The summer came to an end, the trees had changed their colours and more and more leaves fell tumbling down from their high crowns. A brown haired, freckled boy of maybe ten years leaned against a wall and observed little Jack pilfering fruits from the stalls. "That one's good!" the boy thought to himself and followed the little thief when he left the market place. When he saw the boy vanish under a small bridge and not come out again the observer smiled, turned on his heals and ran off.
The next evening an old man walked by the riverside towards the bridge which was Jack and Daisy's hideout. He wore a long, dirty coat, had a black hat on his red hair and his face was quite ugly, with dark twinkling eyes, a big nose and thin lips that were surrounded by a messy beard the same colour as his hair. He stopped in front of the bridge. One of his boys, Sam, had told him of the little one living under there who he had seen stealing things as easy as if it were nothing. Now Fagin, as the man was called, wanted to have a look for himself. Maybe this boy was just the right addition for his little gang of pickpockets. He could always use lads with talent and when they were still quite young they were easier to train.
Slowly he crept under the bridge, holding a handkerchief over his mouth and nose to fight off the stench that met him. Not far down along the wall he saw rags on the ground. He moved closer and saw that around the rags food was piled up, some seemed weeks old and was moldy, others were fresh. He took a closer look at the rags then stepped back in shock. Just at that moment a child's voice from the entrance of the bridge shouted: "´Ey, get away from ´er, ya old devil! This is our place, ours alone!"
Fagin turned around to stare at the small boy out of whose mouth the words flew. He looked very young indeed, a lot younger than he had expected or was used to train. He was less then one meter tall, barefoot and dressed in clothes so tattered even the word "rags" would have been too fine a word. He was covered in grime, and Fagin could see the lice crawling through the black, matted hair on his head. But he looked at Fagin with eyes full of fire and intelligence. In his hands were some fresh bread and a wallet so well filled, that Fagin could nearly smell the money over the nauseous stench that hung in the air. Sam did well to point this little thief out to me, Fagin thought, imagining all the influence he could have over someone so young.
He went towards the boy, who took a step back and slapped himself on the nose three times in response.
Fagin lifted up an eyebrow in wonder at this antic, then looked back at the rags: "Ours?"
"Yes, ours! This is me and me sisters ´ome and you ain´t welcome ´ere!"
"I see." Fagin nodded. "What is your name boy?"
"Ain't none o' your business, old man!" The boy hurled back at him.
Fagin smiled. He already liked this one.
"Allright." He backed off with his hands raised, palms facing the child. "Listen boy, I can see ya ain´t stupid. The girl that ya bring food to, she´s dead, and I'm sure ya know it. She must o' been dead a good many weeks now."
"She's sleepin'!" Jack shouted back at him, slapping himself again. "Leave us alone! I´m tired too!"
Making his way past the man, while trying to keep as much distance as possible between them, he went to his sister. "I have brought ya some bread and got us some money too. If that ain´t a toffs life, innit Daisy?" he announced proudly, before he lay himself down at her side.
"Ya know she ain´t eating the food ya bring to ´er." tried Fagin again.
"G´ night, Daisy." Jack whispered and closed his eyes ignoring the annoying intruder.
"It´ll be winter soon." Fagin said. "I can offer ya a place to stay."
He waited but no answer was forthcoming.
"´Ow old are ya boy?" Fagin asked, but still he received no answer. "Come on, boy I know ya ain´t sleepin!"
"Am!" Jack retorted and pressed his eyes shut even more tightly than he had done before.
"If ya be asleep, then why is it ya can answer me, eh?" asked Fagin smiling.
"Ain´t ya feelin´ lonely ´ere under the bridge? In my ´ome there are other boys, who love playin´ and doin´ pranks. Wouldn´t ya like that my dear? Hm?"
"There's a hot fire, food and drinks."
"Can feed us fine meself!" Jack spat.
One of my lads saw ya stealin´ yesterday." Fagin continued." ´E said you´re really good at it."
"That's 'cause I am!"
"I could make ya even better!"
Fagin chuckled. What a feisty little fellow he was.
"Well think about my offer, m'dear and think about the coming winter. I´ll send someone around to ya tomorrow."
With a grin Fagin left the boy. He had a plan. He wanted this one and he knew just the right person to send to him and convince him to come.
The next evening the door to Fagin's ken opened and twelve year old Nancy entered with the boy from under the bridge holding her hand. "´Ere ´e is Fagin." She tried to shove him towards her mentor, but Jack held tightly onto her hand.
Fagin smiled. "So ya decided to take me up on my offer, my dear? " He took a step towards him, which caused Jack to press himself tighter against Nancy's skirts and again hitting himself with his free hand.
The girl winkled up her nose. "´E stinks!"
Fagin shook his head warningly to silence her, though he himself found the stench that emanated off the boy hard to ignore. That said much, for his nose was used to foul odors living the life he lived and sharing his home with a bunch of street urchins.
"Why don't ya and Nancy sit down at the table, hm? The sausages are ready and the tumblers are filled. Come, come, my dears and get yourselves a seat."
Jack eyed Fagin warily, but he nonetheless ate a fair share of the sausages and drank the gin and water offered to him, till he felt his body warmed and his head swirling. Slowly his eyes began to drop. He fought the sleep for a moment or two, than lost the battle. With a smile of victory Fagin picked him up from his seat and tucked him into one of the many rough beds on the ground. This boy would become a loyal member of his gang, he was sure of it. And though the lad was quite a queer little thing, the old man had the feeling he would turn out very profitable indeed.
AN: This is sort of a frame story, but there will be other stories (when I have the time and motivation to write them) that show in some more detail the one or other day in Jacks first years with his mother and Daisy (and Eric) or on the streets. And there will also be continuing stories that show his life with Fagin. All stories that give more detail to this one or continue it, will have the first title „Kin of Jackdaw" with a second individual title following.
And thank you for the reviews! :)