A Fortuitous Encounter
This story takes place over four years before "Excelsior" when Theodore Emelior Beem launched his airship in the Mayberry District.
Lieday in the Mayberry marketplace was always the busiest day of the week. The streets were thick with shoppers and if one looked carefully, they might even see an occasional Vibranni circumspectly navigating the narrow but busy thoroughfares. In this mass of people, noise and smells, one might be forgiven for not noticing the presence of a young brown haired girl playing with her doll near the public square. However, despite her ordinary appearance, Magpie was anything but ordinary. She was a gifted thief, something of a prodigy in her own right, who was carefully marking each of the neighboring merchant stands.
The watchmaker Amersfoort, only rarely set up his stand in Mayberry, so his presence immediately drew Magpie’s attention like a moth to a flame. The rumor on the street was that the watchmaker trafficked in stolen goods and used these occasions in Mayberry to quickly unload this merchandise to consumers who asked few questions. As a merchant who also did not pay protection to the local crime bosses, Amersfoort’s stand was also fair game for the likes of thieves like Magpie.
Nevertheless, for all of Magpie’s talent, caution was in order, since the watchmaker was an old hand, keen to the risks of Mayberry. What was needed was a patience and this is something Magpie had in spades. Just as she prepared to change her doll’s diaper for the third time, Magpie finally saw her opening. A bearded man with glasses paused in front of the watchmaker’s stand inquiring about one of the large older clocks to the rear of the watchmaker’s stand. This was exactly the kind of distraction that made Magpie’s spine tingle. Dancing through the streets with her doll in hand, Magpie gave very much the appearance of a preoccupied child. Just as the watchmaker turned towards the clock behind him, Magpie reached for a handsome timepiece at the edge of the display case. Magpie felt the cool metal of the watch in her hand, and was already retreating to disappear into the crowd, but in that moment, much to her startled surprise, Amersfoort lunged and grabbed her wrist.
“What d’we have here!” yelled the watchmaker, raising up Magpie’s arm like a fisherman holding up a prized bass. “You been mark’n me, young miss, but ol’ Amersfoort was a bit too fast for ye this time.”
Magpie squealed in pain and tried to squirm herself free of the watchmaker’s vicelike grip. A Bobbie perhaps sensing the commotion at the watchmaker’s table turned the corner to see what was happening.
“We’ll see what the Bobbies do with you,” said the watchmaker with glee, “I hear they have something special for the likes of you.”
Just as the Bobbie took a few steps towards the watchmaker, the bearded man stepped in and grabbed Magpie protectively by the shoulders.
“Sir!” yelled the man, “Why in Orr have you taken hold of my daughter? Have you lost your mind?”
To a passerby, the young man seemed very much like an aggrieved parent. Almost immediately Amersfoort released Magpie, but his eyes glared suspiciously at the bookish man and Magpie.
“Mister, you’d have me think this thief belongs to you? She’d a stolen that piece had I not caught her in the act.”
“Not at all,” said the man with his hand firmly on Magpie, “Seline here knew I was in the market for a pocket watch, she was merely trying to show it to me? Weren’t you honey?”
Magpie had no idea who this man was and whether he meant good or ill, but in that moment, she knew he was the only thing that would keep her out of the lock-up. Magpie acknowledged the man with a nod. Seeing that this appeared to be a misunderstanding, the Bobbie turned his step towards a loud noise down the street.
“I should probably be calling the Bobbies on you, sir” said the young bearded man, “But I see that my daughter here selected a fine time piece. If you please, the cost?”
The now confused Amersfoort muttered, “Twelve Ciam.”
“That’s a princely sum sir,” remarked the young man. Then taking a long glance at the watch he offered a puzzled expression. “Oh, what a curious coincidence?”
“What coincidence? What ye be talking about?” replied Amersfoort warily.
“Oh, nothing, so strange. . .This watch bears the seal of the Fairbottom workshop. Gossip on the street is that thieves made off with a large of sum of their stock. Terrible thing, thieves don’t you think?”
The bearded man gave a meaningful look towards the Bobbie who was still several feet away. Amersfoort’s face began to take on a pallid appearance. He licked his lips, while considering his options.
“Eight Ciam then and it’s yours.”
“Oh, what a deal you’ve found my darling!” exclaimed the young man to the girl. Then as he looked in his purse, he took on a crestfallen appearance, “Oh but, I’m sorry Mr. Amersfoort. It seems like I only have six Ciam.”
Showing the coins in his hand, Amersfoort and the young man exchanged a long look.
“Fine, then six Ciam, and get out of here” spat out Amersfoort.
“Oh Mr. Amersfoot that is most excellent of you. You truly are a gentleman. We will sing your praises whenever looking at the time.”
At first alarmed, now Magpie’s face now took a look of appreciation at the bearded young man, who simply winked in response. Having concluded their purchase, the man walked away from Amersfoort, with the watch in one hand and the other firmly holding Magpie.