Stealing Stones: Part Six
Fredrick made his way straight back home, the small run-down flat in the Docklands. It had once belonged to Myra Boggins, the old widow that had taken in the young Fredrick as a child. But illness had taken her not long after Fredrick had learned how to stand and remember his own name, the name she had given him – he had been alone ever since.
Now, as the sun set through the cracked and grubby windows, Fredrick sat very firmly on his one remaining chair and began to wring out his clothes. He took his battered old briefcase from the floor and selected the appropriate potion. A moment later the green Yurble he had been impersonating was gone. The shadow Ruki was back in the room.
Fredrick sighed deeply, and took in the complete silence of the room. At least he hadn't been followed by the Moltarans.
In the corner of the room, Fredrick's wardrobe opened with sudden force, and a green Krawk stepped out.
"Mr. Boggins!" Jennings declared.
Fredrick almost fell backwards in shock.
"How long have you been hiding in there!?" he demanded.
"Not hiding, Mr. Boggins - waiting," Jennings corrected him. "We have made progress."
"We have?" Fredrick asked. "I mean, we have, yes. The Moltarans are out of the picture, they know the stone is a fake now so I doubt they'll be interested."
"Splendid," Jennings answered, getting momentarily distracted by the mouldy and damp mattress that Fredrick used for sleep. "I too have made progress. One of the attempts was made by the Sakhmetian government, attempting to reclaim the diamond they believe is theirs. They have fled back to the desert. This means there are only two parties left in the game. One is Ambassador Basal, the other..."
"Lady Celeriac," Fredrick finished. "She helped me escape from the Moltarans."
"She told you she was involved?" Jennings asked.
"No, but why would she be hanging about if she wasn't?" Fredrick considered. "She must have something to do with it."
"True," Jennings admitted. "Good work, Mr. Boggins. Please continue."
Jennings let himself out, leaving Fredrick alone.
Before he went to sleep, he made sure to double check his wardrobe – just in case Mr. Black was also lurking.
Fredrick spent most of the next morning locating Viridian Funk and the Moltaran Ambassador. Together with the relic assistant and the thief, they were waiting on a Docklands corner, attempting to look as if they weren't there – Funk was the only one who was managing it successfully.
It was a stroke of luck on Fredrick's part that they hadn't progressed further in the day they had been out of his eye line. Thankfully, Funk's plan appeared to be the one Fredrick thought it would be – they weren't going to find the thieves of the diamond at all. Instead, they were going to let someone else find them.
It was common knowledge that the Thieves Guild operated a chapter in the Docklands, and anyone operating in the city was expected to be registered with them. Kanrik, their leader, took serious issue with anyone who broke the code – and when he took issue with someone, they needed to be worried.
Unregistered thieves never lasted long in the city, and now Funk had informed the Guild of the diamond thieves, it wouldn't be long until they were located. The Guild's network of contacts was far more efficient than Funk's possibly could be.
Quietly, Funk tapped Ambassador Basal on the arm and nodded towards a member of the passing crowd. A nondescript citizen, a Gnorbu who looked no different from the rest. From Fredrick's vantage point atop a nearby building, he caught sight of the silver glint that could only be a concealed weapon. It was a thief, one heading towards a target.
The four pursuers detached themselves from the shadows and followed the Gnorbu at a distance. Similarly, Fredrick began to stalk across the rooftops, taking care to stay low and avoid casting a shadow onto the street below.
The Gnorbu didn't seem to think he was being tailed, as he didn't waste time zigzagging across the streets. He was on a mission, and was heading straight for his target.
He came to a stop in a narrow alley and found the house he was looking for. Funk and Basal paused at the mouth of the alley, and Fredrick on the rooftop above them.
The Gnorbu took out his small knife and used it to pry open the lock, granting him access.
"Well, what are we going to do?" the Draik asked the Grundo.
"We can't take it to Crooked Tony," the Grundo said. "Something this big, he'd never be interested in hot goods."
Both of them were staring at the small trinket box on the table. Neither dared to open it, as if showing the contents might attract unwelcome attention.
"We don't know it's the one from the museum," the Draik countered. "We might as well try him."
There was a click from the front door. Both Neopets turned to see a Gnorbu standing in the hallway. They also saw the knife in his hand.
"Who are you?" the Draik demanded.
"Guild Representative," the Gnorbu stated. "I hear there might be unregistered thieves here."
The faces of the two Neopets fell.
"Listen, we were going to get around to..."
"No excuses," the Gnorbu said. "Rules are rules."
He advanced. The two Neopets exchanged one glance and bolted for the back door, the Gnorbu in close pursuit.
"Where are we going!?" the Grundo demanded as they fled.
"I don't know!" the Draik replied. "Just stay close!"
The two darted across the street, turning sharply and knocking through a crowd. The Gnorbu was still coming, but the commotion in the crowd slowed him down. The Draik vaulted onto a barrel, pulling himself up onto a rooftop. The Grundo followed soon after, kicking the barrel away with his feet. Together, the two ran across the roof and dropped down into the next street. The Gnorbu was still following, but now far behind, he wouldn't be able to catch his prey.
The Draik came across a darkened window leading down into a cellar and forced it open. Both disappeared below street level to safety.
Or a certain value of safety. A match lit in the darkness. It was applied to a candle that illuminated the face of a hooded Gelert. A scar ran down his cheek.
"Hello there," Kanrik said through the darkness. "We tend to take running as a sign of guilt around these parts."
The two Neopets drew closer together as other matches were lit in the darkness, each belonging to a different thief.
"Please!" the Draik begged.
"No excuses," Kanrik told them. "Rules are rules."
At once, the candle and the matches were extinguished and the room was plunged into darkness.
Funk let himself into the building once the thief had followed the runaways.
"How do you know they won't have it on their person?" Basal questioned.
"Two thieves, one diamond," Funk replied. "You'd trust your friend to carry something like that? No, you'd think he might steal it – he's a thief, after all. He thinks the same about you. So you keep it on neutral ground."
Fredrick positioned himself outside the kitchen window, low enough so that he could see in but wouldn't be seen.
"Here," Funk said, gesturing to the trinket box.
His hand moved to open it, but Basal held him back.
"Wait," he instructed. "Before we proceed, there are certain loose ends in this room that need to be tied up. This situation is getting out of control, far too many people now know of Moltara's involvement in this. Before we all go our separate ways, I would like to consolidate my risks."
"What do you mean?" Funk asked.
Basal's eyes drifted to Rhyo, the Acara thief who had originally stolen the diamond.
"What!?" was all she could muster.
"Understood, I'll take care of her," Funk agreed.
A firm hand grasped Rhyo's neck before she could react, almost choking her and silencing her protests. Funk dragged her out back – Fredrick didn't have time to return to the rooftop, instead retreating back into the shadows and hoping they would mask him.
Funk took Rhyo away from the window, out of the Ambassador's view. But he didn't do what Fredrick was expecting him to do.
He released her.
There was a short whispered conversation, at the end of which Rhyo nodded, and ran off down the alley that led back to the street.
Funk turned, and seemed to spot Fredrick in the shadows. He had no hope of pretending he wasn't there – Fredrick had been found. He had to say something, it was his only hope of staying alive longer.
"What was that about, Mr. Funk?"
The Lutari was moving quickly, darting forwards towards Fredrick. One hand was dragging the Ruki to the floor before he knew what hit him.
"You don't make fun of the name!" he hissed.
Then, he seemed to pause, and relinquished his grip.
"You're Jennings's man?" he whispered.
Fredrick didn't know what was happening. He nodded dumbly.
"I'm Judge Hog's," Funk revealed. "Deep cover. Stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours."
Funk got up, releasing Fredrick. Without another word, he returned to the Ambassador in the kitchen.
"All dealt with," he announced. "Anyone else you'd like?"
The Lutari eyed the relic Nimmo, the Ambassador's attendant.
"No, Quart is quite loyal, I can assure you," Basal said dismissively. "You'll be paid double, now that Rhyo is no longer on our payroll. Now, let's finish this."
Basal leaned forwards and opened the trinket box. There was a collective gasp.
The diamond was not inside.
To be continued...