Life as the twin sister of Jack Kelly isn't the best thing in the world, but hey, if I keep him outta trouble we make it work. But when I decided to tag along with him to Brooklyn to keep the peace between two hot headed leaders, well, it just got a little more hectic.
I, Elizabeth Barns A.K.A Shadow, am a friend of the newsies in Manhattan. No, I'm not one myself (I own a shop on the square) but we're pretty tight. So when they decide to go on strike and ask if I can help out, naturally I said yes. The job was simple; make signs and help spread the word to everyone I saw. Simple enough, but when Jack and his new friend David Jacobs come up to me and say they need a second headquarters, I about lost it.
"Jack Kelly, do you know how much I've already done for you and your cause, not to mention your boys in general?" I shouted at him, steam close to pouring out of my ears. "That's right, I've made most of the signs, I've told every customer that comes into my store, why I've even sheltered some of your men from the bulls when they come knocking, but this is utterly ridiculous! How am I going to hold 22 newsies in my shop, huh? How Jack, how?"
I've been told that with my height, blonde hair and storm gray eyes I can be intimidating, but making Jack Kelly, the toughest kid in Manhattan cringe in fear is completely new. I must have been pretty mad! "Shadow, Isa know youse feel ova worked an' all, but we've been on strike for ova a week! Kloppman's got da bulls knocking on da lodging house door every other day lookin' for me an' Davey's got a family ta support. Can't youse at least spare us da back storage room? We can fit, Isa promise we'll be quiet, an' if da bulls come callin' we'll be able ta scram out da back! And if youse go ta bed early Isa can cut da meeting short an' we'll get goin'. Sound good?"
I rolled my eyes but uncrossed my arms, signaling that he'd won this argument. "You don't have to go if I go to bed early, even if my apartment's right above the store. I'll give you that, but no more, got it?" The boy David looked at Jack, who agreed and turned to him. "Thanks Shadow! Davey, go tell Race we're on for da second meetin' place. Then tell him ta alert da biords. If we gonna get serious about dis strike, den we gonna need da other borough's help." David nodded and took off running towards the statue in the square, where I could see Race and Kid Blink arguing. I glanced at Jack, who seemed lost in thought. "Why do you need the other newsie leader's help? If I remember correctly you told Harlem Manhattan could handle thing on our own, that you didn't need a liaison officer around," I reminisced.
Jack turned red but answered honestly anyway. "Because now dis is ova our heads, Elizabeth," he told me, using my real name. He always used my real name if he was serious about something. "We can't handle dis alone anymore. Our strike, it's getting' around. Not just ta adults, but kids from da working class are hearin' it too. They say dey wanna be free too, an' if all 'o' dis goes as planned, we could end up makin' a difference not for us, but for dem as well." He then grinned. "An' youse are gonna be a part 'o' it, lendin' us youse store an' such. Ta think youse weren't gonna help us out on dis one!" I laughed and focused on David's figure, which was running back to us. He didn't look thrilled.
"The some of biords had already gone by the time I got there, and by the time I got the rest going two came back. The news they brought doesn't look promising Jack, and if two came back saying the same thing then da rest are probably gonna say it too-""Davey boy, get ta da point!" Jack interrupted. "What did dey say an' where did dey come from?" David caught his breath and started off again. "From Harlem and Queens I think. They said that they're waiting for a guy named Spot Conlon's OK. Who's this kid, Jack? Shadow, do you know?"
Jack had a grim expression on his face. "Yeah Isa know da guy. Shadow, Isa think youse heard 'o' him too, from Race I think." I balled my hands into fists and growled "I've heard of him. King of Brooklyn, right? Yeah David, he's the top of the food chain as far as newsie royalty goes. Spot's the toughest, meanest, most low-lying womanizer that ever walked the face of this stinking city. Not the pleasant type let me tell you." Jack rolled his eyes like I had done earlier and waved my comment off. "Don't listen ta err David, she just hates him because he a bit arrogant. Shadow doesn't like boastful people if ya haven't noticed already. Spot's alright, but he's not the kind of guy dat you want as an enemy. Anyhow, we'll go talk ta Spot right now, knock some sense into his head. If we get his approval, we can really start heating things up. Let's go!"
The two started to walk off, but I grabbed Jack's arm and held on tightly. No one could ever break my grip, ever. I'm not heavy, not at all, but I can hold my ground better than anyone. "Little brother I'm not allowing you to go waltzing into Brooklyn like an idiot and get soaked from something that went wrong!"
Jack's my twin, see, but I've always held it up over his head that I was born first. I don't do it as often anymore, but when I'm serious I pull it out of the old trick box. Jack glared at me and sighed. "Elizabeth, I like da fact dat youse is always tryin' ta look out for me, but Isa ain't no newbie ta things like dis! Dis is da reason why I became a newsie with ya aft' Ma died, I needed ta see what da real world was like. I know Spot, he won't do nothin' stupid." He tried to jerk away again, but I held on even tighter. "Jack, if I can't change your mind, I'm going too. I'm no stranger to dangerous situations either, and you've too much of a reputation to be mouthing off to Conlon."
My brother huffed, but I pushed him. "Remember when I soaked the Delancy brothers for messing with you while you were selling?"
"Youse, but I-"
"And could they walk for a week?"
"No, an' youse showed em', though-"
"So who can take care of themselves better than most, huh?"
"Ya can Shadow-"
"And do you remember how I can just blend in the shadows of a building about anytime, anywhere? That's how I got my nick-name when we were newsies after all!"
Jack held up his hands in defeat. "Alright, I'll admit youse good Shadow! Ya can come, but wear youse hat an' newsie clothes, OK?" I smacked him on the back of the head, glaring at him. "I always were newsie clothes, you dolt! How do you think I get around town, by dressing in my shop's merchandise? You know I hate wearing stuff like that!" Jack rubbed his head and let himself smile a bit. "Yeah, I know. I'm messin' with ya sis, don't get so worked up! Grab youse hat an' let's get goin'! We can make it if we run before dey start sellin' da evenin' edition!"
I reached inside my store, grabbed the newsie cap hanging on a hook by the door and dashed down the street after my brother.
Did I mention how much I hate Spot Conlon? I think I did, but I'll say it again. The arrogant idiot of a ruler had way too much power go to his head, but I couldn't blame him. He had the best of everything; birds, men, the looks (girls practically fell at his feet, the morons!) all the newsies in New York looked up to this kid. Whole boroughs minus Manhattan were under his thumb- he told them what to do, who to side with, the works, plain and simple. I hated how he controlled every aspect of some people's lives, hated it. But I really didn't need to make an enemy tonight, so I promised myself I would let Jack, David and Boots do all the talking and step in when necessary. Not if, when. I knew my little brother- he'd say or do something that was gonna rub someone the wrong. I just needed to stop it when he did, that's all. And maybe take out anyone who stood in my way.
Everyone knows that Spot and his newsies hang around the docks, so that's where Jack led us. Boots was following behind, stopping ever once in a while to pick up smooth rocks. Brooklynites played with slingshots; if you gave them good rocks, they'd take it as a peace offering and let you move on. David was behind Boots, and I was bringing up the rear. You could tell that David was kind of nervous about meeting Conlon, and he seemed to lag behind a bit. I took it upon myself to hurry him along and watch for Spot's birds. I didn't trust other birds, especially not Spot's. But then again, so did everyone else.
We reached the docks and hustled ourselves along. By then we had at least five birds right behind us, pushing against me every so often to keep us moving. At one point a newsie whose threats were larger than him climbed out of the water to meet us, saying "Going somewhere, Kelly?" Jack said nothing, just muscled past him. Faking surprise, the Brooklynite mocked politeness and ushered us past him as we approached the end of the dock. By now we had half of the Brooklyn bird's right behind, but they all stopped once we got close enough to the crates. The top-most crate was reserved for the King of Brooklyn himself, and no one, I mean, no one, just approached it without invitation. I then realized we were in trouble as it was; we hadn't sent a bird to announce we were coming, and Spot wasn't a fan of surprises. Oops!
Speaking of Conlon, there he was now, sitting on his crate smirking as he watched over his 'kingdom'. He saw us as soon as we stepped onto the dock area underneath it, smirked and swung himself down to greet us. "Why if it ain't Jack be nimble, Jack be quick!" he called down, grinning arrogantly. I let out a breath of relief- he wasn't upset. I guess being friends with the King of Brooklyn did help on some occasions. My brother hopped over and said "I see ya moved up in da world Spot! Got a perfect view an' everything!" Conlon shrugged and grinned proudly.
Jack smiled at his 'modesty', spit into his hand as did Spot and shook on it. I felt David tense up beside me. Poor kid, this guy really scared him! Boots himself was nervous, but showed no fear and held out some of the rocks he'd been picking up. "Hey Boots, how's it rollin'?" Spot asked humorously. Boots smiled (as well as you can under fear I guess) and gave Conlon the stones. "I got a couple 'o' real good shooters here." Spot grunted examining them, then leaned forward, snatched them out of Boot's hand and placed one into his slingshot. He pulled it back and began talking to Jack.
"So Jackie boy, Isa been hearin' things from Harlem," he saw a bottle right overhead of David, who back up quickly with a terrified look in his eyes. "Queens. All over." He shot and hit the bottle, whose glass burst out everywhere. David was about to cry now, so I placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and whispered "Don't worry; we're on good terms with Conlon at the moment. He won't do anything to you yet."
Spot turned to Jack and looked at him. I tugged my hat (full of blonde hair up in a braid) down over my face. I didn't need anyone to know I was a girl here; much less Conlon or that I was Jack's twin sister. "They've been chirping in my ear." Spot paced over by me, and I moved so that I was directly behind him. One reason how I got my name Shadow- I can find you, but when I don't want to be found you can't find a lick of me. Even if I'm right behind you. "They say Jackie's newsboys playin' like they goin' on strike." Jack toughened up his voice a bit and replied "Yeah, well we are." David stepped in front of Jack and said over top of that "But we're not playing! We are going on strike!"
I took the same hand I had been comforting David with and pushed him back. "Whoa, easy Davey," I told him. "Don't get all worked up." Spot looked at me. I tipped my hat even further down across my face. "You got a problem?" I asked quietly, mustering up a raspy male-ish voice. Spot raised his eyebrows in surprise, but for real, not like his newsie a minute ago. "Whose dis, Jackie boy? He's gotta sort 'o' an attitude." Jack chuckled but answered. "Spot, meet Shadow. Not a newsie, but helpin' out with da strike. Owns a store on da square. Dat's where our second HQ is." I noticed Jack hadn't said he or she. It was smart- that way if Spot somehow found out who I was and confronted him about it then Jack could say that he hadn't said I was a boy.
Spot seemed satisfied with that and started to walk away, but then he whirled around and knocked my cap clean off my head, letting the braid drop and hang about my shoulders. The sudden move put me on defense, and I put my fists up as a reflex. Spot took one look at me and laughed, turning to Jack saying "Youse didn't tell me Shadow was a giorl, Jackie boy!" Jack shrugged. "Ya didn't ask, Spot. Watch youse back though- Shadow's got a way of gettin' back at those who anger her." Spot laughed again and faced me. Boot's eyes grew large and David stepped back, reason I had yet to figure out. He circled me, looking me up and down and taking in every feature. Then he placed a hand on my arm, which already pretty tense. "Aw Jack, she's just bluffin'! Youse can't down da King 'o' Brooklyn, no matter who ya are!" I stared right into his piercing blue eyes and growled "Get your hands off me Conlon. Now," real low.
But Spot just whistled. "Got fire too, Jack! Where'd ya find dis one?" Jack saw what was going on and got on the offense. "Spot, hands off Elizabeth. What she says goes, plain an' simple. Don't underestimate err, she can drop every one 'o' youse boys if she wanted to." Spot's eyes grew large and he stepped back to stare at Jack. "Elizabeth? Jack, youse brought ya own sister ta Brooklyn? What kinda idiot would do dat?"
Jack crossed his arms. "One whose sister can defend herself just fine. Watch." Without warning, Jack lunged at me. A thousand things went through my head- was it a bluff, for show? If then, why? Move! I dodged the first blow, blocked the second, and then jumped over his kick to the shin. Keeping up my defensive position, I decided that I wasn't going to fight back unless Jack managed to hit me, just weave duck dodge and repeat. It would wear him out enough to get him on the ground. I had never bothered to tell my brother my strategy for winning, but he sure needed to know it now. He couldn't keep up to speed after a minute of this, and slowly began to wear out. Then he made his mistake. Jack always had a nasty habit of favoring his right leg while kicking with his left, placing all of his weight on it. I blocked one of his round houses and kneed him in the thigh, sending my twin toppling onto the ground. I placed a foot on his chest, signaling that I had won and glaring at Spot, who had a cross between amusement and surprise on his face. I then smiled down at Jack and helped him up. He was grinning like a child who had just been awarded a free bag of penny candy. He had proved himself right, in front of Spot Conlon too.
"Isa can't see why ya didn't stay a newsie when da shop dropped into youse possession Shadow," he told me. "Youse would be good, da fighter youse are." I shook my head and patted him on the back. "I didn't think you would be happy knowing there was a girl out there who could beat you at your own game, Jack. Plus the shop brings in more money than being a newsie ever could," I added happily.
Spot rolled his eyes and stepped forwards. "Alright Jackie boy, Isa get da point, she's good. And Isa will admit she'd do pretty well in Brooklyn. But we're off topic; youse sayin' ya goin' on strike. But how do Isa know ya boys ain't gonna flee da moment a goon comes at ya with a club? How do Isa know youse got what it takes ta win?" Boots had a grim look on his face and David shifted uncomfortably after Spot said that. Even I got a bit angry at the nerve this Brooklynite had to put down my brother's borough like that. But Jack didn't even flinch, he just said "Because Isa tellin' youse Spot." The King of Brooklyn shot Jack a sort of sympathetic look as he shot another look at one of Boot's rocks in the palm of his hand. "Dat ain't good enough Jackie boy- youse gotta show me."
I thought Jack would've stayed and argued his case before Conlon about his boy's honor, loyalty, skill and devotion to the matter, or at least have told him off, but he did none of those things. He just nodded and motioned for us to leave. I scowled and followed David and Boots out, but Spot called out for us to stop. "Hey Cowboy, could ya give me an' Shadow a minute? Isa need ta talk ta err about something." Jack was hesitant, but I figured that if Spot knew I was his sister he wouldn't try anything. "Jack I'll be alright. You don't have to wait up for me; I can find my way back to Manhattan just fine." My twin looked at me with a trusting sort of glance and then shot a warning look at spot, as if to say If you do anything to her you'll have my entire borough to answer to. Then he turned tail and led the way back down the docks. I went back over to Conlon and leaned up against a light pole, acting as though I had better things to do and was board. If I knew anything about Conlon, it was that he loved attention and would do anything to get it.
"You needed something Spot?" I asked. The King looked at my expression and decided to up his game. "Why did youse come down ta Brooklyn, Shadow? Really?" he confronted. "Because I don't trust Jack to not offend anyone, especially on something as important as this," I replied truthfully. "I think that if I hadn't been here he would've stayed and argued to you on the importance of the strike. He's got a temper, my little brother does."
"So den youse would tell me everything youse know about dis little event 'o' yours?" Spot pressed. I gave him a cool gray eyed look. "Nope, quite frankly I don't trust you either. You're too full of yourself Conlon, that's what I think." Spot glared at me and hopped back on his crate, but not the top, just the lower one of that when he sat down on it he was leering down at me. I didn't as much as blink, just stare right back. "Isa didn't ask about youse opinion Kelly, just what youse know." "It's Barns," I corrected. Spot cocked his head to one side like a dog, confused. "Isa thought youse last name was Kelly, like Jack's," he stated. I shrugged and told him I'd changed it after I became a newsie. "Most of them minus Blink, Crutchy, Boots, Race, Mush, Les and David don't know I'm his sister, just assume we're good friends," I added. That seemed to satisfy Spot enough for him to move off the personal life topic and back onto the strike.
"Pulitzer jacked up da price, we all know dat," he began. "But why da whole big response ta it? It affects Brooklyn too, an' ya don't see us wantin' ta do something about it. So why is youse brother all hyped up an' strikin' like dis, huh? It ain't like he's gonna accomplish anything!" he laughed. I crossed my arms and leaned back on one foot, not very enthusiastic about what I would have to say. But the truth would come out sooner or later, and I guess it'd better be on good terms rather than bad.
"Jack an' David have an idea," I started slowly. Spot leaned in close. "What is it?" he demanded, lowering his voice. "They think that if the newsies, the most well-known child laborers in New York, make a change in the way Pulitzer runs his business then other kids will want to do the same. We go on strike, they go on strike, the world realizes we're not worthless and make the changes that help us too. It's not the trolley workers that want the upper class to see reality Spot; we do too. That's why we're really going through with this." I raised my hands in a stop motion. "And I'm done answering to you. I'll be on my way now before you start asking me what my favorite color is!" I smirked and walked down the ramp, back towards home, but Spot evidentially wasn't finished with our conversation.
"One more questions Shadow!" he yelled out at me. I turned around and glared at him. "What do da other boroughs say? About joining up for da strike, Isa mean?" I pressed my lips in a thin line and eyed him coldly, eyes like rolling clouds of sleet. "You have birds; you find out yourself." I preceded walking, but Spot still wasn't finished. "Ya forgot youse cap!" he shouted. I stopped again and barely glanced over my shoulder. "You keep it." Then I took off running and disappeared across the Bridge.
K, I'm re-doing this entire story & making it a chapter version (I think the original length is scaring people away!), so please don't be mad! I'll have the rest up soon, don't worry!
-Miss Mad Hatter