~The characters of "Newsies" belong to Disney, yadda, yadda, yadda. For those of you who, like me, can't stand Mary Sues.you'll be happy to know that the only female in this story is a horse. I didn't use a lot of dialect because, quite frankly, after ten pages it would've given me a headache. Not to mention almost 40 pages. It would've given the reader a headache after two.~

A Race to the Finish

Even with twenty or so kids crowded into the washroom, fighting for space, he could tell Mush and Blink were up to something. And he didn't need three guesses to figure out what. It happened every few months or so. Mush and Blink would share that ~look~, and he knew he wouldn't be sellin' by himself.

He wasn't sure what made him look up when he did, but he'd caught the gleam in Kid Blink's good eye. The thoughtful frown on Mush's tanned face clinched it. Crutchy's angular elbow in his ear took his attention away from the pair and, when he looked back, Mush and Blink were no longer there.

Shooting the lanky teenager an annoyed look, Race gently shoved the taller boy over a few inches. "Give a guy some room, will ya?"

Looking contrite, Crutchy shrugged his narrow shoulders as he ran a comb through unruly auburn curls. "Sorry, Race. I was jus' tryin' to give Jack a little space."

Already irritated at the upcoming interruption in his plans for the day, Race muttered under his breath and grabbed a towel. He'd finish drying his face and hair in the bunkroom where there was more space.

Watching the younger boy leave, still mumbling under his breath, Jack shook his head. He gave Crutchy an encouraging smile and went back to his shaving. "Don't worry about it, Crutchy. He's just in one of his moods, I guess."

Crutchy shifted his weight to relieve the pressure on his arm, from the wooden crutch that gave him his name, and laughed. "You'd think he'd be used to it by now. The shorter kids all get the least amount of space in here in the mornings."

Jack supposed that was true, but he wasn't about to point that out to Racetrack. The little Italian could be a tad sensitive about his lack of height, sometimes. Glancing around at the other newsboys getting ready for the day, Jack judged everyone's mood. Other than Skittery, who always took a few hours to completely wake up, everyone seemed to be fairly cheerful and ready to start the day.

Which was fine with Jack. One moody newsie was all he needed, especially if that particular newsie was Race. The diminutive gambler was one of the boys that kept morale up in the Newsboys Lodging House. Race's wit and Mush's joy for life kept them all entertained and laughing.

Speaking of Mush.Jack spotted the younger boy off in the corner discussing something with Kid Blink. Both boys stopped talking, peered around the door jam to look over in Race's direction then resumed their conversation. Jack didn't have to be hit over the head with a blackjack to know what was up.

~Ah, that explains it. Today must be the day they stick to Racetrack like glue to make sure he ain't gamblin' his life away.~ Jack knew better, of course. Race occasional got Weasel to spot him some papes, but Jack had never seen Racetrack having to borrow money. He suspected Race borrowed the papes just to see Weasel squirm. Besides, whatever Race lost at the track he made up for playing cards or dice.

"C'mon, Crutchy. Time to sell papes an' if we don't hurry, we'll miss the Sisters." Putting two fingers in his mouth, Jack blew a piercing whistle to get everyone moving. "Let's go guys. Carry the banner!"

Shouts of "Carry the banner" bounced off the walls as twenty-odd boys thundered down the stairs and out into the street.

The rowdy group of boys made their way through the awakening streets toward The World's distribution center, stopping their boisterous antics only when they reached the wagon the Nuns used to hold their charity of coffee and bread. Even a bunch of tough newsboys knew to show a little respect to the Nuns, whatever their own religion.

While waiting his turn for breakfast, Race absent-mindedly played with the watch chain that dangled from his vest pocket. He really had to get to the track today, but wasn't sure if he'd be able to ditch Mush and Blink. Maybe he could start off selling at Central Park and shake his friends the first chance he got.

Someone nudged him forward and Race reached up for a cup of coffee and piece of bread. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. Once he'd swallowed the last drop of the bitter, lukewarm coffee, he dropped the empty tin cup back into the wagon. Tipping his hat to the Nuns in thanks, he hurried to catch up to the others. All the while thinking that, after six years of handing out coffee to the street kids, you'd think the Sisters woulda learned to make a decent cup by now.


After their usual morning entertainment of watching Jack humiliate the Delancey brothers, Oscar and Morris, the boys lined up to buy their papes. Racetrack sucked on his scraped knuckles while he waited his turn. Morris had made the mistake of choosing Boots as his victim that morning, thinking the shorter boy would be an easy target. With a little help from Jack, the brothers were quickly given an education in size versus brains.

After Mush and Blink had bought their papers, Race reached into his pocket for his money and took their place, dropping the coins on the counter. He ignored the look of rage from Morris and smirked at Weasel. "Fifty papes, Wease."

Grumbling under his breath about the nickname the newsies insisted on calling him, the fat man waved at Race. "Fifty for the wiseguy."

Something in Morris's face made Race narrow his eyes in suspicion. Counting his stack of papers, Racetrack frowned. His boyish face became serious as he shot Weasel a dangerous look. "Your boys are shortin' me three papes this morning, Wease. I wouldn't want word to get around that The World cheats its newsies, would you? Things could get ugly."

A few beads of sweat popped out on Weasel's forehead, knowing full well he'd better take the threat seriously. An angry mob of newsboys was the last thing he wanted to deal with. Weasel slapped Morris upside the head then shoved him back towards the stack of newspapers. "Give the kid his papes."

Jack had just finished thumbing through his own stack of papers when Race sat down on the edge of the platform. Nudging his friend's shoulder, Jack grinned. "Good catch. He mighta messed up the count 'cause he's thick as a brick, but I have a feelin' he was tryin' to pay ya back."

"Yeah, well, ya gotta get up pretty early in the mornin' to pull one over on a Manhattan newsie."

"No kiddin'. So, Race, where ya sellin' today?"

Puzzled by the question, Race glanced up at Jack and saw the humor in his friend's eyes. "Alright, wiseass. You think you're so smart, help me figure out how to ditch those two."

"Why ditch 'em? Just let 'em go with ya for once and they'll lay off."

"Not today, Jack."

"Why not? What's so special about today?"

How could he explain it? Race counted Jack and the others as his best friends, his brothers.hell, his family. But, with little else to call his own, Race kept a small piece of himself apart from the others. A part of his life that belonged to only him, much like Jack's dream of going to Santa Fe.

With a shrug and a sigh, Race tucked his papes under his arm and hopped down from the platform. "Nuthin' special, I s'pose. See ya later, Jack."

The dejected look on Racetrack's face almost made Jack stop Mush and Kid Blink from following the young gambler, but.he couldn't help it. Now even he was curious.


"War in Africa kills thousands!" Well, okay, so he was exaggerating a little. Though, the war between the British and the Boers had just begun, so who knew. That got a few sales from a group of university students. Race had to bite his tongue to keep from knocking one pompous young man onto his ass when he reached over to pat the newsie on the head. He was sixteen years old for heaven's sake, not twelve.

"Experts predict worst winter in decades!" That one was honest, though Racetrack hoped to God it wasn't true. He heard a shout of, "Orphanage burns to the ground; children left homeless!"

Oh, yeah. Mush and Blink. He had to think of something soon, if he was going to make it to Sheepshead in time. A sly smile spread across his face. Raising a paper high over his head, his young voice rang out to everyone walking that end of Central Park. "Attempted Assassination! Mayor clings to life! Extry! Extry!"

A crowd gathered around Racetrack as he frantically passed out his papers and stuffed coins into his pocket, eager to get away before his customers realized he'd made the whole thing up.

Looking over at Mush in astonishment at the headline Race yelled out, Blink wondered how he'd missed a story that good. He immediately started to rifle through one of his own papes, trying to figure out how Race had "improved" a headline like that. A few angry shouts drew his attention back to the crowd and he knew they'd been had. Race had darted away while their view had been blocked.

Mush, realizing the same thing, yanked off his cap and threw it on the ground in frustration. "Aw, nuts!"

Those were Blink's thoughts exactly.

The two finished selling their papers as they walked toward Tibby's to join their friends for lunch. Mush kept mumbling, "I can't believe he ditched us" the whole way, making Kid Blink wish his friend would just give it a rest.

Running a hand through his dirty blond hair, Blink sighed then adjusted his eye patch. It was too damn hot to be mad at anyone. Holding open the door to Tibby's, he pushed Mush inside. "C'mon Mush, I'll buy you a piece of pie to cheer you up. We'll just try again next week."

"Aw, he'll just ditch us again. He does it every time. I just wanna know why he always sells by hi'self all the time." Mush slipped off his cap and stuffed it in his pocket as he scanned the room.

"Hey, Jack saved us a spot. C'mon."

Mush snagged Blink by the sleeve and dragged him over to Jack's booth, sliding into the empty seat across from his leader. Kid Blink sat next to him and shared a knowing smile with Jack. "Hey Jack. Boots."

Boots wiped his mouth on his sleeve and smiled. "Hey guys, how was the sellin' today?"

Before either could answer, Jack chuckled and sat back, crossing his arms. "You lost him again, didn't ya?"

Slouching, Mush frowned in disgust. "Yeah. He made up some baloney headline and ditched us in the crowd."

He couldn't help laughing at the two boys sitting across from him. They'd never come up with the obvious solution on their own, so Jack figured it was time to give 'em a little hint. "Listen, you guys eat some lunch then head out to Brooklyn. You know that's where he's gone. Just look around the races. You're bound to find him."

Dropping his head onto the tabletop, Kid Blink groaned at their own stupidity. "I can't believe we ain't never thought o' that."

At the look of confusion on Boots' face, Jack explained, "Blink and Mush were trying to figure out why Race always insists on sellin' by himself."

With a small shrug, Boots went back to his lunch. "Race is just that way, is all. He don't like havin' to look after anyone but Race."

When the other three looked at him in surprise, Boots swallowed his bite of bread and returned their puzzled looks with one of his own. "What?"

Jack looked at the smaller boy sitting next to him with a narrow gaze. "How d'ya know that?"

"I asked him once. He took me to the track to sell a few times when I asked him to, but he told me he liked sellin' alone. Once we got to the track, I didn't see him again until it was time to head back to the Lodgin' House. He don't mind so much if you sell with him at the Park." Boots shrugged once again, with indifference. "You got Santa Fe, Race has the tracks."

Jack was speechless for a few moments. He thought he knew all anyone could know about Racetrack. He'd never thought to outright ask Race why he disappeared every race day, to spend the entire day at the track. Or, on non-race days, to sell in Central Park by himself.

Mush, typically, was the one to break the awkward silence. "Yeah, but Sheepshead is a big place. How're we supposed to find one short newsie in a crowd like that?"

This time it was Jack who had the answer. "Racetrack's been sellin' at the races since before he came to live at the Lodgin' House. Just ask around."


Smiling to himself, a bounce in his step, Racetrack sold the rest of his papes as he headed for the Brooklyn Bridge. Once he'd sold his last copy of The World, he hurried to catch a ride on a carriage approaching the bridge. It was a long walk from Manhattan to Sheepshead Bay, and Race caught a ride whenever he could.

As he sat on the back, swinging his feet, Race couldn't keep from smiling. He'd outsmarted Blink and Mush, not that it was that hard to do, and was headed for a great day at the races. He couldn't wait. Laura would be there today, and he was itching to see her again.


Selling the papes he'd bought off a Brooklyn newsie who'd bit off more than he could chew, paying the kid what the papes had cost, Race thought his face would ache from his smile. He felt like he could walk on air. All his regulars stopped to talk, laugh and speculate on the day's racing, earning him big tips from his papers. Hope seemed to simply radiate from everyone who walked by. Race had already won two bits from one of the jockeys on a little side bet from the previous race. Life was great.

Running out of the jockeys' changing room with only one pape left, a pocket full of change and more hot tips than he could count, Racetrack headed for the stalls. It was time to meet with Laura, and he needed to hurry.

Waving to the dour-looking guard standing at his post by the stable door, Race scooted inside. The guard knew who he was, and knew the newsie had permission to be there. Passing several stalls, Race spared a few admiring glances at the elegant inmates that resided there. Three people stood near the fifth stall on the left side, and Racetrack's smile got even bigger if that were possible.

"Hey Mr. Wainwright, how's it rollin'? Got your pape." Trotting the last few feet, Race stopped in front of the stall and peered over the door with eagerness. His face lost its smile and he turned a puzzled look at Mr. Wainwright and the other two men. "How come she ain't ready? She's in the sixth race. She ain't sick is she?"

The smallest of the three men, only an inch taller than Racetrack, chuckled at the panic creeping into the young man's voice. "Simmer down, Race. Mr. Wainwright and Mr. Trent were informed this morning that a position in Saturday's race has opened up, so they scratched her from today's race."

Thinking he'd pop a vest button with pride, Race turned to the trainer for confirmation. "Ya mean it, Mr. Trent? Laura's Memory is gonna run in the Futurity?"

Giving the young man an indulgent smile, the trainer nodded. "She sure is, son. Her first time in the Futurity, and I honestly thing she's got a good shot at winning."

"With Toby riding her, how can she lose?"

The jockey laughed and reached over to knock Race's cap brim down over his eyes. "Listen to the kid, he knows what he's talking about."

Smiling, a little embarrassed, Race lifted his cap out of his eyes and turned back to rest his arms on the edge of the stall door. Laura's Memory nickered softly and shuffled over to snuffle at his shirt pocket.

"The Futurity."

The boy's whispered words were colored with equal parts awe and pride, making the three men share knowing smiles. Leaving Race alone with the horse, they left to ensure that Laura's Memory was officially entered into Saturday's big race. Shaking his head as they left the stable, Charles Wainwright smiled with good humor. "You'd think the boy owned that horse, the way he carries on. I don't think he's missed one of her races in the last two seasons."

Toby glanced back at the stable then up at his boss. "I was still an apprentice jockey when Racetrack first started selling his papers at this track. The kid's been here for ten years, and I've never seen him take to one of the horses like he has with yours."

Trent was skeptical. "Ten years?"

Smiling ironically, Toby nodded. "He's older than he looks. He's just small for his age, that's all. You should've seen how little he was when he started selling here. The jockeys, bookies and racing regulars all know the kid by name. Hell, he's probably been here longer than most of the bookies. Nobody knows the ins and outs of this place, like Racetrack Higgins."

"So why my horse?"

"I don't honestly know, Mr. Wainwright." Toby gave his boss a concerned look. "You don't mind, do you?"

"Of course not. The boy does no harm, and I honestly think the horse has become attached to him. If he missed one of her races, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if she sulked and lost."

"When he gets too old to sell papers, I may just have to give him a job." And the trainer wasn't really joking.


"The Futurity. Who'd a believed it, huh?" Smiling, Racetrack gently rubbed the mare's glossy neck. "You'll show 'em. Your first time out and you'll leave 'em all in the dust."

Picking up a brush from the bench by the stall, Race pulled back the bolt and opened the door. Closing it behind him, he laughed when Laura's Memory immediately started to nudge his pockets. "Yeah, yeah. I brought you some sugar. Tibby's gonna start wonderin' where all his sugar cubes are going, one of these days."

Reaching into his pocket, Race fished out two sugar cubes and held them out in the palm of his hand. Laura's lips tickled his palm as she delicately nipped up the sweet treats. "You're such a lady, ain't ya?"

Humming a song he'd heard Medda sing a week ago, Race began to brush the mare's dark coat. He loved the time he spent with the horse. Mindless exercise, brushing and grooming the beautiful mare, and someone he could pour his heart out to. Maybe it was crazy, but he couldn't help it.

"The guys tried to come with me again today. Ditched 'em as usual, but I guess I should let 'em come some day. I don't know why I don't. Maybe it's 'cause this was a part of my life before.well, before. I guess I'm just bein' selfish. Don't wanna share, ya know? Maybe if I showed 'em my stash, they'd stop thinkin' I gamble away every nickel I make."

Chuckling quietly, Race ducked under her neck to switch sides. Brushing under her mane, he picked up his one-sided conversation. "You'll never believe what Skittery did yesterday. We was playing poker before lights- out, and Skittery was havin' some argument with Snipeshooter. Seems Snipes bet Skittery he couldn't walk across the bunkroom on his hands. Well, Skittery couldn't back down from a bet like that, so's he gave it a try. Oh, boy, was that a mistake."

Rubbing the brush down her side, Race stopped to laugh at the memory of the chain reaction that had occurred the night before. "It was priceless. Kloppy had made some spaghetti for us for supper. Specs and Dutchy were horsing around with Snaps. Mush, Blink, Jack and me was playin' poker. Skittery was walkin' on his hands. Kloppy walked in with this big plate of spaghetti just as Skittery went too fast for his hands to keep up. He fell, knocking into Dutchy. Dutchy fell against Snaps, who tripped Specs. Specs slammed into Kloppy and the next thing ya know, the four of us sittin' on the floor playin' poker.we's sittin' there with noodles all over us. Ya shoulda seen it. Jack had noodles hangin' from the brim of his cowboy hat, tryin' to look mad. It's kinda hard to take someone serious when he's got spaghetti all over him."

"Snaps and Skittery tried to get away from Jack, but they all ended up slipping in the sauce on the floor. I thought Kloppman was gonna bust a gut, laughin'. 'Course, missing supper wasn't so funny, but it wasn't the first time it happened. Seein' those guys slidin' around on spaghetti sauce was worth it."

Laughing when a burst of warm air tickled his neck, Race gave Laura's head a gentle shove and a pat. "Flirtin' with me ain't gonna get you any more sugar. I only had the two cubes."

Running the brush down her side once more, Race frowned. "Remember me tellin' ya about that strike a few weeks ago? Well, Dave started school the other day, so he ain't sellin' the mornin' edition with us no more. He says he'll sell the afternoon, though."

"Don't tell anyone, but I'm kinda glad he ain't gonna sell with us much durin' the week. I don't know what got into Jack. We's all been friends for years, then David waltzes in and you'd think Jack couldn't trust any of us anymore. All he talked about was 'Dave said this' and 'Dave said that'. It was startin' to drive me nuts. Then Jack goes and turns scabber on us. I told you about that, right? Jack turned scabber, Dave acted like he was suddenly our leader, and me and Spot were left to try to keep the other kids in line."

Racetrack stopped what he was doing and just leaned against the mare's side, frowning thoughtfully. "Ya know, Jack came back and everyone acted like nothing bad had happened. He was our leader again and everything was peachy. That ain't true, though. Me 'n Spot, we ain't forgiven him quite that easily. If he could turn scabber once, he could do it again. An' all he talks about is leavin', anyway. I dunno. Spot acts like nothin' is changed, but I see the way he looks at Jack sometimes. Like he ain't sure what to think."

Standing up, Race ran the brush along the mare's broad back. "Me an' Spot's talked about it, some. He ain't so bad, really. Not to me, anyway. We go way back, Spot and me. Even more so than me 'n Jack. I don't know how I'm s'posed to feel. Jack's me friend, but he turned his back on me and the others. I want things to be like they was, but I don't know how to make that happen."

With a weary sigh, Race shook his head and bent down to brush Laura's hind legs. Their friendship wasn't built overnight, so he grudgingly admitted to himself that it would take some time to fix it as well. He didn't realize he wasn't alone in the stable until he heard the voices.

From what the men were saying, they didn't realize they weren't alone either.

"Now what do we do, boss?" A deep bass voice rumbled with anger.

"We obviously hadn't counted on Wainwright adding his horse to the race. A last-minute addition certainly throws a wrench into our plans. His damn horse could ruin everything. She's fast, and if she runs we won't have a certainty. Twist of Fate is going to win that race, boys. I didn't pay that kind of money for that horse, to lose the Futurity; we have a lot of money riding on this race." The gravelly voice obviously belonged to the 'boss'.

"So what do you want us to do?"

Hearing the third man's question, Race tensed. This wasn't good. He sure didn't want to get caught in that stall. He had a feeling he knew what was going on, and he didn't want to be a part of it.

"We dope the horse. We'll have to do it Saturday morning, a few hours before the race. Long enough so the drug has a chance to work, but not too early or it might wear off before the race."

The voice's answer was louder than he'd expected, making Race jump slightly. The man sounded like he was right next to Laura's stall. Racetrack didn't dare move.

It was already too late.

~Shit.~ Looking up, Race saw three angry faces peering at him over the stall door. Dropping the brush and straightening up, he took a couple of steps back and held out his hands to show he was harmless.

"What the hell are you doing in here, boy?"

The large man's bellow made Race jump a little, and he swallowed nervously. "Nuthin' mister. Just brushin' the horse."

"What did you hear?"

Oh, yeah. This wasn't going to end well at all. "Nuthin' mister. I didn't hear nuthin'."

Glancing at his two companions, the large man sneered. "I think the kid's lying. See if you can make him tell the truth."

Leaning down, Race scooped up the heavy wooden brush he'd dropped and, before the first man could make it through the door, bounced it off the guy's nose. The man howled in fury and covered his bleeding nose with one hand while his friend shoved him out of the way.

Racetrack dodge around behind Laura's Memory and tried to dart past the first guy and out the door. The horse owner grabbed the boy as he flew through the door and flung him against the stall's wooden wall.

The impact knocked out Racetrack's breath, and possibly a tooth. Before he could reach up to grab one of the bars from the stall's window for balance, the boy slid to the straw-covered floor. When he felt a hand grab for his shirt, Race rolled out of the way and tried to get to his feet. A kick to his leg sent him sprawling on the ground once more. A meaty fist grabbed his vest and he was hauled to his feet, his toes barely touching the floor.

When his vision cleared, he was staring into the larger man's cold gray eyes. "I'm giving you one more chance to tell me the truth, kid."

Nearly gagging on the blood that ran down his throat, Racetrack swallowed and shook his head. "I didn't hear anything, mister. I swear!"

Wrong answer. Race lost track of the stinging slaps upside the head and, when the room finally stopped spinning, he found himself on his knees in the straw.

"You heard everything we said, didn't you boy?"

His mind still reeling, Race nodded dumbly.

"I thought so. You think of this little lesson as a taste of what you'll get if you tell anyone. If you so much as breathe a word of what you heard in here, I'll hunt you down and you'll wish we'd killed you today. Or, maybe we'll just kill the horse instead of doping her. You got that, kid?"

Leaning over to spit out a mouthful of blood, Race wiped his face on his sleeve and nodded. "I got it."

"Good, then get out of here."

That same meaty fist grabbed his collar, hauled him to his feet, and sent Race stumbling for the stable door.

Watching as the scrawny, battered kid slipped out the door, John Vales waved at his two 'assistants'. "Dick, Jimmy.follow the kid. Find out who he is and where he lives. We may need to give him a few 'messages' to make sure he keeps his mouth shut."

The two men nodded to the guard as they left the stable, pretending nothing was amiss and headed out into the race crowd, quickly spotting the boy as he walked toward the front gates. Their quarry met with two more boys, one with brown curly hair and the other sporting an eye patch, then all three boys seemed to melt into the crowd and disappear.

The taller of the two men slapped his hand against his thigh and swore. "We'll never find the kid, now."

"Don't worry, Jimmy. Someone around here's bound to know who the kid is. Once we know who he is, we'll find out where he lives. Then maybe we'll visit those two little friends of his and have them deliver our message."

The men's laughter was anything but cheerful.


Standing at the gates to Sheepshead Bay, gazing at the mass of people rushing by them, Mush groaned in dismay. "We'll never find him in here, Blink."

Privately agreeing with him, Kid Blink nevertheless tried to think positively. ~I'm positive we ain't gonna find him.~ "We'll find him Mush. Trust me."

The words had no sooner left his mouth, when a slim figure wearing the familiar white shirt, blue striped vest and dark cap stumbled toward them. Reaching out to grab his friend's arm, Blink noticed the split lip, bloody nose and red face. "Hey, Race, what the hell happened to you?"

His mind was agonizingly slow, as Race struggled for a believable lie. He couldn't tell his friends what had truly happened, for fear of dragging them into the mess he'd stumbled into. "I-uh.bookie."

There, that was something Blink and Mush would believe. Without giving the two a chance to respond, Race grabbed them and pushed his friends through the gates. "We gotta cheese it, guys. Now."

They'd gone several blocks, cutting through alleys and dodging carriages, before they slowed to a walk. Noticing Race limping with each step, Kid Blink reached out to grab his friend's arm. "Let's rest a minute, Racetrack. What the hell happened back there, anyhow?"

Slumping against an alley wall, grateful for the rest, Race shook his head. He simply couldn't let his friends get dragged into this. They were all still recovering from the strike and didn't need any more trouble. "Nuthin', Blink. Just a misunderstandin' is all."

Even Mush wasn't stupid enough to believe that. "C'mon, Race. We're your friends. Maybe we can help ya."

Standing up to his full height, Race jabbed a finger at Mush's chest. "You two keep out of it. It ain't nobody's business but my own."

"Okay, Race. Just settle down. We won't ask ya any more questions." Blink caught Mush's eyes and gave a slight shake of his head. They'd figure it out later.

Race let his shoulders slump a little with relief as he relaxed. "Let's head for home, boys. Jack'll be wonderin' where we are."

~Jack'll be wonderin' a lot more than that when he gets a gander at your face.~ Blink kept that thought to himself, though. No sense in getting Race all riled up before they had to. Falling into step with Mush, the two shared concerned glances.

It took the three so long to get back to the distribution center that they arrived just in time for the evening edition. Race snuck to the back of the line in hopes of getting his papes without Jack seeing him. He couldn't deal with a lot of questions.questions he didn't really have answers for at the moment. He was struggling to decide what he was going to do about what he'd overheard.

He couldn't let those men dope Laura's Memory. But he couldn't risk them killing her if he told, either. There was also the question of whether anyone would take the word of a street rat like him, over that of a rich and powerful man like John Vales. Oh, yeah. He'd recognized the man with the gray eyes. Race had seen him around the track before, and knew he owned Twist of Fate. The current favorite in the Futurity.

There had to be a way. Some way to keep those men from doping the mare, without getting her killed. Not to mention himself.

"Jeez, what happened to your face?"

He'd been so deep in thought, Racetrack nearly jumped a foot at Jack's startled question. Holding a hand to his chest, as if to calm his thumping heart, Race shook his head. "What're ya tryin' to do, kill me?"

Jack ducked his head to get a better look at the shorter boy's face. "Nah, looks like somebody already tried that."

"Very funny, Jack."

"I wasn't tryin' to be funny, Race. Seriously, what happened at the track today."

Race stared back at Jack, careful to keep a blank face. "Just got soaked by a few guys. No big deal."

"A few guys? How many?"

The new speaker lifted his cap further back on his forehead, letting a few dark curls escape. Race shot him a narrow-eyed glare for a brief moment. "What difference does it make, Davy?"

Unfazed by Racetrack's unfriendly gaze, David Jacobs shrugged. "I just thought that if it was more than one or two, whatever you did must be pretty serious."

Okay, now that just pissed him off. "What makes you think I got soaked 'cause of somethin' I did? You don't know nothin' about me."

"Well, I know you like to gamble and Mush mentioned something about a bookie."

Switching his angry glare to Mush, Race felt a brief moment of satisfaction when the other boy sidled over to hide behind Blink. "Yeah, well maybe Mush should keep his trap shut."

"C'mon, Race. Don't be like that. You know Mush was just worried about ya." Jack knew this was about to turn ugly, if he didn't do something to calm the shorter boy down. "Listen, let's just forget it. If you want to talk about what happened, or need some help, you know where to find us."

Shoving his hands into his pockets, Race avoided looking Jack in the eye. He hated lying to his friends. Well, except when they were playing poker. "Thanks, Jack. I'll see you guys at Tibby's for supper."

Knowing they'd just been dismissed, Jack gave Dave a shove toward the gates and started shouting outrageous headlines. He'd get to the bottom of it later. Right now, he had papes to sell.

As he and Blink passed through the big iron gates, Mush slowed down and turned back to let Race know where they'd be. Just in case his friend changed his mind. "Hey, Race! We'll be sellin' at Central Park tonight if ya wanna join us."

Watching them go, Race shook his head. He felt like he was going to be sick. He was angry, confused and, if he admitted the truth, scared. Doping horses wasn't snitching cigars from greenhorn race-goers. That was big-time. Racetrack wanted nothing to do with it.


Ignoring the strange looks he was getting from Bumlets and Snoddy, standing in front of him, Race paced in a small circle. He didn't have much time. Vales and his goons planned to drug Laura's Memory before the race on Saturday. It was already Thursday. There was no way out of it. He'd have to tell Mr. Wainwright what he'd overheard. Wainwright and Trent would make sure someone guarded the horse. All Racetrack had to do was worry about himself.

His mind made up, Race did an about face and jogged out through the gates. It was a long walk to Wainwright's place on Park Avenue.

He didn't notice the two men standing in the shadow of the statue of Horace Greeley. But, they saw him. Nudging his companion, the stocky man with stringy dark hair gestured toward the paperless newsboy. "Let's see where he goes, Jimmy. He obviously ain't out to sell newspapers."


By the time Dick and Jimmy realized where their quarry was headed, they were both heartily tired of walking. "Looks like the boss was right to send us after the kid. He's plannin' on squealing to Wainwright."

The two men slowed their walk and drifted over to sit on a nearby stoop. Jimmy wiped the sweat from his face and chuckled. "Gee, ain't it a shame that Wainwright's out at that dinner party Mr. Vales went to?"

"We've got at least four hours before Wainwright comes home. We have plenty of time to make a little visit with those two friends of his, if we take a cab. They said they was goin' to be at the Park. If he won't listen to us, maybe he'll listen to them."

"I like how you think, Dickie-boy. Besides, somebody's gonna pay for makin' me walk halfway across the city."

Pulling Jimmy to his feet, Dick frowned. "After we have a talk with those kids, we'll head over to the party and make sure Mr. Vales knows what's going on. I think he'll want to give Wainwright a ride home in his carriage.just to make sure our little friend doesn't get a chance to rat us out."


Squinting, Race tried to read the numbers on his pocket watch but it was useless. It was too dark; he was too tired.and it had started raining two hours ago. He'd been sitting on Mr. Wainwright's front steps for hours, after being told by the butler that the master of the house was at a dinner party.

"Jeez, how long do those dinner parties take, anyways?" It had to be well after 1am by now, and Racetrack was close to giving up for the night.

Wrapping his arms around his chest and hunching his shoulders, Race sat in a wet, miserable lump. How did life get so damn complicated just when things were getting back to normal?


The sound of hoof beats echoing off the wet cobblestones woke Racetrack from the troubled doze he'd slipped into while waiting. He stretched his back as he unfolded himself from the tight ball he'd been in for the last who-knew-how-long, and waited impatiently for the carriage to reach the front of the house. Heaving a disgusted sigh at the feel of his wet clothes clinging to him, Race trotted down the steps to meet Mr. Wainwright at the bottom. He wasn't prepared for the man that exited the elegant carriage.

Those steel gray eyes bored into brown, making Race tremble from more than the chill of the rain. Charles Wainwright climbed out of the carriage behind John Vales and smiled at the soaking wet newsie standing at the bottom of his front steps.

"Racetrack. What are you doing all the way out here, at this time of night?"

His voice was stuck in his throat. Maybe that's what was causing the lump that was making it hard to swallow. For a brief moment, Race was sure he was gonna be sick. "I.I."

Vales took an innocent-looking step closer to the stuttering newsie, his back to Wainwright. Only Racetrack saw the threat in those eyes. "I.just wanted to ask if I could come see Laura's Memory again tomorrow."

Wainwright laughed and nodded. "Of course you can. Just don't feed her too much sugar tomorrow."

Taking a step back, Race got ready to beat a hasty retreat and come back later, but a steel-like grip on his shoulder prevented him from leaving. Vales shot Charles a false smile and nodded toward his carriage. "I think I'll give the boy a ride home. It's a long way back and he shouldn't be out in this rain."

"I appreciate that, John. I'm sure Racetrack will be grateful for the ride." Charles reached out to shake the other owner's hand. "Thanks again for the lift, John. I don't understand how the harness on my own carriage could've become so badly damaged, but I'm grateful I didn't have to walk in this weather."

"Not a problem, Charles. I'll see you at the races Saturday. I'd wish you luck, but you understand."

The two men shared a chuckle as Wainwright climbed the steps to his front door. The muscle-bruising grip on Race's shoulder tightened. Once the door swung shut and the coast was clear, Vales practically picked the boy up and threw him into the carriage. Two shadows darted across the road and climbed inside. Race looked from one angry face to another, and felt a moment of absolute terror. They were going to kill him for sure.

Taking the walking stick he carried in his right hand, Vales struck the ceiling of the carriage, signaling his driver. The carriage jerked into movement, and Racetrack truly felt he was going to lose his breakfast.

Vales tossed the heavy black walking stick from one hand to another, and Race couldn't help comparing it to the one Spot habitually carried. The only difference was the handle of Vales' stick was ivory instead of gold. The newsboy fought to keep a blank look on his face; sure he was looking at the weapon that would take his young life.

"So, you thought you'd spill everything to Wainwright, did you? Our message earlier today was obviously not clear enough. Perhaps you'll take our next message a little more seriously."

Message? They weren't going to kill him? Race began to breathe again, a spark of hope taking shape. Maybe he'd get a chance to escape.

After those few sentences, silence settled in the cab like a shroud. Racetrack wasn't sure how long they'd been moving, when Vales once again rapped his cane on the ceiling. The carriage slowed to a stop and, before he could move, Jimmy had reached across to grab the boy by the shirt.

Once Vales had stepped clear of the carriage, Jimmy climbed down from the cab and pulled Racetrack out behind him. Race jabbed an elbow into the taller man's belly, and stomped on the unsuspecting thug's instep. He heard a howl of pain and the grip on his shirt was released. Race dodged to the left to get away, but Vales was blocking his escape. Twisting around, he tried to run the other way. Dick was ahead of him, however, and Race found himself right back where he started.

He punched, kicked and squirmed in a desperate attempt to get away, but three to one was more than he could handle. Especially since Vales kept swinging that damn cane. Dick swung a foot and knocked Race's legs out from under him. The newsie hit the wet cobblestones with jarring thud, knocking the breath out of him. He'd lost.

Before he could regain his breath, hands hauled him once more to his feet. Jimmy and Dick followed their boss into the dark alley they'd stopped next to, dragging Race by the arms forcing the boy to stumble along on rubbery legs.

Once they were well out of sight of the carriage, the two men shoved Race to the ground once more. A hand gripped his neck, a chill breath in his ear. "You'll heed this message, boy, or the next time we meet you won't live to regret it."

The first blow took his breath away. After the third, Race managed enough thought processes to cover the back of his head with his hands. By the tenth, he was sure he'd been right the first time. That ivory-handled walking stick was going to be the instrument of his death.

Time stopped. Even the pain seemed to disappear. Race felt he'd ceased to exist. Maybe this was death, and he'd be with his mother soon. He'd lost track of how many times the walking stick had struck.

It wasn't until a booted foot rolled him onto his side that Racetrack realized the beating was over. Vales' heavy breathing was once more in his ear as he was jerked into a sitting position. "I think we'll make a little visit to your Newsboys Lodging House. Just to make sure you got our little message."

Letting the boy go, Vales stood and smiled cruelly at Dick. "What do you think, Dickie? How fast do you think a dump like that would burn to the ground?"

Cracking his knuckles, Dick looked down into the boy's face, gone pale with horror. "Pretty damn fast, boss."

As the three men walked back toward the carriage, Vales smiled one last time at the beaten form sitting in a puddle in the middle of the grimy alley. "Maybe if you run fast enough, you'll be able to save a few of your friends."

The implication in the man's words made Racetrack sick with worry. Rolling over, he retched pitifully. It had been a long time since that paltry piece of bread, leaving him with nothing but painful dry heaves.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Racetrack struggled to a standing position and swayed a moment as he watched the carriage move away from him. If his friends died tonight, it would be his fault. He'd tried his best to save the horse, but at what cost?

"Oh, god." Breaking into a shambling run, Race tried to catch up to the carriage. It was a losing battle, however. It wasn't long before the carriage was out of his sight.

By the time the battered newsie had the Lodging house in view, he was sobbing with each step. His wet socks and shoes had long since rubbed blisters on his feet, and he'd fallen so many times that he had ripped holes in the knees of his trousers. His bruised hands clenched into fists as he desperately scanned the building for signs of fire.

He didn't see anything, but that didn't mean the three men hadn't left a candle burning on a stack of newspapers or something.

It was way after hours, but Racetrack knocked on the door in the hopes Kloppman would open it anyway. He banged on the locked wooden door, screaming for the old man to let him in. Either Kloppman hadn't heard, or was teaching the latecomer a lesson.

Giving up on the front door, Race ran around to the fire escape, absolutely frantic to check the building for fire. He stumbled his way up to the dorm window, but he couldn't get it open. Race stared at it in confusion for a moment, since the window was never locked.especially if someone was still out when the others went to bed.

Blinking the rain out of his eyes, Race knocked frantically on the window. "Let me in!"

It seemed an eternity before the window finally squeaked open and Race found himself staring into the angry face of Kid Blink. "Blink, let me in; I gotta-"

"You gotta nuthin', Race. You can just stay out there all night for all I care."

Stunned, Race tried to squeeze past Blink. "You don't understand, there might be."

"No, YOU don't understand!" Kid Blink put his hand on Race's face and shoved the smaller boy back against the railing. "Two big thugs beat the hell out of Mush today. Soaked him good before I saw what was going on and could help him. They said they worked for your bookie and to tell you that you'd better do what they said or they'd beat up some of the other kids."

Race's world began to spin out of control. Once more he lunged for the window, but couldn't get past Blink. "They were lyin', Blink. I."

Before Race could explain everything, the window slammed shut and Blink once more locked it. "Blink! Dammit, Blink, open the damn window!"

After wasting precious seconds banging on the window in a desperate attempt to get someone to open it once more, Race gave up and sprinted down the fire escape as fast as he could. Running around the building, he tried the back door. After knocking on the door until his knuckles bled, his voice hoarse from screaming for Kloppman to wake up and let him in, Racetrack once more ran for the fire escape.

Climbing up the slippery steps, Race made his way to the roof. Scrambling over the ledge, he ran for the roof door. Locked. Frantic by now, Race threw himself at the door again and again, trying to break the old lock. It took a while, but he heard a crack in the wood and knew he was close. He took one more running leap and the door flung open, nearly sending him tumbling down the dark stairwell.

Picking himself up from the floor, nearly sobbing in relief, Race stumbled down the stairs and into the attic. No smoke or flames. Dashing down to the next floor, Race threw open the door of the bunkroom, startling nearly everyone awake. When he didn't see any fire in there, he ran to check the bathroom. Nothing there, either.

Ignoring the shouts from the other boys, Racetrack turned around and headed for the ground floor. By the time he'd checked every room in the building, everyone was awake and standing in the lobby. Including an angry Kloppman.

"What in heaven's name has gotten into you, boy?"

Racetrack, his chest heaving for air, couldn't seem to come up with the words to explain what was going on. His friends were still in a lot of danger because of him. There were too many questions being shouted at him by too many people, and he couldn't seem to think straight. His whole body hurt and all the yelling was giving him a headache.

"I don't know! Okay? They said.I thought they were gonna-."

"Gonna what, Racetrack? What the hell have you gotten into? Mush got soaked today because of you. What if it'd been one of the younger kids, huh?"

The anger and censure in Jack's voice grated on Racetrack's already raw nerves. "What right d'ya have to be yellin' at me, Cowboy? You don't know nothin' about what's goin' on. I got soaked more than once during your strike, fighting for YOUR ideas!"

"Well maybe if you told us what kind of trouble you're in, I'd know what was going on. I thought Mush and Blink were wrong to worry so much about your gambling, but maybe it was ME that was wrong!"

The two boys were nose to nose by now. Or, they would be if Racetrack were taller. The other boys formed a nervous circle around Race and Jack. This wasn't going well at all, but nobody was quite sure what was going on. Dutchy had an idea that the argument wasn't just about what had happened that night, but also about some things that had been avoided for weeks.

None of the boys expected what came next.

Racetrack was exhausted and his head throbbed, making it difficult to think. He trembled; his wiry frame seemingly too small to hold the overwhelming emotions that warred for dominance. Anger, fear, frustration, anxiety.and unresolved feelings of betrayal.

With absolutely no control of his emotions, he spoke without thinking. Just blurted out the words he'd pushed down inside the last days of the strike. "Yeah, but at least I didn't turn scabber the first time somebody waved a new suit under my nose!"

The resounding crack that followed left the gathered newsboys wincing in sympathy. Jack stared down at his hand in surprise, then up to the handprint he'd left on his best friend's face. He hadn't meant to do that, but the words had hit a little too close to home.


His voice trailed off. He could hardly bear the look on Racetrack's face. Jack reached out a hand but it was too late. Race turned his back on him and pushed his way to the door. Pulling back the bolt and flinging it open in a fit of anger, the younger boy walked out into the rain and disappeared without looking back.


Just as the silence from the other boys became too much, a hand gripped Jack's shoulder gently and Kloppy's kind voice broke the spell. "Go after him, Jack. There's something badly wrong with that boy, and he needs your help."

Staring out into the darkness, Jack knew it was already too late. He'd never find Race now. Not until Racetrack wanted to be found. "It's too late, Kloppy. I blew it."

Sharing Jack's guilt, wishing he'd given Race a chance to explain himself, Kid Blink stepped up next to his leader. "We'll look for him tomorrow, Jack. All of us."

Tomorrow seemed like a long way off.


It wasn't until he found himself in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge that Racetrack finally spared a thought as to where he was going. It was obvious he couldn't go to Wainwright, Jack was out of the question.well, he was headed for Brooklyn. Why not?

If he hadn't been so exhausted and knew what time it was.he might have rethought his answer.

Racetrack found himself once more climbing a fire escape, his legs shaking from fatigue. Thankfully, this time, he found the window he sought to be open. Raising the window almost took more energy than he had left. His bruised back and shoulders protested the effort. With a soft moan of pain, Race manage to push it open wide enough to duck through.

Only to find himself once more flung to the ground.

By the time the world settled back down on its axis, several lamps were lit and a ring of angry faces hovered over him. The piercing blue eyes and sardonic smile of one of the boys hovered a little closer, then a hand was held out to help Race up from the floor.

"You should know better than to wake up a Brooklyn newsie at 4:30 in the morning, Racetrack."

His smile slipped when the Manhattan newsie's legs buckled before he could get to his feet. Gesturing to two of his boys, Spot jerked his head toward the small room at the back of the dorm. "Skinny, you and Little John help Race into my room. The rest of ya get back to bed."

Boys of all ages and sizes scrambled to obey the Brooklyn leader. Out of respect, as well as the desire to get as much sleep as they could before the new workday began. Satisfied that his orders were followed, Spot trailed the other three into his room.

Once they'd helped Racetrack over to the small wooden table in the corner, Little John and Skinny left the room and closed the door behind them. Whatever was going on in Manhattan, Spot was sure to tell them later.

Laying his cane on the table-he'd grabbed it when they heard someone trying to open the window-Spot sat down in the chair opposite Racetrack and studied the other's slumped figure. "What're you doin' in Brooklyn this time of the morning, Race?"

Unable to drag his eyes from the cane lying on the table in front of him, Race tried to organize his scattered thoughts. It was difficult to do. All he could see was a cane. A black cane with an ivory handle.


Dragging his gaze away from Spot's cane, Race glanced at the Brooklyn leader for a moment before his eyes skittered away again. "I need your help, Spot."

Sitting back in his chair, Spot flashed that wry smile again. "I gathered that much."

When that got absolutely no response from the normally irrepressible gambler, his smile slipped slightly. Leaning forward, becoming serious, Spot rolled his cane back and forth on the tabletop. "Sounds like something big, Race."

Mesmerized by the cane's backward and forward motion, it took several long seconds for Race to reply. "Not for me. For Jack and the fellas."

By the haunted look on the other boy's face, Spot could argue that statement. It was obvious the Manhattan newsie desperately needed help. "What happened?"

Race spoke in a monotone, showing absolutely no emotion, as he continued to stare at the cane. The golden handle flashed in the light from the lamp at the edge of the table. "I got almost thirteen dollars in a bag of marbles under my mattress back at the Lodgin' House. It's yours if you and some of your guys will protect Jack and the boys until tomorrow afternoon."

The cane's movement ceased as Spot paused to absorb what Racetrack had just said. "That's your life savings, Race. What happens tomorrow afternoon?"

"Tomorrow afternoon? I'll probably be dead, so I won't be needin' the money."

Okay, this was way more serious than he'd first thought. "Race, what're you talkin' about? Does Jack know you're here?"

That almost got a reaction of some sort from Race. He tore his gaze from the cane to stare briefly into Spot's sapphire blue eyes. "He don't know and he don't care. But he's me friend and I don't want anything to happen to him or the other fellas because of me."

"Because of you?" Spot knew Race well enough to tread lightly here, and was careful to keep any sound of accusation from his voice.

"I know somethin'. Somethin' somebody don't want me to tell anybody else. They soaked Mush yesterday because I was gonna tell. If I keep my mouth shut, ain't nobody gonna get hurt."

"So why don't you?"

For a brief moment, anger flashed in Racetrack's eyes and he held his weary head a little higher to return Spot's intense gaze. "'Cause I can't! I can't.sully her memory that way."

Puzzled, Spot leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. "Whose memory?"

His eyes taking on a faraway look, Race slumped once more in his seat. "Laura."

"Who's Laura?"

It took a little more prodding, but Spot finally figured out this was all about a racehorse. He was mildly surprised that Race would tempt fate for the sake of a horse, but then he'd always known his friend to stand up for what he believed in. The strike had shown him that, if nothing else had. Speaking of which.

"Race, did you tell any of this to Jack?"

"He didn't give me the chance. Just started yellin' at me about Mush and gamblin' and I can't remember what else. Blink wouldn't listen to me, either."

Spot could hear the anger creeping into Racetrack's voice.

"Jack hit me. I left. I didn't know where else to go, Spot."

That was a little unexpected. "Jack's probably looking all over Manhattan for you by now, Race. If I see him later today, I'll let him know you're alright."

Seeing how truly exhausted Racetrack looked, Spot stood and walked over to a trunk at the foot of his bed. Digging out some clean clothes, he tossed them on the bed then went to help his friend to his feet. "C'mon, Race. You need some dry clothes before you catch your death of cold. You can get some sleep in here before you do whatever it is you feel you need to do. Don't worry about Jackie-boy. Me and the boys'll look after the Manhattan newsies for you."

Weary beyond measure, Race let himself be led to the bed and sat down on the edge. Spot could tell his friend was out on his feet and wouldn't get much help from Race in changing out of the wet clothes. With a sigh, he knelt down to remove Racetrack's shoes and socks, wincing at the raw blisters he found on the other boy's feet.

"Jeezus, Race. What the hell happened to your feet?"


Forcing Race's head up, Spot waited until the drooping eyes focused. "What happened to your feet?"

"Feet? Oh, socks were wet. Had to run a long way. He said he was gonna burn down the Lodgin' House. He didn't. Was just messin' with me mind."

Suddenly thinking maybe he didn't get the whole story, Spot let it go for the moment. He helped Racetrack out of the wet vest and shirt, then paused a moment. Once the older boy was wearing only the short-sleeved undershirt, Spot could see several bruises up and down Race's arms.


Carefully, having his suspicions, Spot slipped the damp undershirt over Racetrack's head and tossed it aside. Leaning Race forward, Spot took a good look at his friend's back. "Shit, Race. What did that guy hit you with?"

Leaning heavily against Spot's shoulder, almost asleep, Race sighed. "A cane. Like yours."

~Shit.~ No wonder Race kept starin' at the thing. More gently than most would give him credit for, Spot got his friend dressed in a clean undershirt and blouse. They were both too big, but they were dry. The pants were going to be tricky.

"I need you to stand up and help me for a minute, Race." It took a little cajoling, but Spot managed to get Racetrack to his feet and out of the torn, wet trousers. He let Race change his own undershorts and pants, offering an arm for balance.

Shaking his head at the sight of his friend's scraped knees, Spot tried to lighten the mood a little as Race pulled up the borrowed trousers and fumbled with the buttons. "You got some skinny ass legs, Race."

Fortunately, Racetrack was too absorbed in trying to keep the too-big trousers from falling down around his ankles. "How'm I supposed to keep these things up?"

Rolling his eyes, Spot dug through the trunk for a pair of suspenders. The finished product was ridiculous to behold, but at least Racetrack was now dry. Once Race was in the bed and asleep, Spot's eyes flashed with a dangerous glint.

Somebody was going to pay for this.


It was a subdued group of boys that shuffled into Tibby's for lunch later that day. Nobody had felt much like talking that morning, and they nearly all carried a good number of papes with them. Which meant none of them had sold much that morning, and what they did sell was probably out of pity.

Jack was nearly sick with guilt and shame. Blink wasn't feeling much better. Most of the older boys felt bad that they hadn't just ignored the fierce stares and opened the damn window. All of them worried. Worried for their leader, for their missing friend, and for themselves. The strike had nearly destroyed the tight knit group. They might not withstand another rift.

Once again sitting across from Jack and Boots, Mush picked at his hotdog. His jaw popped every time he moved it and his lip was swollen and painful. The hotdog had been a poor choice for lunch. Not that any of them truly felt like eating, anyway. He was startled when Boots suddenly broke the morose silence.

"Any o' you guys feel like someone was watching you this morning?"

Any other day, and the others might have stared at Boots like he'd suddenly grown another head. Instead, a low murmur spread across the dining room as the newsboys began to compare stories with the boys sitting near them.

Mush hadn't noticed anything, but apparently Kid Blink had been paying a little more attention. "Now that you mention it, I did feel like me and Mush was bein' followed today. I didn't see anybody, but I could swear we was bein' watched."

"You were."

All four boys looked up in surprise as a hush settled across Tibby's. Jack wondered how Spot managed to do that every time. "What d'ya mean?"

Instead of answering, Spot tossed a worn leather marble bag onto the table. Picking it up, Jack hefted it in his hand. "What's this?"

"Blood money is my guess."

"Could ya give me a straight answer, just this once?" Jack was in no mood for twenty questions.

Staring at each boy with his cold blue eyes, Spot pointed at the small bag in Jack's hand. "That's all the money Race has saved up. He gave it to me and me boys in payment. Payment for watching you guys and keeping you safe. My question to you, Jackie-boy, is what're you gonna do about it?"

Setting the bag of coins gently on the table, Jack met Spot's angry gaze. "I don't understand, Spot."

"Maybe if ya hadn't hit him before he could tell ya what was goin' on, you would."

Clenching his teeth, trying to keep his temper, Jack narrowed his eyes. "Spot, this ain't Brooklyn. What happens in my Lodgin' House ain't none of your business."

Bracing his hands on the edge of the table, Spot leaned closer to Jack and smiled dangerously. "It's my business when it's a friend of mine, Jackie- boy. And Racetrack's been me friend longer than you have. Fix it."

With a sigh as the anger seemed to drain out of him, Jack idly fingered the leather string that tied the marble bag closed. "I don't know where he is. We looked at the track this morning, but he wasn't there."

"He was asleep in me bed this morning." Holding up a hand to forestall Jack's comment, Spot shook his head. "He ain't there anymore. I went to check on him before coming here, but he was already gone. I got a coupla my boys watching the tracks for him, and they'll come tell me when he shows up."

Grabbing Blink by the collar, Spot hauled him out of his seat and took the stunned boy's place. Picking up Mush's uneaten hotdog, the Brooklyn leader took a bite. "Not bad. Thanks, kid. Now, let me tell ya what Race's gotten himself into. And, no.it ain't his fault."

Shoving another kid out of his chair, Blink dragged it over to the table and sat down to listen as Spot began.

"Yesterday, Race was at the stables with some horse. He heard three guys talkin' about how they was gonna dope that horse in tomorrow's race. They saw Race and told him he better not tell anyone. Well, Race went to the owner of the horse last night to tell him what those guys was plannin', but he was caught. It was those guys that soaked Mush as a warnin' to Racetrack to keep his trap shut. They told Race they was gonna burn down the lodgin' house, which was why Race was tryin' so hard to get in last night. He thought you was all gonna burn up. He paid me and my boys to make sure none of you guys got soaked today. Somehow or another, Race is gonna make sure those guys don't dope that horse, but he didn't want any more of you boys to get hurt."

Obviously Jack had been wrong when he thought he couldn't feel any guiltier for what he'd done. Very wrong.


Waking up in Spot Conlon's bed had been a bit of a surprise, and Race couldn't seem to recall much that happened after leaving the Manhattan lodging house. Obviously he'd come to Brooklyn, and the only other person he could turn to for help. He was also wearing someone else's clothes.

"Jeez, I look pathetic." Everything was at least two sizes too big, the shirt's sleeves were too long and the trouser cuffs covered his feet. It felt like the only thing holding up the borrowed undershorts was the drawstring. "These can't be Spot's clothes. He ain't much bigger than me."

Looking around, he spotted his vest hanging on the back of a chair. It had dried and, blessedly, his pocket watch was still in the pocket. Wincing a little, Race slipped the vest on and smiled slightly. If nothing else, it made the shirt fit a little better. Searching through the trunk at the foot of the bed, Race found a pair of dry socks and a dark gray cap. A quick look around the room found his discarded boots. They were still a little damp, but better than nothing. Getting them, and the socks, on over his blistered feet wasn't the most fun he'd ever had.

Settling the cap on his head, Race dropped his arms and sighed. "Damn, but I wish I'd grow some."

Turning the cap brim to the back so at least he could see, Race headed for the door. The sunlight streaming through the window was a sure sign that the day was well begun, and he was running out of time.

Race did remember asking Spot to watch out for his friends, so he felt safe in going back to Wainwright's house. Nobody would get past Spot Conlon and his Brooklyn newsies. Once outside of the Brooklyn lodging house, Race looked for a likely ride. He didn't have to walk far to find one. A beer wagon heading in the right direction was going slowly enough for Race to hop on the tailboard.

It took a beer wagon, an ice wagon, two carriages and more walking than he'd planned on to get to Wainwright's street. Only to see Vales' two goons sitting on the stoop next door. The two men hadn't seen Racetrack yet, affording the newsie the chance to duck behind a delivery wagon.

"Shit. Now what?"

A stifled laugh behind him, made Race jump. A boy about ten years old stood beside him with a large bunch of flowers. The wagon he was hiding behind belonged to a florist. Race smiled and fished into his vest pocket for his last dime. "Hey, kid. Wanna make a dime?"


When Skittery and Snipeshooter suddenly burst out laughing and pointed toward the door, four heads swiveled to see who'd walked into the dorm. Jack, David, Mush and Blink had gathered around Jack's bunk after selling their evening editions to form a game plan. The sun had set two hours ago, and they still didn't know where Racetrack had disappeared to or even if he was okay.

Well, they now knew where he was, but still didn't know if he was okay.

Taking in the smaller boy's appearance, Jack couldn't tell whether to laugh or cry. The clothes were so big, it was comical.but the cuts and bruises on Racetrack's face made Jack wince. "Where the hell ya been, Race? Half the newsies in New York have been lookin' for ya."

Shoving the still-laughing Skittery out of his way, Race shot the others a glare. "So Spot told me. Like any o' you care."

Blink was the first one on his feet. He reached out to grab Racetrack's arm, but stopped when the gambler jerked away from him. Making a defeated gesture, Blink shrugged apologetically. "Race, I can't tell ya how sorry I am for what I said and for lockin' ya out. Why didn't ya just tell me and Mush what really happened at the track?"

Stopping next to his bunk, Race kept his back to his friends. "It didn't have nothin' to do with you, and I was tryin' to keep you two out of it."

"I'm sorry, Race. Really I am."

Jack put a hand on Blink's shoulder, shaking his head slightly. He walked over to stand closer to Race and try to get his friend to at least look at them. "We're all sorry, Race. I shouldn't have yelled at ya for somethin' I didn't know all the answers to. I shouldn't have lost my temper and I had no right ta hit ya."

The next thing Jack knew, he was on his back on the dusty wooden floor, holding a hand to his bleeding nose. Race stood over him with a scowl, sucking on the knuckles of his left hand. Dropping his hand, Racetrack narrowed his eyes at the older boy. "You damn well didn't have any right to hit me, and you ain't ever gonna do it again."

Wiping his nose, Jack nodded and rolled over to climb to his feet. "I deserved that, I guess."

"Yeah, ya did." Dropping tiredly onto his bunk, Race pulled the watch from his vest pocket and laid it on the table next to his bed. "You don't have to worry about it anymore. I took care of it last night."

"Spot told me what ya did. I don't think he plans on keepin' that money."

Bending down, Race frowned as he untied his bootlaces. "I don't care if he plans on it or not, he's keepin' it. I paid for somethin' and he provided it. Racetrack Higgins don't take charity. Well except for the bread and coffee from the nuns."

Pulling off the boots one at a time, Race grimaced in pain and made what sounded perilously close to a whimper. Damn, but his feet hurt. "Shit."

"You okay, Race?"

Though he could hear the genuine concern in Mush's voice, Race was too tired and sore to care. "Does it look like I'm okay to you, Mush? Geez. Can you guys just leave me alone? I wanna get some sleep. I gotta long day tomorrow."

He didn't add that it might be his last.

"Racetrack, I think we can-."

"Davey, the only thing I want from you is the two bits you owe me." Race didn't even bother to roll over and look at David.

"Two bits? I owed Jack two bits and I paid him back."

"Where the hell ya think Jack got two bits?" Pulling his threadbare blanket up over his shoulders, Race closed his eyes. "I don't care who pays me, but somebody owes me two bits. Now beat it."

"Forget the two bits for now. We've been thinking about your problem and I think I've got a plan."

Shoulders tensing up beneath the blanket, Race frowned. "You can take your plan and shove it up your ass. You may think you're the smartest guy in this room, Davey, with all the answers in the world. But believe me, I've tried everything there is to try. There's only one thing left to do, and I can't do it until tomorrow morning. Just shut up and leave me alone. Please."

The last word was spoken in such a pleading whisper that Jack didn't have the heart to say another word. Shaking his head at the other boys, he waved them back toward the door and down the stairs. He dragged Skittery and Snipeshooter with him. He'd keep all the boys downstairs until lights out, to give Race a chance to get some peace and quiet.

There was nothing more to do until morning.


The heavy tread of Kloppman's feet coming up the stairs woke Jack Kelly from sleep the next morning. Rolling over, he stared at Race for a moment. Even in sleep, the smaller boy's forehead was creased with worry.

It felt weird to be waking up on a lower bunk, having switched with Snipeshooter, and Jack couldn't help feeling like he was the cause of some of Race's worry. Jack would do whatever it took, to help Racetrack out this mess. And ease his some his guilt. Heaven knows he'd had a lot of it since the strike first started.

Looking up when he heard the familiar knocking of the broomstick, Jack could see the puzzlement on old Kloppman's face. "I switched with Snipes. In case Race needed somethin' durin' the night."

Leaning over to lift away the edge of the wool blanket, Kloppman got a good look at Racetrack's face and shook his head. "I hope you take care of this soon, Cowboy. I don't like to see any of you boys lookin' like that. Seems to have been too many black eyes around here the last couple of months."

"We'll take care of it today, Kloppy."

Hearing the determination in Jack's voice, Kloppman nodded his head in satisfaction. Gently shaking the thin shoulder, the old man spoke softly. "Racetrack, time to carry the banner."

"You know what you can do with that banner?"

Kloppman laughed at the sarcastic bite in Race's voice. "Rise and shine, Race. Time's a wastin'."

Knowing just how true that was, Racetrack pushed back his blanket and slowly sat up. Jeezus, he hurt. He shot Jack a strange look, wondering what he was doing in Snipe's bed. "You get lost last night, Cowboy?"

Smiling tentatively, Jack shook his head. "Nah, just wanted to make sure you was okay."

"Yeah, well.thanks for carin' anyway."

Rubbing a hand over his face, wishing it could all be over with, Race sighed. He stared at his boots for a moment, dreading having to put them back on. Giving in to the inevitable, Race pulled them on and tied the laces. He ran a hand through his hair and reached for his pocket watch. Rubbing his thumb over the worn gold casing, he briefly wondered if it was all worth it.

Of course, he knew the answer was yes.

"See ya later, Jack." Climbing to his feet, Race stopped when his friend touched his arm. Looking back, he saw Jack holding out his hand.

"Here's the two bits I owe you."

Taking the money, Race gave Jack a wan smile. "Thanks. I'll need it for papes tomorrow. Or maybe something to eat today. Guess I should eat at some point."

Jack put his arm around his friend's shoulder and pulled him toward the door. "You can head to the track after you get some bread and coffee, Race. You ain't gonna do yourself or that horse any good if you fall on your face before you can cross the Brooklyn bridge."

Race knew it was the truth. He walked with Jack, falling behind the other boys because his feet were so damn sore. Jack, for his part, slowed his normal pace to match the younger boy's. At least this way, Dave and the others would be waiting for them when they got there.

After getting his breakfast, earning sympathetic murmurs from the nuns for his bruised face, Racetrack waved at the others and headed off in the opposite direction. No papes for him this morning. He had a job to do.

Unbeknownst to him, he had four shadows following behind.


Sitting on the soft hay, Race looked up from picture inside his pocket watch to smile sadly at Laura's Memory. "So that was a bust. I handed the kid a dime to go give Mr. Wainwright my message, but Vales' two goons stopped him. I guess they asked him some questions, maybe threatened the kid, and the little squealer turned around and pointed at me. Shit, I thought I'd wet myself. A cab was goin' by and I ran to jump on the back. No way I was getting close to that house again."

The horse neighed softly, almost in sympathy, making Racetrack laugh. "Yeah, well, it was me last dime. I figured they couldn't kick me out since it was before curfew, so I just went back home. Come to think of it, I forgot to pay Kloppy. Guess I'll pay double tonight. If I don't get myself killed before then, that is."

Looking back down at the old black and white photo inside the watchcase, Race sighed softly. "She woulda liked ya. She always loved horses. Said she saw 'em a lot back in England, before she came to America. I think that's why Pop spent so much time at the races. Partly, anyways. He used to bring her, too, before she died."

Race traced the delicate face in the picture with his finger. "You woulda liked her, too. She was a lot like you. Beautiful, delicate and stubborn. Her name was Laura, too. Laura Higgins. I dropped Pop's last name and took hers after he ran off and left me. My luck.I get the Italian from me Pop, my height from me mother. Bum odds."

Thinking he heard a noise, Race froze. Cocking his head to one side, he strained to hear footsteps or the creak of the door. When nothing happened, he settled back against he wall of Laura's stall and closed the watch. Racetrack slipped the watch back into his vest pocket and looked back up at the horse.

"You and me got a lot in common, too, I guess. You're called Laura's Memory 'cause your dam died while giving birth to ya. Her name was Pretty Laura. You're her memory, sorta, so that's what they called ya. That's what Toby told me, anyways. I'm all that's left of me mother, so in a way.that makes me Laura's memory."

Wrapping his arms around his knees, Race frowned thoughtfully. "Guess that's why I'm so damned determined those bums ain't gonna do nothin' to hurt ya. It ain't right , for one thing. And I feel like it would.somehow.make her proud that I done the right thing. Oh, I dunno. I can't even explain it to myself. How'm I gonna explain it to a horse?"

Outside the window, standing on a pile of hay bales, Jack shared a guilty look with Dave. True, they were there to look out for Race.but they felt like they were listening to their friend's deepest secrets. Secrets they weren't supposed to know.

"How'd I know I'd find you here?"

~Dammit, how does he DO that?~ Jack shot the Brooklyn leader a look of annoyance. "Spot, what're you doin' here?"

"Same as you. This is my turf, and I ain't havin' some goon beatin' up a newsie in my territory." Spot's cocky attitude slipped a moment. "'Sides, Race is me friend."

Motioning for Dave to climb down, Spot climbed up the pile of bales. "So what's he doin'?"

Glancing through the window, Jack shrugged. "Just talkin' to the horse."

"Wonder what's so special about that horse?"

Jack shook his head when Kid Blink started to explain what they'd overheard. "That's somethin' you'll have to ask Race. It ain't our place to tell ya. We probably shouldn't have listened, ourselves. It sounded kinda personal."

Spot could understand that. There were just some things you kept to yourself. Looking down at Mush and Blink, Spot came to a decision. "Listen, you guys would recognize those two thugs if ya saw 'em again, wouldn't ya?"

"And how." Kid Blink would know the two men in a heartbeat.

"Pigeon and Mooch are over near the other stable across the way. You can stand there and keep an eye out for those guys. When ya see 'em, send Pigeon to warn us then the three of you can make your way over here. We'll shout if we need ya."

With a quick look around to make sure it was safe, Mush and Blink darted across the courtyard that separated the two blocks of stables. Pigeon and Mooch were standing in the shadows near the south corner and made room for the two Manhattan newsies. Mush was glad Spot had brought two of the friendlier Brooklyn boys. He was afraid of some of Spot's newsies.

The four boys settled in for what turned out to be a fairly short wait. They had been standing in the shadows for less than an hour when a big man stepped out of the crowd of racegoers and headed for the stable. Dick and Jimmy walked a few steps behind.

"That's them, Pigeon." Mush had to grab Kid Blink by the shirt to keep him from going after the men who'd soaked him.

With a quick nod, Pigeon darted over to join Spot and the others. The Brooklyn newsie smiled grimly as he felt for the slingshot he kept in his back pocket. From the looks of those three men, they were gonna have a good fight today.


"You're gonna win that race today, ya know. I got a feelin'." Climbing wearily to his feet, Race leaned his head against Laura's glossy neck. "After all this trouble, you just gotta win."

He heard the creak of the large wooden door as someone entered the stable. Well, this was it. Gathering his resolve, Racetrack pushed open the stall door and swung it shut behind him. Stepping out into the open, he took a few steps toward Vales and his men. Standing up as straight and tall as he could, he clenched his fists.

"That's far enough. You ain't gonna dope Laura's Memory. If you want your horse to win, you're gonna hafta do it fair and square."

Vales stopped, slightly stunned. He couldn't believe the kid's persistence. Holding out his hand to stop Jimmy and Dick, Vales laughed. "Surely you don't think a scrawny little kid like you is going to stop us."

"You'd be surprised."

Spinning around at the voice that spoke from behind them, Vales, Dick and Jimmy stared in growing unease at the four boys standing just inside the door. The shortest boy stepped forward and glared at Vales with the coldest blue eyes he'd ever seen. This kid was dangerous.

"He ain't alone this time, and three punks like you ain't got a chance against us."

Stepping up beside Spot, Jack took a fighting stance. "And if we ain't enough, there's three more fellas waiting outside. So, what d'ya say? Why don't ya let the horses decide who's the winner?"

"I'd do what the boys suggested, John, if I were you."

This time it was Jack and the others that turned around in surprise. Charles Wainwright stood in the door, flanked by his trainer and jockey. "It looks like it was fortunate that I decided to come see Laura's Memory so early. Perhaps you'd care to explain what's going on. Though, I can hazard a guess."

Turning to the curly-headed young man closest to him, Wainwright smiled encouragingly. "Son, would you do me a favor and go find a course official?"

With a quick glance at Jack, who nodded, David ran outside to find someone who looked remotely official. He took a quick detour to let Mush and the others know everything was okay.

Once David had left on his errand, Jack walked forward to stand directly in front of Vales. Staring the horse owner in the eyes, as if taking measure of the man inside, Jack suddenly brought his knee up into Vales' groin. Jack slammed his fist into the man's face as he doubled over in pain.

"That was for what you did to Race."

"Nice move, Cowboy." Chuckling, Race stepped around Vales, who lay moaning on the hay-covered floor. Limping his way over to Spot and the others, he spit shook with his friend. "Thanks for the help, Spot."

"No charge."

"There better not be. I already paid ya."

Reaching into his pocket, Spot pulled out the familiar marble bag. "Here."

Race shook his head. "A deal's a deal, Spot. I paid ya to take care of Jack and others. You did."

Smiling, Spot shoved the bag into Race's hand. "It ain't got nothin' but a few marbles in it. I kept a couple for shooters. I figured you could use the bag to start savin' your money again."

Tucking the bag into his pocket, Racetrack nodded. "Thanks."

Clearing his throat to get the boys' attention, Wainwright gestured to a hay bale near the door. "Sit down Racetrack and let's talk. I have a feeling you've got quite the story to tell."

If that wasn't the understatement of the year, Race didn't know what was.


Nearly four hours later found them gathered in Charles Wainwright's private box. Mush, Jack, Spot, Dave and Blink had eaten more food than they'd ever seen in one place in their lives. Spot had sent his boys back to keep an eye on things, and Racetrack had fallen asleep on the sofa. Leaning his chair back, Jack sighed with contentment.

"Thanks for the lunch Mr. Wainwright. I ain't eaten like that in, well, never."

Smiling indulgently, Charles nodded at the boys. "It's the least I could do for you young men, for helping to make sure nothing happened to my horse. Or Racetrack."

Glancing over at the boy sleeping on the sofa, he shook his head in amazement. He couldn't believe what the kid had gone through, just to make sure his horse was safe. Checking the time, Wainwright smiled at the others. "It's time to head down to the track to watch the race. Who wants to wake Racetrack?"

Standing and stretching his arms, Jack smiled. "I'll do it. You guys go ahead and we'll catch up."

Jack waited until the others had left, then walked over to shake Race by the shoulder. "Heya Race, it's time. You wanna watch your gal win, don't ya?"

Moaning softly, pretending to be angry, Race buried his head in his arm. "Can't anyone just let me sleep?"

"You can sleep later. C'mon, the others are waitin' for us."

Racetrack let Jack pull him to his feet and he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "With Twist of Fate disqualified 'cause Vales got banned, she'll win for sure."

"Maybe you should make a bet."

"What, with two bits? With her odds, I wouldn't win much. Waste of time." Looking through the glass window onto the wide dirt track below, Race smiled in anticipation. "Let's go, Jack. I been through a lot for this moment."

Keeping pace with Race, Jack felt like it took them forever to get to the others. He knew Race wouldn't be able to walk far to sell his papes for the next few days. Craning his neck, he finally saw Wainwright and the fellows grouped around Trent, Toby and Laura's Memory.

Pulling Racetrack forward, Jack began to feel a surge of excitement in the upcoming race. "There they are. We gotta hurry."

Arriving just as Trent was giving Toby a leg up into the saddle, Race shot the jockey an encouraging smile. "Give 'em hell, Toby."

"I will, Race. If she wins, it'll be for you."

Leaning his head against the elegant neck, Race reached up to rub the soft muzzle. "She'll win 'cause she was born to it, 'cause she wants it.and 'cause I know somebody'll be up there lookin' our for her."

The call went up for the jockeys to line up at the start, and the group watched her go. This was the moment of truth. What they'd all helped to achieve.

And they were off.

Wainwright and Race were yelling for her. Race was bouncing on his sore feet, waving the too-big cap in the air, screaming for her to win. Mush and Blink got caught up in the excitement and began to shout their own encouragement. Dave watched them in amusement.

Jack sidled over to Spot who stood near Race with an indulgent smile on his face. "Hey, Spot. You really gonna keep Race's money?"

Without taking his eyes off the cheering boys, Spot shook his head. "'Course not. I'll let him win it back in a few poker games. He won't even realize it."

"Thanks, Spot."

"I didn't do it for money, ya know."

"I know. Friendship is more valuable, ain't it?"

Finally tearing his eyes from the others, Spot fixed Jack with a level stare. "I'm glad you realize that, Jack. Sometimes, it's all we have."

Watching his friends as they waved their caps in the air, smiling and shouting, Jack nodded slowly. "I know, Spot. I know."

And he did. As much as Jack Kelly dreamed about going to Santa Fe, he knew deep down that it would never happen. At least not for many years. In the meantime, the newsies were all he had and he would have to be more careful about testing the boundaries of their loyalty and trust. He'd had his one screw up. Second chances didn't grow on trees.


"You're welcome." A lot was said in those few words.

The yelling swept into a frenzy as two of the horses approached the finish line, neck and neck. Race jumped up and down, mindless of his blisters, waving his arms as if he could somehow make Laura's Memory run faster.

Jack and Spot both smiled as Mush and Blink swept the unsuspecting Dave into a hug. Beside them, Wainwright and Racetrack did the same thing without even thinking. Wealthy businessman and penniless newsboy.sharing a moment of pure joy.

Laura's Memory had won.

In the winner's circle, Toby smiled and waved at the crowd. Looking down at the group surrounding him, he made a spur-of-the-moment decision. Sliding down from the saddle, he grabbed Race by the shoulders and pushed him toward Laura's Memory. Trent understood Toby's intention and hefted the unsuspecting newsie into the saddle.

Racetrack was momentarily stunned, but quickly recovered his normal exuberance. Smiling and laughing, he waved at the crowd and tipped his borrowed cap. He looked ridiculous, but he didn't care. He was a nobody, a street rat with no money. But he was on top of the world.

A flash temporarily blinded him as someone took his picture. When he could see again, Race looked down into the smiling faces of his friends. Life didn't get any better than this. Tomorrow he'd be back selling papes on the street corner, but that was okay. That life was pretty good, too.

Later, after Laura's Memory had been taken back to the stable, Race helped the groom rub her down. "I knew she'd do it. I knew it."

Leaning against the stall door, Wainwright smiled. "Faith does amazing things. I assume you'll be here for her next race?"

"I'll be here."

And you could bet on that.


The next morning dawned the same as it always did. Kloppman went from bed to bed, waking the boys up for a new day. Time for the Sunday morning edition. Moaning and groaning, boys of all ages and sizes stumbled from their beds and began to get ready to carry the banner.

Twenty-odd boys thumped down the stairs and out into the street, stopping for breakfast on their way to The World's distribution center. Jack was the first in line as usual, and was puzzled by the sullen looks on Oscar and Morris' faces. Gathering his stack of papes, he sat down on the edge of the platform to peruse the headlines. He laughed when he saw it.

There was Race, dressed in too-big borrowed clothes, sitting on top of the world. A newsie, one of their own, sitting atop the winner of the Futurity. Hearing the murmur as the other boys noticed the story, Jack smiled and jumped down from the platform.

Heading out through the gates, into the bustling street, Jack heard a dozen young voices shouting, "Extry! Extry! Newsboy saves Futurity winner!"

Holding a pape over his head, Jack's voice joined the others, a smile lighting up his face. For once, he was telling the God's honest truth.