The False Bottom

Edmund wanted to cry. He wanted to scream. He wanted to clutch at the skeleton’s leg-bone and beg for forgiveness. He wanted to kick and bite and rage, and make Pinsnip pay for what he had done. Make all of them pay!

But somehow, he couldn’t. His heart was empty and his choler cold as he stared at the pile of bones that had once been a monument to his adopted history. Carefully, he reached out and picked up the skull of the first Matron, and held it tenderly in his hands. It was heavier than he expected, but somehow it didn’t look the way it should. He found the jawbone, and pieced the two together.

Better, he thought. Just like a puzzle.

He kicked the small chest out of the way in frustration. He had come so far! He had found ancient diagrams and inventions of Plinkerton, one of the last great Mouldes! He could have sold them, leased them, done any number of things to save the family, and what did he do? He failed, because he didn’t stop the solicitor–not even a real family member–that couldn’t see past his own ego. None of them could, come to that, but they were all smarter, stronger, and older than he was, weren’t they? He was just eight years old.

Why did he ever think he was more than that? What made him think he could be more than he was? Why did he think that eight years could ever be comparable to…well, to anyone who was older?

He felt his heart sink as he realized he would have a long time to work out those answers.

Clutching the skull to his chest, Edmund began to stand, when his eye fell on the chest where it lay on its side. A false bottom had fallen out of the chest, and several pieces of paper were peeking out from where they had been safe from the fire.

Kneeling down, Edmund pulled eight small folded slips of paper from the false bottom and began to read. At first, Edmund wasn’t sure what he was looking at. Pinsnip had given him a brief introduction to finance and the more complicated maths, but these were old documents, and it took some study before Edmund began to understand exactly where Plinkerton had hidden the Moulde fortune.

The eight pieces of paper were all writs of investment. Each writ was a sizable investment with a large expected return upon claiming the original offer–in short, a gentleman’s loan–written out for each of the other eight Founding Families.

Edmund was amazed as piece after piece fell into place in his mind. What better place to hide money that you didn’t want your family to find, but by giving it to your enemies? Edmund didn’t know anything about the finances of the other eight families, but the numbers on the writs were large, as were the expected rates. There were more zeros in these numbers than Edmund had ever seen in his life.

A quick bit of mental math, and Edmund realized the significance of these papers: If he simply demanded payment on these eight loans, the Moulde family would be richer than the wildest dreams of the greediest thief in the city.

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