Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief, p.1Catherine Jinks
BY CATHERINE JINKS
THE CITY OF ORPHANS SERIES
A Very Unusual Pursuit
A Very Peculiar Plague
A Very Singular Guild
The Paradise Trap
The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group
The Reformed Vampire Support Group
The Genius Wars
THE PAGAN CHRONICLES
Pagan in Exile
First published by Allen & Unwin in 2015
Copyright © Catherine Jinks 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to the Copyright Agency (Australia) under the Act
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‘In London . . . being able to navigate the streets isn’t just considered knowledge, but is formally called “The Knowledge” . . .’
DAN STONE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
‘Knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.’
THEOPHILUS GREY —An honest linkboy, known about London as ‘Philo’.
GARNET HOOKE —A lawyer’s clerk, very cunning, who has raised Philo to serve him.
NATHANIEL PAXTON —A surgeon-apothecary, kindly and humorous.
FRANCIS ‘FLEABITE’ LEADBITTER—The youngest linkboy, with the fiercest temper.
DANIEL ‘DANDY’ DODDS—A linkboy much admired for his angelic features.
WILLIAM ‘LIPPY’ WHITTLE—A linkboy distinguished by his sturdy frame and hare-lip.
‘FETTLER’ BEN THOROUGHGOOD—Servant to Garnet Hooke.
VALENTINE ‘VAL’ BRODY—An Irish linkboy often employed to guide sedan chairs.
CHRISTOPHER ‘KIT’ MALTMAN—A reformed thief turned linkboy.
SUSANNAH QUAIL—A young pedlar of rosemary and information.
TOBY MACKETT—A pot-boy.
SCAMPER KNAGGS—The leader of his gang, savage but sorely misled.
COCKEYE MCAULIFFE—A footpad recently returned from foreign parts.
GUGG WORRIS—The youngest of the gang, and the most foolish.
JEMMY JUKES—A thief felled by a mysterious stroke of ill-fortune.
THE HELLFIRE GANG
NOBBY COCKLE—A dangerous footpad.
BEANS O’NEILL—A cunning footpad.
HELLCAT NAN DOOLEY—Beans O’Neill’s woman, a veritable harpy.
CIVIL JOE CONSTANTINE—A highwayman renowned for his elegance.
DAN LAWLER—A highwayman much given to aping Civil Joe’s mode of dress.
HULKS DOUGHTY—A very large highwayman.
BLUFF BOB CROW
HENRY FIELDING—The Bow Street magistrate, and Garnet Hooke’s client.
SIMON EDY—An addled beggar.
ARCHIBALD DUNCUFF—A pawnbroker.
HENRY BAMBRIDGE—A watchmaker.
DERBY SINNOCK—A young ne’er-do-well.
BLACK JENNY JONES—A notorious thief.
OBADIAH ‘CHARLEY’ HURLOCK—A feeble parish watchman.
JASPER ‘JUNKS’ LECOURT—An ostler at the George Inn.
CHAPTER 1: OF A REMARKABLE LINKBOY & HIS ENCOUNTER WITH A THIEF
CHAPTER 2: HOW THE MYSTERY OF JEMMY JUKES ONLY GREW MORE PUZZLING
CHAPTER 3: SHOWING HOW PHILO’S RARE TALENTS RECOMMENDED HIM TO MR PAXTON
CHAPTER 4: CONCERNING PHILO’S CREW, MR GARNET HOOKE, & THE COLLECTING OF INFORMATION
CHAPTER 5: WHAT PASSED BETWEEN PHILO AND A YOUNG FEMALE FRIEND
CHAPTER 6: AN ACCOUNT OF PHILO’S BID TO ESCAPE TWO RUFFIANS LONG KNOWN TO HIM
CHAPTER 7: CONTAINING A DIALOGUE ABOUT THE HARM DONE BY SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS
CHAPTER 8: HOW PHILO STUMBLED UPON ANOTHER STUPEFIED CITIZEN
CHAPTER 9: A DISCOURSE BETWEEN PHILO AND HIS CREW CONCERNING THE ODD BEHAVIOUR OF CERTAIN ROGUES
CHAPTER 10: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN PHILO WENT TO CONSULT SUSANNAH AGAIN
CHAPTER 11: OF AN UNEXPECTED VISIT FROM A HOUSEBREAKER, AND WHY PHILO WAS SO TROUBLED BY IT
CHAPTER 12: IN WHICH, AFTER SEEKING HELP, PHILO WITNESSED A PERPLEXING DISAGREEMENT
CHAPTER 13: CONCERNING A ROBBERY IN WHICH THE HELLFIRE GANG MAY HAVE BEEN IMPLICATED
CHAPTER 14: OF AN UNEXPECTED AND HIGHLY UNWELCOME VISITOR
CHAPTER 15: HOW PHILO SET OUT TO WARN HIS FRIENDS ABOUT THE DEMON THIEF
CHAPTER 16: AN INTERVIEW IN A COOKSHOP, FOLLOWED BY A MEETING ON THE ROAD
CHAPTER 17: OF AN UNFORTUNATE COINCIDENCE, AND WHY IT PUT PHILO IN GREAT PERIL
CHAPTER 18: CONTAINING SEVERAL NEW MATTERS NOT EXPECTED
CHAPTER 19: HOW PHILO ESTABLISHED THAT MR PAXTON WAS TELLING THE TRUTH
CHAPTER 20: A NIGHT-SCENE, WHEREIN VIOLENCE ENVELOPED THE STREETS OF THE PARISH
CHAPTER 21: HOW PHILO AND HIS CREW MET WITH ANOTHER CASUALTY OF THE DEMON THIEF
CHAPTER 22: A DISPUTATION BETWEEN MR PAXTON AND MR HOOKE
CHAPTER 23: IN WHICH PHILO, ON RECEIVING TERRIBLE NEWS, SET OUT ON A DANGEROUS ADVENTURE
CHAPTER 24: THE ARRIVAL AT DYOTT STREET, AND WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS
CHAPTER 25: MORE ADVENTURES, FOR WHICH PHILO WAS WHOLLY UNPREPARED
CHAPTER 26: WHAT PASSED BETWEEN PHILO AND THE DEMON THIEF
CHAPTER 27: AN ACCOUNT OF PHILO’S QUEST TO SAVE SUSANNAH
CHAPTER 28: THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT PHILO LEARNED AT RAT’S CASTLE
CHAPTER 29: A SURPRISING INSTANCE OF LOYALTY AND AFFECTION
CHAPTER 30: BEING AN ACCOUNT OF EVENTS THAT OCCURRED SOME THREE MONTHS LATER
OF A REMARKABLE
LINKBOY & HIS ENCOUNTER WITH A THIEF
Philo hurried along Turnstile Alley, heading for the George Inn.
It was past midnight. Recent showers had turned the street into a swamp, so Philo took care to avoid the drain that ran down its centre. Instead he stayed close to the mean little shops on his left, which were full of secondhand furniture and household goods. The overhead signs creaked and groaned as a stiff breeze punched its way along the narrow passage, tugging at the flames of Philo’s torch. Then a shutter s
Philo cursed under his breath. The nightsoil had missed him by inches. Glancing up, he recognised the round-shouldered silhouette of the locksmith who lodged in number nine. Philo could identify every person living in that house because he was familiar with all the residents of Turnstile Alley. He knew their names, their occupations, and their habits.
It was his job to know.
‘You, there! Linkboy!’
Philo stopped short. For a moment he thought that the locksmith had called to him. Then he realised that he’d been hailed by a shadowy figure shuffling down the street in his direction.
‘Will you light me to the Turk’s Head?’ the gruff voice continued. ‘There’s a baubee in it for you.’
Philo frowned. A ‘baubee’ was a halfpenny – but only to people who understood thieves’ cant. Raising his torch, he peered into the darkness with eyes like chips of blue glass, trying to make out the face of the man approaching him. Philo’s own face was long and pale and expressionless, crowned by a mop of wild, dark curls and a broad-brimmed hat of felted wool.
Philo was proud of his hat. Though it was stained and battered, he thought it gave him a measure of dignity.
‘I fear I cannot help you, sir,’ he replied. ‘I’ve an errand to run.’ This was quite true. He had been hired to carry a message to the George Inn by a man too drunk to deliver it himself. But even if he hadn’t been otherwise engaged, Philo would have turned down this latest offer of work. A person who used thieves’ cant was unlikely to pay up at the end of a trip – and Philo had no wish to lose the fourpence he’d already earned, escorting people through the murky streets of the parish.
As he measured the distance between himself and the man closing in on him, Philo considered his options. Though barely twelve years old, he was tall for his age, and nimble. He was also familiar with every escape route in the neighbourhood. And the torch in his hand could be used as a weapon, if he had to defend himself.
Luckily, however, it didn’t come to that. Philo was about to retreat when the man who’d addressed him suddenly emerged from the darkness. Though Philo recognised his long, bony head, with its wall-eye and thatch of greasy grey hair, he had to think for a few seconds before he could put a name to the face – which belonged to his early childhood.
Cockeye McAuliffe. That was the name. Cockeye McAuliffe was back. He’d been transported to the colony of Virginia for theft, some five years earlier. Now he’d returned to London, and was probably stealing again.
But Philo wasn’t alarmed. Though Cockeye might have been a thief, he wasn’t a footpad. He didn’t attack people on the streets. Cockeye’s specialty was housebreaking; he’d always run with a crew of experienced lock-pickers.
‘Do you know Jemmy Jukes?’ asked Cockeye, drawing so close that Philo had to step back a pace. Cockeye had rotten teeth and bad breath. There was also something sinister about his low, grating, whispery voice that made Philo think of a dry branch scraping against a slate roof.
‘I know Jemmy,’ said Philo. Jemmy Jukes was another housebreaker. He lived on Dyott Street, drank at the Turk’s Head tavern, and was fond of snuff. Philo knew a lot about Jemmy, even though they’d never exchanged a single word, because Philo did more than just guide people through dark alleys. His team of linkboys was like a flock of sparrows, ranging far and wide to collect tiny seeds of intelligence that they could carry back to their master. Such intelligence was worth money to a large number of people: thief-takers, magistrates, churchwardens, bailiffs.
‘Have you seen Jemmy Jukes on the streets tonight?’ Cockeye demanded, his restless gaze flitting from window to window. When Philo shook his head, Cockeye explained, ‘He was to meet me at the King’s Arms, but never did. I’m inclined to think the worst, for there’s something strange abroad.’ Cockeye dragged his attention back to Philo, then lowered his voice even further. ‘Has aught been troubling you in the byways hereabouts? A lurking shadow? A foul stench?’
‘There’s foul stenches aplenty in London,’ said Philo, checking to see that no one was creeping up behind him. Cockeye’s jittery manner was making him nervous.
‘Aye, but a foul stench that follows you? Like a faithful dog?’ Cockeye grimaced, wiping the sweat from his jaw. ‘Something’s amiss,’ he added. ‘There’s a curse on these streets. I’ve felt it, like a chill. You should mind how you go, boy.’
Before Philo could answer, Cockeye loped off, his shoulders hunched and his head down. Philo stood for a moment, staring after him. Was Cockeye drunk? He didn’t look drunk.
Perhaps his spell in Virginia had driven him mad.
Philo made a mental note, then hurried on his way. He didn’t have far to go. The George Inn lay just off Castle Street, down a passage that led to Long Acre. One of the ostlers working there – a fellow called Junks LeCourt – was owed three guineas by an old-clothes dealer named Aeneas Sterne. Philo had been hired by Mr Sterne to convey his apologies to Mr LeCourt. ‘Tell him I don’t have the chink,’ Aeneas had told Philo, slurring his words as he fumbled in his pocket. ‘Tell him he’ll have it next week, on my honour.’
Philo doubted very much that Junks LeCourt would accept this apology with good grace. The ostler was a short-tempered man who kept bad company. It was likely that he would ask one of his highwaymen friends to retrieve the debt from Mr Sterne. But as someone who prided himself on doing a good job, Philo was determined to locate Junks and deliver Mr Sterne’s message, no matter how poorly it might be received.
He was emerging onto Castle Street when a shrill voice hailed him from somewhere to his right.
Glancing around, Philo spotted a pair of bobbing torches over by the rear gate of the Red Lion Inn. Both torches belonged to members of his crew – one to Lippy Whittle, the other to Fleabite Leadbitter. Philo identified the two boys at once, despite the darkness. Fleabite was very small, with red hair that gleamed like copper in the torchlight, while Lippy’s big, sturdy, shambling frame was as recognisable as his oversized Quaker’s hat.
‘We just saw a fight outside the Red Lion,’ Fleabite announced. Only eight years old, eager to learn, as quick as a fox and with a temper as fiery as his hair, he had been bought from a married couple who’d been training him up as a pickpocket. Philo’s master called him an ‘indentured apprentice’, having paid a five-pound bond for him. But it was Philo who’d recommended Fleabite as a likely linkboy.
In Philo’s opinion, Fleabite was too good to end up in a prison hulk – or on the end of a gallows rope. Fleabite sparkled like a diamond, as bright as his own hair. And Philo had always known that the boy would make back every penny Garnet spent on his upkeep.
‘’Twas a rare set-to,’ Fleabite went on cheerfully. ‘I didn’t know the big cull, but the small one was that gingerbread-baker who keeps a shop by the almshouses in Broad Street. The big cull gave him a good basting – didn’t he, Lippy? A quick bout of handy-blows, then he picked up a stool and—’
‘Did you find no custom at the Red Lion?’ Philo interrupted. Though he was talking to Lippy, it was the younger boy who answered.
‘We might have done, if a Bow Street constable hadn’t chased us off.’ Fleabite paused for a moment, scowling at the memory. ‘Called us rogues and vagrants, the clunch!’
‘But we’ve pulled in fourpence between us, so far,’ Lippy added. At thirteen, he was older than Philo, though not as quick. Thanks to his hare-lip, his missing front teeth, and his thick, barking voice, he had never been able to hold down a respectable job selling nuts or mackerel. Instead he’d been reduced to begging on the street, until he’d grown big enough to work as an unlicensed porter. Then Philo had befriended him, and had discovered that Lippy possessed a truly startling visual memory. Everything that Lippy saw he remembered in vivid detail, right down to the number of buttons on a coat.
It was Lippy’s memory that made him so valuable.
‘We thought to assay the George Inn, next,’ said Fleabite. But Philo dismissed this suggestion with a grimace.
‘Go to the Blue Bell,’ he proposed. ‘I’m bound for the George myself. And there’s a punch club at the Blue Bell tonight.’ Before Lippy could do more than nod, Philo added, ‘Have you seen Jemmy Jukes lately?’
Fleabite and Lippy exchanged looks. Then they shook their heads.
‘I just spoke to Cockeye McAuliffe,’ Philo continued. ‘He asked me if I’d spied Jemmy on my rounds.’
‘Cockeye’s back?’ said Lippy.
‘He is,’ Philo confirmed, as Fleabite peered up at him with knitted brows.
‘Who’s Cockeye McAuliffe?’ Fleabite wanted to know.
‘A housebreaker,’ Philo replied. ‘One o’ Scamper’s crew, back from a spell in Virginia. You was barely breeched when he left.’ Tapping his chin with one finger, Philo let his gaze drift down the street, alert for any passing trade. ‘I’ve a notion Cockeye was foxed,’ he continued, ‘though I’ll own he didn’t look it. He spoke very strange. Told me he feared for Jemmy, and asked if I’d been troubled by a lurking shadow, or a foul stench.’
‘A foul stench?’ Fleabite echoed. ‘That would be Lippy.’ He laughed and ducked as Lippy aimed a blow at his ear.
‘He warned me there’s a curse on these streets, and said I should be wary,’ Philo finished. ‘You’ve not seen aught to disturb you hereabouts?’
‘No more than usual,’ said Fleabite.
‘Only the fisticuffs,’ said Lippy, jerking his thumb at the Red Lion.
Philo grunted. As leader of his crew, he felt responsible for his friends’ safety – especially if some sort of threat was roaming the parish.
‘Well . . . keep your eyes open,’ he said at last. ‘And watch for the rest o’ Cockeye’s gang – Jemmy Jukes, or Scamper Knaggs, or Gugg Worris. Take note o’ the street they’re on. For if a house comes to be stripped close by, we’ll know who did it.’
Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief by Catherine Jinks / Young Adult have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes