive I could do, I fell asleep.
* * * * * * * *
I heard a couple sharp taps on the door, which threw me viciously into consciousness. My first thought was that I was back at Firestone’s mansion once again, before I opened my eyes and remembered the inn. Rolling out of bed, I quickly strode to the door and called, “Who is it?”
“It’s Dart, and I’ve hit the bullseye, Kataok,” the voice spoke from the other side, laughing.
Already feeling cranky from being woken up early, I had to roll my eyes at his little version of a joke. Nevertheless, I knew he wouldn’t go away until I let him come in and get whatever he had to say out of his system. Opening the door, the first thing I saw was his bright and excited expression that only a Lenny like him could master. And not being a morning person myself, I wanted to smack him over the head for having that much energy.
He slowly struggled his way through the doorway, and it was then that I noticed he was lugging a big sack behind him. “Good morning, Kataok! A shame about your dismissal.” He shook his head good-naturedly.
I ignored his greeting and pointed to his baggage, asking unsmilingly, “What did you bring me, Santa?”
He glanced behind him at the loaded sack which he had finally managed to drag far enough into my room so that we could close the door. “You,” he told me as he opened up the bag, “are going to like this present, I think.”
What he pulled out was not my idea of a good time. It was an extremely thick and heavy book. Tilting my head to the side I tried to read the spine. I read out loud, “’A Million Fables for Young Neopets’. I don’t want this.”
Dart gave another hearty laugh. “Au contraire, my friend, you do indeed want this. The cover of the book is just a diversion, to keep people from getting suspicious. This is actually a growing collection of profiles on everybody who lives on Krawk Island.”
I stared at him, disbelieving, telling him that he had to be joking. He shook his head, however. “No way. You can’t possibly...” I trailed off.
“Do you have any idea how little I have to do here? Yes, it has a reputation for being ‘Shady Krawk Island’ where all the big bad pirates come to rip people off. But they’re smarter than they look... they’re learning to jip people on their own ships where I can’t see it. So I just sit and look up information about random people. And let me tell you, it never ends.”
“This is just slightly creepy,” I responded flatly.
The blue Lenny smirked. “Probably. But it’s in our job description to be just a little creepy, isn’t it? If we weren’t, I doubt we’d be standing here today.”
I shrugged. “So how’s this going to help me exactly?”
“Weren’t you listening, Kataok? I have information about nearly everybody on the Island. I’ve got everything marked from random gossip I hear around the Golden Dubloon to hardcore facts. You can look up Rimlen!”
This caught my attention, and I jumped up. “Rimlen’s in here?”
“Oh yes,” Dart replied. “And I’m starting to get info together about Firestone as well. And let me tell you, the things I’ve heard have been... quite interesting.”
If I had been one to show appreciation, I may have hugged Dart. But as it was I’m not, and it would be awkward, anyway. So instead I rubbed my hands together excitedly, opened the book to the “R” section and began flipping through pages.
After a few minutes, I stopped abruptly. “Rimlen... here she is.”
I began reading and by the second sentence, I stopped, amazed. “Wow...”
To be continued...