“Okay, spread out and keep your eyes open for a boy about ten years old.” Garin said to the crew. “But don’t frighten him. Remember, he’s stealing to survive, not to be a menace.”
“Does it still count if he’s leaving behind things to pay?” Talak asked.
“In my book, no. But if he ticks off the wrong person once too often it could end badly. Which is why we need to find him first.” Garin replied.
“Whistle if you find him.” Jacques said as the group split up. He turned his attention to the booths and stalls, and the crowds around them. He was so used to being a thief himself that he had a rough idea of how to blend in with the crowd in order to make the best snatch. He eyed a young child that reached up for a peach at a stall as he passed, but moved on once he saw the child tug on his mother’s gown to show her the fruit. He didn’t like thinking it, but it was possible that the boy they were looking for was an orphan… that and, it was highly unlikely he wouldn’t steal in front of a parent if he had one.
Garin stopped by Junior’s booth again to ask if they had seen anything, only to turn up empty and have to continue his search further down the street. He didn’t want to make a scene if they did find him, so he moved casually, even buying an apple from a fruit vendor as he passed. Maybe seeing someone close by eating would encourage the boy to make a move.
It was so subtle even he almost didn’t notice it. A small figure snatched up a long loaf of bread from a baker’s cart and tucked it under his arm before moving away with a passing crowd, using it to hide. It was the same method Garin himself would have used if he were snatching someone’s purse or jewels. Garin took another bite of the apple and started to follow, picking up his pace but still walking as casually as he could. Once through with his mouthful, he let out a whistle, alerting his crew, who were thankfully still in earshot. They started to move towards him, with Jacques looking at Garin as he pointed ahead of him.
When the small figure turned a corner, Garin followed, taken aback for a moment when he saw the boy sprinting down the side street and around another corner. He took off after him, cursing to himself when he realized the boy must have either noticed the whistle or seen him point at him to Jacques. When he rounded the corner, he noticed the boy for just a moment as he vanished around yet another corner, and he followed. He swore again in frustration and defeat as he found a fork awaiting him, and the boy nowhere in sight. He sighed as he heard Jacques come running up behind him.
“Where’d he go?”
“I lost ‘im!” Garin said with a sigh. “Though I’m honestly not surprised… he knows the town better than we do.”
“Let’s keep looking. And while we’re at it, let’s ask where this road goes.” Jacques said, patting Garin’s shoulder.
“Right.” Garin nodded. “In the meantime, have the others spread out and look for any place where the lad may be hiding. But remember, we don’t want to scare him so just have them scout and report back if they find it. Don’t do anything brash!”
“You got it!” Jacques gave Garin a thumbs-up as the two made their way back towards the main street, and the market.
While the crew spread out, and Garin and Jacques searched for someone who knew their way around the streets, unbeknownst to them, Matilda made her way towards the edge of the village, carrying with her a large basket, covered in a kerchief. She had asked Barney to bring out some of the extra provisions and leftovers from her inauguration just a few days ago, and put them into the basket for her to take along.
She didn’t want to tell Garin, in case she was wrong, but she noticed from the map that the thefts of food all took place closer to the edge of town. She suspected that was not just because it was the closest way to get to the market and the shops, but also because of the old lighthouse on the very end of the point. She had remembered when she first came to the island, the old lighthouse keeper mentioned he thought someone may be sleeping in the bunk room there, since he himself did not live there. If her suspicions were correct, their young thief was calling the abandoned bunk room home, then making early morning or late in the evening trips to get himself breakfast and supper.
She came up to the old lighthouse, then worked her way around the side to the small bunk room. It looked to be only one room, with one window facing the sea and another facing towards the village, though the latter was covered by a ratted curtain, which she saw move as she approached. He was there alright. She couldn’t help but smile a bit smugly to herself and walked around to the door, raising her hand and giving it a few knocks.
He must have thought he was being discrete, but the door was so old that it was easy to see it move and stiffen in the doorframe, as though someone were bracing against it. She shook her head a bit and took one forward, making sure he could hear here and know she was there.
“I know you’re in there,” she said as kindly as she could manage. She wasn’t expecting an answer, so it was no surprise when she didn’t receive one. “Listen, you’re not in any trouble, I just want to talk.”
“Greim dom, mála d'aois!” the voice was trying to sound harsh, despite it’s true age.
Matilda couldn’t help a raised eyebrow in addition to a scowl. She placed a hand on her hip before replying, “Féach ar do bhéal!”
The door gave the slightest creak, to her surprise, and she realized that was due to it becoming slack from being released. A promising sign. She cleared her throat a bit before speaking again.
“I certainly hope you never talked to your mother like that, Dia chuid eile di,” she said.
“You’re... a daughter of Éireann,” the boy said as he opened the door a crack and stuck his face out, much to Matilda’s surprise.
He was a Royal Aisha, and couldn’t have been more than ten years old, just as Betsy said. His clothes were dirty and tattered, but there were signs of attempted repair, and he was quite thin. That confirmed that he would only ever steal to satisfy his immediate hunger, and even then, felt guilty for it.
“Tá, on my father’s side.” Matilda said, replying to his early assumption. She knelt down to eye level with him, his eyes never leaving hers for a second. “You?”
“...My mum,” he replied. There was a pause before he spoke again. “You’re the new governor, aren’t you?”
“I am. My name is Matilda. What’s yours?”
He didn’t reply, but instead asked, “What do you want?”
“You’re not in any trouble, lad.” Matilda said, setting the basket in front of her, between them. “I just thought you might be hungry.”
The boy looked from her, to the basket, then back at her, and finally settled on the basket again. He squeezed out from the door, so as not to open it further, and pulled the kerchief from the basket. Inside was part of a ham, two turkey legs, some dried and cooked fish, some loaves of bread, a bottle of cider, a jar of jam, a few boiled eggs, and finally, a few chocolates. Matilda smiled as the boy shot her an astonished look, mouth—and eyes—practically watering over the contents.
“If you’re hungry, go ahead and eat,” she said. The boy picked up the basket in his arms and pushed the door back open with his back. Matilda got up and prepared to turn to leave, when he looked at her.
“U-Um…” he said, hesitating a bit. “W-Would you… would you like to come in, madam governor?”
“I’d be delighted.” Matilda said with a smile, then stepped inside as he held the door open for her. He set the basket down beside the small cot again the wall, really the only thing in the room other than a small chest that sat beneath it. The boy sat down on the cot, taking out a leg and starting to eat right away. Matilda could see as she sat down, just how hungry he was. The leg was almost half gone in a little more than a minute…
He paused as he swallowed. “Marty.”
“Beg pardon? Oh! Your name.”
“Mm-hm,” he replied, mouth full once again. After swallowing again, he looked at her. “I’m… I’m sorry about what I said. Ever since mum died I never really know who I can trust. She always said I could trust a child of Éireann, though. B-But… since I became a thief…”
“I wouldn’t call you a thief, Marty.” Matilda said. “I mean, you have been leaving behind a form of payment, after all.”
“That counts?” Marty asked, sighing in relief when she gave a nod. “Oh whew…”
“Though if you don’t mind my asking,” Matilda looked at him. “Where did you get all those trinkets?”
Marty kicked a foot, striking the small chest beneath the cot with his heel. “Stuff left from my mum and da. It’s really all I’ve got.”
“Then why give it away?”
“Like I said, it’s all I’ve got.” Marty replied, tossing away the leg bone and picking up a boiled egg. “After mum and da died, there were debts and things, and the house was sold. But I remembered my da talking about Tartaruga a few times so I traded a few things and came here.”
“But found yourself homeless when you arrived.” Matilda concluded as Marty began to peel the shell off the egg.
“I did try to find work,” Marty said. “But they all said I was too young, or… or needed permission from my parents.”
“I see…” Matilda frowned. “I’m sorry.”
Marty looked at her as he finished chewing on the egg and swallowed. “So… what happens now? To me, I mean.”
“Well, I’m certainly not just going to leave you here.” Matilda looked around the shack. “Granted there don’t look to be any leaks in here but it’s still a shabby place and I imagine you get cold at night.”
“A-A little. But what are you…?”
“Look, why don’t you come back with me? To Government House?” Matilda suggested. “It’s a bit of a dramatic upgrade, I know, but it’s safe, and warm. And you won’t need to trade any more of your family heirlooms for food.”
“You… you mean I…?” Marty’s eyes began to water a bit again. He paused and looked at his feet, hanging off the edge of the cot. “I dunno…”
“Give it a shot for a few days, at least.” Matilda placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m not going to force you, but I’d honestly sleep better knowing you were warm at night, rather than shivering in the cold here.”
Matilda smiled. “Good.”
The first thing Matilda did for Marty was help him to take a bath. It had been so long since he’d had a bath in warm water that the poor boy almost fell asleep, he found it so relaxing. Matilda gave his clothes to Barney to have them cleaned and repaired, giving Marty a nightshirt to wear to dinner, which consisted of the food she had brought him in the basket earlier. Garin and the others came back sometime during the meal, and Matilda filled them in on what happened while they were searching the town.
“So, he’s still eating?” Garin asked as Matilda walked out of the dining room.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he ate everything from that basket.” Matilda said with a sigh. “It’s a wonder he managed to outrun you earlier, he had to be feeling weak, given how little he’s been eating.”
“Poor kid.” Jacques said. “Still, he’s got spirit, to go on for as long he has been.”
“Aye, I agree.” Matilda said with an agreeing nod. “And hopefully I can give him a better future from here on out…”
Garin smiled and chuckled. “Aww,” he said. Matilda smirked and shot him a look.
“Oh, wind your neck in,” she said in a mock warning tone. Garin chuckled again looking past her and at the small chest on her desk.
“There anything left?” he asked, feeling a bit guilty that the boy had to give away some of the only things he had to remember his parents by, just to eat and survive. In many ways, it didn’t seem fair…
“Aye. He’s been holding onto the most personal things he has to remember them by.” Matilda said, patting the box. “They’re the ones he finds most precious.”
“That’s good I suppose.” Victor said. “I’d uh… offer to give the whistle back, but… Betsy gave it to the little ones.”
“Oh dear… have they grown attached?” Jacques asked.
“Aye, and… worse.” Victor chuckled. “Victoria has figured out how to blow it. Granted, not very loudly, but all the same…”
Garin laughed. “And I thought you and the missus had your hands full before!”
“It’s just one of the things about being a parent, you’ll find out someday, captain.”
Matilda smiled as she watched and listen to the three go back and forth, teasing each other about fatherhood, and how the possibility seemed so outlandish to Garin and Jacques. While they talked, Matilda slipped away to check on Marty at the dinner table, only to find the boy slumped over in his seat, sound asleep. She walked over to him and glanced at his plate, finding it empty, and the only thing left in the basket was the bottle of cider and jar of jam. She smiled and shook her head before gently picking Marty up in her arms, then carrying him out of the dining room and down the hall.
She’d prepared a room just next to hers, separated by only a set of slotted, wooden doors. The windows overlooked the sea and the town, just like his last home, but the bed was much larger, softer and warmer. He seemed to notice, even in his sleep, as she laid him down and gently tucked the blankets around him, watching as he curled up into the pillow. First a warm bath, then a full belly, and now, a soft, warm bed. And thankfully, this wouldn’t be the end of this arrangement. Matilda smiled and gingerly stroked one of his antennae before turning down the oil of the lamp beside his bed, leaving a dim glow in the room.
“Oíche mhaith, mac,” she whispered before leaving the room quietly, unaware that Marty smiled in his sleep as she left.
AnnaMaria comes to visit Jacques after hearing of his “new position” while he is on watch for the night. She convinces him to abandon his post to spend time with her, and while away, Captain Cruciblack slips into port and robs one of the warehouses of much needed stores for the new settlers. Garin and the crew set out to get the supplies back, but Ann takes the helm, wanting to take responsibility for distracting Jacques the previous night, and by instead distracting Cruciblack…
Whew, there's Part 2 of Episode 6, at last! Thanks for waiting guys, and I'll try to get the next one done as soon as I'm able! Let me know what you guys think in the comments below! Remember, your support is very much appreciated!
Marty, Matilda, © Me