How to Save the World of Insurance in Six Easy Parts: Part Four
IV. Get Some Help
Oscar was not a professional spy – he was an insurance salesman. This was perhaps the reason that he chose to drop his briefcase off at home, and pick up a long trench coat and a newspaper, which he proceeded to cut eyeholes in.
In what Oscar thought to be the most clandestine costume imaginable, he lurked in the shadows near Neopia Central Insurance. At five prompt, the clerks clocked off, and began to head home. As a rule, Mr. Jones always stayed late to finish off the last of his paperwork, so he was one of the last to leave. The sun had already set, and the electric streetlights were illuminating the city.
The old green Skeith left the building and headed west. Oscar tailed him in the shadows, taking care to look as if he was still reading his newspaper.
It soon became clear that Mr. Jones was not heading towards any of the normal neighbourhoods. He was steering clear of the upmarket streets, but also not heading towards the more standard properties such as Oscar’s. Something about this was very suspicious.
Oscar paused as they entered an area near the docklands known locally as the Old Quarter. It contained some of Neopia Central’s most ancient shops, those dealing with coffins and tombstones. It was also home to a sizable graveyard. It was like a little segment of the Haunted Woods had been picked up and dumped in the middle of Neopia’s largest city.
Mr. Jones let himself into the sprawling graveyard, closing the iron gate carefully and silently behind him. Oscar waited near the gate until Jones was a sizable distance away. As predicted, the gate creaked when Oscar opened it.
He continued after Jones, darting between the cover of the tombstones. Oscar half expected the Kyrii from the previous night to jump out at him, but nothing came.
Jones paused by a crypt, and picked up a shovel that was propped up against it. A few rows of graves later, he stopped dead.
He stood there in front of a grave, swaying ever so slightly with an almost ceremonial air about him. Then, his moment over, he took the shovel and began to dig.
Oscar’s mind raced. There was no sign of the Kyrii, but Jones was clearly still up to no good. This was grave robbing!
Oscar stepped out into the light.
“Mr. Jones? What are you doing?” he asked.
The shovel fell to the grass as Jones turned around, his face gaunt with fear.
“...Oscar?” Jones asked, squinting.
“This is grave robbing! It’s illegal!” Oscar shouted.
“This isn’t grave robbing,” Jones replied calmly.
“Yes, it is! That’s exactly what it is!” Oscar maintained.
“No, Oscar,” Jones repeated. “You can’t rob your own grave.”
Mr. Jones stood to the side, revealing the inscription on the tombstone.
‘HERE LIES EDWARD JONES, A LOYAL EMPLOYEE’
“Mr.... Jones?” Oscar gasped, stepping back and almost falling over another grave.
Jones sighed deeply, and took a handkerchief out of his inside pocket. Carefully, he began to rub his face.
Oscar watched in horror as the green skin of the Skeith smudged under the force of the handkerchief, revealing a grey and worn old Skeith, long since dead, beneath.
“Face paint,” Jones explained as he cleared the last of it. “You’d be surprised how convincing you can make it look when you have a century or two to practice.”
“You’re... dead?” Oscar asked incredulously.
“Undead,” Jones corrected him, “though these days we prefer to be called the Living Impaired.”
“For how long?” Oscar asked.
“Oh... for longer than I can remember,” Jones recalled, leaning back against his headstone. “I was an intern, back when Neopia Central Insurance first started. I worked myself to death - literally. Woke up down here, six feet under, no idea how I got here. Turned up for work as usual, and no one noticed a thing. They made a joke about me being late at the time; if only they’d known the truth.”
Oscar was still edging away slowly.
“Don’t worry, Oscar, I’m not the sort of zombie that eats people’s brains – I’m the sort that files paperwork,” Jones explained.
“Does anyone else know?” Oscar asked.
“No, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone either,” Jones replied firmly. “What are you doing out here anyway? Were you following me?”
Oscar attempted to hide the newspaper behind his back, but quickly deflated under Jones’s glare.
“...yes, I’ve been asked to find out who’s trying to kill Mr. Munroe,” he confessed.
“You thought that I...!?” Jones gasped, steadying himself on his headstone. “That I could... that... if my tear ducts hadn’t rotted away, I’d cry. This company means everything to me.... it’s the reason I’m still here, Oscar.”
“I’m... sorry?” Oscar said, not quite sure what the appropriate response in such a situation was.
Oscar perched himself on a nearby headstone.
“Well, I’m out of ideas then,” he sighed.
“You have no other suspects?” Jones asked.
“Well... Mr. Munroe mentioned that his competitors might be behind it or someone else at the company... come to think of it, the note that the person wrote looked as if it was written on expensive paper – so they must have lots of money,” Oscar thought aloud.
“Hmm...” Jones mused to himself. “You know, I think there’s a way to find out who it is.”
“There is?” Oscar asked with sudden enthusiasm.
“Yes, but you leave it all to me, I’ll go and see Mr. Munroe immediately,” Jones said hurriedly, quickly reapplying his green makeup. “You have some other work to be doing, Oscar.”
“Other work?” Oscar asked.
“Saving the company!” Jones laughed. “Or have you forgotten?”
The colour drained from Oscar’s face. In the rush to investigate Mr. Jones, he’d completely forgotten. He glanced at his wristwatch. It was already late.
“You head home and start coming up with some ideas, Oscar. I’ll head over to Mr. Munroe and tell him my plan,” Jones suggested.
He carefully put his hand on the depressed Kacheek’s shoulder and led him out of the graveyard, back to the hustle and bustle of the city.
Oscar sat in his front room, papers strewn out across the coffee table. It was long past midnight, and his eyes had sunken with tiredness.
On the papers were details about the insurance industry... companies, people, places, figures, it was all there.
There was Jack Storm, a dashing electric Shoyru smiling up at Oscar from his mug shot on the pages of Ultra-Quick Insurance. He had once sold insurance to a village that protected against them being crushed by root vegetables resembling Dr. Sloth. Opposite him was a pink Ixi, Imelda Briars, who was the rising star at Insuromatic Insurance, and had sold snowstorm insurance to Princess Amira in the heart of the Lost Desert.
These two were Oscar’s opposite numbers at their respective companies... and were considerably better at their jobs. They were born to sell, and if Oscar could only figure out their secret he’d be a high flier just like them.
What was it? What did they have in common?
An unlimited supply of self-confidence?
No, that wasn’t it.
Yes! That was it! When Oscar had met them in Faerieland, they’d been so preoccupied with beating each other to Queen Fyora that Oscar had won in the end.
They were the competition, part of the problem... what was it Mr. Jennings had said? Completely remove the problem instead of working around it?
Oscar smiled to himself as he jotted down an idea.
But that was only half the problem. There was something else, rooted deep down in the heart of the insurance trade. The people they were selling insurance to were actually cashing in on their policies.
How could Oscar solve that?
Sell policies to someone else?
Before Oscar could think any more, he slumped forward in his chair, finally succumbing to sleep.
Oscar was falling, falling through a sea of papers.
Figures and names popped out at him, as the disapproving face of Helga Ribbons, the Tonu receptionist, slowly circled him.
Then he was in a graveyard, papers still falling all around him.
Oscar thought he could make out Mr. Jones in the distance, and he ran towards him. The Skeith melted into the air as Oscar approached, revealing a name on the headstone of the grave he had been standing on.
“No!” Oscar backed away, into someone else.
The Kacheek whirled around to see the Kyrii with the gold teeth there, his dagger drawn.
“What do you want!?” Oscar cried.
“Isn’t it obvious?” the Kyrii sneered. “I want to buy some insurance!”
The Kyrii lunged...
...and Oscar woke with a start.
Readjusting to his surroundings, Oscar peeled a piece of paper off his face and placed it back on the table.
He glanced down at his watch and his heart skipped a beat. It was 4 pm already, he’d missed work completely.
He hastily scrambled together the papers on the table and bolted for the front door. He paused as he noticed an envelope had been pushed through the letter box.
It was addressed to him, in curly gold writing.
Oscar tore open the envelope and read the card inside.
I am delighted to invite you to a formal dinner at my grounds this evening. Sorry for the short notice, but I feel I must discuss the matter of my retirement with my closest friends and family. I do hope you can be in attendance,
A small slip of paper fell out of the envelope after the card, and Oscar reached down to read it. It was a hastily written note.
‘Come to the party, Oscar. Don’t worry, everything’s in hand – the person who sent Mr. Munroe the letter is sure to be there; we can catch them right in the act!
Oscar stared at both of the letters for a moment, before glancing up to his hall mirror.
He straightened his tie, tucked his shirt back in, and grabbed his briefcase.
Then he was off through the door, heading towards Mr. Munroe’s house.
The young yellow Chomby stood in a docklands alley, nervously glancing back out towards the street. He almost jumped out of his skin as the red Kyrii emerged from the shadows.
“He’s holding a dinner party,” the Chomby announced once he had recovered from the shock. “This will be your perfect opportunity.”
“In front of other people?” the Kyrii scoffed. “That’s not my style.”
“No, you fool!” the Chomby snapped. “He’ll be eating. Poison his food. It’s quite simple really, and I’ll be at the dinner party so I can’t be accused. It’s perfect.”
The Kyrii nodded.
“Alright, Mr. Munroe,” he agreed.
To be continued...