Disclaimer: The character Rafe Edwards is the creative property of me, as is Stress, Dice, Switch and various other characters. The character Jack Kelly (among others) is the property of Disney. The words following each chapter heading are from the Bryan McFadden song, "Demons in my Dreams" and are used in order to help create the context in which the plot was conceived.
DEMONS IN MY DREAMS
Have you ever been lost in a different world?
Rafe Edwards is a leader eager to try his luck out at going straight.
What happens when his gang wasn't what he thought it was?
Or his newfound loyalties are questionable?
X. ENTER SMYTH
Who would you be?
The stranger walked right over to where Loki remained, felled under the combined weight of Chase and Riff. With two of his own – much larger – boys behind him, he pointed downward. "Let him up," he ordered.
When neither of the two Wraiths that were keeping Loki down moved, the stranger, whose bowler hat was slung down low in order to hide his identity, snapped his fingers. The two boys – not including Jax, who was still standing next to the door, his hands folded behind his back, trying his damndest not to make eye contact with the boys he had betrayed – reached forward and each one removed a body from off of Loki. The bigger of the two dragged Riff to his feet; the one with the glasses grabbed Chase's arm and tossed him, almost easily, to the side. The stranger extended his hand to Loki, helping him to his feet.
Once Loki was standing, to everyone's surprise – well, maybe not Gus; by now, he seemed to have the measure of the situation and was praying that Rhys would find Rafe soon – the stranger embraced Loki, a quick hug that lasted a few seconds. When they pulled apart, Loki adopted a more submissive tone, sounding like a puppy eager to please his master. "Did I do good?"
The stranger removed his dark felt hat and brushed his shaggy dark blonde hair back out of his eyes. "You did good, brother," he replied, smiling. But it wasn't a gentle smile; it was a wicked smile that went past Loki. He was directing it to the Wraiths.
From his place on the floor, still holding his wounded arm, Gus recognized the stranger at once. He had only seen the boy once, in passing, when another of the Wraiths had pointed him out but he had never forgotten the cunning twist of his face. Even if he didn't know who the boy was, he would have known he was someone that shouldn't be messed with. But, because he knew exactly who he was seeing, Gus felt even sicker.
Smyth. The leader of the Marks was in the Wraiths warehouse. And, even further, he was the brother of Loki?
Even Rafe couldn't do anything about this now. They had been infiltrated. The Wraiths had been breeched and long before Rafe disappeared that afternoon, leaving them open to an invasion. After all, how long had Loki been a Wraith? Not long. He had been Smyth's brother for a lot longer. Oh, shit.
Loki then stepped back so that he was mimicking Jax's stance behind Smyth. The other two boys were standing next to the Mark's boss, appearing to be threatening. But they were not as threatening as Smyth himself. The boy just exuded danger. "Listen up," he said, and the mumblings that erupted after Smyth acknowledged Loki as his brother died at once. All their attention was on the fair-haired stranger.
Smyth licked his lips once, enjoying the absolute silence that followed – well, not entirely absolute. Still in pain, Gus was wheezing slightly. He was ignored. Smyth, wearing leather boots bought with the money the Marks took in, clomped his way across the room. He lifted one of his feet and placed it atop the empty wooden crate. "I understand that the man who sits on this here crate runs things. Ain't that right?"
Though his words were phrased as a question, none of the boys answered. They knew that Smyth wasn't looking for an answer. He smiled. "Good. Well," he said, as he removed his foot and promptly sat down on the crate, his legs spread out comfortably, "I guess I'm the boss now."
Rhys smiled at the older boy and walked forward. When he was right next to Rafe, he clapped him on the back. "I've been looking for you all night, boss. Where have you been?"
Stress and Jack shared a look before glancing at Rafe. "Boss?" Jack asked, taking his arm back from Stress in order to cross them in front of his chest. Switch, on the other hand, paused a few steps away and, with his hands on his hips, stood and watched the scene unfold. He had a feeling this might gain him even higher leverage in his bartering later on.
Rafe was stuck, now, and he knew it. Do I pretend that I have no idea who Rhys is just to have him spill the beans on me or do I embrace him as a Wraith and deal with Cowboy? His hazel eyes darted from Rhys, who was looking immensely relieved to have found him, to Jack, who was looking like any suspicious thought he had regarding the boy was coming true. He could tell that Jack was just itching for another reason to hit him again. And I'm sure that revealing to him that – surprise – I'm the head of the gang he hates will satisfy his need to strike.
His eyes slid from Jack's determined face to Stress' confused one. He couldn't do that to her. How would she take it if she found out that he was the leader of the gang that murdered her friend – even if he didn't have anything to do with that? I don't think she'll see it my way. The last thing he wanted to do was upset her. Sighing, he made up his mind.
He turned to his side, where Rhys was waiting for him, that goofy grin of his plastered on his face. Lightly, he punched the boy in his shoulder. "Hey there, Rhys," he greeted and, before Rhys could reply, he continued talking. "'Boss' is a nickname that Rhys likes to use on me since I'm older. I used to sell newspapers with him over in the Bowery," he lied, trying to come up with a plausible explanation for Rhys' appearance. Rafe turned to look the boy in his eye. "Ain't that right, Rhys?"
Now, if there was one thing that you learned as a Wraith, it was that you listen to the boss. His word is law – you agreed with him no matter what. So, while he was confused at the lies that Rafe was telling these newsies, Rhys shrugged. "Yeah. Long time, no see, eh, Bo—er, Rafe?" It felt strange to address the gang leader by his name purposely; he hadn't been only 'Rafe' – and not 'Boss' – since Quick died, leaving him in charge of the boys. He could see Rafe relax slightly; the older boy had thought that maybe Rhys would not have caught on. But Rhys knew better – you weren't supposed to talk about the Wraiths around anyone who wasn't part of the gang. Him and his pal, Jax, had gotten into more than one scrap with boys who were Marks that overheard them talking about Wraiths business. You could never tell if a kid was a Mark until he attacked; Marks fought dirty, too.
Thinking about the Marks reminded Rhys exactly what he was doing, looking for Rafe out on the streets. He made to tell Rafe about Loki's betrayal but stopped. Just as he opened his mouth to speak again, he caught sight of Rafe, slowly shaking his head. The motion was so slight, he was glad he caught it. The other three people present, luckily, did not. Rhys shut his mouth.
Rafe turned back to his companions. He was rattled at Rhys' sudden appearance but knew better than to show it. He smiled smoothly. "It's been quite some time that I've seen my pal. I'd like to hear a bit about what I've been missing since I've been gone," he added, sliding his eyes over to Rhys.
Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Come on," he said to Stress. "Let's go head over to Bottle Alley. It's too late to sell the morning edition so we might as well help Mrs. Cook out with Hope before we go down to the World building. We'll sell the evening edition, instead."
She just nodded. It had been a long night and the day only promised to be longer.
Jack turned around and, replacing his hand on her arm, began to lead her down the street away from Rafe and his friend. Switch had already began heading back to Duane Street.
Rafe watched as they walked away. Part of him wanted to follow and make sure that things were settled between him and Jack; he didn't need to make any more enemies. But he remained beside Rhys – Rhys was more important at the moment.
A few paces away, Rafe saw Stress turn her head and cast a quick look over her shoulder. It was a fleeting glance and he wasn't even sure if he just imagined it because, as quickly as it happened, her face was straight. Then it was Jack Kelly's face that was looking back at him. "Hey, Rafe. We'll finish our discussion later at the Lodging House," he said. He narrowed his brown eyes at the older boy and smirked before turning back.
Rafe fought the urge to sigh. One whole day off the crate and he had made a new enemy, found a girl who he couldn't even hope to talk to and been found by one of his boys.
Unfortunately for him, the worst hadn't even come yet.
The air in the warehouse was tense but none of the Wraiths dare spoke out against the new 'leader'. Smyth had not removed his seat from the crate; his lackeys, including the betrayer, Jax, stood behind him, ready to fight if any of the Wraiths tried anything. But they couldn't, of course. All their blades had been locked away for the night. The only ones with any type of weapon were the Mark's members. Though the Marks were outnumbered, almost 3 to 1, the boys didn't want to chance running afoul of s Mark knife. The stiffening body of their fallen leader, as well as the panting dark boy, told them as much.
It was then, about an half hour after his arrival, that Smyth seemed to notice Dice's dead body for the first time. He had been preoccupied proclaiming himself the new leader of the Wraiths, as well as whispering plans to his boys, that he hadn't spied the bloody mess in the middle of the floor. He snapped his fingers at his brother. "Loki? What's that?" he asked, pointing downward. Gus, who had backed away from Dice, and was being bandaged by Doc, tried not to retort at Smyth's choice of words. Dice was not a who, according to Smyth; he was a what.
Loki looked at the body. He had no doubt that the dead boy was what his brother was referring to. After Doc had confirmed hat Dice was really dead, none of the boys wanted to go near the corpse. There was a wide berth around him, and a thick crimson pool beneath him. He shrugged. "Dice," he answered casually, almost as if he hadn't been the one to murder him. "He was the idiot that Rafe put on the crate after he took off. Braver than I thought he was – he thought he could take me down. Didn't work, though."
Smyth lifted himself up off the crate and, reaching his hand out, smacked his brother on the back of his head. "You idiot," he said fiercely. For the first time since any of the boys had known him, Loki seemed fearful. "Didn't you remember my plan? You were supposed to get in, get Rafe out and let me know. Very simple. That's why I let you do it instead of Deuce. And what did you do? Killed one of Rafe's boys. Do you know how rough it was to be a Mark after I got rid of Quick? Now we're going to have to get rid of Rafe Edwards if we want to finish my plan," he continued. With each word, his face grew redder, his voice went lower and Loki looked more ashamed. "Damn it!" Smyth erupted and he smacked his brother again, harder this time. Loki flinched but didn't make a sound.
There was a quiet rumble of whispers that broke out between the Wraiths. Though Smyth was whispering by the end of his rant, he was still audible; the boys had heard that he was now planning to kill Rafe. Gus, with his good hand, crossed his fingers that Rhys found Rafe. If Rhys tipped him off, maybe he could save himself. And, if he was saved, maybe he could figure a way to save the boys.
Smyth heard the whispering and, as he sat back down on the crate, he glanced up. All whisperings ceased. He shook his head and pointed back to Dice's body. "Loki, you killed him. You get rid of him."
Loki nodded quickly. As the rest of the boys watched, Loki grabbed Dice's wrists and began to drag him across the room and out of the warehouse, leaving a bloody trail behind him.
One of Smyth's boys, the largest of them, was guarding the warehouse door. He unlocked it and let Loki out, still pulling on Dice's arms. Once the blonde boy disappeared out the entrance, he pulled the door shot and locked it again.
"Alright," Smyth began, speaking much louder this time. He was addressing all of the boys. "This little bit of bloodshed was unexpected. I'm going to have to think things over myself before I start telling you boys what's what. So, go to sleep," he said. Jax went around the room and blew out the candles that littered the room. "Trust me. You'll need your rest."