Mr. Jennings Must Die: Part Two
Jennings woke with a start, the view of his office desk greeting him. Slightly puzzled, he sat himself upright. Not that he would dare admit it, but he couldn't exactly remember how he got there.
One thing was immediately clear – there was a note on his desk.
Written by someone who clearly thought of writing as a strange foreign land rather than a skill, it carried a barely concealed threatening tone.
This is his town now.
At the lift outside his office, he could already hear some commotion. Quickly, he picked the note up and popped it in his mouth, swallowing it just as the doors to his office burst open.
A dozen or more Defenders, each in their finest lurid outfits. Mr. Black was busily scuffling with some of them at the back, but stopped when Judge Hog stepped forwards.
"You know why we're here," he stated, not a question.
"I can't imagine why," Jennings answered as if it had been.
"Two Junior Defenders were found on Tuckly Road this morning. They're in the hospital now, but won't be up for talking any time soon," the Judge stated. "Next to them, we found this."
He slapped down the Krawk's distinctive diamond tipped cane. Jennings was silent.
"I never thought you'd be this stupid, that's for sure," the Judge told him. "We're here to arrest you."
"You can't do that!" Black protested.
The Judge gave him a stern and lasting glare, "Of course we can."
Turning back to Jennings, he added, "You are going to come quietly?"
"I don't believe I have been anywhere in a different manner," Jennings replied.
He stood up from his desk abruptly. Several of the less experienced Defenders moved backwards unconsciously. Jennings held out his hands.
"Will there be chains?" he asked. "I do so hope there will be chains."
The Judge gave Jennings a narrow stare before nodding to one of his subordinates who edged forward to place the Krawk's hands in chains. Taking the stairs down, the entourage escorted Jennings down from his office and out the front door of his tower. There, a Defenders of Neopia carriage was waiting, and Jennings was roughly forced inside.
A sizable crowd was gathered to watch the spectacle, and Jennings noted with interest a carriage parked in the distance, a Sakhmet seal on the door.
Jennings was forced quite roughly into a cell. Like most of the Defenders of Neopia building, it gleamed white. The Krawk sat down quite pleasantly on the small camp bed and tested the springs.
He looked up at Sergeant Brexis, the Buzz who had escorted him to the cells.
"Yes," he said. "This will do quite nicely. Thank you."
"This isn't a game, you know?" Brexis barked.
"Certainly, if it were a game I would appear to be doing quite badly," Jennings replied.
Brexis left the Krawk, slamming the door and locking it with some satisfaction. Judge Hog joined him to look through the small porthole in the door that allowed them to see what was happening inside. It was one way glass, so Jennings should not have been able to see them, but even so he seemed to gaze directly at them, and smiled as if the entire thing was a picnic.
"He smiled," the Judge said somewhat sadly.
"What's the matter?" Brexis asked. "This is Mr. Jennings! I know you found him useful sometimes, but he was still a major criminal, and we caught him!"
"Don't you think that was a little… easy?" the Judge asked. "All the crimes we know he's committed, and all the trouble he's taken trying to cover them up – why would he hand us an assault on a plate like that?"
"Everyone gets sloppy at some point," Brexis pointed out.
"Not him," the Judge said bluntly. "Never him. I know this city, and I know him. If he went down, it would be something big."
"So what are you saying?"
"He smiled," the Judge repeated. "It means he's here because he wants to be."
Brexis, more out of a sense of duty than of any actual duty, patrolled the cell block level regularly. He made a habit of looking in on each and every prisoner, meaning his rounds took quite long. In any other establishment, his productivity would have been called into question, but in the Defenders it was seen as being thorough.
There were many prisoners on the cell level. There were magically dangerous prisoners like Lady Frostbite, there were the physically dangerous like Khan, and those deemed dangerous for the knowledge they held like Mr. Brodman, formerly of Area 26. But then there was Mr. Jennings, and in an odd way the sight of him in the cells unnerved Brexis more than any other.
He just sat there, the polite air somehow radiating out into the corridor. He ate his meals in silence, and spent the rest of the time just lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling as if it was giving a particularly interesting lecture. Not a hint of boredom. Not a hint of anger.
Mr. Black had arrived quite quickly, determined to clear his master's name – but strangely, Jennings had refused to tell him anything about his activities the previous night. He'd even expressly told his servant not to try and investigate the matter. Though Brexis, being somewhat familiar with Jennings, suspected that he had used a tone that indicated he was to do everything in his power to see the Krawk released.
No one else had come to see Jennings. A man like that, so powerful, but no friends.
Then, the day following the arrest, the Sheikh arrived.
The fat Acara waddled down the corridor, practically filling it from side to side, and was let into the Jennings cell. An assistant produced a chair, a tiny wooden stool, which he sat on. The wood creaked precariously, but Al-Balim ignored it.
"You are an exceptionally lucky man, Mr. Jennings," he said with a grin.
"In many ways, I shouldn't doubt," Jennings replied. "How exactly do you mean?"
"I am trapped here, in this… city, for want of a better word," the Sheikh explained. "A vast and terrible sandstorm is currently raging in the desert – passage to Sakhmet is quite impossible for the next few days. Originally, I had intended to return to the desert today, but that will not be possible. And then of course, I heard of your little predicament."
"You must have heard remarkably quickly," Jennings remarked. "You were watching when I was arrested, were you not?"
"Merely very good contacts, I assure you," the Sheikh replied with a waxy glance to Sergeant Brexis. "Normally of course I would have watched the spectacle unfold as this city adapted to life without you, but then I happened upon an entertaining alternative."
"I have assumed control of your assets," the Sheikh revealed. "It was remarkably easy, I must say. You know, there were rumours amongst my advisors that doing this… that is to say, in the event you should ever be fairly arrested as is the case now, the city would be thrown into chaos. That removing you from the equation would somehow see Neopia Central unwind. I am most pleased to tell you that it simply hasn't happened. Neopia Central is ticking along as usual. It appears you are not as important as some people think."
Jennings gave a little chuckle, "Mr. Al-Balim, you appear to have misunderstood. The reason people are not rioting, I should suspect, is because they believe I have not been removed from whatever equation your uniquely mathematical brain has composed."
"I do not follow," Al-Balim confessed.
"I would not expect you to," Jennings said with satisfaction. "So let me explain. People in this city are under the collective impression that I have been arrested because I want to be arrested. That somehow, I have planned it, and am not really under arrest at all. That at any moment I could stride out of this cell if I wished it."
"But you have not planned it," Al-Balim stated.
"Perhaps," Jennings smiled. "But then, an innocent bystander in the situation like yourself would hardly know either way. Unless of course you are claiming you have some sort of information about the incident?"
"No," Al-Balim quickly backtracked. "Of course not. Regardless, Mr. Jennings, I only wished to tell you that your businesses are being well looked after. Have no fear, Neopia Central is in safe hands now."
"I cannot thank you enough for your kindness," Jennings said with finality.
It was a strange thing, when Jennings talked that way. It was a tone of voice that made it very clear that whoever he was talking to was dismissed, and it seemed very difficult for people to linger in the face of the words. The Sheikh's body had already moved itself towards the doorway before his brain realised the situation, that Jennings was a prisoner, and had no authority to dismiss anyone. But by then the Acara was committed to the movement, and swept out of the cell regardless.
Brexis lingered in the doorway.
"You can't walk out of here, whatever you think," he told the Krawk.
"My dear Sergeant, nothing could be further from my mind," Jennings replied with a knowing smile.
Judge Hog made his way to his office after a rather long day out in the streets. In many ways, the day had been easier because he no longer had to keep tabs on the movement of Mr. Jennings, but at the same time his absence had created even more work.
For one thing, he was having to gather entirely new intelligence on the Sheikh. That was the primary reason why the Judge had let Jennings run about the place for so long – it was easier to deal with criminals you were familiar with.
A candle lit in the Judge's dark office, and was placed on the desk. There was someone sat in the Judge's chair.
"Mr. Harvey Black," the Defender greeted the Grarrl. "Rare to see you here unaccompanied. I'm sorry, but if you're looking for new employment, I really don't need a bodyguard."
"You have to let Jennings go," Black stated.
"Now I can see how you've gotten confused as to how this works," the Judge answered, closing the door behind him. "What with you watching Jennings waltz in here and appear to tell me what to do over the past few years – but the reality is, he doesn't call the shots here, I do. And in any case, he's the majority shareholder for the Defenders, not you. I don't have to do anything you say. The rules have always been clear, if Jennings did something I couldn't ignore, I'd have his head – and this qualifies."
"But he didn't do it!" Black protested.
"You know that?" the Judge asked.
"You know that!" Black stressed. "It's not like him, he's not that thick. Don't you think it's suspicious this happens the day one of his rivals comes to town? The Sheikh's behind it!"
"Of course," the Judge admitted. "Everyone knows the Sheikh did it, Harvey. He's not exactly the most subtle sledgehammer in the toolbox. But around here, we operate according to a little thing called the law. I don't expect you to have heard of it, coming from the Docklands and all. We can't arrest the Sheikh without evidence, and we can't release Jennings while we still have evidence that implicates him."
"What if I got you evidence?" Black asked.
The Judge smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."
Judge Hog made his way over to his filing cabinet.
"We're having to tread very carefully in this building," the Judge explained as he rooted through documents. "Sheikh Al-Balim isn't a Neopia Central citizen, so we technically can't begin an official investigation into him without talking to Sakhmet officials first. And what with the sandstorm blocking communications, that's not likely to come soon. But you… you're not a Defender, Harvey. You don't have to play by our rules."
The Judge placed a folder on the desk in front of Black.
"This file will tell you about the two Defenders that got attacked," the Judge explained. "I didn't give you it, do you understand?"
Black nodded, the Judge smiled.
"Welcome to the force, Harvey."
To be continued...