High Society: Part Four
The grounds were deathly silent as two black clad figures crept through them. In the mansion ahead, not a light could be seen. Only the moon illuminated the Krawk and the Grarrl.
Wordlessly, Mr. Jennings brought them both to a stop, and with a leap that seemed extraordinary for a man of his age, he began to scale the drainpipe.
Mr. Black meanwhile waited at the bottom. He was a man of many talents, but climbing silently was not suited to a Grarrl’s frame.
It was less than a minute later when the library window clicked open from within, and Mr. Jennings signalled him to enter.
Jennings rushed at once to the desk in the corner of the library, and began to search through the documents in the drawers. Black meanwhile began to search the bookshelves for any clues.
They continued in this manner for at least an hour, methodically searching each room on the ground floor. As tempting as it might have been, they didn’t dare make their way upstairs.
At last the two rendezvoused in the front hall, the staircase stretching out behind them. Black shook his head, indicating he had found nothing.
“As expected,” Jennings whispered. “There must be something, though... some clue.”
A sliver of moonlight reflected on something in his periphery, and he turned to see it.
“Paper, and pen,” Jennings hissed over his shoulder.
Black nodded, and returned a moment later from the library with them. Jennings took the paper, and immediately began sketching out the object in front of him.
To Black’s eyes, there was nothing out of the ordinary. It was only a heraldic shield, the same as were in most fancy houses.
“Sir?” he whispered.
“This is a family crest, Mr. Black,” Jennings replied. “However, it is not the family crest I noted on the records for the Cambridge family.”
“Then whose is it?” the Grarrl asked.
“I should very much like to know myself,” Jennings confessed.
With one last look at the shield, he made his way back to the library.
The old Bruce that ran the records office woke with a start, and scowled at the Krawk that had woken him.
“You again?” she asked. “You want to look through the Meridell records again? Some people are gluttons for punishment.”
Jennings smiled. “I need access to coats of arms.”
The Bruce laughed. “The last person that went searching through the coats of arms section for Meridell never came back out. I’m sure his skeleton’s still hanging about somewhere in the region of L.”
“Alas, it is not only Meridell’s records I need to see,” Jennings added. “I have absolutely no idea where this comes from.”
He handed over the small slip of paper which he had drawn on the previous night. The Bruce gasped almost instantly.
“Well you’re in luck,” she told him. “I know exactly which coat of arms this one is. I’m surprised you don’t; you looked like a gentleman to me. All the toffs know the Hensley coat of arms.”
“Hensley?” Jennings asked.
“You don’t know about rotten Lord Hensley?” the Bruce asked suspiciously. “Everyone knows about rotten Lord Hensley.”
“Evidently not,” Jennings pointed out. “I am not originally from the city. Who was he? Or is he?”
“Was,” the Bruce replied. “Most definitely was. He was a Meridell lord, but then again, who isn’t? Everyone probably is. He came to Neopia Central forty or so years back. He was a right piece of work, wasn’t till after he died that people found out he’d been exiled from Meridell for cheating pretty much everyone, including the King, out of their money.”
“An exile, you say?” Jennings asked.
“Oh yes,” the Bruce continued. “He arrived just like every other gent, and got himself a nice place up in the Hills. Of course the people up there welcomed him with open arms, thinking he was just another toff, and all the while he was thieving from them, right under their noses! Well, eventually the Defenders of Neopia cottoned on to what he was doing. This was back in the days before Judge Hog when the Defenders were more... hard line. Old Judge Irons didn’t hold with ideas like incarceration. He got straight to the point. Literally.”
“There were no relatives?” Jennings asked.
“None,” the Bruce answered. “Well, there was a rumour that he left behind an orphaned baby, but that was only a rumour, nothing more.”
“Interesting,” Jennings mused.
It certainly was. Lady Cambridge, a woman about to turn forty, had a coat of arms in her house from a family in which an orphaned child disappeared forty years ago.
It couldn’t be a coincidence, and she’d certainly want to hide her heritage if her father had stolen from almost everyone in the Hills.
Something else tugged in the Krawk’s mind, though. He handed over a second scrap of paper.
“Do you have the tenancy records for this address?” he asked.
“You’re full of questions today,” the Bruce said, before squinting through her glasses at the address. “We should do; it's Docklands, though, so the records might be unreliable.”
Johnny Twobit had moved up in the world.
Well, strictly speaking he hadn’t moved anywhere. He was still in the Docklands.
However, within the micro-society that was Docklands life, Johnny had moved up significantly.
Once, he had been the hired goon of Seth Vargo. He’d been paid to intimidate the locals and extract protection money.
Then Mr. Jennings had happened, and Seth Vargo had stopped happening, permanently.
But Mr. Jennings had made Johnny an offer, and he had jumped at the chance.
Of course, he was still intimidating the locals and extracting protection money, but it was at a much reduced rate than before.
Johnny Twobit, so known because they said if you made him angry, they’d only find two bits of you, had been tasked with cleaning up the Docklands.
Before, under Seth Vargo, the entire place had been a breeding ground for undesirables. You couldn’t stand on a corner without being mugged, killed, or invariably both.
Mr. Jennings had given strict orders. He didn’t want crime out of the Docklands, far from it. What he wanted was the uncontrollable acts of crime removed. The random thefts, the senseless murders, everyone now knew that if you did that, Johnny Twobit would pay you a visit.
As such, Johnny had gained a level of respect in the Docklands. This was both because he was the man making the neighbourhood a relatively safer place, but also because he was a man to be feared.
The red Kougra walked with a certain sense of pride. It was of course shattered as he saw the carriage round the corner.
The green Grarrl atop it winked as it stopped next to him, and the door opened. Mr. Jennings beckoned Johnny inside.
“Have I done something wrong, sir?” he asked as he sat down opposite the Krawk.
“Not at all, Mr. Twobit,” Jennings replied. “In fact, you have been making remarkable progress. I feel we will soon be able to discuss the matter of a raise. However, I have come to speak with you on a different matter today.”
“Sir?” the Kougra asked.
“I need you to find out all you can about a deceased resident of the Docklands,” Jennings explained. “Her name was Ethel Partridge.”
“Where did she live?” Johnny asked.
“An old house on Pike Alley,” Jennings told him. “It’s currently being used as a homeless shelter for the Women’s Institute.”
“Never heard of her,” Johnny answered. “When did she die? Recently?”
“Not at all,” Jennings explained. “She died somewhere in the region of forty years ago. I don’t expect you to remember her personally, Mr. Twobit, but you should have access to people who might.”
“Alright, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to find anything,” Johnny agreed reluctantly.
“I have every confidence in your abilities,” Jennings said, holding open the door to the carriage for Johnny to leave. “I will require this information by tomorrow night.”
Lady Cambridge tapped her foot impatiently, the sound echoing through the night fog. The elegant shawl was doing nothing to protect her against the chilly air of the Docklands.
“You’re late,” she hissed as she spotted the large figure looming through the fog.
“I had to make sure I wasn’t followed,” Mr. Black explained.
“Well? Do you have anything for me?” Cambridge demanded.
“He’s managed to get an invite to your party tomorrow,” Black informed her.
“Typical!” she said scornfully. “I should never have allowed that idiotic old woman to handle the invites! What’s he intending to do?”
“He’s going to reveal your true identity to everyone,” Black explained. “He’s figured out who you are from that coat of arms in your house.”
“I see...” Cambridge said. “I can outwit him. I’m so much better at this than he is. By the time I’m done it will be Mr. Jennings that is finished.”
“You’re not worried?” Black asked.
“Worried? Why would I be worried?” Cambridge scoffed. “What does it matter if everyone knows who I am? Everyone knows who Jennings is. Everyone knows he’s a Shenkuu exile, but that’s never stopped him. In fact, people positively go out of their way to ignore the fact that they know who he really is. No, the Hensley family name will not hold me back. Tomorrow night, Mr. Jennings will make the greatest mistake of his life.”
To be continued...