Viva la Resistance!: Part Four
Fredrick woke to the pleasant experience of discovering that he had not in fact been killed in his sleep.
The morning sunlight gleamed through the broken windows of his room, carrying with it the stale smell of the slums. He pinned himself to the wall as he checked outside. The corner where he thought he had seen a figure lurking the previous night was decidedly empty in the light.
Fredrick sighed with relief, and grabbed his worn old briefcase as he made for his door. He stumbled slightly as he remembered that he was still in the morphed body of a brown Grundo, and lacked several of the extra Ruki limbs he was used to.
Normally he’d have drunk a potion and changed back, but he was still nervous. If his safe house was being watched, they’d be expecting to see a Grundo leave, not a Ruki. He steadied himself and regained his composure, and then set off down the stairs.
He had no leads, only the involvement of Seth Vargo, and the appearances of his other two cohorts. He’d have to discover the identities of the other two somehow.
Fredrick made his way out of the Docklands, and back to the more respectable areas of Neopia Central. He bought a copy of the day’s paper from the first vendor he saw, and sought out a quiet place to begin reading. He soon found himself in the Catacombs, and took a seat at a table outside the Coffee Shop.
“Can I get you anything?” a white Ixi waitress asked as he sat down.
“Just a coffee please,” Fredrick replied.
As the waitress wandered off to prepare his drink, Fredrick smoothed out the paper and began to read. The day’s headline was some needlessly alarmist story about the rising numbers of undead people in Neopia Central. There was a picture of a Chomby that had publicly declared himself to be dead. Fredrick scanned the faces of the other people in the picture, but didn’t find anyone he was looking for.
Fredrick spent the next half hour or so scanning every inch of the paper for mention of his mystery Ixi and Yurble. He didn’t find anything until he reached the back of the paper, and a small section that seemed to be devoted to community news like the work of local charities or plays being held at schools.
There was a picture of the Ixi there, Fredrick was sure of it... but she just didn’t seem to fit. She was there, her ruthless features somewhat lessened, surrounded by cakes and what looked like a tombola stall. An elderly blue Bruce stood next to her, smiling widely. Fredrick recognised the Bruce. She was Miss Tobik, a socialite widow he had met and successfully conned during his time in Altador the previous year.
‘Women’s Institute Fete raises record amounts’ the headline read.
Fredrick frowned at the headline, and then read the caption under the picture.
‘Head of the Neopia Central Women’s Institute, Lady Cambridge, celebrates with her assistant, Miss Tobik.’
Fredrick’s eyes darted between caption and picture. Seth Vargo was one thing; he had hired goons and was in to crime up to his eyebrows. It made sense for him to be part of this resistance... but the head of the Women’s Institute? It was a charity that held bake sales, mainly run by old ladies with nothing better to do. How were they involved with the resistance?
Fredrick sat back, and glanced up as someone sat down on the chair opposite him.
“Hello, Mr. Boggins.” The green Krawk smiled. “Or is it Mr. Lopside, now that you’re on the case, as it were?”
Mr. Jennings chuckled to himself and took a sip of his drink.
“What are you doing here? What if I was followed? We could be seen!” Fredrick hissed.
“I can assure you were followed, by Mr. Black,” Jennings answered, gesturing over his shoulder to the green Grarrl who was waiting patiently. “If anyone else had been following you, they would have met him, and as a consequence would not be capable of following you for much longer, if you understand my meaning.”
“Why are you following me then?” Fredrick asked.
“I would like an update on your progress,” Jennings said pleasantly.
Fredrick laughed. “Alright, but you’re not going to like it. Seth Vargo, the Skeith who runs the construction industry in the Docklands... no, scratch that, he runs the Docklands, is involved. Though, I think you already knew that.”
“Yes, I was aware.” Jennings nodded.
“There’s also her,” Fredrick continued, turning round the paper and pointing at the Ixi.
“Ah yes, Lady Floretta Cambridge, a widow of a Meridell Lord, if I remember correctly,” Jennings confirmed.
“You’re not surprised?” Fredrick asked.
“No, why should I be?” Jennings questioned, an amused smirk spreading across his face.
“She runs the Women’s Institute!” Fredrick explained. “She hangs around with old ladies baking cakes all day, and she’s involved in a plot to get rid of you!”
Jennings laughed to himself.
“My dear boy, you have a lot to learn about the criminal underbelly of this city,” he told Fredrick. “When Lady Cambridge first arrived in this city, the Institute was a fine and noble charity. Yet, from her home in the Hills, she has single handily turned it into a respectable front for her own criminal activities. Lady Cambridge blackmails half of the rich and famous of Neopia Central, and rakes in the profits from her own legitimate front.”
Jennings turned the paper back round and pointed very firmly to the section of the headline that read ‘raises record amounts’.
Fredrick leaned back. “There’s also at least a third member in control, but I haven’t got a clue who he is. He’s a starry Yurble; they call him Number Three in the meetings.”
Jennings nodded, and turned to Mr. Black behind him. The Grarrl supplied a little photograph.
“A starry Yurble?” Jennings asked as he turned back to Fredrick. “Would it by any chance be this man?”
He handed Fredrick the photo. It showed a starry Yurble, undoubtedly the one he had seen the previous night.
“This is Alfonso Might, of the Might Entertainment Group,” Jennings explained as he took back the photograph. “He owns, amongst other things, most of the Neovision channels in Neopia Central, Gossip! Weekly magazine, nearly all the successful theatres in the Art District, has been rumoured to be in talks to buy the Neopian Times, and sits on the board for a number of companies in the Business District.”
“Another legitimate front?” Fredrick smirked.
“Exactly, though a less convincing one,” Jennings agreed. “Business and crime go hand in hand. He’s involved in people trafficking, illegal imports, and before arriving in Neopia Central, was a man remarkably similar to yourself – a con artist.”
Fredrick’s eyes registered brief panic. He’d have to be more careful; it was always harder when there was another professional watching. Back in Altador, it had been the reason he had failed.
“Don’t worry, he’s been out of your game for years, I should imagine he’s quite rusty,” Jennings continued, picking up the look in Fredrick’s eyes before it vanished.
“You’re remarkably well informed,” Fredrick noted with suspicion. “If I was cynical, I’d think that you already knew these three were involved.”
“I had my suspicions,” Jennings confirmed. “However, you mentioned that they refer to Mr. Might as Number Three. Seth Vargo is a bumbling fool, I can’t imagine he’d rank higher than Might... which means Lady Cambridge would be Number Two.”
“So?” Fredrick questioned.
“The presence of Numbers Four, Three, and Two, necessitate the presence of a Number One,” Jennings pointed out.
Fredrick nodded. “There’s someone behind a curtain who calls themselves that. He seems to be in charge, but I couldn’t see him. Besides, he’s probably just a hired grunt; these three will be pulling the strings.”
“We can hope,” Jennings conceded. “But I would prefer to know.”
“It won’t be easy,” Fredrick told him.
“Then I hope you enjoy a challenge. Are they meeting again soon?” Jennings asked.
“Tonight, they say they have news about you,” Fredrick answered.
“Do they really?” Jennings asked, cocking an eyebrow and glancing back to Mr. Black. “I can’t imagine what it could be. That’s certainly very interesting, though...”
Mr. Black coughed into his hand. Jennings smiled.
“Our time comes to a close,” he said as he got up. “You have made good progress, Mr. Boggins, I expect you to continue in that vein.”
Fredrick watched as the two of them walked away, up and out of the Catacombs.
He downed what was left of his coffee, rolled up his paper, and made his way back up into the city.
Fredrick spent what was left of the day memorising the small codebook he had been given at the last meeting. There were double codes, ciphers, passwords, and as Fredrick had suspected, three different secret handshakes. He understood why he’d been able to gain entry to the meeting so easily. With such a complicated code, the other members must also have been frequently getting it wrong.
Once night had set in, Fredrick made his way back through the thick smog of the Docklands to the abandoned house. He once again stashed his briefcase in the alley nearby, and performed the secret knock on the door.
The metal plate slid back, revealing the suspicious Bruce inside.
“Many stones have fallen on the path to Terror Mountain’s peak,” the Bruce said.
Fredrick smiled and answered confidently, “Yet in Tyrannia, the rocks that fall become homes.”
The Bruce nodded, and slid the metal plate back before opening the door. He gestured Fredrick inside, glancing up and down the street before closing and locking it again.
Fredrick once more descended into the gloom of the cellar. A small crowd was already gathered there.
Fredrick noted that again, the Ixi, the Skeith and the Yurble were sat apart from the rest at the front.
Fredrick hastily took a seat on one of the benches, next to the yellow Bori in the beret he had met the previous night.
“I followed you, last night,” the Bori growled.
“Oh...?” Fredrick replied, trying his best to sound nervous.
“We have to be sure,” the Bori continued. “There’re enemies everywhere, no telling who could be a spy for Jennings. You went straight back to the Old Shambles, didn’t leave all night. You check out.”
“Is that a good thing?” Fredrick asked.
“Yeah, I’d say you’re alright.” The Bori smiled and turned to face Fredrick. “We ain’t had a proper introduction yet. The name’s Morris Durbin.”
Fredrick shook his hand.
“Colin Lopside. What do you do when you’re not here, Morris?” he asked.
“I work in the port, in the shipyard Mr. Vargo owns,” Morris replied. “It’s hard work, not exactly rewarding on the pay front. Not like Mr. Jennings, who has money coming in for just sitting behind a desk. You?”
“Oh, I’m out of a job at the moment, that’s why I’m on the Old Shambles...” Fredrick lied quickly, using the rehearsed back story he’d worked out for his alias. “I used to work in the Old Quarter, though. I was a digger in the graveyard.”
“Would have thought gravediggers were always in demand,” Morris observed.
“Have you seen the headlines recently?” Fredrick asked. “More and more zombies are cropping up every single day. Not really much need for graves anymore when people don’t stay dead.”
Morris nodded, while Fredrick smiled to himself internally. Reading the front page story in the paper had paid off after all.
A cough at the front of the cellar interrupted the two of them. The Yurble, Alfonso Might, had stood up to speak. The meeting was about to begin.
To be continued...