Havok Publishing

Guttersnipe

By Bethany Kohler

It isn’t positively raining, but there is a mist in the air that seeps through one’s clothes. A young boy stands beneath a lamppost, staring across the cobbled street. One trouser knee is patched, and the other needs patching. He shrugs his shoulders and buries his cold hands deeper into his pockets.

A door opens; light and noise spill into the dark street. The silhouette of a man appears, carrying a cane, with his bowler hat sitting awry. He makes a dismissive gesture toward the ruckus behind him and staggers out into the street.

The boy steps forward. “Spare a copper, sir?”

“Bugger off.”

The boy eyes a ruby ring on the man’s little finger, and the silver knob on his cane.

“You want I should find you a cab, sir?”

“I said bugger off, you little nuisance!” These words are punctuated with an impotent wave of the silver-knobbed cane. The man turns and makes his winding way up the street. Soon he is nothing more than a vague shape in the mist.

The boy follows, slinking through the haze like a cat.

For nearly two miles, up and down the sprawling city streets, the stealthy guttersnipe stalks the oblivious drunk.

Finally, the silver-knobbed cane raps thrice on a red door. It is opened by an elderly gentleman wearing spectacles. He does not seem pleased to see the man in the wayward bowler hat.

The guttersnipe slips closer, carefully staying in the shadows.

“How dare you come here at this time of night,” the old gentleman says savagely. “And in such a state!”

“No need to take that tone with me,” gripes the man with the silver-knobbed cane. “Do you think I came all this way for the pleasure of your company? I’ve got something you’ll want to hear.”

“Well?”

“I was down at The Rose an’ Bird just now. Overheard a gentleman boasting of a recent acquisition. A legendary treasure from the far North, said to possess mystic power.”

“The Stone of Beradura,” the old man mutters. There is a hungry gleam behind his spectacles.

“Yes, the Stone of Beradura. And what’s more, I know where it is and how to get it. But we’ll have to act tonight.”

The guttersnipe steals away unobserved. When he reaches the corner, he breaks into a run. The darkness and the fog prove to be no impediment. He knows exactly where he’s going and weaves the shortest route to get there. After two odd miles, he turns the corner of Arlington Street, and stops at number twenty-three. The street door is unlocked, and he slips inside. He stands for a moment in the vestibule to catch his breath before knocking on the inner door.

“They fell for the bait, Mr. Thorne,” he says when the door opens.

The tall man in the doorway smiles. “Excellent. Good work, Davey.” He disappears for a moment and reappears with one arm already in the sleeve of his trench coat. “I’ll take it from here, lad.” He slips a coin into Davey’s palm.

“Thank’e, sir.” Davey touches his cap.

“There’s just one more favor I would ask of you.”

“What’s that, sir?”

Mr. Thorne begins buttoning his coat. “Would you mind staying and keeping my fire going while I’m out? I may not be back till morning, and I’d rather not come home to a cold grate.”

Davey grins. “I’d be happy to, Mr. Thorne.”

“Excellent!” Mr. Thorne fastens his last button as he and Davey trade places.

Davey stands inside the detective’s apartment with his hand on the door, but he doesn’t close it. “I was just wondering, sir…”

Mr. Thorne pauses at the street door.

Davey cocks his head. “Do you actually have the mystical stone, or is it all a ruse to catch the gem thieves?”

Mr. Thorne’s dark eyes twinkle. He raises his brows mysteriously. “I’m not going to tell you all my secrets at once.”

Before Davey can say another word, the street door closes, and the trench coat melts into the mist.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Kohler is a writer and poet with a penchant for witty banter, a weakness for verbose descriptions of scenery, and a passion for weaving truth into fiction. She carries a deep regard for 19th-century literature, and counts many dead authors among her mentors. When she is not reading or writing, Bethany might be found baking delectable pastries, sewing historically inspired dresses, or singing anything from folk songs to Broadway tunes.


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