A Child of the Jago, by Arthur Morrison

32

Bill Rann called for Josh early the next morning, and they strolled down Old Jago Street in close communion.

‘Are you on for a job?’ asked Bill. ”Cos I got one cut an’ dried — a topper, an’ safe as ’ouses.’

‘Wot sort o’ job’s this?’

‘Wy a bust — unless we can screw it.’

This meant a breaking-in, with a possibility of a quieter entrance by means of keys. It was unpleasantly suggestive of Josh’s last exploit, but he answered: ‘Awright. Depends, o’ course.’

‘O, it’s a good un.’ Bill Rann grinned for no obvious reason, and slapped his leg to express rapturous amusement. ‘It’s a good un — you can take yer davy o’ that. I bin a thinkin’ about it for a fortnight, but it wants two. Damme, it’s nobby!’ And Bill Rann grinned again, and made two taps of a step-dance. ‘Wotjer think,’ he pursued, suddenly serious, ‘wotjer think o’ screwin’ a fence?’

It was a novel notion, but in Josh’s mind, at first flush, it seemed unsportmanlike. ‘Wot fence?’ asked Josh.

Bill Rann’s grin burst wide again. He bent low, with outstretched chin, and stuck his elbows out as he answered: ‘Wy, ole Weech!’

Josh bared his teeth — but with no smile — looking sharply in the other’s upturned face. Bill Rann, bent nearly double, and with hands in pockets, flapped his arms in the manner of wings, chuckled aloud, and, jerking his feet back and forth, went elaborately through the first movement of the gallows-flap. ‘Eh? eh?’ said he. ’Ow’s that strike ye, ole cock?’

Josh answered not, but his parted lips stretched wide, and his tongue-tip passed quickly over them while he thought.

‘It’ll be a fair cop for ’im,’ Bill pursued, eagerly. ’E’s treated us all pretty mean, one time or other. Wy, I bet ’e owes us fifty quid atween us, wot with all the times ’e’s squeeged us for a bit. It’ll on’y be goin’ to bring away our own stuff!’

‘G-r-r-r!’ Josh growled, glaring fiercely; ‘it was ’im as put me away for my laggin’! Bleed’n’ swine!’

Bill Rann stopped, surprised. ‘Wot —’im?’ he exclaimed. ‘Ole Weech narked ye? ’Owjer know that?’

Josh told the tale of his negotiations in the matter of the Mogul’s watch, and described Weech’s terror at sight of his dash at the shop-door. ‘I’m on,’ said Josh in conclusion. ‘It’s one way o’ payin’ ’im, an’ it’ll bring a bit in. On’y ’e better not show ’isself w’ile I’m abaat! ’E wouldn’t git auf with a punch on the chin, like the bloke at ’Ighbury!’ Josh Perrott ended with a tigerish snarl and a white spot at the curl of each of his nostrils.

‘Blimy!’ said Bill Rann; ’an’ so it was ’im, was it? I often wondered ’oo you meant. Well, flimpin’ ’im’s the best way. Won’t ’e sing a bleed’n’ ‘ymn w’en ’e finds ’is stuff weeded!’ Bill flung back his head, and laughed again. ‘But there — let’s lay it out.’ And the two men fell to the discussion of methods.

Weech’s back-fence was to be his undoing. It was the obvious plan. The front shutters were impracticable in such a place as Meakin Street; but the alleys in the rear were a perfect approach. Bill Rann had surveyed the spot attentively, and, after expert consideration, he had selected the wash-house window as the point of entrance. Old boxes and packing-wood littered the yard, and it would be easy to mount a selected box, shift the catch of the little window, and wriggle in, feet first, without noise. True, the door between the wash-house and the other rooms might be fastened, but it could be worked at under cover; and Bill Rann had a belief that there must be a good deal of ‘stuff’ in the wash-house itself. There would be nobody in the house but Weech, because the wretched old woman, who swept the floors and cooked bloaters, was sent away at night; so that every room must be unoccupied but one.

As for tools, Josh had none, but Bill Rann undertook to provide them; and in the matter of time it was considered that that same night would be as good as any. It would be better than most, in fact, for it was Wednesday, and Bill Rann had observed that Mr Weech went to the bank in High Street, Shoreditch, pretty regularly on Thursday mornings.

This day also Mr Weech kept a careful watch for Josh Perrott, but saw him not.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11