How to Save the World of Insurance in Six Easy Parts: Part Three
III. Always Follow Orders
Oscar was pushed rather forcefully into the small office that apparently belonged to Mr. Jennings. It was a small, unassuming building in the Marketplace, easily dwarfed by the surrounding shops. Here, though, in the exquisitely decorated room, it seemed a lot grander. Lavish panelling and foreign objects graced the shelves; Oscar noticed a game of chess set out on a board in the corner. Behind a fine wooden desk sat a green Krawk, carefully reading a newspaper. He set it down as the green Grarrl forced Oscar into a chair.
“I must apologise for Mr. Black,” the Krawk said kindly. “He has a tendency to be rather forceful.”
Oscar said nothing.
“Tell me, Oscar, do you know who I am?” the Krawk asked.
“You’re Mr. Jennings,” Oscar said quietly. “You’re a Shenkuu exile, a criminal. You run protection rackets and extortion scams on half the shopkeepers in Neopia Central.”
The Krawk smiled widely.
“My reputation precedes me,” he laughed. “I am a businessman, Oscar. It’s just that the business I’m in happens to be frowned upon by most of society. It may interest you to know that I also own a considerable amount of shares in a number of companies that are based in Neopia Central.”
“Why would that interest me?” Oscar asked.
“One of those companies is Neopia Central Insurance, Inc.,” Jennings revealed, “though the share price has fallen of late. My stock broker reliably tells me that I should cut my losses and run, though I am something of an optimist.”
Jennings got up from his chair and paced around it to the back wall. An ancient map of Neopia hung there, and the Krawk carefully traced a line between Shenkuu and Neopia Central with his finger.
“A little bird tells me that you have been entrusted with the fate of the company,” Jennings continued. “Mr. Munroe certainly seems to have a lot of faith in you – he’s utterly convinced that you are the man for the job.”
Jennings smiled briefly as he glanced back towards Oscar.
“I must say, on this occasion, I am inclined to agree with him. Do you have any ideas yet?” he asked.
“None,” Oscar admitted.
“I often find, when trying to fix something that is broken, that it is often not a good idea to work around the problem,” Jennings suggested. “Instead, I like to completely remove the problem – it’s much easier and ultimately better in the long run. Bear that in mind.”
Jennings returned to his desk and straightened out some papers.
“But now, we must move on to more pressing matters,” he continued. “As I’m sure you are aware, an attempt was made on Mr. Munroe’s life last night – an attempt that Mr. Black over there narrowly thwarted.”
The Grarrl tipped his head towards Oscar.
“You knew about it?” Oscar asked.
“Certainly!” Jennings laughed. “You think Mr. Black just happened to be waiting in the docklands? Little birds tell me many things, Oscar. Someone wants Mr. Munroe removed from his office. They are going to stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The Kyrii assailant was a hired grunt, one who unfortunately escaped Mr. Black’s... professionalism. The Kyrii will strike again, of that I am certain, but he will try less direct measures. Everyone is now a suspect, Oscar.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Oscar questioned.
“If Mr. Munroe is removed, another chairman will be put in his place. It will be a far less able chairman, and the company will fail. I am protecting my investment,” Jennings explained. “I am a busy man, Oscar. I simply can’t afford to run about the city locating undesirables. You must do this for me.”
“Me!?” Oscar gasped. “I’m not a private investigator, and I’ve already got my hands full!”
“I have every confidence in your abilities,” Jennings said flatly, lightly tapping the papers on his desk.
Oscar noticed that the top paper had a picture of Oscar clipped to it.
Did Jennings have a file on Oscar?
“How am I supposed to find this person then?” Oscar demanded.
Jennings hesitated, as if he already knew the answer.
“Think of the person who stands to gain the most should Mr. Munroe be removed from the picture. I think you will then find your suspect,” he said diplomatically.
Mr. Black cleared his throat.
“Ah yes, I have an important meeting with a trade union. I hope you understand that they can’t be kept waiting,” Jennings said pleasantly.
Oscar found himself being led out onto the streets of Neopia Central. A hooded blue Gelert entered the office as Oscar left. The distinctive scar that ran down his face was unmistakable; it was Kanrik, the leader of the Thieves Guild.
Mr. Black cleared his throat again.
“Mr. Jennings is a man that expects results,” he said in a low voice as the door closed behind them. “He expects them quickly.”
Before Oscar could reply, the Grarrl turned and left. The carriage Oscar had arrived in was waiting, and Oscar climbed inside.
“To Mr. Munroe’s house,” he told the driver as he shut the door.
Neopia Central is a city, sprawling with the mingling lives of millions of Neopets. They come from all walks of life, from all nations and all species. There are the industrial docklands, the hive of commerce that is the Marketplace, and the seemingly endless slums that the down and outs make their homes.
Up above it all, in the hills to the west of the city centre, the rich and famous make their homes.
Perhaps it is a desire to appear above the rest of society, or perhaps it is the lack of pollution offered higher up. Either way, vast mansions lie in lavish grounds, hidden among the rolling hills.
Mr. Munroe, being one of the richest men in Neopia Central, of course had a home there. Oscar couldn’t help his jaw dropping as the coach rattled along the drive, and dropped him off outside the great oak doors.
Oscar tapped the brass knocker as gently as he could, but it seemed as though it echoed throughout the mansion’s many wings.
The door was opened a creak, and a tired looking yellow Ogrin peeked his head out.
“Yes?” he asked in a voice that positively dripped with money.
“I’m Oscar, here to see Mr. Munroe,” Oscar said politely, holding his briefcase close to his chest.
“One moment,” the Ogrin replied, and seemed to glance at something on the inside of the door.
His face returned a moment later, but with a wide smile painted across it.
“I do apologise for the delay, sir,” he announced. “Mr. Munroe will see you immediately in the library.”
The door was pulled back, and the Ogrin stood aside to let Oscar in. As the small Kacheek entered the house, he saw a spotted Kau crouching behind a plant pot in the corner. She was carefully putting a loaded crossbow away.
“Mrs. White, the chef,” the Ogrin butler explained as he followed Oscar’s gaze. “We have had to take certain... precautions, after last night.”
The Ogrin closed the front door firmly, and Oscar saw a small sheet of paper pinned to the back of it. It was a list of names, clearly those that Mr. Munroe had ordered to be let into the house.
“Has there been another attack?” Oscar asked as he followed the butler through the house.
“Not yet, sir, no,” the butler replied. “Though we expect one, the master will no doubt explain everything to you.”
The Ogrin paused outside of a door and knocked once before opening.
“Mr...” he announced, but faltered as he realised he didn’t know Oscar’s last name. “...your morning appointment, sir.”
He bowed slightly to Mr. Munroe as Oscar entered, and then the butler left. Munroe was stood by one of the large bookcases that lined the walls of the room. He looked considerably less happy than usual.
“Oscar, my boy! Just the man... just the man... Care to have a seat?” he asked, gesturing to a reading table.
The two of them sat down on opposite ends of the table.
“Have you had any ideas yet, Oscar?” the Chomby asked.
Oscar hesitated, of course he didn’t.
“I was thinking about not working around the problem, sir, but instead eliminating the problem completely,” Oscar lied quickly, recalling the words of Mr. Jennings.
Mr. Munroe nodded.
“Good, good, you’re making progress, that’s what I like to see,” he told his employee. “I’m afraid I won’t be in the office much this week, Oscar, though contact Mr. Jones if you need any help. He’s a reliable sort, been with the company longer than I can remember.”
“You’re not going to be at work, sir?” Oscar asked.
Munroe hesitated, and then took a small piece of paper from his inside pocket. He pushed it across to Oscar.
“It arrived in the mail this morning,” Munroe explained.
Oscar pressed out the paper, which he noticed was crisp and smelled the way only expensive paper can. Curly, educated handwriting filled the page.
I hear you met an employee of mine last night – I can assure you, he will not be the last. Even now, my agents are moving against you. Resign from Neopia Central Insurance and the contract will be cancelled. Otherwise, you know what fate awaits you. This is your final chance to resolve this peacefully.
Oscar glanced up at Mr. Munroe once he had finished reading.
“No one saw who dropped it off?” he asked.
“No,” Munroe answered, shaking his head. “It must have been delivered in the dead of night.”
“Are you going to resign, sir?” Oscar wondered.
“Not if I can help it, Oscar... but my options are limited,” Munroe explained. “You don’t need to worry about this, though; business will continue as normal no matter what happens to me.”
Oscar bit his lip. He did have to worry about it; Mr. Jennings had expressly told him to. Oscar knew that Mr. Jennings was not a man you wanted to let down. He fired people rather more literally than other employers.
“...do you think you know who sent the letter, sir?” Oscar asked.
“Oh, it could be anyone really... I might not seem the type, my boy, but I’ve made a lot of enemies in my time!” Munroe laughed.
“Who would benefit the most then?” Oscar tried again.
“Let me see... well, my competitors, most likely... no one on the board of directors I don’t think, as my position’s all controlled by my will,” Munroe considered. “There’s the old guard at the company; I’ve made quite a few changes in my time, and no one likes change. But that’s people like Mr. Jones, and he just doesn’t strike me as the type.”
Oscar nodded intently while Munroe spoke, silently absorbing every piece of conversation that he could.
“But you needn’t worry about that, Oscar,” Munroe continued. “If this doesn’t blow over in the next couple of days I’m going to call in the Defenders of Neopia.”
“What if they try again before then, sir?” Oscar asked.
Munroe hesitated, unable to answer.
“I’ve taken up quite enough of your time,” he said at last. “Wadsworth will show you out.”
The Ogrin butler appeared out of nowhere, and Oscar could have sworn he hadn’t heard the door open. Before he knew it, he was being led out through the halls of the mansion.
Oscar had a list of suspects, in a way. The owners of the other companies... but Oscar didn’t know them; there was no way he’d be able in investigate them further. The only person Munroe had named... and the only person Oscar knew personally was Mr. Jones.
He would be Oscar’s next port of call.
To be continued...