Title: Somewhere Between the Blessed Isles and the Brooklyn Bridge

Author: Eppie Black

Fandom: Gangs of New York

Series: None, at least not yet, maybe with some help...

Rating: PG (for adult situations and a couple of curse words- I'm no

good at this rating thing)

Pairings: Amsterdam Vallon/Jenny Everdine

Warnings: Unbetaed Summary: Um, Amsterdam sees dead people then we meet the family. (Takes place forty years after the Draft Riot.)

Author's Notes: This fic was originally published on a list for Gangs of New York fanfiction, e-mail me (eppieblack2000@yahoo.com) if you want an introduction to the list. The Blessed Isles in this case refers to the afterlife If anybody has any ideas about what could happen to Amsterdam in his search for a good death, about his family or about his ghostly greek chorus (Priest and Bill) let me know - I'm at a loss right now.

Somewhere Between the Blessed Isles and the Brooklyn Bridge

by Eppie Black

New York, 1902- Amsterdam Vallon

I had a dream that told me my life was about to change, even though I didn't know it right at first. At the very first I didn't even realize that I was dreaming or even that I was asleep.

One chill fall night after I had locked up the Harp and Drum I was laying on our bed staring up at the ceiling trying to relax myself into sleep. Jenny was curled up beside me, already asleep. It was so quiet in the building that I could hear a pencil scratching against paper in the next room; My youngest son, Sean, diligently hunched over his engineering manuals.

Suddenly a louder scrape of wood against floor made me turn my head toward the middle of the room. An old chair had been turned away from Jenny's dressing table and now faced the bed.

In the chair sat Bill Cutting as solid as a living man and just as pitiful and tortured a human soul as he had looked the first night that I had seen him this way, the night I saved his life. Just like that night forty years ago he was wrapped in an American Flag, the one he always said had covered his father's coffin on the way to the cemetary, the one that I knew was right that second hanging on the left-hand side of the bar mirror downstairs in the Harp and Drum.

Then he spoke, though it wasn't to me, and despite what he said it was the sudden familiarity of his voice as much as his words that chilled me to the very bone.

"He's gonna have to cross the river soon." He said with a deep sadness.

If his voice chilled me the one I heard next paralyzed me from deep within and brought the tears in my eyes down to my cheeks. I heard the warmth, the full-fledged County Kerry accent of my father's voice as a second specter materialized behind Bill Cutting.

"There's no reason to be sad about it. He's lived a full and honourable life."

"But how's he gonna die, Priest?" said the former ruler of the Five Points looking back over his shoulder. "Have a heart-attack throwing some worthless drunken mug out of the bar? Drop dead of a stroke over his account book? That ain't a death for a warrior!"

Bill's temper was getting up, I could see that he was twitching with it, just like he had when he was alive. My father had fully materialized now. Standing there in his long black coat he towered over Bill, still sitting in the chair.

"No Bill." my father said reaching down just then to smooth The Butcher's ever-wretched hair, touching his erstwhile mortal enemy with a calming gentleness. "Amsterdam won't die like that. He'll find his own honorable death. Even if he has to go looking for it, just as you did."

Bill looked up at my father and said, "I hope Amsterdam does a better job of it than I did. I didn't mean to get fusiladed by the United States Navy, you know. Thank God the kid struck the killing blow. I mean, that was embarassing."

I could almost swear that as the two specters faded, I could see my father, Priest Vallon, smiling indulgently at Bill Cutting.

I thought that after that I lay awake, thinking about Bill and Father and my life and them talking about me dying.

My father had given me life. He made me believe that there was a God, just because he was himself so much like what I thought God was. He made me believe in love just because he seemed to embody it in himself. When I was a child, he was my world.

Then, years after Da was gone, Bill Cutting took what Priest Vallon had made and what the Reformatory had kept alive and, in his demented and obsessed way, forged me into a man. I owed him a lot, the sick sad son-of-a- bitch.

Part Two- Still Dreaming?

Part II

New York, 1902- Amsterdam Vallon- Still Dreaming?

I think about myself - my own mortality. I have a little influence, a little respect, an almost honest business and a wife who is my partner and soulmate. We've raised seven children together and now have nineteen grandchildren, whom I would tell you all about with the slightest of promptings. It has been a full and honourable life, just like my father said.

I wonder that, if I have to go, a quiet death might not be best after all. I don't want to know that I'm dying, because, I don't want to die.

Then I wake up and find that I must have been asleep and dreaming because now I am awake. It is suddenly morning. Jenny is no longer by my side. The household and the city are already both on the day-shift now.

I get dressed and head for the kitchen. There's a lot of commotion and youthful voices issuing from that corner of the apartment. I stand in the doorway a moment and watch the scene.

Sean is just finishing putting his surveyor's tools into his bag, packing them with meticulous care. Our eldest grand-daughter Mary Pat is slicing bread. The other four grandchildren who live with us (that is Katie, Mary Pat's sister, whose mother we lost to the streets and Billy, Patrick and Janie whose mother is in service uptown) are busy getting ready for school.

Jenny is bustling around, serving breakfast and inspecting school uniforms. Coming close to me she gives me an old familiar look and says, exagerating her accent, "It's good of ya to honour us with your presence this morning, Amsterdam."

I laugh, because when she talks like that she sounds like she's still barely twenty and because, even in her housedress and apron, she looks like she ought to be some grand-dame presiding over a high-tea uptown instead of being my wife feeding the grandchildren bread and cold potatoes down here in our little apartment above the Harp and Drum.

Then I'm swept into the fray myself, tying Billy's and Patrick's ties for them. But part of my mind lingers elsewhere.

"It's a man's job to teach a boy how to dress like a man." Jenny says setting me to work. I try to teach them the knot, but in my head I'm remembering the scrape of my father's razor against his face.

Then Patrick brings me back to the present:

"Grand-da." he says in his high-pitched boy's voice, "our Sean's going down the big hole today."

"The one the uptown people are going to run the trains through." Billy adds with an eight-year-olds solemnity.

I glance up at Sean. He's standing there in a corner now backed up against the hoosier cabinet, eating his breakfast, a cheese sandwich in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other.

"I'm surveying the IRT excavation today. Well, just helping with it, really." he says between bites.

Sean is twenty-two years old. With his blonde hair, green eyes and fair skin he certainly looks like the blood of my blood. He's not though. Like all of our children he was once one of the city's unwanted, orphaned and abandoned. My first memories of him are of a sickly, collicky baby who we weren't sure would live a month. Now he's the brightest, hardest working lad in New York City and very proud of his hard won training. Standing there wearing the long canvas duster coat he uses to protect his clothes from construction debris with his bag of notes and instruments slung across his shoulder he almost looks ready for battle.

"You're going down that big hole?" I ask him. There's something that seems to catch in my throat at that moment. I've got this terrible feeling all of a sudden that my Sean is being sent down that hole as an expendable Irish canary. It must be the past being so close to the surface this morning.

"Yeah, I am." he answers me proudly.

"God be with you, Son." I murmur in reply.

He smiles at me as if I were a thousand years out of date.

"Sure, Da." he says.

Then Jenny catches wind of my mood and she's saying to me:

"Where are you this morning, Amsterdam? You look like your half way in another world."

I have decided what I want to do with this day so I say to her, "If you and the girls can take care of the early customers, I've got a mind to take the train to the cemetary, visit our dead and light candles in the mortuary chapel."

I want to take Sean with me, but I know that won't be possible so I suggest that I take Patrick and Billy.

"The nuns can do without them for one day." I said, "so they can go and pay their respects to the ones whose names they're wearing."

The two boys want to go, of course; they want to ride the train and light candles. Jenny would be absolutely livid if she weren't so worried about me.

She tells the boys -in no uncertain terms- that they have to go to school. But placates them by saying, "Your Grand-da can take you on the train on Saturday. You can go someplace nice."

Then everyone is ready and the kids are on their way out the door. Sean takes the hands of the two littlest ones, Patrick and Janie, as Jenny reminds him to not let them out of his sight until they meet up with Kwi, who'll be walking her own brood to the same school. Sean is about to make his usual complaint about risking missing his train, but he catches my eye decides not to.

Then they are gone. Mary Pat leaves the room for another hour's sleep. We're alone in the kitchen, me and Jenny. Jenny pours coffee for us both then sits across from me, looking at me hard, searching like.

"Are you still going out there?" she asks.

"If you and Kwi and Mary Pat can handle the Harp and Drum."

"You know we can."

I nod. She's making me feel like going out there is a shameful thing and I don't like it. This shows on my face.

"Don't be that way, Love, you know the boys have to go to school." she says.

"It's not that." I say. "Don't you think they deserve candles, Jenny?"

This she thinks about for a little while. She isn't upset about opening the Harp and Drum by herself or about me suggesting my grandsons miss school. She is actually thinking about my question.

When she is done considering it the corners of her mouth turn up slightly in a small and rather serious smile.

"Priest Vallon doesn't need your prayers and Bill wouldn't appreciate them." she says and laughs.

I share the laugh, but I'm about to tell her that I think that Bill would appreciate our prayers more than she thinks.

Suddenly but gently she covers one of my hands with hers.

"Those were such violent times and such violent men." she says "It's almost impossible to remember that that was New York. It feels like a thousand years ago in some far away place. All they wanted was for their tribes to survive. As though they were Red Indians or Visigoths and Huns, or something. Then we were coming up, you and me and our eldest children, and all we ever wanted was to never be dirty or hungry or shot at ever ever again. The children now, they can see a life beyond all that. The best thing that telling them about those days could do is give them nightmares. Let the past be."

I nod and caress her hands with my free one, but I'm not convinced. I think suddenly of Sean, climbing down into that big hole our "City Fathers" have seen fit to blast into New York. It reminds me somehow of St. Michael the Archangel fighting the dragon on my father's medallion. I feel the weight of that religious medal on my chest and wonder if it's time to pass it on. Will he even understand it?



---The End