“I’m not moving from here until I see the lawyer.” Carthinal set his mouth in a straight line.
The woman stood and rounded her desk. She took Carthinal by the arm and tried to propel him to the door. He planted his feet onto the ground and pulled back. The woman slipped and almost fell. She cried out.
A door behind the woman’s desk opened. “What’s all the noise about, Hiroma?” Then he caught sight of Carthinal. His face reddened and his hands formed fists at his side. He iseyes glam]nced from side to side.
“What do you want?” he growled.
Carthinal’s mouth formed a firm line. “I want my house back.”
“What are you talking about, boy? You are, what? thirteen years old? How can an thirteen-year-old have a house? Go back to your parents.”
“I have no parents. And I’m seventeen.”
Gromblo Grimnor laughed. “Seventeen? Seventeen? I’ve seen taller twelve-year-olds than you. Don’t try to kid me. Now, what do you really want? And who sent you? Do you want money? If you’re in some gang, they’ve not done very well with this scam.”
“You know who I am.” Carthinal looked Gromblo in the eye. “I am Carthinal. My Grandfather was Kendo Borlin. He left his house and money to me. He told me so.”
Gromblo narrowed his eyes. “So that’s your game. Trying to impersonate Carthinal. Well, I have to tell you that Carthinal is dead. He died of pneumonia last year. Some say his death was the cause of his Grandfather’s illness. That the old man never recovered from the shock. So,. You see, you can’t be Carthinal.” The lawyer laughed.
“I’m not dead. I’m here. And I want to know why you stole my home.”
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and call the Guard. We need to get this child out of here.”
As she left, Carthinal felt a tightness in his chest, and a familiar feeling welling up from his stomach. Clenching his fists, he ran at Gromblo and kicked him in the shins. The lawyer yelled, hopped on one leg for a few seconds and lunged at Carthinal, who slipped beneath his arm. Steadying himself on the wall behind the bench where Carthinal had been sitting, he turned and, with a roar, launched himself once more at the child. This time he managed to catch Carthinal’s arm. Carthinal bit the hand holding him, but Gromblo managed to hang on to the boy.
Carthinal screamed at the man. “I’m not dead. I’m here, and you’ve stolen my home and my money.”
The door opened and Hiroma appeared with a guard.
“What’s going on here?” the guard asked.
“This little rat is trying to say he’s Kendo Borlin’s grandson. You know, the head of the guilds, who died last year. I think he’s trying to get money from me.”
“Too right I am. You owe me a fortune.”
Gromblo turned to the guard. “See what I mean? I grant you he looks a bit like Carthinal, with the red hair and blue eyes, but that child is dead.”
“Do you have proof of the child’s death?”
Carthinal looked at the guard. He had not thought of that. There could not be anything to prove the demise of Carthinal. He stood right here in front of them, very much alive.
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and get the Borlin file.”
The young woman left, to return a few minutes later with a thick file. Gromblo took it and laid it on his secretary’s desk.
He fumbled through a lot of papers then pulled one out. “I did a lot of work for Kendo Borlin “Aah! Here’s the paper giving details of Carthinal’s death. Very sad it was. A lovely little boy. Such a sweet nature.”
Carthinal frowned. He had hardly seen Gromblo when he visited. Neither had he ever heard himself described as having a ‘sweet nature’. He had been too much of a rebel and short-tempered for that epithet to be applied.
The guard looked at the paper. He frowned. “Looks as if the name could have been scrubbed out.”
Gromblo paled. “Well, you know how it is. Secretaries aren’t like they used to be.” He flashed a look at Hiroma who started tapping her feet. “I expect she made a spelling mistake or something.”
The guard grunted. Carthinal thought he saw something pass between the guard and Gromblo as the guard passed the paper back, but he could not be sure. Then the guard grabbed him and propelled him towards the door, pushing him so that Carthinal rolled over in the dust in the road.
“Get out of here.” The guard gave him another push, but more gently this time. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near here in future. That lawyer’s sneaky, not like the old man who used to be there. He’ll try to do you harm if I’m not mistaken.”
With that, the guard stomped away, looking at something in his hand.
Carthinal watched as the guard disappeared round the corner of a building. What did he mean? Did he mean he believed Carthinal and not Gromlo? He made his way back to the park where he had slept. He sat on the grass and pulled out what money he had left. As he counted it, a shadow loomed over him. Carthinal looked up. A boy of about fifteen stood over him, with another standing just behind.
“Hand over your money.”
Carthinal jumped to his feet, stuffing the coins back into his pocket. “No! Why should I?”
The boy was much bigger than Carthinal. In fact, he stood a head taller, and he was broad-shouldered. His friend was a little smaller, but not by much.
“Because if you don’t, we’ll punch you until you drop it, then we’ll get it anyway. Your choice.”
Carthinal backed away, keeping his eyes on both boys as best he could, and his hand on the coins in his pocket. If he gave these thugs his money, he would have nothing to buy food with. He would starve.
They both came at him at once. Being smaller, Carthinal managed to duck under both their hands, but then he felt a blow on the back of his head. He went down, but kicked out his feet as he did so. The second boy, as luck would have it, happened to be coming in for another blow and Carthinal’s kick took both his legs from under him. He crashed down on top of his victim.
The first boy dragged his friend off but the blow Carthinal expected did not happen. He looked up to see his assailant held in a firm grip by another, even larger boy, while a smaller one pummeled the second.
Carthinal’s nostrils flared and he clenched his fists. How dare these young thugs try to steal his money. Taking advantage of the fact that he was held, he bunched his fist and slammed it into the midriff of the larger of his two assailants. The boy holding him swung him round and punched him as well. Gasping for breath, he took off, running as fast as his legs could carry him.
The smaller of the two new arrivals dipped and dodged and got in quite a lot of blow without being hit himself, but as soon as his opponent saw his friend running, he, too, turned on his heels and fled.
Panting, the smaller of his rescuers turned to Carthinal. “Right. ’oo are yer and what’re yer doin’ on our patch?”
Carthinal frowned. “Patch? I don’t understand.”
“Yer not part o’ our gang, and yer not part o’ Th’ Green Fish, either. So oo are yer?”
The boy frowned and ran his fingers through his dark hair. “Start by tellin’ me oo yer are. Bull,’old ’im t’ make sure ’e don’t run for it. Right. We’ve never seen you ’ere before. Tell me oo yer are.”
“I’m Carthinal Borlin. I live, or rather used to live, up on the hill.”
“A rich kid,” growled Bull. “Let’s kick ’im.”
“I’m not a rich kid anymore.”
The smaller boy put his head on one side. “What d’yer mean, ‘anymore’?”
“The lawyer has taken my home and said I’m dead. He had a paper to prove it.”
Bull released Carthinal’s arms. “What d’yer think, Cat? Let him go?”
Cat shook his head. “’e’s not part o’ Green Fish. We can’t ’ave ’im wanderin’ round operatin’ on ’is own. We’ll take ’im to ’eadquarters.”
Carthinal did not know what they were talking about, but as he had no other ideas as to what he could do, he followed the pair.
They led him to an area Carthinal had never been before. Near to the docks, it was very run down. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of rotting food lying in the gutters, and carefully skirted other unmentionable things. A skinny dog barked at them as they passed, and half-starved cats jumped onto walls. Dirty children ran wild in the streets, and people looked suspiciously at Carthinal’s expensive, if dirty, clothes.
They came to a dark alley where his escorts turned off the main road and arrived at a door whose paint had mostly peeled off. Cat knocked a complex pattern and the door opened a crack. Just enough for Carthinal to see a grey eye peering out.
“Oh, it’s you.” The voice was female. Carthinal saw the eye turn to him. “Oo’s this?”
“Someone oo might want ter join us. Come on, Shrew. Open up. We need to see Rooster.”
The door creaked on its hinges as Shrew swung it back. The three entered into a long corridor.
Carthinal looked around. Inside it appeared cleaner than outside. The wooden planks on the floor had been polished and the walls looked clean and painted.
“Come on. Rooster’ll want ter see yer.” Shrew beckoned them towards a door at the end of the corridor.
Carthinal followed and found himself in a large room. Several small tables scattered around with a few people sitting at them. Some played Rond, a card game popular on Vimar. Others sat around talking or mending clothes and tools.
Light streamed in through two large windows opposite the door. As with everything else, they were clean and polished. A large table stood under one of the windows, and a man sat on a large chair behind it.
He stood as the three entered the room. He was dressed in a tunic of red and blue, with green trousers. He had his hair dyed red and it stood up. His nose was long and he craned his neck forward as he looked at them.
“What’s this you’ve brought?”
“We found ’im. Green Fish attacked ’im,” the boy known as The Cat replied. “Well, a couple of ’em, anyway. They were on our patch, so we saw ’em off.”
“Why bring ’im ’ere? ’e looks like one o’ them rich bods.”
“’e was, but ’e was cheated of ’is ’ouse, ’e sez.”
The Rooster came round the table. He walked all round Carthinal, looking him up and down. Carthinal shuffled his feet as he watched the man.
He does look like a rooster, Carthinal thought. He even walks like one.
When he returned to face Carthinal, The Rooster turned to him. “The Cat says you might want t’join us. What d’you say?”
Carthinal looked around the room. All eyes looked in his direction, and a few people had left their places and now stood around looking at him.
He turned his eyes at the person referred to as The Cat. “I never said that!”
The small, dark-haired boy grinned. “Not in so many words, no. But you were on our patch. You’ll be stealin’ soon. You steal on our patch, you better be in The Beasts or we’ll deal wi’ you like we did Green Fish”
“Who says I’ll steal? Stealing’s wrong.”
The Rooster stood up from the table and approached. “’ow much money ‘ave you, boy? You say you got no ’ome. Your money’ll run out soon. Then you’ll steal to live. You can join us or not. Up to you, but if you don’t, expect us to sort you out like we sorted Green Fish. You’ll not survive long. Green Fish’ll be after you, too. You join The Beasts and we’ll give you food, protection and a ’ome.”
Carthinal stood looking at the young man in front of him. What he said was true. He closed his eyes as he thought.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” The Rooster interrupted his thoughts. “We hold everything in common. You have to give us what you have.”
Carthinal stepped back. “I only have a little money left. You can’t take that.”
The Rooster shrugged. “Have it your own way.” He turned to go back to his chair. Then he stopped and looked back at Carthinal. “We’ll get th’ money anyway. One of us’ll catch you and take it. Pr’ob’ly beat you a bit, too, ’cos you’ll be on or patch, see. So you lose it anyway.”
“All right.” Carthinal felt in his pocket and pulled out his few royals, He handed it to The Rooster.
“Sensible lad.” The Rooster took the money and called to a young man sitting by the window. “Tiger, bring th’ money pot. We’ve a bit more ter put in it.”
Tiger lifted a pot from one of the shelves and carried it carefully over to The Rooster, who dropped Carthinal’s money into it.
“You need a name,” one of the girls said.
“I’m called Carthinal”
“No, a gang name. We don’t use our given names here. As we’re the Beasts, we all have animal names. I’m The Porcupine.”
Another boy chimed up, “I know. ’e’s got red ’air. ‘e can be The Fox.”
So Carthinal has joined a street gang! Will he be able to fit in? What will he think about committing crimes?
Find out on the first Tuesday of August.
Are you enjoying the story of Carthinal’s early life? Please let me know what you think in the comments.
If you want to know more about Carthinal, you can find out by reading The Wolf Pack. You can buy by clicking here, or on the book cover.