"Pisst! Nancy. Nancy!" Bet whispered harshly as she tried to wake the sleeping girl. "Oh come on Nance! You mustn't sleep-in today!''
"Nancy get up- you have to!"
"Why?" The girl replied sleepily rolling over onto her left side pulling the blanket up over her head.
"Fagin wants to introduce you to some of the boys and even maybe, if your lucky enough, take you to town on your first errand."
"Oh alright," Nancy replied before forcing herself upright and flinging her feet over the edge of the bed.
Gingerly she placed her left food on the ground before gently testing her right one; seeing if it was strong enough to withstand most of her weight.
"It doesn't hurt as much anymore?" Bet asked curiously, handing a her a cloth and motioning to a basin of water a few feet away. "You can get freshened up over there, the boy's are out on a job but Fagin wants us to meet up with him personally near the park at eleven."
"What time is it anyway?" Nancy asked slightly limping as she headed over to the basin, rubbing her eye's vigorously as she tried getting all the sleep out of them.
"Ten thirty, we'll have time to get a bite to eat if we hurry, now wash up and meet me downstairs at the first bridge you come to," Bet said as she hurriedly headed out of the entrance. "Oh and Nancy, bring some of the bread that was left over from last night, as well as some gin. I have a feeling that two people are going to be very hungry."
"Who?" Nancy asked confused, had she known there were so many different people she'd have to get to know and meet, she would of attempted to try and record their names down on a loose piece of paper.
"You'll find out later, now come on."
Bet quickly handed Nancy a piece of bread as the two walked down the lane toward an old oak tree that was centered in the middle of the park. Sitting down under the tree Bet smiled happily.
"You know, I'm really happy that you came along. If Fagin hadn't of found you three day's ago, I don't know what I'd do. It's awfully lonely being the only girl around, I've got no one to talk to." Bet said sheepishly, before she hadn't really thought about having another girl along with her, but now she was truly grateful for it. "I know it's only been a short while since you got here but I really am glad that I'm not stuck by myself with a lot full of boys." Nancy let out a giggle, that thought had never accrued to her.
"Well wouldn't you be the fancy of every little one of their imaginations, if you were the only one here."
"Of course, but now I got someone to share the joy with." Bet said smiling. Nancy was about to respond when she noticed a shadow looming over them.
"Ello Nancy, how'd ya sleep?"
"Good," Nancy said glancing at Bet nervously, she wasn't used to all this attention. "I was just asking Bet about all the other children around here. The ones that I haven't met yet."
"Well then, how about you meet them ones eh?" Fagin said grinning like a Cheshire cat and gesturing for the two of them to follow.
"Where are we?" Nancy whispered to Bet as Fagin led them down a set of stairs that were well hidden from the rest of the world. Bet quickly put a finger to her own mouth to silence the red head while inwardly praying that Fagin hadn't heard the comment.
"Plummy and Slam!" Fagin whispered stridently while banging on the back of a wooden door.
"Who is it?" Sounded a heavily drunken voice.
"The queen of Sheba! Who the heck do you think it is?" There was a pause before Fagin restlessly began to whack the door again. Nancy glanced nervously at Bet who squeezed her hand in an attempt to sooth her. Shuffling seats were heard skidding across the floor before the sound of locks being pried open were heard.
Slowly the door creaked open and the thick smell of beer wafted into the night as the man led the two girls into the tavern. Nancy clung to Bet as they followed the Jew down the damp stone made hallway silenced by the fear of what might happen if they spoke out of turn.
"FAGIN!" A welcoming cheer sounded up from the crowd gathered around a few tables as the three people entered a brightly lit room.
"Welcome Nance, to the Three Cripples." Fagin announced putting his arm around the girl, leading her to a side table and pulling up a chair for her to sit in. Nancy's mind was spinning. She remembered this place, she remembered it all to well. Shuddering at the thought of her mother and the countless men she had gone around with, inwardly she made a vow never to let what her mother did become part of her.
"Lookie what we got here. So I take it that this is the new girl you were talking about Fagin." A blond haired boy in a warped green top hat and a navy blue tailed suit jacket said walking over to the table.
"Ain't she the prim and proper one."
"Now you just pay him no mind, he don't have any respect for a lady."
"What you talking about Bet? What you mean I don't got no respect for the ladies? I'm one of the most respectable people you'll ever meet!"
"Of course you are Toby, of course you are. I said you don't got no respect for anyone, not that you don't get it!" Bet said rolling her eye's as she sat down beside Nancy, who smiled up unimpressed at her.
"So, bring any food?" The golden haired boy asked coyly, smiling at the two girls.
"That's all you think about isn't it?" Bet said throwing one of the pieces of bread they had brought with them to the boy. "Why can't you just buy food here, like a normal person does?"
"Aw come on you know I'm to good to be normal, besides being a gent is far to proper for the likes of us." The boy replied teasingly as he joined them at the table.
" Don't I know it. Nance, your not still hungry are you? If ya are I can get some food for you if you'd like."
"No I'm fine, thanks anyway Bet."
"Would you listen to them manners she's got. You sure she ain't got nothing wrong with her?"
"Shut it Toby!" Bet snapped whacking the boy's head with her hand. Grumbling to himself Toby got up, glared at both girls and then stalked out of the tavern. Fagin shook his head disapprovingly before disappearing behind a corner.
"You sure she ain't with the beak or traps?" A voice asked the Jew as he came around the corner.
"Almost positive. I still don't get why your so concerned Bill. I mean, what's she ever do to you?"
" First of all, its ain't what she did do, its what she can do. To me and to you!" The boy hollered at the man. "I mean every time you see some penniless kid, you bring em in! One of these day's one's gonna turn on you! And then we'll all be going to the madhouse!"
"Easy now Bill! I'm pretty sure that little miss Nancy over there ain't going to rat on us. She barely knows anything about us and our uh, operations."
"Fine but if she squeals, its on your shoulders!" The boy hissed getting up and stalking past the man who then quickly grabbed his arm.
"Suppose you are right, and she does have some connection with the beaks. I suppose we'd have to make sure that we don't tell her nothing about anything till later and take the time to sort of, break her in."
"What you getting at Fagin?"
"In time, all in time Bill. Now you just get back to… Well wherever you were or whatever you were doing. I'll bring Nancy and Bet back to the place later on today. Try and make a good entrance. We don't want her to ruin anything of tonight's proceedings." Fagin said a cruel grin emphasizing his features.
"I'll be there at seven sharp and I'll expect you to be waiting." Bill said pulling away from the man and heading out of the club unnoticed. Despite everything Fagin had said about the girl, he still didn't trust her. Something just didn't seem right and he wasn't about to let some frizzy little red head ruin everything he had strived to get. Without another thought, he darted down the alleyway deciding to find out some information on this new girl.
"But why all the whispering and secrecy? I'm sure that I could just ask someone if they could get ya some work or tell them about you and everyon-"
"YOU AIN'T EVER SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT US!"A large man screamed at the young ginger haired girl. "And if you do, you can be sure you won't live much longer to tell very many people!"
"Whoa! EASY NOW! Don't want to scare the poor thing off!" A bar maid with long brown curls draping over her shoulders yelled at the man while placing a comforting hand on the young girl.
"Miss honestly, I didn't mean anything!"
"It's alright love. Don't pay any heed to them, they don't know what they say,'' the woman said snarling at the rest of the men in the pub that had stopped to watch the scene.
"I just thought that-"
"Honey don't worry about it, they're all brainless brutes anyway. They'd be able to handle themselves."
"But why were they so offended. I just wanted to help…"
"Nancy, Toby just said that Fagin is waiting for us outside," Bet said approaching the two. "We should hurry, he looks worried about something."
"Come on you two, I think I'd better bring you to him." The woman said taking both of them by the hand and walking out of the room.
Fagin's eyes lit up when he saw them approaching. Eagerly he sauntered up to them. Bet quickly pulled Nancy off to the side, allowing Fagin time to talk to the older lady.
"Who is she?" Nancy asked Bet confused. Not many people in her life had dared to stand up for her; and here out of anywhere in the world, someone was.
"Her name's Terra, she's a bar maid in The Three Cripples. About one of the only girls in this whole area other then me, you, two other bar maids and her daughter."
"Daughter? But she's so young."
"Well things happen around here when your young."
"Is she married? She must have a husband to take care of her then."
"Look Nancy, we live quite differently then the towns people. We've got our own little society." Bet said unsure of how to explain their way of life to the distraught girl.
"I don't understand I-"
"Nance, Bet, would you come here please?" Terra asked smiling. She was nineteen, the youngest bar maid and adult female occupant in the area. Her oldest sister had met Fagin ten years ago and had introduced her and her other sister to him and he had raised them ever since and eventually got them a room in The Three Cripples when they were too old to stay with him; they then had eventually come to be its owners.
"I was just discussing with Fagin about how you two live with a lot full of boys. So since I know that it can't be that pleasing to ya, I was wondering if you'd like to stay with me. I've got the space. There's a extra room with two beds waiting for ya both in the top loft of the pub."
"You know Nancy, Bet. I think it would be better for you," Fagin said as a toothy grin spread across his face. "We could muster you a right little job when your old enough. Of course if you say yes to living with Teri here, you'll have to live two months with me to learn how we get about here."
"Sure Fagin." Nancy said unsure of what to do next. Should she accept? If she did what job would he have her do? What training could she possibly need to acquire to be able to live with these people? Something wasn't right about this situation. Not right at all.
"Well come on my dears, look at the time. We best be getting back to the place; give you plenty of time to think about your answers." Fagin said rushing the two girls along. " Thanks Teri."
"Bye Fagin, Nancy, Bet!" The woman shouted after them smiling before heading back into the club.
"ME!" Fagin shouted as he waited outside the entrance to his home. Great. Locked out once again.
"What are you trying to give me a heart attack in my old age?" The Jew said as he walked into the den with the two girls at heel.
"Of course Fagin, what you think?" A stocky young boy replied as he sauntered up to the man.
"All right, alright my dears. Lets see what lovely gifts you gathered today." The bearded man said sitting down on a bench as the boys gathered around him.
"I GOT THREE WALLETS!" A boy shouted while waving one of the cases in the air.
"WELL I GOT FIVE HANDKERCHIEFS!" A dirty blond curly haired boy said placing them in front of the Jew who nodded in approval. Fagin smiled as he watched Nancy tilt her head confused.
"You eh, doing o.k. over there Nance?" He asked audaciously.
"How'd you get all those? You must be awfully good workers." The girl said as before a muffled laughter broke from the group.
"Ain't she the green one!" A boy laughed while lighting a long wooden pipe.
"Ooo ya, were all real, real hard workers here. We're all very, free spirited."
" So where do you work? I could help out maybe." Nancy said hopeful that they'd stop laughing.
"She really is stupid! Where'd you find the likes of her Fagin!"
"She's probably some rich persons kid who ain't had a moment in the real world. What? This life aint good enough for ya?" A short boy asked mockingly.
"Now you just leave my family out of this!"
"What you going to do about it flame head?" The boy asked throatily. Nancy's froze. What had she said that was so wrong? She only wanted to help.
" I just, I-"
"Come on Fagin give us a break. Please don't tell me that she's actually staying with us!"
"Keep your traps shut!" The Jew yelled to silence them. "Now thanks to your little show, you ain't getting any pay today!" A loud groan ruffled through the den.
"Thanks a lot flame head." A boy hissed as he stalked past the girl who was obviously hurt.
Nancy shuddered, refusing to let herself cry in front of everyone. She didn't want to be here, she didn't want to be here at all.
Sighs. Sorry it took so long to update. Thanks to all my reviewers and I hope you review again. Poor Nance, she doesn't seem to be fitting in very well, does she? Will Bill find out anything about her past? Is she working for the traps? Will she eventually make friends among Fagins gang? Will I ever stop rambling on and on? Please Review to find out! (More of the story's full plot revield in next chapter.