What a great morning. Could it be any more perfect? thought Emerson Lighthouse as he took a long slow drag on the day’s first cigar. He was sitting at the bar in The Gangplank with a fresh mug of bitter black coffee and the daily paper. The Oiling Festival had just ended and he was reading a review detailing all the fantastic builds in and around the city.
He turned at the sound of the door being opened and smiled as he saw Jimmy Branagh enter. The blond-haired boy was lugging a large wrapped item that was almost as big as he was.
“Hoy Mister Emerson,” said Jimmy walking up to the bar and leaning the object against one of the bar stools. “Oy figgered Oy’d drop by with thet painting yeh had me watchin’ fer yeh whoile yeh was away to wherever it was yeh was away to.”
“Thanks Jimmy,” Emerson said, glancing at the wrapped piece of art for a moment before adding, “Did you have any trouble breaking into my place to get it?”
Emerson had delivered this line with such deadpan conviction that Jimmy looked at him for a minute trying to gauge if he were serious before they both started laughing.
“How about I get you a coffee?” offered Emerson, as he made his way behind the bar to retrieve an envelope with Jimmy’s name on it.
“Can’t stay,” said Jimmy, reaching for the cigar Emerson had left balanced precariously on the lip of a glass. “But if yeh ‘ave a mug teh spare Oy’ll take one with me.”
“I think I can find something,” said Emerson, reaching under the bar for a beer mug.
Meanwhile, Jimmy took a pull off Emerson’s cigar before suddenly coughing and spitting. Emerson started to laugh, “It’s an acquired taste son.” He winked.
“It tastes loike arse.”
“You know,” Emerson said, furrowing his brow as he grabbed the cigar back from the boy, “you are the second person to tell me that.” He gave the cigar a sniff before shrugging his shoulders and sticking it back in his mouth for a puff.
“What happened t’ yer fireplace?” Jimmy asked, taking note of the soot spilling halfway out into the room.
“I’m not sure,” replied Emerson. “There must be quite a downdraft with that flue, I’ve noticed soot trailing out several times now.”
“It almost looks loike footprints.” Jimmy observed. After a brief pause the boy shrugged his shoulders then picked up the envelope and the beer mug full of coffee that Emerson had left for him on the bar. “Much appreciated Mister Emerson,” he nodded and then walked to the door. “‘ave a noice day.”
“Thanks Jimmy,” Emerson raised his own mug of coffee in salute. “You too.”
After Jimmy had left, Emerson turned his attention to the painting Jimmy had left leaning against the bar stool. He picked it up and placed it flat on the bar. Taking a small penknife from his pocket, he unfolded the blade then cut the laces from the cloth and unwrapped the framed canvas treasure he had stolen from the national gallery of La Isla de la Hoja del Diablo Dulce. He then narrowed his eyes and appraised the hundred year old piece of art.
The painting depicted that island nation’s famous virgin queen shortly after her coronation. Beside the smiling young monarch stood ‘The Benefactor’, a mysterious man of perhaps early middle age who had saved that island’s economy by investing heavily in the emerging Sagrada Lucia industry thus being responsible for making possible the rarest and most expensive cigars ever produced. Emerson was tempted to think the portrait a forgery but he knew that was impossible.
“How did you manage this Mornington?” Emerson asked the empty bar. When he got no response he slowly re-wrapped the portrait and sat down again to his coffee and newspaper.