Jeremiah Knox, twenty eight years and three days old, steals through the fog. He looks furtively from side to side as he lopes down the cobbled streets, listening to the heartbeat of the city through his soles. Down Smithson Lane, take a right at the bank, a job for another day, no time to dally, not now.
He checked his pocket watch, stolen of course. This particular piece was silver on a looping chain, one he had lifted with a simple collision. The incredibly fat former owner hadn’t given it a second glance, focusing instead on Jeremiah’s left hand, patting his chest in apology. He’d looked suitably affronted and couldn’t wait to get away from this strange creature that had accosted him in the street. The fat man had disappeared down the street, leaving Jeremiah the proud new owner of the silver pocket watch.
‘Twenty past the hour. Gotta run, gotta run.’ His speech matched his gait, loping and out of time. He’d avoided the Peeler hanging about the church. Bloody policemen with their uniforms and whistles, always hanging around trying to disturb good folk like Jeremiah. He might have added honest, but that’d be lying and lying was a sin.
He arrived, after ducking through alleys and jitties, at his target. The home of Mister William Woodruff the Third. Squeak and Flannigan had said that it would be a pushover tonight, what with Mister Woodruff being on a ship to the New World. Three weeks he’d be gone, all told.
Three weeks meant twenty one days where Jeremiah could get into that fancy townhouse of his. Get to rifle through all of his lovely possessions. A man like that, he wasn’t going to miss a couple of trinkets.He had more than he could count comfortably anyway, Jeremiah could relieve the burden of possessions on Mister Woodruff’s gentle soul.
He drew his skeleton key from his breast pocket, pausing for a minute to let a coach rattle past him in the fog, more furtive glances around before he carried on. Three minutes, that was all it took to get into Mister Woodruff’s lovely townhouse.
Jeremiah was in. He prowled through the hallway, removing his burlap sack from his shoulder and stuffing valuables into it. A candlestick here, a platter there. All of them into that sack that he brandished over one shoulder.
He stole into Woodruff’s office, seeking out the desk. In it would be papers, other such items that many would pay good money for. He opened the top drawer of that fancy, mahogany structure sitting in the middle of an office on the third floor. Of course, Mister Woodruff had a third story on his pretty building.
He found exactly what he was looking for. Papers in bunches, held together with twine. Hundreds of individual pages, in print so small that Jeremiah struggled to read it. Not that it mattered. He didn’t need to read them to sell them on.
He pilfered every item waiting within, paper, shiny, it didn’t matter to him. He just took it. All the pretty trinkets, all the paperwork. Suki had given him his letters, he might as well make use of them. He got everything into that sack.
Then, without a sound, he left the building. Just as he had entered in fact.
William Woodruff the Third, magnate for the Woodruff Conglomerate, arrived back to his house to find the door swinging easily open. His wife had been travelling with him, so it wasn’t her and Daisy and Phillip had been working at his mother’s house.
He rushed up the stairs.He pulled every drawer out, turned the whole office upside down.
His wife heard his cries from downstairs in the sitting room. Cries of frustration, rage and everything inbetween. He would have cast himself from the window, but for the fact that his wife would suffer.
The Abacus had gone. That was all he wanted. Everything else, the papers, the money, all of it could be spread amongst anybody and anything but the Abacus… That was holy ground. Now sullied by the improper actions of one secretive thief in the night.
He would see somebody pay for this.
The Idiot in Tin Foil