Author's Note: Whoa, an update! Thought I'd abandoned you guys, huh? Never fear. Between an outlandish amount of laziness, lack of motivation/inspiration and a month without internet access, I'm about the most evil author ever, leaving my story static for so long. Hope you like this chapter... it jumps around rather a lot, and is mostly there to set up for coming chapters, but I hope it will satisfy. Or infuriate with curiosity.
"Pulitzer?" Spot couldn't believe it.
"Master Conlon, sit down, boy." Pulitzer looked practically giddy, "So I see you're back where you belong. I must say, you lasted out on those streets longer than I would have wagered-- especially after your attempt to save the newsies failed so miserably."
"Yeah, what's it to you?" Spot shrugged, taking a seat across from the old man, relieved that the butler was closing the parlor doors; this was a conversation he wanted to keep quiet.
"Well, you aren't quite the prize Jack Kelly is," Pulitzer said, giving Spot's ego a deep bruise, "But don't forget, I still keep my grudges against you."
Spot smiled broadly. No, he hadn't forgotten.
His original encounter with Mr. Joseph Pulitzer was in the summer of 1899. It was before Jack Kelly and David Jacobs had come to see him in hopes of persuading Brooklyn to support the strike. When the first cries of "Strike!" had gone up in Manhattan, Pulitzer had wasted no time in setting up a good defense. Spot remembered being summoned to Manhattan that very afternoon for an appointment with Pulitzer. Twenty dollars to deny any "ambastards" sent by Jack Kelly, that was Pulitzer's offer. So when David, Jack and Boots showed up on his pier, Spot kept his word to Pulitzer and refused his assistance. He collected his payoff, then promptly led the Brooklyn newsies to Manhattan, where they saved the day at the now infamous battle. Because, technically, Spot did keep his word to Pulitzer; he refused to give Jack Kelly help when he asked for it. So, Spot offered his help when it wasn't asked for.
"So, whaddya want, old man?"
"Only the opportunity to savor victory," Pulitzer said smugly, "And to request an interview. You're quite the human interest story."
"Yeah, right." Spot snorted. Hell would freeze over before he helped Pulitzer sell anymore newspapers.
"I'm publishing the story whether you grant interview or not," Pulitzer insisted, "I have enough antics on you boy; I could very easily assist in writing your biography. The New York World has reported the vast majority of your more serious crimes; we keep every article archived, you know."
"I don't care," Spot said indifferently, "I got nuttin' to hide. Everyone knows I'm a delinquent. There ain't much you can do to tarnish my reputation."
"Very well," Pulitzer got to his feet, clearly finished with the conversation, "Don't say I didn't warn you, boy."
"Yeah, I'm just shaking in my shoes."
"I see that even years of crawling in those foul streets haven't knocked the arrogance out of you." Pulitzer remarked, "You're still as spoiled and cocky as ever."
"Joe, are you really the person to give a lecture about ego?" Spot asked coldly. Pulitzer gave him an angry look, but let the gibe slide.
"Good day, Mister Conlon."
"And you, Mister Pulitzer."
When neither Racetrack, nor Lunch Money returned to Spar Street, the others grew uneasy. They waited until the following afternoon to start a search, hoping that they would come back in the morning. The Higgins didn't make it home, of course. They searched Brooklyn from top to bottom, asking around for any information on two Italian siblings. It was eventually deduced (thanks to the accounts of witnesses, and the recently reported Snyder-sightings) that they had in fact been arrested.
Normally, this would be quite a problem. But if there was a silver lining to Spot's return to Park Avenue, it was the cash that came with the territory. The fifteen dollar fines held against Lunch Money and Racetrack was a mere pittance that Spot was more than eager to supply when Kid Blink and Mush arrived at his manor with the news of the Higgins's arrest.
Armed with enough money to Snyder off for their various convictions, Kid Blink, Mush, Boots and Crutchy strutted into the refuge on the following Tuesday morning, the boys ready to free their friends. Jack was once again left disgruntled on Spar Street. He was far too infamous a criminal to walk into the refuge, even with the protection of Spot's father's money. Crutchy led the way to Snyder's office, giving the glass windowed door a sharp knock. They entered without waiting for Snyder's response.
"I didn't expect that Sullivan's gang would turn themselves in quite so willingly." A greasy, weaseling voice greeted the boys once inside the dreaded child's prison.
"Don't get too excited Snyder," Crutchy said, having trouble keeping the contempt out of his voice, "We'se heah for Lunch Money and Racetrack-- I mean Anthony and Ava Higgins. We got the bail money... for all of us."
Snyder looked as though Crutchy had announced the cancellation of all major holidays. He reluctantly accepted the generous amounts of currency, counting it carefully and examining each bill suspiciously. When at last the bail had been counted and recounted, Snyder disappeared from his office. After a minute or two of silent waiting, Snyder reentered the office, Racetrack in tow.
"Cassie, darling, the McClellans are here."
Cassie resisted the impulse to vomit at the sound of the surname. Still, she heeded her mother's call and made her way to the parlor, her heart in her shoes. She took her usual seat on the sofa, next to Henry. Her insides squirmed, repulsed, as he slid his arm around her waist. She ignored him to the best of her ability, forcing herself to listen to the exceptionally dull conversation between her father and Henry's. Cassie tried not to think. She tried not to think that every morning for the rest of her life would be spent chatting on trivial subjects and drinking tea. No trips to Irving Hall to see Medda. No more cheering and hollering in the cheap seats at the racetracks.
"Yes there's some sort of to-do at Henrietta Conlon's."
"I haven't heard of so much fuss at that old house since her poor husband died."
To everyone's surprise, the ringing of the Arden's doorbell sounded from the entryway. As bemused as anyone else, Cassie gave the Arden's butler a startled look when he announced that she had a visitor. Cassie got to her feet, making an excellent show of keeping her composure. She actually gasped out loud when she saw who her mystery visitor was.
"Cass, how's it go--?" Spot's sentence was cut short by Cassie's enthusiastic hug.
"You came! Oh, Andrew, how could I ever thank you?"
"Yeah, I came. Don't remind me." He said sullenly.
"Well, look who's back from the dead," Henry's voice made Cassie jump. She stepped quickly away from Spot, guilty, "I didn't expect to see this scrawny brat in this house again in this life time."
"Well, surprise, Henry," Spot sent Henry a look of loathing, "I'm back."
Now, Henry McClellan was a terrible bastard, but that did not make him a complete idiot. After years of growing up with Cassie and Spot, he knew when they were scheming. As far as Henry was concerned, Cassie was the only thing that would bring Andrew Conlon back to Park Avenue. The cogs worked in his rotten brain, figuring that the moment Spot had gotten wind of Cassie's engagement he had made his plans for return. Spot always was a spoiled boy who had the best of everything and insisted on getting his way. Henry observed in only seconds exactly what Spot's intent was: to steal his fiance.
It was much later that Spot lay in bed, thinking miserably of his afternoon at the Ardens. Cassie's parents had fawned over him. Despite his controversial past, the Ardens seemed like they would be more than willing to marry their daughter off to a delinquent, as long as he was a rich delinquent. The McClellans were clearly affronted by Spot's intrusion on their private luncheon, and seemed to realize that Spot was indeed a threat to Henry and Cassie's engagement. Yes, everything was going according to plan. Cassie was getting exactly what she wanted. And for once in his life, Spot Conlon had nothing going to his liking. Quite apart from being again imprisoned in his childhood home, Spot was worried for Lunch Money and Racetrack. The previous day had been when his friends had come bearing the news that the siblings were trapped
As he sat in the darkness, outrageously comfortable with his three satin pillows, Spot thought he heard a scratching sound outside his window. It was only wishful thinking, he decided. But as the shuffling became louder and the sound of a whisper reached his ears, Spot climbed silently from his bed, pleased to know that his friends hadn't forgotten him.
"Lunch?" He asked hopefully.
"Sorry," Kid Blink responded cheerfully, climbing through the window. Jack appeared a second later, hoisting himself onto the windowsill.
"Jack! Whatcha ya doin' heah? You're s'posed to be in hiding." Spot chided.
"Aw, it's dark out Spot; no one'll catch me. 'Sides, I wanted to talk to ya."
"We went to bail Race and Lunch outta the refuge today." Blink began.
"Bet Snyder wasn't too pleased about that." Spot smirked.
"No..." Kid Blink agreed hesitantly. Spot didn't like that tone-- it was the tone of someone who had bad news to share.
"Are Lunch Money and Race alright?" Spot asked didja get 'em out okay?"
"They ain't hurt," Kid Blink said bracingly, "And Race is back home."
"We couldn't bail her out."
"Why the hell not?" Spot demanded, "I gave ya more than enough dough to keep Snyder happy! She only had a fifteen dollar fine."
"That's what we wanted to talk to you about, Spot. Her charges are a little more serious." Jack said heavily, "Lunch is on trial for murder. We thought ya might know somethin' about it."