The skiff smelled strongly of fish. This was no surprise as the fifteen foot boat was a working fishing vessel. In fact, just this morning there had been a hundred kilograms of pilchards in the hold.
Teague had obtained the boat from a long time friend. Hedrek had been a steadfast companion to Teague all through primary school and beyond. When they were boys, Hedrek had been rather a small boy, and he would often get bullied by larger and older boys.
Teague would often make the comment to his friend that his spirit was much larger and doughty than his physical form. Hedrek was no craven: he could be counted on to get a few licks in, if things got physical.
Teague recalled one particular time, four older, larger boys had given his friend a serious beating. This had been the first time that Teague had near lost control. He went after the largest, most senior of his friend’s attackers and beat him quite severely.
This was the first time that his Mamm had been called to the headmaster’s office because of her son. He remembered that she had been arguing with the headmaster about whether or not her son would be expelled.
It had been in her frustration that she had referred to him by their surname; and after that, it was how she addressed him.
Now Hedrek was a successful fisherman; supplying fresh catch to multiple restauraunts in the city, and not just the west side. In fact, he supplied the pilchards for the Stargazy pie from the “Cornish”, that Teague had eaten just the other morning.
After their caper at “Ottimo Cibo”, the prior night; the three enterprise men had returned to the Penrose office to hand over the amphorae that the Pixie had sent them to retrieve.
Teague had been surprised to find his cousin Nellie there waiting on a settee near the radiator. She had informed him of an even greater surprise; that his mamm had been taken by the Italian enforcer.
Of course, this had been of great concern because he knew that man’s reputation and had seen firsthand what he could do with his razor. Gerald had bled out in his arms on the floor of a side room in the eatery they had gone to investigate.
After he had learned of his mother’s abduction, his employer had convinced Nellie to stay there at the Penrose office instead of returning to their home above the floral boutique.
The slight enterprise leader had led his cousin towards one of the many rooms that connected to his office. Penrose had sent Fitz off to round up half a dozen enterprise men who would then guard the office and Teague’s own cousin from anyone with nefarious goals.
Once his employer had actually left the main office; something unusual occurred. Pecht appeared seemingly out of nowhere and spoke to him. The Pixie popping up so stealthily was one thing; but the unusual thing was that when the fae gentleman spoke to Teague, Gerald simply stood there as though he was all alone.
Pecht had told him; “don’t worry about your friend Gerald.” Teague had asked, “does he see you here talking to me?”
The Pixie smiled slyly and simply offered;”I have a great talent for going unseen.”
The troubleshooter nodded slowly as if he understood what the slight figure was saying. “But I saw you in the hallways of the Italian eatery last night.”
Pecht smiled mischievously and said “you saw me because I wanted you to see me.”
“Since you were able to retrieve the artifact,” Pecht said, “and thank you for that by the way.” Teague responded with; “of course.”
“The Italian no longer has influence over my beloved so she can offer some assistance.”
The Pixie continued;” you need a boat!”
“A boat?” Teague repeated/asked. “That’s what I said,” Pecht told him.
“Your mother is being held near the water; and my Tenkha will be able to offer some help, but you need a boat.” Teague nodded and told the Pixie;”I have a friend that can lend me a skiff.”
“Good!” the slight figure said. “you need to handle the Italian.” He continued; “don’t let Gerald near him, because I can’t help him come back again if he does something foolish like he did last night.”
Teague knew that the Pixie was referring to the fact that Gerald had gotten himself killed when he saved Teague’s life at Ottimo Cibo the previous evening. Even though Pecht seemed to shrug it off; Gerald returning from death was always going to seem a miracle to the enterprise troubleshooter.
“Off with you now,” Pecht told Teague. The Pixie pointed at the big bruiser who seemed to have no clue of the conversation that had just occurred in his presence. When Teague looked to Gerald; he thought he saw something in the corner of his eye. He turned back to Pecht; but the Pixie was nowhere to be seen.
Teague had told Gerald that he aimed to Handle Vittorio.
The big bruiser had tried to convince him to stay; that Mr. Penrose had other ideas that didn’t involve the troubleshooter taking the Italian “Out.”
Teague knew that Gerald was right; that was going to take some getting used to, because the big bruiser was not known for his insight or towering intellect.
But Teague knew that if he waited for his employer to return, that he would listen to Penrose’s wishes and not do something permanent to the man who had taken his mamm.
It was strange; and Teague was not the only one, but when Penrose spoke, people listened to him. What’s more; they “obeyed” him.
Maybe it was the certainty that his employer exuded. Penrose simply knew that people would do as he said.
In any case; Teague had to leave before his employer returned from showing his cousin Nellie to her temporary haven in the enterprise office.
It was at this point that Teague noticed Gerald was between him and the door.
He had stepped close to the big bruiser and softly said; “are you going to try and stop me Gerald?”
Gerald had visibly braced himself and said something about not going off half-cocked.
So, in a soft voice, Teague had told him; “you know I don’t like hurting my friends Gerald; so you best move out of the way.”
Luckily for him, Gerald showed the good sense to step out of Teague’s way. The troubleshooter had laid a gentle hand on Gerald’s shoulder on the way out.
Teague had immediately thought of his childhood friend Hedrek, when the Pixie told him that he needed a boat. So he made his way to the docks on the west side, where he knew his friend kept his skiff moored.
When he had asked Hedrek for the use of his skiff, his longtime friend immediately gave permission for Teague to borrow the vessel at any time. Once he learned that Teague’s own mother had been taken; he even volunteered to join any search.
The enterprise troubleshooter appreciated the offer; and knew it was sincere, but he also knew that his friend was a fisherman, not a brawler, or likely to be good in a scrape. So he told Hedrek that all he needed was the skiff; and maybe to borrow some of the outerwear that he used while on the water.
He left the docks with a bundle that held a heavy canvas pair of trousers, a coat of the same durable material with a high, thick leather collar: and a mismatched pair of gloves. One of them was heavy leather, and the other was a metallic filet glove that had a dull sheen.
He had found himself quite fatigued after his visit to the docks. This made sense, as Teague had not slept for more than a day; what with the whole meeting a creature of legend, and having a friend die in his arms, then breaking into the eatery where it had happened with that self-same friend.
The enterprise troubleshooter made his way back from the docks to the apartments above the floral boutique where he lived with his mother and cousin. Once back home, he securely locked every window and door of the shoppe and the rooms above, that he called home.
Teague had a moment of concern when he had checked the battered chest that was at the foot of his bed. He had moved some of his uniforms from the war and found that his father’s service revolver was not there. The Mark IV Webley revolver, chambered in .455 had gone to the second Boer War with his father. Some of his father’s effects; among them the service revolver, had come back, but not his father.
Nothing else was disturbed in the room, so he assumed that his cousin had brought it with her when she had made her way last night to the enterprise office.
He told himself that he would check for it later when he returned to the office. For now, he pulled a battered alarm clock from a shelf near his bed. He wound and set the clock; then went to the washroom to clean up before he sought his bed.
It didn’t take long for Teague to ready himself for bed and then to fall into a dreamless slumber.
When he awoke; the sun was well in the sky. He was much refreshed from his rest in what his cousin Nellie teasingly insisted, was a frilly bed.
He could certainly have slept more; but he did feel up to task.
He splashed water on his stubbled face before dressing in his borrowed fishing togs. The trousers and coat were stiff and smelled of fish: no surprise there. Teague laced on heavy boots and stuffed the mismatched pair of gloves into the coat pockets. The leather glove went in the left pocket, and the metal filet glove in the right. The unfamiliar clothing was a bit snug; this due to the fact that Hedrek was smaller than Teague. The enterprise troubleshooter would make do; he was counting on the gear to keep him somewhat safe from the Italian’s razor.
He apologized to his employer when he returned to the enterprise office. Technically he had done nothing wrong; but he knew that Mr. Penrose would have rather he stayed that morning instead of going off “half-cocked”, as Gerald had put it.
He had been forced to apologize again after the meeting. The enterprise leader had arranged a gathering with the head of the Italians. Five of them had gone to the meeting; and the outburst that the troubleshooter had during the meeting could have gotten them all killed.
The meeting had not gone exactly as planned. Fitz and Burton had gone in first; followed closely by Teague and Mr. Penrose. He could see that the big man was uncomfortable with the interior of the room because he saw right away that there were multiple doors and there were more Italians in the room than had been agreed upon.
Teague saw his employer look about the room as he entered: the slight leader’s right eyebrow rose slightly, no one unfamiliar with Penrose would have noticed anything amiss in his reaction, or lack thereof.
Penrose merely proceeded to the table and sat opposite the head of the South Side.
There had been some seemingly pleasant back and forth between the two leaders. The Signora was a handsome woman of middle years dressed comfortably in a long skirt and blouse with a fine shawl about her shoulders. This no doubt due to the strange snowfall the previous day.
Teague had been anxious and on edge because of his concern for his mother. He noticed things while the two leaders were going back and forth. He saw the multiple doors on two of the other walls in the room. He also noted several large windows with elaborate wrought iron railings, complete with fire escapes. And of course there were seven Italians in the room; even though they had agreed to only five.
Teague couldn’t hide his reaction when Penrose mentioned Vittorio, and he was surprised to discover that the Italian enforcer was the nephew of Signora De Luca.
From his position to the left and slightly behind his seated employer, he saw the Signora’s lack of reaction to Mr. Penrose’s statements. This spoke to him about her composure because most people were at least slightly unnerved by his boss.
He didn’t know what exactly made him think “enough!”, but Teague blurted out forcefully; “Signora, you need to tell me where he is.”
The look she gave him made Teague feel “less than.” Her cool reply was, “young man, I need do no such thing.”
Teague’s fists balled up, and he took a step forward and to his left.
One of the Italians was quick and moved to intercept him. Teague struck him down.
What happened next was quick. The South Side crew was supposed to be unarmed, as Teague and his companions were. They produced several pistols and one drew a sawed off coach gun and aimed it at Mr. Penrose.
The troubleshooter noticed several more men appear on the fire escape; also bearing pistols.
He noted that the Signora was seemingly unconcerned that most likely, men were going to die in moments. Teague had no illusions: he would have eagerly dispatched the men in the room, with his four companions he had no doubt that they could have taken the Italians if the South Siders had been unarmed. But they were not.
Before anything else could happen, his employer had stopped everyone by speaking: “Jowan Teague!, Stand down!”
Everyone stopped when Penrose spoke so forcefully. Since he was intently watching the Signora, he saw that even she flinched. That put a sly smile on his face.
Teague had simply said; “but Sir, my mother.” His employer had told him to step outside so that he could continue the meeting as planned.
Teague had repeated; “but Sir, my mother.”
“Don’t make me ask again son,” Penrose had said to him. This had caused Teague to take a moment. He visibly calmed himself. He looked at the woman sitting across from his employer for a moment, then turned and left the conference room.
Later at the enterprise office his employer had accepted his apology with grace. “I understand your concern Jowan,” he had said to Teague. “As I have said before, your mother is a grand lady; and we will not fail her.”
So he found himself in the borrowed skiff with his two companions. Gerald was piloting the skiff because he had told them that Pecht had told him to.
Penrose had gained information from the Signora that led them to a warehouse on the docks in her part of the city.
Pecht had been right. They did need a boat.