“Beggin’ the Cap’n’s pardon?” A voice said, breaking the stillness of the room.
Startled, Hunter opened his eyes. The mid-afternoon sun streamed through the narrow window near the captain’s bed. Dust danced in the sunlight. Anthony frowned as he sat up, looking for the source of the voice. The speaker was a smallish man, dressed in worn but clean overalls and a coat. A speckle of gray decorated his hair and a twinkle shone in his blue eyes. He leaned on his broom for support. Captain Hunter nodded for the man to continue.
“Thankee Cap’n. My name’s Wilkins,” the small man said. “I’m the groundskeeper for the hospice here. Beggin’ ye favor but I couldna help but hear ya words with the big bloke a moment ago. Ye lookin’ for a drake egg, are ya?”
Cautious of his ribs, Hunter sat up slowly in bed, eyeing the man suspiciously. “Yes, I did say that. Why do you ask?”
“I might be someone who knows a bit about it,” the groundskeeper explained. “Yer first mate will be tearin’ up the waterfront, but he’ll not find a thing. The drake egg yer lookin’ for sits in a warehouse near the old dockmaster’s office where the old North docks used to be.”
The captain considered that a moment. “Mind you, I’m grateful for any words of help you might have but, naturally, I am suspicious. Drake eggs are valuable. In some places men would kill to have one of the blasted things.”
Wilkins chuckled and continued to lean on his broom. “What’s in it fer me ya might say? Good question Cap’n, and a sound one to be sure. I’ve my own business with the man ye named a bit ago.”
“Broggins?” Anthony asked.
“Aye, that’s the one. Cap’n, have ya stopped ta wonder where that dandy of a vampire got his funds ta even try most a’ his venture? Sure he stole from ya, but a body cannae steal all the way to a drake’s nest and back. That’s where the rub lies, ya see. Cheated me out of a good portion of ma savings in a game of poker, he did.” Wilkins explained. “I think he used some of that vampire mesmerism! Now, I’m not a man who owns much, nor oft do I care to, but what I do have I’d like ta keep and enjoy. The way I see it here, it’s only right that Broggins lose what he stole my money in the first place ta get.”
“If you have a grudge and know where it is, why not turn him in, yourself?” Hunter asked.
Wilkins chuckled again, “well Cap’n, my word isn’t as good as it used ta be in many circles. Townsend would take some convincin’ and then there’s makin’ it stick.”
Hunter eased himself from his bed and reached for his coat. He was suspicious of the man’s story, but if any of it was true, that meant the drake’s egg was within his reach. It was a chance he would have to take. At worst he would look foolish, something he had suffered before in his life and expected to probably suffer again in the future. Once he was fully dressed, the captain walked to the doorway and paused to look over his shoulder.
Captain Hunter frowned, “how can you be so sure it’s there?”
“Fair enough question,” the groundskeeper replied with a shrug. “I like takin’ a constitutional along the old North docks in the evenin’. The air comin’ in is cool, ya see, and helps ease me inta the evenin’. Well a night or so back, I’m walkin’ along and what am I seein’? Why the very man who cheated me outta my money!” Wilkins shrugged, “well, naturally, I followed him thinkin’ ta turn him inta Dockmaster Townsend. He lost me near the warehouses up there, but I saw he twas’ carryin’ a bag of meats and such. More’n his like would need. Now hearin’ yer tale, that bag makes sense ta me. He had ta been stockin’ up ta feed the beast when it hatched from it’s shell.”
“My thanks, Wilkins. I’ll see that any money I recover comes back to you,” Anthony replied with a smile.
A twinkle of mischief shone in Wilkins’ eye. “Kind of ye Cap’n, but nae necessary. I’ll know when ye’ve got the egg and Broggins be in the Dockmaster’s tender care. At times like these, the Reach does become quite a small little place.” Wilkins winked, “besides, a good drake shell’s worth it’s own bit o’ money.”
With a faint smile, Hunter nodded, “true enough. Luck, then.”
“Good trackin’, Cap’n,” Wilkins’ replied.
Anthony turned away, and with a fast walk marred by a slight limp, hurried out of his room. Quickly, he traversed the short wooden hallway that connected the apothecary from the infirmary proper. At the entrance to the apothecary, an older woman with black hair shot with streaks of gray held out a hand, and gave Anthony a stern look.
“Where do you think you’re goin’?” She asked.
Hunter shook his head, “All due respect, Mrs. BeeBottles, to stop a bungler who has aspirations of being a very bad man.”
The proprietor’s wife folded her arms across her chest, doing her best to block the doorway. “You need to be in that bed, restin’ after what you’ve been through!”
Suddenly, Hunter gripped the woman by the shoulders. He winced, and moved her gently aside, ignoring her wordless exclamation of shock. The captain shook his head while he quickly limped past. “Madam, I only wish I could, but right now is not the time for this! I’ll rest later, you have my word!”
Once past Mrs. BeeBottles, he hurried through the shop then out the front where he stumbled into O’Fallon, who had just opened the door. O’Fallon stepped back in surprise, almost jostling into Moira, the Brass Griffin’s blacksmith, her brownish-red hair pulled back in a neat braid. The pair exchanged a glance as Captain Hunter caught himself against the doorframe and sighed, ignoring the sore stiffness that permeated his ribs and leg.
O’Fallon gave Hunter a surprised look. “Cap’n? What’re ye doin’? We came tae help ye over tae the Griffin.”
“If at all,” Moira added with a narrow look at Captain Hunter’s slightly pale complexion. She reached for his arm, “we should be takin’ ya right to a bed, too. Ya look a few paces from death’s door. Here, lean on me while we go, Cap’n.”
Hunter waved away the man’s concern and Moira’s offer to support him on his wounded side. “I’m appreciative, but there’s a last bit of business we need to see to.”
“That’d be?” O’Fallon asked curiously.
“Catch an egg thief or at least his ill-gotten egg,” Hunter replied. “I’ll explain on the way.”