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       Gideon 02 -The Time Thief, p.1

           Linda Buckley-Archer
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Gideon 02 -The Time Thief


  LINDA BUCKLEY-ARCHER

  THE TIME THIEF

  BEING THE SECOND PART OF

  THE GIDEON TRILOGY

  SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

  NEW YORK LONDON TORONTO SYDNEY

  Al Cetta

  THE TIME THIEF

  Also by Linda Buckley-Archer

  The Gideon Trilogy, Book One: THE TIME TRAVELERS (previously titled GIDEON THE CUTPURSE)

  SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2007 by Linda Buckley-Archer

  First published in Great Britain in 2007 as The Tar Man by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

  First U.S. edition 2007

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Book design by Al Cetta

  The text for this book is set in Caslon Old Face BT.

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Buckley-Archer, Linda.

  [Tar man]

  The time thief / by Linda Buckley-Archer.—1st American ed.

  p. cm.

  Summary: When an attempt to bring Peter and Kate back to their own time is bungled, Peter finds himself stranded in 1763 while the Tar Man, a villainous eighteenth-century criminal, returns with Kate to twenty-first-century London.

  ISBN-13: 9781416915270 (hardcover)

  eISBN-13: 978-1-439-10353-1

  [1. Time travel—Fiction. 2. Robbers and outlaws—Fiction. 3. Great Britain—History—George III, 1760-1820—Fiction. 4. London (England)—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.B882338Tim 2007

  [Fic]—dc22 2007017859

  For Catherine Pappo-Musard

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  CONTENTS

  TO THE READER

  ONE: OXFORD STREET

  In which the Tar Man has his first encounter with the twenty-first century, and Kate and Dr. Dyer agree to conceal the truth from the police

  TWO: THE FALL OF SNOWFLAKES

  In which Mrs. Dyer sees something alarming, the Tar Man finds what he is looking for, and Kate contacts Peter’s father

  THREE : ANJALI

  In which the Tar Man shows what he is made of, and Kate and Mr. Schock break the law in Middle Harpenden

  FOUR: THE OBSERVER

  In which a gentleman takes a keen interest in an article on cricket

  FIVE : ALTERED SKYLINES

  In which Kate and Mr. Schock make a surprising entrance into the eighteenth century, Peter steals a can of Coca-Cola, and the Tar Man makes a useful discovery

  SIX: VEGA RIAZA

  In which Hannah speaks her mind, the Tar Man gets a new name, and Kate gives Augusta a fright

  SEVEN: KANGAROOS AT KEW

  In which Queen Charlotte offers her friendship to Peter, and Kate and Mr. Schock hear some distressing news

  EIGHT: INSPECTOR WHEELER’S CHINESE TAKEOUT

  In which Inspector Wheeler congratulates himself on a successful hunch and enjoys a celebratory meal

  NINE : DR. PIRRETTI’S BOTTOM LINE

  In which Mr. Schock gets on Kate’s nerves and Dr. Pirretti surprises Dr. Dyer

  TEN: THE SWING OF A CHANDELIER

  In which Kate takes a dislike to the Marquise de Montfaron and the party makes the acquaintance of Louis-Philippe

  ELEVEN: CUPID’S ARROW

  In which a chance encounter delights the Tar Man and Anjali sees more than she bargained for

  TWELVE: GHOST FROM THE FUTURE

  In which the Tar Man confides in Tom, discovers the joys of haunting, and clears up an unresolved matter with Lord Luxon

  THIRTEEN: THE SIX CONSPIRATORS

  In which the six conspirators make plans in the Derbyshire farmhouse and Dr. Pirretti makes a confession

  FOURTEEN: PETER’S NOSE

  In which Mr. Schock gets a close shave, the party encounters a traffic jam, and Kate becomes suspicious

  FIFTEEN: THE DOVER PACKET

  In which a supporter of the revolution flees the country and receives a hero’s welcome, Kate confronts Peter, and the party arrives on French shores

  SIXTEEN: THE SCENT OF BLOOD

  In which Kate and Louis-Philippe meet a fugitive from Paris and Peter loses his temper

  SEVENTEEN: THE QUEEN’S BALCONY

  In which the Tar Man displays his talents and Inspector Wheeler becomes obsessed with a new master criminal

  EIGHTEEN: HELICOPTER!

  In which the Tar Man sends his calling card, Detective Inspector Wheeler finally learns the truth, and the Tar Man tries out his new toy

  NINETEEN: THE LIGHTNING CONDUCTOR

  In which the town of Arras suffers a violent thunderstorm and the party reaches its destination

  TWENTY: LE MARQUIS DE MONTFARON

  In which the party finds itself on the receiving end of the Marquis de Montfaron’s hospitality, Kate’s grip on time is diminished, and Mr. Schock predicts the future

  TWENTY-ONE: DUST AND ASHES

  In which Tom shows his mettle, Anjali has cause to regret her actions, and Lord Luxon plants an idea in the Tar Man’s mind.

  TWENTY-TWO: THE CHALK MINES OF ARRAS

  In which the party finds itself in a difficult situation

  TWENTY-THREE: A BARGAIN, A GIFT, AND A REQUEST

  In which the Marquis de Montfaron strikes a bargain with the party, Peter sends a gift to the future, and the Tar Man requests Lord Luxon’s help

  TWENTY-FOUR: THE HARVEST BALL

  In which Peter attempts eighteenth-century dancing and Gideon finds that someone has been sleeping in his bed

  TWENTY-FIVE: DINNER OF THE CENTURIES

  In which the party has much cause to celebrate, Dr. Pirretti makes an impression, and Sergeant Chadwick takes Molly for a walk

  TWENTY-SIX: TIMEQUAKE

  In which Kate and Peter renew an old acquaintance and this story comes to an end

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  TO THE READER

  The accidental discovery of time travel in a laboratory in Derbyshire sent two twelve-year-old children hurtling through the centuries, and once set in motion, the train of events triggered by the unlikely encounter of a golden Labrador, a Van de Graaff generator, and an antigravity machine seemed unstoppable.

  It is said that a person’s nature is only revealed in adversity. If that is so, then the events described in this volume will put the characters of Peter Schock and Kate Dyer into sharp relief. For, as I have previously described, it was at the instant these children believed they were leaving the eighteenth century never to return, that they were plunged into a new set of circumstances which would test their courage to the limit. Kate and her father, Dr. Dyer, managed to return to their own time, but Peter was left stranded in 1763, his place taken by the Tar Man, a villain whose path, it seemed, they were fated to cross.

  Dr. Dyer blamed himself for the escape into our century of the Tar Man, henchman to the corrupt Lord Luxon, and one of the most gifted and feared criminals in the London underworld of 1763. Here was a man who, at a tender age, was hanged for a crime he did not commit, and when, miraculously, h
e managed to cheat death at the gallows, it left him angry at the world that had dealt him such a cruel blow. Yet Dr. Dyer should not have been so quick to blame himself—after all, who can shut Pandora’s Box once it has been opened?

  It was of much comfort that Gideon Seymour would be at Peter’s side, trapped as he was in 1763. Formerly in the employ of Lord Luxon, along with the Tar Man, Gideon had befriended the children at great risk to himself. Despite his brief career as a cutpurse, Gideon was an honorable young man who, as Parson Ledbury said on more than one occasion, had a more finely tuned conscience than any man of the cloth of his acquaintance. As in the first volume of this tale, it is to Gideon’s unique testimony, The Life and Times of Gideon Seymour, Cutpurse and Gentleman, 1792, that I sometimes turn.

  The crucial role that Gideon Seymour played in the disastrous aftermath of the discovery of time travel is yet to be related. However, this present volume must focus on the stories of two characters above all—the Tar Man, also known as Blueskin, and Kate Dyer. It chronicles the former’s dramatic entrance into the twenty-first century and the latter’s brave and determined search through time for her young friend, Peter Schock.

  This is not a story about hopeful beginnings and easy endings; this is a story about characters who find themselves in a harsh place, not knowing—which is true for us all—how it will all end, and always conscious that only hope and determination stand between them and disaster. The Marquis de Montfaron, who always displayed such steadfast faith in science and truth, was very fond, as you will see, of philosophy. Kate noted down some of his ideas because they gave her comfort when her own grip on time was failing. Kate asked me if I could reproduce them here and this I am very happy to do.

  —Citoyen Montfaron, ci-devant Marquis de Montfaron (Citizen Montfaron, formerly Marquis of Montfaron), 1792

  Time is not our master, despite the relentless swing of the pendulum. Through the power of memory and of imagination, do we not swim through the rivers of time at will, diving both into our past and our future? Equally, the notion that time is constant is mere illusion. The passage of time, which is irrelevant in our dreams, is ignored in activity and is only truly experienced in a state of extreme boredom. Therefore, do not let time be your master , rather, seek to master time.

  THE TIME THIEF

  I DID NOT SLEEP THE NIGHT I FEARED WOULD BE MY LAST ON EARTH. INSTEAD, MY MIND’S EYE SURVEYED THE FAMILIAR LANDSCAPE OF MY LIFE’S JOURNEY AND I TRIED TO MAKE WHAT SENSE OF IT I COULD. MY FEVERED MIND SWUNG BETWEEN TERROR OF THE NOOSE THAT WAS TO SQUEEZE THE LAST BREATH OUT OF ME; ANGER AT THE INJUSTICE OF MY PLIGHT; AND BLIND, THREADBARE HOPE THAT MY OWN STORY WOULD NOT END—JUST YET.

  I DID NOT SLEEP. HOW COULD I WASTE ONE SECOND OF THE LIFE THAT REMAINED TO ME? TO BE ALIVE! JUST TO BE ALIVE! TO THINK AND FEEL AND SEE AND TOUCH! YET I BELIEVE THAT BY THE TIME DAWN BROKE OVER NEWGATE GAOL, I HAD MADE MY PEACE WITH GOD AND I PRAYED, NOT ONLY FOR MYSELF, BUT ALSO FOR HE WHO HAD FALSELY CONDEMNED ME: LORD LUXON.

  OFTTIMES IN THE INTERVENING YEARS, I HAVE DESIRED TO RECALL THOSE DARK HOURS IN MY CONDEMNED CELL—NOT FOR THE HORROR OF IT BUT FOR THE CLARITY IT BROUGHT TO MY SOUL. FOR NOTHING IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN LIFE ITSELF—AND NOTHING IS EASIER TO TAKE FOR GRANTED. I NEVER FORGET THE DEBT I OWE TO MY RESCUERS WHO RISKED SO MUCH TO PLUCK ME FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH AT TYBURN: TO THE LATE SIR RICHARD, AND PARSON LEDBURY, BUT, MOST OF ALL, TO KATE AND TO PETER.

  A SMALL FLICKER OF HOPE LIVES ON THAT PETER AND HIS CHILDHOOD FRIEND MIGHT ONE DAY, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, BE REUNITED, BUT WE NO LONGER SPEAK OF IT. THERE IS ONE EXCEPTION, HOWEVER. ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE DAY MY LIFE WAS SAVED AND PETER’S BIRTHRIGHT WAS LOST, PARSON LEDBURY HAS LONG BEEN IN THE HABIT OF CALLING AT HAWTHORN COTTAGE, BEARING BOTTLES OF HIS BEST CLARET. WE SIT UNDER THE SPREADING BOUGHS OF THE OAK, AND AS WE WATCH THE SUN SET OVER THE VALLEY WHICH WELCOMED PETER INTO OUR CENTURY SO MANY YEARS AGO, THE THREE OF US RAISE OUR GLASSES TO LIFE, TO ABSENT FAMILIES, AND TO THE HEALTH AND HAPPINESS OF MISTRESS KATE DYER.

  IT WAS, OF COURSE, ON THAT SAME DAY, AUGUST 1, 1763, THAT THE TAR MAN, IN TAKING HIS PLACE AT THE MAGIC MACHINE, STOLE THE LIFE THAT RIGHTFULLY BELONGED TO PETER. HAVING CHEATED DEATH AT THE GALLOWS, WE SHARE MORE THAN ONE BOND, BLUESKIN AND I. I PITY HIM NOW ALL THE MORE, AS I TRULY UNDERSTAND HOW HIS BITTERNESS TOOK AWAY ANY CHANCE OF HAPPINESS ON THIS EARTH. MANY IS THE TIME I HAVE WONDERED WHAT PETER’S CENTURY HELD IN STORE FOR THE TAR MAN AND WHAT HE DID WITH THE LIFE THAT HE STOLE.

  —THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GIDEON SEYMOUR, CUTPURSE AND GENTLEMAN, 1792

  ONE

  OXFORD STREET

  In which the Tar Man has his first encounter with the twenty-first century, and Kate and Dr. Dyer agree to conceal the truth from the police

  It was late afternoon on December 30, the last Saturday of the Christmas holidays, and freezing fog had settled, shroudlike, over London. It had been dark since four o’clock and wherever street lamps cast their orange glow, droplets of moisture could be seen dancing in the icy air.

  In Trafalgar Square, seagulls, drawn inland by the severe weather, perched on top of Nelson’s head. In St. James’s Park, pelicans skidded on frozen ponds. Harrods, its immense contours outlined by a million twinkling lights, appeared to float down Knightsbridge like a luxury liner. To the east of the city, dwarfing St. Paul’s Cathedral, gigantic skyscrapers disappeared into the fog, their position betrayed only by warning lights blinking like ghostly spaceships from within the mists.

  Meanwhile, in a dank, dark alley off Oxford Street—a road that in centuries past led to a place of execution at Tyburn—a homeless man was stuffing newspapers down his jacket and covering himself with layers of blankets. His black and white dog, who had more than a touch of sheepdog in him, lay at his side, shivering. The echoing noise of the street and the drip, drip, drip of a leaking gutter swiftly lulled the man to sleep and he did not even stir when his dog got to its feet and gave a long, low growl. If the man had looked up he would have seen, looming over him at some yards distant, silhouetted black on black, and perfectly still, an alert figure in a three-cornered hat who sat astride a powerfully built horse. His head was cocked to one side as if straining to hear something. Satisfied that he was alone, the dark figure slumped forward and laid his cheek against the horse’s neck, expelling the breath that he had been holding in.

  “What manner of place is this,” he complained into the animal’s ear, “to unleash all the hounds of hell for making off with a single prancer? Though ’tis true you wouldn’t look amiss even in the stables at Tempest House. You have spirit—I shall keep you if I can.”

  The Tar Man patted the horse’s neck and wiped the sweat from his brow, though every nerve and sinew was ready for flight or combat. In his years as Lord Luxon’s henchman he had earned a fearsome reputation. Few dared say no to him, and if they did they soon changed their mind. He had his hooks caught into enough rogues across London, and beyond, that with one twitch of his line he could reel in anything and anyone. Nothing happened without the Tar Man hearing of it first. But here, wherever “here” was, he was alone and unknown and understood nothing. It suddenly struck him that his journey here had stripped him of everything—except himself. He clutched instinctively at the scar where the noose had seared into his flesh so long ago. What I need, he thought, is sanctuary. And a guide in this new world …

  The Tar Man knew precisely where he was and yet he was lost. The roads were the same but everything in them was different…. This seemed to be London yet it was a London alive with infernal carriages that moved of their own accord at breathtaking speed. The noises and the smells and the sights of this familiar, yet foreign, city tore his senses apart. He had hoped that the magic machine would take him to some enchanted land where the pavements would be lined with gold. Not this …

  He became suddenly aware of a faint scraping of heels on gravel behind him. Then a flicker of torchlight illuminated the deeply etched scar that cut a track down the blue-black stubble from his jaw to his forehead. He wheeled aroun
d.

  “Stop! Police!” came the cry.

  The Tar Man did not answer but dug his heels into the sides of the horse he had stolen two hours earlier from the mounted policeman on Hampstead Heath. Without a second’s hesitation, horse and rider jumped clear over the vagrant and his dog and plunged headlong into the crowds. The frenzied barks that followed him were lost in the blast of noise that emanated from the busiest street in the world.

  Wild-eyed, the Tar Man stared frantically around him. It was the time of the Christmas sales and half of London, after a week of seasonal overindulgence, was out in search of bargains. Oxford Street was heaving with shoppers, packed so densely that it took determination to walk a few feet. Never-ending streams of red double-decker buses and black cabs, their exhausts steaming in the cold, moved at a snail’s pace down the wide thoroughfare.

  The Tar Man drove his horse on, vainly trying to breach the solid wall of shouting pedestrians that hemmed him in. His heart was racing. He had stepped into a trap of his own making. He berated himself furiously. Numbskull! Have I left my head behind as well as my nerve? Do I not have sense enough to look before I leap?

  If he could have, the Tar Man would have mown down these people like a cavalry officer charging into enemy infantry. But he could scarcely move an inch. He was trapped. Glancing around, he saw a group of men in dark blue uniforms emerging from the alley, pushing their way violently toward him, as menacing as any band of footpads of his acquaintance. Curiously, one of them was shouting into a small object he held to his lips.

  Everyone was jostling and pressing up against him and screaming at him to get out of the way. All save a little girl who reached up to stroke the horse’s moist nose. Her mother snatched her hand away. The Tar Man’s eyes blazed. I have not come this far to fall at the first post! They shall not have me! They shall not! And he leaned down into the mass of pedestrians that pushed against him, and when he reappeared he was gripping a large black umbrella as if it were a sword. He thrust it at the crowd, jabbing at people’s chests and threatening to thwack them around the head to make them move away. Their piercing screams reached the policemen, who renewed their efforts to reach him through the crowds. Soon, though, the Tar Man had won a small circle of space in which to maneuver. He reversed the horse as far as it could go and whispered something into its ear. The policemen, now only five yards away, watched open-mouthed as they beheld a display of horsemanship the likes of which they were unlikely ever to see again.

 
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