There was a loud rapping at the door. And another. Someone was being impatient.
He opened the door cautiously, allowing the creaking of the old hinges to show his visitor just how little his impatient knocking was worth. There was a man standing outside, waiting in the drizzle.
“Mr. Kyrnrie?” he enquired.
“It’s just Kyrnrie.”
Kyrnrie made no effort to allow the man to step in out of the rain.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Mr. Arynlock has requested your attendance at your earliest convenience.”
“Yes sir. At your earliest convenience.”
The man wasn’t moving.
“Who is Arynlock?” asked Kyrnrie.
“My employer,” said the messenger. “He is very wealthy. He assured me that would be all you needed to know.”
A job then. Kyrnrie was always eager to find new jobs. Especially for wealthy clients.
“And…” said Kyrnrie, “I presume you are still standing there as now would be a particularly convenient time for me to attend him?”
“Precisely,” said the messenger, gesturing to a horse carriage on the street behind him. “Most convenient.”
Kyrnrie considered making him wait, but really he had nothing better to do. He closed the door behind him and trotted straight to the carriage and climbed in. It was empty, until the messenger got in with him. Clearly an employee of some value.
“And you are?” asked Kyrnrie.
He sat quietly, and gazed out the window. Kyrnrie followed suit.
It was a miserable day. Low cloud hung over Helen’s Bay, and the drizzle had been relentless since before dawn. It wasn’t uncommon; living on an island had its drawbacks. Not that anyone had a choice any more. They had lost the mainland a few decades back, and had more or less given up searching for it.
They left the edge of town, and followed the only cobbled road in Helen that was very well guarded. It led to a rise where several mansions were built, high enough to be above the stench of the fish markets, sewers, and scum that lived close to the water’s edge. High enough also to look down on the rest of the citizens of Renryre Island.
They approached a large gateway, and several guards made way to allow them through. Kyrnrie wondered how many other guards there were on the property. Were there more along the perimeter? Patrolling the gardens? Watching from the roof? It was a symptom of his profession; he always took note of security, just in case it would come in handy later on.
The carriage stopped, and Kyrnrie was led to the main residence. It was large enough to sleep hundreds of people. It probably did. A hundred domestic servants for one rich family.
Upstairs he was left to wait in a room decorated with large portraits of men who must have done something interesting enough to be painted. He didn’t recognise any of them. The portraits probably weren’t worth much, and even the artefacts that lay below each painting looked more symbolic than valuable. There was, however, one dagger presented in a transparent box underneath a portrait of a young man with fierce eyes that followed him across the room.
The dagger’s haft was covered in shining jewels, the blade decorated with fine engravings. Given its position underneath the portrait, Kyrnrie assumed the painting to portray the dagger’s owner, but there was no name accompanying them.
Continuing his investigation of the room, he walked to the window and looked out over Helen’s Bay. The cloud cover obscured the far end, but it must have been an amazing view in good weather.
The door at the back of the room opened, and a well-dressed elderly gentleman walked in with the messenger.
“Pour us a drink, will you?” said the man, presumably Arynlock. “And then you can let yourself out.”
A glass of something golden brown was handed to him. He didn’t like rum much, but he knew it was worth several months of the average man’s income. There was almost no sugar on Renryre Island.
“You come highly recommended, Mr. Kyrnrie,” said Arynlock.
“It’s just Kyrnrie.”
“Right. Kyrnrie. You have a unique set of talents. Talents that are of particular interest to me. I have a job for you, one that you will be well rewarded for upon completion.”
“How well rewarded?” asked Kyrnrie.
“Shall we say… twelve red?”
Twelve red? Was he mad?
“I’ll do it for fifteen.”
“Very well,” agreed Arynlock. “Though, you may find this particular job to be… difficult. Impossible, perhaps.”
Kyrnrie had heard that many times before. Nothing was impossible. Not for him at any rate.
“There is a surcharge of five red for impossible jobs.”
Arynlock smiled, he knew he was being swindled. Rich yes, but not a fool.
“Of course, that sounds fair to me,” he agreed. “However, should you succeed, that would prove the job possible after all, rendering the surcharge null.”
“And should I fail?”
“Your fee will be paid in full, on completion.”
Standard terms really. But Kyrnrie liked to test prospective clients. Not all of them were good for the fees they promised.
“Tell me about this impossible job,” he said.
“I’m sure you have heard of Tailfin?” said Arynlock.
Of course he had. The gangster had his fingers in everything. Wrapped around everyone. Had a reputation for ensuring that things went the way he wanted, and for ensuring that people did things the way he wanted.
“Tailfin?” he said, raising his eyebrow.
“Indeed,” said Arynlock, ignoring the implied question. “He has a safe rumoured to be the same size as his office. It’s guarded at all times by four men. The safe has one entrance with two separate doors, each with unique locking mechanisms. One of those has a combination lock, the other has a set of key locks. Only Tailfin himself has the keys, and only he knows the combination.”
“What’s in the safe?”
“All manner of things, I presume,” said Arynlock. “But I am only interested in one particular item. A gold coin. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It has an engraving of a great ship with sails open on one side, and a pattern of seven stars on the other.”
“Sounds intriguing,” admitted Kyrnrie. “Sounds valuable, though I am not convinced it’s more valuable that what you are offering me.”
Arynlock waved his hands in dismissal.
“I’m not interested in its monetary value,” he said. “I believe… well, it doesn’t matter what I believe, does it? Do we have an agreement?”
The job would be difficult. Nearly impossible. Besides that, stealing from Tailfin was not recommended. That’s exactly why he said what he said next.
“You make sure to have the money ready. I will be back with your gold coin soon enough.”
* * *
Kyrnrie stood before Tailfin’s office. He felt nervous. More so than he usually did when he met Tailfin. This was the first time Tailfin wasn’t the client.
“Ah, come in Mr. Kyrnrie,” said Tailfin, as one of his men swung open the door. “Please take a seat.”
“It’s just Kyrnrie,” he said, selecting the least uncomfortable looking of the three chairs available.
“I am not as young as I once was,” said Tailfin. “Did I summon you? Or is this a social visit.”
He nodded slowly, his fingers wrapped together.
“I’m intrigued. Please…” he said, opening his arms before him.
Kyrnrie composed himself, taking a deep breath and ensuring he sounded completely at ease.
“I have been offered a job,” he began. “A most interesting job. But one that might cause a conflict of interest.”
Tailfin didn’t react, he simply listened casually.
“You see, I cannot afford for my reputation to be tarnished by rejecting the job. However, I also don’t want to ruin our business relationship that we have both valued over the years.”
“Do I understand that I am the current owner of a particular item that is of interest to your client?” asked Tailfin.
Kyrnrie nodded gently, shrugging at the situation.
“I see your predicament,” he said. “What do you propose as a solution?”
“The item is of… limited monetary value. It’s nothing you would particularly miss. I would expect nothing of you, only that were I to succeed in obtaining it, you would consider it… fairly obtained.”
Tailfin burst out laughing, head jerking back easily, his men hastily laughing their support.
“You want my permission to steal something from me?”
“More or less,” he said, trying not to laugh at the absurdity. “But you could consider it a good test of your security.”
Tailfin was enjoying it a little too much.
“Who’s the client?” he asked.
“Confidentiality is a must in my line of business.”
“Very well, I agree,” said Tailfin. “But should you succeed, you will steal something of similar value back from your client so that I am not losing out.”
Kyrnrie made a show of considering the deal before nodding his agreement. As if the conversation hadn’t gone exactly as he had planned.
“As always, it’s a pleasure doing business, Tailfin. Thank you for your time.”
He stood up and walked out before Tailfin could change his mind.
On the way out, he saw a man heading towards Tailfin’s office. He looked worse for wear, his clothes tattered, skin burnt, half-healed wounds showing on his arms and neck. Madrik? Kyrnrie had heard he had disappeared a week or two back. Word was, the small-timer had punched too high. He was not someone Kyrnrie wanted to get close to.
He walked past quickly, heading out of the gambling house into the street.
* * *
A few days later, the sunset found Kyrnrie hiding near Arynlock’s fence, waiting for enough darkness for him to scale it. He could hear guards walking around behind the fence, patrolling the gardens, and making plenty of noise. Quiet guards were more likely to get themselves hurt.
He waited a long time for the household to settle down. He sat quietly in a secluded spot, watching the stars restlessly wander the skies. One of them remained still. He could imagine it was watching him, waiting for him to make his move. Waiting to see if he got caught.
Eventually, he slipped over the fence, landing silently on the far side. He searched for signs of movement, and spotted two guards walking away as they patrolled the gardens. He waited for them to round the building, and then lightly crept towards the house.
A second floor window was open and unbarred. He easily scaled the wall, and slid through the gap, landing softly on the wooden floor.
“Good evening Mr. Kyrnrie.”
It was the messenger, sitting calmly in a chair as if he was waiting there all along.
“Its just Kyrnrie.”
He stood in silence for a moment, wondering what the man had in mind.
“Any particular reason you didn’t knock on the front door?”
“Your employer didn’t hire someone who knocks on front doors.”
The rocking chair creaked as the man nodded thoughtfully.
“He awaits you in his study,” he said. “Shall we?”
They reached the waiting room with the portraits of various unknown men hanging on the walls, and found Arynlock seated at a desk. A glass of golden rum stood half full in front of him.
“Good evening,” said Kyrnrie as Arynlock looked up from his papers. “Your security has a little room for improvement.”
“Mr. Kyrnrie!” said Arynlock. “We have been expecting you.”
“It’s just Kyrnrie,” he said. “Expecting me?”
“Since you were spotted outside the fence, yes.”
The guards walking off, the open window. He’d underestimated Arynlock. Or perhaps the messenger, who was presently pouring Kyrnrie a glass of rum. Who was he anyway? Messenger? Butler? Assistant? Guard?
“You have already collected what I asked for?” asked Arynlock.
“Not yet, no.”
Arynlock eyed him suspiciously.
“Can I assume you did not come here to rob me?”
“Not exactly,” said Kyrnrie, “but I did hope to not leave empty-handed.”
“I’m intrigued. Please do explain.”
Arynlock’s man handed Kyrnrie the glass of rum, and strolled out of the room.
“I have thought of a way to obtain what you wanted,” said Kyrnrie. “Naturally, a fool-proof plan. But it would require a little… investment. Nothing you would be expected to pay for, but perhaps you could give me a quarter up front in order to fund this plan?”
Arynlock nodded slowly.
“A little unconventional, but I guess that would be fine. Tell me about the plan?”
“The less you know the better,” said Kyrnrie. “I wouldn’t want you implicated in any way.”
“Understood,” said Arynlock. “Very well, wait here, I will get you the money.”
Kyrnrie casually nodded as Arynlock walked out through a door at the back of the study. Then, as soon as he was alone, he dashed to the portrait he’d noted before. Below it, the dagger, jewel encrusted, engraved – a fine piece of art. Very valuable, no doubt. He opened the transparent container, lifted the dagger, and quickly eased it into his pack. Easy as stealing bread from an unattended bakery.
He then rushed back towards the window, and stopped, taking a comfortable and relaxed stance, staring out over Helen’s Bay.
He heard the door click open, and spoke on cue.
“It really is an amazing view, isn’t it?”
“That it is, Kyrnrie,” said Arynlock as he stood beside him and followed his gaze.
Arynlock handed Kyrnrie a money purse. It felt heavy, which was good, and Kyrnrie didn’t want to offend his client by opening it, so he dropped it straight into his pocket.
“Thank you,” he said. “I will return soon enough with your gold coin.”
He was already walking towards the door.
“Very well, I shall see you soon then.”
The messenger was waiting for him on the other side.
“I will take you to the front door,” he said, “if that is okay with you.”
A wry grin. The man had too much hiding behind it for Kyrnrie’s liking.
“What exactly is your function here?” asked Kynrie.
“I ensure things are done correctly.”
“And your name is?”
“What does Arynlock call you?”
Kyrnrie really didn’t like the man.
“I hope that one day we can get to know each other,” said Kyrnrie, “become friends perhaps.”
The door closed behind him. Kyrnrie was left alone outside, save for the half dozen guards waiting to escort him off the property.
* * *
The night was young, and Kyrnrie had a purse full of money. Only problem was, any establishment worth visiting was owned by Tailfin, or at least Tailfin had somebody there with an extra set of keen ears and wandering eyes. And sharp weapons too. Kyrnrie needed to keep a low profile.
So he headed for The Spotted Seahorse. Supposedly the worst establishment in Helen’s Bay. So bad, Tailfin wanted nothing to do with it. At least, that was what Tailfin wanted people to think.
“Make that two.”
The barman eyed him suspiciously, but began pouring anyway. He handed the first one to Kyrnrie, who made sure the glass was empty long before the second pint was ready.
“Last night on earth?”
Kyrnrie checked his money bag, then scanned the tavern for any seedy looking gentlemen that might notice the purse, but nobody appeared to be paying him any attention. He flashed a large red coin to the barman. Arynlock had paid him with three of them, nothing smaller.
“Anyone around take this?”
The barman’s eyes open wide.
“A bank, perhaps,” he said. “But not without asking where you stole it.”
Kyrnrie closed his fist around the coin. He fixed the barman with the sternest stare he could muster.
“What’s your name?”
“Are you on Tailfin’s payroll?”
He sighed, shuffling, thinking. Making a show of it.
“Between you and me,” he said as he slid the coin along the counter, “I need a room where I can work quietly, and all the food and drink I can stomach. This should last, what, a year?”
The barman hesitated. It was easily enough money, but he could smell trouble. Eventually, he took the coin.
“One year,” he agreed.
“And nobody needs to know,” said Kyrnrie. “Nobody.”
“I’ll take another two pints with my room key.”
* * *
A few days of drinking and crashing in his new bed, and Kyrnrie was ready to pay Tailfin another visit. He wasn’t looking forward to it. Life expectancy in Helen’s Bay was greatly improved by steering clear of Tailfin.
“Please, come in Mr. Kyrnrie”
“It’s just Kyrnrie,” he said as he walked into Tailfin’s office.
“Fine. Fine. What can I do for you?”
“Nothing really,” said Kyrnrie. “I just thought I should drop in as a professional courtesy, now that I have completed the job.”
Tailfin tried to control his expression, but Kyrnrie was delighted to see he was a little surprised.
“Yes. I heard you have been flashing red coins at The Spotted Seahorse.”
Deklow. So predictable. So… easy.
Kyrnrie put the dagger on the table.
“This is for you, as promised.”
Tailfin eyed the dagger, disinterested.
“What did you take?”
Kyrnrie feigned surprise.
“You didn’t notice? Have you checked your vault?”
“My vault? But…”
“Shall we check now? I would like to see if you can figure it out.”
Tailfin sat motionless, his eyes fixed on Kyrnrie. This was a gamble. He nodded slightly to one of his men, and the whole room began to move in a practised routine. Soon, they were standing before Tailfin’s vault.
Tailfin inspected each door as they entered, checking the locks as he entered the combinations and unlocked the others with his keys. As he finished opening them, he gave Kyrnrie a confused look.
“I am the only one with keys, and the only one who knows the combinations.”
Kyrnrie smiled and shrugged.
“I am a professional.”
They entered the vault, and Kyrnrie was surprised to find it wasn’t filled with gold jewellery and gems. In fact, most of its contents didn’t appear to be valuable at all. Most of it was paper, filed or covered in leather wrappings.
Kyrnrie scanned for anything shiny, a gold coin was sure to stand out amongst all that. He stepped in behind Tailfin casually, trying to keep a smug, but not too smug expression.
“See what’s missing?”
Tailfin was quiet, searching the shelves.
Kyrnrie spotted the gold coin. It was small. By his reckoning, worth nothing like his pay. With Tailfin’s eyes pointed in another direction, he distracted his men with a grin, gesturing with his eyebrows towards Tailfin. More than enough time for him to swipe the coin. Easy.
After a while, Tailfin grew impatient.
“What was it Kyrnrie, I don’t see anything missing.”
“A small gold coin. That’s all.”
Tailfin’s eyes went wide, and he walked directly to where the coin had been. He knew exactly what it was.
“I… you really did it? You broke into my vault?”
Kyrnrie was worried about this point. His answer might work. It might just get him killed.
“Secrets of the trade,” he said. “You understand, Tailfin.”
He did not look pleased.
“But I must add, it was a real challenge. Most difficult job I have had. Nearly impossible. Your vault is safe. And safe from me too, of course.”
Tailfin was quiet for some time. Then he spoke clearly.
“If anything ever goes missing, I know there is only one person on Renryre Island that could have done it. Anything goes missing, and I make damn sure you feel a lot of pain on your last few days alive. Understood?”
Kyrnrie understood. He understood that he would be made an example of if anything went missing. Or likely even if it didn’t.
“I understand,” said Kyrnrie with a solemn nod. “Nothing will go missing. Besides, I hope to do business with you in future. I wouldn’t want to damage our professional relationship.”
Tailfin nodded, but he didn’t look much like he agreed. Kyrnrie was quick to start walking out of the vault.
“Good day, Tailfin.”
He kept walking, his back to the gangster. He wasn’t sure if he had got away with it, or whether Tailfin’s men would catch up with him in the street. He just needed to put his head down and hope.
As he was leaving the gambling house, Madrik, the upstart gangster, walked in through the front entrance, flinging the doors open, making a scene. Kyrnrie kept his head down. He wanted nothing to do with whatever was about to happen.
Before he got out of the door, he heard Tailfin behind him.
“Madrik!” he shouted. “Again? What the… how the hell?”
Tailfin’s men were moving. Without orders, they knew what to do. Thankfully, they were after Madrik, and Kyrnrie had a chance to disappear into the night.
He knocked on the front door. The butler-messenger-guard-assistant opened it.
“Good evening Mr. K—”
“It’s just Kyrnrie!”
“Is it? Why didn’t you say?”
Kyrnrie took a deep breath, his eyelids shut tight.
“Is Arynlock here?”
He was escorted to Arynlock’s office, and was poured a glass of rum while he waited. He wandered over to the portrait that used to own a fancy dagger. Its eyes followed him across the room, as if they recognised him.
“Ah, Mr. K—”
“Good evening, Arynlock.”
“You have it?”
Kyrnrie withdrew the gold coin. He could swear it had somehow changed. The ship was the same, but the constellation of seven stars on the face had rearranged themselves. He brushed the thought away as he handed the coin over to Arynlock, who received it with wide eyes.
“Fantastic!” he said. “This is worth far more than the dagger you know. I doubt even Tailfin knew that.”
“I’ll be deducting that from your pay, of course.”
Kyrnrie relented. The plan was far too simple to go without a hitch. It was ambitious to think that Arynlock would suspect anyone but him.
“It was worth about twelve red I believe,” said Arynlock. “Which makes us even.”
Great. He had pissed off the most notorious gangster on Renryre Island for three red coins.
“But I must say,” added Arynlock, “I didn’t think you could do it. I am impressed.”
“I take my job very seriously.”
Arynlock was nodding as he spoke.
“Indeed. Well, there are a number of artefacts I am hoping to collect. Assuming you would be more willing to communicate your plans before helping yourself to my possessions, perhaps you would consider a more permanent position here?”
Steady income? Not really Kyrnrie’s style.
“What sort of artefacts?”
“The sort that fetch a very high price. The sort that only very powerful, and often dangerous, people possess. The sort that gets curious people in trouble. The sort that would earn you a lot of money for retrieving.”
Kyrnrie found himself nodding along.
“I believe I can find the mainland, Kyrnrie, but I need your help. And I’m willing to pay good money for it.”
Crazy old man.
Thank you for reading Renryre Island Chapter II: The Impossible Job
Next, Chapter III: The Restless Stars
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