The Adventures of
Xavier & Vic
Well Kept Secrets
Cases to be solved:
A Trust Misplaced
Death is a Poor Thank You
To Bedlam Did She Part
A Truth Hidden with Love
The Bump That Dare Not Be Ignored
The great Victorian sleuth Xavier Thorn and his partner Vic Hamilton take a case close to home. Their youngest staff member, L’il Pete, discovers his mother murdered in the alley. Jacko is called up from the country to assist in solving the crime. The good woman’s murder proves to be tangled up with a much larger and shocking list of crimes perpetrated by a powerful man who may truly be above the law. Making matters more complex: Vic discovers her recent weight gain may be the result of a condition that could destroy her life and everything she loves.
The caterwaul of two women fighting on the street below jarred Li’l Pete awake. He rubbed his eyes, angry with himself for falling asleep. Surely, his mum should be home by now, but the icy cold of the room told him she wasn’t. Pulling the blanket tighter against his small body, he shivered in the darkness, not just from the frigid temperatures, but also from what her absence meant.
Maybe she’s still at work.
Her hours had been getting longer and longer, even though she wasn’t paid a pence more. He furrowed his brow at the unfairness. When he worked past his normal hours, Mr. Thorn paid him extra on the spot. But the sorry sod his mum worked for gave her nothing more for working hours past the half-day he’d hired her to do. Most weeks Pete brought home more than she did and that wasn’t right. He was only nine-years-old.
He tugged the thick blanket about him. Victor Hamilton, one of his bosses, had given him the thick padded quilt just two weeks ago when the temperature dropped dreadfully cold. Vic said it was the warmest blanket they made. Pete didn’t know if that were true or not, but it was the warmest blanket he or his mum ever had. And without it, they would have frozen for sure this last week. According to the criers, the cold broke -15 degrees.
Still, he shivered beneath the blanket, more from fear than cold and prayed to God to give him his mum back. “You didn’t give me a pa. I’ve forgiven you for that, but you can’t take me mum. She’s all I got.” Tears rolled down his face. He didn’t know why he bothered talking to God. The bloke never listened to him; otherwise, they wouldn’t be living in the lower docks.
As dim light crept through the window, Pete’s stomach turned to lead. Something had happened to his mum. She was never this late.
Maybe she was hurt and needed his help.
With chattering teeth, he abandoned the warmth of the blanket and shoved his tiny feet into the boots Vic had bought him, so he could do his job as their message boy without his feet falling off.
To the best of his memory, he couldn’t recall anyone whose feet had actually frozen and broke off, but he knew of seven boys who plum froze to death in the cold.
At least he didn’t have to waste time getting dressed. He’d never taken off his clothes or coat last night…much too cold for that, given their apartment wasn’t a bit warmer than outside, only less windy.
His parched throat drove him to the table, hoping some water remained in the pitcher. He spied an inch in the bottom, frozen solid. Without a fire, he had no way to warm it up. And he had nothin’ to start a fire with.
He put a torn, sad coat over his good one so nobody would realize he had something worth taking. Then he tied rags around his fine leather boots to hide them too. Otherwise, he’d be stripped bare and left to die in the cold before he got two blocks from home.
The people who lived in this part of London would take advantage of anyone smaller, and unfortunately, Pete was not only nine, but a really small nine at that. Most seven-year-olds could take him in a fair fight, not that anyone hereabouts fought fair.
Thus, Pete had to use his brain to keep what was his. So far, it’d worked. Nobody had any idea what a great job he’d landed at Thorn’s Private Inquiries. Both he and his mum had the good sense to keep his good fortune a secret.
At the thought of his mum, his heart sunk. Something was terrible wrong. He could feel it.
With no further concern to his parched throat or empty belly, he left their room and began the cautious climb down four flights of stairs.
Some of their neighbors were dangerous men who would kill just for the fun of it. Worried that one of them had gotten his mum, he eyed the floors and walls for any sign of fresh blood. He passed several stains on the scarred and splintery grey wood, but those had all occurred before last night.
Once outside, hugging the wall in the shadows, he studied the street for dangers. He recognized a boy of fourteen huddled on a stoop two blocks down. He’d need to avoid Teddy. The yob had lifted a knife off a dead man a few weeks ago, so he was doubly dangerous.
Li’l Pete slipped into the alley between the two tenement buildings. Hopefully, the next street would be clear of trouble. He picked his way through the narrow, three-foot-wide space between the brick buildings. Garbage filled the alley, stuff so broken that not even the poor could make use of it.
While watching his footing, Pete kept an eye on the windows above for pots being emptied. Otherwise, he’d be covered in crap. He hated that more than anything. That was the worst!
His gaze fell upon the sleeve of a coat lying beneath an old worn out mattress and he came to halt. Being covered in shit wasn’t even close to the worst thing possible.
There was nothing special about the brown coat, except it looked exactly like his mum’s, even to the patch on the right elbow. His focus followed the sleeve down to the cuff, which had the same frayed edges he saw daily when his mother caressed his face. His eyes then focused on the pale, white hand at the end of the sleeve.
About the Author
All Xavier & Vic books are Free with Amazon Unlimited
Liza O’Connor was raised badly by feral cats, left the South/Midwest and wandered off to find nicer people on the east coast. There she worked for the meanest man on Wall Street, while her psychotic husband tried to kill her three times. (So much for finding nicer people.) Then one day she declared enough, got a better job, divorced her husband, and fell in love with her new life where people behaved nicely. But all those bad behaviors has given her lots of fodder for her humorous books. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.
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