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Authors: Victoria McKernan

Son of Fortune

BOOK: Son of Fortune
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THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2013 by Victoria McKernan

Jacket photograph copyright © 2013 by Eva Kolenko

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

McKernan, Victoria.

Son of fortune / by Victoria McKernan.

p. cm.

Summary: In mid-1860s San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Aiden gains a hoped-for chance at a change in fortune when he wins a ship in a poker game, but soon he is involved in Peru's savage guano trade and the exploitation of its Chinese workers.

ISBN 978-0-375-89585-2 (ebook)

[1. Conduct of life—Fiction. 2. Seafaring life—Fiction. 3. Commerce—Fiction. 4. Race relations—Fiction. 5. Chinese—Peru—Fiction. 6. Peru—History—1829–1919—Fiction. 7. San Francisco (Calif.)—History—19th century—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.M4786767Son 2013

[Fic]—dc23

2012042506

Random House Children's Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

ep_v4.0

To my niece, Therese Thomas

(the high school teacher everyone wishes they could have),

with a heart for social justice

Also by Victoria McKernan

The Devil's Paintbox

Shackleton's Stowaway

Contents

iden Lynch walked off alone into the night forest. He had no real idea where he was going, but his body needed to move, so he went along with it. He had slipped past exhaustion into a restless exhilaration that demanded motion. The path was faint, but as long as he walked west, he would come soon enough to the sea. The sea offered escape, and he needed escape, for he had just killed a man. The stain was still on him. The blood had soaked through his coat and through his sweater and the shirt beneath that and onto his skin, where it had dried and itched for hours: a rude smear, crisp and foul like a smashed bug. He had washed at the river, rubbing the place with cold handfuls of water until his skin felt raw, but even now, many hours later, it seemed he could still feel it, the poisonous crackle of another man's blood drying slowly on his own flesh.

William Buck was no loss to the world, but Aiden could have easily gone his whole life without killing him. That the death was in fact mostly accidental changed little. Buck was not a virtuous man, nor really even liked by anyone, but the raw truth was, at the time of his death, he was pursuing a thief, a highway robber who had ambushed a medical team and stolen its precious smallpox vaccine. In another day or two, Aiden knew, the name of that thief would reach Seattle, and that name was his own. So Aiden Lynch, sixteen years old and alone in the world, was on the run.

The fight wasn't even a whole day ago. His left leg throbbed where Buck had clubbed him, and there were splinters still buried in his palm where he had grabbed the stick. There was a deep pain across his lower ribs, a tender, swollen eye and raw cuts on his face where little shreds of broken skin were beginning to curl. He had a dark, pulpy bruise just below his collarbone where one end of that stick had landed; the other end, accidentally sharper and more fatefully positioned, had pierced the neck of William Buck. The blood had poured out amazingly fast, awful red and dense as mercury, steaming a hole in the fresh snow.

Aiden's legs felt shaky and he stopped, light-headed. He bent over and rested his hands on his knees. The sharp tang of urgency that had carried his muscles along so far was starting to evaporate. He felt frail and drenched with mortality. The sweet scent of pine needles drifted up from the ground like incense. He slumped into the fragrance, resting his head on his arms. In the few months that he had worked as a logger, he had come to love this land and was sad to be leaving it. These northwest woods, with their enormous, ancient trees, were insane and delicious, strange as Mars yet calmly beautiful.

He yearned just to lie down and sleep, but he struggled to his feet again. It was January, and even on a mild night like this, with no wind and the temperature in the forties, he knew that he could freeze to death lying on the bare ground. The moon broke through the clouds and spilled silver on the tips of branches. In a far part of his brain, Aiden recognized it was lovely, but he was numb to beauty right now, numb to everything but the rhythmic solace of his footsteps. Tree roots braided the path before him. He didn't know what came next, and he wasn't sure he had the strength to find out, but there were, as always, only two choices. He could go on or he could die. There had been grander chances to die so far, so it didn't seem justice to do it now.

BOOK: Son of Fortune
8.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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