The Partnership: Part Seven
In reality, there were enough rocks and bushes to hide behind along the beach that Dart and I could follow distantly behind Scout and Rimlen. If I was one for giving compliments, I would have said Scout was doing well at moving without being noticed. Meanwhile, a slight fog was moving lazily into Smuggler’s Cove, making the scene look like a bad horror movie.
Dart and I were each crouched behind a big bush along the side of the beach. We were fairly far behind Scout, so we couldn’t see much. By now the Nimmo had reached the ship. We had been watching her around the Cove for at least a half hour and I was getting anxious.
Then suddenly, a twig snapped behind me and a hand clapped itself over my mouth. Taken completely by surprise, I began struggling wildly, noticing that Dart was doing the same beside me. Whoever had us captured pulled us onto our feet and dragged us with them. Being unable to break free of the pet’s grasp, I began looking around for Scout. She had been secluded in some bushes that we were passing. Nobody seemed to know she was there, so I hoped that she had the sense to stay put.
Glancing at the shore, I saw Rimlen pause to cackle at us, and I knew that we had been set up. Our two captors continued to pull us along, until we reached the mouth of a cave with lanterns in it. The hand took itself off my mouth and I could feel my hands being tied together. Whirling around, I came face to face with Firestone himself. Next to me, Dart had fallen victim to Snorkle, who was also tying the Lenny up.
“Did you really think I would not figure out what you were up to, Eyrie?” Firestone sneered. “I have known since I caught you sneaking around my desk. We were expecting you to show up... although this little Lenny caught us by surprise. Not that Lennies are exactly difficult to handle on short notice.”
Dart glared at Firestone, but remained silent. They had finished tying our hands and were now going at our feet. Thinking of Scout, I prayed that she hadn’t been caught. Even though we parted on negative circumstances, I didn’t want anything to happen to her, for both my sake and hers.
Dart and I were set on opposite sides of the cave, with our limbs now completely bound together. “We know what you’re doing, Firestone... you’re not going to get away with it,” I told him, lying just a little bit.
Firestone gave a sharp, harsh laugh. “If I have judged your lack of intelligence accurately, Eyrie, you have no idea what is going on. And seeing how you are all tied up here and I am free to go, I am pretty sure I will get away with it. Just like I always do.”
I remained silent, surprised by Firestone’s blunt confession of his wrongdoings. I didn’t have time to ask more about it, though, because Rimlen had appeared in the cave.
“Here’s the first load, Firestone. The rest of the crates are still by the ship.” Rimlen had entered to set down the first crate in the cave. Firestone told her to bring the rest in, and she quickly departed.
The Uni strode over and tipped the crate on its edge, trying to work the cover off. After a small struggle, the top broke off and the crate tipped over. A pool of small orange coins spilled out on the floor. They were all one thousand dubloon coins. Firestone gave a sort of dismayed yell and quickly began shoveling them back into the box.
“What did you do that for,” he growled randomly at Snorkle, who was obviously just an innocent bystander. Snorkle had been inspecting his feet innocently, and looked up confused. I raised an eyebrow at Dart. Apparently Firestone had a weird issue with taking responsibility for his mistakes. “Regardless,” he continued, “these look perfect. Nobody will ever be able to tell they are not the real thing.”
Rimlen, who had just reentered the cave as he was talking, responded, “Of course they won’t. If people knew they were a fake, the counterfeiter would be out of a job. I told you I’d find the best, Firestone.” She set down the crate and said, “I only have one more load to bring in. Before I go, what about the money you promised me for shipping in all these coins?”
Sighing, Firestone dug a hand into his pocket and pulled out some Neopoints, although I couldn’t see the exact number. Rimlen could, however, and the look on her face was far from happy.
“This isn’t what you promised me,” she told him, squinting. “You said that once you put the fake three million dubloons in the bank, you’d give me the week’s worth of interest that you got from them. This is barely the interest they’d generate for one day.”
Clucking his tongue disappointedly, Firestone shook his head. “Greedy, greedy, Rimlen. This is just the first payment. You will receive the rest when I am sure that I can trust you to keep this little business transaction to yourself. You know you almost revealed the entire scheme when you let the Eyrie see that letter.”
“Like he could tell what it meant!” Rimlen protested.
“And yet is he not here now?” Firestone pointed out. “He must have comprehended something.” Turning, he walked over to me and asked, “Tell us, did you understand what that little note meant?”
If I told him that I really didn’t have much of an idea, he would have known I was lying when I said earlier that we knew what he was up to. But if I said I did know, he would expect me to translate, which I couldn’t. Taking my chances, though, I replied, “Yes.”
“Oh? Enlighten us, please.”
I sat, trying to figure out the riddle, which I had been thinking about for over a day, in a couple seconds. Unexpectedly, however, a voice spoke up from across the cave.
“’I now dub thee too weak to hunt at our usual spot.’ The hunt part means the month of Hunting,” Dart explained quietly, “and ‘too weak’ means the second week of the month.”
Firestone stood up, looking both impressed and bewildered. “Who are you?” When Dart ignored him, Firestone gave another dry laugh. “So you’ve got that part. Perhaps I will tell you the rest. ‘Our usual spot’ refers to Smuggler’s Cove, as that is where we do all our trades. And ‘dub’ is short for dubloon, just so that everybody is clear that we are in fact trading dubloons.”
It made sense, and I liked to think that given another day I could have figured it out. It was too late now, though. Nobody besides Scout knew where we were, and we were the only ones that knew what Firestone was doing. From the sound of it, Firestone didn’t plan on letting us just walk out free after he was done getting his dubloons.
The Uni turned back to Rimlen, who had just stood there sulking while he had been talking to us. “You will get your Neopoints eventually. Firestone remembers those who help him. You are now dismissed to go... Snorkle and I will take care of these two.”
Bowing slightly, Rimlen turned on her heels and walked back into the shadow of the night to get the rest of the crates.
“I am curious though how you knew to follow us tonight,” Firestone commented, crouching next to me.
“Just a lucky guess,” I said vaguely, although that was true. “Why do all this at night, though? People ship things in all the time.”
“Well, we used to do it at the docks during the day. But then the authority started asking questions. ‘What are you shipping in?’ ‘Where are you shipping it from?’ ‘Why won’t you open the crates for us?’ I could not very well tell them I was illegally shipping in fake currency.” Getting up, he brushed off his pants, and then froze. “Did you hear something?’
I shook my head, having not heard anything aside from his talking.
“It was probably Rimlen,” Firestone decided. “Now, please do not think us rude to run off so quickly, but Snorkle and I have some business to take care of. We seem to have a plethora of dubloons to bring to the bank all of the sudden. They will no doubt be happy to see us. We are their number one customers!” Firestone gave yet another barking laugh, and Snorkle followed suit, laughing much more than the “joke” required. As they say, he who laughs last laughs longest.
“Shut up, Snorkle,” Firestone ordered after a few moments. “Since I do not have time to dispose of you right now, I will be back after lunch tomorrow.” Smiling cruelly, he waved a good bye and strolled out of the cave, with Snorkle in tow.
After a few moments of silence, Dart and I looked at each other. “So this whole time, he was shipping in fake dubloons?” Dart asked, slightly dumbfounded.
“And those bank letters we found were from those dubloons he deposited. I can’t believe he’s gotten away with it for so long,” I replied. “So now what are we going to do? We have until tomorrow afternoon to get out of here.”
“Well, my ropes are tied way too tight, so I can’t get these knots undone,” Dart commented after attempting to struggle out of them.
Thinking for a moment, I suddenly remembered something. “Where’s Scout?” I asked, suddenly slightly panic-stricken.
“Do you think she’s okay? I really don’t believe they knew about her, because nobody said anything,” Dart pointed out. “Unless they caught her somehow on their way out.”
That thought of his upset me. For some reason, I found myself actually concerned about where the little Kougra was and if she was alright. During the first day I was forced to spend with her, I would have been glad if she disappeared and I never had to hear her voice again.
While the hours passed by, I couldn’t keep my mind from thinking about all the things that Scout could be doing instead of finding us. As it got later into the night, my thoughts grew more dismal and I began thinking of what I would have to tell Judge Hog if we never found Scout again. Eventually, I drifted off into a restless sleep, my mind still on the little Kougra whom I had failed.
* * * * * * *
I woke up to a hand shaking my shoulder. Even before my eyes were open, my mind was telling me that Firestone had finally come to take me away. I, the best agent in the business, had let myself, Dart, and my young partner down. Well, Kataok, you really messed up this time, I told myself sadly.
“Wakey, wakey...” the voice said and I opened my eyes.
To be continued...