The Time Thief (The Gideon Trilogy)

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9781416915270: The Time Thief (The Gideon Trilogy)
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What happens when a seventeenth-century bad guy has twenty-first-century technology?

An accident with an antigravity machine catapulted Peter Schock and Kate Dyer back to 1763. A bungled rescue attempt leaves Peter stranded in the eighteenth century while a terrifying villain, the Tar Man, takes his place and explodes onto twenty-first-century London. Concerned about the potentially catastrophic effects of time travel, the NASA scientists responsible for the situation question whether it is right to rescue Peter. Kate decides to take matters into her own hands, but things don't go as planned. Soon the physical effects of time travel begin to have a disturbing effect on her. Meanwhile, in our century, the Tar Man wreaks havoc in a city whose police force is powerless to stop him.Set against a backdrop of contemporary London and revolutionary France, The Time Thief is the sequel to the acclaimed The Time Travelers.

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About the Author:

Linda Buckley-Archer is the author of the critically acclaimed Gideon trilogy. Originally trained as a linguist, she is now a full-time novelist and scriptwriter. She has written a television drama for the BBC and several radio dramas, as well as various journalistic pieces for papers like the Independent. The Gideon Trilogy was inspired by the criminal underworld of eighteenth-century London.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

Oxford Street

In which the Tar Man has his first encounterwith the twenty-first century, and Kate and Dr. Dyeragree to conceal the truth from the police

It was late afternoon on December 30, the last Saturday of the Christmas holidays, and freezing fog had settled, shroudlike, over London. It had been dark since four o'clock and wherever street lamps cast their orange glow, droplets of moisture could be seen dancing in the icy air.

In Trafalgar Square, seagulls, drawn inland by the severe weather, perched on top of Nelson's head. In St. James's Park, pelicans skidded on frozen ponds. Harrods, its immense contours outlined by a million twinkling lights, appeared to float down Knightsbridge like a luxury liner. To the east of the city, dwarfing St. Paul's Cathedral, gigantic skyscrapers disappeared into the fog, their position betrayed only by warning lights blinking like ghostly spaceships from within the mists.

Meanwhile, in a dank, dark alley off Oxford Street -- a road that in centuries past led to a place of execution at Tyburn -- a homeless man was stuffing newspapers down his jacket and covering himself with layers of blankets. His black and white dog, who had more than a touch of sheepdog in him, lay at his side, shivering. The echoing noise of the street and the drip, drip, drip of a leaking gutter swiftly lulled the man to sleep and he did not even stir when his dog got to its feet and gave a long, low growl. If the man had looked up he would have seen, looming over him at some yards distant, silhouetted black on black, and perfectly still, an alert figure in a three-cornered hat who sat astride a powerfully built horse. His head was cocked to one side as if straining to hear something. Satisfied that he was alone, the dark figure slumped forward and laid his cheek against the horse's neck, expelling the breath that he had been holding in.

"What manner of place is this," he complained into the animal's ear, "to unleash all the hounds of hell for making off with a single prancer? Though 'tis true you wouldn't look amiss even in the stables at Tempest House. You have spirit -- I shall keep you if I can."

The Tar Man patted the horse's neck and wiped the sweat from his brow, though every nerve and sinew was ready for flight or combat. In his years as Lord Luxon's henchman he had earned a fearsome reputation. Few dared say no to him, and if they did they soon changed their mind. He had his hooks caught into enough rogues across London, and beyond, that with one twitch of his line he could reel in anything and anyone. Nothing happened without the Tar Man hearing of it first. But here, wherever "here" was, he was alone and unknown and understood nothing. It suddenly struck him that his journey here had stripped him of everything -- except himself. He clutched instinctively at the scar where the noose had seared into his flesh so long ago. What I need, he thought, is sanctuary. And a guide in this new world...

The Tar Man knew precisely where he was and yet he was lost. The roads were the same but everything in them was different.... This seemed to be London yet it was a London alive with infernal carriages that moved of their own accord at breathtaking speed. The noises and the smells and the sights of this familiar, yet foreign, city tore his senses apart. He had hoped that the magic machine would take him to some enchanted land where the pavements would be lined with gold. Not this...

He became suddenly aware of a faint scraping of heels on gravel behind him. Then a flicker of torchlight illuminated the deeply etched scar that cut a track down the blue-black stubble from his jaw to his forehead. He wheeled around.

"Stop! Police!" came the cry.

The Tar Man did not answer but dug his heels into the sides of the horse he had stolen two hours earlier from the mounted policeman on Hampstead Heath. Without a second's hesitation, horse and rider jumped clear over the vagrant and his dog and plunged headlong into the crowds. The frenzied barks that followed him were lost in the blast of noise that emanated from the busiest street in the world.

Wild-eyed, the Tar Man stared frantically around him. It was the time of the Christmas sales and half of London, after a week of seasonal overindulgence, was out in search of bargains. Oxford Street was heaving with shoppers, packed so densely that it took determination to walk a few feet. Never-ending streams of red double-decker buses and black cabs, their exhausts steaming in the cold, moved at a snail's pace down the wide thoroughfare.

The Tar Man drove his horse on, vainly trying to breach the solid wall of shouting pedestrians that hemmed him in. His heart was racing. He had stepped into a trap of his own making. He berated himself furiously. Numbskull! Have I left my head behind as well as my nerve? Do I not have sense enough to look before I leap?

If he could have, the Tar Man would have mown down these people like a cavalry officer charging into enemy infantry. But he could scarcely move an inch. He was trapped. Glancing around, he saw a group of men in dark blue uniforms emerging from the alley, pushing their way violently toward him, as menacing as any band of footpads of his acquaintance. Curiously, one of them was shouting into a small object he held to his lips.

Everyone was jostling and pressing up against him and screaming at him to get out of the way. All save a little girl who reached up to stroke the horse's moist nose. Her mother snatched her hand away. The Tar Man's eyes blazed. I have not come this far to fall at the first post! They shall not have me! They shall not! And he leaned down into the mass of pedestrians that pushed against him, and when he reappeared he was gripping a large black umbrella as if it were a sword. He thrust it at the crowd, jabbing at people's chests and threatening to thwack them around the head to make them move away. Their piercing screams reached the policemen, who renewed their efforts to reach him through the crowds. Soon, though, the Tar Man had won a small circle of space in which to maneuver. He reversed the horse as far as it could go and whispered something into its ear. The policemen, now only five yards away, watched open-mouthed as they beheld a display of horsemanship the likes of which they were unlikely ever to see again.

The Tar Man held the horse still for an instant and then urged his mount into a majestic leap. Four horse hooves exploded like a thunderclap onto the top of a black cab. The impact was deafening. All heads turned to discover the source of the commotion. Skidding and sliding on the shiny metal, the horse could not keep its footing for long and the Tar Man, his great black coat flying behind him, guided it onto the next cab and then the next and the next.... Hysterical passengers scrambled to get out onto the street. Pedestrians stopped dead in their tracks. And, looking down from their ringside seats on the upper decks of buses, people gawked in disbelief at the spectacle of the Tar Man and his horse playing leapfrog with the black cabs from Selfridges to beyond John Lewis. Soon screams were replaced by laughter and whoops and cheers and the furious shouts of a long line of outraged cabbies. The merest hint of a smile appeared on the Tar Man's face, but just as the thought flashed through his mind to snatch off his three-cornered hat and take a bow, he became aware of an unworldly wind and a rhythmic thrumming that caused the ground beneath him to vibrate. He looked up.

The police helicopter slowly descended. It hovered directly above the Tar Man, its blades rotating in a sickening blur. When a booming voice, like the voice of God, spoke, he held up an arm to his face and paled visibly, paralyzed with fear.

"Get off your horse. Get off your horse and lie on the ground!"

A pencil beam of blinding, blue-white light moved over the Tar Man. He was center stage, spotlit for all to see. The visitor from 1763 could not have orchestrated a more public entrance into the twenty-first century if he had hired the best publicist in London.

The pilot's magnified and distorted voice bounced off the high buildings into the foggy air:

"GET OFF YOUR HORSE! NOW!"

The Tar Man did not -- could not -- move. The helicopter descended even lower. In a reflex action to stop his three-cornered hat from blowing away, he clasped it to his head and, somehow, this simple action seemed to break the spell. He managed to tear his gaze away from the giant, flying beast and quickly scanned his surroundings for an escape route. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he recognized an alley from the Oxford Road he knew. Praying it would not be a dead end, he tugged sharply on the reins and urged his horse on. The crowd was less dense here and the Tar Man broke out, unchallenged, from the circle of light and vanished into black shadows. The helicopter pilot, anxious not to lose his prey, instantly flew higher and headed to the south of Oxford Street, training his searchlight onto half-lit sidewalks and picking out bewildered shoppers in its powerful beam, but the fugitive horseman was lost to sight.

The Tar Man emerged from the alley and rode at breakneck speed through the network of quieter streets toward Piccadilly. Onward the Tar Man galloped, never stopping nor slowing down. He encountered few of these outlandish carriages that moved without horses, and whenever he did see one, the Tar Man charged directly at it, wielding his umbrella fearlessly and daring it to attack him. In every case the strategy worked -- the carriages squealed to an immediate halt. But how little bottom their passengers displayed, cowering behind those queer, curved windows! Faith, they are meeker than milkmaids! Why do they not challenge me?

"Does no one ride in this city?" he yelled at a young man in a black MINI Cooper. "Where are the horses? Where is the dirt?"

The bewildered man shook his head slowly from side to side.

The Tar Man took off again. Onward he galloped, but always above and behind him he sensed the thudding of the flying beast getting nearer. He backtr...

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