The Knowledge: Part Three
The meeting with Judge Hog had taken most of the day. There had been so much to explain and plan, both about Area 26 and the transport problem. It had taken all of Jennings’s skills to convince the Judge to remain quiet about the secret organisation. As a result, it wasn’t until the following morning that Jennings made his way to the National Neopian.
He was now acutely aware of being watched. Not by the agents of Area 26, though Jennings suspected that they were watching him, but agents sent by Judge Hog to keep an eye on him. The Defenders of Neopia were not known for discretion at the best of times.
Jennings greeted the teller at the National Neopian.
“What can we help you with today, sir?” she asked.
“I’m here to look in a Safety Deposit Box, the name of Mr. Jennings,” he answered.
The Aisha gave a little gasp before running off to fetch her supervisor. She returned with him a moment later, an elderly green Tonu who smiled at the sight of the Krawk.
“We were wondering when you’d get here,” the Tonu greeted him. “The mystery of Vault #792 has been the talk of the office all week. If you’d follow me, sir, I’ll show you to it.”
Jennings nodded, and followed in the wake of the Tonu as he was led down to the vaults.
“If I may ask, what do you mean? What mystery?” Jennings asked.
“Oh, it may not be a mystery to you, sir, but to us it seemed a bit strange,” the Tonu explained. “Between you and me, sir, Mrs. Clasp was considered a bit of a... oh, how do you young people put it these days? A fruit loop?”
“How do you mean?” Jennings pressed.
“Oh, I mean no disrespect, if she was a friend of yours, sir,” the Tonu backtracked. “It’s just that... well, she was a very well off Neopet by all accounts, but she lived so frugally. Never lived anywhere but the Docklands, so they say... and well, she could have afforded at least two of the biggest houses in the Hills. And that’s not even mentioning the strangeness with Vault #792.”
“The strangeness?” Jennings asked, as they turned a corner into one of the deeper levels of the vaults.
Pristine shining vault doors lined the walls now, each heavily secured.
“Well, sir, again I mean no disrespect,” the Tonu explained. “She came in not nine days ago to open a high security safety deposit box... whilst I of course am not at liberty to say exactly what she deposited in public, it seemed... less than important. That in itself is strange, sir, what with her hardly ever leaving her house. She seemed quite agitated about being outside. And then there’s the matter of allowing you access. I assume you must somehow be related, but those of us in the office have been banging our heads together all week about how you could be, what with you coming from...”
The Tonu trailed off.
“Out of town,” Jennings finished, avoiding the S word.
“Exactly, sir!” the Tonu agreed with relief. “Well, here we are, sir.”
The Tonu stopped outside the vault labelled #792. He typed in a password on the door’s panel, pressed his thumb print on the screen, and used a small key from around his neck to unlock the final security measure.
The Tonu stood aside to allow Jennings entry. A single light inside illuminated the vault’s only contents. It seemed to be a scrap of paper.
Jennings bent down and picked it up. There was a hastily written note on one side that he read in silence. His furrowed brow soon transformed into a look of deviousness.
A few moments later, he emerged from the vault and nodded to the Tonu, who locked the door again.
“Mrs... Clasp,” Jennings said, recalling the name the Tonu had used. “She died recently. How recently?”
“You don’t know, sir?” the Tonu questioned. “Sorry, sir, I assumed you did. It was not even two full days ago, sir. They say it was quite sudden and unexpected. I mean, she was an old lady by all accounts, but she seemed in perfect health considering her age.”
“I see,” Jennings said. “You wouldn’t happen to have her address on file, would you?”
“Yes sir, of course,” the Tonu replied. “Though, the amount we’ve been talking about this in the office I have it memorised now, sir! It was 12 Bannerman Alley.”
“Bannerman Alley...” Jennings mused as the two made their way back towards the bank’s entrance.
He closed his eyes. He had seen so little of the street in the Docklands the previous night... but Bannerman Alley seemed to fit.
That meant she definitely was part of Area 26, if she had an access door in her house. But why was her house in such a state of disrepair? Even if she did have some sort of sentimental tie to the Docklands that stopped her moving out, why weren’t the insides of the house at least mostly functional?
“Her husband?” he asked.
“Oh, long since gone, sir,” the Tonu replied.
The pair had reached the entrance hall. Jennings thanked him before heading outside. There, he found Brodman’s carriage waiting.
The Blumaroo opened the door as he approached.
“Get in,” he instructed.
Jennings wordlessly obeyed, confident that he now held most, if not all the bargaining chips.
“We know that what was deposited was some form of paper,” Brodman said as the carriage set off. “What we do not know is what was written on the paper.”
The Blumaroo held out his hand expectantly.
“I’m afraid I destroyed it before leaving the vault.” Jennings smirked. “As per the instructions written on it.”
Brodman’s face was one the verge of displaying an emotion.
“Then you will tell us what was written on it,” he stated.
“I will not be doing that either, I’m afraid,” Jennings answered.
Brodman was speechless.
“You see,” Jennings continued, “You said Mrs. Clasp was one of the Governors of Area 26. I think that was, however, a bit misleading. I think in fact that you meant to say that she used be one of the Governors, along with her husband. This accounts for her substantial wealth. Like the other Governors, they exploited their knowledge for profit.
“But her husband died, and she began to have different ideas... ideas that perhaps the rest of the Governors didn’t agree with? Such as opening Area 26 to the public, and removing your advantage over the rest of the population?”
Brodman didn’t answer, confirming Jennings’s train of thought.
“Of course, out of respect to her husband, you didn’t dispose of her. Instead you made her a prisoner in her own home. Direct access to Area 26 – which means direct control by Area 26. Yet just under two weeks ago she managed to escape. She found her way to the National Neopian and opened Vault #792. She put something inside, information that could bring you down, and named me as the person to do it. She knew I was capable, after all Area 26 already has records of me toppling other criminal organisations in the city.”
“So what was it?” Brodman demanded. “A list of names?”
“I imagine she wouldn’t tell you either,” Jennings added. “No matter how hard you tried to persuade her. So you cut your losses and got rid of her. After all, there was still another person who could just open the vault and walk straight in.”
“We have ways of making you talk,” Brodman said confidently. “We’re heading right back to Area 26.”
Jennings smiled as the carriage came to a gentle stop. His hand was already firmly grasping Brodman’s arm.
“Traffic,” Jennings observed. “I believe Mrs. Clasp intended me to destroy your little organisation. I will grant her final wish.”
Forcing Brodman down into his seat, Jennings opened the door and disappeared into the streets before the traffic had a chance to clear. Brodman shouted after Jennings, his voice calm but for the sudden volume that betrayed a hint of anger.
“You can do nothing to harm us, Jennings! We have been here since the beginning and we will be here after you! We survived the Night of the Flaming Torches! We have survived the toppling of entire governments! We will survive you!”
Mr. Jennings handed over a copy of the Neopian Times to the blue Skeith atop the taxi carriage.
Hodgeson gave a glare to Jennings. “I’ve already read it.”
The headline read, ‘DEFENDERS OF NEOPIA CRACK DOWN ON TAXI FIRMS’
“I thought you would be happier about the situation, Mr. Hodgeson,” Jennings considered.
The Skeith snorted, “What have I got to be happy about? Judge Hog has declared that all taxi drivers need a new licence! One I don’t have! He’s only gone and put me out of business! And all just so he can try and cut down on congestion.”
Jennings ignored the obvious question, why Hodgeson was still sitting on top of his cab if he could no longer drive it, and plunged onwards.
“A licence which you do have, Mr. Hodgeson,” he pointed out.
“No, I don’t,” Hodgeson repeated.
“You have neglected to read the entire article, Mr. Hodgeson,” Jennings informed him. “Particularly the part about the appointment of someone to devise and administer a new driving test for prospective licence holders.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Hodgeson asked.
“Judge Hog was at a loss for someone who knew the roads of this city like the back of their hand,” Jennings explained. “I suggested you personally.”
“Yes.” Jennings smiled. “The first tests are booked in tomorrow morning, at the Defenders Headquarters. I hope you will be able to come up with a suitable test by then – in the meantime, Judge Hog has asked me to present you with this.”
Jennings handed over a laminated card with Hodgeson’s name on it.
“I might incidentally point out, Mr. Hodgeson, that until tomorrow morning, as the only licensed taxi driver in the city you essentially have a monopoly on fares.”
Hodgeson beamed with the idea of profit.
“I trust this new position is acceptable to you?” Jennings asked.
“Oh yes, sir!” Hodgeson said, absorbed with the official nature of the card he now held.
“Good, then I shall see you tomorrow morning.”
To be continued...