Elsie and Doctor O’Donnell spent three days visiting every contact they could, but received very little word as to the identity or location of the Blue Bandit. They entered bars, barrows, hideouts and all, but suspiciously no one seemed to know a thing. One man they asked even claimed to be the Blue Bandit himself, until his neighbour released a great bout of laughter and told them otherwise; Elsie didn’t quite believe it herself anyway. As she returned to the Rosanne after another day, she didn’t quite know how to explain to the professor that they had come up with nothing.
“The problem is,” Doctor O’Donnell explained, “most of these people only respond to money. We may need to borrow some from Goodwin’s funding and pay one of these creepy fellows to point us towards the Blue Bandit – I am certain that with a little extra motivation these people will be just begging to help us.”
“But how can we trust any of them?” Elsie asked.
“We can’t. What you need to understand, Elsie, and I learned this back when I worked here, is that among these men and women is a code that presides above all honour. No matter how violent or corrupted anyone here is, they know that it is in no one’s best interest to break the thieves’ code. We’ll have to use that to our advantage, unless we just happen to bump into the Blue Bandit in the street.”
Fate had apparently listened to Doctor O’Donnell that night, for they were confronted by a rather extravagant man in a blue cloak and hood – although he was not at all what they expected. He stood upon a terrace, and from below was outlined by the twilight above. “Behold! It is I, the Blue Bandit, and the very man you seek, if my sources tell it true. What would you have of me, my fair ladies? I should inform you that the Blue Bandit works alone, for all those who desire to place themselves in the presence of a master simply get in the way. Speak quickly, I am a busy man.”
Doctor O’Donnell inclined her head as she observed him. “You’re the Blue Bandit? I thought you might be taller…”
But Elsie quickly placed a hand on O’Donnell’s shoulder and stopped her. “Mr. Blue Bandit, or whatever your name is, I think I should hurry right to the point and say that we desperately need your help. I have heard oh so much of your exploits around the city and I was wondering if you might come aboard my ship so that we could discuss a very profitable job that we have in store for you.”
The Blue Bandit raised his head and spat. “Huh!” he cried. “You surely offend me, young one. The great Blue Bandit does not offer services. I am a thief of diamonds and gold, and this is my city. I stand high above the conniving miscreants of this wretched place. By right you should kneel down and answer to me as king!”
Doctor O’Donnell was very disgusted by this. “King? King of what, a pile of dirt and peasants? You’re just a no good criminal with an ego too big for that puny little head of yours. You don’t deserve all the fame the papers have given you, in fact, I say you give the fine art of thievery a bad name you loudmouthed little snot!”
The Blue Bandit’s face became red like a tomato, and he raised his hand. “Why you…”
But then there came a stout voice from afar. “Holt! Yes, you!” Two men approached carrying batons. “At last, we heard your confession Mr. Blue Bandit, and don’t deny it. You got a bounty on your head as big as your ego.” The caped man then tried to escape but was caught, and after being hit in the stomach by a baton, he was handcuffed, and carrying away while hurling insults in every direction.
“Wait,” Elsie cried. “Don’t arrest him…”
This time Doctor O’Donnell stopped her. “Careful Elsie, this is a dangerous place, remember, and I don’t think it would be wise if the police thought we were associated with the Blue Bandit – the sorry sod. I hate to say it, Elsie, but I don’t think he would have been much help anyway. Come on, we should return to the Rosanne before the others start to worry.”
They made it less than ten meters before another voice floated down from the twilight, but it was a sweeter voice, and one much more polite. “I hear you two have been looking for the Blue Bandit.”
Elsie looked up at this strange figure who sat upon a rooftop and was cloaked by shadow. She could hardly make out his face. “We found the Blue Bandit just a few moments ago, however he turned out to be a real jerk. Hardly the man I expected of a master thief.”
“Is that so,” the voice replied. “Well you might be in luck.” The man raised his shadowy top hat a little and Elsie caught a glimpse of more of his face. Suddenly he hopped off the roof like a cat and onto a bridge between the two buildings, before swinging down again and landing directly in front of the two girls. “Because that man was not the Blue Bandit.” He extended his hand to Elsie and offered her a sly smile. “The name’s Oliver Tanner, at your service.”
Now, Elsie could tell at first glance that Mr. Oliver Tanner was not at all like the other men who dwelt within this city. She saw that behind the ragged black top hat, the torn up jacket and the dirty red scarf, Mr. Tanner was in every way a gentlemen of high esteem cursed with unfortunate misgivings. Moreover, he had something in his eyes that was remarkably considerate, and as he smiled he seemed to dispel complete empathy at everything and everyone in sight. Elsie knew at once that this was a man who knew the sufferings of poverty. She could see that he was born in the slums, for though he made an obvious attempt to hide it, his speech and the way he held himself was wrong – it was not so much that he wouldn’t pass for someone of the upper ring, however there was this slight aurora of low birth that remained like a bad smell. Not to mention that the scars upon his cheek and brow were a little off putting as well.
Doctor O’Donnell addressed him well enough – because he treated her with the politeness of a romantic – but on the outside she remained very suspicious. “Are you to say that you are also the Blue Bandit?”
The man scowled at the words. “The Blue Bandit shouldn’t exist. I have always very much hated that name; and the trouble it’s caused me. Now, I do not claim to be any kind of master thief, but the man that the papers label the Blue Bandit is unfortunately me. What a terrible name for a thief, it’s like they don’t have any creativity at all.” He turned his head as if he were glancing at the shadow of the last Blue Bandit and said, “That man you encountered earlier was an imposter. It was me who tipped the police off about him. Hopefully, with him in jail they might leave me alone for a while, after all, the Blue Bandit is finally captured and I can be rid of that name forever. But enough of that; I hear you have a job for me. May I inquire as to what it is?”
Elsie figured she wouldn’t waste any time. “Well there are one or two implications, but we basically need you to break into a vault in Edith Post.”
Mr. Tanner sniggered. “Ah, you want me to infiltrate the nefarious brass vault belonging to Mr. John Backhaus.”
“How did you know about the vault?”
“Everyone in Warren City knows about Backhaus’ vault. It is sort of a legend among the more devoted thieves of this city. I will consider your proposition, however there is much to be discussed, and can I assume you two did not come here alone? Invite me to your abode and we will see if I can assist you.”
And so, through the twilight of Warren City, Elsie and Doctor O’Donnell led Mr. Oliver Tanner back to meet the crew upon the VS Rosanne 7.ns 188.8.131.52da2