Chapter 7.1

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After breakfast the Scowerers ascended in packs to the city. There were more direct routes to the surface than the one Nick and Ward had taken the night before, and the Okies swept through another abandoned train station, up a flight of narrow stairs, to the cellar of a derelict building.

The leader of the Okies was a boy of fifteen. He carried a battered suitcase and wore a man's dressing gown over red longjohns. He had about him a manicured air of mystery, and stood aloof from the others. His name was The Devious Spectaculum.

It was Mildew who spoke though.

"The Spectaculum's gonna do his thing. Wait til a good mount of coves're milling. You know the Lurk."

"Tell them not to get greedy," The Spectaculum murmured.

"And er – don't get greedy," Mildew said. "This Lurk's still got some life in it if we don't blow it. So if you see a kettle 'n a sandwich take one or the other, not both." She looked directly at Lightfinger, who reddened. "Oh and you," she said to Ward.

"He can watch," the Spectaculum said.

"Yeh," Mildew said. "Just watch 'n learn."

The Lurk proceeded thus.

The Okies moved out onto the street. The Spectaculum stationed himself on a busy corner, laid the suitcase on the pavement, opened it, and drew out a pack of playing cards. He began to perform card tricks. Pedestrians, in ones and twos, stopped to watch. At first the tricks were simple, but they became more elaborate as an array of objects were added: a pocket tempus, a top hat, a live pigeon – until Ward wondered how the suitcase could have held it all. The Spectaculum then began borrowing items from onlookers, magicking them away and magicking them back again. He really was an exceptional magician.

Mildew and Lightfinger had vanished. Ward peered through the crowd but couldn't see them. Then he heard Mildew's voice behind him.

"Scuse me Sir, what's happenin?" She was standing on tip-toes. As the man bent to speak to her Ward saw Lightfinger brush past him. Mildew thanked the man and moved off to another part of the crowd.

It went on like this for some time. A fat sweaty man in a creased suit even offered to pick Mildew up so she could see over the crowd. Mildew made a disgusted face and melted away into the throng. When Ward looked back at the man he was rubbing one finger and looking about on the pavement for something.

Finally, the Spectaculum bowed to the audience, magicked the props back inside the suitcase, and to the sound of cheering and clapping whirled his dressing gown about himself and swept away.

The Okies gathered in a lane several blocks away to count the day's takings. Apart from the gold aurs and silver args (the Okies referred to the coins collectively as "chink"), purses and wallets (sandwiches), there were three tin kettles (silver watches) and a red kettle (gold watch). But it was the thing Wrinkler had stolen that had everyone's attention. So many Okies were huddled around him that at first Ward couldn't see what it was. He could hear them whispering among themselves, and he heard something that sounded like barker.

It was a gun.


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