Anyway, I'm quietly doing my sweepin', while the bakers and their assistance continue to add more mess to the floor, when all at once, three people appear at the windows and the door, each holding a knife. And says the one at the door, 'Give us all your pollack and six squid each!'
Now, we only gots two pollack, says the boss, but he tells the guys about the Shrimp bagels we got as well. Meanwhile, Barb scuttles 'round back to grab nine squid. Later she tells me they weighed 'bout fifty-four pounds in all, an' I believe her.
But as soon as she returns with the squid, these guys are yelling that they don't want no bagels, just give 'em the two pollock and their money, we the boss, he hands them a wad of cash from the register and the two pollock one of the chefs had brought out, and the men, they just run off, leaving Barb standing their with a bunch of squid and us all staring on openmouthed. The boss'll yell at customers and threaten the biggest merchant if he thinks he's being cheated, but these three guys just ran off with two mouth-watering fish and a wad of cash without nothin' but a few knives.
'You want we should go after them, boss?' I ask, but he just shakes his head.
'I know where they live, Gar. They'll pay for this in good time.' I just nod and go back to sweeping. Sometimes with the boss you ust don't ask any questions. I figure if he wants me to know somethin', he'll tell us, an' if he don't, it's none of my business, you know?
Anyway, for the rest of the day, it's real quiet. People don't want to talk about nothin' but the robbery, and they know better than to talk about that, so mostly we just do our jobs in silence. The boss has a few visitors whom he talks to alone real quiet like, so I figure somethin's up, but business is brisk an' the chefs are making a mess, so I keep myself occupied with my sweepin'. When the day's done, and all the others are gettin' ready to leave, I stay a moment longer sweepin' before putting my stuff away. This way, I can get a word in with the boss. Nothin' much; just a quick 'I'm headin' home now, boss. Anything you want me to do first?' See, now he has the opportunity to ask me to help him go deal with those guys fom earlier and not have anybody around. Show him he can trust me to keep things quiet, see? An' the boss, he's a cool character. He don't tell me nothin', he just nods for me to follow him out the back door, which I do, an' I see he got a shiny carriage waitin' out back for him.
He hands me a knife and tells me 'go cut the ropes at the flagpole on Whitebrook, kid'. I nod and head on down the alley in that general direction, still no idea what the plan is. A few more jobs an' the boss'll know I'm a guy he can trust. Then he'll be lettin' me more in on the plans, though I knows he'll always be keeping some things secret, 'cause that's just the way things gotta be done sometimes. Right now, I gots a job to do, and I fully intend to see it done.
Five minutes later, I'm standing in the shadows here the flagpole, knife in hand. No one seems to be around, but you can never be too careful when engaged in clandestine proceedings such as these. Casually, I walk across the square, bein' sure to pass close by the flagpole, then, I look at it and go over as if to examine it. While I do this, I cut the roaps a bit, but I pretend I'm there 'cause I just noticed something wrong. 'Hey, look, the ropes are cut! I wonder who done that,' you know? That way, if there's any witnesses watching that I don't know about, they'll swear up and down that the ropes were cut when I got there. 'He couldn't have cut them ropes. He was only went over to the flagpole after he noticed someone else had cut them.' The perfect alibi. I almost wished there had been some witnesses there. Maybe, if I was lucky, the boss has sent a tail to check me out. Make sure I was doin' the job 'stead of ratting him out or nothin'.
The job finished, I head on home. I figure whatever this was for, it probably will be most displeasing for someone in the area, and I don't want to be around when it's discovered for real. People have a nasty habit of going after Prawns when things go wrong, especially when the Prawn's carrying the knife used to make things go so unpleasantly.
Once day while out in his boat, the sailor spotted a sea otter. The vicious brute of a man looked at his pile of dead fish and thought. 'If I sacrifice one of my brutally slaughtered fish, I can capture, maime, and kill that sea otter.'
He thought for a some time--for this dull-minded brute was none too quick-witted--and then reasoned 'I've already killed the fish. There's little use for it now, as it can no longer suffer. But the otter is still alive. I can still cause it pain, which I love to do because I am a Tanenbaum.'
So, with a quick swig of fish ale and a vulgar burp, he picked up one of the innocent fish he had suffercated earlier and tossed it into the water, his harpoon at the ready. 'Heeeeere, otterotterotterotter!' he called in false kindness.
The otter had known of people before this, for Pesce fishermen had travelled in this area gathering up fish to be cared for in beautiful aquariums. This otter thought all people were as kind-hearted as the Pesce, so with a flick of its tail, it swam over to the dead fish.
Quick as a wink, the cruel sailor sent forth his harpoon, goring the poor unfortunate sea otter. The Tanenbaum jumped in glee as he watched the sea otter writhe in pure agony, a huge spike running right through its stomach.
We Pesce tell this tale to remind us why we must never cross over into Tanenbaum Territory. The creatures there must never learn to trust humans, as the malicious Tanenbaums will use this to cause more harm than ever.
Today, Leath was standing as a sentinel near a distance from the ocean shore. Without the sound of the waves, the northerly winds carried voices from the walls across the divide, and Leath could occasionally make out bits of the conversation. Apparently it was somebody's birthday, and they had made a cake containing--what else--dead fish. Dag, did these people eat anything but fish? Didn't they have vanilla beans? Chocolate? According to the discussion as best he could hear, the only flavour other than fish was the lemon frosting. Sickos. Leath tried to breath through his mouth.
He considered starting a shouting match with the enemy guards, but they'd have an advantage due to their natural crudeness and the wind blowing away from them. After a spell, the voices broke into song. Apparently the guest of honour had just arrived for his shift and they were surprising him with the disgusting cake. Rough laughter made it clear that this sort of breach of etiquette was perfectly acceptable in Tanenbaum Region.
The conversation from across the gap seemed to turn to current events in their part of the world. From the sound of it, there had been a large explosion earlier that day, and no one was really sure why, though they all seemed to have opinions, which they all gladly put forth in loud voices, all speaking at once. It was Prawns. Nonsense, it was just a random accident. You sushi brain, it was mod. Well I heard the Pesce did it.
At this last proclamation, they all seemed to clam up, and Leath noticed a few glancing in his direction. Likely they didn't even notice him, standing there still as a lobster, but it felt as if they were staring straight at him. This last comment had taken him by surprise as well, interupting his wondering just what a 'sushi brain' was. Did the Tanenbaum know of some super-intelligent fish the Pesce hadn't yet discovered? It seemed unlikely, but the Pesce never got to explore as far north as they would have liked, and it was theorised that many new species could be hiding in the colder waters, known only to the Tanenbaums and the ice folk. But never mind those: the Tanenbaums were blaming the Pesce for an explosion no doubt caused by their own lax safety procedures and violent habits.Didn't they know the Pesce weren't the murderers in this world?
Leath made a mental note to report this to the supervisor as soon as his shift ended. Best all guards kept an ear perched for further slanderous claims that may be made by the Tanenbaum guards.
However, there didn't seem to be any more to overheat tonight. The guards seemed to realised they might be overheard and only spoke quietly for the rest of the night. Bursts of laughter were heard from time to time, but no more mentions of the explosion.