This is it. The final chapter.

The reason it took so long was because I felt guilty about making you wait, so the chapter had to be extra long to make up for it, which, of course, took more time...

But anyway, here is the last chapter of Perfect Crime?

Disclaimer: I own nothing, except for the plot and the character of "Thomas."

Perfect Crime?

Chapter 26

Dodger and Fagin walked into the courtroom. It was a very large, dark room, with wood panelled walls, filled with benches upon benches in which numerous people were sat. There were so many people in the room that a lot of them had to stand. There were several windows lining the walls, but the room didn't get any brighter due to all of the people squashed into the place.

The judge was already seated at his bench. He was a sweaty, slightly overweight man with watery blue eyes, and he looked strict, yet grandfatherly, as if he would hand out treats after delivering a fair trial. He looked very much the stereotypical judge with his long, black robe and white, curly wig. The jury sat at a curved table to his left; a group of twenty-five men who all looked very similar in their matching black suits and button up waistcoats.

As Dodger, Fagin, Nancy, Bet and the rest of the boys' took their seats (Bill had decided not to come in and was more than likely drinking in the Three Cripples), the judge looked over at them, and Dodger could see a large stack of papers on the desk. The boy remained silent and did not look at anybody, although he could feel everyone's eyes on him.

A hush descended on the room when the side door opened and "Thomas" was slowly led inside the room by a police officer, before the muttering began.

"Evil!" someone behind Dodger hissed.

"Filthy scumbag," came another voice, and more voices joined the din, until it sounded like a flock of vultures buzzing all around them.

"Order!" the judge, Edward Jones, snapped, banging his gavel, and the room quietened.

As if he knew, as if he could sense him, "Thomas" turned his head and caught Dodger's eye, glaring at the boy with such hatred and intensity that Dodger had to look away. He wanted to get up and leave, but he was sandwiched in between Fagin and Nancy, as if they had known that he would want to flee. Knowing that there was nothing he could do, Dodger looked down, staring intently into his lap, just wanting the day to be over.

"Thomas" was taken to the front of the room, where he stood before the judge, standing behind the waist high bars. He surprisingly looked calm and collected, apparently oblivious to the filthy looks he was receiving from most of the people in the room. Dodger did not look up, blocking out the proceedings.

"Master Dawkins?" came the loud yet gentle voice of Judge Edward Jones. Dodger slowly raised his head, hesitating. He did not want to do what he was supposed to. He did not want to have to walk up there and stand next to "Thomas," the man who tried to kill him, and had very nearly succeeded. How could they expect him to do that? If he had to, Dodger would rather talk from where he was sitting, even though he knew he couldn't.

The boy sat there, seemingly frozen, staring at the judge, until Fagin nudged him, and Dodger stood, so very slowly, and stepped out into the aisle.

The walk to the front of the room seemed never ending to Dodger; he felt that no matter how far he walked, the bench did not get any closer. He stared straight ahead, ignoring all of the people who were staring and whispering as he passed them and "Thomas" grew closer and closer. He hesitated a few feet away from the man, doing his best to not bolt out of the room, before taking a deep breath and stepping forward, standing as far away from his kidnapper as possible. "Thomas" was handcuffed and there was a guard standing right next to him, but it did little to ease Dodger's anxiety. He gripped the bars in front of him, his knuckles turning white, his whole body tensing up and looking at the ground, until someone touched his shoulder and he jumped and looked up, his hand automatically curling into a fist.

"Master Dawkins, you need to be sworn in," Judge Jones repeated, gesturing to the man in front of him who was holding a Bible. Dodger stared up at the judge, unable to concentrate, and looked at the Bible, hardly recognising the book in his state. Jones observed the boy; his white-knuckle grip, his screwed up face, his wide eyes, and saw how frightened he was. He knew that he wouldn't get a word out of the boy if he remained like this. "Master Dawkins, would you like to come and sit up here?" he asked, motioning to the chair beside him. The registrar's jaw dropped, but he remained silent.

"Yes. Yes, I would," Dodger replied, moving quickly away from "Thomas," and taking a seat next to the judge.

Jones could immediately see the change; Dodger was now relaxed and able to talk.

"So, hello, Master Dawkins," he smiled, wanting to keep him in a calm state of mind; if the boy froze up again, then the trial would take all day to finish. Dodger took a deep breath. The boys were never going to let him forget this; he knew.

"'Ello, Mr. Judge," he answered in what he hoped was a "cute" voice, widening his eyes and lowering his head slightly so that he looked so very innocent. The courtroom chuckled, including the judge.

"Mr. Judge! Well, now, that's quite, um –" the judge broke off, grinning in spite of himself.

"Oh, I'm sorry; did you want me to call you Your Honour, Your Honour?" Another chuckle arose from the courtroom.

"No, I think Mr. Judge will suffice... anyway, moving on!" the judge cleared his throat abruptly and shuffled the court proceeding papers about on his desk.

"Master Dawkins," began the registrar, a rather scrawny looking elderly gentleman, who held the Bible in front of Dodger, "please place your left hand on the Book and hold up your right hand," and Dodger discreetly looked over at Fagin, who nodded an affirmative, before he did so. "Do you swear by God that the evidence you shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"

"Um, yes. I do," said Dodger quietly, removing his hand, and the registrar slinked away.

"So, Master Dawkins, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?" Very rarely was there a child in court; Judge Edward Jones had never seen a child in his courtroom that hadn't been accused of stealing or theft, so he tried to treat the boy like any other prosecutor.

"Uh,... well, I'm Jack Dawkins, I'm eleven, almost twelve, and... I'm a chimney sweep," he lied, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Ordinarily, this wouldn't have bothered him; he was a skilled liar and thought nothing of it. However, he was in a court, and if it could be proven that he was lying about his occupation, then perhaps the judge and jury could be convinced that he was a compulsive liar and "Thomas" would walk free.

"Master Dawkins, could you tell us what happened to you?" asked the judge. Dodger did not want to, but "Thomas" was not going to admit what he had done, and so, he knew what he had to do. He looked at all of the people squashed into the room, took a deep breath and nodded.

"I was sleepin'," he began, trying to keep his voice from shaking, resolutely looking anywhere but "Thomas." He told the court of how "Thomas" had broken into his home and taken him from his bed, how the man had walked all night before arriving at a little house, and of how, that very first night, he'd been locked in a cupboard. He told the court of how he was beaten repeatedly, about how he'd escaped, but "Thomas" had caught him and dragged him back, and beaten him again. He told of how "Thomas" had told him he was going to kill him and how the man mentioned that he had killed others; of how he had been kicked, slapped, punched and thrown into walls. He told of how he had been locked in a basement for several days; of how he'd been tied to a chair and cut with a knife before being thrown - yes, thrown - back into the basement. He spoke of how he had been moved to yet another house and had been forced to undergo humiliating obedience tests; of how he had been taken up to the attic, where he had come upon the battered body of a little girl, where he was promptly locked up; of how he had been made to stand against the wall while "Thomas" threw things that were deliberately aimed to miss at him. He told of how his hands had been tied above his head and he had been mercilessly beaten into unconsciousness; of how he had been left like that for the remainder of the day, and of how "Thomas" had repeatedly told him of the various different ways that he was going to kill him.

Finally, he told the court of how, the very next day, "Thomas" had awoken him and taken him to an isolated wooded area, and and had hit him repeatedly; he told of how the man had pinned him to the ground, placed a length of rope around his neck and began to tighten. "... Then everything went black, and that's all I remember," he finished.

The courtroom was silent; everyone had a look of pure shock on their faces. Many women were crying. The sketch artist had stopped drawing, and the reporters had stopped writing. Nancy, Bet, and the rest of the pickpockets were appalled at what Dodger had said; even Fagin, who had heard it all before, bar the part about the dead little girl. Even the renowned Judge Edward Jones was stunned at what he had heard. He shook his head in disgust before looking up at "Thomas."

"And when you came to, the kidnapper was gone?" asked the judge.

"When I woke up, I was at 'ome. 'E dropped me and ran away; I remember that."

"Who found you?"

"Me friend, and me grandfather," said Dodger. The judge rifled through his papers, before turning to the public.

"Will Jack's grandfather, Mr.. Fagin, please approach the bench?" Fagin dutifully rose, and made his way up the aisle, resisting the urge to give "Thomas" a good kick as he passed him.

"Yes, m- You Honour?" he stuttered, barely remembering that he was in a courtroom.

"Can you tell us where about you discovered your grandson?"

"Yes, Your Honour. Jack's friend came to find me, to tell me that he had found Jack; I went with him to a part of the woods in Moorgate, where Jack was. There was nobody else there." Fagin didn't think he really needed to speak of that crowd that had surrounded Dodger, assuming he was dead.

"Thank you, Mr. Fagin," said Judge Edward Jones, and Fagin returned to his seat.

"Just one more question," said the judge, turning back to Dodger. "Is the man who did this to you in this room now?"

"Yes, sir," Dodger inwardly cringed at the word 'sir.'

"Can you point him out for the court?"

"He's over there," Dodger pointed over to the bars where his kidnapper still stood, wondering why the judge needed him to point the man out. He had already told the police that it was "Thomas," who was glaring at him with such intensity that it felt like he was trying to murder the boy with his eyes.

"Victor O'Reilly," began the judge, and Dodger was momentarily confused as to who the judge was talking to, then he remembered that "Thomas" had never told him his real name. "You have been accused of kidnapping with intent to murder and attempted murder. How do you plead?"

"Not guilty, Your Honour," replied "Thomas" in his smooth, calm voice, and Judge Jones raised an eyebrow, and addressed the court.

"This man you see before you has been accused of one of the most heinous acts in history. It has been claimed that Mr. O'Reilly kidnapped Master Dawkins from his bed, and held him in captivity for a period of two weeks, during which he regularly beat the boy. At the end of the two weeks, Mr. O'Reilly tried to end the boy's life via strangulation, but was unsuccessful."

Since no lawyer would even attempt to defend a man accused of the above, Victor had to speak for himself.

"I have done nothing wrong," he said, just as he had many times before. "As I have mentioned to your fine constabulary several times now; I do not need to clear my name or prove my innocence, for I have done nothing wrong."

"We have statements here which say you admitted abducting the boy," Jones looked through his papers, "you claimed you were doing your job."

"Yes, that's true," Victor admitted, and the whispering started up again fervently, the voices sounding like dozens of little fire hoses.

"So you admit you abducted the child?"

"As I have said, I did nothing wrong!" Once again, they were getting nowhere with Victor, and so it was deemed time to bring out the evidence.

Dodger's nurse from the hospital, Catherine Hughes, approached the barrier somewhat nervously, and was sworn in.

"Can you tell us how you are involved in this case?" Judge Jones asked the young woman.

"I cared for Jack whilst he was in the hospital," she said.

"So the boy's injuries were severe enough to require hospitalisation?"

"Yes, Your Honour," said Catherine. "He'd had surgery to repair broken ribs and I cared for him for the remainder of his stay. His neck was very badly bruised."

"And did you know of his ordeal?"

"I knew he had been kidnapped, beaten and strangled, Your Honour, but nothing more."

"And were you aware that the kidnapper was loose and may have tried to return?"

"Jack's grandfather had his fears, and sketches of the kidnapper were given to myself, Jack's doctor, the receptionist, and were placed on the front doors, but that was all I knew about it, sir."

"And did the kidnapper ever attempt to return?"

"He did not, Your Honour." Catherine did not have much more to say about what she knew, so she was discharged from the barrier, and the woman returned to her seat.

Lon and Peter then approached the barrier where Victor was and stood off to the side of him. They had a file with them which contained Dodger's hospital reports, statements from Fagin, the parents of little Mary Steele, who were sat in the courtroom, as well as the parents of Michael Ward, and a few parents of the other children in Victor's little book; they also had the book in question, as well as the notes that Victor had left, among other papers.

"Jack's grandfather came to us a few days after he disappeared," began Lon. "And asked for our assistance. We helped in the search for the boy, and distributed sketches of him when they became available to us. Most of the officers looked for him, but it was Jack's grandfather who found him."

"Can you tell us how and where he was found?" asked Judge Jones.

"Yes, Your Honour." Lon found the appropriate statement in his file. "According to Jack's grandfather, Jack was discovered unconscious in a wooded area in Moorgate, two weeks after he disappeared. He had been beaten and strangled, and was found with rope tightly around his neck."

"And what happened after?"

"After that, Jack was admitted to hospital, where he remained for the next six weeks," revealed Peter, which was how many of the people in the room came to know about the case. "We did attempt to question the boy several times, but Jack was not ready to talk. He did however, help us with providing a drawing with help from a sketch artist, which was how we found Victor O'Reilly."

"How was Mr. O'Reilly found?" questioned Judge Jones.

"He was actually discovered in Dover, Your Honour; the police force there had heard of the story and had seen the sketches. A member of the public spotted him, and he was transported back to us, where he was held until Jack identified him. We spoke to him, and Mr. O'Reilly revealed to us that he felt it was his job to rid the world of filthy scum."

"And did Mr. O'Reilly define what he meant by the word 'rid'?"

"He only said 'by any means necessary,' Your Honour," Peter revealed.

"Master Dawkins has said that Mr. O'Reilly mentioned to him that he had killed others. Have you found any evidence to corroborate this?"

"Yes, Your Honour," said Lon. "We have discovered that Mr. O'Reilly has kidnapped several children over the years, and possibly murdered them, as well. The cases all align; some children were reported stolen from their beds, as Jack was, and all the parents of the missing children discovered notes, all very similarly worded."

"We also found a small black book on Mr. O'Reilly's person," added Peter. "Which was filled with names of children, and after doing some research, it was revealed that the names in the book were of children who disappeared or who had been kidnapped."

"Do you have this book with you?" asked Judge Jones, and Peter handed said book to the esteemed judge. "Mr. O'Reilly, why have you written all of these childrens' names in this book?" he addressed the man in question.

"Why do you not ask these gallant officers; they appear to know more about it than I," the man sneered, earning a reprimand from the officer next to him. "I have already told the policemen everything they need to know," he continued. Jones turned back to Lon and Peter.

"Why was the book full of childrens' names?" he repeated, and Lon told him that it was Victor's way of keeping record, and that the man had admitted that every name which had a line through it meant that the child was dead.

The courtroom was even more shocked now, if that were even possible. Fagin, Nancy, Bet and the boys' were just staring at Victor in horror.

"So, what we are dealing with here is a child serial killer?" he said, which Lon and Peter confirmed. "Do we have any more witnesses?" Jones asked, and the parents of little Mary Steele were called forward. They had known their little daughter to be dead for a few weeks now, but they had still not fully absorbed the news. However, they were willing to do everything in their power to get Victor sent down. They did not want what happened to Mary and the other victims to happen to another little child. After the couple, John and Anna, had been sworn in, the questioning began.

"So, Mr. Steele," began Judge Jones, "when did you first notice Mary was missing?"

"It was June 7th, 1836," began John, trying to keep his voice even. "I was at work, my wife was at home, and Mary was out playing."

"I called her inside to wash up for lunch," recalled Anna, her hands clutching her cleanest, nicest dress, which was still rather shabby. "And when she didn't come in, I went outside to look for her, and she wasn't there, so I walked up and down the street, calling her. I thought she was playing with friends, but I couldn't find her. When I returned to the house, I saw a little piece of paper under a stone near the doorstep. It was there when I went to call for Mary; I remember seeing it, and wondering what it was. I picked it up and read it, and it said 'don't bother looking for her.'"

"Then what did you do?" pressed the judge.

"I just started running around, looking frantically for my daughter. I screamed out 'someone's taken her,' and the neighbour's helped me to look for her. One of my neighbours told me that she had seen a man nearby before Mary disappeared."

"And did you see him?"

"I did not, Your Honour."

"And, forgive me, Mr. and Mrs. Steele, but is this your daughter's name in this little book?" Victor's black book was opened and presented to the couple.

"Yes, that is her name, sir," said John, holding his wife's hand.

"And does the handwriting match the handwriting on the note you found?"

"It does, Your Honour," said Anna. The Steeles' then returned to their seats. They were trying hard to keep the tears from flowing.

The next set of witnesses were the parents of Michael Ward, who also now knew their son to be dead, but like Anna and John, they were determined to help put Victor behind bars where he belonged.

"Our son, Michael, disappeared from his bed nine years ago," began Phillip Ward, the boy's father. "We were all sleeping, and the sound of the door slamming woke us up; it was a windy night. I got up to lock it, and I checked on my son on the way back. He wasn't there, and there was a note on his bed, which said 'the boy will soon be in a better place. Don't try and look for him'. I woke up Evelyn, my wife, and we looked around the house in case he was hiding, and when we couldn't find him anywhere, we started searching the streets. The next morning, we went to the police station and reported him missing."

"What happened after the fact?" asked Judge Jones.

"We looked for him everyday, Your Honour," said Phillip. "Everywhere and anywhere. Eventually, the hope dimmed, and my wife and I had hoped that a nice, caring family had taken him in, but now we know that this was not the case."

"How do you know this?"

"Because the handwriting in the note we found matches the writing in his book," Phillip gestured at Victor.

The Wards' soon returned to their seats, as well.

The next piece of evidence came in the form of a written statement by a young couple named Josephine and Christopher Smith, from Liverpool, whose eight-year-old daughter Alice, was thought to be Victor's first victim. Alice had disappeared from her home while she was sleeping in 1820, and her frantic parents had done everything in their power to try and find her. Like the Wards, and the Steeles, they had long given up hope that their child would be found alive, but when they received a telegram from Lon and Peter, they had recognised the similarities in Jack Dawkins's case and that of their daughter (they had also found a note) and they wanted to help put Victor behind bars. The journey to London was too expensive for them, and so they had written a statement about their child's abduction.

"'When our daughter, Alice, was eight, she was stolen from her bed sixteen years ago,'" read Peter. "She would be twenty-four now, but we have not seen not one hair on her head since the night she vanished. We do not know why she was taken; all we knew was that her kidnapper had left a note telling us not to look for her. Naturally, we searched high and low, anywhere and everywhere. We spoke to the police, to our friends and neighbours, but they were as lucky as we were.

"'For sixteen years we have been without our daughter, losing hope as the years passed, but always remaining hopeful that she was safe. That all changed when we received a letter from the London police station. In this letter, they told us that an eleven-year-old boy, Jack Dawkins had been stolen from his bed, and a note had been left, just as we had discovered. Fortunately, Jack was found alive, and it's thanks to him, that we have all been able to put the pieces together and find the man who stole our daughter. Nothing will ever bring our little girl back, but we would like to sincerely thank Jack; if it weren't for him, this monster would have continued on his spree, leaving more vulnerable children susceptible to his crimes.'" After Peter had finished reading out the statement, he gave the paper to the judge and returned to his seat.

"Victor O'Reilly," began Judge Edward Jones. "Please state your case."

Victor O'Reilly was born in Clerkenwell in 1799 to Matthew and Jane O'Reilly. They were very much a normal family; Matthew worked in a greengrocer's in the middle of the town square, and Jane looked after her young baby. They went on outings, they visited family and friends, they were well-off enough to send their young child to day school, and they were able to travel down to the seaside every so often.

All in all, Victor was raised in a normal average family and grew into a normal, average boy. There was nothing about them that anyone would be likely to notice. They did not stand out from the crowd; just an ordinary family living an ordinary life.

When Matthew had arrived home from work, he greeted his wife with a kiss and a hug, like most happily married men are apt to do. After dinner, of an evening, the two parents would sit in their living room, with little Victor gurgling away in their presence, and talk of their hatred for the lower class.

Matthew and Jane would hold long conversations of how the poverty stricken were pathetic scum who were doing their fine city no good. They hated walking down the street only to see people begging for food and money; it disgusted them. The two of them honestly felt like these poor people were unworthy; unworthy of receiving any help of any form, unworthy of gracing the streets, and unworthy of anything more than a disgusted glare as they passed them by.

Their views did not change as Victor grew into a little boy; in fact, they seemed to become more fanatic. Matthew would happily talk about 'getting rid of the problem,' a view which Jane agreed with wholeheartedly. The O'Reilly's would often talk about their radical ideas in front of their young son, and encouraged him in their ways of thinking.

From since he before he was old enough to understand, Victor had grown up thinking that poor people were inferior to him. which was not an uncommon viewpoint among the middle and upper-classes. However, his parents took it to the extreme. While most middle and upper-class people disliked the poor, many of them weren't so heartless as to not drop a few pennies into their outstretched hand. That was the extent of their generosity, though. Matthew and Jane, Matthew especially, for he had a vicious persona sometimes, would spit at the beggars, take their money, claiming that they didn't deserve it, and on one occasion, kicked an elderly man as he walked by.

When Victor turned eight, his parents inherited a rather large sum of money, moving them up from lower middle-class to slightly further up in the hierarchy. This money allowed them to purchase a farm-like home in Cripplegate, and Matthew started work as a salesmen in a rather fine shoe shop.

The O'Reilly's radical ways continued. In fact, after they inherited the money, their views and opinions only intensified. They seemed to think that now they were better off than they previously had been, they had turned into even better people, which was not the case.

Of course, little Victor idolised his parents, as most young children do, and he wanted to make them proud of him. So, he followed their ideals; he would glare at the beggars in the street, he would turn his nose up at them if they happened to approach them, and he would spit on them as he passed.

"The real problem," his father had always said, "is the beggar children; they're just continuing the cycle. All they're going to do is waste our good money and space. They're a drain on society, Victor, and they don't deserve to live."

By the time Victor turned eighteen, he had left home to perform his ideal job of getting rid of undeserving children who, in his mind, didn't deserve to grace the the time he had left home, he truly believed that these children were the scum of the earth; it is more than likely that the sudden windfall his parents received helped to implement this as they had moved up somewhat higher in society.

Why Victor chose to carry out his duties on children and only children, nobody knew. Perhaps he found it easier. Perhaps he believed he was breaking the cycle; if there were no poor, beggar children, then no more poor, beggar children would be born. Whatever reasons, Victor moved around London for the next twenty years, kidnapping and murdering street-urchins, beggars and orphans, regardless of gender or age.

When he was twenty, Victor kidnapped his first child, a sweet little nine-year-old girl by the name of Josephine Brown, the young daughter of a destitute couple, he had wanted to kill her quickly, but he discovered that when he physically abused her, it made him feel in control, so he carried on doing it. In his mind, it was nothing less than what they deserved, and seeing the sight of his victim cowering pathetically in front of him made him feel respected and powerful.

Even he found it difficult to explain why he had never gotten caught; he had been spotted near the victims before they had disappeared on three separate occasions, and he had left notes to the parents; Victor supposed that it was just good luck that he was able to get away with it, and the fact that he spaced his 'jobs' out; for example, he would wait for a few years in between his kidnaps. After the deed was done, Victor would then travel to a different part of the country, and spend a few weeks, or even months, settling down and familiarising himself with his new surroundings before striking once more.

For years, he roamed London stealthily, finding children that he knew society would never miss. More often than not, his victims were orphans living on the street, and the few that had families and homes, Victor believed he was doing them a favour; by removing their child, he was stopping the cycle of poverty, and maybe they would think next time before having a child that they clearly couldn't afford.

So that was Victor's life; he hated children, and he moved all around London, doing what he thought was his bidding; murdering children that he deemed unworthy; pickpockets, child thieves, street urchins, beggars, orphans and the like. He was convinced that the workhouse won't do them any good, nor will jail, so he had decided to get rid of them his own way.

"So, you see, Your Honour," Victor concluded, "I was merely doing a service unto the good people of this city; I was trying to rid the world of disgusting, filthy riff-raff like him," he gestured to Dodger, who remained in his seat, frozen with shock.. "I felt it was my duty. They don't deserve to live."

The entire courtroom was silent. Even esteemed Judge Edward Jones found he had nothing to say. What could he say to something like that? To someone who felt that killing innocent people just because they were poor, and children, no less, was acceptable, was justified?

He managed to gather himself and turned to the jury.

"You have now heard accounts from both the witness and the defence," he began. "I ask you to retire and consider the verdict, but before you do, I have one last question." Jones looked over at Victor. "What made you leave this boy for dead, unlike you other victims?" he asked, gesturing lightly at Dodger.

"I heard footsteps," said Victor simply. "Someone was coming, and I knew I couldn't be seen like that, so I threw the boy to the ground, and I ran."

Jones allowed a disgusted look to pass his features before retaining his professional attitude, and turning back to the jury.

"We will return here in fifteen minutes," he added, turning to face the courtroom, and when he had finished, there was a great flourish of movement. The jury made their way to their private room in the back, where they would discuss the sentencing, Victor was hauled away into another room, and the press swarmed around Dodger, who remained in his seat, white as a sheet.

Fagin had to push through the crowd to reach Dodger, and when he had, he grabbed the boy's arm and hauled him away from the throng of people surrounding him.

"Dodge? You okay?" he asked quietly, and Dodger only nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Fagin led Dodger back to where he was sitting, and the boy collapsed down next to Nancy, still extremely pale. Neither Fagin or Nancy, or Bet, or any of the boys' said a word, for they found they could not speak; they were too shocked.

Fagin could not believe what he had heard. Dodger had had a lucky escape indeed.

He was jolted out of his thoughts as the journalists began to crowd around them, calling out to Dodger. The boy ignored the people surrounding him, but the reporters did not give, and managed to get even closer. Fagin once again grabbed Dodger's arm and steered him out of the room, with Nancy following them.

They retreated to the privacy of a small room, not knowing nor caring what its function was. Dodger remained silent, his face a blank slate.

"Dodger?" asked Nancy tentatively.

"I'm fine," the boy said quickly. He leaned against one wall, trying to look casual.

For a long time, the three of them were silent. Fagin and Nancy were still shocked by what they had heard.

"You know, everythin' will be okay," said Nancy brightly.

"I know," Dodger said, although he did not look convinced.

"Dodge, you've told 'em what 'e did; they're gonna lock 'im up," Fagin told him, but Dodger only stared straight ahead, not looking at him. He was feeling incredibly unwell; his legs felt like jelly, he was sweaty, and shaking, which he was unable to control. What would happen if the judge didn't believe him? What if he let Victor go free? Then what was he going to do? Dodger had done everything he could, and he was terrified of his kidnapper walking free.

Fagin and Nancy did not say anything more to him. They both knew that Dodger was dealing with a lot at the moment, and he more than likely wouldn't relax until the verdict was read out, so the three of them remained silent and waited.

The wait seemed to last forever. The door of the room they were in was locked, but that didn't stop the reporters from trying to enter, and the silence was broken by the sounds of knocking and questions being called out from the other side. Dodger just leaned against the far wall, staring straight ahead at the wall, not really seeing it, while Fagin and Nancy sat on the bench inside.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the reporters were shooed away, and the bailiff knocked on the door.

"Master Dawkins? We're ready for you!" he called, and Fagin and Nancy rose from their seats, while Dodger remained where he was. The two of them returned to the boy, and gently led him back into the courtroom, which was full of chattering people. Fagin and Nancy took their seats whilst Dodger was escorted back to the judge and he sat down as the talking grew louder. Victor was there, still handcuffed, a policeman standing right next to him, his eyes full of hatred as he looked at Dodger. The boy had to look away, and he glanced around at the courtroom once again. Everyone was staring at him; whispering, muttering, and sometimes pointing, until the judge banged his gavel, and the courtroom fell silent row by row.

"Thank you," he said, when the room was quiet. "Is there anything you would like to say?" he asked Dodger, looking down at the boy.

"Um..., I wanna thank whoever was walkin' in the woods, when - when I was there," he began, trying not stutter. "They made 'im panic, and if it weren't for them, I.. wouldn't be 'ere; so, thanks." After a moment, Judge Jones turned to face the courtroom, more importantly Victor.

"Victor O'Reilly," he began, and the entire room seemed to hold its breath, "you have been found guilty of all charges, which include kidnapping with intent to murder, causing actual bodily injury and attempted murder. The court doth order you to be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, and that you be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and that your body be afterwards buried within the precincts of the prison in which you shall be confined after your conviction. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

"This will no doubt bring a sense of relief and happiness to not only Jack, but to the families of your other victims, as well." As the judge banged his gavel, the jury and others started to file out, save for Fagin and the gang. Victor was dragged away, glaring daggers at Dodger who was quite frazzled; he had only heard the word guilty, and had kind of zoned out after hearing that. He looked up at Judge Jones, who was sorting through his papers.

"So, what 'appened, then?" The judge laughed, in spite of himself.

"He's going to be hanged, Jack."

"Really? 'E is?"


"What time?"

"Tonight at sunset." Dodger only nodded and hopped down his chair, as Fagin, Nancy, Bet, and the boys' came up to him.

"Let's never speak of this again," he half-joked.

As the three adults led the children back outside, Dodger felt strangely detached from himself. He knew he should feel happy; Victor was going to be hanged later that very same day, and then he would be dead, and Dodger would be free to live his life without fear. So why didn't he feel happy?

Fagin noticed the boy lagging behind and fell back into step with him.

"Feel better now, my dear?" he asked, and Dodger shrugged, causing Fagin to look at him in surprise. "But, 'e's going to be 'anged, just like you wanted."

"I know," said Dodger, tilting his head to the side, thoughtfully. "And it's good 'cause 'e can't do this again, but 'e'll never 'ave to live with what 'e's done. I will." Fagin found himself unable to say anything, so he merely nodded.

Once they had exited the main courtroom, Charley, and a few of the other boys' were trying to lighten the mood and were making fun of the cute act Dodger had put on for the court. Little did they know, it hadn't been an act and Dodger had felt extremely vulnerable as he had been questioned and scrutinised.

"Please, Mister Judge," lisped Charley in a high pitched voice, and Dodger playfully punched his best friend on the arm, grinning.

"Tell ya somethin', though, Dodge," said Fagin, "if ya ever 'ave to go to court again, just act like ya did today; they loved it!" he chuckled and the boys' burst out laughing, Dodger included. It felt good to have everything go back to normal.

As soon as they stepped outside, however, they were accosted by the public. They swarmed around the group, trying to get to Dodger. All of them were talking to him, but Dodger couldn't hear what they were saying, and some of them kept reaching out and trying to grab him. Dodger blindly reached for Fagin's coat and followed the old man to the side of the building.

"Keep back!" he heard someone say. "Give them some room!" and the crowd did not follow them; instead, they were dispersed by the police, who had been keeping watch.

Dodger couldn't understand why everyone was so interested in him, and he asked Fagin this question when they had all returned home, and Fagin had sent the boys' back out to work, "but be extra careful," he had said, not wanting any of them to get recognised.

"I really don't understand it, though," Dodger repeated, when Fagin did not answer his question. "What made all those people do that?"

"They are amazed that you survived, my dear," Fagin explained, sitting at the table with Dodger.

"But I'm not no different to any of the others," Dodger couldn't bring himself to say the word 'victims.' "If that person didn't walk through the woods, I would be dead, too."

"But you're not," Fagin pointed out, "and that's what counts. And you were able to put 'im behind bars," for that was where Victor was, until sunset, where he would be escorted to the gallows. Dodger sat with his chin resting in his hand for the longest time. Fagin knew that he was thinking and did not press him to talk; he knew from experience that Dodger would not be pushed.

Indeed, Dodger was deep in thought; in a few hours, Victor would be dead, and Dodger would be able to resume living his life. He was still scared, though. He found it strange that even though he knew that Victor would never be able to harm anyone else, that he was still afraid of the man. And then Dodger had an idea; the very thought of it terrified him, but it might ease his worries.

"I wanna see 'im," he said suddenly to Fagin, who stared at him.

"Why? Ya do realise why 'e's there, don't ya, my dear?" he said.

"I know it sounds strange, I just...," Dodger sighed, unable to get his words out. "I – I feel like if I can just show 'im that...," again, he couldn't finish, but Fagin understood. Dodger wanted to show Victor that he was no longer afraid of him.

"If you feel you 'ave to, then you can," was all he said, and Dodger nodded gratefully. "Do ya want me to come with ya?"

"No." This was something Dodger needed to do on his own.

Dodger began to regret his decision to go alone as he made his way to the police station not long after his conversation with Fagin. He was still wearing his uncomfortable grey suit, as he did not want to be seen in his usual clothes. What made him think that he could do this? Dodger tried to reassure himself that Victor would be behind bars with absolutely no way to get at him. That didn't really stop Dodger from worrying, but he told himself that he needed to do this.

He was so deep in thought that he barely registered where he was going; it was a wonder how he managed to end up at the right place, and for the longest time, he stood outside the police station, staring up at the imposing double doors, trying to work up the courage to go in. He knew he was being silly; Victor was in a cell, there would be no way for him to get out, Dodger was completely safe, yet he didn't feel it.

Taking a deep breath, Dodger ascended the steps, and opened the door. A policeman he didn't recognise was sat behind the front desk, and he knew immediately who Dodger was.

"What can I do for you?" he asked as Dodger slowly approached him.

"... Is 'e still 'ere?" was all the boy found he could say.

"Yes," the officer knew who Dodger was referring to.

"... Can I see 'im?" The officer looked surprised, but he led Dodger through a side door and down the hall nonetheless. Dodger followed silently, his stomach twisting itself into knots. He followed the man through another door and down another hall, before entering a large, narrow room which resembled a corridor. There were jail cells spanning three of the four walls, with several officers standing sentry at various points down the hall. This was where the most dangerous inmates were kept; most, if not all of them were on death row.

Just off to Dodger's right was a desk and a few chairs, with more policemen sitting at them, chatting quietly and playing cards.

Dodger was led down to the very end of the hallway and they both stopped at the very last cell. He couldn't see anything, but he didn't really want to step any closer.

He looked closer, being careful not to move forward, when he heard the clanking of chains, and Victor's glowering face came into view. Dodger was surprised at how thin and powerless he looked, behind bars, in his old clothes that were tattered and dirty.

"Well, well, well," Victor sneered, and Dodger was instantly transported back to when he had genuinely feared for his life, to when he had been afraid to move, and afraid to keep still, to when he had been so frightened and certain of his impending death that he had begged for his suffering to end.

He remained silent, staring at the man who had caused him all of this pain, trying to overcome his personal demons. "I suppose you think you've been very clever, haven't you?" said Victor in his characteristic smooth, low voice. Dodger did not answer him. "Well, you haven't; all you have done is stopped me from my calling. You've ruined my life, you little whelp!" snarled Victor, raising his fist, unable to do any more as his wrists were handcuffed together, as were his ankles.

"No," Dodger said quietly, not breaking his gaze. "I didn't ruin your life. You did." There was more he wanted to say, but he couldn't seem to speak anymore, so he turned on his heel and left the station.

A few hours later, Dodger was preparing to make his way to the town centre where Victor's sentence was to be carried out. Fagin and Nancy were going to accompany him, as was Charley; the other boys' were still out working, but Charley wanted to support his friend.

The four of them made small talk as they walked into town, acting like they weren't going to witness a hanging; Dodger and Charley had never personally seen a hanging; Fagin had seen more than his fair share, and Nancy didn't particularly care for them, but she went for Dodger.

It seemed the whole town had turned out to watch; outside of the jail was a large platform. It was rather unique in the fact that it had been built one of the doors on the second floor of the building, so that nobody would be able to climb up. The wooden platform extended several feet outward, multiple beams supporting it, and the mass of people were surrounding it, crushed together as they each tried to get the best view. Everybody was screaming, shouting, jeering, or making some sort of angry noise despite the fact that Victor had not yet appeared; the only people on the platform were the warders, who were there to supervise.

Fagin,Nancy and Charley remained where they were as Dodger made his way to the front, finding it rather difficult to squeeze through the tight crowd, even for a skilled pickpocket like himself.

The roar grew even louder and Dodger sidled through to the front of the crowd, looking up to where Victor was standing, being flanked by two policeman, a white mask covering his face. One of the policemen removed the mask, and the crowd became frenzied and surged forward, faces turned to the sky, pressing up against the barriers that prevented them from getting too close.

Dodger braced himself and managed to avoid being crushed as the shouts grew louder; one woman who was standing next to Dodger was screaming up to Victor, about what an evil, horrific monster he was, and that he was going to burn in hell.

The warders raised their hands in a bid for silence, but it was several minutes before the crowd quietened.

"Victor O'Reilly," said one policeman as soon as the public had simmered down, "do you have anything to say before your execution is carried out?"

"All I'm guilty of," said Victor loudly, "is trying to make this world a better place." Dodger looked on as Victor glanced out over the crowd, somehow managing to spot him. Dodger did not break eye contact with the glaring man as the mask was placed back over his head and Victor was hung, cringeing inwardly as he heard the neck snap and the crowd cheered. A quick, relatively painless death was more than Victor deserved, Dodger thought. It was more than what he had given his victims, who had died slowly in agony and terror.

Dodger felt torn; on the one hand, he was glad that Victor was dead; only when Victor was dead he knew he would truly be able to finally relax.

On the other hand, death seemed like an easy way out for Victor. It was all over for him, but Dodger would most likely never be the same again. If it were up to him, Victor would be locked in a room overnight with the families of his victims and they would see what was left of him in the morning.

He was shook from his thoughts when Fagin, Nancy and Charley approached him. The four of them remained silent and began to make their way back home.

That night, Dodger lay in bed, thinking. He hadn't had a chance to speak to Nancy; he wanted to talk to her alone.

He fell asleep very easily that night, but was plagued by disturbing dreams.

"Dodger," a voice called out to him. Dodger looked up and saw the skeletal remains of little Mary Steele approaching him.

"No, leave me alone," he muttered, backing away. He looked around and saw nothing but white. There were no walls, floors or ceilings, just white that stretched as far as he could see.

"Dodger, you have betrayed us," the little girl told him.

"No, I didn't! 'Ow?" he asked, genuinely confused.

"All of us died," her skull told him. "All of us, except for you. You were supposed to join us."

"But I stopped 'im!" cried Dodger, continuing to back away. "'E's dead! 'E can't 'urt no-one no more!" But the child continued to advance on him.

"Yes, you stopped him," she admitted, her fleshless hands smoothing down her dress, her hollowed eyes eyes fixed on his - at least, he thought they were. "But why didn't you stop him before he got us?"

"I didn't know 'e existed until 'e took me!" Dodger was confused. Why was she blaming him? What did she want from him? "'Ow could I 'ave stopped 'im?"

"You should have done something," Mary told him, her jaws and teeth clacking together with every word. "But you have betrayed us." It was then that Dodger noticed more of Victor's victims were appearing from nowhere and advancing on him as well. He turned to run, only to find them behind him.

"What do you want me to do?!" he cried desperately.

"You must join us," said Mary. "You were the only one that survived; so you must come and join us now."

"I don't wanna join ya! I didn't betray ya!" Dodger screamed, feeling trapped now that they were closing in on him.

"Yes, you did," came Mary's little voice from somewhere in the group. "And now you will be one of us forever."

Dodger squeezed his eyes shut as the corpses raised their hands, and when they grabbed him, he screamed.

Dodger sat up straight in bed, gasping and panting. He looked around and found that he was still at Fagin's, everyone was asleep, and he was okay. He lay back down, but did not go back to sleep; he felt far too anxious.

The boy eventually dropped off in the early hours of the morning, and was awoken a mere three hours later as the other boys woke and dressed with their usual rowdiness.

Dodger groaned and jammed his pillow over his head, trying to muffle the sounds. He was grateful when Fagin did not attempt to rouse him, and when the noise had died down slightly, he went back to sleep.

He did not know how long he slept; when he awakened several hours later, bright light flooded the room, and he could hear Fagin mumbling to himself as he looked over some papers.

Rising from his bed, Dodger donned his top hat and sat at the table, thinking about the dream he had had.

John and Anna Steele, along with various members of the police force, had travelled to Moorgate to retrieve the body of their little daughter.

There weren't many isolated farmhouses in Moorgate, and so they systematically searched the few that they did find.

The second house they came upon, they knew it was the one, because as soon as they stepped over the threshold, an acrid stench overcame them. Anna Steele had to cover her mouth and step outside for a moment, but she soon recovered and re-entered the abode.

John, and the other officers would not let her into the attic, however; she did not need to see the remains of their child, and so Anna had to wait in the hallway, while the others went upstairs. She cried when she heard her husband's anguished screams, and he flew down the stairs and took her in his arms, both of them crying together.

A few moments later, an officer appeared, carrying something small that was covered in a black sheet. The other policemen followed, their hats removed as a sign of respect. John and Anna followed, clutching each other and crying heavily.

Despite everything, they felt lucky to have found her; at least now they knew what had happened. It had been torture for the poor couple going years without not knowing where their daughter was, or what had happened to her. At least now they could say goodbye.

They would probably never find the other children Victor had killed, but the police were going to do their best. Based on the fact that Victor had been found in Dover, it was deemed necessary to alert policemen in other cities around Britain and request them to search far and wide.

After the execution, Dodger stayed home for a few days; a lot of people had recognised him when Victor was hung and he didn't want to risk going out to work. Fagin seemed surprisingly understanding, and ordered Dodger to wear different clothes every day when he would venture back out.

Later one afternoon, Nancy comes to see him, cheering Dodger up immensely. She had told him and Fagin that little Mary Steele had been found, and that a funeral was to be held for the little girl the following day.

"What's wrong, Dodge?" she asked, sitting next to him after noticing his miserable look.

"I just.. think it ain't fair," he admitted.

"What ain't?"

"Well," Dodger tried to think how to say what he wanted to say. "'E's dead, which is good, but it's over fer 'im. 'E ain't gotta live with this; I do, but 'e's dead, which is what 'e deserves. 'E ain't got no more worries." Nancy understood what Dodger was trying to say and she chuckled.

"I know what ya mean," she smiled. "'E don't deserve to live, but at the same time, death's too good fer 'im, right?" Dodger nodded, grateful that she knew what he meant. "Well, 'e's dead, so there ain't much point dwelling on it, okay?"

"Okay. Least I can relax now." Dodger had to admit that it felt good to not feel constantly tense all the time; he was now able to let his guard down and not be perpetually on his guard, forever looking over his shoulder in case "Thomas" - no, Victor - was following him. A huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders, and for that, Dodger was immensely glad.

The next morning, after an uneasy sleep in which Mary Steele once again told him that he must join them, Dodger donned a different set of clothes, and headed out to work by himself.

He walked quickly with his head down and soon arrived at his destination. He could see a crowd of people dressed in black and he ducked behind a tree and watched silently as the funeral progressed.

Dodger did not move from his spot as the mourners gathered around the open grave, in which was a cheap, wooden, closed coffin. He was too far away to see properly, but that suited him just fine; he felt he had been exposed to too much death for a lifetime.

After the little coffin had been lowered into the ground, the mourners drifted away, save for Mary's parents, who remained by the grave. Dodger waited for the moment until they left, and when they did, he made his move. The boy walked over to the grave and stood silently in front of the headstone.

"So, uh," he didn't know what to say; he was hoping that if he spoke to her, she would stop haunting his dreams. "Look, ya didn't 'ave to die; ya shouldn't 'ave died, but ya did. But I can't do anything about it, see? But I did manage to stop 'im from doin' this ever again, and that's a good thing. So... can ya... I'd really like ya to leave me alone, now, okay?" Dodger didn't know what else to say, so he stood there, in front of the grave, staring at the headstone for a while, and then he left to continue doing his work.

After a few weeks, things were starting to go back to normal. Dodger looked so much better that it was hard to believe what he had been through, except for the cut on his arm, which would most likely never fade, and the dark circles under his eyes were not nearly as pronounced as they had been. He was sleeping a lot better now that little Mary Steele was haunting his dreams less and less.

He wasn't completely out of the woods, yet; even though he watched Victor get hanged and he knows he's dead, Dodger still 'saw' him unexpectedly. The boy would be walking down the street, and there Victor would be, just standing there and watching him. The first time this had happened, Dodger had frozen in fear and had genuinely thought he was losing his mind. How could he be seeing a dead person? These 'visions' happened sporadically, and whenever Dodger 'saw' Victor, he would quickly walk as fast as he could in the opposite direction. He did not tell anybody about this, however, as he thought that they would think he was losing his mind, and send him off to the asylum.

Occasionally, someone would recognise him on the streets, so Dodger had to be extra careful when he went out to work. They would ask him if he was that little child who was kidnapped, and, after a while, Dodger had started saying that they must be confusing him with another boy. He tried not to let these encounters hinder his work, and did his best to regain his unofficial title as the best pickpocket Fagin had.

Every so often, he would be mentioned in a newspaper article, mainly praising him for his work in convicting Victor. Nancy saved all of these clippings, for reasons which Dodger did not know; he certainly didn't want to be reminded of his ordeal.

"It's to show what a great thing ya did," she told him when he asked.

Dodger truly felt that he was no different to any of "Thomas's" other victims, other than the fact that he was alive, and if somebody hadn't decided to take a morning stroll, Dodger knew that he would be dead, too. He didn't know what all the fuss was about. He did not want his kidnapping to be the thing he was remembered for; he wanted to go down in history as the greatest pickpocket who ever lived, who lived a life of crime without ever getting caught.

Yes, things had returned to normal. Almost.

Dodger still compulsively double-checked that the door was locked when he arrived home, and before he went to bed, he doubled-checked the windows. Fagin did not say anything; if these little rituals brought Dodger comfort, then who was he to put a stop to it?

Dodger was also much quieter than he used to be; he tried to hide it by joining in on the poker games and laughing and joking, but his smiles and laughter hardly reached his eyes any more.

One afternoon, while he was out working with Charley, they were sat together on a brick wall, and Dodger was staring at the ground. He wasn't having a good day; he had been kept awake most of the night due to nightmares, and as a result, had been distracted and pensive all morning. Charley had been trying unsuccessfully to cheer his friend up. Some days, Dodger felt like he could never smile again, and the last thing he wanted was people trying to make him smile, but he kept quiet on the subject, for his best friend was only trying to help.

He was, however, rather amused by an article which Nancy had read to him; a reporter had been fascinated by the fact that Dodger was the only person to survive his kidnapper, and all of his victims' were in his little black book; every child he'd killed had a line through their name. Everyone except Jack Dawkins. This reporter had been so amazed by this that he'd proceeded to write an article entitled "Jack Dawkins: Miracle Child?" Dodger fell about laughing when he heard. How could he not? It just sounded so ridiculous. Besides, Nancy could always make him smile.

A little over a month after Victor had been hung, Dodger was out working by himself, when he spotted a young boy dressed in rags, standing all alone. He looked like a waif, so Dodger approached him, discreetly swiping an apple from the fruit stand as he passed.

"You 'ungry?" he asked, getting right into it. He didn't even wait for the boy to reply before throwing the apple over.

"Oh, thank you!" the little boy gasped, his big blue eyes shining with happiness as he devoured the fruit. "I've just arrived 'ere; I ran away from 'ome, see, and I've no place to go!"

"Well, I might know of somewhere," said Dodger casually, placing his hands in his pockets.

"You do? Where?"

"It's a nice place, run by a nice, respectable old gent, who'll let you stay for nothin'."

"Really?" The boy's eyes widened, unable to believe his good fortune. "How decent of 'im."

"Yeah, 'e's a decent bloke, 'e is," said Dodger calmly. "But someone 'e knows 'as to introduce ya to 'im; them's the rules. And 'e knows me, don't 'e? So, what's your name?"

"Victor." Dodger's eyes widened ever so slightly.

"No," was all he said before turning on his heel and marching away. The further away he walked, the more guilty he felt, and he turned back to see the boy looking crestfallen. Inwardly rolling his eyes, Dodger returned to him. "Look," he sighed, "ya can't stay with us; sorry, but you can't. But," Dodger placed his hand on the boy's shoulder and turned him so he was facing a tall brick building. "See that place? Old Jess lives there; always 'appy to give kids a bed for the night. If you're lucky, she might give ya a few odd jobs."

The boy happily trotted off, and Dodger continued on his way.

Yes, things had returned to normal. All except for Dodger. He would never be the same again. His experiences had changed him, and the ordeal had affected everyone he knew. Well, mostly everyone; Bill remained the same, with no change in attitude or demeanour whatsoever.

Fagin and the boys' had began treating Dodger normally a while ago; Fagin knew, now that Victor was dead, the best thing for them to do was just carry on.

Dodger appreciated what they did, and did his part by joining in with poker and other games, and trying to be who he used to be.

Most evenings, he preferred to sit quietly on the sofa, listening to the chatter around him. When he wanted a bit of peace and quiet, he would retreat to the solitary of the rooftop, where he could be alone with his thoughts. One night, he was sat on the flat roof, gazing up at the stars, when he was joined by Nancy.

"Alright, Dodge?" she asked, sitting next to him, the boy humming a reply. "What ya doin' up 'ere, then?"

"Just felt like it." They sat in silence for a while, Dodger secretly thrilled that she was sat there with him. His angel. He turned his gaze skyward and continued looking at the stars. "Ya know," he said, pointing up at a star, "I think that must one of them fallin' stars; it's much bigger than the others."

Nancy couldn't help herself; she burst into giggles, and playfully batted Dodger's hat off of his head, and the boy retrieved it, frowning. He did not appreciate being laughed at.

"That's the North star, silly!" she grinned. "Or the wishing star, as people make wishes on it."

"Really?" Dodger asked, intrigued.

"Yes," she looked up at the star in question.

"Wow," Dodger also looked up at the star, wondering if it was true, and if it was, how it worked. "What would you wish for?" he asked suddenly, turning to face her.

"Me?" she looked taken aback for a moment. "I don't know. I guess I'd wish for... per'aps a - no, I'd wish for you lot to get outta this."


"Get out of the slums, and into a decent life; ya know, three hot meals a day, a warm bed, an education."

"Ugh, 'ow boring! Not for me," Dodger wrinkled his nose in disgust, and Nancy laughed again, sounding like music to Dodger's ears.

"What about you, then? What would you wish for?"

"I don't know," said Dodger honestly, echoing what Nancy had said. She eyed him as the drunken voice of Bill calling for her came from below.

"I bet I can guess," she said quietly, but Dodger heard her.

"Go on, then," he said, as Bill's voice sounded again.

"I bet you'd wish that you'd never been kidnapped."

"Mm," was all Dodger said, looking up at the sky again.

"Nance!" roared Bill from downstairs. "Get down 'ere before I come up and get ya!"

"Gotta go, now, Dodge," Nancy rose, before smiling down at the boy. "Ya comin' down?"

"In a minute."

"Okay. See ya soon, yeah?" she patted his shoulder before leaving.

As Dodger resumed watching the stars, he could hear Bill's angry voice berating Nancy and he frowned again. The boy focussed on the wishing star, and closed his eyes tightly.

"I wish Nancy will be safe," he whispered, before standing and going back downstairs.

The next day, Dodger was out by himself in a little town called Barnet, when he spotted another potential recruit for Fagin's gang. Smiling to himself, he approached the boy and began his usual script. The little boy seemed very keen to go with him; he was an orphan, and had nowhere to stay. In short, he was perfect for them.

Everything seemed to be in order, Dodger thought, as he questioned the boy; he just had to know his name.

"My name's Oliver. Oliver Twist."

The End.

~ X ~

It's finished.

Thank you so much to everyone who stuck with me through this; it means so much to me. Now that it's complete, I don't know what to do with myself; the story took some twists and turns that I wasn't planning on happening, and there are so many "deleted scenes" that didn't make it into the final draft.

What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in a review!