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“Goddamn it! Little bastard,” he hissed, pausing to suck at the freely bleeding scratch. “Mummy, says that’s a bad word.” Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Vin's heart leapt in his chest as the young voice came out of the darkness at him, faintly accusatory but with an underlying tremor that spoke of imminent tears. “Are you a bad man?” Vin smiled although he knew that in the pitch black the child could not see him. “No, kid. I’m not a bad man.” “But you said a bad word.” Tanner was momentarily floored by such five-year old logic, and judging from the sound of her voice the kid was no more than knee high to a grasshopper. “Well, sometimes even good men cuss a little.” He heard a sniffle and a tinkling laugh. “You talk funny.” “That’s 'cause I’m from Texas, a long ways from here, right across the ocean.” The girl fell silent obviously thinking about what he had said, then finally he heard her again, a small, frightened voice that trembled as she spoke in a whisper. “If you’re not a bad man, can I come and sit with you, ‘cos it’s very dark and I’m scared.” Tanner felt a rush of emotion, suddenly appreciating the child’s fears, trapped in utter blackness with a total stranger and a kitten for company. Hell, he was feeling a mite antsy himself. “Sure, honey. You just be careful now.” There was a rustle of movement and a shifting of trickling dust and Vin found himself holding his breath, imagining the child groping blindly and trying to find her way in the treacherous dark, hoping that she would not inadvertently trigger a cave-in. A warm, slightly sticky hand touched his face then innocently roamed over his chest finding the landmarks of his body before sliding into his open arms. Vin tucked her against his side away from his injured shoulder and rested his chin against the top of her head. The small body wedged against him was strangely comforting, and in a moment of sudden clarity he remembered what had brought to him his current unfortunate situation. It had been his idea, so he had no-one but himself to blame. He had been the one who wanted to see the real London; who had finally convinced Ezra that there was more to life than cards, booze and all-too-readily procurable women. Not that he had any

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