This chapter is dedicated to Jewell, without whom there may have never been another chapter! Thanks to her and all the other reviewers! Hope you enjoy this and there is more to come.
Not long after they had finished their morning meal and Nancy had cleared away the breakfast things, Bill stood and began to gather the tools he would need for the job he had planned that night with Toby. Nance watched as he loaded the lining of his great coat with jemmies and an assortment of other tools of his trade.
"Are you leavin' soon then?" Nancy asked, sitting down at the room's lone table once she had finished what little cleaning there was for her to do.
Bill grunted in assent as he continued with his preparations for the crack, now clearly in work mode.
Nancy sat in silence, knowing not to bother the man with unneeded questions when he was in this mood. She watched for several more minutes until Bill rose to stand unsteadily on his bad leg while he pulled on his great coat.
"Is your leg still hurtin' that bad, Bill?"
Bill ignored the question as he pulled his jacket closed and headed for the door. Seeing that he was indeed leaving Nancy rushed to the bed to collect the new hat, he had left behind in his haste to leave, and called after him. "Bill! Don't forget yer hat."
Bill had already had his hand on the door knob when he turned and accepted the proffered hat from the girl's hands. He in it's rumpled form before turning a questioning eye to Nancy.
"You fell asleep on it last night." She said. She expected an angry outburst to follow but was relieved when the man simply shrugged and tossed it on the table.
"Straighten it out, will ya." He said placing a kiss on the girl's surprised lips. "And don't wait up." He added, knowing full well she would anyhow, before he threw here a lop-sided grin and closed the door behind him.
As Bill made his way through the crowded streets he was thankful that the weather was in fact quite cool, the brightness of the sun having previously convinced him otherwise. If that had been the case he would have stood out quite a bit in his heavy great coat, awarding him with unwanted attention from the beaks. As it was he was still on the look out for them, he was a familiar face to the London police and took great precautions to avoid them no matter the situation.
He easily blended in with the bustling crowds, weaving through the carts and shop displays, eyeing the ample of opportunities that lay around him with the practiced ease of a career criminal. He managed to hold himself in check however, not wanting to risk drawing unsolicited attention on the day of what promised to be a very profitable venture.
It wasn't long before Bill found himself climbing the steps to Toby's flat in a less than desirable neighbourhood. He knocked heavily on the worn wooden door and didn't have to wait long before he heard a man's voice call out.
"S'Bill." He growled. "Lemme in." He heard Toby grumble something he couldn't quite decipher as a chain and bolt were released prior to the door being wretched open and Bill strode across the threshold.
"Mornin', Bill. How are ya?" Toby greeted in his usual cheerful manner.
"Fine." Bill replied. He looked Toby up and down, noting the man was only wearing his night shirt. He understood fully, however when his gaze traveled past the man's shoulder and he saw Bet sprawled across the room's loan bed. "No need to ask how yer doin', I'd wager." He grinned at his friend.
"Yea, well…" Toby shrugged.
"Well make 'er scarce. We need ta go over the plan fer tonight's crack."
"I know Bill, I know. But who am I to turn a lady out before it's absolutely necessary." Toby laughed as he made his way across the messy apartment to where the woman lay before rousing her with a gentle shake. "Eh, Bet. Nance needs some company today."
Bet moaned and pulled the covers over her head in a playful manner.
"You'd best be movin' or I'll set Bill on ya." Toby warned in an amused voice.
Bet threw off the blankets and looked up in dismay. Catching Bill's glare she jumped up and hastily threw on her cloak and searched for her boots.
"Mornin', Bill. How's the leg today?" The woman asked as she struggled with a particularly stubborn knot in her boot lace.
"Fine, Bet. Nance'll be waitin' at the flat fer ya." He took the boot from the woman and, with a few tugs from his steel trap fingers, he had the knot undone and handed the boot back to the anxious woman who laughed nervously as she accepted it.
"Thanks." Bet quickly tugged on the boot and hopped on one foot towards the door, stealing a kiss from Toby on the way. She saw the two men sit down at the table to go over their plans as she was pulling the door shut behind her and headed down to the busy street.
Bet was in no hurry to get to Nancy's, she took her time, taking in the sights of the busy market streets. She was so distracted by her perusal of the market that she walked straight into a man as he was climbing out of the back of a cart.
"Oh, I'm so sorry." Bet cried as she straightened her cloak and backed away from the man.
"It's quite alright." The man replied. "I'm sure it was my fault." He said, brushing the dirt from his clothes that had accumulated there during his travels.
"No, it was my fault." Bet insisted. She patted the man's coat seemingly helping him beat the dust off but in actuality searching for his wallet.
"Perhaps you can help me." The man said, oblivious to her hand dipping under his coat. "I'm looking for a friend of mine; I believe he lives around here. Bill Sikes?"
Bet let the wallet slip back into the man's pocket at the mention of the housebreaker's name. "You're a friend of Bill's?" She asked, taking a step back.
"Yea." He eyed her cautiously. "Do you know him?"
"Well, can you tell me where I can find him?" The man asked, smiling at her disarmingly.
This time Bet regarded him cautiously, unsure as to whether or not she could trust the man, but was eventually swayed by his kind face. "He's busy at the moment but you'll most likely find him at the Three Cripples come night fall."
The man's face lit up at the news and he inclined his head in a gallant gesture toward Bet. "Thank you, Miss. Forgive me for not doing so earlier but my I inquire as to your name?"
Bet was impressed with the man's manners. It reminded her of when Toby dressed a flash and acted high class in order to get information on a plant. "Betsy."
"Well, Miss Betsy, may I treat you to a meal in way of thanks?" The man asked offering his arm to the woman.
Bet smiled and looked around before taking the man's arm. "Will ya tell me yer name first?"
The man appeared to pause a moment before replying. "Stephen."
"Just a meal then, Stephan?"
Stephen laughed as they began to walk towards the nearest tavern. "And a drink?"
Bet nodded. "That sounds more like it."
As they walked Bet noticed Stephen had a slight limp in his step. "Are you alright? Yer limping."
The man shrugged as he looked down at the offending limb. "It's just stiff from the cart ride."
Stephen and Bet looked back down the street to see the cart driver beckoning.
"Excuse me a moment." Stephen said over his shoulder as he walked back through the crowd to meet the man.
"You've forgotten your friend's hat." The cart driver said, handing the item to Stephen and leaning against his cart.
"Thank you." Stephen replied. "And thanks for the lift." As he turned and left the man was thankful that the bold black letters that spelled out Shefferington across the side of the cart had been had been missed by Bet. He was also thankful that he had managed to find out the name of the man he was searching for when the cart driver had stopped at a public house on the outskirts of London. A quick description of the man with the black bead and violent temper had revealed that he was very well known by the men that frequented the establishment.
"Not a problem, I hope you can find your friend." The cart driver called as the other man made his way back into the crowd.
"I already have." Stephen said. He checked to make sure he was out of sight of the cart driver and tossed the hat to a couple of children playing near an alleyway before making his way back to Betsy. "I already have."
Please leave a review!