Ever smelt the Thames? It's still fairly disgusting, to this very day. Now, imagine it back when it doubled as a sewage-system as well as a giant, moving landfill - for hundreds of years. If you fell in, there was a good chance you would come out a corpse. The horrid, putrid stench could fill each sense, drive you insane - you would smell it, feel it burn in your eyes, it would make your body itch with disgust, you would taste it on the tip of your tongue and it would make you gag.
Ben felt all these things, his face covered by his veil, and he tried his best to ignore the smell. He was waiting by the pier behind a stack of boxes, with Ed and Mr Huntington at his side. Anne and some of the others were waiting some way off.
They were all expecting a convoy.
Mr Huntington had informed them that a squad of men would come and simply dump the chest into the river. The plan was to attack the men and take the treasure before any of them could call for help. They were to meet back at Mr Huntington's compound where he would keep possession of the chest and would pay each thief their share of the loot from his own wealth.
Ben took a peak, becoming impatient. He shivered in the dark, blowing into his palms and rubbing them together to cause some warmth. He shifted his position slightly, trying to wake his legs and shake off the pins and needles.
“Do you see anything?” Ed asked quietly.
Ben heard a slight disturbance and raised a hand to silence Ed.
Footsteps, maybe belonging to seven or eight men and the clink-clank of weapons or armour or both. Ben took another peak, saw the flicker of burning torches. It was unclear in the dark, but he made out seven guards and one gentleman in a long coat and breeches. And a large chest, being carried between two of the guards.
The gentleman was speaking, announcing something.
Ben took out his club, “Now's the time to strike,” he whispered, “but we have to do this carefully-”
“Oi!” came a shout, “You louts out for a stroll?”
Ben shut his eyes and shook his head.
Anne: Always trying to prove something.
“The drunk prig!” Ed muttered furiously, “Well, bloody come on then!” he ran out as the guards pulled out their swords and rifles.
Ben jumped out of hiding, running into the thick of escalating combat. He could hear surprised shouts, unaimed gunfire and the clash of steel. A single howl of pain tore through the night, and smoke added to the acrid smell. Ben managed to catch one guard on the back of the head, but he wasn't a fighter. He looked around him, ducking under swipes and avoiding rifle-snouts. He saw a thief holding a side of the chest and ran to get the other end.
Ben nodded to the thief and they ran away with the chest.
They ran and ran, until they could no longer hear the sound of combat. Ben didn't know what had become of Ed or Anne or even Mr Huntington, but the ordeal probably hadn't gone well for them. He sighed and sat down in a dirty alleyway, panting. The other thief sat on the chest and looked up at the sky as rain started to drizzle.
“Blooming English weather,” the thief muttered.
Ben said nothing, he just swallowed thickly.
“Want to get this open then?” said the thief.
Ben nodded and picked the lock quickly.
Their gasps of delight were fast restrained, and immediately the image of their perishing companions were fading from their minds. They both stared down at the glittering mass of wealth.
A single item caught and held Ben's attention and he picked it up gingerly - as if it might snap at his slightest touch. It was a silver necklace, polished to a gleam, inlaid with a single, large green stone. He was mesmerised by the necklace.
Des would love it.
Ben pocketed it quickly.
“Oi, oi,” the thief protested.
“You saw nothing,” Ben cut in aggressively, “Take what you want, I don't give a toss. But you say nothing. We take this to the don's. Nobody loses.”
The thief regarded him for a moment, before taking a few gold coins and then they shut the lid of the chest slowly. Ben locked it again as best as he could. It would have to do. Then they picked it up and used the back streets to make their way to Mr Huntington's house...