Stealing Stones: Part Three
"Stolen?" Jennings questioned, a wry smile on his face.
"Yes, stolen," Judge Hog replied simply, the Moehog grunting across his desk at the Krawk. "Of course my best man is now on the case, but I asked you here to see if you had anything in particular to tell me."
Jennings cocked an eyebrow, "Such as?"
"Well, it's a curious thing," the Judge said, a hint of a smile forming on his face. "There was only one theft at the Museum last night, but there were, in total, four other attempts at theft."
"Four?" Jennings asked. "That's remarkably high, but I don't see how any of that relates to me."
"I'm getting to that," the Judge replied. "The first attempt was pretty successful by all accounts, looks like they hid in a sarcophagus during the day and came out at night to steal the diamond, sneaking out during a shift change from what we can gather. The second attempt drilled up from beneath, using an old access route from the sewers under the Museum. The third attempt we believe centred on teleporting in directly using magic. Unfortunately the Museum's magical research department was conducting some experiments on folding of the space-time continuum last night, and the teleportation magic rebounded off it according to the wizards. They haven't been able to pinpoint where the would-be thief ended up yet, but it doesn't matter as I suspect they'll have moved on by now. The fifth and final attempt of the night was made shortly before dawn, and was the most brazen. An armed group of magma Neopets stormed the lobby and demanded to be let into the room containing the diamond. They were most disheartened to learn that it was gone. At that point the Defenders of Neopia were called in and the magma Neopets arrested. Sadly, as the diamond was already gone and the Museum is technically public property, we couldn't actually charge them with anything and I was forced to let them go not an hour since."
"I am still failing to see how this relates to me," Jennings supplied helpfully.
"I missed out attempt number four," the Judge added. "I bet you're thinking that your man was attempt number one, but he wasn't. Fredrick Boggins - and I know it was him as despite what he thinks, he's about as stealthy as a spoon at a fork party - attempted to break in through the roof. If the motion sensors in the room hadn't been disabled by whoever did attempt number one, he'd have set them all off."
Momentary anger flashed across the Krawk's face. Fredrick had failed. That would need to be addressed.
"I can trace him back to you, Jennings," the Judge pointed out. "But diamonds aren't your style. What's your interest?"
"I wished only to know who was interested in the diamond," Jennings confessed. "It appears there are more interested parties than I originally thought."
"This is Defenders business now, Jennings," the Judge told him. "Can I have your word that you'll stay out of this?"
Jennings smiled politely. "How charming of you to pretend that you think my word means anything. Certainly you can have it if you like, but you know full well that I shall do whatever I see fit regardless of any promise I make to you."
"I'm serious, Jennings," the Judge said. "The people I just let go, they are real hard cases. Moltaran extremists, and very dangerous. Those are the ones that failed. I can only imagine how dangerous the ones that succeeded must be."
"I can assure you they will never be quite as dangerous as me," Jennings countered. "There are people messing about in my... I mean, our city, Judge. I will find them and I will stop them. If you really do have your best man on the job, I would urge him to find the responsible parties before I do."
With that, Jennings stood up and gave a small curt nod to the Judge before leaving.
Getting out of the city, that was Fredrick's immediate concern.
It had been the single thought that had occupied his mind since discovering the missing diamond. Someone had beaten him to the job, and that meant Fredrick had failed. Jennings was sure to be angry.
It meant Fredrick would be missing out on the details of his past he didn't know, but it also meant he had a chance of keeping his head attached to his body.
He figured that the theft wouldn't be discovered until morning, so that had given him enough time to return back to his small flat in the Docklands and pack up what little belongings he had. The battered old briefcase was with him now, as he walked along the gangplank to a boat leaving for Krawk Island within the hour. The roads leaving the city were too dangerous - Jennings might catch up to him. The port was his only option.
He leaned against the railing as soon as he was aboard, gazing out to sea. He eyed the Captain on the pier nervously. He needed to get going soon, before Jennings figured out what he was up to.
"Beautiful morning, isn't it?" a voice said nearby, sending Fredrick's heart plummeting downwards.
He turned to see Jennings sitting in a deckchair near the bow of the boat, carefully sipping a drink as he soaked up the sun.
"How did you find me?" Fredrick asked.
Jennings gave Fredrick a critical look. "If I couldn't find someone as predictable as you, Mr. Boggins, then I wouldn't deserve to be in the position that I am."
"You heard about the diamond?" Fredrick asked.
"Of course," Jennings replied. "I must say that I am hurt you would attempt to flee the city without at least saying goodbye."
"Just hurry up and do what you came to do," Fredrick snapped.
"What did I come to do?" Jennings asked.
"To deal with me," Fredrick answered. "I failed, and you don't like failures."
"Certainly I do not," Jennings agreed. "But whatever gave you the impression that you failed, Mr. Boggins?"
"Because I did?" Fredrick told him. "The diamond was stolen by the time I reached the museum."
"Indeed," Jennings said. "However, this merely means you have extra leg work to do in order to discover exactly who it was that stole it, and why. And then there's the matter of the others."
"Yes," Jennings explained. "In total three other groups attempted to steal the diamond last night. Judge Hog is now investigating, but we both know he's hardly going to be that successful. We shall need to discover the identities of those involved ourselves."
"By we, you mean me?" Fredrick asked.
"Most certainly," Jennings agreed. "Might I suggest you begin by following Ambassador Basal? He's a councillor from Moltara City, the one responsible for bringing the diamond to the Museum."
"An inside job?" Fredrick asked.
"The diamond was a fake, and the thief who succeeded clearly knew the layout of the place," Jennings answered. "Makes sense to me. Off you pop, Mr. Boggins. Time waits for no man."
Jennings leaned back in his chair to sip a drink, making it clear that Fredrick had used up his allotted conversation for the day. He wasn't entirely sure how, but Fredrick had just had his life spared. He decided it was best to leave the port before Jennings changed his mind.
Flying was a strange sensation for Fredrick.
His morphing potions came with a whole variety of disorientations, the most notable of which was looking in the mirror and seeing a completely different face looking back at you. But having extra limbs was the one people always took time getting used to.
For Fredrick, it hadn't been that difficult. He was a Ruki by birth, meaning pretty much any morph came with less limbs. For those forms with wings, it was simply a matter of imagining his extra legs had moved onto his back.
The sleek Draik form he was currently using was good for tailing targets through city streets. From his high vantage point, he could follow the purple Usul as he made his way through the city without ever being noticed. Only tourists and people who knew they were being followed dared to look up.
A quiet alley in the industrial part of the Docklands was Ambassador Basal's destination, and Fredrick immediately knew he was up to no good as he settled down on the rooftops to gain a better view. The Ambassador's attendant, a relic Nimmo, was guarding the end of the alley as the Usul seemed to be talking to the shadows.
Fredrick dropped down further to see more, and realised he was talking to a pink Acara concealed in a doorway.
"I have just come from a meeting with Judge Hog," the Ambassador was saying. "He believes the theft was genuine, though he is concerned about those who were attempting to beat you to the job."
"If you had known so many people were interested, you needn't have bothered with me," the Acara remarked, her frame moving uncomfortably.
"Nonsense!" the Ambassador snapped dismissively. "If the diamond had fallen into anyone else's hands, they would have discovered that it was a fake. This way, no one will ever know that the original was stolen. The reputation of Moltara is secure."
"What?" Basal was suddenly alarmed. "Rhyo, please tell me everything went according to plan!"
"Of course," the thief replied. "The codes you gave me disabled the alarms, and I snuck out during shift changes. That part was flawless, but..."
"But what!?" Basal snapped.
"On the way here," Rhyo answered, "I was pickpocketed. The diamond's been stolen."
To be continued...