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Eagle Chronicles 1: Birth of the Eagle

Title: Birth of the Eagle
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 6617
Summary Steven Taylor discovers his calling...as a thief
Author's NoteI wish I had dated these stories when I started them. I started this series when Steven was already a thief so I needed to make up a reason for him to start. I was highly influenced by "The Saint" series of novels when I wrote these so they are a bit on the "light" side.



1. Birth of the Eagle

June 1938

The two boys lay on the bank of the water. It was June 1938 and they had just graduated high school. They were inseparable, like brothers. One had black hair and blue eyes, and what most would call a Celtic face. The other boy had brown hair and eyes and was a bit stockier in build. The black-haired boy asked, "What are you going to do now, Fitz?"

"I received a scholarship to Yale so I think I'd better go. What about you, Steven? With that brain of yours, you could do practically anything."

"I've got to help Aunt Stephanie get some money. If not, she'll lose the boarding house. I mean, there's not much Sara and Sheila can do."

"I'm going to be working at my father's shop over the summer. You could take my place when I go to college."

"Thanks for the offer, but there's not much in Greenwich that interests me anymore. I was thinking of going to New York."

"New York! You must be crazy! What can you possibly hope to find there?"

"You said yourself, with a brain like mine, I can do practically anything." He stood up. "How about another swim?"

"You're on!"

The boys were in the water when a girl close to their own age approached. "Steven Taylor! Come out right now! Aunt Stephanie wants you!"

"Come in for a swim, Sara. The water's fine," called Steven.

"I don't have my bathing suit."

"That's okay, we won't look!"

"John Fitzgerald, how dare you!" Sara turned to go away, but remembered what she was here for. "Aunt Stephanie wants you to help around the house. I'm going to wait until you get out otherwise you'll never leave."

"Nothing like a younger sister to ruin a fun afternoon," said Steven dejectedly as he waded to shore.

"Yeah, that's why I'm glad I'm an only child," Fitz remarked as he followed Steven.

Sara threw a towel at them both. "I don't know how you guys can just be lazy when everyone else is working."

"We're taking advantage of the free time we have while we can. Lord knows when we'll be able to do it again." Steven tied his shoes.

"You and Sheila should join us next time," said Fitz, doing the same.

"Maybe I will, I can't say for Sheila."

Fitz stood. "I knew that under that rough exterior, you were a good kid."

"Of course," said Steven, putting his arm about her shoulder. "She's my sister."

"And there are times I wish I wasn't," she said with a smile.

"Well, you won't have to put up with me for long." She looked questioningly at him. "I'm planning to go to New York to get a job."

"Does Aunt Stephanie know?"

"No, and she's not going to until I'm ready to tell her. Understand?"

"Yes. I promise not to say a word."

"That goes for you, too, Fitz. Not a word."

"Sure thing. I've got to get home. I promised my dad I'd help at the store this afternoon. I'll stop by tonight, okay?"

"That'd be swell. See ya tonight, then." Steven and Sara waved good-bye and went back to their aunt's boarding house.

For the rest of the month and into July, Steven did odd jobs around the house waiting for the right moment to tell his aunt about New York. Sara kept her promise and didn't tell. Then, in mid-July, Stephanie received a letter telling her that she would lose the boarding house if she didn't keep up with the mortgage.

"I can't possibly pay within the month. I just don't have the money."

"I'm gonna help you," said Steven.

"How can you do that?"

"I'm gonna get a real job with real pay."

"No job here will pay enough to help with the mortgage."

"I know. That's why I'm going to New York."

"New York? But you're only 17!"

"There are lots of kids younger than me that are working. The least I can do is try."

Stephanie gave in and Steven prepared to go to New York.

* * * *.

Walking along Fifth Avenue in New York at night, Steven couldn't believe that in a city this size, there were no jobs. He watched the people walk by in their silks and jewels, flaunting their riches while there were people scrounging for money, some even starving. An idea suddenly came to him: why should some people have more while others had less? They probably wouldn't miss it if it were stolen. With the money gained from selling the goods, he could pay off Aunt Stephanie's mortgage and donate the rest to some charity--anonymously, of course. A real Robin Hood.

That evening, Steven made his way to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Even though this was his first break-in, he felt like an old pro--maybe it was from all those mysteries he read. He studied the wall behind the reception desk, noting the cubbyholes with keys in them. He then chose a floor at random and walked down the hallway to one of the rooms whose number he had memorized. He picked the lock with just a little difficulty-five tries--and entered the room. In a hotel like this, he felt that the more expensive rooms would have individual safes. The suite he entered must have sparkled in the daylight. He noticed that one part of the wood paneling was darker than the rest. The safe must be there. He approached the safe quietly and slowly. He wiped his hands against his thighs, forgetting that he was wearing gloves. He applied pressure to select points around the safe hoping to find the secret catch. The panel popped open and he flinched, anticipating an alarm. When nothing went off, he then stared at the dial facing him. How to go about this? He had heard that sometimes you could feel the vibrations of the tumblers or even hear them. He took a deep breath and made his first attempt. Nothing. He tried three more times and was ready to throw the damn thing out the window! He took a few more calming breaths. He had to get this done before the occupants woke up. One more time and then I call it quits. He did it slowly and meticulously and it opened. After staring at the open safe in shock, he moved quickly, only removing the jewels, leaving the bills untouched. He went into two more rooms and did the same thing. He left unnoticed.

After he had the money in his hand he thought if he could make this much money in one night, why not continue doing so? So, two nights later he went to a different floor of the Waldorf and broke into three more rooms. He felt that was enough and decided to go back to Connecticut.

* * * *

From the train station, he walked to the Fitzgeralds' drugstore. He went inside, dropped his bag on the floor and took a stool at the counter. "Let's have some service!" he called.

"Just a minute, just a minute," Fitz said, backing out of the kitchen. "What'll it be?"

"A friendly 'hello' would be a nice start."

Fitz looked up. "Steven, what're you doin' back? Couldn't find a job?"

"Yeah, but it was only temporary. Couldn't find anything after that. Can you get me a Coke?"

"Yeah, sure." Fitz took two bottles out of the refrigerator. "I think I'll join you." He took a sip out of the bottle. "You been home yet?"

Steven pointed to the bag. "Does it look like it? I just got off the train and was thirsty so I came here. Can you leave?"

"I'll tell Dad. Hold on." Fitz went into the back room and gave out five minutes later minus the apron. "Ready."

"Okay, let's go." Steven picked up his Coke in one hand, his bag in the other, and the two boys walked the two blocks to the boarding house.

When they arrived, they went in the back door. "I'm back!" Steven called out. He walked up the backstairs when no one answered. He reached his attic room and dropped his bag on the floor. "Maybe they're in the basement and didn't hear me," he said to Fitz.

"Either that, or they're ignoring you."

"Thanks for your confidence. I'm going to check. Are you coming?"

"Sure, I'll come." He turned around and glanced out the window. "There they are, out front."

"After we say hello, we go for a swim," said Steven. He bent down and unzipped his bag. "You go ahead. I'll be right down."

"Okay." Fitz left.

Steven took out an envelope from the bag and checked the amount of money inside. "All there." He then went down to his aunt's room and propped the envelope against a lamp. He them went outside.

His aunt hugged him and almost refused to let him go. "I'm glad you're back! We heard on the news of jewel robberies that happened at some hotel. Were you there?"

"No, they happened at some posh hotel that I couldn't afford. I heard about it, though. Have they any ideas of how it was done?"

"They think it was some professional who knew his way around," said Sara. "He only took jewels and left the money."

"Oh." He relaxed. "I was going for a swim with Fitz. Is that okay with you?" he asked his aunt.

"Certainly. You must be hot after your trip."

"Do you want to come, Sara?" asked Fitz.

"That would be fun."

Lounging on the bank later, Steven told the others of New York. "It's a city of contradictions. On one side you have the rich and their jewels going to the theatre, while on the other you have the poor struggling to survive." He unfolded the New York newspaper he brought with him. "Here, look for yourselves."

Fitz took the paper and flipped through the pages. "Look, here's an article about the jewel robberies.

--The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was again the victim of a jewel theft. Three separate safes were broken into and an assortment of gold, diamond, emerald, and sapphire jewelry was stolen. Only two days before, it had experienced the same type of theft. The police are puzzled as to how the thief got into the building without being seen by the night manager or any porters. There were no signs of forced entry at either the windows or doors.--

It looks like he got away with a lot." He showed the article to Sara. "I wonder how much they were worth."

"About $500,000," Steven replied.

"How do you know?"

"The only way he would know," said Sara slowly, "was if he did it himself." She looked at her brother.

"Did you?" asked Fitz.

Steven smiled modestly. "You found me out. You two are the only ones that know, so if any word spreads, I'll know who to blame."

"But how did you do it? Why?" Fitz asked, still not willing to believe his best friend was a thief.

"I did it to help Aunt Stephanie and the poor in New York. I don't really know how I did it. Probably from reading all those mystery novels. I felt like I had been doing it for years."

"Steven! Sara!" Their cousin was calling them.

"Over here, Sheila," Steven called. "Remember, not a word to anyone," he told the others.

"Here you are," Sheila said, finding them. "Mom wants help with dinner," she told Sara, "and wants you to fix the rotten porch step. Mrs. Walsh almost fell through." She giggled. "It was a pretty funny sight." She waited.

"I take it that's a hint," Steven remarked, rising from the grass. Sheila nodded. "That's what I thought." He threw his towel at her. She laughed and threw it back.

"Oh, I almost forgot," said Fitz. "There's a dance at the high school tonight if you want to go."

Sara picked up the newspaper and stood. "Are you asking me or Steven?"

"Both, I guess."

"I'm game," Steven said. He looked at Sara.

"Why not."

That night at the dance, Steven felt a bit out of place. It wasn't that no one wanted to dance with him, it was the fact that now he was there, he wished he wasn't. He saw Sara and Fitz dancing. While he was watching, he heard a female voice in his ear. "I haven't seen you around for awhile. Where have you been?"

He turned and saw a blonde in a pale blue dress. "Oh, hi, Lisa."

"Is that all you have to say? I thought you liked me. Were you ignoring me?"

"No, I was in New York." He continued watching Fitz and Sara.

"You in New York?" She laughed. "I believe you're lying to me."

"If I am, you seem very cheerful about it. But as it is, I'm telling the truth for if I were trying to ignore you, would I come to the dance?"

"Oh, good. Shall we dance then?" She put her hand on his arm.

"Let me tell you another way," he said, removing her hand. "I never had any feelings for you one way or the other, so you can go find someone else to be your toady." He walked off.

Sara and Fitz came over to him. "Was Lisa giving you a hard time?" Fitz asked.

"She thought I was ignoring her. I don't know what made her think that I had the slightest feeling towards her."

"You are one of the most-wanted boys in school," said Sara. "All the girls are crazy about you."

"And she thought she'd make everyone jealous of her? Now she'll be the most embarrassed."

After a few more dances, Steven took his leave. "I'm still a little tired from the trip. You two stay, I'll walk home." He walked out of the hall and into the summer night with his jacket slung casually over his shoulder. On the walk home, he argued with himself about his new "career". Granted, it was morally wrong to steal, but it wasn't as morally wrong as people starving within 5 miles of others with more than enough. "Robin Hood was considered an outlaw by the aristocratic Normans," he said out loud, "yet a hero by the Saxon peasants." Then and there, he decided to model himself after that famous figure.

* * * *

Through the following months, he helped his aunt around the house and worked at the Fitzgeralds' drugstore when Fitz went off to college. He had offers from many colleges, some even offering to pay him to go. He refused in order to help his aunt. Maybe in the spring...

One weekend in October, Steven told his aunt that he was going to New Haven to visit Fitz at Yale. "I'll be staying with him on campus so I won't have to worry about a room or food. I'll be back on Sunday."

When Fitz opened his room door and saw Steven standing there, he was amazed. "C'mon in! Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" He ushered Steven into the room.

"It was a spur of the moment decision. I wanted to get away for a while, so I came to visit. I hope I didn't ruin any plans?"

"No, no. I just have to write a paper, that's all. I might not be such good company. You're welcome to stay, though."

"What's the paper about? I might be able to help."

"The Battle of Culloden."

"Interesting topic. I can tell you didn't choose it." Fitz glared at him. "I mean," Steven quickly corrected, "if you had, you wouldn't be so disappointed. The Battle of Culloden occurred in April 1746 between the Jacobite supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the forces of King George of England."

"I know that. What I need is background information."

"Is that all?" Steven put himself into lecture-mode and Fitz took notes. "And there you have it."

There was a knock on the door. "Come in!" called Fitz. A youth of Fitz's height with blond hair and hazel eyes came in. "Hi, Tim."

"Just came by to see if you're going down to dinner." He looked at Steven. "Hi." Fitz introduced them. "So you're the famous Steven Taylor."

"'Famous?'" Steven raised an eyebrow.

"Fitz talks about you practically all the time. The way he described you, you're a genius."

"I wouldn't say that."

Tim walked over to Fitz's desk. "What're you doing?"

'Working on a history paper."

"You took all these notes? Where from? I don't see any books."

Fitz pointed at Steven. "He just gave me a lecture."

Tim was amazed. "You knew all this? Fitz was right."

"Let's go to dinner, okay? I'm getting hungry."

Later that night (or early the next morning), Steven went off-campus and headed for the "better" section of New Haven. He came upon what he thought the ideal strike: a respectable townhouse. He disabled the alarm system and picked the servants' entrance lock. He crept to what turned out to be the study and cracked the safe only taking some jewels and money. The better, more important jewels would be upstairs, and he knew he wasn't steel-nerved enough to try it. He left by the back door and turned the alarm back on. He then walked back to the college.

In the morning, Fitz woke to see Steven sitting at the desk reading the paper. "Good morning," he said brightly.

"Yeah, right," Fitz mumbled. He yawned. "How come you're always so wide awake? You had less sleep than I did."

"Maybe the little sleep I get is of better quality."

Fitz walked towards him, looked over Steven's shoulder, and read the article Steven was looking at.

--Last night, the William Morris household was burglarized. Only some jewels and money were taken. The amount had not yet been released at press time.--

"Steven, where were you last night?"

"Just because there's a little theft when I'm around, you automatically blame me. You have no right to--"

"Did you do it?" Fitz asked slowly.

"Well, yes. But you shouldn't automatically blame me!"

Fitz sat down at the end of his bed. "I don't believe it! I should turn you in."

"But you won't, you're not that type."

"Why did you do it? You've gotten me involved as an accomplice!"

"I don't know why I did it again. Maybe because I enjoyed it so much before. I'll be leaving in the afternoon, so don't worry."

"What do you do with the money anyway?"

"I keep some for myself and give the rest to charity."

"A real Robin Hood," Fitz remarked sarcastically.

Steven just shrugged his shoulders.

* * * *

Steven left Fitz with a hearty handshake and boarded a train bound for New York. When he got off at Grand Central Station, he immediately headed for the West Side in search of a particular fence. He found the one he was looking for in a small store run by a pale Englishman. "Ah, how good to see you again, my friend. What can I do for you?"

"I don't have time to chit-chat, Charlie. I have some things I'd like you to take a look at."

"Certainly, come into my office." Charlie led Steven into a small room. "Let's see what you have today." Steven took the jewels from his bag. "Ah, very good quality." He examined them closely. "Very good quality, indeed. You've done well this time. I'll get you the money." He walked to the safe. "I can trust you not to rob me?" he asked.

"As long as you're on my side, you're safe."

"Good." Charlie handed him the money. "You're going to go places, my friend. I'm sure of it."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll remember that when I'm on the run." He counted the bills. Charlie had a set scale of pay for the type of jewels brought in and all who dealt with him knew it. The money was all there.

"I don't think you ever will be."

Steven thanked him and headed back to Grand Central to await the next train to Connecticut.

When he arrived in Greenwich, he stopped to see the Fitzgeralds who lived above their store. Mrs. Fitzgerald answered his knock. "Why, Steven, come in."

"Thank you, Mrs. Fitzgerald, but I can't stay long. I've just been to visit Fitz at school."

"How is he doing?" asked Mr. Fitzgerald.

"Fine. He gets along with everyone and has a lot of friends. He sends you his love and says he'll be home for Thanksgiving."

"Would you like some dinner?" asked Mrs. Fitzgerald.

"No, thank you. I must be getting home. I just got off the train. I'll be back tomorrow to work. Good night." He left.

When he arrived home, he could smell dinner cooking. "Did you set a place for me?" he asked as he entered the kitchen.

"No, but there's always room," answered Stephanie. "Sheila, set a place for Steven."

"Yes, Mom." She got up and took out a plate, silverware, and a napkin for her cousin.

"How was Fitz?" asked Sara.

"He's enjoying himself," Steven said, sitting down. "As far as I know, his classes are going well, too. He really didn't say." His aunt placed his meal in front of him. "This looks great. I'm starved!"

* * * *

Two weeks later, Steven's dual life ended. He was working in the yard on a Sunday afternoon when two policemen walked up to him. He straightened up from his raking. "What can I do for you, gentlemen?"

"You are Steven Taylor?"

"Yes," Steven answered hesitantly.

"We have a warrant for your arrest." The policeman took out his handcuffs and proceeded to put them on Steven.

"What's going on here? Arrest for what?"

"Jewel theft in New Haven on the night of October 15," the second officer answered.

"This is preposterous!"

Sara came out of the house. "What's wrong?"

"These policeman think I'm a jewel thief," Steven told his sister. "Have you ever heard anything so absurd?"

"My brother has no reason to steal anything. We live comfortably and he has a job at the Fitzgeralds' drugstore."

"Are you denying that you were in New Haven the night of the crime?"

"No. I went to Yale to visit a friend. We read about the theft in the paper."

"What evidence do you have that says my brother is a thief?"

"The jewels were found and traced to a shop in New York. Under questioning, the owner gave a description. We asked in all train stations and bus terminals and followed all our leads. We were given a name when we asked at the drugstore in town. They told us how to get here."

"But there are many people who could fit that same description," Steven remarked.

"True, but you were the only one carrying an overnight bag that fit the description."

"I'll go with you only to prove you're wrong." He turned to Sara. "You'd better tell Aunt Stephanie."

"Okay, I'll tell her everything." She gave him a kiss and watched as the police car drove away.

Sitting on the back seat of the police car, Steven began to go over his possibilities and came up with only one he thought had potential: immediate escape. He normally wasn't one for violence, but he was ready to make an exception. He quietly reached for the handle, and, when the police weren't looking, opened the door and leapt out.

The policeman driving heard everything but was on a downhill curve so he couldn't do anything at the time. As soon as he could, he returned to the spot where it happened but Steven had disappeared. "He can't have gotten far, though. If he were down there, we'd see him."

"Just in case, I'll check downhill, you check uphill." The two officers separated.

A few leaves fell from the oak that stood by the road. Two legs dangled from a branch and soon Steven was crouched on the ground. He waited until the police were far enough away before he "borrowed their car.

* * * *

Steven left the car when it ran out of gas. He then ran through some woods, jumped on a bus, and then got off two stops later. He walked into a costume store and bought some facial make-up, which he quickly applied to add a few years to his looks. He then walked to the train station and headed for Bridgeport.

When he arrived, he knew that he would have a hard time trying to find a place to stay. He made for the seedier section of town in the hopes of finding some sort of sanctuary. He found a small boarding house that would satisfy his simple needs. He signed the register "Sebastian Talbot"--his first alias. He listened to the radio and heard that a manhunt was on for him. They gave his description and he laughed inwardly because he had changed that.

That evening he went down to a bar a few blocks away in order to find some local criminals. He ordered a beer and a hot sandwich and carefully eavesdropped on the many conversations going on around him. One in particular caught his attention--maybe because he was the topic.

"I bet the kid that made that haul from the Morris place is really smart. They say he's only 17."

"Yeah, but he's not smart enough. They found out who he was."

"But he got away, didn't he? We could use someone like him."

"It's surprising that a small-town kid could pull off such a job."

Steven walked over to them. "I think I know where the kid is." The two men looked at him. "Not here. Pay up and meet me outside." He walked out.

The two men quickly paid and followed him out. "Where is he?"

Steven began to walk. "You promise not to turn him in? He's got quite a bit of stored information."

The two men looked at each other. "Yeah, sure. We won't."

Steven turned to face them. "You're lookin' at him."

"You? It can't be," said one.

"You don't look 17," said the other.

"Make-up. I think I can trust you two. I need some help. I want to commit a murder."

"No way. We may steal, but we don't kill."

"I don't mean that. I just want to fake my death so the police keep after me." The men nodded in understanding. "My plan is this..."

The following day, they put the plan into action. One of the men, Bill, called the police and told them he had spotted the Morris thief. He gave them the location then hung up the phone. Ned then informed Steven the chase was on.

The police went to the given address just in time to see Steven get into a car. "There he goes! Don't let him get away!" They drove after the car. Steven led them a merry chase until his car went out of control and crashed, exploding as it fell into the Long Island Sound. The police got out of their car and stared at the sinking debris. "No one could have survived that explosion," said the sergeant. "You'd better call this one in. Call a dredging barge while you're at it."

"Yes, sir," the patrolman replied.

The "death" of Steven Taylor, thief, was broadcast on the radio news and made the front page in most of the local papers. Steven sat with Bill and Ned and toasted to the memory of his former life. Over a beer in a quiet corner of the bar, Steven told them of his first two jobs at the Waldorf-Astoria. He also told them of Charlie, his fence that had squealed to the police. "I've got to get him. I won't kill him, I'll just 'borrow' something from him."

Ned and Bill smiled and decided to go with him. "Even though they think you're dead, someone might recognize you," said Ned. Steven gladly accepted the company, and, under his new identity of Sebastian Talbot, went to New York.

When they arrived, Steven immediately took them to Charlie's shop. Bill and Ned went inside to see the man Steven wanted to steal from. They glanced at some bric-a-brac in his pawnshop. "May I help you, gentlemen?" Charlie asked, walking up to them.

"Yeah, we'll have something for you to look at tomorrow," said Bill.

"How did you hear about me?"

"A friend of ours recommended you. We can't say his name--may he rest in peace," Ned added in the hopes of getting a response.

"Well, ah, this is a very hard business we're in. You never know when the end will come." Charlie recovered his poise. "I will be glad to accommodate you, gentlemen. Shall we say 7:00, after closing?"

"That would be fine," said Ned. Bill nodded and they walked out to Steven.

"Well? What did he say? How did he act?"

"Oh, he definitely knew we were talking about you when I said 'may he rest in peace'."

"Nice touch. Did he seem jumpy at all?"

"When Ned said that, he did, but then he recovered," said Bill. "He remarked what a hard business we were in. I don't blame you for wanting to get him."

"Great. I'll do it tonight. I even know the combination." He smiled.

That night Steven made his way to Charlie's pawnshop and went in through the back door after picking the lock. He went straight to the office and opened the safe without hesitation. He helped himself to the contents and left a small card with feathers attached to it. He then left, making sure everything looked the same as he found it. He went back to the hotel where they were staying the night.

Ned was waiting for him. "How'd it go?"

"Piece o' cake." Steven opened the bag and spilled the contents onto the bed. "I kept my promise to Charlie. He's going to be suspicious."

"What do you mean?"

"I left a little calling card with feathers. If anything, he's going to suspect two mysterious men who alluded to a dead 17-year old thief."

"So you had two motives for that visit." Ned fingered the jewels. "How much is all this worth, do you think?"

"Don't know. Close to at least $100,000." He yawned. "We'd better head back in the morning. G'night, Ned."

"G'night, Sebastian," Ned replied, smiling as he turned out the light.

"Oh, and Ned?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for everything."

"No problem. Bill and I needed some excitement. Things were getting stale. Maybe we'll find some new stuff back home."

"Yeah, maybe." Steven lay thinking before he fell asleep.

* * * *

Back in Bridgeport, Ned and Bill's "gang" gained new recruits due to the jobs attributed to them and the fact that they had a mysterious partner known as The Eagle because he left "calling cards" with feathers attached after each crime. Steven's education grew as he learned different ways to break into a building and new con games. Soon he came up with his own ideas on what and when to steal. In less than a year, he became the most well known member, and, to the press, the leader of the gang.

Ned pulled him aside to talk to him. "We're a community, Steven. We've got to act like one, but we can't if you keep undermining the unity by going out on your own. The others are beginning to resent you. I know you're just overzealous and I hope that you can bring yourself under control. If not, we'll have to take a vote and you'll have to go with the majority. I wanted to be the one to tell you. Think over what I've said," Ned patted him on the back and left him alone.

Bill was in the next room. "How'd he take it?"

"I don't know. He didn't say a word. He'll think it out and let us know."

Steven mulled over what Ned had told him. He knew he wouldn't be able to calm down no matter how hard he tried. He had to devote his energies to something and theft was really the only thing he knew. That night he went to Bill and Ned and told them he was going to leave. "I can't change my ways. I know you really care about me. I mean, you taught me practically everything I know. I'll be fine by myself, don't worry. I'll leave in the morning." Steven thanked them and went back to his room.

He packed his clothes into a small duffle bag and put his tools and make-up into a smaller suitcase. When he was done, he took a nap so he would be able to leave that night. He knew no one would suspect him of leaving because they'd think he was just going out on a job. He knew he'd have to change his name again or else they would find him. He booked himself into a hotel under the name "Simon Townshend". He decided to stay quiet for a while until he figured out what he was going to do. He turned on the radio and heard news of England's Prime Minister Chamberlain. "That would be an interesting place to go," he thought aloud. "They'll never think of looking for me there."

The next morning he went to a travel agent to book passage to England on a ship. The next one out was headed for Liverpool. Included in the package was a train ticket to London and a week's stay at a hotel.

On the trip over, Steven was tempted to "practice" his art, but knew that it would be foolish with such a limited amount of suspects. His cover was Simon Townshend, the playboy-type, who had used Daddy's money to make a trip to America and was now returning to Oxford. With his cultured accent, mimicked from movies, he was accepted into the first-class crowd and traveled in comfort. The hotel he stayed at was of a five-star rating. He was invited to dine with a rich British family who had a daughter his age. He laughed inwardly. "If only they knew the truth!"

The family made the mistake of showing Steven the jewels and money in their possession. The temptation was too much for him and he took almost everything--leaving just enough money to pay the bill. He left them the feathers and the card on which was typed The Eagle. He found a fence in the East End and sold the jewels. "You made a good haul, lad," the man said. "How long've you been doin' this?"

"A year," he replied cautiously.

The man noticed this. "Don't fear me turnin' you over. If I did that, I'd endanger me job. You're a Yank, eh?" Steven nodded. "Made you leave? Well, if you want to work here, you'll have to make a name for yourself." The man took a sip of tea. "You've made yourself a good start, though."

"Thanks a lot. My name's---"

"No names, lad. It's safer that way. What's your workin' name?"

"As I was going to say, they call me The Eagle."

"You're the one that did the hotel job? They'll be askin' lots o' questions 'bout you."

"Before I go, when does Oxford start up again?"

"Tomorrow."

"I'll need a new place to stay, then. My cover at the hotel was of a student."

"I might be able to arrange something for you. Come back at 6:00 tonight."

Steven thanked the man for his help and returned to the hotel. He told the family that he had to return to Oxford and thanked them for dinner.

"Whenever you're in the neighborhood of Peterborough, stop in and see us," said the father.

"Thank you, I will," Steven said looking at the daughter.

He returned to the shop and the man, whose name was Rob, took him to a pub and introduced him to a large man in his thirties. "Hank Wright, this is the lad I told you about, the Eagle."

Hank looked him over and grunted. "How old are you?"

"Eighteen."

"How long have you been doing this?"

"A year." Steven stood at attention, feeling the man's importance.

"Where did you do your first job?"

"The Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Twice."

"How successful were you in the States?"

Steven glanced down at the table and saw a faded newspaper. "You should know, you've been reading up on me."

"Quick eyes." Hank smiled. "Sit down and join me in a drink." A beer appeared in front of him on the table. "Rob tells me you need a place to stay. I can provide that for you in exchange for your talents. I control something of a gang. Something also of a guild. We all work together and if one of our members is caught or killed, we provide for the family."

"The reason I left was because I couldn't get along with my previous group."

"I understand. I have a job in mind that you can help me with. It will only be you, myself, and one other."

"I guess so. I ought to tell you, though, I'm not used to taking orders. Advice is more the thing."

Hank laughed. "Good. I'll take you to your room and introduce you to Ian Scully, the man who'll be working with us." Hank paid the publican and led Steven down the street to a small house around the corner.

Steven followed him up dimly lit stairs to a room at the top floor. Inside, sitting at a desk, was a man Steven guessed to be on the younger side of thirty. He turned when he heard them enter. Steven looked at the desk and took in the plans he had been working on. Presumable for the same job he had gotten talked into.
"Ian, this is the new kid who'll be working with us."

Ian barely looked at him. "What's he done?"

"Know that job done at the Dorchester? He did it. This is the Eagle."

Ian shook Steven's hand. "Glad to have you with us. What's your specialty?"

"Don't have one. I've done safes, mostly and a few con jobs."

"Good. You'll do just fine."

A week later, they were ready to pull the job. They each went over their parts so there would be no hitches. Ian and Steven went into the building after Hank disconnected the alarm system. Ian directed Steven to the main safe and told him to hurry before the watchman came back on his rounds. Steven knelt in front of the large safe, placed his ear against the door, his fingertips on the tumbler. He slowly turned the lock and listened. He felt the pressure and began to sweat.

"Hurry up," whispered Scully.

"I'm on the last number. Quiet." Steven twisted the dial and heard the final click. "Voila," he said and opened the safe.

"Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful." Scully stared at the jewels lying on their velvet cloths. He placed them quickly and reverently in the bag he had open.

The song of a drunk floated up from the street. "It's Hank. Time's up."

Scully stood and looked about. "We'd better split up and meet down in the street."

"Let me take some of the jewels in case they get you."

Scully reluctantly parted with half the jewels. "Good luck," he said as he directed Steven to a way out.

Steven went down the hall, quietly making his way to the front door and Hank. He became so intent on his own thoughts that he only noticed the guard after it was too late. "Got ya, mate," the man said, grabbing Steven's arm. "Thought you'd get away with it, eh?" He took the jewels.

Steven pretended to submit to superior force as he slowly worked his knife out of its sheath. As the watchman peered inside the bag and admired the gems, Steven cursed Scully, knowing full well that he was sent this way on purpose. He slashed at the man and ran down the hall and outside. He found Hank and began to curse aloud. "Wait till I get my hands on the bloody bastard!"

"What happened? Where are the jewels?"

"Scully said we'd better split up. He directed me down a hall and I walked straight into the guard. He took my half of the jewels. I slashed at him and ran."

"And Scully?"

"I have no idea."

"We'd better go. This is not the best place to be under the circumstances."

A few days later Steven read in the paper that one of the thieves from the gallery heist had been found trying to sell the gems to a detective posing as a fence. With a long previous record, the man was sent to prison for quite a few years. So much for a clean getaway, thought Steven. The jerk got what he deserved. If he had stayed with the plan, everything would have worked out. That was one of the main reasons he liked to work alone: you only had to worry about yourself. However, Hank seemed a good enough guy and maybe this new life would work out. One could only hope.

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