2 – The Insurance Assurance

Goldman National Bank wasn’t truly national, not yet. However the average customer looking for somewhere safe to keep their money wouldn’t know that, a fact the eponymous Mister Gilbert Goldman had planned on. However, if all went well –and it had no reason not to– Goldman National Bank would become true to its name within five years.

Gilbert had cut his teeth working for international financial moguls in New Haven City, learning the trade of rubbing two coins together to produce a third. He could have chosen a life of comfort and security by staying the employee of some of the large firms but why settle for comfort when there was a chance as eternal luxury?

‘Settling’ only entered Gilbert’s vocabulary when it came to two things: lawsuits and land claims.
Three things waited for Goldman as he descended from his room that morning: breakfast, the morning’s paper and a grouchy old man.

“Back when I was your age, I would be up with the sunrise,” Avrom Goldman said. “Didn’t I teach you hard work? I failed in my singular duty to raise you right.” The old man sighed heavily and took a sip of his morning coffee.

“Good morning Father,” Gilbert said with a sleepy smirk. “I was entertaining some new clients last night. I told you not to wait up.”

“Oh,” Avrom said, waving a wrinkled hand. “I didn’t. Some of us still have work ethic, you know.” Gilbert saw his father’s eyes twinkle behind the pince-nez that might well be permanently fused to the old man’s nose.

“Yes, well,” Gilbert drawled, picking up his own coffee cup. “Do leave the poor woman alone when she is finally able to walk, she lost her husband in the war. Terrible, she’s still very torn up about it.” If the countess upstairs had any feelings left for her troll of a husband, they certainly hadn’t shown up last night. Or earlier that morning.
Gilbert smiled, feeling very much like a cat who’d gotten into the cream.

A veritable giant of a human, Gilbert knew he was handsome. His dark hair and deep blue eyes earned him plenty of attention from Wyndford city’s ladies of society. The roster of lovers was extensive and well rumoured, although Gilbert himself never named any of his partners. To do so would be uncouth, and worse: bad for business. 

Avrom threw his hands up, exasperated.

“I raised you better than this! My own boy, my good, brilliant boy, taken advantage by some rich woman. Again!”

“Well, I merely offered a generous return on her investment,” Gilbert said with a chuckle. “And I would like to think it was a mutual taking of advantage.” Spread in front of the two men was a hearty breakfast: toast, poached eggs, two rashers of bacon and even a small platter of fresh fruit. Arnaud had outdone himself that morning.

Yes, Gilbert thought as he picked up his fork, life was very good.

“Discussing your lack of morals can wait,” Avrom said sharply. He slapped the morning newspaper in front of him and slid it over to Gilbert. “You should read the paper.”

Gilbert, a forkful of eggs almost to his mouth, looked over at his father. His eyebrows raised, but he took the bite of breakfast before reaching out for the front page. The world fair was set to arrive in Wyndford next year-

“No! no, no not that page,” Avrom said, snatching the paper away and replacing it with a section he had already extracted from the thick pages of the Wyndford Gazette. Gilbert noted with amusement that the section he was given hadn’t been in the stack Avrom had slid him a moment ago. The old man was still too sharp for that to have been a mistake.

“Here! Read this,” Avrom said, and smacked the headline with a buttery knife.

“‘Dragon Attack Leaves No survivors!’, this is rather morbid for breakfast isn’t it?” Gilbert asked pausing for a sip of coffee.

“Keep reading, or did that woman siphon out those brains of yours?” Avrom barked just a little too loudly. “This is important, Gilly boy.”

“A little quieter Tata. Please,” Gilbert said, wincing at the nickname. He set down his cup and made a placating gesture at his father.

 “‘The overnight express to Boldstream left Wyndford Tuesday at 5pm but never arrived at it’s destination. Officials waited several hours before they investigated the tracks. Early rumors of outlaw activity spread quickly, alarming the local populace. However yesterday evening Sheriff Art Sanderson confirmed the train was attacked and derailed by a dragon.’” He arched eye eyebrow, but kept reading. Why would a dragon bother a train?

“‘The overnight had a reported cargo of 50 head of horses, which the Sheriff suspects drew the unholy wyrm’s attention.’” Oh.

Gilbert set the paper down very carefully. The butter from Avrom’s knife had soaked into the newsprint and already turned the thin paper translucent. For a moment, Gilbert just stared at the short article. It should be nothing, Boldstream was barely a town and compared to the metropolis of Wyndford, hardly significant.

The town wasn’t significant, but what had been on that train was.

 “A morning ruined,” Gilbert said with a sigh. He stood up from the table, crossing the dining room to the hutch that held expensive liquor in crystal decanters. He pulled out the whiskey, local, and returned to the table with two glasses. He poured one out for his father, and them himself.

“The article didn’t say anything more?” Gilbert asked. But no, it was in front of him. It said nothing more. Gilbert ran a hand over his beard, trying to think.

It was unfortunate that at that moment Arnaud arrived, knocking on the doorjamb. The half orc looked slightly annoyed he had been pulled from the kitchen. But, finances didn’t allow for a steward and a full time chef. Not yet. Maybe, now, not ever.
“Excuse me sirs,” Arnaud said with a nod. “Captain Rousseau is waiting for Mister Gilbert in the parlor.” His green nose wrinkled in distaste. “I would hurry, sirs, before the smell settles into the furniture.”

“I’m amazed that man hasn’t drunk himself blind yet,” Avrom said. He reached for another piece of toast.

Gilbert downed his whiskey, poured another, and downed that too.

Captain Rousseau, for all his drunkenness, was an important figure in Gilbert’s future. A minor noble from the Old World, Rousseau had earned fame and fortune by serving in the Civil War. A true war hero, Rousseau had books written about his adventures, plays put on about his daring capture of a full Rebel brigade, and victorious duel with the infamous Rebel General: O’Leary.

Captain Rousseau was a man of means, and whose means was handled by Goldman National Bank.

He was also incredibly drunk at the moment, sprawled over the chesterfield in Gilbert’s parlor. Blond hair, greasy and unwashed, hung down into the man’s ruddy face.

“Gilbert,” Rousseau said, standing. He immediately tipped over and fell back onto the chesterfield. In one hand was a copy of the Gazette. Scowling, Rousseau stood again, more successful this time. He stumbled over to Gilbert and waved a handful of newsprint at the banker.

“Fred, it’s good to see you,” Gilbert said with a calm smile. Placate, reassure, redirec-

“The trunk,” Fred said. Something was pushing through the drink in the Captain’s eyes, and Gilbert wondered if it was anger… or fear. “The trunk was on that bloody train. THE. Trunk.”

Gilbert steadied Rousseau by taking the other man’s arm at the elbow, and directed him back to the chesterfield. The last thing he needed was Fred falling over and striking his head on something. There would be no explaining that as an accident in this situation, even if it truly was one. Gilbert could see the headlines now: ‘Banker kills investor to avoid paying for insured loss’. It would be deadly for both of them. No, better to get Fred safely seated or back out the door.

“I’m aware,” Gilbert said. “And I know that it was a dragon that attacked the train. Not bandits. Dragons aren’t usually interested in trunks full of paper.”

Fred wavered, then nodded.

“S’right! Dragons can’t read,” he said to Gilbert. “Smart as the devil hisself, but can’t read worth a damn. Bloody dragons.” 

Gilbert heard a cackle from down the hallway, and coughed into his fist to cover the sound. He cleared his throat loudly, hoping his father would get the hint and maybe not laugh at their primary investor. Or at least while Rousseau was still in earshot, at the very least.

“But-” the word was half a burp and Fred had to pause, thumping a fist against his chest, before he could continue. Gilbert prayed that the man wouldn’t vomit on the carpet. It was from the east and very expensive to replace.

“Yes?” Gilbert asked, poised to shove Rousseau toward a vase if necessary.

“The trunk. S’important, Gilbert,” Rousseau said, trying to work through the haze of drink. It was impressive to watch, or would be if Gilbert’s fortune didn’t hinge on a drunkard’s whims at that moment. “S’why I insured it with you. Verr-y important.” Rousseau wiped his sleeve across his beard.

“I know,” Gilbert said, feeling his stomach twisting. Whiskey on a single mouthful of eggs wasn’t helping. “It was a case full of land deeds. That’s why the insurance rate was so high.” And the payout for a lost or destroyed trunk would be several times the insurance payments. A cost so high… Gilbert tried not to think about it.

“I’m going to find the trunk,” Gilbert said, surprising himself. He had no other real options. No legal ones, anyways. Yes. This was the only real option at hand to salvage the whole situation. Gilbert’s voice grew more confident and he patted Rousseau on the shoulder. “I’ll travel down to Boldstream myself, and find it. Once I have I will hand deliver it to you.”

Fred squinted at Gilbert, then nodded. His shoulders slumped, no longer held up near his ears, and the captain let out a foul belch of relief.

“Yes. Yes that sounds good,” Fred said, and clasped a hand at each of Gilbert’s shoulders to steady himself. Looking up at the banker, Fred’s bloodshot and glassy eyes focused for a moment. “Or you’ll bloody pay me what it’s worth.”

Chilled by that moment of sobriety, Gilbert still managed a friendly smile.
“Of course,” he said as politely as he was able. “I have a cousin with the Pinkertons. I’ll call upon him as soon as you’re safely home.”

Arnaud arrived at the doorway to the parlor, dressed in a smart suit. The apron from earlier was gone, and the half-orc bowed to the Captain.

“When you are ready, Captain, I have a carriage waiting out front,” Arnaud said, voice cool and professional.
The Captain didn’t react to the half-orc at all, but kept his eyes on Gilbert.

“You get that trunk back,” he said. “Or I take yer bank and all yer worth.” The moment of sobriety was ruined by a surprise hiccup, and the Captain blinked in surprise. He thumped at his chest again, pushing Gilbert out of the way as he hurried out of the parlor to the front hallway. Gilbert closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm his nerves, frowning as he heard the captain vomit into something.

Likely the umbrella stand.

“I’ll clean that out,” Gilbert said to Arnaud. “Please take the captain home safely. Once that’s done, will you ask for Theseus at the local Pinkerton office? I’ll have need of my favourite cousin.”

Arnaud nodded, and, steeling himself, walked into the front hallway.
“This way,” the half-orc said. “…Captain.”