Chapter 6: Treffellem Tagge
“Well, you’re definitely my new favorite person,” remarked Pumpkin, as he watched his ice cream slowly melting on the hot asphalt.
“I generally am a great favorite – but you really figured that out remarkably fast,” replied an unfamiliar voice with a smile in it.
“I was being sarcastic,” explained Pumpkin hastily, giving the person who had knocked down his ice cream a sidelong glance. “And I thought it was Sam there – Hello, I’m Pumpkin.”
“I’m Treffellem Tagge,” said Treffellem, introducing himself.
They shook hands.
“I was just walking towards the WAS,” began Pumpkin. “When something bumped into me and – well, here we are.”
“I work -” Treffellem was beginning at the same time, but stopped and let Pumpkin finish.
“I simply can’t believe this happened. My wish didn’t come true,” continued Pumpkin sadly.
“Your wish?” said Treffellem politely.
“I wished,” said Pumpkin absentmindedly, as he continued to watch his ice cream melt, “many a time, as I threw coins into the fountain at Faust Park, that I would get to finish my ice cream cone in peace – the next time I got one. And you see it hasn’t happened.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” said the stranger, looking at the ice cream with commiseration. “I’d buy you another one but… I haven’t got my paycheck yet.”
Pumpkin looked up brightly. “We’re both together there,” he remarked. “I haven’t either.”
“At the WAS – with Sam and the rest,” explained Pumpkin, seeing the eyebrows of disbelief shoot up on Treffellem’s face.
“Oh, well, that’s very fine of you… to have found a job – anywhere really, but especially there. I work there too – that is, I’m an FGO there. Just got the job, it’s pretty handy. In what area is your brother working?”
“Oh, he’s not my brother,” clarified Pumpkin, carefully. “And his work is confidential, rather, so I can’t tell you.”
“Oh, you can tell Treffellem Tagge,” said the FGO, lightly, (“Evidently regarding his name as an indisputable pass to know anything confidential,” as Johnnie remarked afterwards) and they started drifting more-or-less intentionally towards the WAS headquarters.
“We’re in the Investigation Department,” Pumpkin was about to reply, but thought better of it, and kept his eyes instead on the little fire hydrant with the orange lizard popping in and out of it at the end of the street.
“Well, anyway, I was going to say-” continued Treffellem, which wasn’t at all true, because he had not been intending to say anything particularly. “All of us FGO agents are a fabulous fine set, and we don’t keep secrets between ourselves; it isn’t a bit the fashion anymore. I’m new, but I’m going to be Captain of the FGO division soon – it can’t possibly take me more than a month to oust Hummers. P. H. from office. (“Oh – is that Tradam’s brother?” asked Johnnie suddenly, when Pumpkin told them about it. “Yes,” said Pumpkin – though how he knew about it I don’t know.) Nobody likes Hummers much,” Treffellem was continuing. “And I’m very popular with the rest of the agents. Just you tell Sam to come to me if he needs any help; I can get him out of a scrape easy as cake. I reckon that’s why all the fellows like me – Hummers P. H. comes down on them so hard for fudging, but I understand. You can’t always paint it the way it looks – you have to sound good to the people outside. People like to think that there is some sort of World Security Agency protecting them from the bad guys, just like they like to think that the World Health Organization is keeping them healthy. It’s all chill; we’re not the only ones. In fact, we probably do a better job then the WHO, though we’re constantly letting guys with enough money go. It’s pretty lucrative, you should seriously think about becoming an FGO. I doubled my salary this month already just from off-the-board ransoms. Most of us have, probably. It’s been a good month – a lot coming in and a lot going out.”
By the time Treffellem had ended this lengthy, rambling, impromptu monologue, they had passed the turnstiles, and were approaching the entrance.
Pumpkin had been walking beside this rascal in silent indignation all this time, and was about to challenge Treffellem to a duel when Trefellem paused and asked suddenly, “Are you going inside?”
Pumpkin nodded and raised an eyebrow as he eyed him in disfavor. “I’m looking for someone, but it’s not urgent. Why?”
Trefellem paused with his hand on the door handle to the WAS. “I have an errand to run, but I don’t feel much like it.”
“What is it?” asked Pumpkin, wonderingly.
“Oh, pooh, it’s nothing, just a silly thing I have to run over to one of the VPs – I don’t like the fellow a bit, and I’ve been putting it off all morning, though he is one of the highest officers here. Would you want to help me out with it?”
Pumpkin deliberated a moment, and asked, “Where exactly do you have to run it over to?”
“Sure, then. I’ll run it over for you, honor bright.”
“Alright, here it is,” said Treffellem, handing Pumpkin a small package, and smacking him cheerfully on the back. “And here is the address to his house,” he added, scrawling it quickly on a piece of paper, and smacking him on the back again. “Thanks, buddy.”
“No problem, Mister,” replied Pumpkin sternly, though mentally he was deciding that if ever Treffellem and he were standing on the edge of a bridge, he would push him off and watch the splash of his descent with great satisfaction, rail or no rail.
This thought wholly occupied him until Treffellem had entered the building, pulled down his sun-glasses, and disappeared from view, but when he had done so, Pumpkin set about to follow the address he had given him with great dispatch.
The address, not being a familiar one, held out an adventure to Pumpkin’s dazzled eyes, and, like Johnnie in this respect, Pumpkin could never resist an adventure. He began to hope that it would lead him either to AV’s house, or more probably, to Tradam’s. “They’re the only two VPs in the WAS that I know about anyway,” as he said to himself – and as they are the only ones known to you, dear reader, you must come to quite the same conclusion he did. “Anyway, if it’s a house that looks like it’s inhabited by children, unicorns and rainbows, I’ll know it’s Tradam’s. He always looks just as if he’d just stepped out of a glitterbox and didn’t know it, and I’ve noticed that around six o’clock he always looks a little down-hearted, as if he weren’t looking forward to seeing the latest chalk drawings on the driveway when he got home, or interested in having billions of little scribbled-on papers stuffed into his hands…” thought Pumpkin to himself. Amidst these odd reveries (but then, as Johnnie said, Pumpkin’s reveries were “always odd!”) he arrived at a large, black, threatening house, with several gabled roofs in a row, and various sharp lasers, long lances, and forbidding knives pointing at various angles from the high, pointed roof as decoration. They formed a sort of dangerous overhanging for the windows.
The house quite stood out; for all the rest of the houses in that particular street were nice, placid, pale-yellow houses, of long, comfortable standing, full of those hearty children who were constantly trying to approach the one attractive house in the subdivision, by any and every means imaginable – the most common being climbing along their kitchen ridgepole to their neighbor’s, and so on, until they reached the black, war-zone looking house.
After Pumpkin had stood there waiting for some time, the door to this universally exciting house opened, but not in the usual way at all; for it worked on upward hinges, and so would quite sweep anyone off their feet who had dared to approach the door, but would hardly have harmed them.
A man with a black hat with a feather in it walked out, and Pumpkin knew from the coat-tails that it was AV even before he saw the face.
“Why what is this?” he demanded, looking up at the various faces peering over the ridgepoles.
“It would appear several of your infantile neighbors are observing you carefully,” replied Pumpkin respectfully.
“You!” exclaimed AV, looking at him for the first time. “You’re the villain who rang my doorbell.”
“If you call that a doorbell,” said Pumpkin with dignity, pointing at the little device ensconced behind a frame of pocket-sized knives, with the words “Beware Lest Ye Be Shent” above it. “And if you call me a villain – Yes.”
“Aha, you’re one of the new GOA’s on the case… why, you villainous scoundrel!” cried AV, with a grin. And then demanded roughly, “How did you get into my house?”
“I haven’t got into your house,” began Pumpkin, his blood rising.
“Well, you’re quite invited to, now I think of it,” said AV, sounding a little less forbidding. “Come right in, I suppose you have something to tell me – or at least something you think I wish to hear.”
“Oh – no, as a matter of fact, I’d rather not – really… go inside.”
“Oh it’s just for looks,” said AV apologetically, with a gesture at all the weapons surrounding everything. “It’s really nothing, they don’t fall down ever. Well, hardly ever.”
“No really,” replied Pumpkin. “It’s alright, I just have something to deliver, a little package from one of the officials at the WAS – nothing to do with the case whatever, unfortunately; no news on that.” Here Pumpkin suddenly remembered with a slight twinge of conscience that they had, as a matter of fact, made great progress on the case recently; but as he hadn’t got the sanction of the others to say anything about it, he held his peace and tried to convince himself that it wasn’t news unless they called it news.
AV took the package, and flipped it up in the air as he said, “Well, if you refuse to come inside then – I’ll wish you a good evening,” he added, bowing gracefully.
To be continued…
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