There's a new trade in the city - one that deals in children.
On a cold November morning in 1890's Edinburgh, Christie McKinnon and her pal Donal discover a young boy is missing from home. And he's not the only one - someone is stealing children and taking them to a mysterious house on Deadman's Lane. With an eye on a good story, Christie sets out to investigate, but the house is not all it seems to be...
THE HOUSE THAT WASN'T THERE is book #2 in this historical adventure series.
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The wagon pulls over in front of a drayman's cart and reins to a halt at the top of Raeburn Place. The wizened old driver jumps down with a flourish that belies his years. "On ye go," he says, cheerfully waving a hand towards his passengers. The pair clamber off the back of the cart, shaking jackets and trousers in a bid to rid themselves of the black dust.
"Wouldnae bother, pal." The driver pats one of the sacks of coal. "Stuff gets intae yer skin." As if to demonstrate this, he spits in his hand and wipes it across his sooty face. "See? I'd hae less o' this muck on me if I'd hae gone doon the mine." He laughs good-naturedly.
The young man shakes the old man by the hand. "Thanks for the ride". He glances down at the boy at his side. "We'll let ye get off, then."
The driver, gazing up at the slate gray sky, nods solemnly. "Afore the rain comes doon. Good luck tae ye." And with that, he climbs back onto the cart and jiggles the reins. As the vehicle pulls away, he holds a hand up in parting.
"Right then," says the young man, watching the coal cart negotiate the busy road. "Before the rain, eh?" He smiles, though there is little joy in his features.
"But why?" The boy's lower lip trembles. "Why dae I have tae go?" And the tears start again, coursing down the lad's mucky face. "Why can't I stay wi' you?"
The man waves his hands around uselessly, as if trying to conjure up a reason. "It won't be for long, Jamie, just til I find work." He crouches down and hugs the boy to him. "Then I'll come an' get you. Promise."
Straightening up, he glances over the road. Amid the dozens of men and women shuffling up and down the street on their way to or from work, he catches sight of one motionless form in a long dark coat. Nodding an acknowledgement, he notes the black eyes staring back at him and the slight smile that flickers across the fat face.
Clenching his teeth and breathing slowly in an effort to keep back the tears, the young man takes the boy's hand and leads him across the street, where the woman who will take his son away, is waiting at the corner.