Prince Of Thieves

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
New England for a young boy with a dark past promises opportunity and hope.
For a conman with a lifetime of experience it is the perfect hunting ground.

A short story of two very different yet kindred spirits...

Submitted: October 20, 2013

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Submitted: October 20, 2013

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The church bells rang again, it felt as if sharpened pencils were being poked into his ear drums. He quickly gathered his things, a red handkerchief with black and white spots, a dirty joker card and a tiny pocket knife. He ran down the ladder and landed on the ceiling, ensuring that all his movements were as light as sand in the wind. Father Davids was walking onto the alter, he paused briefly and dipped his hand into a bowl and then made the sign of the cross. Fred waited until the priest was on his knees and in prayer before he made his way down to the church floor. He hid behind a pillar a few feet from the alter itself. Slowly he got on his hands and knees and started crawling towards the door. The statue of Jesus hanging from the cross stood firm right on top of the alter. Fred briefly turned to look at it,

"surely HE can forgive me for this" he thought.

"Amen" the priest granted, almost as if in response to the little boy's thoughts, so much so that it stopped him in his tracks. His heart was pounding in his chest, the door was in clear sight, he could make a run for it. However, that would mean he would never sleep in the church again, and winter was proving to be unforgiving. The priest returned to the back of the church to prepare for Sunday Mass. Fred watched from behind the benches as the priest, a tall and slight man with brown short curls, made his way into the inner room. As soon as the man was out of sight, he stood up and ran as fast as he could.

The harsh, cold wind greeted him as soon as he was outdoors. It stung his elbows where his coat was torn and brought tears into his eyes. He must get a blanket today, regardless of what might happen he must. He stretched the coat over his frostbitten fingers making it strain on his shoulders.

Ah! The smell of soup on a cold winter morning, it made his empty stomach yell like an Indian at war. His feet dragged him towards the smell, thick chicken soup with a slice of just as thick bread and a tender crust, he liked the crust very much. The shop owner stood behind a counter smiling at a little girl with a red bonnet who was nibbling a cookie.

"Good morning Miss" Fred knew how middle aged women liked being referred to as 'Miss' as opposed to 'Maam', made them feel younger.

"Yes, what do you want boy?" she snapped, her face immediately turning into a frown upon looking at Fred. His dirty tattered clothes, shoes that were a size too small and the dark, wild forest he carried on his head.

"I would like some bread miss, not too much just a slice would do."

"Can you pay for it?"

"No miss but..." before he could finish his sentence, the shop owner grabbed him by the collar and threw him out of the shop.

"And don't you come back," she yelled "dirty scum, always thinking everything is free.." she continued muttering all the way back behind her counter.

Fred stood in front of the shop, the chill slowly settling into his thin bones. He stared into the shop through the large glass display. A man and a woman sat at a table giggling happily, the man reached over and lightly caressed the woman's cheek, this made them fill up with color. This seemed to please the man very much. On another table a woman with long red hair sat with a young boy, no older than Fred himself. The boy had ordered the chicken soup, he took a spoonful and put it all into his mouth. He chewed it very slowly making sure to suck in all the flavour.

Outside the shop, Fred stared at him and imitated his every motion. He could almost feel the soup running down his very throat, warm and thick. The lady with red hair reminded him of his mother. Fred did not miss his family, he only wished it was not cold. He stood there, hair as dark as pitch, and eyes as blue as the fields of Norway. The muddy mountains of Coalsville raced through his head. His mother holding on to their wretched hut yelling:

"I will die in my husband's house, call them all, my husband will be home. I am not leaving!"

Speaking of a man who had never really been her own.

"Freddie! Freddie!" it was a familiar voice piercing through his memories. Slompy was racing towards a shivering Fred. His fleshy red cheeks flushing with the exercise. Slompy was a surprisingly large boy for someone who barely had enough to eat.

"Tis here you are hiding" he panted, landing a heavy slap at the back of Freddie's head. Slompy shook his hands slightly, he had intended for the slap to be lighter.

"Silver has been searching for you," he continued, realizing that Fred had no intention of responding to his last remark. Fred's hands were hot with rage, a tinge of fear still clung to him like a New England junkie to the remains of his final fix. Fear of what would happen if he allowed Slompy to take him back to Silver. He was glad he had run away from him, he did however wish he had not taken Silver's secret stash in the bedpost. He remembered his disappointment upon finding merely a few coins but he had taken them anyway. They had not lasted long for winter seems to stimulate hunger and he had used them in less than two days. Since then he had survived on cold bread from the priest's pantry and holy communion that often left him just as hungry and praying profusely out of guilt.

"Lets go.." erupted Slompy dragging a quiet Fred by the wrist, "Silver will be happy to see you."

"Please Slomp! Don't take me to Silver, please!" he begged, his pleas falling on deaf ears. Slompy was thinking about the meal that would be waiting for him as a reward for the prodigal son. His small beady eyes shone like new pennies and his mouth watered like the jaws of a hippo emerging from water.

 

"Are yee pleased Silver? Are yee happy with me? Are yee?" hastened Slompy, his heart leaping up and down quicker than his round feet ever could.

"Go to the pipes Slomp you will find the others there." said Silver, his maroon eyes never shifting from Fred. Slompy let go of his arm that was already as slippery as a snake with sweat. Fred looked as the stout boy left the room, his large head hanging with disappointment. There was hardly any light in the room. Dozens of mattresses were piled to one corner. The floor and the ceiling just as dingy as the rest of the room. A blanket of melancholy hung in the air, speaking silently of quiet sobs and broken children that lay beneath it every night.

"Well if it isn't the prince of thieves.." said Silver, the rusty rasp in his voice as evident as ever. Fred stared at him, his blue eyes bold and unflinching. Silver sat on the only chair in the room, a cheap old piece that he had dragged in from the street, but still treated like a work of art. His long hair a dark brown like his aged coat, so much so that one could hardly tell where the hair ended and the coat started. In his late thirties and having suffered from chronic insomnia for half his life, Silver still looked reasonably handsome. Then his most outstanding feature, his piercing shiny maroon eyes.

Those very eyes that had rendered him alone and helpless after being thrown out of the orphanage at six years of age. The nuns calling after him:

"Cum ignis oculorum dæmonium"

"Devil with the eyes of fire."

Now stood before him, his exact opposite. A small boy with dark hair and blue eyes, but just as great a conman and thief as he had ever been. His small, fragile face and innocence an advantage he knew how to use very well. He just didn't have the heart of a thief, too quick to share his food, too quick to lend a helping hand...

"You stole from me Fred, why?" Silver was the only one who called him Fred, in the same sympathetic tone that his mother had done.

"I wanted to go home." he whispered.

"Home where? Fred, to your Coalsville?" his tone turning into a mocking chuckle at the mention of the town. "To your drunkard mother boy? To your father cold and food for rats in the mines?" his voice escalating steadily, "or did you lie to me too boy?, well did yae..?"

Fred felt his eyes burn as if smoke filled the room. He was determined not to cry in front of Silver, he swallowed the lump that blocked his throat and dug his nails into his palms.

"Don't mock my father Silver!!" his shouted. "I am NOT the 'prince of thieves', I am NOT one of your lost boys, I am NOT a conman, I am NOT a trickster," he yelled, tears streaming down his cheeks.. "We take their money everyday, we take their watches, we take their wealth, but they take from us more than we could ever take from them. They take our souls Silver! "I am NOT the prince of thieves!"

"I am Alfred Plot..." he blurted, wiping tears off with the back of his hand..

"And I am nothing..." he said, his voice reduced almost to a whisper.

Silver's eyes gleamed red in the semi-darkness. A faint smile on his face. He admired the boy, truly he did. Never before had he come across such pure passion, pity it came along with a good heart, a waste of talent. Goodness how he wished he could have been able to mould him into the perfect con-artist.

"Come here Fred," he calmly said. Gesturing for the boy to approach with his long slender fingers. With his other hand, Silver fiddled in his coat. He took out a wrinkled brown envelope. Fred slowly approached Silver, expecting a blow or a slap. He saw Silver extend his left hand, in it was an envelope that he stuffed into Fred's shirt.

"That is what you have earned, you can get back to Coalsville and get back your father's cottage."

Tears started flowing down Fred's face, renewing his previous flow like the a river after a dry season.

"Don't yee cry boy, take care of yours mother. You are a good thief, but you are a better boy yee hear?"

"Thank you.." he muttered "thank you Silver.."

"Go, go, don't you forget me boy, don't yee forget what Silver did for you."

Freddie ran out of the door, almost tripping on his own feet. Not once did he look back.

A bump beneath the carriage woke him up. He sat at the bottom between the feet of an old lady in satin stockings and a young man in boots. Fred stared at the clouds through the window, dark and heavy. He wondered why Silver had helped him. Most of all however he wondered what waited for him in Coalsville. Another bump, he felt the envelope tucked safe and warm under his shirt. He had counted twenty large notes before putting it back where Silver had placed it.

He looked out at the sky and prayed he was going to be alright.


© Copyright 2020 Aaliyah Stone. All rights reserved.

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