Authors: Alex Milway
Copyright © 2008 by Alex Milway
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Little, Brown and Company
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First eBook Edition: February 2009
First published in Great Britain in 2008 by Faber and Faber Limited
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
was born in 1978 in Hereford, England. After finishing art school and spending a number of years in magazine publishing, he finally managed to finish a book. He now lives in London with his girlfriend and a curly-haired cat called Milo.
A mouse of little consequence is a rare thing indeed.
Welcome to Old Town
HE NIGHT HAD BEEN QUIET SO FAR — ONLY THREE
bodies to speak of, and none of them carried anything of worth to Mr. Droob. It was a bad night’s work if fewer than ten washed ashore, and to bide his time he sat quietly spying the river, rubbing his hands to keep warm.
At the riverside, the Pirate’s Wharf gibbet creaked and swayed in the breeze, the last remains of its long-dead pirate struggling to cling to its irons. Mr. Droob watched the thin fog roll off the water, enveloping the dying glow of the street lamps. He saw his assistant leap up to ring the warning bell: another body approached.
Mr. Droob strode down to the river, buttoning his jacket on the way. His assistant waited silently, watching as the body floated nearer. In his arm rested a long hooked pole, and with a looping stretch he dropped it onto the body. It caught at the waist, and he pulled it in.
A quick glance showed clearly that it was the body of a man, and a sailor at that: his blue flared trousers, dirty and torn, and his bloodstained shirt were the clothes of the merchant navy.
With a stomach-churning groan, his assistant took hold of the heavy, lifeless body and dragged it up the bank. With little ceremony he searched the corpse, checking for rich pickings. There seemed nothing of any worth, no pocket watch, knife, or coins, but tied to the man’s neck was a small wooden box.
Mr. Droob picked it up and shook it gently. It weighed very little, but there was something inside. Nailed to the box was a metal plate with an inscription, and Mr. Droob’s eyes sparkled when he read its words.
“Well, well, well,” he said. “What a find . . . what a find indeed!”