Franchomme and the Bad News

I wasn’t the only actor enjoying my show. Everyone in the room was playing their own role in their own play. I wasn’t the only person in costume either. There was a small mustachioed man, already seated, dressed as a police officer. “I know better than to make assumptions” I thought to myself. Mr. Plankt wore a conservative business suit, but with a tie of such blazing magenta that it overshadowed any possible achievement of seriousness the suit may have hoped for with its dull greyness.

Mr. Plankt had been saying polite things, but now he was about to move to more serious matters. “Everything was grand here until just recently.” “Yes?” I prompted. “That’s why Lieutenant Franchomme is here.” “Good to meet you.” “The same.” “Are you friends, or maybe business partners?” “We met years ago, and are now on a first name basis. I would agree that we are now friends, wouldn’t you, Napo?” “Definitely” answered the Lieutenant. “However”, continued Plankt, “It is a serious matter that now concerns us, professional for you and Napo, although personal for me. To come to the point: I have received an extortion letter.” “Aha.”

Napo really was a genuine police officer, and my customer had been threatened if he did not pay the extortionist. How was I involved? A threat had been made to bring down one of my ships with Mr. Plankt aboard if a ransom was not paid.

Franchomme was speaking. “Mr. Xevzev.” “Yes?” “I also believe this is not the first such threat to one of your ships.” “Really?” “Yes. I think there might have been such a threat before your brother’s accident.”

Now, my show dissolved. I felt anger, sadness, confusion, and seriousness all at once. The waves of conflicting emotions passed over my face. I pulled my composure back, and forced myself back into my role. Captain. Cool. Clearheaded.

Liutenant Franchomme apologized for “the stress this must surely put on me”, and started telling his story. He struck me as shrewd, more than a little pompous, and possibly in possession of a dry wit.

“Here’s the part that doesn’t make sense.” “Yes?” “It’s would be very easy for Plankt here to just ignore the extortion and not travel by your -um- airship.” “Hhhm.” “So that means that the threat is also to you.” “I don’t get it.” “Who gets hurt if Plankt just starts traveling a bit more normally? I don’t mean to offend.” “No offense taken. I lose business.” “Right. Something doesn’t add up, because they’re extorting the wrong person. They could have just gone directly to you. Perhaps they tried to? That would make much more sense. It would be good to figure this all out before they make their next move. So … I would like to interview you rather thoroughly on this matter.”

He wanted to board my ship, so the two of us went, without Plankt, and then interview me he did. Thoroughly. Unfortunately I knew nothing of use, and felt a bit slow on the uptake too.

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