Anne was right about the don.
Mr Timothy Huntington was a rich trouble-maker. A 'gentleman thief', it was widely referred to - a man who stole, not 'out of malice', but for the thrill of stealing. In other words: he had absolutely no excuse for it and, out of all types of thieves, his kind especially could not be trusted.
But Ben attended the meeting Ed spoke of anyway.
What could he say? If it meant money, it meant money. And if Des's sentiments were true - which Ben still highly doubted - he would need a whole bloody lot of it.
Mr Huntington's house was similar to the Faulker's estate, but slightly more squat and longer to one side. Ben entered with caution, avoiding the guards posted around the area and going into the building through the servant's entrance that had been conveniently left open.
Ben found no servants within, so went through the room - looking through apron pockets and taking what he could find. He stepped into the kitchen, looked briefly around the charred oven, the impressive rack of knives and the white-and-black tiled floors. Ben considered taking a few knives for a second - they could be pawned of for quite the price - but he didn't have anything to wrap them in and it was hardly worth getting self-stabbed for. Instead, he picked up leftovers from unclean counter-tops and ate them. Ben heard voices coming from the dining room and paused by the slightly opened door.
Some of the voices he recognised, and so he nodded to himself and stepped in.
Of all the people he expected to see seated at the don's table, he had not expected Ed and Anne.
Mr Huntington stopped mid-sentence and smiled warmly at Ben (albeit, too warmly to be sincere), “Ah, Mr Robertson, welcome!” he cried, “Come, take a seat. We've been expecting you for some time now.”
Mr Huntington was a man with prominent side-burns, fair-faced tinted with a comely blush, his brown hair combed to one side. He wore a dark brown jacket, a green shirt beneath, and a white neck-tie. His worst feature was his nose, which stuck out like a beak.
But he was very relaxed in their company, smiling freely and leaning back in his seat. Mr Huntington knew that he held the upper hand. And Ben knew that a man like Mr Huntington could play the Crooked Cross, have all of them arrested and hanged, and have absolutely no trouble sleeping thereafter.
Ben narrowed his eyes, not buying the don's easy and pleasant charm at all, and went to sit near Anne, “I thought you hated the idea of working with the don,” he muttered to her quietly.
“And?” Anne sqwauked irritably, clearly still quite drunk from before, “I do a lot of things I don't like - you bein' one of 'em! How's your tail, by the way? She enjoy your knightly exploit to her bed-chambers?”
Ben sighed, “Alright, alright. Pipe down, you've made your point.”
Mr Huntington stood up, completely ignoring the disturbance, and spread his arms welcomingly, “Now that we are all gathered, I shall waste no time in explaining a rather strange piece of news that has reached me,” he said, pausing for effect. This was his manner, he never truly got straight to the point, but most of his chosen accomplices chose to just go with it, “Back when good Queen Elizabeth reigned, her favoured captain, Sir Francis Drake, had stolen many goods off of Spanish treasure fleets from what was known at that time as the New World. Some of these treasures were chartered. Others were not,” he smiled fiendishly, “Now, I hear it rumoured that some of Sir Drake's unmentioned treasure is being dumped in the Thames. For what reason, I am unsure, but we cannot let this opportunity slip through our fingers. Ladies and gentlemen: Spanish treasure! It could be ancient! And what is ancient is worth a fortune!”
The thieves looked at each other, raising their brows with uncertainty.
“There must be a reason why it's being tipped in the Thames,” said one of them, “nobody would just throw that away.”
“Probably some jealous, pompous fools heating their grudges,” Mr Huntington vouched, shrugging his shoulders, “Though... if some of you do not seek any part in this, you are free to leave.”
No-one moved for a moment. Then the thief who questioned the treasure rose, drained his glass and said, “Better safe than sorry, lads. Too many strange things in the world to take chances,” and he left without another word.
There was silence for a moment. The thief had a point. There were too many strange things in the world to take chances. But, from where Ben and the others were sitting, there were even more hungry mouths to be fed - their own being the priority. Ben didn't claim to be a hero, but theft was his livelihood and other thieves were the closest thing he had to a family - they had a right over him and he had a responsibility to them.
And then there was Des.
For Ben, there was no second-guessing the matter.
“So,” Ben said, “What's the plan?”