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"No
one said you were."

           
"You
act like it." She shook her head. "Maybe it's just how you toffs are,
deciding what other people should do. But I wasn't born and bred to it. I don't
like it. And I ain't never going to get used to it."

           
There was
a brief silence. Then Mairelon shook his head. "Very well, if you really
don't wish to have a come-out, I'll talk to Aunt Agatha again. Tomorrow, I
think; that will give her time to calm down, and I can probably convince her
that her excellent arguments persuaded us to reconsider, which might even put
her in charity with both of us."

           
"Good,"
Kim said, trying to convince herself that she meant it. After all she'd never have
thought of it herself, the fairy-tale images of being presented at a real
Society ball were hard to dismiss now that they'd been offered to her.
Just
like the ash-girl in the stories Red Sal used to tell. But it ain't a story.
Cut line
, she told herself severely.

           
The
library door opened, and Hunch came in. " '
Ere's
that list of books you wanted."

           
"The inventory?
Excellent."
Mairelon took the papers that Hunch held out to him and scanned the first page.
After a moment, he shuffled it to the bottom of the stack and began on the
next. Kim watched, feeling an odd mixture of relief, curiosity, and regret.
Halfway down the fourth page, Mairelon paused. His frown deepened momentarily;
then he smiled. "Found it at last!"

           
"Found
what?" Kim said. "That liver book Lord Kerring was talking
about?"

           
"Livre
de memoire,"
Mairelon corrected, "
and
yes, I have.
Le Livre de Sept Sorciers:
un
livre de
memoire
by Madame Marie de Cambriol. It was in this library, all right; now
let's find out whether it still is. According to this, it should be a smallish
volume with a blue leather binding."

           
Kim took
a quick look at the page in Mairelon's hand, to make sure she would recognize
the title when she saw it, then started going through the shelves on one side
of the room. Mairelon took the other side, and Hunch, muttering under his
breath and chewing on his mustache, began on the cabinets under the windows.

           
Three-quarters
of the way down the second set of shelves, Kim found it--a short, slim volume
sandwiched between two much larger ones. "Is this it?" she called,
holding it up.

           
Mairelon
joined her. "It certainly is," he said, scowling at it.

           
"What's
the matter?" Kim said. "I thought you'd be pleased that it hasn't
gone missing."

           
"Oh,
I am, I am," Mairelon said. "But
you must admit,
this confuses things considerably
."

           
Hunch look up.
" 'Ow's
that,
Master Richard?"

           
"Well,
if it had been missing, we'd have had a good idea that this was what our
burglar was after," Mairelon replied. "Now, we can't be sure,
especially since that spell we used last night didn't make it glow like the
other books he'd pulled off the shelves."

           
"It
was in between two big books," Kim said. "They might have hidden it
enough that the glow didn't show."

           
"Or
Madame de Cambriol might have done something rather special to safeguard her
notes," Mairelon said in a thoughtful tone.

           
"Or
that there cracksman might 'ave piked off with something else," Hunch put
in. " 'Ow would you know if 'e 'ad?"

           
"You're
starting to pick up thieves' cant from Kim," Mairelon observed. "I'll
have a look at this tomorrow; perhaps it will give me some ideas. Oh, and that
reminds me--Kim, what do you intend to do about that button?"

           
"Button?"
Kim stared, wondering why Mairelon would
care about the buttons she'd ripped from her dressing gown during her row with
the burglar; then her mind made another connection, and she said, "You
mean, the one Tom Correy sent?"

           
"Yes,
of course. You said it was a sort of summons. Do you want to go?"

           
Kim
looked at him in mild surprise. "Tom wouldn't ask me to come if it wasn't
important. Of course I'm going, if I can figure out how."

           
"We'll
take the coach. Aunt Agatha won't need it; when I left, she was talking about
having a spasm, and that generally occupies her for at least a day. Up High
Holborn to Threadneedle, isn't it?"

           
"That's
not what I meant," Kim said, but she couldn't help smiling.
All that
fretting about whether to ask him, and he just barges into the middle of things
without a second thought.
"I meant . . ." She gestured, taking in
her yellow walking dress, kid boots, and painstakingly curled hair.

           
Mairelon's
eyes focused on her. A startled expression crossed his face; then he nodded.
"Yes, I see. You can't very well go wandering about the
London
back streets dressed like that, no matter what time of day it is. Particularly
if Correy still thinks you're a boy."

           
"That's
it," Kim said, relieved that he had understood without more explicit
explanation.

           
"Hunch,"
Mairelon went on, "do you think you can find a suitable set of boy's
clothes? Something a bit better than what she had when we met, but not fine
enough to attract attention."

           
"And
loose," Kim put in,
then
sighed. "I hope it
works. I wouldn't fool a blind man in broad daylight, but I might still be able
to pass for a boy at night."

           
"Nonsense.
You won't have any trouble at all,"
Mairelon said.

           
Kim
stared at him. It was so like Mairelon to have overlooked the inconvenient
physical changes in his ward that she could not help being amused, but she was
a little hurt as well. Hadn't he looked at her even
once
in the past six
months?

           
"She's
right, Master Richard," Hunch said unexpectedly. "Look at 'er. She
ain't skinny enough
no
more."

           
Mairelon
gave Hunch a startled glance,
then
looked at Kim for a
long, considering moment. Slowly, he nodded. "I . . . see. I apologize,
Kim." Kim felt herself beginning to flush; fortunately, Mairelon turned
toward Hunch and did not see. "Do as well as you can, Hunch."

           
"Cook
might 'ave somethin' from the last errand boy," Hunch said. "I'll
check."

           
"Don't
forget something suitably disreputable for me," Mairelon called after him
as he left the library.

           
Kim
looked at Mairelon. "You expect to come with me?"

           
"I
am
your guardian," Mairelon said.

           
All Kim's
annoyance with his high-handed ways boiled over once again. "If that means
that I get no say in anything I do, I'd rather go back to the streets."

           
There was
a brief, stunned silence. Then Mairelon said, "You don't mean that."

           
"Not
yet," Kim admitted. "But even Mother Tibb
asked
what we
thought of a job before she sent us out."

           
The
silence stretched again. Finally, Mairelon said, "You said you wanted to
go."

           
"I
do." Kim took a deep breath. "But I don't think you should come with
me."

           
Mairelon
tensed.
"Why not?"

           
"I'll
have a harder time with Tom if you do. He won't be expecting
no
toffs, just me. If you show up, even dressed like a dustman, he'll muffle his
clapper and I won't find out a thing."

           
"You
can't go to that end of town alone."

           
"Why not?
I
lived
there alone, for five years
after Mother Tibb swung."

           
"But
you haven't been on the streets for a year," Mairelon came back swiftly.
"You're out of practice."

           
"You're
more out of practice than I am," Kim retorted. "Especially seeing as
you weren't ever
in
practice. I've got a better chance of not getting
noticed if I go alone."

           
The
library door swung open, and Hunch entered, carrying a large bundle. Mairelon
waved him toward the table and raised his eyebrows at Kim. "Not in
practice? While you were living on the back streets, I was nosing about in
France
,
if you recall."

           
"Huh."
Kim sniffed. "
France
ain't
London
."

           
Hunch
choked. Kim eyed him with disfavor. "Well, it ain't," she said.

           
"
Isn't
,
Kim," Mairelon said.

           
"Ain't,"
Kim said firmly. "I got to talk to Tom tonight; if I sound too flash, he
ain't going to be comfortable."

           
"Very well.
Just don't slip in front of Aunt Agatha,
for I won't be responsible for the consequences."

           
Kim
nodded. "I won't. But you still ain't coming with me."

           
Hunch
frowned and began nibbling on the left end of his mustache. Mairelon sighed.
"Kim--"

           
"If
you try, I won't go. And Tom won't talk to you alone, whatever he's got to say.
If he'd meant for you to come, he'd have let us know somehow."

           
Mairelon
studied her for a moment, frowning slightly. Finally, reluctantly, he nodded.
"If you're determined.
But I still don't like the idea
of you crossing half of
London
on
your own at that hour. Hunch and I will take you up High Holborn in the
carriage."

           
"That's
going to be inconspicuous for sure," Kim said scornfully.
"Me, pulling up at Tom's door in a coach at
midnight
."

           
"Much
as I'd like to do just that, I hadn't planned on it. I
have
done this
sort of thing before, you know. We'll wait at the bottom of
Threadneedle
Street
, or somewhere else nearby if you can think
of a better place."

           
It was
Kim's turn to nod reluctantly. She had, for a few wild minutes, hoped for a
night run through the back streets of
London
,
an opportunity to visit some of her old haunts besides Tom Correy's place. But
Mairelon's points were well-taken. The
London
rookeries were a dangerous place even for the experienced, and her experiences
were a year out of date. The less time she spent on the streets, the better her
chance of avoiding robbery or murder. Memories were no good to the dead.

           
"That's
settled, then," Mairelon said briskly, and handed Kim a stack of wrinkled
clothing. "Now, do go and try these on while there's still time for Hunch
to find more if they don't fit. And for heaven's sake, don't let Aunt Agatha
see you, or we'll both be in the suds."

6

           
A heavy
London
fog had settled over the dark streets by the time Kim approached Tom Correy's
shop in
Petticoat Lane
.
Here there were no streetlamps to mark the road with flickering yellow light,
and Kim was grateful. In the dark and the fog, she was only a shadow moving
among shadows. This close to the St. Giles rookery, anyone who was noticing
enough to spot her would likely be knowing enough to pretend he hadn't.

           
Even so,
the thought of Mairelon and Hunch, waiting in the carriage a few streets away,
was more comforting than she had expected. The smells of coal smoke and
uncollected horse dung, the sounds of drunken revelry from the public house on
the corner, and most of all the penetrating chill of the fog brought back the
constant undercurrent of fear that she had lived with for so long. She had
almost forgotten the fear, in her year of safety and security with Mairelon.

           
A church
clock chimed the quarter hour. Kim jumped,
then
shook
herself.
Past
midnight
already.
I'll be home as late as a fashionable lady coming back from a ball.
She
frowned at the thought,
then
dismissed it. Pulling her
jacket firmly into place, she knocked at Tom's door.

           
An
unfamiliar dark-haired youth opened it and looked at her suspiciously.
"Who are you and what d'you
want
?"

           
"I
come to see Tom Correy," Kim said.

           
"And
I'm a valet to His Majesty," the youth sneered. "You're lookin' to
unload something you pinched from your betters."

           
"What
if I am?" Kim said. "You ain't one of 'em, so it ain't
no
lookout of yours."

           
"Ho!"
The doorkeeper made an awful grimace and raised his fists. "See if I
ain't!"

           
"I
can see it just by looking at you," Kim said. He was sturdy enough, but
his movements were too slow; even out of practice, she had little to fear from
a scrap with him, unless he landed a lucky punch. She shook her head.
I'm
not here to pick fights.
"You're wasting time. Tom's expecting
me."

           
"No,
he ain't," the youth retorted. "He ain't expecting nobody what would
come sneaking around the back. He--"

           
"Here,
Matt, what's the racket?" Tom's voice drifted out of one of the inner
rooms, followed by Tom himself. His face split in a broad grin when he saw Kim.
"Kim, lad!
You got my message, then. Come in,
come in, and tell me how you're keeping."

           
"Hellfire!"
said the doorkeeper in obvious chagrin. "You told me you
was
expecting some flash frogmaker!"

           
"Well,
so I am," Kim said in her best
Grosvenor Square
tones. If Tom had already said that much, there was no point in pretending.
"But I didn't want to be noticed, and walking the alleys in pantaloons and
a silk cravat would have gotten me noticed for sure."

           
"Garn!"
said Matt, obviously impressed in spite of
himself
.
"You ain't
no
frogmaker."

           
"Oh,
ain't I?" Kim glanced quickly around. The door was closed, and the windows
shuttered; no one but Tom and Matt was likely to see. Raising her right hand,
palm upward, she focused all her attention on it and said,
"Fiat
lux!"

           
The tingling sensation of magic at work swept across her hand and
arm.
An instant later, a ball of light flared into being in the air
above her palm. It was brighter than she'd intended; either she really was
getting better at spell-casting, or annoyance had given her spell a boost. She
rather suspected it was the annoyance. However it had happened, the effect was
impressive. She heard Tom's breath hiss against his teeth in surprise, and
Matt's startled exclamation, but she was concentrating too hard to respond.

           
Kim let
the light float above her hand for several seconds. Then, one by one, she
folded her fingers inward. The light dimmed, and as the last finger touched her
palm, it vanished. The tingling sensation vanished as well, leaving her hand
feeling unusually sensitive. She let it fall to her side, resisting the
temptation to flex her fingers; it would spoil the effect.

           
"Coo,"
said Matt, his eyes bulging. "Ain't that a
sight!
What else can you do?"

           
"Get
along with you," Tom said, cuffing Matt's shoulder. "Do you think a
real magician has nothing better to do than show off tricks like a Captain Podd
with his puppets? Kim's got things to do, and so have you."

           
With a
resigned nod, Matt started for the inner door. Tom stood aside to let him pass,
then
called after him, "And if you say one word
about this to anyone, I'll have Kim's master turn you into a frog!"

           
Kim couldn't
make out the words of the muffled response, but it was apparently an
affirmative, for Tom nodded in satisfaction and pulled the door to. Looking
gravely at Kim, he said, "You
hadn't ought
to
have done that."

           
"It
was just light," Kim said uncomfortably.

           
"That's
not the point, but it's too late to mend matters now." Tom sighed. "I
just hope Matt has the sense to keep his jaw shut. If his uncle hears about
this, we're grassed."

           
"What
are you talking about?"

           
"I
forget
,
you don't know what's been going on." Tom
studied Kim for a moment, and forced a smile. "You're looking well. I
guess that Mairelon cove wasn't gammoning me about feeding you up and teaching
you magic and all."

           
"No,
he's done all that, right enough," Kim said.

           
Tom gave
her a sharp look. "So? And what hasn't he done?"

           
"Nothing.
It's just . . . different. Toffs take a bit
of getting used to, that's all. I'm fine."

           
"You're
a sight better off than you'd have been if you'd stayed here, and don't you
forget it," Tom said emphatically.

           
"I ain't
likely to, what with regular meals and all," Kim said. "Why did you
want to see me? And what was that about Matt's uncle? Who is he, anyway? You
never used to have anybody to help out."

           
"Matt
is one of my Jenny's nephews," Tom said, and Kim grinned at the possessive
fondness in his tone when he spoke of his wife, even in passing. Some things
hadn't changed. Oblivious, Tom continued, "Her sister's eldest
boy, come
to
London
to learn a trade."

           
"So?
Ain't he working out?"

           
"He
was working out fine, until somebody talked Jack Stower off the transports.
That's why I wanted to talk to you."

           
"Stower's
loose? When did that happen?" Kim was surprised, but not unduly alarmed.
Jack Stower was Tom's
brother-at-law,
and a bad lot if
there ever was one. Kim had never had much use for him, but she'd never feared
him as she had his boss, Dan Laverham. And both Jack and Dan had been arrested
a year ago, when she'd first hooked up with Mairelon. A twinge of uneasiness
shook her. "Laverham ain't loose as well, is he?"

           
"No,
he danced on air last November. It's just Jack."

           
Kim blew
out a long, noisy breath. "Then I don't see what you're nattered about.
Jack will have it in for me, but I can handle Jack now."

           
"I
thought that's what you'd say," Tom said gloomily. "And if it was
just Jack Stower, I wouldn't have sent for you to come here. But he's hooked up
with Mannering, and if that don't worry you, it ought to."

           
"Why?
Jack may think he can borrow enough to turn himself into a toff, but it ain't
going to happen. And if he's in over his head with Mannering and the other
cent-per-cents, he'll have more to worry about than me."

           
Tom
stared at her for a moment,
then
shook his head.
"I forget how much has changed since you've been gone. Mannering ain't
just a moneylender, these days. He's got ambitions."

           
"Like
what?"

           
"Like
rounding up anyone with a hint of magic to 'em, and persuading them to work for
him."

           
Kim
snorted. "Laverham tried that once, and Ma Yanger gave him a week's rash,
and Sam Nicks pitched him out a window, and George and Jemmy and Wags gave him
an earful in the middle of Hungerford Market. You're telling me a creaky old
moneylender's had better luck?"

           
"A
lot better luck, one way and another, and nobody
knows
why. George and Jemmy and Wags turned him down when he first tried, right
enough, but two weeks later they were working for him. Sam was stubborner, and
he woke up one morning in an alley with his throat slit. Ma Yanger ain't
working for Mannering, but she ain't working for nobody else, neither."

           
"Ma
Yanger's given up witching people?" Kim said incredulously.

           
Tom
nodded. "She's holed up in her rooms, and she won't see
nobody
.
Been that way for two months now.
And that's how it is
with everyone else--they're working for Mannering, or they ain't working at
all. And since Stower came back, Mannering's lads have been asking about
you."

           
"Me?"

           
"Stower
told him you can do magic,
and
that you were getting training from some
fancy toff wizard. I think Mannering would like to get his hands on both of
you. I figured the toff could look out for himself, but I thought somebody
ought to tell you what was up afore you found out the hard way."

           
"Thanks,
Tom." With a shiver, Kim remembered that Jack was one of the few people
from her old life who knew of her masquerade.
It doesn't matter any more if
people know I'm a girl
, she told herself, but the old habits and fears kept
her tongue locked.

           
"So
you see why you
hadn't ought
to have been showing off
in front of Matt," Tom went on. "Jack Stower is his uncle, and they've
been thick as treacle since Jack turned up again. Jenny's after me to keep Matt
away from him, but how she expects me to do that I don't know," he added
gloomily. "It ain't like I can put leg-irons on the boy."

           
"I
wish I could help," Kim said, but Tom shook his head.

           
"That
ain't why I asked you to come. Matt's my business, and I'll deal with him. But
I don't know that I can keep him from talking to Jack about this, and if he
does, Mannering will be after you like a shot."

           
"Maybe
he already has been," Kim said thoughtfully. "You wouldn't know
something about a green cracksman who bungled a job in
Grosvenor
Square
last night?"

           
Tom
considered for a moment. "No, but I can ask around if you like."

           
"Let
it go," Kim said, shaking her head. "If Mannering's got you that
nattered, you
hadn't ought
to get any more mixed up in
this than you are already. I'll find out about it some other way."

           
"Kim,
if Mannering has already made a try for you--"

           
"It
wasn't anything like that," Kim said hastily. "Somebody tried to
nobble a book from Mairelon's library, near as we can tell, and botched the
job. It probably didn't have anything to do with Mannering. He's a deep old
file; he wouldn't send an amateur on a crack lay like that."

           
"You're
sure it wasn't bungled apurpose?"

           
Kim
snorted. "The cull didn't know the first thing about housebreaking.
Mairelon thinks he was depending on a spell to keep from getting nabbed, and
even that didn't work."

           
"I
still don't like it," Tom said. "He's a sneaking one, Mannering
is."

           
"All
the more reason he'd know better than to send a green 'un to mill a ken in
Grosvenor
Square
.
It's
pure luck
the cull wasn't laid by the heels right then." Seeing that Tom still
looked unconvinced, Kim shook her head. "I'm sorry I mentioned it. And I
really am glad of your warning."

           
"I
don't know what good it'll do you," Tom said in a gloomy tone. "Jemmy
and Sam and the others knew what was up, and knowing didn't help them
none."

           
"Jemmy
and Sam ain't proper wizards from the
Royal
College
," Kim said. "I
ain't, neither, but Mairelon is. And Mairelon won't take kindly to
nobody
messing with his ward. If Mannering knows anything
about toffs, he'll twig to that as soon as he finds out where I am.
If he finds out at all."

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