Mr. Jennings Must Die: Part Six
In the early days of Neopia Central, there was an Assassin's Guild. It had ranked as high as the Thieves Guild, the Merchant's Guild, or the Beggar's Guild.
Unlike the others, however, it hadn't lasted. A gathering of people who professionally take care of others had never been a good idea, and had led to a mass shortage off them in the city shortly after their first meeting.
These days, the Guild was a distant memory. But there were still places that assassins tended to frequent, and you could find them if you knew the right people.
And Mr. Black knew the right people.
The Drowned Screal was a seedy tavern in the back streets of the Docklands – small, but perpetually busy.
Black slipped in without much notice from the regulars. He was a well known face in those parts, having grown up in the Docklands, and he wasn't exactly in a profession that seemed out of place for most of the clientele. But Black wasn't looking for one of the regulars. That much he knew.
It was odd, Jennings had survived for so long because most of the criminal aspects of the city had seen it illustrated very effectively that Jennings was very good at what he did, and people who got in his way were quickly removed. As a result, hardly anyone even attempted to tangle with the man. Black knew that a local assassin would have to be particularly stupid to get involved in a scheme to topple the Krawk.
So it only made sense that the Quiggle Black was looking for was from out of town. It wasn't long until the Grarrl located a likely suspect – a Tyrannian Quiggle sat at a corner table by himself.
Black got himself a drink and sat down opposite.
"Hello," Black greeted him. "You don't know me, but I'm Mr. Black. We're going to get real acquainted real quick, alright?"
"Eh?" the Quiggle grunted in response.
Not smart, but certainly not thick for a Tyrannian.
"Your name," Black stated. "What is it?"
"Flint," the Quiggle replied.
"Flint," Black said, providing a reassuring smile. "Nice to meet you. I've got a few questions for you."
"The attack on the two Defenders on Tuckly Road," Black told him.
"I don't know nothing," Flint answered.
Black's hand was already moving, clamping down on one of Flint's that he had foolishly left above the table. The Quiggle attempted to move it back, but Black's grip was vice-like, and Flint winced as Black increased the pressure.
"Now listen," Black threatened him. "I came here for answers, and I'm going to get them, one way or another. Now, I'd love it if we could both walk out of here like nothing happened, but if you make me hurt you then I will."
"Alright, I'll talk!" Flint relented, as did Black's strength.
"I was employed to do it," Flint explained. "Take them out on Friars Road and then transport the bodies to Tuckly Road – leave them in the street with a cane I was given to plant by the bodies."
"Who told you to do it?" Black demanded. "Al-Balim?"
"Never heard of him." Flint shook his head. "My employer was a man named Jennings. No first name given – real shady like. Heard he was arrested not long after, looks like I got out while the getting was good."
Black sat back, shock on his face. All this time he'd been assuming the Sheikh had been the culprit... but it had actually been Jennings? He'd been arrested for a crime that he had actually committed?
No... something about it wasn't right. Why would he employ someone new? Black or Jennings himself could have done it. And why instruct the man to leave incriminating evidence at the scene?
"You ever actually met this Mr. Jennings?" Black asked.
"Of course!" Flint replied. "Well, sort of. It was dark, couldn't get a good look at him. Not that it matters, when a man like that pays that much in gold, you don't stop to compliment him on the way he's dressed."
"Gold?" Black asked.
"Genuine Lost Desert, probably found in some old tomb. Not that it matters to me, Crooked Tony will take it all the same so I hear."
"Was it a Krawk, could you say?" Black asked.
"Nah, Acara," Flint answered. "You can tell by the funny ears... horns... whatsanames they have on their heads. But like I said, he was arrested. Read about it in the Times."
"I'm sure you did," Black agreed. "Thanks."
Black got up and left immediately. He didn't have time to lose – Flint was dim, but it wouldn't be long until he figured out he'd just given away too much information and run. There was a presence that Black had been aware of since he had left Judge Hog's office, one he needed to seek out now, and quickly.
A yellow Lutari was waiting across the street. He was mean looking, but Black knew better.
"Viridian Funk?" Black asked as he approached.
"I have two rules," the Lutari announced. "You pay up front, and-"
"Yeah, I know, don't make fun of the name," Black said dismissively. "Judge Hog sent you to follow me, didn't he?"
"I don't know what you mean," Viridian answered.
"Well while you're standing there not knowing what I'm talking about, you might be interested to learn that the real guy who assaulted the two Defenders is sitting at a table in there. Tyrannian Quiggle, name of Flint. Be quick, he'll be trying to flee the city any time now."
Viridian tipped his hat to Black. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about, friend."
He began to walk across the street to the tavern, cracking his knuckles.
Black called after him, "Tell the Judge that I'm working on getting the evidence he'll need."
Viridian nodded once, before opening the door to the tavern. A few moments later, sounds of screams and drinks smashing to the floor came from within – but Black was already away through the streets.
He could prove that it wasn't Jennings who delivered the blow, but at the moment Flint was saying that he'd ordered and paid for the entire thing. In order to free Jennings, Black would have to somehow prove that the Sheikh had impersonated Jennings.
That was going to be difficult. But he had a clue on where to start.
He had to find out where the cane had been stolen.
Unlike the Assassin's Guild, the Beggar's Guild of Neopia Central had stood the test of time. Largely because it was populated by people who were not in the business of killing each other, but also because it had never really been an officially recognised Guild in the first place.
In a rather typically Neopia Central way, the Merchant's Guild had plainly refused to recognise them, as had the Thieves Guild on the basis that the homeless rarely had anything good worth stealing so probably weren't worth their time.
That hadn't deterred the beggars of the city though, who had persisted in their organisational structure simply to spite others. The Guild as it was these days was an informal network of street urchins and tramps that largely only banded together when they needed protecting from something. They did however freely exchange information, and as such that made them a powerful force on the city streets. The Thieves Guild, Area 26, the Defenders, even Jennings on occasion – they all went to the beggars for information.
Or, more specifically, to the head of the Beggar's Guild. A man named Bampfylde Boswell. He lived in a cardboard box under Batrin Bridge.
Normally of course his little home would have sat at the water's edge, but the construction of the dam and the draining of the river had meant it now appeared as if Bampfylde resided at the top of a cliff, peering down on the lesser mortals undertaking sewer repairs below him. A true throne for the man who would be King of Beggars.
The grey Aisha watched Mr. Black approach as he warmed his hands by the light of a blazing drum.
"How dost do my buff?" Boswell greeted him.
Black sighed – the man was relatively pleasant to talk to, but you needed to be able to decipher the strange beggar-language that he had a habit of speaking in. Black knew for a fact that before holding this position, he had been a perfectly ordinary stock broker.
"I don't have time for your cant," Black stated. "I need to ask you some questions."
"Aye, you be a niffy naffy fellow, and no mistaking be," Boswell replied, seemingly unimpressed by Black's imposing stature.
"Listen," Black said, moving closer. "I don't have time for your games. You are going to answer my questions right now, or else."
"A jackanapes, is it?" Boswell questioned him. "You'll be scragged afor you knows it, rightly so."
Black grabbed Boswell by his mouldy lapels and drew him close.
"I warned you," he sneered.
"As I did you, you'll nay bounce on me," Boswell answered calmly.
He turned his head to one side and shouted, "Take the cull in!"
Black couldn't react in time, as from similar cardboard boxes scattered under the bridge, dozens of homeless Neopets ran out brandishing homemade weapons. Black had barely managed to drop Boswell when he felt a heavy impact on the back of his head, and slumped forwards, unconscious.
To be continued...