Author's Note: Whew! Finally Finished this chapter. Worked damn hard on it, too, so more reviews would be awesome. ^_^ (And for those who've already reviewed, you'll find Shout Outs at the end of the chapter!)

Three things to mention, however. One is the New York accents. I made them a little stronger in this chapter; I can make them either softer or even stronger than this, depending on feedback from you guys! I know it isn't really popular to write the accent anymore, but I'm very fond of the flavor it adds to the setting and the characters, so let me know what you think.

The second thing I need to mention: The end of this chapter is disturbing. Like…really disturbing. I wouldn't call it graphic, but if you're easily disturbed by disturbing things, you might want to think twice before reading.

And finally…Chapter 3 will be about the movie characters. I swear by all the gods.

Chapter Two

Kitten

She tried to cry out softly, Kit knew, so the other boarders wouldn't hear her. Monk Eastman didn't like for them to hear. He liked the gang to pretend they didn't know what was happening behind that door, but Kit refused to pretend. He huddled in the hallway, his back against the wall, his whole body shuddering at every muted cry.

Another door opened farther down the hall. Footsteps approached, and Kit hugged himself tighter, scooting deeper into the shadows, but it was no use. Three older boys stopped halfway to the stairs and looked from Kit to the door he had his eyes fixed on.

"Will ya look at that? The kitten's been listenin' again." Scar Bergmann grinned, emphasizing the network of puckered white scars that crisscrossed his face. "Next best t'ing to screwin' her y'self, huh, Kitten?"

"Don't let us interrupt," Mad Dog Kulik added, running a hand through the curly brown hair that spilled to his collar. "Wouldn't want ya to go soft." He nudged Kit between the legs with the toe of his shoe. Kit swiped at him automatically, raking Mad Dog's arm with his nails - the habit that earned him his absurd nickname in the first place.

"Damn freak!" Dog hauled him up by his shirt, and Kit swiped at his face, leaving five thin trails of blood running down his cheek. It was Scar who rectified his friend's mistake and pinned Kit's arms to his sides.

"Children." The third boy spoke up, though the single word came out soft as a breeze. Several years younger than Mad Dog, Hush Toffler nevertheless stood a head taller, and his messy curls were shorter and darker, almost black. He had the kind of face the ladies go for, and a silver Star of David hung around his neck.

"The kid needs a soakin'," Scar said with a shrug. His fighting instincts were quicker than Dog's, but he was slower to anger; it was all business to him. "He is a bit of a freak, Toffler, if ya ain't noticed. Who the hell wants to listen to that?"

From inside the bedroom came a sharp scream. Kit broke away from his captors and charged the door, but Hush grabbed him by the arm, hauled him back, and pinned him to the wall. "Don't be an idiot, Eisenberg."

"He's hoitin' 'er," Kit whispered, glaring at the floor.

"He hoits 'er every time he drops by." Hush let him go with a warning look. "He'll let ya in afterward. To cheer her up, get 'er talkin' again. He always does."

Right. Kit's hands clenched at his sides. Of all the boys in Monk Eastman's gang, only Kit was allowed near Leary. Only he was instructed to wait on her, read to her, "keep her spirits up" whenever Eastman went home to his wife. It had been a month since he moved here, but he could still hear Monk's sneering voice. You's the poifect man for the job, Eisenberg. She likes ya - goils is always fond o' kittens - but she ain't never gonna want ya, and you'll never have the guts to lay a hand on 'er.

He'd never wanted to lay a hand on her. He wasn't in love with her, whatever Eastman thought, whatever the gang whispered behind his back or taunted to his face. She was, quite simply, the dearest friend he'd ever had. And he was scum for being too much of a coward to help her.

When he looked up, Scar and Mad Dog were gone, having grown bored with him and headed down the stairs on whatever errand they'd planned. Hush lingered in front of him with a pitying look on his face, then turned to follow them. Kit leaned back against the wall and resolutely watched the door.

Only a few more minutes passed before it opened. A stocky young man with a broad, flat face and cauliflower ears swaggered out into the hall, adjusting a derby hat too small for his head. Battle scars could be traced from his cheeks all the way down to his thick bull neck, and his shirt still hung open, showing off a well-muscled chest. Even without the blackjack that was usually thrust into his belt or the brass knuckles on each hand, that was enough of a warning. Kit looked up at him and didn't bother to hide the hate in his eyes. For all his hatred meant to Monk Eastman, he really might as well have been a kitten, and a clawless one at that.

"Go on in, Eisenberg," Monk said with a grin. He seemed not at all surprised to find Kit in his current position. "She's a little sulky this evenin'-" He clapped a hand on Kit's shoulder. "-but I'm sure you'll have her laughin' in no time."

Leary wouldn't be laughing tonight; Kit knew that the moment he entered her room. It was the only private room in the lodging house, usually reserved for a servant girl; Monk had made some sort of arrangement with Rosner. Now his favorite toy lay curled on her side, facing away from Kit. She wasn't crying - Kit had never seen her cry - but when he sat down beside her and touched her shoulder gently, she flinched and turned toward him with a dull expression that wrenched at his heart.

"I don't know why you bodder," she murmured.

Kit shrugged. "We's friends, ain't we?" He moved closer to her.

She snuggled against him, returning his embrace, though her face was as blank as ever. "I don't know why he lets ya."

He shook his head. Maybe it was a matter of persistence. He remembered the first time he'd set eyes on her, barely a month ago.

"Welcome to our fine establishment!" Wolf Shapiro grinned as they turned the corner, and Simon couldn't decide whether he was being sarcastic or not. As far as he could tell, Rosner's was just another cheap lodging house along the Bowery - a bit larger than average, perhaps, with a sign on the door offering a bunk and a supper for two bits a night.

"You sure I can afford this?"

"You's one o' Eastman's boys now. You can afford it," Wolf said with a laugh. "'Course, not all the boarders here is Eastman's. They ain't even all Jews. But there's enough of us that everyone knows we runs the place. You should see how fast the micks and the dagos clear out whenever there's trouble."

"Is there, uh..." Simon swallowed. "A lot o' trouble?"

Wolf gave him a scathing look. "You's joinin' a gang, kid, not a sports club. There's trouble every damn day and night o' the week, but I wouldn't worry much. Monk obviously ain't lookin' to use you for muscle." He grinned at Simon. "He'll have you standin' lookout an' shimmyin' t'rough windows an' all."

Simon bit back an angry retort. It was thanks to Wolf and his best friend, Simon's brother Mark, that they were letting a scrawny fifteen-year-old into the gang at all. Of course, he hadn't really wanted to join until Mark said he could move into Rosner's. Away from home, away from Joseph. That settled the matter.

Following Wolf down the street, he glanced at his reflection in a shop window. He really was pitifully small for his age, and the baby-smooth chin didn't help. He'd inherited his father's straight black hair and dark brown eyes, but not his shaggy rabbi's beard. Worse yet, his mother insisted on cutting his hair in long bangs that fell dreamily into his eyes. The only things he really had going for him were quick reflexes and razor-sharp fingernails. Simon rarely cut his nails. As a defensive weapon, they were a truly underrated asset.

When they reached their destination, Wolf turned to him suddenly with a strange, almost frantic expression on his face. "Simon, you understand that this is for life, right?"

"I know you can't walk away from the Eastman Gang, Wolf. I ain't that stupid."

"Yeah, but ya don't really understand yet." Wolf sighed and ran a hand through his own sandy beard. "This place..." He motioned at the vast wooden building that loomed over them, swallowing them in its shadow. "When ya walk t'rough this door..." He breathed out a plume of cigar smoke. "Never mind. C'mon."

Wolf opened the door, and Simon followed him across the threshold like it was nothing. When the door slammed behind them, he didn't even notice.

There was nothing in the lobby but an old man at a desk and a steep wooden staircase. Wolf pulled him over to the desk. "Mornin', Rosner. Got a Simon Eisenberg for ya. He ain't got a proper name yet. I'll cover him for the foist week." He slammed down a handful of coins.

Rosner gave Simon a long look before turning back to Wolf. "He's wit 'chu?" He raised an eyebrow. "I mean, is he one o'...his?"

"Yessir." Wolf smirked. "He's one o' his."

"Then I won't bodder goin' over the rules," the old man said dryly.

When he was signed in and paid for, Simon headed for the stairs, hoping to find himself a bed and put his bag away, but Wolf tugged him toward a door across the lobby. A dull roar of noise came from the other side. "Might as well plunge right into the lion's den, kid. You'll have to meet everyone sooner or later - an' this way I can watch yer back, make sure it goes over smooth."

The door opened into a lounge the size of a small ballroom. Dozens of couches, armchairs, and small tables, lit by twice as many gas lamps, would have provided a cozy atmosphere if it weren't for the nature of the crowd that made use of them.

There must have been nearly fifty men and boys milling about, and more women and girls than Simon would have expected. Pipe and cigar smoke hung thick and acrid in the air. Cards flashed between dealers' hands, dice rattled and clinked, and arguments broke out like scattered fires. One man grabbed another by the shirt and lifted him off his feet. Simon gulped, turned away, and found himself witnessing a vicious fistfight. Blood sprayed across the wall before his horrified eyes. The couple sprawled on the couch a few feet away didn't even seem to notice - perhaps because the man had his hand up the woman's skirt.

Simon's eyes wandered desperately, seeking out a safe haven - something quiet to rest on, to save him from the chaos around him. And they fell on a girl curled up in an armchair in the far corner of the room - pale and fragile, eyes downcast, short black hair cut in two sharp angles that framed her face. She wore a floral-print dress and sat with her arms wrapped around her knees. She wasn't talking, playing cards, eating or drinking, even looking at anyone. She just sat there, tense, silent, and alone.

"Who's that?" Simon asked.

Wolf followed his gaze, plucked his cigar out of his mouth, and swore under his breath. "Oh no you don't, kid. That's Monk Eastman's goil."

Simon frowned. "His goil? I t'ought he jist got married."

"He did. Ya t'ink Eastman's keen on the Ten Commandments? That's some kid he plucked outta one o' his brothels. He's always takin' a fancy to one whore or anudder. But he's real protective o' this one - been keepin' her here a couple months, an' won't let no one else touch her. So stay the hell away, ya hear?"

"I wasn't gonna - " Simon flushed. "I jist t'ought she looked lonely, is all."

"An' she's gonna stay lonely till Eastman drops by again," Wolf snapped. "Now c'mon. I'm gonna introduce ya to the boys."

He pulled Simon toward a table full of faro players, but Simon slipped out of his grasp. The girl had looked up from the floor and met his eyes. Hers were a soft grey-blue, and something in them called to him. It wasn't loneliness or fear or pain, though she radiated all three. It was a warm familiarity, as if they'd met before. He knew they never had, but he knew with equal certainty that they were meant to. And nothing in the world could keep it from happening.

He went to her. Wolf called his name once, twice, three times, then swore loudly and fled the room, wanting nothing to do with the transgression about to take place. But no one else seemed to notice when he stood shyly beside her chair and offered her his hand. "Hey there. I'm Simon Eisenberg."

"Rebecca Goldman," she whispered, taking it. Her skin was icy against his. "I go by Leary these days, though. An' they'll be givin' you a nickname soon enough."

Simon smiled at her, ignoring that last part. "Goldman, huh? That's a fancy sorta name when ya t'inks about it. Must mean you's to good for this place."

"Yeah, well, I didn't have no choice 'bout comin' here." She finally looked up at him. "So which o' us is the bigger fool?"

Simon crouched beside her chair. The people around them were starting to notice now, staring openly and whispering among themselves. He ignored them. "Ya don't even know me yet," he told her. "Maybe I belongs here."

Her lips quirked in an expression too hard to be a smile. "You's the only poyson in this place who's ever looked me in the eye. I'm guessin' you don't belong here."

"Well," Simon said stubbornly, "we can be misfits togedder, then."

Her face paled. "We ain't gonna be nuttin' togedder, ya hear?"

He shook his head. "I didn't mean - "

"Didn't you?" she said harshly. But then she searched his face for a moment and seemed to decide that he hadn't. Another moment and they both realized they were still holding hands.

"Hey, Eisenberg! What the hell ya t'ink you's doin'?"

Simon recognized the approaching boys at once - Scar and Mad Dog, both old friends of Joseph's. When he was younger, they used to hold him down while Joseph punched. They'd moved on to bigger things now. Unfortunately, so had he.

It was the first beating he took because of Leary. It wouldn't be the last.

Kit shook away the memory and looked at Leary as she was now, lying beside him on her bed, wrapped in his arms. "How many times was it?" she asked softly, as if she'd read his mind. "How many times did Monk an' his thugs almost kill ya jist for talkin' to me, spendin' time wit me? Before Monk decided it was funny, I mean." Her mouth twisted bitterly.

"It don't matter," Kit muttered. "I never stopped."

"Yeah, but you should've."

"Don't say that. What would I do wit'out 'chu, huh?"

She looked down at her bare chest - bruised and cut from Eastman's attentions, scarred from the months gone by. With a shuddering sigh, she bent over the edge of the bed, grabbed her chemise and dress, and offered him a thin smile as she shimmied back into them. "What would eidder of us do?"

He could tell she wasn't in a talking mood tonight, so he took his worn copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from her bedside table. Leary couldn't read her own name, and Kit had memorized most of the stories years ago, but that didn't stop either of them from enjoying their evening reading sessions. They were like the eye in the middle of each daily storm.

"'The Adventure of the Speckled Band.' This's one o' the best," he informed her. "Kinda scary, though."

"I'll try to be brave," Leary said dryly.

Their eyes met over the top of the book. Her face was pale and solemn as a ghost's, and Kit knew that his probably mirrored it. "You's always brave," he whispered, a river of shame coursing through him.

She shook her head and touched his cheek. "Please, Kit...jist read."


"Yer late, Simon," Joseph Eisenberg snapped when Kit slunk into Silver Dollar Smith's Saloon, hoping to claim a seat in the shadows and go unnoticed.

Kit flinched. He'd moved to Rosner's to get away from his eldest brother, but their paths still crossed on a regular basis at gang meetings. Mark only showed up if there were some sort of problem at the gambling house he supervised, but Joseph - Grim, Kit reminded himself - was an enforcer, and the enforcers always came to the meetings to keep order.

On meeting nights alone, the patrons of this saloon were perfect gentlemen - not even casting a covetous eye on the thousands of silver dollars embedded in the floor, the walls, the counter, the light fixtures. The marvel of Essex Street, they glittered and flashed like stars on a clear country night, but not a single finger twitched. This good behavior was rather ironic, Kit thought, since these were the nights when the worst kinds of vice and violence were planned.

"I was wit Leary," he said aloud, sinking onto a stool among the other teenage boys. A murmur went up in the assembled group, but no one challenged him. Bizarre as it seemed to the rest of the gang, everyone knew that Eastman had come to condone Kit and Leary's friendship. Joseph's face darkened into a scowl, but he nodded and turned his attention to the door, awaiting Eastman's arrival.

Kit took the opportunity to scan the crowd. Most of the gangsters were grown men, murmuring among themselves in a colorful blend of languages - English and Yiddish, German and Russian, Polish and Ukrainian. The younger members generally put aside their differences at times like this and stuck together, providing an artificial feeling of security. Even Kit - the youngest of all and a freak to boot - got a few smiles and nods.

"You hear 'bout the raid we's plannin' tonight?" Mosquito Moscovitch whispered. Skinny as a rail, with big ears and eyes and spiky brown hair, the boy couldn't have been much older than Kit, and he had a habit of repeating things he shouldn't even have known in the first place.

Kit shook his head. During his month with the gang, he'd done no more than stand lookout for half a dozen uneventful burglaries. He never seemed to hear about anything major until after it happened.

"They's gonna hit one o' Paul Kelly's lieutenants," Mosquito confided. "I hear it's bound to be real bloody. Maybe they'll let us tag along, huh?"

"Hope so," Kit whispered back, shivering at the thought.

"'Course, he won't never admit to bein' Kelly's lieutenant," Mosquito went on cheerfully. "Any more'n our guys'll admit to bein' Eastman's. Not till one of 'em declares open war, an' Hush says that's prob'ly years off." Skeet worshiped at the altar of Hush Toffler. "But if it happens, y'know, it'll happen over the Bowery. All this fuss over our little neighborhood! Can ya imagine?"

"The Bowery ain't that little," Kit muttered. More than that, it was strategically priceless. Five Points belonged to Paul Kelly and the Italians, of course; the Lower East Side, to Monk Eastman and the Jews. The Bowery was the unclaimed zone spanning both districts. Kit and his gangmates were living on top of a powder keg.

At that moment, the door of the saloon burst open with more force than usual, and the room went silent. Monk Eastman strode inside with that cocky swagger that made him seem twice as tall as he was. The blackjack and the brass knuckles had returned, though he never had bothered to button his shirt. "Gimme a whiskey, Smith," he barked, then leaned against the bar, his eyes moving shrewdly over the crowd, identifying each and every man. They finally settled on a dour face in the back of the room. "Business report, Janowitz?"

Kit tuned out at some point during the talk of profits and wages. At times like these, gang life could be surprisingly dull. He looked over at his brother, barely twenty years old, sitting apart from the younger boys, flanked by Scar and Mad Dog. Each of them held a glass of gin. Hush lurked in the shadows behind them, watching and listening. Kit searched for Wolf but couldn't find him; maybe he was helping Mark tonight. Finally, he fixed his eyes on the single gold coin that served as the marble floor's centerpiece.

"...an' as some o' youse has no doubt heard, we got one last order o' business to deal wit later tonight," Monk's voice droned on in the background. "A little payback for the incident at McGurk's. I'm sendin' Baby Face, Grim, Scar, Hush, Mad Dog, Knuckles...an' Kitten."

Kit looked up with a start.

"You's sendin' my kid brudder, sir?" As an enforcer, Joseph was qualified to address the boss himself. He did so now with barely-contained incredulity.

"Gonna be a problem, Grim?" Eastman fixed him with a hard look. "Maybe the kid ain't enforcer material, but he's gotta learn what this business is all about sooner or later. Might as well be sooner. Let him hang back an' obsoive. Might be able to make a man outta him yet."

He turned to leer at Kit, who gazed steadily back. If you t'ought I was a man, you'd never let me into Leary's room. I'll be a kid a while longer, t'anks.

"Right," Eastman growled when Kit's gaze didn't falter. "That's it for business, boys. Stick around, though, an' I'll buy all o' youse a round. Promise not to t'row you out if t'ings get rowdy, neidder!"

A cheer went up throughout the saloon - led, of course, by Silver Dollar Smith - and the place instantly filled with the roar of heated conversation, arguments, and bawdy laughter that one could hear in the lounge at Rosner's any day of the week. Within minutes, Kit knew, the women would start arriving - most of them bought and paid for, but Eastman and his cronies didn't give a damn.

Leary wouldn't be here. Eastman kept her locked away like a princess in a tower. Kit wondered whether he might have a chance to sneak home and see her. Then he wondered wildly if he could perhaps slip out the door and just start running - away from the gang, away from his brothers, away from the Bowery. "...we got one last order o' business to deal wit later tonight..."

"Simon." Joseph loomed over him without warning. He resembled a bigger, stronger version of Kit...until you noticed the jagged scar on his cheek and the dangerous amusement in his eyes. "Come have a drink, little brudder," he said in that careless voice of his, jerking Kit off his stool by the front of his shirt. "You better be good an' drunk for what we's gonna do in a few hours."

Kit pulled away, stumbling backward and glaring up at his brother, though it was no smarter than glaring at Monk Eastman, and just as useless. "I'll do it sober," he announced coolly.

A flash of annoyance crossed his brother's face, and Kit stiffened; unlike Eastman, Joseph often considered him worthy of a blow or two. But then Joseph's lip curled, and he said, "Suit y'self," shrugged, and stalked away to join his friends.

Kit let out a breath and turned to find Mosquito gawking at him. "Whaddaya want?" he snapped.

The boy's huge eyes widened still further. "N-nuttin'!" He scurried off.

Kit sighed and settled back onto his stool, thinking of what was to come. He had never been drunk in his life, but it was only out of defiance that he didn't drink now.


A few hours later, he regretted it.

"Where we goin' again?" Mad Dog slurred, stumbling down Hester Street and almost barreling into a painted ghost of a woman, who started to smile at him until she caught sight of Scar. Then she paled and darted out of the way. Dog frowned at her retreating form. "An' what the hell's a nice goil like that doin' out at this time o' night, huh?"

"She ain't a nice goil, Dog," Scar said, rolling his eyes. "She's a whore."

"An' that's where we's goin'," Knuckles added, cracking his namesake loudly. "Back home, where all the whores is."

A squat, prematurely bald man with a barrel chest and giant hands and feet, Knuckles Rothstein always put Kit in mind of a troll from a fairy tale. He had a fair point, however. While many of the infamous brothels had vanished elsewhere in Five Points, it sometimes seemed as if they had all moved to the Bowery - along with the saloons, gambling houses, clip joints, thieves' markets, and every other den of vice. Leary wasn't the only reason Kit rarely ventured outside Rosner's to explore the neighborhood.

"All o' youse shut up," Joseph snapped. "The address is on Canal Street." Alcohol never seemed to dull Joe's senses, but it made him twice as mean. The sly look in his eyes was replaced by a glint of pure rage. Kit tried not to look at the heavy club in his hands, at the weapons all of them sported except him - blackjacks, chains, brass knuckles, even an axe. Still, against his better judgment, he had to ask.

"Why we doin' this?" he whispered. "What happened at McGurk's?"

Baby Face turned to answer before Joseph could silence him. "Some dago soaked a Jew the other day. We's jist gettin' even, kid."

Kit nodded slowly, then jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Hush Toffler gave him a reassuring smile. Liquor seemed to render him even quieter than usual, for he hadn't said a word throughout their journey.

Canal Street appeared too soon for Kit's taste. He'd wanted more time to...what? Think? Run? Pray to a God he barely believed in?

Too late for all that now. They were approaching one of the dreary brick tenements that the Points were so well-known for. "Joseph?" Kit practically squeaked.

His brother's drunken glare chilled his blood. "Whaddaya want, kid?"

"H-how's Mama an' Papa? An' Lena?" Gang activity kept his brothers too close for comfort, but he hadn't seen his parents or his little sister since he moved out.

Kit didn't even see Joseph's hand move. He only felt it strike the side of his face, a blow that sent him reeling backward until Hush caught and steadied him.

"He's jist noivous, Grim," Baby Face soothed. "That's what kids do when they's noivous, they babble. Did it meself when I went out on me foist job."

"Yeah, well, this ain't some small-time boiglary," Joseph growled. "I don't wanna hear anudder woid outta no one."

So a heavy silence prevailed as they entered the building and trooped up five dark, narrow flights of stairs. The seven of them were silent, at least, but there was plenty to be heard in the apartments, even at this late hour - shouting, drunken singing, babies wailing, the crack of husbands' fists against their wives' faces and fathers' belts against their children's backs. The air was thick with the stench of sweat, old meals, and human waste. These sounds and odors were so familiar that Kit barely noticed them, but as they reached the door at the end of the sixth-floor hall, Kit heard something new. Laughter - the clear, sweet, carefree laughter of a young woman.

"Wait," he whispered.

Of course, no one listened.

Knuckles broke the door down with a series of swift axe blows. Smashing aside the wooden shards like an angry bull, he burst inside. Voices screamed - more than two. There were children, Kit realized, and his stomach lurched. Two girls and a boy, sitting up in their beds, crying out as if from a nightmare.

They were the nightmare.

Long after it was all over, Kit would remember their faces. The nameless, terrified couple huddled in a corner; the nameless, terrified children running toward their parents, sobbing and rubbing their eyes; and the faces of his gangmates, which were suddenly just as childlike, just as terrified.

All but Joseph's. Joseph's was split into a maniacal grin. He didn't even look at the man, Kit noticed even through his own terror. He went straight for the woman.

She was screaming, and Kit couldn't move. Her dress was tearing, and Kit couldn't move. Mad Dog had lost his own fear, turned as feral as his name; he was pushing Joseph aside, shoving down his pants to take his turn; and Knuckles beat the man around the face, and Hush felled him with a single blow, and Scar had cornered the children, and the children were crying, and Baby Face was yelling, "Shut them up, shut them up!" and he had a knife, and there were crashes, there were pleas in Italian, there were gurgling sounds, there was broken furniture and blood everywhere, and Kit couldn't move.


It was later, much later, that Kit found himself curled up in a ball in Leary's bed at Rosner's, and he could not remember how he'd gotten there. Leary's arms were wrapped around him, holding him together. There was blood on his clothes, and there were tears on his face. More than tears - he'd been sick. Why?

"What happened?" Leary whispered over and over, kissing his forehead, stroking his hair. "Kitten...Kit...what happened, what happened, what happened?"

Hush Toffler was crying in the hallway outside; he hadn't been drunk enough, Kit supposed. He could hear Mosquito whispering words of awkward comfort, pausing after each broken remark, no doubt to stare at his hero in mute astonishment.

"Oi, gevald! What happened, Simon? What did they do?"

At last he could answer her. "It went wrong, Leary," he said hoarsely, turning to meet her eyes. "The job, it...it went around Mulberry Bend."

And then she held him tighter than ever, and he tried to hide his face in the folds of her nightgown, but for the first time, she was not enough to shut it out. The sobs out in the hall...raised voices in the lounge downstairs...the crash of a distant blow...the scream of a woman, afraid or in pain. And the cries in his memory, the cries of the children, that would never be silent as long as he lived.

He remembered, suddenly, Wolf Shapiro's vain attempt to warn him. "When ya walk t'rough this door..."

Too late - a month too late - he finally heard it slam shut.


SHOUT OUTS

Scratch – So glad you're enjoying it! I love exploring the different neighborhoods of Old New York, so it makes me super happy that someone else digs the idea.

Mayarin – Oh, my. Thanks so much for all your kind words! (blushing) I am both nervous and excited to get your feedback on this chapter. And I'm especially happy that you like my OCs, because they're very special to me, and I often find myself wanting to cuddle them (except for the evil ones), so I just hope that they come across as quirky and lovable as they are in my head.

Lyrical Ballads – First of all, I love your pen name! Second of all, I love your love of Archer! He was sadly absent from this chapter, but I assure you he'll be back. And finally, there's really nothing more flattering than hearing that you needed my fic in your life. Hope this chapter didn't scare you away! It was kind of intense…