All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Part Four
From what Jennings could gather, ‘Super Hog’ as the Judge was calling himself in that time period, was a very low level Defender. He had been in the organisation for a couple of years, but had not progressed along with his peers. When locals were pressed for a reason why, all they could supply was that he had ideas that conflicted with those of Judge Irons.
Jennings became acutely aware of just how low level Super Hog was when he observed the Moehog leaving the shabby grey building that currently served as Defenders Headquarters around lunch time. He watched with interest as Super Hog walked to the Marketplace and purchased several boxes of doughnuts and cups of coffee – Judge Hog was essentially the tea boy.
It was after he exited the shop that Jennings approached him.
“Super Hog, wasn’t it?” Jennings enquired.
“Mr. Frobisher,” he grunted in response.
“I’m honoured you remember me.” Jennings smiled. “Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“I have to get these back,” Super Hog replied, holding up the packages of food.
“I’m sure you can delay for a few minutes,” Jennings pressed. “It is a matter of extreme importance. Perhaps we can talk somewhere more private? The Coffee Shop in the Catacombs, perhaps?”
“The what?” Super Hog frowned.
Jennings hesitated. This far back, even the Catacombs hadn’t been discovered. It would be a few years until Professor Chesterpot from the Museum even led the first expedition into Neopia Central’s underground caverns.
“Perhaps we could go to Pizzaroo instead,” he ventured.
Super Hog sat down awkwardly across from Jennings.
“Well?” he demanded.
“Something is wrong with Neopia Central, Mr. Hog,” Jennings explained. “We both know what it is, but I imagine you know more of the details than I.”
The Moehog looked over his shoulder. “You mean Judge Irons.”
“Indeed.” Jennings nodded.
“And why have you come to me?” Super Hog asked.
“Because the word on the street is that you have ideas, Mr. Hog,” Jennings explained. “Ideas that conflict with the Judge’s.”
“And? Only arresting people when you have proof and having people followed in secret to get that proof is hardly revolutionary... but the Judge, his line is that people should be arrested then and there – proof or no.”
Jennings chuckled. “The Defenders of Neopia are not known for being very good at disguises.”
Jennings recalled the number of times he’d been followed through the streets by Defenders. The long trench coats barely concealing their superhero outfits were an instant giveaway, making them easy to lose.
“Sure there’re not,” Super Hog explained with a grin. “That’s why you send a couple after someone, and then send a couple extra who actually are good at it. People think they lose the tail when they stop seeing the badly disguised people – when the real tail is still there.”
Jennings had to fight the urge to let his mouth fall open in amazement.
All these years, Jennings had been skilfully avoiding the obvious Defenders, and not paying any attention to the Defenders that weren’t obvious at all.
Jennings had been successfully tricked by Judge Hog, of all people. A man that the Krawk had always considered to be necessary, but fundamentally stupid.
But this left a question hanging in Jennings’s mind. If the Judge had been successfully spying on Jennings since he arrived in the city, why had he not been arrested? He would undoubtedly have enough evidence to put him behind bars, and was always harping on about how he would love to do it... so why hadn’t he?
“What did you mean, last night?” Jennings asked eventually. “That people have an agreement with the Defenders?”
Once again, Super Hog looked over his shoulder to check their conversation was not attracting attention.
“You think this new Headquarters building is paying for itself?” he said. “The Docklands crime rate has always been out of control, no matter how many of them you lock up. Judge Irons makes Larry Tights, the guy who runs the place, pay protection money.”
Jennings was all ears.
“In return, Irons doesn’t go after him,” Super Hog continued. “Though it’s also part of the agreement that Mr. Tights tries to keep noticeable crime outside of the Docklands to a minimum. Irons offered the same deal to Galem Darkhand, the new head of the Thieves Guild, but he refused. That’s why so many Thieves Guild members are being arrested lately.”
“This is common knowledge within the Defenders?” Jennings asked.
Super Hog nodded. “Almost everyone’s in on it.”
“But you don’t agree?”
“With the protection money, he’s in our pocket, but we’re also in his,” Super Hog answered. “He could go to the media at any point and bring the Defenders to our knees.”
“So you would sooner have this Mr. Tights arrested?” Jennings asked.
“Certainly not,” Super Hog grunted. “It’s better to know who your enemies are. You can never stop crime, not completely – so it’s better to keep a few criminals at the top, right where you can see them, while taking care of the rest.”
Jennings was once more stunned. There it was, better to know who your enemies are. Jennings hadn’t been arrested because it suited Judge Hog to keep him free. Why, Jennings had even helped the Judge out by removing the three crime lords that ran the city before his arrival – Jennings had effectively consolidated the man’s workload into one easy to handle package.
And that, Jennings realised, was the truth of it. He had been handled. All the time, Jennings had assumed he had the upper hand, that he had been slowly corrupting Judge Hog, forcing him to allow little crimes to happen. But instead, Jennings himself had been corrupted. Whilst he certainly wasn’t an honest man, a lot more of Jennings’s businesses were now legitimate. The murderous creature bent on revenge that had arrived from Shenkuu was gone – he had been softened, the rough edges worn away. Jennings now arrested his enemies instead of sending Mr. Black after them.
It was almost sickening to the Krawk. Almost, but not entirely. Because at the same time Mr. Jennings was in awe that the Judge had managed this for so long without someone realising. He realised now that Judge Hog was important for the well being of the city, more so than Jennings ever knew. The Krawk may have been marching the city forwards, but the Moehog was keeping it ticking. Irons needed to be removed. The city needed the slightly weedy looking Moehog to be at the helm.
“Mr. Tights is the only one who has this arrangement?” Jennings asked at last.
“Then our mutual problem may not be much of a problem for long,” Jennings told him. “Thank you for the information, Mr. Hog.”
Super Hog left the restaurant soon after to complete his delivery, leaving Jennings alone to plan.
He knew what needed to be done, and he knew exactly who he needed to recruit in order to accomplish it – the Thieves Guild, and Mr. Tights.
Tights would not be a problem, and if he was, then Jennings was confident that it would be a problem that could easily be overcome. Larry Tights, if Mr. Jennings remembered correctly, did not last long as an underworld boss. The Thieves Guild was another matter entirely. Galem Darkhand, though new at the job, would be the leader of the organisation until Y6, and Jennings couldn’t interfere with that. Galem’s loyalty would need to be purchased.
It wasn’t long before Jennings struck on an idea. He would need to briefly visit Professor Thornpipe for supplies, and then set off cross country. In Jennings’s time period, it would be a relatively simple journey. A flying Shenkuu ship could have got him there easily, or even the overnight coach in his strapped for cash state. But in the Neopia Central of the past, things were so much harder; no one had even gone beyond the Haunted Woods, let alone over the mountains to the other side of Neopia. He would have to travel on foot, and it would take several days to reach his destination. But he needed to; he could think of no other alternative. He needed to return to Shenkuu.
Judge Hog has successfully fooled us all these past thirty years. He has held a sword over my head since the moment I arrived in the city, and I was not even aware it was there. At any point he could have had me arrested, but didn’t as I was still useful in reducing crime – if, or rather when I return to the future, I will make a special effort not to underestimate him in the future. In the meantime, I must ensure that Judge Hog takes the place of Judge Irons. What before was a trifling concern is now a matter of grave importance. I am travelling to Shenkuu to acquire an item that I know to be in the Emperor’s possession. As a young recruit, I heard tales of its mysterious disappearance from the treasure house – I now understand that it disappeared because I am going to steal it. It is a priceless item, one of a kind – the Thieves Code.
To be continued...