All right, I'll put you out of your misery straight away. We didn't take the money. Not all of it, anyway. But we was entitled to our reasonable share of the profits, wasn't we?
Sorry? What does you mean – what is I going on about? Ain't you been listening to a word we says?
You remembers how we, Sal my magpie-daemon and me that is, nearly got ourselves into very deep trouble indeed over the small matter of a certain religious object what that silly little bint Maggie the drab talked us into nicking from the Papal Legate's house in Hampstead? The Reliquary? Ah – I can see the light dawning! Then you'll remember also how the glossy woman, who was after saving her own skin and keeping her name out of the newssheets, did a runner and told us to put the five hundred pounds she was going to use to buy the kids off Father Lugg the Slug with someone safe.
Take the lot, Sal says, but I thinks of the workhouse kids who haven't got much to wear and don't get much to eat 'cos of how that thieving bastard Lugg pocketed all the money the Parish gave him for running the Union for himself and his dirty little habits and I thinks that they deserves a bit of luck too, like we've just had.
Look; read the other story first if this isn't making much sense, all right? It's called The Reliquary.
So I scoops up about half the money off the office desk, trousers it, and follows the cops and Glossy out of the busted workhouse gates, leaving a respectable gap between us and them, of course.
We makes our way down the Tottenham High Road and back home to Limehouse. It's the small hours now and even quieter than before. Not to mention colder. There's still the chance that we might get picked up by the rozzers as there's no reason why a Penny Post delivery boy should be wandering the streets this late at night (or early in the morning) so we keeps our heads down.
When we gets back to Paradise Yard (did I say that's the select address where we lives?) we has another shock. Our home wasn't much – just half a basement room, small, with a sacking curtain to separate our bit from the other half – but it weren't a tip, neither. It is now. We guesses that the Church police has been here and turned the place over looking for you-know-what. My bed has been ripped up and the straw thrown everywhere and my chair is all smashed to pieces. Sal says that's what they does if they don't find nothing. They messes it up just to prove they can and you're nothing, so don't bother complaining 'cos if you does they messes you up too.
We can't stay here, so we does what we always does when we're in a jam – we goes over to Maggie's. She's a stupid little tart, but we likes her 'cos – I don't know, really. She don't look down on us, that's one thing in her favour. We knows she'll be glad to see us.
She ain't. She's furious with us. First, 'cos we've disturbed her and her daemon Jimmy's beauty sleep. (We sniggers) Doesn't we know what time it is? (No) Does we know how much trouble we've caused, what with the police and all? She's lost money because of us, what with the cops searching everywhere and her customers scared off and her business ruined. We ain't got no right to be showing our faces around here. And so on, and so on, until Sal and I is fed up to the back teeth with all this and tells her to shut up and shows her the money.
That changes her tune. She grabs all the dosh and heaps it up into lots of piles of ten sovereigns each. 'Blimey, Arthur,' she says, 'There's over two hundred quid here! Where did all this lot come from?'
We thinks it's best if we doesn't tell her the whole story about the Church Police and the Inspector and the shiny woman and the Zeppelin 'cos she'll only ask awkward questions so we spins them a yarn about selling the Reliquary to a rich dealer we finds in Barnet. So, she says, you has joined the ranks of the landed aristocracy now, have you?
I says yes, I is now a man of means. I expects that from now on I shall buy my suits in Savile Row and my cologne in Jermyn Street. Sal shall have an ermine-lined coat, as it is a little parky lately, doesn't you think. Would you care for a glass of Burgundy, my dear?
'Half's mine,' she replies, and before we can do anything she's pinched the cash. 'And before you even thinks about making a fuss, remember who put you on to this in the first place. There's my sister's friend in Hampstead wants her share too.'
It is in vain for us to protest about this. Instead, we takes off the Penny Post uniform we has borrowed and hands it over to Maggie and she gives us our old things back. Then we beds down on her floor and tries to catch up on our sleep. We needs it.
It's late and freezing cold when Sal and me wakes up. As I does not bank at Coutts we is not able to deposit the cash in our current account. So we decides to invest it in something worthwhile and strolls down the road to Brown's chop house where we has a great big breakfast with ham and bacon and sausages and black pudding and ketchup and fried bread and eggs and mushrooms and pickles and tomatoes and toast and marmalade and cups of India tea and after this we is feeling much warmer, though rather full. We does not invite Maggie and Jimmy to this repast as they can buy their own if they wants it.
Back at Maggie's it is clear that she is now a lady of leisure as she and Jimmy is still asleep in bed. Sal pecks at Jimmy's ear and they wakes up with much uncalled-for bad language. Why doesn't we go up West I says and get ourselves some decent threads? The idea of spending the day buying instead of selling appeals to them, we can see. 'Perhaps we can come off the game for a while,' says Maggie.
We takes a tram up the Highway to Tower Hill and then the Chthonic Railway to Oxford Street, where we hasn't been since we gave up thieving for a living. All the shops here is huge, with lifts and restaurants and their very own privies, and they've got sweet-smelling perfume counters by the front doors and wide plate-glass windows full of nice things we can't usually afford. But now we've got money – it's all in Maggie's purse – and we can do what we likes. True, the shop girls looks a bit snooty at us when we goes in and perhaps we're not the cleanest customers they ever had, nor the most fragrant, but when they sees our money they is all over us and very attentive to our needs. So we gets lots of good stuff; a fur coat and perfume and some pretty dresses and other things for Maggie and a suit and a white shirt and a silk tie for me, so I looks like the proper businessman, and a fabulous leather jacket like I only sees on pictures of aëronauts before – it's lined with real whale-fur and it's got polished brass buckles and buttons and leather straps and those fancy epaulette things on its shoulders – and proper leather boots for us both and a new gold anklet for Sal and a coat for Jimmy and then we has our dinner and in the afternoon we goes on a river cruise all the way up to Richemond and right down to Tower Bridge and come teatime we gets back home. The purse is feeling very much lighter now, but we is feeling just great. It's been the best day of my life.
I suggests that we goes to Brown's for supper and Maggie agrees. She tells me and Sal to look out of the window while she washes and changes but instead we goes back to our own place and puts on the suit and the tie and the dickie-front shirt and the leather jacket. I hopes we knots the tie properly. Maggie taps on the door, and we lets Jimmy and her in.
We is amazed. We scarcely recognises her. In her working clothes and slap she's like this horrible slag, truly the repulsive little tart, but we supposes that's what the punters likes. When she's off duty, so to speak, she's just dreary and tired. Now she's brushed her hair and she's wearing nice clothes, she's like normal. She looks just like the sort of nice respectable girl you might see in a nice respectable part of Town. And there's another thing. We've been thinking all this time she's really old, like twenty-five or something, but she ain't. She's no older than what we is.
'Good evening, Mademoiselle Doyle,' I says (that's Frankish, that is.) 'May we accompany you to the Savoi Grill? The carriage is waiting by the front entrance of our mansion and the horses is champing at the bit, ready for the off.'
'Brown's chop house tonight, young man, if you doesn't mind,' she replies. 'I feels like slumming it this evening.'
I offers her my left arm and she takes it and we saunters out of Paradise Yard and down the road where the pubs and shops is still open and doing a fair amount of business. We has this wonderful supper in Brown's. Maggie has a steak and I has a meat pudding with oceans of gravy round it and then we has strawberry ice-cream and the waiters offers tit-bits to Sal and Jimmy and they doesn't watch them with the drinks neither. You sees, some people has their daemons drink for them. Daemons, small ones anyway, doesn't need to drink as much as a human so you can both get comfortably drunk on one glass of brandtwijn. Publicans hates this and they chucks you out if they catches you at it. It's happened to us before, but not tonight, as I says. We're doing just fine. Every now and then the waiters comes round to look at us enjoying ourselves, and the pianist plays Roses of Picardy for Maggie.
When we finally leaves Brown's the air outside is freezing cold, especially as we has been so cosy inside, and I puts my arm round Maggie's shoulder to keep us warm as we staggers back to Paradise Yard. She puts her arm round my waist and I'm thinking that maybe we're getting to be quite friendly now and maybe Sal and me won't have to sleep on the floor tonight. Sal takes an accidental-on-purpose peck at Jimmy and that's all right so we stops under a lamppost and I kisses Maggie and that's all right too.
By the time we're at Maggie's door we're getting on famously and I'm sure my luck is in. But it ain't, 'cos Big George has got there before us. Big George is a leading light in the revenue collection arm of the local forces of law and order. No, not the police. This is the real forces of law and order. The ones what matter. They is here to look after the interests of the likes of me and Maggie, but naturally there is a tax to pay for this service. They calls it the Community Charge. Big George has come to collect our taxes. I should say that Big George does not get his name by accident. He is at least six foot three tall and he's large around the middle with it. He is wearing a long black coat and a flat cap and by the expression on his ugly mug it does not look as if he is here to pass thetime of day or enquire about our health.
'What do we have here,' says Big George. 'Effing Lord and Lady Muck? You is both looking very prosperous tonight, for a pair of dirty little slags.' I does not say anything. It is clear we is in serious trouble with the law.
Big George says that it has been noted that Maggie has not been at work today and that we has been seen having a posh supper in Brown's and that suddenly she and I appears to have joined the ranks of the newly rich. He says that for wealthy clients like us he can provide a premium service, but we shall have to pay a premium rate for it. Maggie says we can't afford no premium rate and, without even looking at her or losing his temper at all, he slaps her hard around the face. I shouts at him to stop but all he does is get his Alsatian-daemon to bare her teeth at me and I shuts up. I'm not all that brave with dogs, see. Maggie's face is red and she's screaming the place down, so he slaps her again, across the mouth this time, to shut her up. I'm shaking all over. Nobody's going to come and help us. Who cares about one stupid whore shrieking of a night in Paradise Yard?
Sal and me huddles down in a corner of the room, shaking and trembling. Big George rummages through the place, throwing stuff everywhere, while Jimmy hisses and spits at him and that evil daemon of his. Then he grabs hold of Maggie, locks his left elbow around her throat and gropes though her things with his free hand until he finds the purse. I is outraged, but what can we do?
'There we are,' he says, letting her go at last. She staggers across the floor and crashes into the bedstead. 'That was easy, wasn't it? You is both now fully paid-up members of the premium security plan. It has been a pleasure doing business with you. Good night, Sir and Madam, and sweet dreams.' And the bastard leers at me.
When Big George has left with all our money, Sal and me gets up out of the corner, still trembling all over, and goes over to Maggie, who's now sitting in her chair staring blankly at the wall. I says not to worry, we'll be all right, we've still got our nice things and she screams again louder than ever and throws herself at me and tries to claw my eyes out. She's scratching my face and drawing blood and I'm just standing there and letting her do it, 'cos I knows I've been a coward. And she's calling us awful cruel things and using words we never hears, not even on the Ratcliffe Highway and that's full of dockers and sailors, and we never says anything 'cos we knows she's right and we deserves every bit of it.
After a while she stops and slumps down in her chair and cries and only looks up once to tell me and Sal we can eff off now. We trudges across the yard and down the steps to our room and rolls ourself up in our fur-lined leather jacket and, though it's colder than ever and we feels rotten, we drifts off to sleep.