Posted on 2010-07-02
The place was Dunny-on-the-Wold and the times were dire. Mobsters of every denomination and nationality fought for supremacy on the streets and the battles were bloody. One of them was Fitzwilliam Darcy, affectionately known as Sharkman to his diary and as Sharksie to pick-pockets, cut-throats and related scum of society that filled the streets, and he was angrily pacing up and down in the back office of his delicatessen fish shop.
"A dolphin?" he shouted. "A dolphin? What on earth am I supposed to do with a bloody dolphin? I said sharks, Charles, I definitely said sharks!"
"Yes, but ..." the young man called Charles stammered.
"I said I wanted a postcard with a shark. One where you could see the teeth and all. And I quite, quite clearly said sharks. Sharks! Not. Dolphins."
"Yes, but look, it's really cute," Charles said. "And if you squint at it – like so – it looks as if it were smiling."
"Smiling?" shouted Sharksie. "Smiling?"
"Yes, yes, I know," Charles conceded. "Strictly speaking, fish can't smile, but ..."
"For the last time, Charles!" Sharksie roared. "Dolphins. Aren't. Fish. They're mammals, Charles. Mammals."
"Oh," said Charles. "Really?"
"Yes, really," Sharksie answered. "Why again did I agree to take you as an apprentice?"
"Because it was part of the cease-fire agreement with my sister?" Charles suggested.
"That was a rhetorical question!" Sharksie groaned. "Get out!"
"Okay," Charles said with equanimity. "Shall I try to find more fish cards?"
"No!" Sharksie shouted. "No, definitely not. Just get out. I need to make a phone-call."
When Charles was almost out of the room, he added, "You can go to the kitchen and help with the salmon pasties. We're catering a bar-mitzvah tomorrow."
The door closed behind an eager Charles and Sharksie picked up the receiver of his phone and dialled. The phone was answered by a cheery woman's voice.
"C.C. Badcook Productions, Louisa speaking, how may I help you?"
"Get me someone from management," Sharksie said curtly.
"I am afraid they are very busy," Louisa said. "But I'll see what I can do. On what business shall I say you are calling?"
"Tell them it's about the Sharkman business," Sharksie said.
"I am sorry, sir, I don't think we have any business under that name," Louisa said. "Are you quite sure you have called the right number?"
"I assume you are new," Sharksie said through gritted teeth. "Just tell management that the Sharkman is calling and I assure you they will take the call."
"Very well, Mr Sharkman," Louisa said finally. "I will see what I can do."
The line went dead, but was picked up by another woman after a very short while.
"Sharksie, that you?"
"Of course it's me," Sharksie said. "The Sharkman. And I'll come straight to the point, Colonel."
"When you said he was known as "Retriever," you weren't praising his ability to find things, were you?"
"He was named after the dog, wasn't he? He's a bloody Labrador Retriever, is that not so?"
"It isn't fair," Sharksie said. "You get Muffin, my best man, and you give me a Labrador."
"Actually, we were thinking more of a Golden Retriever," the Colonel said. "The hair, you know."
"What did he do?" the Colonel asked.
Sharksie was silent for a couple of moments, then burst out, "Dolphins!"
"Beg your pardon?"
"The Sharkman doesn't do dolphins!"
"Still not quite there with you, Sharksie, I'm afraid."
"I sent him to buy shark cards," Sharksie explained. "And he came back with dolphins. Dolphins!"
The Colonel giggled.
"They aren't even fish!" Sharksie exclaimed. "I can't send people dolphin cards, now can I?"
The Colonel giggled again but then became serious. "Sharksie, are you going to send out cards again?"
"You know I use the cards to -"
"I know what the shark cards are for," the Colonel said. "Who were you going to send the cards to?"
Sharksie did not answer.
"Please tell me not that you were going to send it to John-boy Thornton," the Colonel said. "You know John-boy is under my protection and he got the Hale deal fair and square."
Sharksie still did not answer.
"Oh, really, I hope it's not King George," the Colonel continued. "You know I recently invested in the new Donwell Jam manufacture and I won't have you interfere with my business. King George's doing really well in his straight line."
"Yes, amazing, isn't it?" Sharksie said. "I wish Darcy Maritime Delicatessen was doing that well."
"So, it's not King George either," the Colonel concluded. "Spill it, Sharksie, who are the cards for?"
"Well, if you must know," Sharksie said. "I was thinking of sending one to Don Tomaso."
There was silence on the other end of the line. Then, the Colonel erupted.
"Are you completely bonkers, Sharksie?" she shouted.
"I wasn't going to -"
"Hang on," the Colonel interrupted him. "Muffin's just come in, I'll put you on speakerphone."
There was some clicking in the line and someone else said, "Sharksie, that you?"
"Of course it's me," Sharksie said again. "The Sharkman. Good to hear from you, Muffin! What about that game later?"
"Sure thing," Muffin said. "My place, say, eight-ish -"
"Whatever," the Colonel interrupted them. "Sharksie, what were you saying about Don Tomaso?"
"I said I wasn't going to sharkicide him," Sharksie began again. "Just to send, you know, a friendly warning."
"Let me recapitulate that for Muffin," the Colonel said. "You plan to send a shark card to Don Tomaso, not because you want to, and I quote, sharkicide him, but as a friendly warning?"
"What sort of a word is sharkicide any way?" Muffin said. "If I've told you once, Sharksie, I've told you a thousand times, it's not funny. Just say kill, like everybody does. We are talking about killing, aren't we?"
"Muffin, dearest," the Colonel said. "You know Sharksie doesn't kill people, he sharkicides them."
Sharksie could hear her eyes rolling.
"So now it's Don Tomaso's turn, huh?" Muffin said. "After you've informed him about your intention with your trusted shark cards, like always?"
"I said I wasn't going to sharkicide him," Sharksie insisted. "I was just going to warn him."
"Yes, we got that," the Colonel said. "But why?"
"You know that daughter of his?"
"No, the other one."
"The Tattooed Lady?"
"No, the one with the eyes."
"Oh, you mean Gorgo," the Colonel said. "What's with her?"
"We catered an event at Benotti's Nursery the other day," Sharksie said. "You know, that is -"
"Yes, I know that it's Don Tomaso's straight line. What happened at the event?"
"She slighted my eel tartlets," Sharksie said. "It took me months perfecting the recipe and she said they were only just tolerable. She refused to take a second helping."
"So?" the Colonel asked.
"She can't just go around saying things like that about my eel tartlets! I have my pride too!"
"But her father is my ammo man!" the Colonel said. "And seeing as you and I are partners now, I'd rather appreciate it if you kept out of that."
Sharksie was silent.
"No shark cards for Don Tomaso or any of his family, is that clear?"
"Yes, colonel," Sharksie said meekly.
"Glad we sorted that out," the Colonel said. "And that's toodles from me, I've got to shoot a diapers commercial in fifteen. Muffin will give you all the stats for the Elton job Friday."
Sharksie did not answer.
"Oh, and Gorgo will be doing the ammo for that," the Colonel added. "So behave yourself. I don't want any complaints."The End