March 1 at 12:30 AM
Photo courtesy of Bern Altman
"Thank you for taking me on short notice, Mr. Didier. Time is scant; forgive me in advance for my candor." Lawson booted over the cobblestone drive.
"My...pleasure." The portly man struggled to keep up.
"Approximately how many souls are in Vissorouy? 1,000? Perhaps more?"
"Frankly I am not sure. Less, considering all the killings." Claude gasped.
The two clanked over wooden planks as they entered the boardwalk.
"What of Vissorouy's fleet? Please, be candid."
"Easy, there is none."
"Surely you have fishing boats and personal crafts; even merchant vessels that anchor in Vissorouy." Lawson stared ahead at the dual masts.
"A dozen or so local fishermen sail in and out of the harbor. Most do not dock to avoid paying duties. Merchant vessels are infrequent, and none claim Vissorouy as homeport. I shall ask around about private vessels, but I am afraid I do not know."
"Does Lord Vangley own a ship?" Lawson asked.
"Sold it when the Chasseur went down."
Lawson licked his dry lips. "The buyer, does he live in town?"
"Afraid not, but I believe Mrs. Vangley still owns a vessel."
The hunter stopped, and gazed at the bilander moored to the pier. "Do you see any conflict in asking the Thistle to stay overnight?"
"Terrible idea." Claude shook his head. "She's headed to the Americas this evening."
"It would not hurt to ask." Lawson advanced the ship. "Excuse me, sir," he called to a shipmate glancing by. With a crack no louder than the snap of fingers, a round shot past, splashing harmlessly into the water.
"All business, I'm afraid." The ripe potato pulled him back. "The crew leased the pier this evening. They do not wish to be disturbed, nor risk a vampire onboard."
"Such a vessel could taxi hundreds if pressed into service." The hunter turned his back to the Thistle. "No ferries, barges...not even a pool of spit with a sail?"
"None." Claude wiped his balding head.
"Warships?" the hunter whispered.
Lawson took in the salty air, the tide gently breaking across the shore.
"Sorry if I am a bit confused; Laurent mentioned that you are trying to prevent a fire. If one breaks, we'll put it out; no need to jump in the harbor."
"Fire is not the only thing that will be coming over that hill." The hunter locked eyes with him. "Gather all the fishermen; tell them to tie their boats to the pier. I do not care if they interfere with the passenger ship; if she desires, she may leave port. Talk to the fishermen, and convince them to grant use of their transports. I need to tally the capacity of each vessel, and have them waiting when the forest goes ablaze. For their service, they shall be rewarded."
"Every man is happy to sacrifice for Vissorouy if aware of the situation."
"Good, then I entrust your eloquent manner to negotiations."
"Me?" Claude squealed.
"Do you not understand the severity of the situation?"
Didier hesitated. "Alright."
"Do not panic them. Tell them Lord Vangley is genuinely concerned for their safety due to the recent sinking. Recall all of them; inspect every last one. As courtesy, we will repair them, free of charge. No tariffs will be levied for mooring or payload, not while I am in town." Lawson stepped forward. "Bring them here by sunset, and I shall outline procedures for filing out of the harbor. Please, do this now."
"But Mr. Parker, what about the tour of the town?" Claude dropped his cap.
"The tour is over, Mr. Didier." The hunter picked it up. "I apologize, but I need someone more knowledgeable of Vissorouy."
Didier took the hat, and stared at the ground.
"Again, I apologize for my candor." Lawson patted him on the shoulder.
Claude nodded, and walked away.