Thursday, March 10, 2011

Red Haired Boy: Part 1 (prequel)

Dorcas Smith noticed the doorknob on the front door to the tenement was, once again, ripped out of the door. He brother had repaired it the first three times it had happened, but this time, the doorknob was nowhere to be seen. She shouldered her battered violin case, got a better grip on her satchel, and gave the door a tentative shove with her open palm. 

The bent hinges groaned in rusty protest and the peeling, partially rotted door lurched only a few inches open, hanging on what was left of it’s hinges. She surveyed the new damage and sighed, shaking her head in disgust. This is gonna take two hands....

She glanced around the quiet, late-night darkness of the street, wondering if it was safe to put down her bags. Things around here had a way of growing legs with a quickness, and she couldn’t afford to lose anything, especially the violin. In fact, having it out in the open where people could see made her feel like a target. 

“Dammit.” She muttered, watching two young red-haired men saunter up the street. She bumped the door with a hip, but all that succeeded in doing was making it scrape an inch across the uneven and cracked wooden floor behind it, the hinges squealing. 

The men glanced her way, and one of them gave a derisive guffaw. “Tha's one way to keep the darkies out.” His accent was heavy, his words slurring.

Had Dorcas been with her brothers, she would have been either nonplussed or infuriated by the comment. But now, standing alone on the dark street having attracted the attention of a couple of armed ruffians, all she felt was fear. Her hand went to the shiv beneath her coat, noting with growing panic the blue stripe each of them wore on their pants legs and the rifle one of them toted against his shoulder. Roach Guard. Irish thugs. She was trapped on the stoop, unable to open the door or get out of the entryway and flee down the street. She gave the door another fruitless shove. 

“Connor, shut up.” The taller one with the rifle muttered. “Tha’s not how you were raised.”

“Oh, we’re gonna be fecking gentlemen, eh?” The man leaned against one of the seatwalls flanking the doorway, looking Dorcas over. “I'm raised right now, so I am. How 'bout it, brown girl?"

She gripped her knife, keeping it hidden, holding her case before her like a shield. She glared at him, meeting his eyes, sizing him up. He’ll be expecting a shot to the nuts...go for his eyes if he makes a move....they never count on that and spend all their effort guarding their berries...

“Lad, this isna part of the job. Leave off.” Rifle said firmly. “Look, go along with ya, I’ll catch up.”

“Oh.” the leering Irishman sneered. “I see how it sodding is. What do you wan’ me to tell Flannagan? You decided to take your wee laddie out for a little exercise so you’re runnin’ a bit late?”

“Jaysus! Will you just go?” 

“You’re a cute hoor, so you are." The shorter man spat at his companion. "Suppose I’m in the mood to get me oats as well, eh?” 

What did he just call me? Why did I not listen to Ethan? Why did I not stay in tonight? Dorcas pressed her back against the jammed door, gripping her knife so hard her hand started to sweat. Her fear warred with her outrage. Taller one might be easier to stab in the side...with any luck, that’ll bleed enough to put him down fast and keep him down, if I get him under his ribs... "I'm not a wh..." 

"He didn't say what you think, lass, and he was talkin' to me anyways." Rifle said evenly, not looking at her. “Connor. Come here to me, lad.” He put a calming hand on the shoulder of his menacing companion and firmly turned him so they were facing each other. “We both know you’re stopping at the Red Door for another drink before we meet Flannagan and the lads. Go wait for me there.” He put up a finger. “Not a sodding word more. We could fight about it here, sure, and then we show up so banjaxed and torn up the Chichesters have an easy job of just finishing it up and killing us. And you know sodding well we’ll run into them. And maybe Father Vallon's lads as well. They’ll be after the shipment, sure.”

The man called Connor stared up at his taller companion. “We’ll talk about this later, Georgie Fecking Washington,” He growled. 

“Aye, so we will, lad. Get a pint for me, I’ll be along.”

“Sodding tosser.” Connor gave Dorcas one last reproachful look over his shoulder and sauntered down the dark street, his gait self-conscious and cocky, like a dog who didn’t want anyone to know he’d been bested. “Wanker.” 

The remaining man looked up at Dorcas. “I’m sorry about that, lass.” He stepped up to the tenement stairs towards her and gestured towards the door. “If you want to go inside...”

She stepped swiftly towards him, and jammed the shiv firmly against his side, right under his ribcage, pressing  hard enough to get his undivided attention. “I will dump your filthy mick guts right here on the sidewalk, you piece of...”

“Jaysus, lass!” The man froze, gasping in pain as she dug the point into him. “I was gonna ask you to hold me rifle so I can see to the door.” 

“How stupid do you think I am?” 

“Clearly not as stupid as I am. Ouch!”  He didn’t move, holding his hands open, his thumb threaded harmlessly through the trigger guard of the weapon slung behind his neck and across his shoulders. “Lass, I might need that liver later, any danger of you easin’ off....?”

“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t open you up and leave you for the rats right now. Pig!” She hated this man, hated what he represented. Violence and fighting and killing over nothing much important. The painted blue stripe on his pants told her he was on his way to yet another confrontation with gangs of others like himself. He’ll probably kill tonight and some other piece of filth might kill him. Life was cheap here, but it was because of people like him that it was so. She narrowed her eyes at him, forcing herself to calm down. He was a head taller than she was, wiry with strong shoulders. The dim light of the lamp beside the doorway reflected and highlighted a headfull of messy copper curls, gave his colorless face a haint’s ethereal pallor. Trash. Devil. Scum...Maybe I should let him just go on to the hell he's headed to...maybe they’ll all just kill themselves off and be done with it...

“Well, lass...” he said, clearly choosing his words carefully. “I think a pretty compellin’ reason is that if you do, you’ll be stuck out here in front of the aul' Brewery alone with a pricey fiddle, a pretty face, and a jammed door.”

© 2011 Regina Shelley


Evelyn said...

LOVE IT. x)Had no idea the Irish had a role as such though. :)

Regina said...

They sure did, and you know what? I didn't either until I started putting Wash's backstory together. Now that I know what I know, I'm a little surprised that the history of Manhattan is not any more well known than it is.

I did not make up the Roach Guards, Father Vallon, or the dilapidated tenement Dorcas is trying to enter known as the Old Brewery. They were real people and places.

Hazel West said...

Yeah backstory! I love Wash and the Irish. It kind of reminds me of Louis L'Amour's book The Iron Marshall ;-)

Regina said...

Okay, wow. I just looked that up and read what it was about. :-O

I can certainly see why you'd say that! I think I need to find a copy of that book and start reading. Looks like it would be the sort of thing I wouldn't be able to put down!

Anonymous said...

Love it, and all the history too.

That the history of Manhattan is so little known does not surprise me.. So much being lost during riots and fires...

What does surprise me is how few people actually were in gangs...As bad as it was, & it WAS brutal.. it was not as horrible as it could have been...

A thought that scares me no end at times...

Melissa said...

Yay! I was hoping we'd get a look into Wash's past.

New York history is really an amazing thing that no one seems to know about. I've lived in Brooklyn all my life and I'm only just now learning some cool stuff about it.

Hazel West said...

Wow, I can't believe you haven't read any Louis L'Amour before!

Brittany Ann said...

Ahhh this is wonderful!! I love the way you write accents, and I'm so excited for more of this!

Also, DEFINITELY check out Louis L'Amour--I read some of him in school last year in my Frontier in American Culture class, and it was excellent.

Hazel West said...

Aye, Louis L'Amour is the best in westerns. I just started reading him last summer actually and now I have about thirty of his books :) You'd also appreciate his Sackett series. I love those lads! ;-)