Chapter Fourteen: Thief

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Abigail pushed past me with her taser drawn. "Where is Mrs Cavendish?"

"I don't know. I left her in the parlour."

"Go out into the garden, Ben. Stay there. Whatever happens, do not come back inside."

Abigail raced off up the stairs, leaving me alone by the swimming pool.

I took one step towards the garden and hesitated.

What if the thief was Éven?

What I knew for sure was that someone was stealing magical artefacts from under Horseshoe's noses. Now someone had broken into Mrs Cavendish's South London home. It could be the same someone, and if Dr Southey's hunch was right, it could be Éven.

I didn't want to believe it, but I knew it might be true. And if it was true, maybe Éven was in trouble? Maybe he had been compelled? And if it wasn't true, and if Dr Southey was wrong, then just setting eyes on the real thief might be enough to clear Éven's name.

This was my chance to show some courage, just like I knew my Dad would do; the sort of courage a guy like Hari Sharma would think I was incapable of. I couldn't run away.

I stepped back into the house and cautiously headed up the stairs, as slowly and as quietly as my nerves would allow. I didn't want to get shot.

There was no-one in the upstairs hallway, and the front door was bolted shut.

There was no-one in the parlour where Tiana and I had sat a minute before, and no-one in the kitchen where Tiana had mixed lemonade. Ceramic souvenir plates, little cream jugs, and bonbon tins covered every spot on the wall.

I couldn't hear any noise from the floors above me. No weapons fired. No shouts or cries. No-one wounded. No-one running.

I headed up to the next floor.

The study at the front of the house was less cluttered than the other rooms. It had a desk and a typewriter and some leather file boxes, and some medals hung in a glass frame on the wall, and that was it.

Next to the study was a room filled floor-to-ceiling with cabinets and chests. The large table in the middle of the room had once been meant for dining, but was now covered in maps, books and yellowed papers. Scrolls stood on end in coal scuttles, umbrella stands, and paint cans in every corner of the room.

The adjoining bedroom was decorated with wooden masks and old tapestries. There was a sewing machine in the window and three wicker baskets full of fabric.

That left only one more floor above me, and I still heard nothing.

I called a tentative hello up the stairs, because I knew it would be a bad thing to take anyone by surprise. I didn't get an answer.

The first thing I saw when I reached the top floor was broken glass. It trailed back to the master bathroom, and a shattered free-standing full-length mirror. The only other rooms up here were a walk-in closet full of dresses, and a room so full of plants and flowers that it could have passed for an indoor garden, but for the bed that sat like an island in the middle of the floor.

This room was empty as well, which meant that the house was empty. No Tiana, no Abigail, and no Éven.

I returned to the corridor and called Tiana's name, but I got no answer and heard no noise.

They had all disappeared.

There was one last place to look; a hatch in the hallway ceiling.

Everyone was in the attic. There was no other explanation.

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