"In Which a Mysterious Character Appears upon the Scene, and Many Things Inseparable from this History are Done and Performed"
Fagin cools his pace after almost getting run over in the street, and turns and heads up to another neighborhood, where there are lots of second-hand shops where people buy and sell stolen goods. Fagin seems to know the place well.
He sees a tradesman that he recognizes, and asks if anyone they know is up at the "Cripples."
The tradesman doesn’t think Sikes is there, but Fagin heads in that direction anyway.
The Three Cripples is the bar from Chapter Fifteen, where Sikes went after his dog with the poker. Fagin knows it well and goes right upstairs, looking for a particular person.
There’s a guy playing the piano, and a woman singing in the upstairs room, which is full of some pretty dodgy-looking characters.
Fagin steps back out onto the landing, followed by the landlord, who asks Fagin to join them.
Fagin asks, in a whisper, "Is he here?" (26.22).
The landlord says no, and then Fagin asks after Barney – he’s not there, either.
Fagin asks if he will be here later on. The landlord asks if he means Monks, and Fagin hushes him, but says yes.
The landlord says that Monks will be coming there soon.
Fagin seems relieved that he’s not there now, and tells the landlord to send Monks to see him the next day.
The landlord suggests that they "sell" Phil Barker, because he’s good and drunk (i.e., sell him out to the police).
Fagin says it’s not Phil’s time yet – he can still be useful before they sell him out.
They both laugh.
Fagin then takes a cab to Sikes’s house to see what Nancy knows.
He finds her with her head on the table – Fagin figures she’s either drunk or miserable.
Nancy asks if he has any news, and Fagin repeats Toby’s story. Nancy doesn’t respond.
Fagin wants to know if she has any clue where Sikes might have gone. She doesn’t answer, so he tries to get her to talk by reminding her about poor little Oliver.
She says Oliver’s better off dead, anyway.
Fagin gets angry, and tells Nancy that if Sikes comes back without Oliver, Nancy had better kill him (Sikes) herself, or Fagin will have him hanged.
Nancy’s shocked, and asks what he means.
Fagin’s so worked up he lets out more than he means to: he says that Oliver is worth hundreds to him, and he doesn’t want it all thrown away when he himself is bound "to a born devil that wants only the will, and has got the power to, to – " (26.53).
But before finishing that sentence, Fagin realizes he’s said too much, and falls back in a chair, and asks Nancy if she’s understood him (he still thinks she’s drunk).
Nancy just repeats that she thinks Oliver would be better off dead, so long as Bill Sikes is all right.
Fagin asks if she minded what he’d just been saying, and she says that if it’s something she’s supposed to do, he’ll have to repeat it.
After asking a few more questions, Fagin is satisfied that she’s too far gone to remember what he accidentally let slip about being in somebody’s power and about Oliver being worth so much money.
Fagin hurries home and, as he’s about to open his door, someone comes out of a dark neighboring doorway and calls to him.
The man asks where Fagin’s been all this time, and Fagin says he’s been out on the man’s business, and that it’s nothing good.
The stranger asks to go inside, and Fagin reluctantly brings him in.
Monks (that’s what Fagin calls him) is complaining that the whole housebreaking scheme was a mistake, and that Fagin should have made "him" a pickpocket instead, as he had done to so many other boys, and so gotten "him" (they still haven’t named Oliver) sent out of the country (sometimes convicted thieves "only" got transported out of the country instead of hanged – usually to the U.S. or Australia).
Fagin defends himself by saying that "he" was hard to corrupt, so they needed to force him into something that they could use to frighten him later on. Anyway, he says, the worst case scenario is that he’s dead, and –
But Monks breaks in and says that if the boy is dead, it’s not his fault – his agreement was that they could do anything, but not bring about his death, because "it’s always found out, and haunts a man besides!" (26.95).
Just then, Monks thinks that he sees a shadow of a woman wearing a bonnet outside the door in the hallway.
Fagin thinks Monks is nuts, but agrees to inspect the upper rooms – no one there. And besides, he’d locked the house, and the only other people in it are Charley, the Dodger, and Toby, who are all asleep.
Monks is still nervous, but tries to shrug it off and goes home.