Crow's Revenge - By Marcus Alexander


Mr Crow

The house sat at the end of the small London street and it looked wrong.

Not wrong in itself, although it was a peculiar-looking house, but wrong for the neighbourhood. Big, cranky and ancient, it squatted between its smaller neighbours and glared down the narrow backstreet as though daring anyone to say anything about its battered appearance.

Yet beneath the grime and bird droppings were small scraps of evidence that pointed to grander times. Worn silver lining could be glimpsed on the window frames, bronze gilt hung in shreds from the oak front door and carvings of dragons peered out from beneath the creeping ivy. The building had been old even when London was young, but was now in dire need of renovation. Or demolition.

Charlie Keeper was well aware of how it looked. As she gazed out of her small bedroom window, she knew that her house was a source of discomfort for the wealthy locals, and that her neighbours complained about its scruffy appearance. But she didn’t care. The place felt like home, felt like a part of her and, more importantly, reminded her of her missing parents.

Trying to put thoughts of her grumpy neighbours aside, she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and did her best to pat her messy blonde hair into something that resembled a ponytail. Stuffing her feet into a pair of scuffed sneakers, she stomped her way to the bathroom to clean her teeth. She slapped some toothpaste on to her brush and began to scrub furiously.

Charlie wasn’t happy.

In fact, she wasn’t happy most days. It wasn’t that her neighbours were always rude to her – thirteen-year-olds knew how to put up with adult foolishness. It wasn’t even that she got bullied at school, returning home with new bruises every day. And it wasn’t that life appeared to be stacked so unpleasantly against her.

After all, there were good things going on too. She got to live with her grandma, and although her elderly relative suffered from amnesia she was, in Charlie’s mind, a wonderful woman with a kind heart. Her best friend, Tina, even lived down the street. And Charlie was, of course, a Londoner. She loved the grimy city. Her favourite afternoons involved sneaking off to watch the b-boys and freerunners practising along the south bank of the River Thames, and she got a secret thrill out of deciphering the twisted graffiti and loudly coloured street murals that decorated the capital.

Life would have been bearable. Really it would have … apart from one thing. One person. Mr Crow. Since her parents had gone missing, he was (according to her family’s estate, will and testament) her lawyer, her custodian and the house steward. He held all the purse strings, had control over her grandmother’s health care and sent Charlie to the strictest of schools. And, although Charlie couldn’t prove it, she had a niggling feeling that Mr Crow had been selling antiques and furnishings from the house for his own financial gain.

Charlie, without a doubt, hated him. And to make matters worse he was due at the house any moment now. She rinsed out her mouth and stomped back to her seat at the bedroom window.

As her forehead creased up and her mouth twitched at the mere thought of the man, she saw him turn into the street with his customary black cape flapping behind him. Charlie’s neighbours hurriedly ducked out of sight. While they could ignore the house, it was altogether another matter ignoring the lawyer.

Mr Crow homed in on the house like a venomous snake striking its prey, his long, skinny legs carrying him down the road. He used his rolled umbrella to prod an unfortunate passer-by who was too slow in making way.

‘Get out of my way, you clumsy fool!’ snapped the miserable lawyer. ‘Can’t you see I’m on important business? Make way!’

Crow stalked up to the house and slammed through the front door, pausing to let his eyes grow accustomed to the dim light inside. He took a deep breath, cracked his knuckles and called out as he made his way to his study, ‘Charlie, my filly, my pretty filly. Come to Uncle Crow. There’s work to be done and papers to be signed. Come, come.’

‘You’re not my uncle,’ Charlie growled under her breath. But she knew better than to keep him waiting. Hurrying to the lawyer’s study, she walked straight up to the large leather-bound desk, lifted the pen that rested on its surface and, without needing to be asked again,