Read The Sultan's Tigers Online

Authors: Josh Lacey

The Sultan's Tigers

Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents


















































About the Author

Copyright © 2013 by Josh Lacey


All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.


The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

Lacey, Josh.

The sultan's tigers / by Josh Lacey.

p. cm.

Originally published in Great Britain by Andersen Press, 2012.

Sequel to: Island of Thieves.

Summary: Tom, who comes from a long line of criminals, travels with his roguish uncle to India to find a family treasure—a bejeweled tiger stolen from the sultan's throne hundreds of years ago.


[1. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 2. Families—Fiction. 3. Uncles—Fiction. 4. Criminals—Fiction. 5. India—Fiction.] I. Title.





eISBN 978-0-544-15611-1





To Bella


My name is Tom Trelawney
and I come from a long line of liars, cheats, crooks, bandits, thieves, and smugglers.

That's what my uncle says, anyway.

I'd like to believe him, but if our family consists entirely of criminals, what went wrong with my dad? He's probably the most honest person on the planet.

“He's not a real Trelawney,” says Uncle Harvey. “Not like you and me.”

According to my uncle, our family originally came from a small village in Cornwall, a rugged corner of England that sticks out into the Atlantic, pointing like a finger at America. The Trelawneys called themselves fishermen, but they actually made their living by piracy, smuggling illegal goods ashore and hiding them in the caves that riddle the Cornish coast.

My grandfather was a real Trelawney too.

He wasn't a pirate or a smuggler, but he never did an honest day's work in his life. He was always running from someone, always searching for a place to hide, and he left a trail of enemies all around the world.

I never really knew him.

I wish I had.

We only saw Grandpa once a year, sometimes even less. The last time he came to the States for Christmas, he drank too much wine and had a big argument with Dad.

Ten months later, he was dead.

He had a heart attack while watching TV, and that was that, kaput, he was gone.

“A good death,” my mom called it, and perhaps she's right, although it's not exactly what I'd call a good death. What's wrong with being gnawed to pieces by piranhas? Or flung from a plane without a parachute? If Grandpa had died like that, I really would have been proud of him. But he died sitting in his recliner, slumped in front of the TV, according to the neighbor who found him, so maybe that really was a good death.

Grandpa had lived all over the world, but he spent the last few years of his life in a small village on the west coast of Ireland. We arrived in Shannon at dawn on the morning of the funeral. (By “we,” I mean me, my mom, my dad, my little bro, Jack, and my big sister, Grace.) Dad rented a bright blue Ford Focus at the airport and drove us across the country to Grandpa's village.


Not many people came to the funeral: just us and a few neighbors.

Halfway through the service, the door squeaked open and Uncle Harvey stumbled down the aisle. “Sorry I'm late,” he whispered loudly enough for everyone to hear. The vicar gave him a stern look and carried on with the sermon. Uncle Harvey grinned at us and slid into a pew on the other side of the church. I grinned back while Dad gave him a dirty look. They might be brothers, but they don't like each other much.

I was looking forward to talking to my uncle. Earlier in the year, we had traveled to Peru together, hunting down a stash of buried gold that had belonged to Sir Francis Drake. Later, back in the U.S., we'd been given dinner at the Peruvian embassy, but I hadn't seen my uncle since. I wanted to know if he'd had any more adventures. Had he been chased by crooks? Threatened by thugs? Or beat up? Had he stolen anything? Or cheated anyone? Even after spending a week with my uncle in Peru, I didn't know very much about his life, but I knew one thing for sure: it was a lot more interesting than mine.

The ceremony concluded with prayers, then we shuffled into the graveyard and stood in line to shake hands with the vicar. When my turn came, the vicar smiled down at me and said in his warm Irish accent, “So which of the grandsons are you? Are you Jack or are you Tom?”

“I'm Tom.”

“Ah, the famous Tom. Your grandfather told me all about you. He said you were full of mischief. Is that true?”

“I suppose so.”

“He also said he saw himself in you. I can see what he meant.”

“Really?” I said. “What else did he say?”

“Oh, this and that. Maybe I'll tell you when you're a bit older.” Chuckling, the vicar let go of my hand and grabbed the next in line, which happened to belong to Uncle Harvey. “Your father was a lovely man,” the vicar said. “You must be missing his presence.”

“I've heard him called a lot of things,” said Uncle Harvey. “But never lovely. Maybe he was lovelier to you than he was to us.”

The vicar looked a bit nervous, not wanting to say the wrong thing. “I didn't know your father well, but we thought of him as a valued member of the community.”

“Did you really?” Uncle Harvey sounded surprised. “So he didn't steal any of your silver? Or flog your hymn books on eBay?”

“Actually, we did have a few things go missing,” said the vicar. Then he noticed that my uncle was smiling. “Ah! You're having a joke with me, aren't you?”

“I'm so sorry,” said Uncle Harvey. “I can't help myself.”

“Even in times of trouble, it's good to have a smile on your face.” The vicar beamed and moved to talk to the next person in line.

As my uncle and I walked through the churchyard, he winked at me. I winked back. Now we knew how Grandpa had been supplementing his pension.

Uncle Harvey said, “How's life, kid?”

“It's OK. A little boring. How's yours?”

“I would say it's good, but my dad's just died so I probably shouldn't. How often did you see the old man?”

“Not very often,” I replied. “He sometimes visited us for Christmas. But he and Dad always ended up arguing.”

“He argued with everyone. That was just his way.”

“Did you argue with him too?”

“All the time,” said Uncle Harvey. “But we always made up again. He was like that. We'd get drunk together and have a big row, then forget all about it the next day. It's a pity you won't get to know him better. Did you ever come and stay with him?”

“Dad wouldn't let me. I don't know why not.”

“I do,” said Uncle Harvey.

“Yeah? Why?”

“He knows that as far as he's concerned, the Trelawney genes skipped a generation. You're more like your grandfather than your father. He must have been worried about what would happen if the two of you ever got together. Just like he's worried about the two of us. And he's right, isn't he? Ah, hello, Simon. How are you?”

Simon is my dad. He didn't look particularly pleased to see his brother, but maybe he was just feeling sad. I guess you would feel sad if your father died, even if the two of you had furious arguments whenever you happened to be in the same room at the same time.

The brothers shook hands. Then Uncle Harvey kissed my mom on both cheeks and said hello to Jack and Grace.

“I've invited the vicar to join us for lunch,” my father said to Harvey. “Can you give him a lift in your car? There isn't much room in ours.”

“Sure. Where are we going?”

“I've booked a table at a restaurant on the coast. Apparently it's very good. You can follow me there.”

“Great. I'll go and get the vicar.”

Once Uncle Harvey was striding across the churchyard, Dad turned to me. “Here are the keys to Grandpa's house. We'll see you there in a couple of hours.”

I took the keys and stared stupidly at my father. “Why are you giving me these?”

“Because you're going to go to the house.”

“What am I supposed to do there?”

“Whatever you like. Read a book, play a game. It's up to you.”

“What about lunch?”


“Why can't I come to lunch?”

“You know why not.”

“Because I'm grounded?”


“But this is Grandpa's funeral! You've got to let me come to the lunch!”

“I'm afraid not, Tom. You're grounded.”

“That's so unfair!”

“You should have thought about that before you stole the golf cart. We'll be a couple of hours. See you later.”


“Don't ‘Dad' me.”

“But, Dad—”

“I said don't ‘Dad' me.”

“But, Dad, it's just not fair.”

“See you later,” said my father, showing not a trace of sympathy. “Go on. Go to the house.”

Grace tried to argue on my behalf, which was nice of her, and Jack said he wouldn't mind staying with me, which was nice of him, too, but Dad asked if they both wanted to be grounded as well, and of course they didn't. He told them to go to the car. Grace grinned at me and Jack gave me a thumbs-up, then they sloped away. Dad turned back to me. “I'm sorry, Tom. I don't like doing this. I wish there were some other way. But you've really given me no choice.”

I looked at my dad for a moment. Then I said, “You're an idiot.”

His face turned red and he told me never to talk to him like that, and Mom said I should remember where I was, but I didn't care. I turned my back on my parents and walked away, their angry voices following me out of the graveyard.


I'd been grounded
for a month. It was my own stupid fault. I had been caught borrowing a golf cart from the local golf course. The groundskeepers said I was stealing. I said I wasn't stealing, I was borrowing. They said what's the difference? I said the difference is that I would have brought it back again. They said how do we know you would have brought it back? I said you have to trust me. They said how can we trust you when you steal things? I said I wasn't stealing, I was borrowing, but by that time no one was listening.

It was so unfair. Of course I wasn't stealing their golf cart. I just wanted to have a bit of fun and drive around the course. Unfortunately I'd only gotten as far as the first hole when two groundskeepers came running after me.

I gunned the throttle and tried to lose them, and probably would have if some idiot hadn't planted a tree right where I wanted to go.

Which was how I now came to find myself walking down the street to Grandpa's house while the rest of my family drove twelve miles to the nearest nice restaurant.

I wanted to be there. I wanted my lunch. I wanted to see Uncle Harvey. And more than anything, I wanted to hear about all the crazy things that Grandpa had done in his long and disreputable existence.

Yeah, I know, I shouldn't have stolen that golf cart.

Even better, I shouldn't have gotten caught.

But I couldn't help myself. I'm a Trelawney. We do dumb things like stealing golf carts.

As I walked down the street, I thought about Grandpa and wondered how he ended up living here, a wet village on the western coast of nowhere. What did he do all day? This village seemed nice enough, but it wasn't exactly exciting. I wouldn't have chosen to live here. Or die here.

All the other houses had mowed lawns and beds of bright flowers, but Grandpa's looked as if no one had lived there for years. Paint was peeling off the front door. There was a hole in one of the windows. The front garden was a jumble of weeds and brambles, plus the odd broken bottle and what looked like the remains of a bicycle. Because I'd been here before, I knew Grandpa's house hadn't been wrecked in the days since his death; it had always looked like this. He didn't bother with fixing it up. Or even cleaning.

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