Hello, again, everyone! This is only my second story, so I still accept constructive criticism, and lots and lots of reviews! I base all my characters in all my "Oliver!" stories on the 1968 musical version.
Jack Dawkins, otherwise known as the Artful Dodger, casually strutted through the filthy, bustling London streets, unaware that he was being watched. The one watching him was not Bill Sikes, one of his accomplices, or Nancy, long-suffering girlfriend of afore mentioned Mr. Sikes, or even one of his many fellow pickpockets. No, this person, this... stranger, was completely different. He was a villain, always on the run. But not for the reasons you might expect. This man didn't do ordinary crimes like pick-pocketing or house-breaking; his line of work was much more sinister and a happy ending was never guarunteed.
His dark eyes never left Dodger's back as he carefully trailed him, weaving in and out of busy salesmen, shouting their wares and waving them high in the air for all to see. His mysterious appearance caused a few raised eyebrows, and a few mothers drew their children close to them as he stalked past. And right they were to do so. The man, however, paid them no mind, keeping his eyes on his goal in front of him. He was within touching distance of the boy now and had to stop himself from reaching out and grabbing him right then and there. 'No,' he told himself, 'not yet. Not in the middle of the street.' He continued to follow Dodger, who had no idea of the intentions of the stranger behind him. The boy, although dressed like a little gentleman, was unmistakably a street urchin. Or, so the man hoped. A high-society young lad would never do.
An plan already forming in his dark mind, he drew back into the shadows as the boy ascended some rickety, wooden, uneven steps and ran across a poorly made bridge, only to rap twice on an ancient wooden door. Whispering some words that was hard for the man to distinguish, the door was opened and the boy entered. The man smiled eerily to himself. The boy lived here; it would be easy to enter, and be even easier to silence the boy...
Dodger, helping to lock the door, grinned at his young companion before ascending some more stairs, walking directly across the large, damp filthy room to his benefactor; a grubby old man in a dark green trenchcoat known as Fagin. The grin not leaving his face, Dodger emptied the contents of his oversized blue tailcoat on the table in front of him. Two wallets, three handkerchiefs, a snuffbox and two pocketwatches; Dodger had certainly done well this evening. The old man eyed the treasures greedily before praising his young ward. Dodger pulled out a small joint of ham from yet another one of his pockets and from under his top hat, a loaf of bread and proudly placed it on the table.
"Definitely been 'ard at work, ain't we Dodger?" smiled Fagin, as he snatched up the ham and sliced it with a sharp knife, before he placed it in a pan and held it over the fire that was crackling merrily. Dodger smiled again and took a place at the table where, as always, there was a card game going on.
Needless to say, the boys ate very well that night, thanks to Dodger. They actually went to bed with full stomachs, a rarity for them. Many of them had actually fallen asleep fully-clothed, not even bothering to take their shoes off, Dodger among them. It seemed that their full stomachs' made them heavier sleepers, for nobody awoke, or even stirred, when a loud creaking was heard outside the front door. The door was old; if someone wanted to break in, it wouldn't be hard. The handle rattled gently, the rattler not wanting to wake up the occupants inside. The sharp, unmistakable blade of a knife was slotted through the crack in the door, attempting to break the ancient lock. This was quite easily achieved and the door finally swung open on its rusty hinges. A tall, thin but well-built man stood in the doorway, the moonlight making only his silhouette visible. The house-breaker walked into the room, casting an eye at all the sleeping boys, looking for the one he saw earlier.
Spotting him at last, he silently strode over to the bed, keeping to the shadows. Dodger was asleep on his side, his back facing the stranger, who just stood there, watching him sleep. After hurriedly looking around him, the man moved to the end of the bed and placed a hastily-scribbled note at the foot. Returning to his previous position and knowing he had to be quick, the man bent down and wriggled one arm under Dodger's neck, ready to cover his mouth if needed, while his other arm snaked around the boy's waist. Taking a deep breath, he pulled, dragging Dodger off the bed.
Dodger's eyes shot open instantly, not registering what was happening in his half-asleep state. Had he fallen out of bed again? No, he couldn't have, because he didn't feel the hard, wooden floor beneath him. He then realised that not only was there a hand covering his mouth, but someone was holding him also. Panic set in and he started to struggle. The stranger wasn't expecting this, and almost lost his grip on Dodger, who was fighting to get the man's arm away from his mouth. Keeping his hand firmly in place, the man lowered his other arm, trapping Dodger's hands and lifting him off the ground. Dodger continued to fight the stranger, but to no avail. He carried the struggling boy over to the door, which had swung closed. Whilst he was busy hooking his foot in between the crack between the doorway and the door, Dodger finally managed to free his mouth and, after sucking in a deep breath of air, screamed at the top of his lungs,
Grabbing Dodger's chin, the man covered his mouth once again, before quickly sprinting across the bridge and down the stairs. Turning the corner, his kidnapper pulled out a large rag from his pocket and, fumbling with it, tied it one handed around Dodger's eyes, so the boy wouldn't be able to see anything. This took quite a bit of time, as Dodger was struggling all the while, making it difficult for the man to blindfold him. Eventually, the rag was affixed, and he started to drag Dodger away again.
"Who yelled? Come on, speak up!" yelled Fagin, angry at his sleep being disturbed. Dodger's cry had awoken the boys, but none of them knew who had made it. Fagin stumbled from his sleeping-place, eyeing the boys; some were trawling around the den, searching for the source of the cry, while the others were sitting up in their beds, rubbing the sleep from their eyes. "Is anybody 'urt? Is everyone 'ere?" There was a few murmurs that everybody was present and that nobody had been injured, until Charley Bates piped up.
"I can't see Dodge anywhere." Those words made Fagin stop what he was doing immediately.
"Search the den!" he ordered, ignoring the protests and complaints, telling them not to stop until he knew where Dodger was.
"'Ey, Fagin, look what I found," said Ace, another of his older boys. He was standing by Dodger's bed and holding a crumpled-up piece of paper. Fagin snatched it from his grasp, almost not wanting to look at it. What could it be? A note from Dodger? Impossible; he could barely write, he knew how to write his name and that was about it. He looked down at the paper, but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw:
'I have the kid. Don't try and look for him.' Upon reading this, Fagin ran towards the small, grubby window and forced it open. Straining his eyes in the dark, he was quickly able to make out a shape. It was a man. A man dragging something - or someone - away. Squinting, he stuck his head out of the window and saw whatever the person was dragging had feet. Kicking, struggling feet. And he knew instantly that that man had kidnapped Dodger.
Ignoring the questions the boys fired at him like missiles, Fagin charged out of the slightly ajar door, across the bridge, down the stairs and was racing in the direction the man had went. But when he turned the corner, the street was empty.
"DODGER!" he called, cupping his hands around his mouth the maximise the sound. No answer. Fagin ran down the deserted street, darting down every single side alley he saw, but he found nothing and no-one. He decided to go back home; the boys would be able to help look for Dodger. He would ask Bill and Nancy, as well. He needed all the help he could get. Fagin vowed not to rest until he had found Dodger. But who would take him? And why?
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