Roll up, roll up!
Chapter 10: Brakes on a Train
Location: Catherwood Arcade
Colton had tried fitting into the one of the two butlers' clothes, but neither of them had been as full-framed as the cowboy and everything he'd tried on had made him look ridiculous. He didn't look much better as he stepped out of the tailors boutique - the sleeves on the jacket were far too long. "They told me they'd ride up with wear" he explained to Dottie.
The pirates needed to acquire a large supply of food and drink now that the kitchen on the Peacock carriage needed to fill two-dozen extra bellies. Colton and Dottie had been nominated to go and buy the essentials while disguised as two of the servants. Dottie was lucky enough to fit into one of the serving girls' simple dresses, but the rough and tough cowboy was the least convincing butler the West had ever seen. Hopefully this new outfit would make a difference. They had charged it to the Peacock account.
Elsewhere in the shopping carriage proudly titled "The Catherwood Arcade", was Laurence. He had been sobbing in the corner for quite a while before realizing what carriage he was in. When he stood up, he saw numerous small stands side by side, with items ranging from clothes to groceries and food. All the traders seemed to be from different parts of Terra.
Just as Laurence had managed to pull himself together and thought he might as well look at what the traders had to offer, Colton and Dottie stepped out of the tailors. No one seemed to pay much attention to them, apart from a few giggles at Colton's outfit: they did have authentic disguises after all. Laure however felt his heart skip a beat: he was afraid that Colton and Dottie were staff sent by his chef to take him back into the kitchen. The boy didn't have a clue what he was going to do without a work, but he certainly wasn't going back to get beaten up again, so he quickly slid under a drinks stand whose owner was somewhere else.
From among the stands Laure heard the voice over the general throng of the carriage. "Roll up, roll up! Challenge your keen eyes and cunning against the conundrum of the cups and the coin! Who among you is brave and clever enough! Roll up, roll up!"
The exotic looking man was standing in a small space expertly juggling three fragile looking porcelain tea cups while calling out cheerfully to passers by. It wasn't long before a thuggish, yet well-dressed man approached to take up the challenge with a pretty young woman on his arm. The juggler deftly caught the cups and bowed enthusiastically to the couple, offering the woman a wink. He placed the three cups mouth down on the floor of the carriage.
"I bet it'll be a trick" Dottie whispered to Colton. He just grunted and kept rolling up his sleeves.
"Observe the cups my astute and adventurous adversary," the exotic man began. "And now the coin..." he reached over to seemingly take a silver coin from the ear of the young woman to the gasps and laughter of the small crowd that was slowly gathering. Laure caught sight of the exotic man grinning from beneath the drinks stand.
"I shall place the coin under the cup, like so," continued the stranger, and with a smooth movement he tilted the centre cup and placed the coin beneath, placing the cup back onto the floor again. "Now follow the coin my friend," he told the large man as he started to move the cups slowly between and around each other. After a dozen or so moves he stopped and opened his arms. "Where is the coin?" he asked simply. Both the man and woman, and several of the crowd, all pointed to the left-most cup. The performer grinned and lifted the indicated cup to reveal the coin.
"Ah, my friend, you have a sharp eye I see," he replied, still grinning, "and so I shall have to try harder, no? Watch the coin, master," he said again. Once more he placed the coin under the centre cup but moved them much faster this time. When they stopped the man quickly pointed at the right-most cup this time and grinned himself when he was shown to be correct again.
"You best me once more Effendi," the man announced and bowed his head in deference to his challenger. "Once more," he announced and when to place the coin again under the middle cup but his hand paused. "My friend," he said thoughtfully, "I have to believe you have been lucky thus far and to prove my hypothesis I shall make you a wager. If you guess correctly this time I will give you the coin," he flipped the coin into the air. "Do you accept my wager?" he asked.
"Damn right I do," Colton said, puffing out his chest proudly. Dottie just rolled her eyes.
"As daring as you are handsome master," the juggler replied, "but what if I win?" he scratched his chin in theatrical thought. "If you fail to follow the coin this time I would steal a kiss from your sweetheart," he announced grinning widely and winking once more at the young woman who blushed and giggled.
"Sure pal, whatever," the man waved away the bet.
"Very well my friend, watch the coin..." The exotic man smiled and began to move the cups, getting ever faster. When he stopped the large man seemed to consider for a moment but then reached over and lifted the middle cup to find it empty, to which he swore. The crowd gasped and so did Laure from underneath the stand. The juggler smiled and lifted the other two cups to reveal the coin on the left. "Your bad luck Effendi," he said, "but my most fortuitous day," then he reached over to Dottie's hand and gently pressed his lips to her fingers. She turned her face away coyly.
Dottie wasn't used to male affection. She was just used to fighting alongside the rest of "the boys", but standing there in the Arcade, dressed in another woman's clothes she could almost believe that she was another woman.
"Again?" asked the exotic man. "Worry not, Effendi, you may wager a coin of you own this time and save your swain's blushes, yes?"
"Yeah, alright," Colton replied warily and dug out a dollar from his underwear to show the challenger who nodded, grinned and repeated his routine. This time the cowboy guessed correctly and the dark-skinned man shrugged. "Young Master is too clever for me," he announced and made a big show of handing over the coin. Then he appeared to pluck another from out of the air to show the crowd with a glint in his eye. "Is there another who will take my wager?" Several shoppers clamoured to be next.
One small, deliberate loss helped to ensure many wins to come. Omar grinned and his eyes shone. All the while, Dottie's eyes bulged. "I wanna play too!" She had the gambling urge and all of the finances of the Peacock family at her disposal. "If you wanna up the stakes, then I'm game." She was twirling around an intricate pocketwatch that had belonged to the serving girl. A gift from one of the butlers apparently. "Whaddya got to match this?"
The exotic man's eyes glinted at the sight of the watch. "A fine timepiece indeed my queen!" he proclaimed before producing another, much more unusual coin that appeared to be made from copper with strange images and symbols engraved on the sides. In truth he knew nothing about the coin that he had lifted from an unsuspecting passenger a few hours earlier but his silver tongue could easily add to its value.
"I offer you, Czarina, a one-of-a-kind Tikallian trade coin from times gone past, made from the rarest of Alchemical copper. It is a simple preparation away from becoming pure gold, so they say, and is almost as precious as my young lady, if not even half as beautiful, no?" For all he knew the coin may be worth more than the pocket watch but a watch was much easier to sell than an unusual coin and would attract a lot less attention.
Laure had been observing the curious game from under the stand the whole time. He had heard everything but only seen glimpses of what was actually going on, so he was left quite puzzled. He figured that the two persons might not be looking for him after all, as they clearly had time to gamble. And even if they were after him, he could easily sneak past them to another carriage, to hide himself better as he now didn't have a train ticket. He slowly walked past all the people and closed the carriage door behind him, while Dottie was concentrating on the game.