Ellison deliberately avoided looking at Pompas’ ship as they walked past it, for fear of somehow spooking him.
“So, going over the edge of the world, huh!” he said, in a extra-high pitch.
“I don’t know, the weather looks a little cloudy,” Matilda said, looking up at the sky.
“Right, right. You want to sail over the edge on a clear day. How long do you think you’d fall? Just a few seconds? Minutes? Hours? And what do you see when you back at Krim? Just water coming down? Or layers of rock? What if you sailed off? On a hang glider, say? How far would the atmosphere go?”
They stopped in front of the Gold Travel Agency.
“Do you want to go inside and find out?” asked Matilda, then lowered her voice. “This might be a good place for you to hang out as any to keep an eye on Pompas.”
“You want me to stay and watch his boat?”
“Well, one of us has to go and round up a crew so that he doesn’t slip through our fingers again,” she said. “And it’s not like you know where to hire a lot of muscle.”
“I know a few guys.”
“You only know them through me,” she said.
“Fine. How long are you going to be?”
“Maybe an hour. Two. Three, at most. Depending on how many bars I have to go to before I can find enough bodies.”
Ellison looked at the travel agency. “I don’t think Gold is going to let me just hang around here. And if I stand out here on the docks I’ll be conspicuous.” He thought for a second. “If I take off the T-shirt I could do the wench thing and stroll the docks.”
Matilda glanced around then gestured at a cluster of brightly dressed wenches at the far north end of the dock, near the commercial gate. “I think this territory’s already taken. If you start strolling, you’ll get your throat slit, and then Pompas will escape again.”
Ellison looked around again, then spotted the sailor who had tried to talk them into going on the other cruise.
“I’ve got an idea.” He looked Matilda up and down. In her current body, she was just about the same size as he was. “Switch clothes with me, and I’ll go hang out on that ship.” He pointed to the ship the other sailor was on, far enough away from Pompas’ ship so that he wouldn’t be too conspicuous, but close enough that he’d be able to see if Pompas tried to slip away.
“I’m not giving you my pants,” said Matilda.
“Why not? You’re going to go past the gate anyway. You’ll probably switch over to your normal body, right? And I don’t want to hang around here in this dress for the next few hours.”
“Fine.” They ducked around the side of the building, where a bend in the narrow alley gave them a little privacy, and Ellison traded his dress for Matilda’s pants and vest, then put his logo shirt back over the vest. He was once again glad that he’d opted for boots instead of heels.
“If you see him leaving, follow him,” said Matilda. “Are you certain you’ll recognize him?”
“You mean, with his fake beard? I’ll keep an eye out for someone who looks exactly like Pompas, but with a beard.”
As they left the alley, Matilda spotted a fist-sized rock with a sharp point.
“Grab that rock,” she told him. “If you have to leave, scratch an arrow here.” She kicked the corner of the travel agency building, at knee-level. “Then at every street corner. Draw a triangle around the arrow.”
“Why a triangle?”
“It’s easier to scratch with a rock than a circle.”
“Is that your secret code or something?”
“No, it’s your secret code,” she said. “I’m not telling you by secret code.” She slapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t get killed. If you do, it’ll ruin our plan.”
“Right. I won’t get killed.”
She eyed him doubtfully.
“Okay, I might get killed.”
“I’ll try to hurry back,” she said, and headed back into town.
Ellison made a beeline for the sailor from earlier, the striped-shirt guy. The one Gold said was a scammer.
The sailor was listlessly pushing a mop back and forth across the desk of the ship when Ellison walked up to the gangplank and called up to him. “Ahoy there!”
The sailor stopped his mopping and glanced down at the dock.
“It’s me, from earlier!” Ellison called up. “You said to come find you!”
The sailor glanced around, then leaned the mop against the guardrail and leaned over. “You want to hear more about our cruises?”
“Yes, please. And could I get a tour of the ship?”
“Sure.” The sailor waved him on board. “You changed out of your skirt.”
“I figured I should, if I was going to be on a ship,” Ellison said. “What if I fell overboard?”
Ellison took his time walking up the gangplank to the ship. Even without a dress on, falling into the cold bay waters would not be pleasant and might well kill him.
“So, what’s it like, going over the edge? And have you ever seen a whale? What happens if a whale goes over the edge?”
“Oh, sure, you can see everything,” said the sailor. “Whales, sharks, shipwrecks. Eventually everything washes out and over the sides.”
“Wait a second,” said Ellison. “If all the water is pouring over the sides, then wouldn’t the oceans empty out?”
“There are rivers that flow in,” said the sailor. “And rain.”
“I’m having trouble picturing that,” said Ellison. “How can a little rain make up for the fact that the oceans are just pouring over the sides of Krim all the time?”
“Don’t tell me you believe in the whole ‘flat Krim is a conspiracy’ theory.”
“I don’t know what to believe,” said Ellison. “I guess that’s why I want to see for myself.”
“That’s a good plan,” said the sailor. “Do your own research.” He looked around. “Now, let’s see where we put the brochures.”