He Had it Coming
It was a murder, but not a crime.
Can you blame me? No, that's what a murderess is supposed to do. Lie. And after tonight, there's no denying that's what I am. A murderess.
I murdered Spot Conlon.
But, you see, I didn't mean to lie. When I said that I only met Spot once before that night, that fateful night when everything changed and nothing could go back to the way it was… when I said that, I wasn't exactly being so truthful anymore. I didn't mean to fib. It just that I try not to think of him if I don't have to; pushing the memories aside, choosing not to remember at all, it's been that way for so long now. Besides, he's surely dead now, and if they can, my damn memories will be buried with him.
If they even bury him, poor orphan boy that he is—was. Would those boys who followed his every whim still respect their leader in death? Or would they just chuck his lifeless body out into the cold? Perhaps they'll given him a sailor's burial and throw him off that dock he always liked to think of as his own.
If I ever see the East River again, I will only think of Spot Conlon. If I ever think of him at all.
But now is not the time to think, but instead the time to regrettably remember. Because, as I sit safe and sound at the small table in Mama's cramped kitchen, I have chosen to remember my time with Spot one final time. I'm not too sure why I feel that I should write it all out, document our brief history—Spot's and mine—but the idea struck me and I know that I'll never feel free until it's done.
So as I sit here, a quick, easy smile gracing my face and a quick offer to help Mama when she entered the kitchen—it's expected of me, even if she doesn't need it—I am hard at work. At the very least, if I'm found out, maybe those who read this after me will find some sort of reasoning behind my actions that makes everything justified. Maybe, one day, they'll understand the reasoning behind my actions.
I'm not too sure I understand it all myself. It was a murder, yes, but was it a crime? Did Spot Conlon deserve death at my hands? To whoever reads this in the end, I'll leave it to them to decide.
But not yet.
It's still the day I gave him that final dose, and I doubt his body has even cooled. So when my mother leaned over and tried to catch a glimpse at what I am writing, I just laughed sweetly and covered the page with the same hand that poured the arsenic powder into Spot Conlon's mug. A love note for Jack, I tell her. A page or two of girlish fancies scrawled in my painstakingly neat script. That's all it is—even when it isn't.
I remember, as a little girl, the long nights where Papa, home from a fourteen hour shift at the factory, would teach David and me how to read and write. David was a far better reader than I; my penmanship is enviable. It's such a shame I never used it much except to take notes for Mama's shopping or write down an address for my lace deliveries.
Now, though, now I have the chance to take my time and put David's fancy fountain pen to paper. Secretly, I've always wanted to write a story and David had offered me his pen the first time I told anyone of my dreams. Back then—long before I knew of newsboys and the trouble they could bring—I'd thought I could write a book and sell it so that Papa wouldn't have to work so hard.
Would anyone buy the story of a naïve Jewish girl and the orphan that stole her innocence? I guess if they catch me and give me the chair, then my story would sell. I could be like that Dutch painter that David read about—Van Gogh, I think his name was. The mad artist painted hundreds, thousands of paintings during his lifetime but sold only one. Then he took his own life just over ten years ago and has been applauded as a genius ever since. According to David, his death made him a true artist.
If I'm ever caught, maybe I would have that to look forward to. Either way, as soon as Mama nodded knowingly at my pages—she really believed I was writing a letter to Jack and, in a way, I guess I am; if there is anyone who deserves to know the truth, it's him—and left me to my own devices, I continued writing my story… our story.
After all, it's still only at the beginning.
Spot Conlon sticks out like a blazing sun in my memories. No matter how much I want to forget, he would always draw me back in, blinding me, making me cry out.
I remember the second time we met with as much clarity as the way he last croaked out my name.
It was on the day that the strike ended last summer. A hot day, muggy, one of those late-July afternoons where your hair stuck to your brow and your neck and a simple blouse was all you should wear, proper or not. We were too busy to notice the heat; with my help—me—the newsies distributed a pamphlet they called The Banner, gathering the working kids of New York, fighting the newspaper giants. I was allowed to help them, and it was such a thrill to belong. I wasn't just a pretty face. I wasn't just a girl who stayed home and waited for the boys to solve every problem. I was part of the strike then.
It didn't take long for Joseph Pulitzer to feel the heat put on him by my brother and Jack. The old grump ordered Jack and David into his office to discuss the strike soon after our affront began. When the pair returned they returned with good news: our efforts had been a success. Pulitzer had given in. The newsies had won.
But things didn't stay sweet for long; the success of the day turned sour almost immediately for me. The governor of New York—yes, Theodore Roosevelt, himself—had come to the city at the request of David's reporter friend, Bryan Denton. The governor made such a spectacle outside of the World Building, arriving in his fancy carriage, I could hardly believe it. But damn that carriage—the very carriage that promised Jack a ride down to the train yards. A ride out of Manhattan.
A ride away from me.
I try not to be but, if I'm going for honesty now, I'm a selfish person. I can accept that, I know that everything I've done is for my first, others next. Last July, I already knew that what Jack wanted more than anything in this world was to head out West. It was his dream to live in Santa Fe—and here was Teddy Roosevelt offering him the chance to get away. And he took it! Jack actually climbed into the governor's carriage, his hands clasped over his head in victory, and he left me standing there, forgotten.
I wasn't alone. It wasn't just me he was deserting. I stood there, David at my right, Les standing just past him, as Jack Kelly just rode out of my life. I continued standing there long after he was out of sight. Do you know, I was still standing there when David and Les slipped away to get in line at the Distribution Center; now that the strike was over, they needed to get back to work. I was teary-eyed and angry. How could he leave? I thought. It didn't matter that there wasn't anything I could offer him to stay, or that I'd know him for mere weeks. I didn't want him to go, so he should've stayed.
Selfish, I told you, and I meant it.
I refused to move, stubborn and selfish and alone as I was. That's when I felt a slight tap on my shoulder. I figured that David and Les had bought their papers and were going to offer to walk me home—and offer I would've refused, I promise you.
But it wasn't my brothers standing there.
Turning around, tears still staining my cheeks, I came face to face with a pair of piercing, icy-cold cyan eyes and a wicked smirk. That's what I noticed first. The eyes and the sly curve of his lips.
He didn't blink, though his eyes crinkled just a bit when he heard the gasp I couldn't keep back. I hadn't expected him to be standing there—if I would've thought of him at all, I would've expected he'd be back in Brooklyn by now—and it struck me in that very moment just how silly I must've looked. I was a mess. My hair was mussed from a long night's work; my white blouse was stained. I had tears in my eyes, as well as streaks down my face.
Without a word, Spot lifted his hand. It was ink-stained, I noticed, and callused, and the skin felt rough when he rubbed his thumb down the length of a single track of my tear. Still, the action was gentle, and I think that surprised me more than anything.
But that didn't stop me from jerking my head out of his reach and quickly taking a few hurried steps back.
I wanted to yell at him, I wanted to demand he explain himself, I wanted to drown in those vivid blue eyes of his—but I didn't do any of those things. I wanted to at least introduce myself, but the words got lost on the way to my mouth. I wanted to ask him his name at any rate, but I was interrupted by a loud cheer that made me jump and manage to forget Spot was standing there (for the first and only time).
A carriage was returning.
And Jack was in it.
Jack had come back.
With his bag slung over his back, Jack leaned down to say something to the governor but the crowd stole the sound. I think Spot might've finally opened his mouth then but, if he did, I wasn't listening. There was a drive inside of me that came to life the moment I saw that Jack had come back and it told me to move. So I did. I pushed my way through the crowd, all elbows and shoves; the crowd had swallowed Jack up when he got down, but it seemed to part as I got closer to him.
I didn't stop until he was standing before me, an apologetic, charming grin and a brightness in his familiarly, warm brown eyes. And I did something that no good girl should ever do, least of all in front of a crowd:
I kissed Jack Kelly.
It was my first kiss, and it seemed just right. It was so different from anything I ever knew but, looking back on it, it was so much like Jack: sweet and lingering, with just a touch of hesitance hidden behind a brash facade. I don't know if that makes much sense to anyone else, but that's how I felt. Besides, this story isn't about Jack and me. At least, not yet.
When I finally pulled away from Jack, the taste of his last, stale cigarette lingering in my mouth, I caught a glimpse of Spot out of the corner of my eye. I don't know why I found him, or why this moment had to be spoiled by the calculating expression of his face, but there he was and, for some reason, I felt the urge to stick my tongue out at him.
I said it before, the first thing I noticed about Spot Conlon was his intelligence, and I'll stand by that to my grave. But the second? The second thing I ever noticed was this: he was a show-off. There was just something inside him that made him have to always one up anyone and everyone—to best them if he could and knock them down if he couldn't.
I had just willingly kissed Jack Kelly in front of all of his newsies. Spot had to top that.
So, with Jack's arm slung tight over my shoulder, and Les holding my left hand, I walked through the gates of the New York World Distribution Center with a cozy and quaint smile on my face. But I didn't look in front of me, choosing to glance to the side or share a quick look with Jack when I could.
And you know why I didn't look straight ahead?
Because of Spot. Spot Conlon was sitting inside the governor's carriage that led the procession. And though his back was to me and my eyes were looking anywhere but at him, I would've bet anything that there was smirk on his face when he tipped his dusty grey cap at the boys waiting outside of the gate.
disclaimer: The characters used in this story are the property of Disney. They are used with the intent to create entertainment, not profit.
end note: Thank you for the last few reviews - they are very appreciated :)