The Mysterious Case of the Missing Skeith: Part Nine
Also by fuliguline
Previously, on TMCOTMS:
Our adventurers find Scarblade, although not without a few mishaps along the way. Right when everything seems lost, however, two old friends of Shylock's make an appearance...
Scarblade stared, comprehension gradually dawning. "So that must mean..."
Sylvette finally spoke. "Yes, we're the Cyvishams. And I'll never, never, never forgive you for... f-for what you've done to my poor brother!"
Scarblade suddenly laughed uproariously. "Well, ain't this the nice family reunion! I shoulda known ye looked familiar."
"You should be ashamed!" said Sylvette, nearly in tears. "And making him write that letter! Do you know how hard it must have been for him, to trick his own family?"
The captain looked amused. "Most of that note was truthful, ye know. All that history about the fake company and the cure and the kidnappin'. I reckon we only forced 'im to write that last bit about handin' over the Skeith."
"You never planned on giving him back," said Sylvette. "You're nothing more than a conniving fraud."
"I be a PIRATE!" roared Scarblade. "I do as I please!"
Sadie rushed to the front, her normally mild face tensed in fury. "You... you... bully! You... you give him back! Give him back—right—now!" Her words were punctuated by a flurry of tiny fists on the pirate captain's back.
"Why, you impudent wench, I ought to—" Scarblade's tone became considerably more civil as Garin and Jacques got up from their seats. He finally shrugged, before carelessly tossing a set of keys at Shylock's feet. "If ye want him that bad, ye can have him. He be turnin' out to be a terrible galley cook anyway." He stared pointedly at the group. "Anything else?"
Garin piped up. "How about you give back the money you stole a couple years ago?" He turned to Shylock and winked.
"Blast yer meddlin', ye scurvy scallywag!" Scarblade looked murderous for a moment, before he seemed to abruptly recall his disadvantageous position. Sighing wearily, he spread his hands. "Look, I reckon I be square with ye. That booty... 'tis mostly spent. Being a gentleman o' fortune 'tis no cheap job, ye know."
Sylvette looked at Shylock. "As long as we have Mercutio back, it's fine," she said softly. "We'll rebuild. As long as we're together."
"Not to mention that we have the Skeith," Andrew pointed out.
Shylock nodded, then turned to Scarblade. "All right, then," she said. "Lead us to Mercutio."
"Come on," said Garin, holding his dagger to Scarblade. "Let's move!"
Snarling, Scarblade reluctantly got up and led the way. They eventually found Mercutio deep within the bowels of the ship, where he was busy patching a rusty-looking cannon.
"If it isn't yer lucky day, ye scurvy landlubber," spat Scarblade. "Get up, ye be free."
The emaciated green Ixi looked up, and then turned pale. "Sadie?" he asked.
Sadie couldn't speak, only nodded. Time seemed to stand still for a moment, when suddenly the Ixi leapt up with a whoop. "I never thought I'd see you again!" he cried. "And Andrew... and Theodore... and—and..." Suddenly he stopped. "You aren't prisoners, are you?" he asked fearfully.
"No!" laughed Sadie. "We're here to rescue you!"
"Oh, thank heavens!" said Mercutio, looking faint with relief. Abruptly, his eyes fell on Sylvette, and his entire face froze.
"Mercutio," said Sylvette, her voice small.
Mercutio sank to his knees. "Oh, Ettie... Ettie, I'm so sorry. I know you'll never forgive me, and I deserve it. I never should have let them force me to write the letter. But they told me they would kidnap you or Sadie if I didn't, and I couldn't let that happen, and... oh." He buried his head in his hands. "I tried to burn it the night before, but they caught me, and... I'm such a complete fool!"
Surprisingly, it was Theodore who stepped to the front. "You were indeed a fool," he said, his tone curt. "Personally, I'm not sure I'll ever forgive you for it, but you had good intentions and I suppose that counts for something." He paused, scratching his neck. "So you better come home with us," he finally finished, "before you break Sylvette and Sadie's hearts any more, you good-for-nothing oaf."
Without warning, Mercutio jumped up and wrapped his arms around his brother's neck. "I really did miss you all," Mercutio said, his voice meek. To the shock of everyone—perhaps Theodore most of all—the Lupe's eyes suddenly became uncharacteristically moist. He blinked furiously in response. "I... I might have missed you too, you useless louse," he muttered, his gruff voice nearly inaudible.
The reunion was abruptly cut short by Scarblade, who seemed rather disgusted with the whole affair. "None of this wishy-washy nonsense aboard me ship!" he shouted. "Things are bad enough without me havin' to sit through this putrid business."
Jacques chuckled. "I have to admit, I do feel kind of bad for him."
"Let's clear out then," said Mercutio, grabbing his sisters by the hands. "I can't wait to get off this stinking boat!"
"Watch yer mouth!" yelled Scarblade, but his words were already lost in the distance as the group ran toward the exit.
Scarblade followed them out, waving his cutlass. "Don't think ye be getting' away with this!" he snarled, as he began untying his crewmates.
Garin looked up. "Oh, by the way, I passed Captain Scariblack on my way here. Seems like he still has a bit of a score to settle with you. I hope you don't mind that I accidentally dropped your coordinates? Completely unintentional, of course."
The Lupe captain blanched, and then lurched away. "Men!" he shouted quickly. "Let's move!"
Garin laughed, and then turned to the group. "Don't worry about that one," he said, jerking a thumb towards Scarblade. "Jacques and I will keep an eye on him, as a favor to Shylock here."
"Let me guess—did she solve a case for you too?" asked Sadie.
"You could put it that way, I suppose," said Garin. "Basically... we owe her. Big-time."
Shylock tried looking modest, but failed. "It was all rather elementary, anyway."
"Elementary for you, maybe," grinned Jacques. "But to the rest of the world—not so much."
"So Garin was your trump card?" asked Sylvette, looking at Shylock with admiration.
"More or less," said Shylock. "Before we left your house in Neovia, I sent another letter to the Fontaine sisters and told them to notify the Black Pawkeet of our circumstances."
"I must say, Shylock," said Theodore, coming forward. "I was completely mistaken about you. I apologize for making things difficult."
"No need," said Shylock, waving her hand generously. "All's well that ends well, as I always say."
"You—you have to take some sort of payment," Sadie insisted. "You've helped us so much, and..."
"I'll take the same payment that I always do," said Shylock. "And that is—you now owe me a favor." She winked. "I might call it in at any time, so be forewarned."
Sadie laughed. "So that's why Garin and the Fontaines and everyone are so willing to help you out!"
"She's a sly one," said Garin, loading his ship. "But she's brilliant, there's no doubt about that."
"Well, you have the Cyvisham family's eternal gratitude," said Sylvette. "Now that Mercutio is back with us, I just know that we'll be able to get back on our feet. And if, in the future, you need anything at all..."
"No worries, madame," said Shylock cheerily. "I'll be sure to take you up on your offer."
The group laughed, with the astonished Mercutio perhaps laughing the loudest of all. The moment ended rather abruptly, however, when an unexpected voice suddenly boomed out from behind them: "And what's with all this ruckus?"
"Judge Hog!" exclaimed Sadie, scrambling up to her feet.
"I'm sorry for getting here so late, I had a bit of trouble with my cape," explained the Moehog. His eyes fell on Shylock. "I see that Shylock Usulski has gotten here before me."
"But of course."
The Judge shook his head good-naturedly. "When are you ever going to learn to leave this business to the proper authorities?"
"Perhaps when the proper authorities learn to arrive on the premises on time," suggested Shylock with a smile.
The Moehog shook his head again, then slowly turned to leave. "Well, it seems as if everything has been taken care of. Although, you know, Shylock... you are always welcome to become an honorary Defender of Neopia."
Shylock seemed to think about it for a minute, before shrugging her shoulders cheerfully. "My apologies, Judge, but I think I prefer just being Shylock Usulski, detective extraordinaire."
An unexpected bark of laughter escaped the Judge. "I suppose that title does fit you better," he conceded. "Just don't get yourself into too much trouble, young lady. We have our hands full enough as it is."
After the Defender had left, Shylock turned to face her friends. "What did I tell you?" she asked. "Those outfits take far too long to put on, am I right?"
Sadie smacked herself on the forehead in defeat. "Must you always be right about everything?"
"Pretty much," sighed Grotson, which led to a collective chuckle from the group.
And so ended Sadie's first encounter with Shylock Usulski, although it would not be the last. Over the next few years, they would run into each other time and time again, but alas—those stories must be saved for another day. It suffices to say, however, that the Cyvisham family was able to recoup much of their losses, thanks to Mercutio's reinstatement ("So his wits weren't beaten out of him after all," commented Shylock as she perused their story in the papers), and that the Cyvisham name was restored to much of its former repute.
As for Shylock Usulski: she continued to receive a plethora of cases from both the rich and poor alike, with the good-natured Grotson in perpetual tow. And for those wondering what favor she eventually called in from the Cyvishams... let's just say that it would take another nine parts to write in great detail, and that this exhausted author is all too happy to take a short respite. So let the audience fall silent, the spotlights fade, and the curtains close—at least for now—on the Cyvishams, the faithful Grotson, and the one and only Shylock Usulski.