Bad Apples: Vandebart Biggsby's Beginnings
"Step right on up, don't be shy! Try your good luck at my apple bobbing booth!" A few weeks before Halloween of Y12, the Faire had arrived in the doom-and-gloom part of the Haunted Woods called the Deserted Fairground, bringing with it a rather interesting attraction in the form of an apple bobbing tent. A smiling old Gnorbu in slightly tattered clothing came with the attraction, giving his name as Vandebart Biggsby.
At first glance, Bart, as he was called for short, seemed innocent enough. He was always smiling, pointing to the huge barrel next to him, assisting the youngsters as they leaned forward to try for an apple, or some other prize. Even so, something about him didn't sit well with many of the locals. The gypsies, upon glancing at the ever-joyful Gnorbu in his gentlemanly clothing, and always in good cheer, packed up their gear and moved their camp several additional yards from the Faire's location.
Halloween came. Bart found himself busier than ever before. Young Neopians ran to his tent, all eager to win apples or other unique prizes. Yet, despite the steady stream of customers, the old Gnorbu was ever aware of the shadowy figure who stood beneath a gnarled old tree some distance away. Several times, as the night wore on, this mysterious spectator glanced at an old pocket watch, and waved a folded paper in Bart's direction.
Bart wiped his brow many a time throughout the evening, yet he kept his composure and remained smiling and cheerful the entire evening. At last, several hours later, there came an end to the steady stream of customers. The last customer, a young Aisha, walked away with a new Spooky Comb, and Bart sighed. Finally, the busiest evening of his life was done.
"BIGGSBY!" came a voice from behind him. The mysterious figure had approached him, holding both the watch and the folded paper. "Alright, Biggsby, clear on out and get out of here. Your lease is up. Halloween is over. There's no longer any reason for you to be here, so pack it in and hit the road."
"Sir, if I may, I beg to differ!" the Gnorbu piped up, removing his hat and holding it to his chest, looking as innocent as he possibly could. "I think tonight was a success, after all! How about if I ask to extend the lease a little longer?"
The figure shook his head, hidden by the long dark robe he was wearing. "No good, Bart. The boss wants you out of here. Look around, Biggsby. What do you see? I'll tell you what I see. I see old, nearly abandoned rides. I see amusements that are barely visited. I see a bunch of raggedy Neopians who operate those amusements, and none of them want you here. There's too much competition, Biggsby. It's best for you to move on."
Bart spoke up again, as politely as possible. "But sir, wouldn't you agree that the mission has succeeded so far? Why quit now? If you send me away, then all we have achieved thus far would go to waste. Think about it, if you may. Sleep on it, even! Only, is there not somewhere else that I could go, along with my apple bobbing stand? I can still serve the purpose of this mission, only I need somewhere to work!"
The figure regarded this quietly. "Very well, Bart. I'll run this by the boss, but I guarantee nothing, myself. I'll return in the morning and tell you what's up. Don't expect much, Vandebart Biggsby. In fact, expect nothing at all! All that you have said is certainly true, but if you remain here, the Deserted Fairground will become too hot for comfort, if you get my drift. Your place will not be here, I promise you that much. As for the rest, you'll know in the morning." The figure turned and left as silently as he had approached, and Bart wiped his brow and sighed in relief.
Bart kept his word as far as packing up his booth. He drained the water from his bobbing barrel, loaded his extra prizes into a little cart, and kept up the jolly act all the time. The gypsies watched him as he worked, and many eyes were filled with concern as they gazed on the stranger in their midst. Later that night, they held a meeting, when the rest of the Haunted Woods was slumbering.
"I hope that varmint leaves tomorrow," one old Lupe said, as she held her paws over the fire. "One look at him and I knew he was up to no good."
"I second this," another gypsy piped up, looking up from a plate of food he was putting away as quickly as he could. "That Biggsby person might seem respectable, yet I smell trouble. Thankfully tomorrow he's out of there."
"Something about him ain't right, not at all," resumed the old Lupe, looking troubled. "I fear for everyone. He might seem innocent, yet he's as bad an apple as any I've seen. Bad apples fall not far from the tree, either. He's up to something, I can smell it."
The gypsies continued to discuss Bart, then they kept a watch as soon as their meeting was over. Vandebart Biggsby was not what he seemed to be, that was a fact as undeniable as the fact that night follows day.
Morning came, and Bart rose early to await the verdict that faced him. He went to an appointed place and waited. After nearly an hour, the shadowy figure appeared, a piece of paper in his hand.
"Alright, Biggsby. You've proven your worth, the boss said. Here's your new lease. I'd recommend you move out quickly, if you wish to not get into trouble. The new location is listed on the lease. No complaints, either. We feel it's the best place for you to be, though I doubt you'll be warmly welcomed, no matter where you go. Good luck, Biggsby."
Thanking his host, Bart took off, then he opened the paper and read the information, written in a thin, spydery script. A most familiar writing, mused Bart, chuckling as he loaded his cart and left the Deserted Fairground, whistling to the others who watched him depart. Leeroy frowned, rubbing his warty chin. Was there not a twinkle in that old Gnorbu's eye? Then, the Quiggle sighed, and returned to the Coconut Shy. It wasn't any of his business where that old fool went next. He was gone for ever from the Deserted Fairground, which was all that mattered to Leeroy, as far as he was concerned.
"Step right on up, folks, there are prizes aplenty to be won!" Three weeks later, Vandebart Biggsby was calling out to the crowds who were in Neovia. His new location was perfect. Things had gone swimmingly in his relocation. He was as busy as ever, and there was no end to the line of customers who crowded about everyday. All was well. But was it? A certain figure, leaning next to a lightpost, nodded in Bart's direction. Bart felt the perspiration trickling down his face, yet he maintained his composure. Even if he was a bad apple, the apple bobbing business was good. Bart saw to it that it remained so.
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