Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I am making no money off this.

Gangs of New York: Prelude By Eppie Black

New York City ca. 1845, The Old Brewery Tenement

In one tiny crowded room of the maze that was the Old Brewery Tenement the Dead Rabbits held a council of war. Earlier in the night the nativists had forcibly cleared a vacant lot of its Irish squatters and burned their shanties.

Priest Vallon realized that Cutting and his crew had been in the pay of the legitimate owners of the property - the Irish had indeed been there illegally. Furthermore, to the credit, however grudging, of Bill Cutting there had been no loss of life in the incident and only minor injuries. It was not an encounter to go to war over.

On the other hand, women and children had been terrorized, pride had been offended, effort wasted and much of the genuine movable property of the squatters, much of it cherished mementos from the old country or the tools of skilled trade, had been destroyed. Many of the Rabbits were calling for Native blood.

Vallon was trying to redirect this understandable energy toward the problem at hand of finding shelter for the fifty or so displaced squatters while, at the same time not dampening the warriors' hunger for eventual confrontation with the Natives.

He was just saying to "Happy" Jack Mulrahney, "We are nothing, Jack, if not our brothers' keepers." When a loud high-pitched shriek resembling that of the legendary Banshee reverberated through the subterranean warrens of the old brewery. This was followed shortly by a cheer from a chorus of mostly childish voices.

The Dead Rabbits followed their leader out of the room to observe and/or assist in the restoration of order.

It wasn't suprising to Vallon that things had gotten out of hand. Although the Rabbits normally did a good job of keeping order inside the Old Brewery tenement; packing extra people into the already overcrowded building was bound to cause problems.

He also was not surprised to hear the new commotion emanating from his own room. Since only he and the boy shared a room that other families would have made do for six or seven, there was a lot of extra space for emergency needs in there that had undoubtedly filled up with displaced persons from the vacant lot.

As he strode commandingly down the hallway, a dark haired boy-child nearly ran into him at a breakneck speed. Stopping just in time, the boy looked up at him and said: "Fadder.um Misther Vallon, Sir. Your boy's fightin' a girl and I 'tink he's losin." Before Vallon even had time to react to this statement the child resumed his mad dash, only to be caught by McGloin who gave the child a quick slap on the rump saying: "Snitchin' ain't a good survival strategy, boyo."

The child took off again as if nothing had happened.

"Sirroco's, the Tinker's, son." Said McGloin, by way of explanation.

"Soft in the head." Added Jack Mulrhaney.

..

Priest Vallon surveyed the chaos that was normally his monastically ordered room. Children crowded the room in some sort of hysterical affray, while women, the mothers of these children, nipped at the edges of the commotion, occasionally bringing a few of the children under control.

"Whistle, McGloin." The Dead Rabbit's leader ordered.

McGloin, fingers in mouth whistled loud and sharp. Heads turned and voices stilled to see Priest Vallon standing there. The general commotion was thus abated. Except, Vallon was disappointed to see, for.The Boy. His own boy, who had, it was very apparent, been right in the center of the children's affray after all. The Boy was pinning to the floor, by the basic expediant of sitting on her chest, a wild red-haired girl-child who was considerably older and bigger than him. The girl struggled to either throw him off or to at least free her hands, to which he was holding on tight.

The gang leaders stared at this odd sight for a moment. Vallon found himself analyzing the situation from a tactical viewpoint. The Boy always did have a knack for using larger opponents strength against them, but the other boy's assessment was probably ultimately correct - he couldn't keep her hands pinned forever and once they were free she would easily be able to turn the tables.

Behind Vallon, Mulrhaney and McGloin sniggered.

"The boy's got good taste," Said Mulrhaney, his permanent smirk taking on a lascivious edge, "she's awfully shiny for a kinchin-mort."

McGloin laughed, nodded his head and added slyly, "I think she like bein' where she's at."

Vallon decided quickly and silently to redouble his efforts to assert control over the situation.

"Son," he said decisively. "Get up off that girl now. That is not how you are to treat a member of the opposite sex." The boy's reply was distorted by effort and even a touch of fear. "Father, if I let go of her, she'll murder me dead."

"You bet I will." Growled the girl. "I'll scratch your eyes out. Then I'll strangle you blue. Thief! Thief! He's a dirty little thief! He tried to steal my mammy's shawl right off her back!"

For some reason much of the crowd found this outburst hilarious. Vallon looked around to see if he could discern who was responsible for the girl. He concluded that her mother must be the shawl wrapped heap passed out drunk on his own bed. He could see the boy's favorite blanket peeking out from under her and that seemed to be the gist of the refutations to the girl's charges his boy was currently loudly pleading.

"Up, both of you." He said to the children, grabbing both of them by their clothes and hauling them to their feet. The boy looked contrite. As the girl rose, pouting, something fell from her skirts, hitting the floor with a metallic clank.

The starring crowd laughed again as Vallon picked up and held for all to see a gold plated, inlaid silver watch with a long, fancy gold chain. The girl-child's frown deepened.

"It is me own dead father's watch." She said fiercely.

"I seriously doubt that." Said Vallon evenly, turning the watch so as to point out the inlaid American Eagle and engraved flag-shield.

"You did take this off a Native as they routed you from your shanty, didn't you?" Vallon said, rather gently.

The girl nodded, modestly, truthful this time.

Vallon laughed ironically and turned to Jack Mulrhaney: "Well those of you wanted immediate vengence should me somewhat sated." He said. "If I'm not mistaken our friend, Butcher Bill, is currently mourning the loss of his best forty dollar pocket watch."