Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 4

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 6 of 15

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One Promise Kept: Book 4

Tarranya has a Leif.

Tarrant had said that to her once, a very long time ago. And it has never been more true.

Alice watches as the he-lion paces back and forth in the alley behind the Irondirk Smithery, a frightful scowl on his face. His dark mane is matted with bits of leaves and small twigs and patches of spider webs that he’d unwittingly snagged during his previous searches for Tarra or any trace of her. His golden eyes burn despite the sagging, thinly-pelted flesh surrounding them. His shoulders are tense but curved slightly downward. His feet scuff in the dirt with every other step. Alice wonders when he’d last slept. Or, rather, slept well.

Yes, indeed: Tarranya has a Leif. Completely and utterly despite the fact that his First Claw is still displayed on a thong around his own neck.

“Fumptwat,” Davon Irondirk mumbles, nodding toward the back door of his workshop. It stands open and every half dozen seconds or so, Leif paces past. “I told ’im teh keep ’is gruffious self outteh sight.” The former mercenary shakes his head, for once not at all amused. “He’ll ’ave naebodae teh blame but ’imself if’n this goes ’round tauwn.”

She doesn’t disagree. “When did he come to you? Or did you find him?”

“Th’ slurvish beast came teh me. Pounded on m’door a’ th’ mid’o’night.” Irondirk tucks his chin down and continues sheepishly. “When he told me he’d lost th’ king’s daughter, I said she was prob’ly goin’ a greenin’ wi’ a lad...”

Alice gives him a blank look at that term. Davon returns her stare with a grin that is not frightening and painful to look at due to his broken and missing teeth but absolutely lascivious.

For a moment, Alice forgets the topic of conversation and marvels. This particular grin had been made possible thanks to the queen and the boon Irondirk had asked of her in payment for his efforts in hunting down any and all traces of Valereth and Oshtyer years and years ago. He’d asked for an alchemedic remedy for his teeth. “I cannae expect a lass teh take me as husband wi’out a gehd set o’ teeth!” he’d explained in justification. And when Alice had seen the overwhelming amount of effort that Mirana had gone to in order to meet his request, she had realized just why he’d never had the temerity to ask for the cure before.

Thus, Alice receives one of Irondirks new lascivious grins and then she realizes what greening must entail: grass and grass stains and the activities that often lead to said grass stains and... Ah, yes.

Tarrant takes a half step closer to her and glares at Irondirk who, good humor somewhat restored, blithely continues with his narrative.

“Tha’ wasnae th’ thing teh be sayin’ as it turns out.” Davon smirks in the direction of the open door. “I d’nae think that one’s here on the kings business if’n ye catch me kenment.” He sighs. “Still, when he tol’ me th’ name o’ the lad she’d gone off wi’... well, he has tha’ sort o’ reputation, ye ken?”

Alice closes her eyes and wishes for patience or deliverance or just a plain old miracle. As tempting as it is to speculate on the issues between Leif and Tarra with Davon, they have more urgent matters to deal with at the moment. “Argur was not very forthcoming on the details of the... incident.”

“Well, ye ken Arugur. ’Tis best if’n he o’ly ’as twine thoughts teh rub toge’her in ’is head at a time. Any more’n tha’ an’ they’d all likely go up in smoke. Poof!

Again, she can’t disagree. At least Argur is making himself somewhat useful by sniffing around at the docks, and keeping his eyes and ears open. Until Alice completely understands the situation, it’s best to post allies as far and as wide as possible.

“Tell me the rest.”

“Ye won’ like it,” Irondirk replies, his gaze shifting briefly in Tarrant’s direction. “In th’ neighborin’ days we been hearin’ a bit o’ mimsy muttermongin’ ’round th’ tauwn. Setteeson offered teh go teh th’ queen teh appraise her o’ it.”

“Yes, I heard that part from the queen.” Although she hadn’t realized Setteeson had been selected as a representative for a larger group of concerned citizens.

“Then ye’re kennin’ the lass’s role in aul o’ this?”

“Yes. But what were the rumors supposedly about?”

“’Twas ne’er uttered in mae presence, but... I heard ’twas talk o’ a rebellion. A rising agains’ th’ White Queen.”

Alice frowns. Why had Mirana not told her that? “On what grounds?”

“I d’nae ken.”

Tarrant says nothing. He does not even move from where he stands beside her, but she can Feel his concern and impatience. He wants to get started with the search. He’s worried about Tarra, about Mally, about Alice herself... as usual.

She decides it would be best to gather all the facts before they charge off into the orchards. “What were the circumstances of her disappearance?”

“Ar. Nauw tha’ ’tis th’ mystery, Lassling. If’n I understood tha’ frumious beast’s growls correctly, we’ve naught but a scent trail tha’ goes naewhere.”

Alice turns and regards Bayto who looks nearly as exhausted as Leif. “Is that true?”

He nods and replies on a thread of a whine. “Yes. I’ve sniffed everywhere. The most recent scent for either of them is in the orchard and it just... stops.”

“So, Mally was definitely with her at the time?”

He nods, his jowls swaying. “Either hiding in the picnic basket or... maybe in her pocket... or...”

“I’ll need you to show me the path Tarra took.”

“All right.” He glances worriedly toward the back door and the lion man still pacing in the alley. “I don’t suppose there’s a sidewise exit we could use?” he mutters at Irondirk. Alice silently seconds the request. Getting past Leif to speak to Irondork had been hard enough. The lion will Insist on following them when they leave to resume the search.

The Outlander snorts. “Daen’ we aul wish f’r one o’ them righ’ abou’ nauw.”

Bayto sighs and, with a longing glance at the front door which he knows he can’t use – it’s best to keep their presence here as inconspicuous as possible for the time being – the bloodhound slumps off toward the back door.

“An’ thar’s ano’her thing, Lassling,” Irondirk says under his breath. “Yer Tarra’s nae th’ only one missin’. Many o’ th’ lads an’ lasses di’nae come back teh their shops af’er th’ Rest Day.”

“How many?”

“A fair few. Mayhap thrice a ha’f baker’s dozen.” He swallows and mutters in a low tone, “Includin’ me nephew. Th’ one wi’ th’ way o’... greenin’ th’ lasses.”

“The one Tarra was... last seen with?”


“I see. Well, let’s just keep that to ourselves for the moment,” she mutters, doing her best not to glance in Leif’s direction.

“Much obliged, Lassling.”

“Yes, well. You’ll owe me for it, won’t you?”

“Wi’ pleasure,” he agrees happily and Tarrant is very obviously not pleased with the man’s enthusiasm.

Alice rolls her eyes. The Outlander treats her like a toy; Tarrant cannot seriously believe she would ever feel drawn to the fool. Can he? “Stop playing games. We didn’t rush all the way here to be delayed with small talk,” she reprimands him.

“Speakin’ o’ hastenly arrivals. Hauw di’ye ge’ere sae fast?”


Davon snorts. “Och, nauw tha’ll b’makin’th’ rounds o’ th’ tauwn shortly.”

“No, it won’t,” Alice replies. “You didn’t see how we arrived. No one else did, either. Trust me.”

Indeed, Alice had sent Bandy off to sniff around the borders of the orchards looking for any sign of Tarra. No one will see him that far from town. Although, if other searches are on-going...

“Is anyone else out looking for the missing youths?”

Irondirk shrugs. “M’be. Bu’ in neighborin’ days, it happens sometimes they boycott a bit o’ work nauw an’ then. Won’ be tae much concern o’er it... f’r nauw.”

“Good. All the better for picking up her scent.”


They leave out the back door and, as Alice had anticipated, Leif follows them like a scowling, growling, grumpy shadow with teeth and claws. They keep to the alleys and the darker side of the buildings, crossing the street with caution. Sunset is less than an hour away; time and daylight are of the essence.

“Wait here,” Alice says to Leif and Irondirk. “Let’s give Bayto a clear line.”

“Alice...” Tarrant whispers and she can hear the request in his tone. No, he doesn’t want her to leave him behind. Not even for a moment.

She grasps his hand, uncaring that they’re working now, that they are not alone. “I’ll call,” she swears. Yes, when she needs him she will Call.

He doesn’t like it – not if his anxious peridot gaze is anything to go by – but he lets her hand slip from his.

“Lead the way, Bayto,” she says.

He does, muttering along the way. “Yes, yes, here she is. Right foot, left foot. Stepped in a Batten skin at some point. Very pungent... Right foot. Left foot...”

“Anything on the trees?” she asks, careful not to touch the trunks as she follows in his wake despite their inviting murmurings. Yes, Orash trees do enjoy a good embrace from passers by. Perhaps that’s why there aren’t any in the White Queen’s garden: rather forward trees, truth be told.

“Nah. Nothing from Tarra,” he mumbles, his voice muffled by grass and fallen leaves and dropped fruit.

“How about the fellow she was with?”

“Oh, he touched almost everything.”

“Show me,” she requests and takes note of the trees Bayto points out.

Long minutes and about two hundred paces later, the blood hound announces, “This is it. End of the line.”

“Not for Tarra, I hope,” she murmurs, looking over the trees, studying the canopy and kicking aside pieces of decaying fruit with her boots.

“So... what should I do?”

“I’m not sure,” she admits, inspecting the last tree Irondirk’s nephew had apparently touched.

Bayto sits on the ground and whines. “Do you think they’re all right? Tarranya and Mally?”

“Mally would never let anything happen to Tarra,” Alice reassures him. “And Tarra is imminently capable.”

He sighs.

Alice peers at a knot on the tree. It is nestled between two perfectly healthy branches and something about it seems... She leans closer and studies it, taking in the chips and scratches that decorate it and the surrounding living trunk of the tree. The breeze brushes through her hair and it touches the bark of the tree and...

Alice notices how very... quiet this tree is. It does not murmur as the others do. In fact, its branches do not even sway in her direction despite how very close she’s standing to it.

Yes, there is something not quite Right about this tree. She looks it over again and, upon further inspection, decides that the poor thing looks... stressed. It’s leaves are small, curled, and yellowed. Its fruit has fallen to the ground only half ripe and still hard as conch shells on the beach of the Crimson Sea.

She considers concurring with Bayto, but what if he tells her she’s imagining this? No, she’s not ready to be dissuaded. Not when this is the only hint she’s found at all.

Alice returns her attention to the knot and runs her fingers over it. The tree, oddly enough, seems to stiffen, to brace itself. Feeling oddly like she’s invading on the tree’s personal space, Alice digs her nails into a particularly scratched crevasse. Despite the lack of leverage and with only the meager strength of her fingers, the knot... shifts.

She stares at it for a moment before reaching for her knife. “I’m sorry,” she whispers to the tree which seems to sigh in pained resignation.

“Alice? What are you doing?” Bayto asks as she carefully inserts the blade into the crack around the tree’s scar tissue and wiggles it a bit.

“I think I’m...”

And then the knot pops up suddenly.

There’s a series of wooden clunks and metallic clicks that resonate up through the tree right before...

Baaaaaw...!” Bayto yelps and Alice gapes at the dark hole where the earth beneath had quite unexpectedly given way beneath him.

“Bayto!” she calls, wedging her knife beneath the fake knot to stop it from snapping back into place, and dives for the hole.

She blinks down into the darkness. It is totally, absolutely, completely black down there and she suspects that were it the middle of the afternoon and the sun were shining directly down upon them, that fact would not be changed.

“Bayto!” she hisses and her voice echoes back to her. “Are you all right?”

Her heart line twinges; Tarrant had felt her startlement. She Calls him and sends a sheepish apology along as well. Her first reaction should have been to summon him but she’d been so surprised by Bayto’s disappearance and...!

“Eugh. I’m fine. Sort of.”

“Sort of? Are you injured or not?”

“Well... no, but it reeks down here, Alice. I think this was a sewer... once.”

Alice frowns. “How far down are you? I can’t see you.”

He huffs a bit as if expending considerable effort at something. “Well, I can’t jump back out,” he says after a moment. “And, I’m sorry, Alice, but I’d really like to get out of here. The stench is burning my nose.”

“Help is coming,” she promises him.

“Help is ’ere,” Tarrant announces, kneeling next to her at the mouth of the hole. He reaches up to remove his hat, his finger twitching in the air before he obviously remembers that he had purposefully left it behind at Mamoreal for safe keeping. Alice’s heart twinges in sympathy; it’s been a long time since they’ve found themselves in a situation Not Suited To Hats.

He swings his legs over the edge and Alice places a hand on his arm. “We don’t know how deep it is.”

He nods and then pushes himself into the abyss.

“Nauw this be a shrifty mechanism,” Irondirk muses, looking over the knot and Alice’s knife which is still holding it up.

“Leif! One or two paws’ worth of assistance would be appreciated!” Tarrant calls.

Without a word, the lion drops down into the subterranean realm.

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?” Alice asks Irondirk as the sounds of Bayto’s rescue proceed without any undue exclamations or suspicious silences.

“Nae. Ne’er.” He lifts the lantern he’d brought with him and attempts to shed a bit more light on the conundrum than what is provided by the lowering sun.

Alice returns her attention to the hole as Bayto’s head bobs up into view. She reaches out, grasps him under his doggy elbows, and pulls him to safety.

“Thanks...” he breathes, inhaling deeply. “It’s rank down there. Blood and decay and moldy bones.”

“Do you smell it?” she calls down, concerned.

“No,” Tarrant replies after a moment. “True, it’s not... pleasantly aromatic down here, but it doesn’t distract from the darkness, which I feel is a challenge more deserving of attention at the moment.”

“Leif?” Alice checks.

“I’m fine,” he grunts.

Alice leans back and reaches a hand out to Irondirk. “Your lantern,” she demands. He obliges and she passes it down. She only has to lean over a bit – until her elbow dips below the rim – before someone takes it from her.

“Thank you, Alice.”

“What do you see?” she asks, curious and concerned.

“A... tunnel, I believe,” Tarrant says, his voice changing slightly in pitch as he pivots first one way and then the other. “Yes. Lined with stones. A bit of muck at the bottom, of course, as tends to be the case with dark tunnels. And here is the ground... no, door... no, hole opening latchings,” he continues, finally settling on a phrase that he feels satisfactorily describes the hidden entrance. “Ah... rather brilliant!”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Alice grins at her husband’s enthusiasm.

“Tarra’s down here,” Leif interrupts. “Let’s go.”

“No, no! Just a moment!” Tarrant declares. “Alice, release the latch up there. I will attempt to open it from the inside.”

She hesitates. She doesn’t like the thought of leaving her husband down there, of locking him in the ground, but his suggestion makes too much sense – vital sense! – for her to refuse. “All right.”

Alice looks over her shoulder at Irondirk and nods for him to do the honors. The tree winces as he pulls the knife free. Suddenly, the ground swings up and snaps into place with a soft thud! Alice stares as the clumps of scraggly grass and hard-packed dirt make a perfect camouflage for the trap door. Behind her, the tree lets out a sigh of relief. The poor thing.

She only has to wait a moment before the ground begins to give again, opening.

“Success!” Tarrant announces, sounding quite proud of himself. And Alice has to admit he deserves every bit of his own pride... and hers as well.

Irondirk moves closer and crouches at the edge of the hole. “A canal,” he decides with a thoughtful look. “From th’ ol’ moat. If’n I’m recollectin’ rightly, it runs out teh Gummer Slough.”

“Not the sea?” Alice asks, a little startled.

“No,” Tarrant replies, his voice rough with a growl fueled by the Past. “Wouldnae wantae spoil th’ view.”

“Aye,” Davon agrees. “Sae... nauw whot, Lassling?”

Alice thinks for a moment. And then;

“Bayto, I need you to find the Bandersnatch and tell him to locate the end of this tunnel in the swamp.”

“About time,” Leif grumbles.

“Alice?” Tarrant asks, clearly Worried about the lack of daylight to guide them out of the tunnel at either end and their lack of provisions for an extended search. “Are you sure now is the best time for a rescue mission?”

The lion growls. “How would you feel if it were Alice missing?”

“I know how I’d feel, Cat.”

Yes, Tarrant has been in Leif’s position before. Alice hastily speaks up before More can be said. “Yes, I’m coming down. We’re going to see where this thing goes.” She turns to her companion. “Davon, come with us. You’ll probably know whomever we meet down there...”

He sighs. “If’n this be where th’ lot o’ them ha’been takin’ off teh, aye.”

“Bayto, after you find Bandy, go back to Mamoreal and tell the queen about this. Also, ask Sir Fenruffle to find the old Salazen Grum drawings. There may be more tunnels.” Or, if this mission goes very badly, they may be requiring a bit of rescuing themselves, but Alice doesn’t mention that. Still, from the pulse of frantic worry- fear-denial-determination! she Feels around her heart, she knows that Tarrant has once again understood what she had left unsaid.

“Find the Bandersnatch. Tell him to find the tunnel exit in the Slough. Go back to Mamoreal. Tell the queen. Ask Sir Fenruffle to find the castle plans. Got it.”

“Good.” Alice watches as Irondirk pushes himself over the edge of the hole. She sends Bayto a brief smile. “Fairfarren,” she bids him and then she, too, disappears into the darkness.



It’s a full day for Tamial Hightopp – Upland adventurer and conspiracy seeker of the Great City of London!

The when had been decided: during Aunt Margaret’s customary afternoon high tea with her embroidery club.

The how had been declared and means obtained: surely Laney won’t be counting her pence in the very near future!

All that had been left had been to sneak out of the house – an easy task with Tam supposedly still searching for that parasol and Win purportedly keeping him company – and then transport themselves to the intersection on Win’s letter.

“We’ll take the Tube to Victoria Station and then make an appearance at Green Park. That way, if my father realizes we’re gone and asks where we went, we can say we were there the whole time. I’ll be sure to say hello to someone I know.”

Simple enough.

Tamial, however, is still stuck on the actual How part of the From-Here-To-There Plan.

Well, that and the smell.

“Eugh, Win. This air is foul.”

“Is it?” His cousin sniffs audibly even as Tam coughs into his jacket sleeve. “I suppose I don’t notice it so much. Of course, after spending last weekend in the country, I noticed it when we arrived. But I thought it got... better since then.”

“More likely youve gotten more foul to match it,” Tam mutters. Win doesn’t appear to have heard him.

They dodge shoppers and businessmen and cringe away from shouting stall minders. Horses and carriages clatter and splash through the muddy streets and Tam tries not to look too closely at the collection of brownish green muck that has collected in the gutters and next to the curb.

“So,” he says, raising his voice to a near shout in order to compete with the noise. “What’s this tube thing we’re taking?”

“You don’t have one where you come from?” Win asks imperiously. “It’s the very height of sophistication.”

“Sophistication in what?” Tam demands with a frown, not liking Win’s superior airs.

“Town travel, of course. D’you think I’d tromp through block after block of this mess?” he asks rhetorically, waving a hand at the smelly, rain-soaked mess on the streets.

“Well, I wasn’t so sure about you, but I wasn’t looking forward to it,” he replies honestly. A taxi cab stands waiting on the curb and the nag hitched to lifts its tail and does his shukm right there on the street!

“Gross!” Tam declares, averting his eyes. “And what’s all this black stuff all over everything? It looks like smoke. Was there a fire here?”

Win glances back at him and blinks. Tam gestures helpfully to one particularly noticeable example. “Oh,” his cousin says, continuing down the busy, grimy sidewalk. “That’s probably from the factories. They burn coal, you know. To heat the furnaces to melt metal and so forth.”

“Oh. That stuff.” He’d been meaning to ask about that. Yes, he’d seen buckets and baskets of that sort when he’d visited his aunt and uncle and cousins with his Mam and Fa... but... “Aren’t fires usually full of wood bits?”

“Huh? Oh, well the ones at the country estate are, yes.” Win pauses and glances back with a thoughtful expression. “I forgot; you haven’t actually been to the London house in a long time.”

Yes, their holiday visits are always made to the country estate. Tam rarely comes Up Here with his Mam and Fa for tea with Aunt Margaret or Uncle Hamish; Winslow is always in the middle of his lessons during those visits. Tam nods. “Maybe when Lee was a baby?”

Win sighs wistfully. “Ah, the good old days. I think I actually liked him a bit before he could walk. It’s hard to remember that far back, though.”

Tam giggles.

“So, you don’t have coal either in your country? Iplam, was it?”

“Yes. Iplam. And no, we don’t have coal. We use fallen sticks and tree trimmings. You know, from their seasonal pruning.” And, really, if coal manages to turn everything black and gritty, Tam will be happy to continue right on not using it.

“Seasonal what?” Win asks. Perhaps he hadn’t heard Tam over the clamor in the streets.

“Their pruning!” he repeats. “They get mighty irritated if they have to bud without it in the spring.”

Win stops in the street and looks at him. “Your mother and father get irritated, you mean.”

“No. The trees.” He takes in Win’s incredulous expression and ventures, “Trees don’t get irritated here?”

“If they do, they can’t do or say much about it.”

“That’s... odd.” Why hadn’t he noticed this before at the country estate? Plenty of trees there!

With a wary look, Win resumes their trek. After another block of dodging black-cloaked businessmen and bustle-burdened ladies, Win leads Tam into a building and announces, “This is it. The Tube. C’mon. We have to buy our tickets.”

Tam watches his cousin make the necessary purchases and then follows him through the gates and out to a platform. They only have to wait a few minutes before their transportation arrives.

“It’s a locomotive!” Tam exclaims.

“Oh, you mean you actually have one of these things where you live?”

Tam scowls. “Well, not right where I live, but we have one. It was started just a couple of years ago. I guess there used to be one a long time ago but the Red Queen got rid of it.” He scrunches his nose and tries to remember the details of that history lesson.

“The who?” his cousin demands, eyebrows arced and eyes wide.

Tam sighs. “Never mind.” It’s time to focus on the adventure at hand, anyway, so he does.

The Plan goes swimmingly – according to Win, who manages to identify several people he says are associates of Uncle Hamish’s in Green Park – and Tam finds himself being introduced to a lord and lady, a partner in a company that often employs Uncle Hamish’s ships, and a banker (whatever that is... but it appears to be a rather stuffy and humorless man with a wide mustache and a very boring top hat).

Win narrates their path as they trek along. “This is Piccadilly,” he informs Tam with a gesture to the wide, sloppy, and busiest-that-Tam-has-seen-yet street. “And that one there is Stratton. And here’s Bolton... Ah! Finally! Here’s Clarges Street.”

They take their lives into their hands and risk splashing mud and horse shukm all over their trousers when they dash across the street, taking advantage of a break in traffic. Tam laughs out loud at the thought of what his Mam and Fa would have to say about that! And then he sobers when he considers the punishment he would no doubt get for such an act. Oddly enough, in that moment, Tam thinks of the Red Queen again. And of the Jabberwocky and Iplam and his Fa. Tam cannot imagine that scene. He tries to compare Krystoval to the illustrations of the black, skeletal beast in his textbook. He tries to comprehend that the burnt and barren plain he’d seen a sketch of at the Mamoreal Red War Memorial had been Iplam. He just... can’t.

“You coming?”

Tam jerks back to the present, to his cousin and their quest. “Of course.”

They head down Clarges Street and Tam wishes for more pairs of eyes so that he might be able to absorb everything as they pass by. There are bookstores and haberdasheries and pharmacies and law offices and bookkeeping services – although why you would need one of those, Tam isn’t sure... perhaps it’s for people who don’t have enough library space for all their books?

Win puts a hand on his sleeve and tugs him to a halt when they arrive at the corner.

“This is the place,” he announces.

Tam takes a look around from his vantage point on the southwest corner of the crossroads. They examine each of their four options. One is a dressmaker’s. Another is a flower shop. The third is a moneylender’s. The final option looks like a... things store.

They cross the street – this time with much less danger and daring – and peer in through the windows of the Things Shop. Tam looks up at the sign and reads: Marston & Eagle Secondhand Goods.

“It’s a pawn shop,” Win says, studying the display in through a window that is in dire need of a scrubbing.

Tam frowns. “I don’t seen any pawns.” Or bishops, or rooks, or knights.

Win rolls his eyes. “You won’t. A pawn shop is where people bring their valuables and sell them.”

“Why would they sell their valuables?”

“Because they need money.”


Win huffs. “Why?” He snorts. “Maybe because it’s useful?” Win shakes his head. “You’re not going to tell me that there’s no money in your country, are you?”

Well, with Win sporting an attitude like that what would be the point?

“Come on,” his cousin says, pulling him away from the shop’s front door. “This is the place.”

“How do you know?”

Win nods toward the window. “Did you see the newspapers? It’s the same edition as the one I was sent. This is the place.”

“Then how come we’re walking away from it?”

“Maybe because I was told to come alone?” Win reminds him.

“Oh. Right.” Tam considers that. “But I promised I’d be there when you meet... whoever it is.”

“And you will. We just have to find a way to get you inside the shop without anyone seeing.”

“And how are we going to do that?”

“With...” Tam stumbles and stomps as Win drags him around the side of the shop and into a narrow but surprisingly clear alley. “... the use of the rear entrance.” Win gestures grandly at the door which displays a small, tasteful plaque: M&E – Distinguished Customers Entrance.

Tam gapes at the door and then at his cousin. And then:

“You’ve been here before!” Tam accuses, feeling hurt that Win hadn’t waited for him to share the adventure.

Win narrows his eyes. “Well, yes, I’ve been to this neighborhood before. A few months ago Grandfather Manchester brought me here to show me the new company showroom. But I’ve never been here before.”

“Then how’d you know where the door would be?”

“Because pawn shops always have a back door. So nobody gossips about lord such-and-such selling his father’s sterling pocket watch to cover his card game debts. Discretion is very important to grown-ups,” Win informs him. “That’s what my grandfather told me.”

“Discretion. Right. So, what do we do?”

You are going to wait across the street, there. Ill go in first and let you in when I can.”

Tam shakes his head. “I don’t like it. We go in together and I hide.”

“Hm. That does sound better, actually. Ready?”

“Sure.” Although he doesn’t think he really is.

But then there’s no time for doubts: Win is opening the door, causing the small attached bell to ring, and Tam is following him down a narrow, unpainted hall to the first open door. His pulse is pounding; his hands are sweating.

He needs to find a place to hide before the shop proprietor comes back to investigate his newly arrived customer... and finds not one, but two.

One Promise Kept: Book 4

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 6 of 15

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