The lascar stepped outside with the longshoremen at some point, presumably to settle their difference over one of the seaman's tattoos. He had been claiming it was a particularly life-like depiction of a beautiful mermaid. This had provoked fits of laughter in the others, who then counter-claimed variously that it was in fact a manatee or one of their mothers-in-law. A secondary dispute had ensued with each of two of the dock-workers insisting that their own was the uglier and clearly had been the model for the tattoo. None of the four returned from their open-air discussions and I could only assume that they had ended badly.
Naturally this left me in the company of the fellow in the extravagant waistcoat. I suggested a brandy, and he informed me that nothing we might buy in the establishment would truly deserve the name. He winked and said that he had something special in his room upstairs. I demurred, saying that I hardly knew him. He looked a fine figure, perhaps ten years younger than I. At least, if I had not but recently travelled by stage coach. It was important that I consider what this man saw in his regard of me. A man of around forty five - though I looked nearer my true age that day – vigorous, if a little tired. Clean-shaven , still yet blessed with a head of hair. I wondered if I had judged his interest correctly.
He did not seem unduly discommoded by the rebuff.
'Better stick to the whiskey, sir... or we could try a beer?' he enquired.
'A capital suggestion, my throat is still quite as dry as dust.'
He ordered the beers with a click of his fingers. We were standing alongside a long counter that served as the bar. There were tables in rough deal a-plenty, but few were occupied. The majority of trade was carried out at the bar. Of the occupied tables, one had a game of cards in progress and at the other two military fellows in a grey uniform were sprawled insensible across it. My companion eyed me over his glass,
'Long way from home,' it did not sound like a question, but I answered, after a fashion, nonetheless.
The beer was light and tasted nothing like the porters and ales of home. I made pretence of clicking my fingers, ensuring that this gesture was not seen by the man behind the bar. The man in the waistcoat clicked his own and we were provided with two more glasses of the gold-coloured liquid.
'I am indebted to you, sir. I did not catch your name, earlier.' I said.
'Didn't give it, is why.'
I held out my hand and gave the name, 'Moffat.'
He looked at the hand for a moment, then shook it.
He was of a size with me, perhaps due to the fact that I cut a more slender figure since arriving in the Americas. He asked me what had brought me to the New World.
'Necessity,' I said.
'The mother of invention, it's a fact,' he replied.
Evidently he was a man of few words. We took several more of the beers. They had no more effect on myself than a cordial. As for the other he became a little more animated, but not a great deal more talkative. Even so, I was able to convince him that he had inveigled me into his room and not vice-versa.
We passed an enjoyable hour and it was with some regret that I used a yellow scarf to choke the life out of him. I assumed his clothes and was disappointed to see how little money he had in his purse. His body I folded into a chest and covered it with my dusty attire. I took the only other item in a room, it was a bag, about the size of a sailor's bag although it had handles for transportation. It had been fashioned from a violently patterned oriental carpet. It was a hideous thing, but what was a man without baggage? Looking around the room, I thought again that it was a pity our acquaintance had been so short.
Still, as he himself had said, Necessity was the Mother of Invention and besides, such a personage must surely have been wedded to the Father of Lies.