On the road

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

The rest of the stay at the King’s Head was a relatively uneventful affair.  They had spent much of the evening pretending that they didn’t have any troubles and acting as if they knew exactly what they were to do in the morning.  The pub was their home for the evening and if felt very familiar by the third drink.  Despite all that had gone on, managed to have a joyous evening.  Unthinkable only a couple of days prior.  It was the magic of the human mind and soul at work again.  Convincing itself that all was good so that life could continue.  So that there may be some chance of perpetuating existence and creating life anew.

As much as they didn’t want to, they retired to their respective gender specific rooms, not wanting to upset the kind landlady who had allowed them to stay at such reasonable rates, should they agree to separate rooms.  Sin and all that.  There was not a member of the party that wanted it so.  Emma and Jose were desperate to find time alone together, particularly after a few drinks and Emma didn’t want to listen to the inevitable drunken monologue about her brother from a woman, but so it was.

When morning finally arrived, the three were no where near awake.  They were not battle worn in their drinking habits, so it was taking a particularly harsh toll on their minds and bodies.  It wasn’t until the landlady bashed on their doors that they all rosed and made ready for the day ahead.  It was another day of uncertainty.  Another day where they followed a path that lead further from one idea of home, hopefully towards another.  There was no guarantee though.

As they trundled down the stairs, all three of them, descending into a very different looking space in the cold, hard light of day, the landlady shouted at them, “There is porridge for breakfast and naught else.  I trust that will do you?”

“And some water?” Jose asked hopefully.

“Yes, and water my dear.  Is it the very first time that you’ve had a drink?” she asked, observing the slow nature of all three of them.

“No, but I guess we’re just not used to the amount.  Beer may be stronger over here than in Belize Town.”

“Aye, well, sit down and I’ll bring you porridge and water.  Will you be staying another night?”

They all looked at each other, not realising that that had even been one of their options.  Perhaps suspending themselves in limbo for another day was in fact a fantastic short term solution.  Though it would just stave off the inevitable decision.  “I don’t think so, but we will let you know by the time that we’re finished with breakfast.  Thank you.”

Sitting down, they all took their own moments to process the prior evening’s events and the current effect it was having on their health and sanity.

“So,” began Noemi.

“Just another minute of silence, please, Noemi.  We just need some silence and then we can spend all the time we want talking.  Maybe whenever the porridge and water comes we can start,” responded Jose quickly.

She didn’t mind the reaction herself as she wasn’t quite ready to say anything other than ’So’ without someone else stepping in to say more.  Even with the silence between that point and food arriving, it took several more minutes before everyone was ready to say something.

“So,” Emma ventured.

“Just another minute.  I promise I’ll be ready in another minute.”

A minute passed and then Jose looked at both his sister and Emma.  He thought that they wouldn’t like the idea he was about to propose.  That wasn’t to say they would definitely object, but he had a strong feeling.  One which wasn’t hangover related.

“So,” said Jose, “I guess the main question is where to next.  Ideas?”

“Let’s not stay here,” ventured Emma, thinking both of her inability to sleep next to Jose, but also just her desire to move on.

“Agreed.  Thoughts on where we should go?  There doesn’t seem to be much for us in London.”

“And where were you thinking of going then, brother?”

“Somewhere further afield perhaps.  Not another journey like we’ve just completed, but maybe to the countryside or another major city nearby.”

“Hmm, somewhere across the Channel, perhaps,” ventured Noemi.

“You don’t want to chase after that man, do you?” Asked Emma, curious as to what Jose’s angle with this would be.  She wanted to hang the man if she could, but another part of her that was growing in strength would much prefer to defraud him.

“Well, maybe not so much ‘chase’, but I would like to meet him, yes.”

“To what end exactly?”

“Look, I know neither of you might like this much, but I stick by my scam or be scammed idea.  He is the perfect person to start with on my, or our, path to becoming less victims and more winners.  We have a couple of key elements.  We have something MacGregor wants, our nationality.  We have something he could use, our connection with Jenkins.  We have leverage on Jenkins so he should do something for us if we asked.  I’m not sure why we shouldn’t go and find him.”

There was a pause to allow everyone to bring themselves slightly off the boil and to collect their thoughts.  Emma looked incredibly angry, in a pensive sort of way.  Jose hoped that his suggestion had burned any bridges.  He just didn’t know what else to do at the moment.

“What’s the alternative?” asked Emma.

“Find jobs, eventually find somewhere to live.  Try and eek out some semblance of a life here in the capital.  Nothing I particularly want to do at this point in my life.  We have enough money to get to Paris and I say we should go.”

No one wanted the life that Jose described.  It was why Emma has risked everything to head for Poyais and why the twins had given up their humdrum lives in Belize Town for the promise of something more in London.  Going back to anything that resembled an ordinary or less than ordinary pace wouldn’t do.  It was boom or bust, with no particular care for which we it ultimately went as long as the ride kept them happy.

Emma still refused to believe that it was scam or be scammed, that somehow the world could come down to neat little binary choices that defined exactly what side of a divide you were.  Good versus evil.  The guiding force behind human life.  Or was it?  Grey areas abound, she thought that it was t as simple as Jose was thinking.  She guessed that it could also mean that there was some remote possibility that taking part in something with MacGregor Perhaps wasn’t as bad as she thought.  Maybe whatever they would do for him what not feel so much a scam.

“I’m in,” Emma said, “let’s off to Paris.”

Emma and Jose looked at Noemi for a unanimous casting cote.  This wasn’t a democracy.  Everyone had to agree.

“Look, if my brother wants to do it and he could convince you, then I’m in.  On one small condition though.  We’re going to scam him, not help him scam others.”

“Agreed,” they said in unison as they finished off their meals and began the longer road towards Paris.

Compatriots

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

The man did not look like he was from London or England really.  The shade of his skin was darker and he spoke with a different twang.  None of the group could quite place it.  He dressed at the upper end of plain.  A man of minimal wealth, but without the struggles of the impoverished.

“Many things are amusing, Sir,” replied Noemi, “though they may not be as so to you as they are to us.”

The man liked the reply, anything that kept a conversation moving was music to his ears.  “You don’t sound like you’re from around these parts friend.  Where are you from?”

“Far away,” said Noemi, “except for her, she’s closer to home.”

“Very cryptic, my friend.  Let me properly introduce myself and then perhaps you will tell me more?  My name is Alvaro Calazan, a travelling merchant, originally from British Honduras, but I haven’t been there for years.”

A smile formed across the faces of Noemi and Jose.  They couldn’t trust this man more than any other and they knew too little about him to decide what type of man he was exactly.  Still, hearing that he was from the small patch of land where they had spent almost the entirety of their lives filled them with a small and inescapable joy.  It was as if the mention of something familiar brought warmth into their hearts.

“That is where we are from as well,” said Jose,”though we have only been away for a few months.”

“So were you there when the Poyais sufferers I have read do much about arrived?”

“Indeed we were,” said Noemi, “I even tended for many of their sick in the hospital.  Our friend here, Emma, was one of them.”

“A Poyais sufferer!? My dear, a thousand condolences.  You must have been through so much.”

“If rather not speak too much of it,” she noted.

Alvaro did not fight and moved on, “would you believe that I had the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, to bump into the mastermind.  Gregor MacGregor.”

Their eyes all widened at the mention of the mans name.

“Was this when you knew what he had done?” Interrogated Emma.

He chuckled, “of course not!  Though it was when he was fleeing.  I just hadn’t read the newspapers at that point.”

“What did you speak to him about?”

“Nothing in particular.  The weather, where he was going.  His family.”

“Where he was going?” Noemi enquired.

“Yes, Indeed.”

“Is that the type of information that you might share with us?”

He measured his response in order to make his statement land exactly right, “for a price, of course.”

“Same old story with everyone,” said Emma, “so  what is your price?”

“Not as steep as you might imagine my dear.  There is a special discount for compatriots and sufferers.  All I require is a drink and some company.”

“That we can do,” said Jose, rising to buy another drink and returning quickly.

Alvaro took a long sip of his drink, saluted and then continued, “well, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but rumour has it that he bolted to Italy with his family as soon as things started to heat up in relation to his Poyais.  Seems as though the man can’t help but misdirect and lie though, as he certainly isn’t in Italy.  Though as a side note, with his particular financial trickery, going to Italy with their merchant banks may have been a good idea.  Anyway, I know for a fact he is not there.”

“For an actual fact?  Why would he share real information with a stranger?” Emma asked incredulously.

“We’re all very suspicious here,” Alvaro said with a wry smile, “that is a very good trait to have in life!”

“It may be, though it doesn’t answer my question.”

“So impatient!” Alvaro threw up his hands as he spoke, darkness now fully set in outside, “and even when you’re getting information at such a discount!”

Rather than prod further, they all waited patiently while Alvaro sipped his drink and smiled

“I know he wasn’t lying, b cause he wanted something from me when he found out where I was from.”

“Another scam, no doubt,” said Jose, fully cementing his cynicism.

“Indeed young man!  Not even an inventive one.  He wanted to redo his Poyais scheme on Frenchmen!  He was on his way to Paris to start.”

“How would you help?” Emma probed.

He gave off the air of a man that definitely knew, but wasn’t sure he wanted to share, “I don’t know exactly.  I think the idea was to add credibility by having me pose as a Poyaisian official of some sort.  He knew immediately that I had taken an affront to what he had suggested and so did not continue describing his plans further.  Still, it was definitely a scheme of some sort and I for one was not interested in participating.”

“Well, I for one hope he fails,” said Emma, to which all saluted their drinks.

The statement was more half hearted than should have been expected, as was the salute.  The group, all except Alvaro, considered whether there was a piece of the next scheme to take and whether their conscious would allow them to.

The King’s Head

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

“Why did you do that?” Noemi said, smacking Jose across the shoulder.

“What do you mean?” Jose said as innocently as possible with a smile on his face.

“You know exactly.  You could have gotten is locked up for being part of some scam.  I’m sure Jenkins would have found a way to dissociate himself from it altogether and we would have gotten the fall!”

Jose knew this all too well, but he had chosen to take the risk.  It seemed the best option at the time and it worked out.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing when it goes your way.

“So now Jenkins owes us a favour.”

“Does he now?  Somehow I doubt very much that he’ll see it that way.”

“We’ll make him see it that way.”

“I guess we’re part of the scammers now,” Emma chipped in, not looking at either of them as they crossed over the ancient most at the front entrance to the Palace.

“Better than to be the scammed.  I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime.”

Emma wasn’t taken by that particular view.  She had been scammed more than he ever would be but she wasn’t necessarily ready to jump to the scammers side because of that.  They continued to walk and Emma engaged little as she pondered what she wanted to be in this life if the choices were as simple as scam or be scammed.  There was a certain moral reprehensibility in taking from others by lying.  Then, there were degrees of that no matter where you walked in life and were successful.  The landlord certainly squeezed the renters even if they were so called market rates.  A greengrocer would bend the truth about when fruit and vegetables were actually picked.  It went on.  Those who had always scammed in one way or another from those that didn’t.  Whether it be through bending of the truth or charging too much for things others couldn’t do, like lawyers, it was all around.  Emma just wasn’t sure.

They walked along the main road that travelled from the bridge over to Putney into London proper.  The Bishop had said that there was an Inn up the road called the Kings Head and it was getting late so they wanted to find somewhere reasonable to stay for the night.

It didn’t take long before they reached the kings head, the major structure alongside the road, unassuming though it was.  There was nothing in particular about the building to mark it out from any other.  Not even a sign.  This didn’t make it hard to find, however, as there was enough ruckus around to know that this was in fact a pub.

As they walked in through the main entrance, they wondered where exactly there might be rooms in this establishment.  Even if there were, it would be a time before they were able to sleep.  Not only the noise, but the energy bursting within them all to properly discuss the day’s events.

Emma and Noemi found a table as Jose went to the bar to enquire about lodgings for the night.

It took only a second of sitting down and relaxing for Noemi to begin her line of enquiry, “what on earth did Jose just do?  Yesterday evening he could barely speak for being so shocked and now he has swung in the opposite direction, having so much gab that it’s outrageous.  This is not my brother, I tell you.”

Emma reflected on her own internal debate before responding.  She too was shocked and she didn’t know Jose a fraction.  Maybe they were both overreacting.  She thought that unlikely though and responded, “I know!  I couldn’t believe it.  What he said after about scamming or being scammed as well.  I’m not sure I can subscribe to that.”

“Not sure?” Noemi asked, intrigued that Emma too had doubts about which we to land on the subject, if only subtlety so.

“There is something in what he said.  I just don’t know if I am prepared to fall on the wrong side of a moral issue.”

“It is a difficult one.  For arguments sake, let’s say we do fall on the wrong side.  What if it was only ever so slightly?  To ensure we didn’t get scammed again ourselves?”

“I don’t think I could live through another.  It was hard enough to middle through the last.  Only after it changed my whole life.”

“The only thing I have the same is the appearance of my brother.  I’m not sure the same man is still in there.”

They both sat in contemplation.  Both thought they would affirm their original views.  Here they sat though trying to convince themselves it was not so.  Perhaps the human mind can only go so far in suffering and strife before something instinctive takes control and forces a person done the least costly, most beneficial route.  It cleanses away morals on the surface and deeper down to make way for survival.  Not only survival, but the ability to thrive.  Perhaps it would return some day.  If the mind allowed such a conflict to arise.

Jose approached them with a smile and a round of drinks.

Noemi looked up, smiling and asked, “did you secure a room brother?”

“It had to be two rooms.  Not the best on the purse, but the landlady was not having a young man share a room with two women not his wife.  It was hard for me to argue with her.”

“That’s fine,” said Emma, “I think we’ve both had enough of you today anyway.”

Both women laughed aloud at this leaving Jose thoroughly confused.

“What on earth is so amusing?”

This was greeted with more laughter rather than the desired explanation.  He considered getting bothered by it.  To what effect?  All he could do was control his own actions.  He knew that clearly now.  So he picked up his drink, raised in a toast and said, “cheers,” and nothing else as he sipped away at his drink and let them laugh.

It didn’t take long for them to calm down and then Noemi advised, “it’s just that you’re a different person today brother.  For all we know you’re the next reincarnation of MacGregor!  Especially with all that scam or be scammed talk.  I’m not sure why it was funny, but I guess sometimes you just have to laugh at what you perceive as absurd.”

Jose hunched over slightly, examine the contents of his drink carefully and making no sound.  Was he the same person as a day ago?  Or two days?  Was he ever the same person?  He changed every day, people always did.  You could only predict probabilities of events happening, but there’s nothing to stop a man from turning into a criminal one day or back to a citizen the next.  His minds adapts to changing circumstances and his body continues the (hopefully) slow march towards death.  If he stood back, he could see the humour in it all.  At least the man he was now could.  So he did all that he could do and started to slowly laugh.

Emma and Noemi looked on in further surprise and then joined in, laughing until a man approached and enquired, “and what is it that is so amusing here?”

A favour owed

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

No one quite knew what would be said next, Jose included.  He dangled the bundle of papers in front of him as he put on a happy, but serious look, trying hard to denote that he knew exactly what he was talking about when really all he knew about finance was what he had heard in the last two days.

He walked forward to the desk and placed the bundle on the desk, “you see, your lordship, what they’re doing here is raising you money with very reasonable repayment rates that go far into the future.  It allows you to spend significant resources now, grow your coffers and better serve your interests.  The rate is slightly higher than is usual, but it’s also an excellent deal.”

“I’m not sure we actually need the money though.  I feel this is a dirty deal.”

“Not at all, your lordship, it is a great deal.  Also, from my previous dealings with Jenkins & Co, I know that they typically provide rebates on future deals.  So you’d pay a much lower rate next time.  As to whether you need the money, I think the answer is that you can always do with more.”

“I will have to tell of my treasurer.  He shouldn’t do these things without my knowledge.”

“Perhaps he was trying to surprise you or maybe even he thought it was too routine as to require your input.  I’m sure that your lordship has much more important things to do.”

“That is true young man.  And so I will need to be off to attend to that.”

Jose was amazed he had got away with it and he decided to push his luck just a bit further, “and to payment, your lordship?”

He scowled and began, “why should I-,”

Emma chimed in with doe eyes and a smile, “we don’t need much, your lordship, but anything you can do to make our next night’s stay here in Fulham more comfortable, we would be much obliged.”

He considered for a moment, but knew he couldn’t resist and besides, he had much else to do this evening.  “Very well,” he said, counting coin out of his purse, “here is a small token of my appreciation for delivering these documents to us.”

Handing the coins to Emma, he nodded to them all and finished their exchange with, “please show yourselves out,” which they promptly did.