Chapter Thirteen

"Well well, Monk. It's been a while since I saw you last."

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Monk knew that he stood no chance on his own fighting a problem that he did not fully understand. Finnegan was unhelpful, his explanations too simple to explain why now of all times the Nativists were pressing on the neighbourhood. Perhaps a power shift? Had Finnegan offended one of the Nativists? Monk knew that he had to return to the Five Points and find things out for himself.

So one day, shillelagh in hand, he had strode into the Five Points, avoiding the Nativists or any of their allies. Primarily, there were the Bowery Boys and the Atlantic Guard, two other American gangs who opposed the immigrants coming to New York.

As he moved along, Monk noted the conditions of the buildings he passed. All of them were in some form of disrepair, often with at least one window broken or missing. Animals were in the streets, and the people stank worse than usual.

As Monk looked around, he noticed one building that was different from the rest. It was built on a sort of mound. Stairs led up to the building, and there was no other way to reach it. The building looked faded and worn out. Monk wasn't sure what to make of it, as there was no sign that it was a place of business or just a home.

A call suddenly broke his train of thought. He looked around to see none other than Happy Jack running towards him. The young Irishman had put on some considerable weight since Monk had last seen him. There was also the beginning of a moustache appearing on Jack's face.

"Hi there, Monk! What are ye doin' here?" Jack asked as he skidded to a halt.

"I'm looking to have a word with Vallon. Is he around?"

Jack paused, and sighed, "Well, it's been a while since you saw him, eh?"

"Aye. So what?"

"Well... Priest has risen in importance, shall we say. He's The Captain's right-hand man nowadays."

Monk almost took a step back in surprise, "So soon?"

Jack shrugged, "Aye. Captain's taken a liking to him, and he's been a big help in the fight against the Nativists."

Monk nodded slowly. Certainly he was surprised at Vallon's rise to power in such a short amount of time. But then again, Vallon had always been ambitious. He'd inherited it from his father.

Brushing memories of Ireland out of his head, Monk looked at Jack, "So can I see him? Or is there some kind of ritual I need to fulfill?"

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Vallon was sitting in the headquarters of the Dead Rabbits, the same building that he and Monk had been brought to by Happy Jack almost two years ago. For a brief moment, Monk felt the entirety of those two years disappear as he embraced Vallon in greetings.

Vallon had always acted older than he was, but now it seemed that his age was catching up to him. He looked far more adult-like than the last time Monk had seen him, and he suddenly wondered if his own experiences in New York had made him grow up the same way.

Vallon sat down after his first wry comment, and waited for Monk to do the same. Monk noticed that there were five others in the room, including Happy Jack and McGloin.

"How have you been, Vallon?"

"I've been as well as can be expected. It's been a rough struggle with these so-called Natives, but it's nothing that I haven't been prepared to deal with."

Monk nodded in understanding, remembering Dublin.

"So what are you here for?" Vallon asked. "Are you changing your mind about this city and your place in it?"

"Not quite that. I need some information that I haven't been able to find by myself."

The men with Vallon looked at each other bemusedly. McGloin stared at Monk with a suspicious look in his eyes.

Vallon was undeterred by this, and cocked his head to the side, "And what would that be?"

Monk explained about his encounter with Finnegan and the Nativist, and concluding the tale with Finnegan's brief, evasive answers.

Vallon smiled knowingly, "Finnegan's in trouble, so he is. It's a well known fact here."

Monk didn't say anything, waiting instead for Vallon to continue explaining.

"Finnegan's one for the gambling. And I don't just mean the odd deal with a bookie and whatnot, I mean his very nature. He tries to be responsible about his life and his pub but he isn't taking the gangs into account. So he tried to make appeasements to both sides, hoping that it would keep them both out of the way. Unfortunately, both sides have come to figure it out by this point. We aren't that concerned, because we've got bigger problems for now, but that Nativist boss Bill Cassius is a right thrifty bastard. He's put that young lieutenant of his, Bill, on the job of collecting dues. An' as you may remember, young Bill's got a right hatred of the Irish. So he's figured that expanding the Nativist territory will force Finnegan to pay twice as much to him and nothing to us."

Monk was surprised by this explanation. He had not realized that Finnegan had been paying tribute to the gangs. Though as Monk thought of it, it would certainly explain Finnegan's nervous disposition, as well as the idea that there never seemed to be that much money available despite the pub's reasonable success.

"So what's going to happen to the pub? And Finnegan?" Monk asked.

Vallon shrugged, "Who knows? It's not in our power. We're outnumbered for now and we have enough troubles here in the Points. Finnegan will have to pay the tribute, but I don't think it will matter."

"Why not?" Monk asked, alerted to Vallon's last seven words.

"Because Bill will most likely evict him by force. And he'll end up doing the same to you, Monk."

Monk felt a deep anger growing in his guts. Finnegan meant no trouble to anyone, and now the Nativists were going to take away his livelihood?

"There must be something I can do, Vallon!"

Vallon's mild neutrality suddenly faded, replaced by genuine concern and regret, "I'm sorry, Monk. But I can't help you this time. I can only suggest that you avoid the matter by moving somewhere else."

"How? And where?" Monk stood up, bewildered and frustrated that these were the only bits of advice that Vallon could give him.
Behind Vallon, McGloin put his hand on the handle of his knife, as though he expected Monk to start swinging his shillelagh.

Vallon took no notice of McGloin's reactions, but gazed sadly at his friend, "I'd offer to help you with that if I could, but maybe there's a place for you to go? Does Finnegan have any kin that could help him?"

"He's got nobody but me. I'll be engaged to Maggie soon, which will make me his stepson-in-law or something along those lines."

Vallon stood up in surprise, "What? So it's happening after all?"

Monk nodded slowly, realizing that he and Vallon had been far more out of touch than he'd realized. He smiled, "Aye."

Beaming, Vallon embraced Monk heartily, "Congratulations!"

For a brief moment, Monk felt the urge to laugh at his good fortune, but then he remembered what they had just been talking about and his mirth left him. He and Maggie would be destitute once the Nativists took over Finnegan's pub. What then?

It was then that Monk remembered what Maggie had brought up. His plan to become a professional barber. He had the training and experience, he just needed the supplies and a safe location. Was this a sign that he should go after this plan? But what about Finnegan and Maggie's mother? He would have to provide for them, and would Finnegan's pride allow for that?

Vallon suddenly spoke up, "What are you thinking?"

Monk shrugged, "I was thinking that I could finally follow in your father's footsteps."

At the mention of his father, Vallon seemed to look more sombre, "He would have been proud tae see that."

Monk nodded, "Aye, well I don't know how or when or where yet. I still need to figure out what to do about this whole Nativist problem."

One of the Irishmen behind Vallon suddenly replied, "Aye, that's what the rest of us are dealing with too!"

Ignoring the laughter, Monk continued talking to Vallon, "Listen, if you find word of any new location that we can move Finnegan to- a safer place where he can rely on his countrymen to help out- then let me know. In the meantime, God go with you."

Vallon nodded appreciatively, "Very well. And thank you."

Monk shook Vallon's hand one last time, and headed out of the room.