As readers of The Adventures of Xavier & Vic know, my sleuths acquire the most interesting employees. Today, I want to discuss the smallest employee: L’il Pete. The adorable boy is 9 years old, but honestly most 7 years old can take him down in a fight. He’s small for his age.
The first time we meet L’il Pete is in book 2 and 2.5 when Pete tries to claim a fortune by sharing what he knows about a one-eyed begger man. I think Book 2.5, Jacko’s love story, has the better version of the story:
When Jacko arrived at his office, a young boy sat on the floor outside, his small foot thumping like a rabbit. Upon sight of Jacko, he jumped up. “I been waitin’ nearly an hour to collect me fortune!”
Jacko opened the door and ushered the boy in. He would gladly give the boy a fortune for the return of Xavier, but he had little hope finding his friend would be so easy.
“Give me my ten thousand pounds first.” The boy bravely held his ground, his grubby small hand stretched forward, palm up.
Jacko admired his pluck. “That’s not the way it works. You tell me what you know and then I decide if it warrants the money.”
The boy’s brow furrowed. “And what if you decide it don’t?”
“Then I’ll pay you what I think it’s worth.”
The boy jammed his hands in his pockets as he stared at his feet muttering beneath his breath.
“What’s your name?”
His head tilted up and his eyes narrowed. “What’s it worth to you?”
The kid reminded him of himself as a scrappy boy. “It could be worth a regular job.”
The boy’s eyes widened as he yanked his hand from his pocket and extended it to Jacko. “People call me L’il Pete. So do I get the job?”
Jacko shook his tiny hand. “I’ll give you a try.” He walked to his desk, grabbed a pencil and paper, and wrote his boarding room address. He handed the slip to the boy. “I’ll pay you two shillings a day to sit in a chair in front of this room and bring me messages from people who stop by. Any tip they give you is yours to keep.”
L’il Pete’s eyes narrowed. “That’s it? Just sit in a chair?”
“You can even sleep if you like.”
The boy shook his head as he wiped his nose on his sleeve. “I wasn’t born yesterday. What’s the git?”
“The ‘git’ is you must keep to your schedule and never lie to me.”
The boy’s head tilted in confusion. “That’s all?”
“Sounds simple, but I’ve yet to find a boy who has the character to do it.”
The small fellow jutted out his chest and snared his thumbs through his belt loops. “I got tons of character. Everybody says so.”
Damn, but he liked this boy. “Which is why you are getting the job. And when you go back there today, if a boy named Elwood shows up, tell him he’s fired.”
“Elwood…” The boy’s face scrunched up as he rubbed his chin with grimy fingers. “How big is he?”
“Good point.” Jacko wrote on another slip of paper, ‘Elwood, you are fired—Jacko.’ He gave it to the boy. “Just give him this.”
The boy nodded and slipped it in his pocket.
“Now what do you have for me?” Jacko had little hope the fellow had any news of value, but he’d give the lad a listen.
“I heard the one-eyed beggar man was in Dragon’s Cloud.”
“Old news. The Dragon’s Cloud was torn down last night and no one-eyed beggar man was found.”
The boy cocked his right eyebrow. “That’s because they moved him.”
Jacko knelt down, eye-level with the boy, his heart pounding in excitement. Was it possible this L’il Pete was the answer to his prayers? “Moved him where?”
His cockiness disappeared. “I’m not sure.”
Jacko’s frustration rose and he raked his hand through his hair. Someone in this damn town has to know where Xavier was. He took a deep breath and calmed himself. “Well then, what did you see?”
“I saw four men carrying a body out the back of Dragon’s Cloud and down the alley around six last night. He had a black patch over his left eye and was dressed in rags.”
This might be the break they needed. “Which way did they go, east or west?”
The boy gave that some thought. “I was hiding in the garbage on the opposite side of the Dragon.” He then pointed left. “They went that way down the alley.”
The boy’s hands settled on his tiny hips. “West then.”
“That’s a dangerous place. What were you doing there?” Jacko asked, worried the boy might be making it up.
“I can’t say.”
“Pete, you work for me now, remember?”
L’il Pete smiled. “Right. Mr. Denny paid me a half-penny to hide in the alley and describe the men who came in the back with packages.”
Jacko tried to hide the rage he felt towards Charles Denny. He caused more boys’ deaths than any man in the docks. “I don’t want you taking any more jobs from that scurf. He’s not paying you a fair wage for the danger you take on.”
Pete frowned. “How much should I get paid to hide in garbage?”
Jacko stifled his desire to laugh at the boy’s earnest question. “That depends where the garbage is. Since the job could have easily cost you your life, you shouldn’t take less than a million pounds.”
The boy’s eyes rounded in wonder. “Somebody’ll pay me a million pounds to hide in garbage?”
“No. That’s just what the job’s worth. Denny can always find some young boy who doesn’t realize he won’t live more than a few days on the job. He’ll tell the boy to report his findings every day, but delay paying him until the end of the week, which means Denny rarely has to pay the boy at all.”
L’il Pete’s mouth fell open. “That ain’t right!”
“No, it’s not. Which is why, I want your word you won’t do any more jobs for Mr. Denny.”
The boy nodded, but then pouted. “What about the pence he owes me?”
“Write it off as a lesson learned.”
(This scene will come back to haunt Jack in book 4)
The great Victorian sleuth Xavier Thorn and his partner Vic Hamilton take a case close to home. Their youngest staff member, L’il Pete, discovers his mother murdered in the alley. Jacko is called up from the country to assist in solving the crime. The good woman’s murder proves to be tangled up with a much larger and shocking list of crimes perpetrated by a powerful man who may truly be above the law. Making matters more complex: Vic discovers her recent weight gain may be the result of a condition that could destroy her life and everything she loves.
Well Kept Secrets
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Liza O’Connor was raised badly by feral cats, left the South/Midwest and wandered off to find nicer people on the east coast. There she worked for the meanest man on Wall Street, while her psychotic husband tried to kill her three times. (So much for finding nicer people.) Then one day she declared enough, got a better job, divorced her husband, and fell in love with her new life where people behaved normally. But all those bad behaviors have given her lots of fodder for her humorous romances. Please buy these books, because otherwise, she’ll become grumpy and write troubled novels instead. They will likely traumatize you.
You have been warned.
Mostly humorous books by Liza:
Ghost Lover—Two British brothers fall in love with the same young woman. Ancestral ghost is called in to fix the situation. And there’s a ghost cat that roams about the book as well. (Humorous Contemporary Romance)
Untamed & Unabashed—The youngest of the Bennet sisters, Lydia, tells her story. A faithful spinoff from Pride & Prejudice.
A Long Road to Love Series: (Humorous Contemporary odd Romance)
Worst Week Ever — Laugh out loud week of disasters of Epic proportions.
Oh Stupid Heart — The heart wants what it wants, even if it’s impossible.
Coming to Reason — There is a breaking point when even a saint comes to reason.
Climbing out of Hell — The reconstruction of a terrible man into a great one.
The Adventures of Xavier & Vic Sleuth series: (Late Victorian/Mystery/Romance)
The Troublesome Apprentice — The greatest sleuth in Victorian England hires a young man who turns out to be a young woman.
The Missing Partner — Opps! The greatest sleuth in Victorian England goes missing, leaving Vic to rescue him, a suffragette, and about 100 servants. Not to mention an eviscerating cat. Yes, let’s not mention the cat.
A Right to Love — A romantic detour for Jacko. Want to see how amply rewarded Jacko was when he & Vic save an old woman from Bedlam?
The Mesmerist — The Mesmerist can control people from afar and make them murder for her. Worse yet, Xavier Thorn has fallen under her spell.
Well Kept Secrets — L’il Pete’s mum is murdered, and discovering who & why reveals a great deal of secrets.
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