How to Save the World of Insurance in Six Easy Parts: Part Two
II. Make it Through the Night
“Me, sir?” Oscar gasped. “How am I supposed to save the world of insurance?”
Munroe glanced at Jones.
“If we knew that, we wouldn’t have to ask you to do it, my boy!” the Chomby chuckled to himself.
With considerable effort, Munroe managed to lift his bulky frame off his chair.
“Walk with me, Oscar,” he instructed at he made his way to the door.
Oscar scuttled along behind his boss as the Chomby made his way through the halls of Neopia Central Insurance.
“The truth is, Oscar, I feel I may be losing my touch,” Munroe muttered, his normal enthusiasm evaporating. “I’m getting on in years - part of the old guard, you might say. There’s no one left to carry on the Munroe line.”
“No children, sir?” Oscar asked.
“No... no,” Munroe replied. “I have a nephew; he stands to inherit the whole lot when I go... though between you and me, I don’t think he’s cut out for the business. He’s far too ruthless, no emotion – no heart. You’re young blood, Oscar, and that’s exactly what this company needs.”
Munroe nodded at Miss Ribbons, the Tonu receptionist as they passed. She responded with a curt nod, and a glare reserved especially for Oscar.
“Your carriage is outside, sir,” Miss Ribbons informed them.
Munroe took a pocket watch out and checked the time.
“Five minutes early...” Munroe mused. “How strange, James is never early. Care for a ride home, Oscar?”
“Certainly, sir,” Oscar replied eagerly.
Outside, a lavish Whinny-pulled coach was waiting. The driver, wrapped tightly in scarves to shield himself against the evening air, tipped his top hat at them.
“Home, James,” Munroe instructed as he clambered into the coach. “A brief detour by...”
“Kensington Avenue,” Oscar added.
The driver nodded again, and cracked the whip on the Whinnies as Oscar closed the door behind him.
“When do I need a solution by, sir?” Oscar asked nervously.
“I’m calling a meeting of all the major shareholders in two days,” Munroe answered. “You will make a presentation then.”
“What if I can’t think of anything?” Oscar asked, already knowing that his imagination was evaporating into thin air.
“I have every confidence in you, my boy,” Munroe said dismissively.
The Chomby gazed out of the window as the streets rolled by. The thick smog of the city was already coiling around the lampposts.
“This isn’t the way to Kensington Avenue...” Munroe muttered to himself. “This road leads to the docklands...”
Munroe leaned across the coach and banged on the wall.
“James! Where are you taking us, you fool!?” he shouted out to the driver.
No reply came from outside.
“Perhaps it’s a shortcut?” Oscar suggested. “The docklands are a maze of little side roads, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a fast way through them.”
“Hmm... perhaps,” Munroe conceded, settling back down in his seat.
At once, the coach lurched sideways as the driver turned a corner abruptly. Munroe barely had time to curse before the coach turned again, sending him sprawling across to the other side.
Finally, the coach came to a dead stop, throwing Munroe forwards and almost crushing Oscar in the process.
With his face quickly turning red with rage, Munroe let himself out of the coach.
“James, what in the blazes do you think you’re doing!?” he shouted.
The black clad driver jumped down from his seat on the front of the coach, the scarf falling from around his face.
A red Kyrii with golden teeth smiled menacingly at him.
“You’re not James...” Munroe gasped. “Where is he!? What have you done with him!?”
“I’m afraid your regular driver couldn’t make it,” the Kyrii sneered.
The mysterious Kyrii produced a knife, which gleamed in the moonlight. Munroe and Oscar backed away.
“Now listen here, I’ve got no qualms with you, my good man,” Munroe tried to reason.
“Trust me, I’m not a ‘good man’,” the Kyrii chuckled.
Across the street, there was a loud whistle. The Kyrii turned to see a large green Grarrl in a suit standing on the pavement.
“This is private business,” the Kyrii snapped, “Get lost!”
The Grarrl smiled, bearing his teeth.
“I’ve got something to attend to first,” he said lightly, before making his way over to the Kyrii.
“Bodyguards!?” the Kyrii screamed. “He didn’t say anything about bodyguards!”
The Kyrii seemed distracted by the newcomer, and Munroe leaned down to whisper in Oscar’s ear.
“I think this is our cue to exit, my boy,” he said quietly.
As quickly and as quietly as they dared, they clambered onto the front of the coach and Oscar cracked the whip. The Whinnies reared into motion, and the coach sped off down the street. Oscar glanced back to see the Kyrii running off in the opposite direction.
The Grarrl stood in the middle of the street with a triumphant grin on his face, the Kyrii’s blade clattering to his feet.
“What did they want?” Oscar asked as he turned back towards the front.
“I don’t know,” Munroe replied honestly. “But I intend to find out.”
The mansion was set in lavish grounds, high in the hills away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The moonlight lit the fine topiary and the trickling fountains, and the figure that knocked on the front door.
“Yes?” a butler Ixi asked as he opened the door a fraction.
“I need to speak with Mr. Munroe immediately,” the Kyrii on the doorstep told him.
“The master is not entertaining visitors this evening,” the Ixi said snootily.
The Kyrii very forcefully wedged his boot in the door as the Ixi moved to close it.
“He’ll entertain me,” the Kyrii growled, before forcing the door open.
“Just what do you think you’re doing!?” the Ixi spluttered as he stumbled backwards.
The Kyrii ignored him, heading straight for a nearby set of double doors which he flung open dramatically.
There was a young yellow Chomby sitting inside, carefully sipping a drink by the fireplace.
“We need to talk,” the Kyrii stated.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the Ixi explained as he ran up behind the Kyrii. “He just burst in here, quite uncouth. Shall I call for the Defenders of Neopia?”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary,” the Chomby replied. “You may leave us, Jeeves.”
The Ixi nodded obediently and closed the doors behind him, leaving the Chomby and the Kyrii alone.
“I gave you express orders that you were not to be seen in public with me,” the Chomby snapped. “What are you doing here, Goldtooth? You could have been followed!”
The Kyrii snarled, flashing his gold teeth.
“The price has gone up,” he explained. “Your... whatever he is has himself a bodyguard, a strong one as well. They ambushed me not long ago in the docklands. You didn’t mention anything about a bodyguard, so the price has gone up. Can’t challenge him directly now, see? I have to do it by more covert means.”
“A bodyguard? That doesn’t sound like Uncle Arthur... are you sure you have the right man?” the Chomby asked.
“I’m positive. I’m a professional,” the Kyrii pointed out.
“I’m sure you are...” the Chomby said distastefully. “Fine, whatever extra expenses there are will be paid for.”
“Up front?” the Kyrii asked.
The Chomby snorted with disgust.
“Talk to the butler on the way out, he’ll make the proper arrangements,” he muttered. “There had better be no further problems, and even if there are, do not come here again.”
The Chomby returned to his drink as the Kyrii let himself out. The young Mr. Munroe stared into the crackling embers of the fireplace, smiling grimly to himself.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” the butler asked after a while.
“Yes, Jeeves... bring me some notepaper,” the Master replied. “I wish to write a letter.”
Giving to the rather exhausting series of events the previous night, Oscar was late for work.
It was only by five minutes, but Helga Ribbons the receptionist Tonu gave him such a glare that Oscar thought his internal organs might just shrivel up and die.
Mr. Munroe had dropped Oscar off at his home, and although the old Chomby seemed reasonably confident that they had not been followed, Oscar had not slept a wink.
It had given him plenty of time to think about his plans for reshaping the company – though as Oscar had predicted, answers were not immediately forthcoming. He couldn’t think of anything. All the other insurance companies had proper employees like Imelda Briars or Jack Storm; Oscar simply wasn’t in the same league as them.
In a dazed mixture of deep thought and tiredness, Oscar clocked on. He pushed his little card into the slot by the reception desk and waited as the machine stamped it. As he moved to place it in the rows of cards that filled most of the wall, Helga Ribbons cleared her throat loudly.
“You’re wanted in Mr. Munroe’s office immediately,” she snapped.
“Again?” Oscar sighed.
With the feeling of dread growing steadily more intense in his stomach, Oscar climbed the stairs and made his way to Mr. Munroe’s office. He knocked once, and waited patiently.
“Come in,” the unmistakable elderly voice of Mr. Jones answered.
Oscar let himself in, and paused in the doorway as he noticed something different about the office.
Mr. Munroe was not inside.
“Close the door behind you, Oscar,” Mr. Jones instructed.
The ancient green Skeith was stood by the window, looking down at the street with a dismal look in his eyes.
“Is everything alright, Mr. Jones? Where’s Mr. Munroe?” Oscar asked as he quietly closed the door.
“Mr. Munroe is at home today; he doesn’t dare to leave his house after last night’s incident,” Jones explained.
“What do you want to see me about then?” Oscar pressed, sitting down on a chair.
“Do you have any ideas yet? About what you are going to do?” Jones asked with immediate concern.
“I have some ideas floating around in my head,” Oscar lied.
“Good... good...” Jones muttered. “Mr. Munroe would like a personal update as to your progress.”
“What about the Kyrii from last night? Or the Grarrl? Has Mr. Munroe contacted the Defenders of Neopia?” Oscar asked.
“The matter is in hand,” Jones said flatly. “There’s a coach waiting downstairs to take you to Mr. Munroe’s house. It’s best not to keep him waiting. I would have instructed Miss Ribbons to tell you to head there directly, but the fewer people that know about this, the better. We don’t wish to cause a panic.”
Jones smiled briefly, and glanced up at the door, signalling Oscar to leave.
There was something odd about the Skeith, Oscar thought as he made his way back downstairs. He always smelt faintly of mothballs, but for some reason the smell had been a lot stronger in the office.
And what had he been doing in Munroe’s office anyway?
As Jones had said, there was a carriage waiting outside for him. Oscar barely paid any attention as he climbed inside and closed the door. It was only when the carriage started moving that Oscar noticed the large figure sitting opposite.
It was a green Grarrl, in a suit. It was the same one from the previous night. He smiled widely at Oscar.
“You have an appointment with Mr. Jennings,” he stated.
To be continued...