Monty Bust & Carlo – Conclusion

marblebust

Croesus started down the road. Then stopped. His suspicions were up like the hackles on a hedgehog. “Wait. What d’you mean by that?”

By what? wondered the disembodied voice of Montgomery Prye.

“‘Nothing could be simpler.’ That’s what you said.”

What do you mean, what do I mean by it?

“I mean you mean something.” Croesus wished he could fish the bust out from under his coat, look in its eyes and read its expression. But that would be a bad idea because it wouldn’t work and it would be an open invitation for hypnotism. “The way you said it. It definitely sounded like you meant something by it.”

Dear me, you are as suspicious and judgemental as Seedgrape.

“Hmmph!” protested Croesus. But he didn’t have any more convincing arguments to offer. Because he supposed that must be how he seemed to the bust. Maybe he was judging Monty unfairly. Maybe he was looking for the criminal in everything. The comparison with Seedgrape stung though, that was for sure.

“All right,” he said. “Which way?”

I cannot see. You will have to allow me to survey our position so that I may direct you from here.

“Oh no, I’m not having that. Your eyes stay covered the whole time. No gazing at passers-by and hypnotising them to mug me and run off with you.”

Truly, you are a suspicious man.

“Just cautious. You’ll be free to go wherever you want – assuming you can.” Croesus frowned. Where on earth would a stone bust go – and how would it get there? Hmm. Probably by using others, just as he had used Croesus to get him out of the Palace. Well, it was none of his business where the bust ended up after he was done with the thing. “Never mind. Point is, you will be free to go wherever. After you’ve taken me to Carlo. Meanwhile, Monty, you’re not fooling me.”

I’m not?

“No. You’re Montgomemory. The Great Memory Man. I happen to know you wandered these streets. Plenty of forays outside the Palace, performing at pubs and taverns all over town. And if you knew your way around back then, you know your way just the same now. All these streets are just different branches of memory lane to you. You can guide me blindfolded.”

Ah, there you have me. Yes, I possess a perfect memory map of the city.

Croesus patted the side of Monty’s head, there under his coat. “There you go then. We left the Palace via the main gate and I turned left and I’ve walked all of thirty yards. No more delays. Let’s do this.”

Very well. Monty’s voice sighed, as though defeated. Proceed as you were and at the end of the street take a right.

“Right.” Croesus did as instructed. He smiled at some of the passers-by who regarded him warily. He could’ve been cradling a large cabbage or a bomb under his coat for all they knew. If they called the patrols on him, doubtless he would be able to explain himself but he could do without the interruption to his investigation. Especially at this crucial stage in the game when, if Monty could be trusted, he was closing in on the mysterious and enigmatic figure of Carlo.

Now, twenty-five yards down the hill, take a left into Cobbleberry Lane which you will find tucked between numbers forty-nine and fifty-one.

“I know it,” Croesus assured the bust.

The lane served as a convenient shortcut whenever he had to get to the Palace in a hurry. Like this morning when he’d been summoned on this very case.

Cross Tricklewell Bridge, go round the fountain in Hundred Foot Square.

“Then into Portmelon Street?”

Just so.

Croesus carried on. It was all familiar turf to him so far.

Quietly he followed the bust’s directions all the way to the Crippling Narrows. The neighbourhood he called home.

He halted in the lane that climbed towards his house. And stared down at the ground. Where he imagined a penny had dropped.

Why have we stopped? asked Monty.

“Because we’ve found him,” said Croesus. “Haven’t we?”

You tell me.

Croesus wrinkled his lips, a sour taste on his tongue. What a tool he’d been.

“Good to see you Croesus!” his old contacts had all said. Like they’d known. They’d guessed Carlos’ identity all right. Or he’d told them and sworn them not to let on. They were all glad to see their old mate back in business, on their side of the law.

“You used me.”

I use everybody, to be fair. Nothing personal. Just a matter of necessity when you’re only a head and shoulders of stone.

“My memory picture of the vault. That was yours. Planted there by you. That’s why you weren’t in it.”

Routine inspections. Easy regular access to the vault. You were the ideal partner. The only choice.

Croesus stood rooted to the spot and fumed silently. Then he spun on his heel and marched down the hill.

Where are we going?

“To the harbour. Where I’m going to chuck you in.”

What? You can’t just –

“I can just do whatever I like. I’m finished in this city. Thanks to you. So you’re finished too. You want to talk ‘just’? I think that’s just. You can use your gaze on the fishes. Hypnotise them to clean your head of weeds and such.”

I am Montgomery Prye. Brother to the King! You can’t just throw me in the drink!

It was funny to hear Monty proclaiming his sibling relationship with the King when that had been the source of such ire and resentment.

Croesus arrived at the harbourside feeling rather furtive with the bust tucked under his arm. He probably wasn’t the first individual to pop down to the harbour of a quiet evening to rid himself of some unwanted goods.

Croesus manoeuvred the bust out from under his coat, careful to direct its gaze seaward. At best it would be able to hypnotise the gulls to attack him. But Croesus was confident he could chuck the thing in the water before any birds divebombed.

Wait! Wait! Wait! I can secure you an introduction. A new position. With Mayor Harpsburg down in Tortenschloss.

Hmm.

He would need to leave town after this. Find somewhere new, a healthy distance from the city. And from the King. Tortenschloss was parochial enough that Seedgrape might not bother to chase him down. The Chancellor might just be glad to see the back of Croesus De Vere.

Mayors sounded better than Kings. There was at least some potential for action there, even if they sounded prone to indecision. Mayor. As in may or may not. May or may not return to his old ways, for example. Time and fortune would tell.

Croesus hefted the bust in one palm like a really heavy coin, primed for the toss. One that could only come up heads.

All Croesus had to do was decide what ‘heads’ meant.

 

SAF 2017

Advertisements

Monty Bust & Carlo – Part Nine

marblebust

“So…” said Croesus. “When you say you’ll take me to Carlo…”

Yes, yes. I mean I will guide you to him, the bust assured him. Show you the way. Obviously I cannot take you anywhere. I am entirely reliant on you to take me places. You know, I realise you are a criminal, Croesus De Vere, but you possess a distinctly cruel streak. When a man has lost his legs, not to mention most of the rest of his body, it is really best not to taunt him over semantics about taking you anywhere. I may have been turned to stone, but I still have feelings.

“Sorry. Touched a nerve there.” Croesus grimaced and held his hands up in apology. “I’m an ex-criminal though. It’s an important distinction and one that puts me in a unique position to help you out of here.”

So you will do it?

Croesus pondered. It might be difficult, smuggling something the size of a bust out past the guards. Then again, maybe it didn’t have to be too complicated.

“All right. Come on. Let’s do this. Before I change my mind.”

Croesus grabbed the bust and whipped it off the pedestal, tucking it under his arm, inside his coat. It had some weight to it and he had to support it, cradling it with his other arm. No hands free for anything else.

This is your great plan for smuggling me out?

“Shut up and play along. Actually just shut up. This’ll work. And as long as you’re under my coat you can’t go hypnotising anyone else.” He shouted to the guards outside: “Open the door would you? Coming out!”

There was a pause. Probably the guards wondering why he couldn’t open the door for himself. Eventually they obliged and the doors parted. The guards peered in – with Chancellor Seedgrape standing between them.

“Well now,” he said. And the Chancellor didn’t only mince words, but served them up in a dry, gravyless shepherd’s pie of his own making. “Croesus. What are you up to now?”

“Pursuing my investigations.”

“Indeed? And what is it you are attempting to smuggle out under your coat?”

“Really? Honestly, Seedgrape, I get that you’re convinced I haven’t changed my stripes. That I’m still a criminal at heart. But when I was a criminal I was a master thief. Give me some credit. If I wanted to steal this, I’d devise some sort of master plan. Not just walk out with it under my coat. As for what it is – well, I’ll give you one guess. Seeing as a thief – the thief I’m hunting – walked off with everything else in the vault, there’s only one thing it can be, isn’t there?”

“The bust of Montgomery Prye. Why on earth would you want that?”

“I don’t. Not even the thief wanted it.” Seedgrape had to be in on the state secret. He had to know it was no ordinary bust. That it was the remains of the petrified remains of the King’s brother. But if the King had no notion Monty was still alive and scheming within the stone, then Seedgrape was certainly also clueless. Croesus had to keep that in mind while crafting his story. “There’s some reason he left it here. To make some point that I don’t quite understand yet. So if I remove it now and our thief gets to hear about it, his point goes unmade. And if he’s anything like the thief I used to be, that’ll sting his pride.”

“You mean to bait him with the bust then?”

Croesus nodded. “Oh yes. I’ll take it to one of the established fences. Get word out it’s on the market. He’ll want it and he’ll come for it. Try to put it back in the vault if he can.”

“He would go so far?” Seedgrape clearly boggled at the audacity of the idea.

Croesus nodded all the more eagerly. Playing a touch of the audacious himself. “Oh yes. Vanity, see. It’s the one major weakness of master thieves. I should know.”

To Seedgrape, whose mind was so firmly made up about Croesus, this would sound like an admission of weakness in Croesus himself. And believable because the notion of Croesus as a deeply flawed individual appealed greatly to the Chancellor.

“It sounds a desperate plan,” said Seedgrape. “But if you believe it will catch our thief, I wish you luck.”

Plainly, Seedgrape wished Croesus nothing of the sort. He stood aside, wearing a smile he would be happy to don again if Croesus returned in failure.

Hugging the bust, Croesus marched past and made the long walk from the palace and its grounds. The guards were uniformly helpful, opening gates and doors when they saw he had his hands full. Before long, he was out in the streets.

Croesus patted Montgomery’s head. “There. What’d I tell you? Cunning is wasted on the simple. Sometimes it’s best to just go with the most straightforward solution.”

Point taken. And I quite agree.

“Well good.” A few pedestrians eyed Croesus oddly as he talked aloud to the lump under his coat. “Now you can keep your side of the bargain. Direct me to Carlo.”

Nothing could be simpler.

 

[To Be Concluded…]