…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

Gustavus was much obliging when Jose asked him for some petty cash to keep the group in lodgings and fed, quickly shoving over the equivalent of a few pounds to tide them over, but with the express instruction on where to find him should they need more.  They had bought themselves about a week or two.  It was the long game that mattered though — get all the money that MacGregor thought was his.  Most of it at least.

To that end they now had to find a front.  It was a particularly hard task as they either wanted some one in on it who wouldn’t get harmed or a swindler and scoundrel much like MacGregor who could take the fall.  There was a man they had in mind, who they fortunately met on their journey, though it wasn’t clear which camp he was in.  Everyone hoped for the latter as it felt a much easier task.

“Where did that man say he was from?” Asked Jose, straining to even remember the man’s name.

“Lehuby, wasn’t it?” Said Emma.

“It was,” responded Noemi, “though didn’t he say he was based in Le Havre?  Or was that where the company was?”

“That part I do remember,” said Jose, “it was where the company is.  Le Havre is a harbour town.  I think our man was a bit too stuck up to live there full time, so he’s bound to have apartments here in Paris.”

Pondering the whereabouts of Lehuby, they wandered along the Champs Elysee, staring at the wonderful buildings and the beauty of the city they were in.  No doubt there were parts far more unseemly, though they weren’t anywhere in sight.  Their task of finding a man in a city of men was somewhat helped this time by having far more information.  There must be a number of places where shipping types hang around in order to secure mandates.  It was just the small matter of figuring that out or finding a Paris address for the company.

“What was the name of his company, perhaps we could look it up?” Said Jose

“It was ‘Compagnie de la’ something,” said Noemi ever so slightly unhelpfully, as she knew.

“Yes, very good sister, we know it’s a company of something.”

“We’re never going to remember it when we are trying so hard.  Let’s go in search of the shipping owners’ hangouts and see if we can find him there.  I remember exactly what he looks like.”

A redness cane over Jose’s face.  Though he and Emma had spent many tender moments together over the course of their travels from London to Paris, there was such a tension about their plan and future that they had not shared another kiss.  The mention of her clearly remembering another man filled him with unwanted jealously.  Deep down he knew that it was just a comment.  People can recall strangers without it having romantic implications.  Still, the body reacted even where the logical mind disagreed.

A Proposal

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

The bluntness of the question was refreshing after the waffling that had just occurred.  Down to business as soon as his business partner was out of the room.  The three of them knew that they couldn’t trust this man a centimeter, so they had planned for just this occasion.  In order to put herself on equal footing, Emma stood and paced around the room.

She began, “We know that you need locals to help you convince people that Poyais is in fact a real place.  Well, we know that the land is real, but to convince them that there is substance to what the Sketch says.”

There was a burning pain in her heart as she said the words.  She knew that the journey which she began just after Fulham Palace was complete, though with a slight nuance.  She would not be scammed and she would scam, but only those who tried to defraud others.  MacGregor was her first and probably best target.  Jose and Noemi had agreed, but it was Emma that burned with the passion to end this man’s life as he knew it, rather than extinguish it altogether.

“Jose is probably best placed to do this.  Let’s be honest, the Frenchmen we are trying to part from their money will always be more receptive to a man.  We can style him as something grand – though not as grand as Cazique – he should be like a Prime Minister where you are Head of State.”

“Excellent!” Cried MacGregor, “That was exactly what I was thinking.  Do go on.”

Emma looked slightly bewildered at him and then continued, “so that solves one problem —”


“Yes, your last Scheme failed for you as you didn’t think each step through properly to its conclusion.  It’s why you find yourself here plotting again rather than counting your fortunes.”

“Yes, quite.  Very well, continue.”

After a curt roll of the eyes, Emma proceeded, “the other key fault was that your name was all over everything.  You couldn’t move but to see s mention of Poyais and MacGregor —”

“‘Sir’ MacGregor,” he corrected, “in any event, I don’t see how that is a great fault.”

“Regardless of whether you were responsible or not, it all has your name against it do people think you were the mastermind.  You were, of course, but you don’t need people to know that.  You just need to profit from that.”

“And how does one gain this distance?” He inquired, intrigued.

“Easy.  You get a front.  Someone, a company here in France, who you sell the land to and will in turn market a settling scheme.”

“Will they pay up front?”

“Unlikely, though you never know what people will do until you ask them.  I would say that you agree to do it on a 75% pay as you go basis.  If they sell £1,000 of land, you get £750.  They have the risk though.”

“Very interesting.  Though you’d have to find someone?”

“We have ideas.”

“What else?” Asked MacGregor doing his best to hide his pleasure, but failing.

It was Noemi’s turn to show her hand.  As they said at the start, they were a package deal.

“I imagine you don’t have the easiest time finding banking partners, is that fair to say?”

Silence made it clear that it was a sore subject.  On their travels from London to Paris, the group managed to hear more about MacGregor’s escapades, so they knew it was a good button to push.  Everywhere that MacGregor looked, people were bashing in back rather than helping him out.  He tried his hardest to convince people, but no one wanted to take the risk.  In a way he was a very desperate man.  Though his desperation was for wealth rather than survival so it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it sounded.  Noemi drove the point home, ensuring he understood that he truly did need them on this particular point of his scheme.

“It was certainly what we heard from everyone that we came across between here in London, not least in the City.  The words ‘black’ and ‘listed’ were used together frequently.  So, I do think that one of the key successes to your earlier scheme will be quite hard to replicate.  Is it really worth it without that piece of the puzzle?”

They all knew that it was actually, but MacGregor was a greedy little man and couldn’t help himself.

“Oh, OK, you are quite fair in what you say.  Am I really to believe that you know the only banker that will work with me?”

“He won’t necessarily want to work with you — with us — but he will.  This particular man is no stranger to the grey areas of finance, so that will be fine, and he owes us a very large favour.  We helped him out in an unfortunate situation and saved one of his bigger schemes from falling apart.”

A smile beamed over MacGregor’s face, extra pleased by the fact that it was a bit of entrapment that would get these bankers on board.

“This is excellent, my friends,” said MacGregor, who still hadn’t asked what any of their names were, “so where do we go next.”

“We’ll go and find you the company here in France to act as your front,” said Emma, “and then we’ll come back here.”

“Excellent!  Make sure you liaise with Hippsley if you need any cash to keep you afloat while you work these details out.  Don’t send word to London until we get the ‘front’ sorted.  Thank you and please do show yourselves out.”

It was not precisely the goodbye they were expecting, but they were in exactly the position that they had hoped they would be in when the meeting had started.  They were amazed at how easily it had worked.  The three of them bustled out onto the street of their flat and saw Gustavus returning from afar.  They decided to wait for him and fill him in out what they were doing.  Not that it was a scam, as he was a true believer in the Poyais fantasy, but that there was a float they needed to do MacGregor’s — Sir MacGregor’s — bidding.  While they waited for him to approach, they shared a knowing smile amongst them.  Step one was complete.


…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

Given that the man was on the run and seemingly out of funds with the Poyais scandal having a real sting in the tail, they did not expect him to be living it such plush surroundings.  The apartment was just off the Champs Elysee and boasted five rooms in all, excluding the kitchen.  More than ample space for any family.  MacGregor had certainly landed on his feet, even if the so called hireling press were out for his blood.

When the group arrived in Gustavus tow, MacGregor was alone.  His family were out for the day exploring Paris on a beautiful day.  Unbeknownst as always about the full extent of their patriarch’s dealings.  MacGregor did not sit at a desk as most of the group had expected him to, working away to hatch his next Poyais scheme.  Rather he sat on his sofa, lounging with a cognac.  As Gustavus entered, MacGregor immediately began barking orders in his own charming way, “excellent Gustavus, I have been doing a mighty bit of thinking here and need your assistance with some writing.  Letters to the King of Spain and a constitution.”

It took him several moments of walking back and forth in the sitting room to realise that Gustavus was not, in fact, alone.  He stopped in his tracks as soon as he did realise and began questioning immediately, “who are these people Gustavus?  Why on earth have you brought them to my home?”

Gustavus did not see it playing out quite in this manner, so he momentarily froze allowing a thick blanket of awkwardness to fall over the room and all contained.  The moment was long and most arduous for Gustavus, then for Jose, Noemi and Emma.  MacGregor was seemingly impervious to awkwardness, no doubt a skill honed through many interactions where he forced people’s hands into trusting him through sheer mental force.  All he was waiting for was an explanation and he exclaimed as much.

Shaking out of his awkward fog, Gustavus finally responded, “these fine people are from British Honduras, Sir, and they come seeking employment.  I’ve only done as we agreed, Sir.”

“Ah, Yes, very good!  Show them in then Gustavus.  Don’t let them just stand there awkwardly while we speak,” MacGregor beamed.

Showing them in, Gustavus got them seated on the sofas and chairs in the sitting room which weren’t occupied by MacGregor and then signalled the servant to come assist them with refreshments.  It was all otherworldly for Noemi, Emma and Jose who sat dumbfounded requesting tea and wine from the servant as if they had never left the cafe.  When everyone had something to drink and was seated, Jose made an attempt to ask a question, but was quickly and sharply cut off by MacGregor who expounded on his current vision, “I will assume you know very little of my current venture, but have heard of me previously.  Many people have.  You can’t believe all that you hear in the press, though, so let me make some quick corrections.  I am a veteran of the Latin Foreign legions and have spent much of my life living and fighting the just cause in Latin America.  In my travels I came across a land called Poyais, which is claimed to be a false land.  I assure you that it is not.”

Emma seethed at the mention of Poyais and the mans arrogance’s.  Though, she kept her cool with a calming hand on her knee from Jose.  They would make the scam artist pay where it mattered most to him.

Continuing his monologue, MacGregor said, “my agents mis-sold the nature of Poyais and lead the settlers astray.  There is a lovely land there, I assure you.  A land of milk and honey ripe for the right settlers.  Perhaps the French will find the opportunity much more attractive.  I have always said that they are a singularly wonderful people.  Intelligent and adventurous.  I just need the right agents this time.”

“Here here,” chimed in Gustavus to the displeasure of all concerned.

“Are you those agents?” MacGregor asked and then promptly answered himself, “No, we need Frenchmen to front an adventure for the French.  Do you have ships?  I think not, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here.  Money to fund our activities?  Absolutely not.  What then, can you bring to the table?”

Finally he sat silently and waited for a response rather than answering his own questions.

Emma entered the fray, “we can offer much in terms of local knowledge to aid your sales efforts.”

“But you are not a local of Poyais.  You are English.  What use is that?”

“We are close enough,” said Noemi,” being from British Honduras.  From Belize Town.  We know much of Poyais.”

“I see,” said MacGregor pensively, “and then what does the English woman bring?  Is it a package deal?”

Before Emma could respond indignantly, Jose stepped in and said, “we are a package deal.  I imagine that you could do with just one person to aid you in your narrow request for a ‘local’ but we think there is much for us to bring to the table collectively.”

“Such as?”

“We have connections in banking who owe us favours and ideas on how to make this plan, well, successful.  Profitable too.  With minimum risk.”

“Interesting indeed,” said MacGregor as he stood up and wandered to his desk.  He flipped through a stack of papers and then put some in w bundle.  Turning back towards Jose, he said, “very interesting.  I won’t employ you on the spot, but I’m happy to consider it further.  Please do stay and enjoy some more drinks with me.”

Then, turning to Gustavus and handing him the bundle, he ordered, “could you be so kind as to bring these to Mr. Irving.  He needs to tidy some of these letters up and work on the Sketch booklet.”

Without question, Gustavus took the bundle and went on his way, leaving MacGregor alone with his three prospective partners.  He surveyed them before making his final judgement.  When he was satisfied with his assessment he said, “So, tell me how you would improve the scheme.”

MacGregor’s Hand

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

Was luck turning?  Was fate playing a cruel trick?  Did neither exist and this was just another coincidence in life?  An example of how random things do happen that go your way if you sit in the right place.  Whatever it was, Emma and the twins couldn’t believe what they were hearing.  

Suspicion kicked in almost immediately after their amazement subsided, their newfound cynicism now firmly routed in their psyches.  This Gustavus must have overheard them talking, figured from the interaction with the waiter that they were weak and decided to pounce.  They all looked at each other with small, knowing glances before speaking.

“Mr. Hippisley —” began Emma.

“No, no, please call me Gustavus.  I can’t stand my last name when it’s spoken.”

“Very well, Gustavus, how is it exactly that you know Gregor MacGregor?”

“I know Sir MacGregor very well,” he said, taking a seat uninvited, “as I am currently in his employ.”

Emma thought it was time to up the ante a bit and asked, “we heard that after the unpleasantness in London with that bond of his and the settlers scandal that he had fled to Rome.”

“Well, the hireling press are very good at inventing a story, even if it means driving an honourable man from his home.  I’m not sure who, the powerful people didn’t like MacGregor promoting a new exporting colony to rival their interests,” he said in a crescendo of anger.

It didn’t necessarily prove anything other than that this man had lapped up whatever MacGregor or others had told him.  Though it seemed odd for this turn to happen if Gustavus was planning a scam to Part them from their money, even if they didn’t really have any.

“Well, we wouldn’t really know much about that.  With only a few pennies to rub together, we’ve been focussing mostly on ourselves rather than the truth in matters,” Noemi tried to show the man that they had nothing to offer him.

“So why do you seek out MacGregor?” He asked, puzzled.

“For employment,” Jose chimed in, “so we have more than a few pennies to rub together.  We heard that MacGregor was looking for natives of British Honduras, which me and my sister are.”

“How splendid!  I was going to ask where you were from.  Please, let me get you some lunch so we can discuss further.”

This was not quite the reaction they had expected and it did wonders for relaxing their cynicism towards Gustavus.  A scammer might invest a little for a lot down the road, but this man knew there was nothing down the road.  There was a visible relaxation around the table at the mention of food.

As the sane waiter passed by the table, noticeably without any vin rogue, Gustavus stopped him immediately with the raise of a hand and a curt, “Garçon,” following which he rattled off a number of words in French at rapid pace.  He looked back at the table and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I just ordered a few things that I thought would be suitable.”

There were no objections, just silent admiration at pulling something off so effortlessly that they had struggled with not ten minutes before.  Within a couple minutes of Gustavus ordering, vin rogue appeared on the table.

“I guess you’re a regular then?” Asked Emma.

“Well, we frequent the cafes and establishments in the area as we continue with our work.  You just need to know how to order…and speak french!  They don’t take kindly to English.  Not least because most don’t understand it.  That’s why you had such a hard time.”

“So, What can you tell us of MacGregor?” Asked Jose, itching to move on to the next step.

“You’re very down to business, aren’t you.  Personally, I can see the attraction to that.  I’d warn you though that Sir MacGregor is a fan of small talk and chit chat.  He never gets straight on to business.”

“Notes, for when we meet him.”

“Very good!  You wrapped it straight back to business.  You’re lucky that Sir MacGregor likes a dedicated person.  It’s been hard starting up here with all the nastiness in the English press.  Very hard to find a banker that will work with us.  Though there must be some way to put Sir MacGregor’s land to use.”

“Well, we have ideas and would love to meet him to discuss,” said Noemi, to slightly stunned looks from Emma and Jose.  They didn’t have plans beyond them meeting MacGregor.  Not that either of them knew about at least.

“Very good, very good.  Even without ideas he would like you.  I’m not entirely sure why, but he’s very clear that we need some locals involved.”

The food arrived and they all dig in, indulging in idle chit chat about the weather, Paris and anecdotes about Gustavus’ life.  All very boring, but no one minded much as there was food and drink aplenty.  

When the food had disappeared and the drink was running dry, the group got antsy.  Did Gustavus have any intention of actually introducing them to MacGregor or was this just some way of filling his afternoon?  The answer itself didn’t matter so much, but they all wanted to know what was next.

“So,” said Gustavus, after boring them all with a story of how his great uncle could have actually won the American Revolutionary War If his superiors had allowed him to, “that was very pleasant.”

“Yes,” said Jose, “what’s next?”

“Sir MacGregor should be back at his home by now, so shall we go see him?”

Sometimes things happen just at the right time.  They all nodded and then stood up ready to go as Gustavus settled the bill.

“It’s not far,” he said, “only off the Champs Elysee further up here.”

So they trudged off to their next destination unknown, being led down the garden path or along the path to glory.  It didn’t matter much to any of them at this point, though it would be a lie to say they didn’t care about glory.