The Society of Thirteen

The Society of Thirteen by Gareth P. Jones

Book: The Society of Thirteen by Gareth P. Jones Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gareth P. Jones
at picking out the frauds and the deluded. Mavis struck him as neither. Right or wrong, he was in no doubt that she believed every word.

Chapter 22
    Esther stared out at the river. She was worried. Tom should have been back at the warehouse by now. Even if something had gone wrong and he had failed to snatch the book, he should have come back. Esther was staring so intently into the darkness that she nearly jumped out of her skin when a quiet meow from the window signalled the arrival of a black cat. She wondered whether it could possibly be the same one she had seen outside Mr Symmonds’ house.
    â€˜Hello puss,’ she said.
    The cat stepped down onto the mattress. Esther stroked its back, while her mind ran through every possible reason for Tom’s absence. None of them was reassuring but one in particular scared her more than the others. Although Esther was only a couple of months older than Tom, she had looked out for him since his first day at the orphanage. It had been her idea to leave and make a life of their own on the streets. If Esther acted as a mother to him then it stood to reason that a time would come when he outgrew her and left her to make his own life, just as they had both outgrown the orphanage.
    The creak of a floorboard snapped her out of her thoughts. Someone was inside the building, and it wasn’t Tom. He always came in around the outside of the building. This intruder was coming through the inside, jumping up onto the upper floor.
    â€˜Who’s there?’ Esther pushed the cat off her lap and picked up the piece of wood with nails in one end that she kept by the side of her bed.
    â€˜I’m not surprised you don’t get many guests if you give them all such a welcome.’ Harry Clay stepped into the room.
    â€˜Why are you here?’ demanded Esther.
    â€˜I wanted to congratulate you on an excellent performance today at the bakery. Some of the best misdirection work I’ve ever witnessed.’
    â€˜I didn’t see you there,’ replied Esther.
    â€˜No more than your mark saw you dressed up as a baker’s boy,’ said Clay. ‘There’s a lot of not being seen today, but it’s what people like you and me are good at, isn’t it? That’s why I had to leave Ringmore out of this one. He’s a smart fellow, but he sticks out like a sore thumb.’
    â€˜A sore thumb in a top hat,’ said Esther.
    â€˜Exactly. However, I’m not hiding now and we can see each other clearly.’ He held out his open palms.
    â€˜I don’t know what you want.’
    â€˜Isn’t it obvious?’ said Clay. ‘The same thing you wanted when you did your whole flour-throwing act. I want the book, Esther.’
    â€˜I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.’
    â€˜Let’s drop all the lies now, shall we?’ said Clay.
    â€˜I haven’t got it.’
    â€˜Of course not. When you failed to make a straight snatch in the shop you used the flour and planted the purse so your target would ditch it. I’m guessing it was Tom’s job to get it if that happened. You were the distraction. Tom was picking up the book, wasn’t he? So what shall we do while we wait for him to arrive?’ He pulled out a pack of cards. ‘You play?’
    â€˜You can’t just break into people’s homes and expect them to play cards with you.’
    Mr Clay laughed. It was rich, warm, genuine laughter and it made Esther feel sick to the soles of her feet.

Chapter 23
    Shortly after Tom and Esther ran away from the orphanage they had met an old woman by the name of Mrs Drew who lived in Whitechapel. She was kind to them, even if she did engage in long conversations with her bottle of gin, which she called
my lovely.
She offered them a place to stay for the night, but late that night she crept into their room, holding her gin bottle in one hand and a bread knife in the other. It was lucky Tom

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