Chapter Three: "Monsters, Literally"
Chapter Three: "Monsters, Literally"
"Sarah was placed into the bottom of a small, wooden rowboat. The vessel hardly seemed to be especially seaworthy, but the boy who had rendered her unconscious stepped in without fear and the rickety boat remained afloat."
"What's that, Snyder?" A second boy, an Italian, nodded at the pink object in his boss' hands.
Snyder turned to face him, sparing a quick glance down at what he was holding, as if to reaffirm that he himself knew what the item was. "It's a pair of suspenders from a newsboy in Brooklyn." Having already ripped a bit off of his victim's skirt, he tossed both items onto the ground near the water's edge. "It'll cover our tracks once we're gone – make them think it was Brooklyn responsible for taking their precious girl."
"When did Brooklyn become a person?" Asked the young, muscular-looking boy in the boat. "And who's they?" He looked down at their captive in pity, surely the girl couldn't have done something so terrible as to warrant being kidnapped by them – their motives for doing so still unexplained. "I thought she was just Delancey's girl?"
"They, him, me, her, it, everybody!" Snyder growled in response, rolling his eyes as he jumped none too nimbly into the boat. It wobbled precariously. "The important thing is that we've taken her and no one will suspect it was us!"
"Wait up for a second." Mush's brow was furrowed tightly in confusion. "It's great to be in the story and all, but what's going on? Why are we kidnapping Sarah? And why are Racetrack and I working for Snyder?"
"Actually, uh, I was referencing Itey – "
" – this makes no sense!"
Specs sighed. It appeared that he had indeed encountered a snag in his storytelling. "Well, let's just say that you and Itey – eh, Racetrack – got nabbed by the bulls one day and now you're paying back your debt to society by helping Snyder kidnap Sarah because he – uh – is attracted to her."
Racetrack, minorly annoyed at having been glossed over in favor of Itey, made a face. "Sarah? Really? I mean, if it was Crutchy we was talkin' about, I maybe coulda seen it. But Sarah?"
When it looked like Jack was going to explode at the subtle hint that Crutchy was preferable to his girlfriend, Mush intercepted with, "I mean, has Snyder even met Sarah?"
"He has in this story."
"Snyder refocused his attention on the Italian, shooting him a pointed look that had him climbing into the boat after his boss."
"So what do we do with the girl now?" Racetrack cast them off, setting the little boat adrift in the bay.
"We'll take her to my place."
There was an awkward silence within the boat, where each of its occupants tried to avoid eye contact with one another.
"You're going to pay us first, right?"
"Of course I'm going to pay you first! Do you think I want you loitering around while I – " Snyder paused. "I'm going to take a nap. Wake me up when we get there." He closed his eyes, but reopened them in a hurry as soon as Racetrack started to speak. "And I swear on all that is holy that if either one of you starts to rhyme, I will throw you out of this boat in a heartbeat." His threat finished, he let the rocking of the boat lull him to sleep.
"That man Snyder," Mush began, eyes mischievous as soon as he knew that the man was asleep, "He can… fuss."
"No. Shut up."
The vessel continued its course even further out into the open water of the bay, steadily nearing its somewhat questionable destination all the time.
"At this rate, we'll be on the opposite shore in an hour or two," Snyder's voice reflected the irritation he felt at Mush's slow pace. The newsie had been rowing for the past three hours and numerous other watercraft had soared past them, including two ducks and a rather vengeful looking cat.
"We'll take a carriage to my place and then we're homefree!" He smiled deviously down at Sarah who, still without any clue of what was going on, remained fairly unalarmed.
"Hey, Snyder?" Racetrack was watching the water receeding behind the rowboat as he had dutifully been doing since lighting his first cigarette. Now on his twelfth, he had been watching the horizon for a while. "Are you sure there's nobody following us?"
"Am I sure?" The man exploded, "Whose job is it to be watching for these things? No I'm not sure! Are you sure nobody is following us?"
Racetrack shrugged. "Can I get a second opinion?"
Snarling, Snyder followed the Italian's gaze. There were a number of other boats on the water at this time of day; steamers, cruise ships, kayaks – for this was a time before the invention of canoes but after the allowance of vessels into the Upper New York Bay. None of these seemed to be following them, though there were a number of girls piled precariously on a floating raft that seemed to be watching Mush with eager eyes. Snyder wrote these off as the usual crowd that followed his attractive thug around. "Pretty sure," he said instead.
"It doesn't matter if they aren't following you now," Sarah pointed out and Racetrack wondered vaguely why they hadn't bothered to gag her. "Someone will and when you're caught they'll have you put away!" She wasn't exactly sure where they'd be put away, but it was a phrase she'd heard her father say about his employers numerous times before his accident. Which in hindsight may not have been so accidental. She couldn't be quite sure, of course, the concept of unionization baffled her.
Chin raised in defiance, she looked out across the choppy water.
"Of all of us on this boat who should be worried," Snyder grabbed a firm hold of Sarah's chin in his sweaty grasp, "You're – "
"Why is Snyder touchin' my girl?" Jack growled at Specs, tempted to reach out and grab the book as Snipeshooter had done and rifle through its pages in search of a suitable answer. As if anticipating such an action, Specs held the book a little closer to his chest.
"Jack, she ain't your girl no more, you're dead." Boot reasoned, his logic earning him a sharp look.
"Would you shut up? I'm finally in the story and I wanna know what happens," Mush turned to Specs, eyes bright. "Do we take her to Snyder's? Does the river monster get us?"
Jack rolled his eyes, his frustration taking on a different direction, transferring to Mush and an age old argument. He'd thought that they had squashed this stupid myth ages ago. "There is no such thing as a river monster."
"I saw it too! By the Brooklyn docks!"
"You guys are both – "
"Don't call us – "
"Yes there is!"
"And then I said – "
" – Did you really?"
"And then the river monster appeared from the murky depths of the bay, its long slimy tail winding around Sarah's body, pulling her overboard and holding her there until slowly, slowly she drowned, terrified because her True Love and all the other newsies listening to her story were too busy arguing about something stupid to realize that she was dying under their boat." Specs' voice had not raised in volume at the slightest and yet his cool tone silenced those around him instantly.
"Did that really happen?" Les' eyes were wide, gazing up at Specs in horror. This was his sister they were talking about, afterall.
"No," the bespectacled newsie smiled at the younger boy. "No, that doesn't happen." Seeing that the argument had died entirely, he continued.
"Snyder grabbed a hold of Sarah's chin in his sweaty grasp, turning her to look into his too-red face."
"You're the one who should be the most worried." He grinned toothily and released her. "For the rest of us, well, it's almost over." He closed his eyes as though to take another nap, but was startled back to alertness at a soft splash.
"Sorry," Mush muttered as he reached out to retrieve the oar he had dropped in the water.
As her kidnappers' attention was focused on Mush, Sarah peered over the side of the boat. She was a mildly proficient swimmer. If she could just make it into the water without their noticing, she might have a reasonable to good chance of escape. Bracing herself, she inched her way higher up along the side of the rowboat. All she needed was to throw her weight to the side in just the right way -
"You're wrong, someone is definitely following us."
"What!" Snyder peered out across the bay. "I don't see any boats!"
"That," Racetrack shrugged and scratched behind his ear, "Is because they're swimming."