I don’t think I’m going to be fully happy with this one, it’s been sitting on my hard drive for some time now awaiting completion. I’m just going to put it down here and walk away now.
Excerpt of account written…by Leo Walker, age 70
Captain Neriena came to see me after several days had passed. I was laying on the bunk when she entered. I stood quickly. My life was in her hands, as I was well aware, it would not do for me to be disrespectful. She was no longer dressed as a lady. It seemed as though when she was on her ship she dressed as a man. I had a very difficult time not staring at her legs, so clearly on display, as she was wearing trousers.
“We ought to discuss your future, Mr. Walker,” said Captain Neriena.
“I do not believe I have much say in the matter,” I said, trying to seem more calm than I was. I was at the time an avid reader of adventure novels, and I attempted to model myself on the calm indifference of their heroes. I do not know if I met with any success in the attempt, Captain Neriena had one of the best poker faces I ever saw. It was impossible to tell whether or not she believed that I really did not care what became of me.
“That is not entirely true,” said Captain Neriena, giving me a look that could almost be described as amused. “I believe the source of our difficulties with you was that you wished for employment.”
“Forgive me for how heavy handed I was,” I said, meekly. “I was desperate.”
“I have many desperate men working for me,” said Captain Neriena. “Working for me is more than just a job however. If you become a part of my crew that will be your life, you are a part of the crew. Generally I give men more of a choice than that. You however, know far more of us than you ought to. That means that you leave us, and decide your fate, or you join us in our work, just as you wanted.”
“I will work for you,” I said, without much thought at all. I could not imagine that any fate the crew would decide for me would be pleasant. It occurred to me it had been rather clever of her to leave me in the small room to stew for several days before she had me decide. Of course that only occurred to me several years later, which was the problem really.
As soon as I agreed to join the crew, a great deal of things changed. Neriena left, and I thought I was going to be left in the room, but some men came in a very short time later. I was taken from the room that I had been held in, and taken for the first proper meal I had aboard the ship. There was a dining hall on the ship and I was led there, provided with a plate, and told to eat my fill. I did not think that I would have much appetite, but I was mistaken. I had missed having meals without the thought of death hanging over them. I did indeed eat my fill, and then I was led to meet with the boy who had stood out to me so much when I was first taken onto the ship.
“Captain Neriena said to show you the ropes,” said the boy. He did not look very pleased, but he stuck out his hand. “My name is Blaze.”
“Nice to meet you Mr. Blaze, I am Leo Walker,” I said, shaking his hand, and trying to look friendly. I imagined him to be part of the contingent on the ship that would be slow to trust me, and since he seemed to be an important member of the crew I determined to try to win him over as quickly as possible.
“Just Blaze,” said the boy, pulling a face. “No one on this crew is a mister, not to the crew.”
The ship that Blaze showed me was battered in every way imaginable. The ship showed all of the signs of having been made originally as a pleasure yacht, though whether or not it had ever served that purpose was not something I could tell. It was clear that the crew did not care much for cleaning, or the appearance of their living space. Having seen Neriena’s office, I had supposed that the rest of the ship would be so luxurious and well maintained. The only other part of the ship that was so well taken care of however was the gun deck, which had been created from the ship’s original observation and walking deck. Blaze told me that the gun deck was his responsibility, and I was not going to argue with a child who was forever so heavily armed. Even though he was only a boy, the idea that he was the ship’s gunner was entirely believable.
The tour was more brief than I had expected. I was shown the engine room, where Blaze knocked on the door, but a young man with a heavy Russian accent stuck his head out, and said he was busy and had no time for tourists. I got a glimpse of a woman hard at work on the engine behind him, before he slammed a door in our face. Blaze assured me that it was nothing personal, that Catfish was simply not very social sometimes. He kept the ship running however, and that was what mattered. Then I was shown the dining mess, which is where the entire crew eats, including Neriena. Finally I was shown a small room, one that had likely originally been intended for passengers or guests. It certainly did not strike me as the sort of place that a crew member would normally sleep. I had expected, now that I was no longer a prisoner, to be taken to a bunk room to sleep. It was clear that since the ship was not serving its original purpose, they were not willing to leave the passenger rooms to go to waste.
From the log of the ship Aeolus
Traveling North by North-West. Wind at 3 knots. New crew member signed. Leo Walker. Will determine at a later time what position he is best suited to. He is a novice, but desperation is a quality that I can make a use of. The crew seems accepting of him, though Blaze is suspicious of him, and worries that he might be willing to betray us. Protecting our crew is Blaze’s duty, so I will not fault him his suspicion.
Excerpt of account written later, at the request of Floyd Jones, by Leo Walker
I met a lady in all black clothing outside of St. Michael’s church at midnight. The only thing I really noticed about her was the comb that held her hair in place. It looked as though it was from Asia, and gleamed in the light of the street lights. I asked if she was there waiting for me, and she agreed that she was. She than suggested that we go somewhere that was more private for our discussion. I agreed, and she waved to a cab that was waiting nearby, clearly she had come prepared. I did pause before entering the cab. Please do not think me foolish in entering the cab with her, I was just desperate. There were no windows in the carriage, and what I had thought was a city cab I now realized must simply have been made to look as if it was one. City carriages had less comfort than this one offered, but more light and generally some windows. We rattled through the city and the few times that I attempted to speak, I met with complete silence.
The carriage finally stopped and the driver jumped down to open the door, allowing the woman that I had ridden with to exit first. I did notice that she moved with more grace and athleticism than I generally expected of a fine woman. The best comparison was a ballet dancer that I had once been asked to escort in to a dinner. Both gave the impression that they were accustomed to movement and were only waiting for a chance to show what they were capable of.
I climbed down from the carriage after her, well aware of my own clumsiness. I found myself on the airfield, which did explain why the carriage ride had been so long. During the ride I had thought it was my imagination since the ride had been so quiet and awkward. I now stood in front of an airship, one of the old style ones, moored well away from any of the other ships on the field. Several men came forward immediately, they clearly had been waiting for us. There was an air of casual menace that I did not care for about the group, and I began to realize just how foolish I had been. As is generally the case, I was too late in knowing it.
“Have any trouble, Captain?” asked the youngest member of the group, he was also the most heavily armed. He had a gun on each side of his belt, and another slung across his back. To my surprise it was the woman from the carriage that he addressed as captain. I had never heard of a female captain before. It was clearly not a joke however. The woman left me standing by the carriage while she went to speak to the boy in a low voice, I could not hear what they had to say, but I was growing steadily more uncomfortable.
“Show him to my office,” said the woman, finally, giving me a nod.
“I would like to go home,” I said, trying to remain polite, so that I did not give offense. I certainly did not wish to give the impression that I was about to run, though I was considering doing so with every fiber of my being.
“Do you think we wish you to go among people, telling what you know of us?” asked the woman, her voice scornful suddenly. I felt a hand clamp on my arm, and when I looked to my right, I saw a large, well muscled man, who would well be able to shake me in my boots.
“You are coming with us,” said the man.
I was led into the airship, with very little fight I must admit. I knew already what sort of a position I had placed myself in. I was at their mercy, and though I would run if I had the chance, for the time I could see none at all. I expected that I would be led to a cell, that was the sort of mood the crew was in, but instead I was shown into a well appointed office, with polished hard wood, and plush seats. The only concession that was made to the fact that this was a room in an airship was the furniture was bolted to the floor.
“Sit down,” said the man, who had grabbed my arm, and he pushed me into one of the chairs, and then stood behind me, making me well aware that I was not to get up. A few minutes later, the woman entered the the room.
“My name is Captain Neriena,” said the woman, going to her desk, and sitting down across from me. “I am sorry to say that you will be staying with me for some time. Provided you cause no mischief, no harm will come to you. I have already given orders for us to fly tonight.”
My sole comfort, in this situation, was that I had left a letter already, and so at least people would not think I had fled the city in disgrace. There were few things that I could imagine worse than my current situation, but one of them was having my name dragged through mud after my death. That these people would kill me I had little doubt. If I was people of their character, it was what I would do as well, so I could little blame them.
We did leave Chicago that night, with me still seated in Neriena’s office, and wishing dearly to be anywhere else. Once we were no longer in the city, I was taken to a small room, and locked in. For the next several days, I knew nothing but that small room, and dread of what would happen to me if they did come to let me out. Every time they came to feed me, I thought that it was the end for me. The meals were good though, and I could tell no actual hostility from the men who brought them.
Dear Mr. And Mrs. Walker,
I have received a letter from Leo, though the letter was from Leo before he disappeared, with orders that it should be delivered to me if he did not return home for a certain period of time. I must say, Mr. Walker, that you know your son well. He suggests, as you feared, that he might have done something disgraceful, and become tangled with poor elements in his desperation. I wish that I was able to say that he had left me more to work with to find him, but alas, he seemed reluctant to give me more details as to what he had become entangled with. I wish I was able to offer you more comfort. I shall continue to search for any clue as to what it was that became of Leo, and will tell you of anything that I find. Please forgive me for having no good news for you.
Floyd Jones, La Grange IL
Dear Mr Walker,
This letter is to inform you that if you are not able to meet your obligations to us for the office furnishings purchased of us October 12th of the year last, we will be forced to take the furnishings back, and perhaps take further legal actions against your firm. We had trusted that we would be able to solve this matter in a more amiable manner to bother parties, however your disregard of our previous notices give us reason to believe you to be in bad faith and we are forced to look after our interests. This notice is a final warning of nonpayment. Further neglect to pay the balance between us will result in seizure.
Winter Bros General Furnishings
I find myself in great trouble. My business is poorly suited to me, as I might have guessed before embarking on it. I was a poor clerk, and it was not to be supposed that either my intellect or my willingness to dedicate myself to hard work improved with my father’s generous offer to place me in business. I cannot stand the thought of going to him as a failure and admitting the money I have squandered, which he so kindly gave. I can stand even less the thought that I will have to go to him and he will feel as though he must give me more money to stop our name from being dragged in the mud of ruin.
I feel as though I never was forced to more self examination than I have subjected myself to this past week, and I have found myself wanting in more ways than I care to put into writing for you to examine and admit the truth of matters. The bills come to both my lodgings and my office in a constant stream, and I have begun to dread the postman. I therefore find myself in the embarrassing position of having to ask you for any monetary assistance you might find yourself willing to give. I have never asked you for such a favor, and it fills me with shame to ask you now. You know that I would only ask if it was truly my time of need.
Far be it from me under normal circumstances to deny you anything that you would ever desire from me. If I ever have a penny you will have half of it. At my time of writing however, I am denied even the penny to which I just made reference. My wife and I have just set up housekeeping, a situation I am finding greatly increases my costs from flat life. The furnishing for our home cost a good deal, indeed more than I could rightly afford. I might well have written you the same the letter as I have received from you this morning.
I am heartbroken to hear of your difficulties in business. You must not be so harsh with yourself however. The recent trouble with the economy, one that has been so much in the papers of late, has many men better than either of us finds himself in such difficulties. You will find things will turn about for you, if you seize the opportunities that come before you in the course of business. You will find that your fortunes will recover themselves quickly if you do not surrender yourself to melancholia.
Forever in Friendship,
La Grange IL
Dear Mr. Florance,
I recall some time ago you spoke of business opportunities that you occasionally engaged in, that a man of a desperate character might join in. We were in my office, and you were in a talkative mood on account of several drinks you had enjoyed before you joined me. As a gentleman I felt it my duty to keep these comments to myself, and I have fore-bared mentioning them to you again, thinking that it might cause you embarrassment. I find myself in such a situation however, that I am forced to ask that you use your connections to my advantage. I am a desperate man now, as you must have been at one time to make such connections. Do not think that I will remain silent of your indiscretions if you refuse me this help in my time of need. I ask only for an introduction into the business of transporting goods.
Hoping to hear from you soon,
Dear Ms. Wordsmith,
I must admit to an indiscretion I fear you will have difficulty forgiving me for. I spoke to a man who I considered to be a friend, about certain aspects of our business. Now I find myself in difficulties, he threatens to expose us if I do not agree to his demands. He wishes to be made a partner in our business, as well as an introduction to you. He is a promising man, he has been a good friend to me in the past, or I would not have thought to speak to him of matters of business at all, and I have no wish for harm to come to him. Please forgive me for any trouble I might cause you in this matter, but I beg your understanding, both for him, and for myself. Naturally that does not resolve the matter before us. I leave it in your hands what becomes of him, and whether or not you chose to do business with him, for I well understand I am not able to force you to business with a partner that you do not care for. I do repeat however my plea for clemency for both of us.
Yours in haste,
Dear Mr. Florance,
Arrange for your friend to meet us at midnight outside of St. Michael’s church on the 9th of March. School your tongue to keep silent.
I have spoken to my contact in the business we previously spoke of. Someone will be willing to meet you outside of St. Michael’s church on the 9th of March at midnight. Please be there promptly, these are not the sort of people who take kindly to being kept waiting. Remember that as a person who has introduced you, your actions and etiquette will reflect on me. Speak of no one of this meeting. As you used the knowledge of my business against me, remember that another person might be able to use it against both of us. It is difficult to tell who ones true friends are, and I write to you with great reproach. You placed me in a difficult position, and I fear for what might come of me, now that it is known that I shared my secrets with you. You may consider what was once a friendship that I valued and treasured dissolved due to your greed and desire of money.
Clipping from the Chicago Eagle
The creditors of Mr Leo Walker of Chicago IL, request that any readers who have information of his whereabouts report them in person or by post to the offices of the Winter Brothers General Furnishing company. He is supposed to have slipped from town to avoid the payment of debt, and it is unknown where he is hiding. Cash reward.
Dear Mr. And Mrs. Walker,
I am a dear friend of your son, Leo. I am aware that you have never met me, and you must be suspicious of any letter at this time from any man that you do not know. If you have any doubts as to my friendship with Leo, I beg that you ask Timothy, who dined with Leo and myself on his visit to the city. I wished to assure you that it is entirely unlikely that Leo fled the city and abandoned his debts and disgraced both himself and your name. He has always spoken of you with the highest regard, and I cannot imagine him a man who would risk public scandal for his family. I find it even less likely that he would leave the city without telling me, knowing that I would find myself deeply concerned about his well being.
I fear this means a darker implication however. Your son was desperate when I last communicated with him, and I would suggest that the best course of action that you could take would be to consult with the police or a private detective. I offer my services to your family, as an agent in the city, with no charge to yourselves of course. I would have happily gone independently to the police, but I feared that your family might feel me presumptuous to do so without consulting with you first. Please inform me of what you wish me to do in this matter.
La Grange IL
Dear Ms. Wordsmith,
When I informed you of the threat posed by the young man, Leo Walker, I asked for your mercy. I am not certain what has become of him, nor do I dare to ask. I wish merely to state that I hope that you kept my pleas in mind. I am writing to tell you of a new problem. The young man’s friends have began a search of the city for him, as have his creditors. I am not certain how thorough either will be, but I live in fear that they might trace him back to me. I have already been approached by a young man named Floyd Jones, who went away when I assured him that I had not seen Leo for some time. I gave him twenty dollars to help him in his search to reduce any suspicion of me, but as he left he spoke of hiring a private detective. I fear that once more I might have caused this problem to grow into a larger matter.
With much regret,
Dear Mr. Florance,
I am aware of the search, and the mounting pressures that we are exposed to. This will be the last letter you will be able to send me through a messenger. We will be flying for a time, until we can find a safe place for matters to settle some in the city. I will write to you when we return, and give you further instructions. Until then keep your head down and say nothing to anyone.
In regards to your unvoiced questions about the fate of your reckless young friend, he is alive yet. That is all that I will tell you. You have demonstrated a distressing lack of ability to keep your knowledge to yourself. I thought I would place your mind at ease on that regard however.
Dear Mr. Jones,
We are grateful for your kind offer in this stressful time. We are willing to accept any assistance that you are willing to give. My wife and I agree that it is not likely that Leo would have run from the city, but it does frighten us at how desperate he seems to have become. We only wish that he had come to us, though we might have chided him for poor money management, it would have been settled quickly and without embarrassment. Now our name appears in the papers in connection with failure, and we fear the measures that our son might have taken. Do not allow the police to imagine self destruction is a possibility. Look rather for shady characters who Leo might have looked to for money. I know my son well, and the idea of making money quickly, without hard work, has always held a strong temptation for him, one that I fear he might have fallen to. If you are the friend to him that you say you are, I beg that you treat him with forgiveness if you do discover that he has done something less than honorable. Many men before him have fallen to the temptation of money.
Oak Park IL
March 9th (received March 17th)
It seems that when I have a great burden on my mind, you are the person I find myself turning to. If you receive this letter, it means that I was unable to return to my lodgings within a week of having written this. I left this note with my landlady with very strict instructions as to what to do with it, I gave her a good tip with it too, one that you know that I can ill afford.
I am not entirely certain what the risks that I run are. I know that I go to meet criminals and thieves, but I suspect darker of them yet. I might have gone to my death by the time you have read this, I am aware of this possibility, which is why I have written this. That is a risk when one attempts to blackmail criminals. I prey that I do live yet however, no matter what happened. It is for that reason that I am writing to you. I am certain that all nature of notices and rumors will spread about me. I assure you that if you have received this letter, it is not because I wish to be missing. I will do everything in my power to return to Chicago, and to settle my debts like a gentleman.
One final message to you, my old friend. Though you main reproach yourself for not lending the money that I asked for, I beg that you force it out of your mind. No matter what has become of you, it is because of my own poor management of my money, and my own desperation that I took this path.
I am forever your friend,
And then…then I actually finished a thing! The next comic may be viewed on the website.
A website: ficuscomic.com
I got bored and started messing around with styles and coloring, since I didn’t dislike the outcome I made a wallpaper of it here.
I was going through some of my old sketches and came across this one from a few years ago: link. After resigning myself to an inability to travel back in time and explain the concept of basic human proportions to a younger me, I turned to the more practical (if not more uninteresting) approach, of redeeming myself by redrawing it. So here. Have some sap.