Connor Sullivan, his wife, and their two children were people of status, people of privilege. But not even Connor's money, hard earned in the hotel business, couldn't save his first wife from dying during childbirth. Heartbroken, Connor turned to a local Irish immigrant to take care of his infant son.
Imagine Connor's surprise when he began to slip out of depression and into love with Nora, his son's nurse. They were married within months, and Nora was pregnant with Connor's second child shortly after. They lived happily, in a plush apartment overlooking Central Park. Though Connor always expected his picture perfect life to come crashing down around his shoulders, Nora's sparkling eyes and smile reassured him that life was good. Content, he spent less and less time at the office and more time with his wife and children, listening to the laughter that seemed to fill the halls at every moment.
But disaster loomed around the corner. Nora fell ill one day, and fearing it was scarlet fever, this children were sent to live with Connor's sister as a precaution. The laughter that once rang out in the halls was replaced with Nora's hacking coughs and incoherent mumblings.
Jack awoke in the dark bunkroom, thinking about his father. The name Connor Sullivan was the biggest name in news lately. Rolling over, he saw his sister in the next bunk, sleeping peacefully in Mush's arms. Jack was one of the few people who knew about Tricks's nightmares, and what they really meant. Since Tricks was ten or so, she'd been dreaming of hiding behind a grate, with shiny, hardwood floors stretched out before her eyes. Even Mush didn't know those floorboards lined Tricks and Jack's previous home. Jack wasn't even sure Tricks knew why she dreamed of grates and floorboards.
Summer rolled into fall quickly, bringing cooler weather, shorter days, and a sense of calmness. Neither Tricks nor Jack managed to get themselves into any trouble since Tricks's last run in with the Delanceys, but Jack was still restless. The change in the air made him dream of Santa Fe once again. A new life, one far away from the Connor Sullivans of the world. But each time Jack's mind wandered to Santa Fe, it also wandered to Sara. Sara who, though she loved him, would never dream of packing up and moving thousands of miles from her family.
His sister, on the other hand, would follow Jack in a heartbeat. She would probably pack Jack's bags for him. Besides Jack, the only real tie Tricks Kelly had to New York City was Mush. And, knowing Mush would follow her to the moon and back, Tricks wouldn't hesitate to pack up and leave.
Jack sighed and rolled back over. It wasn't even dawn yet; with luck he could squeeze in a few more hours of sleep before Klopman barged into the bunkroom and roused the boys from their sleep. Perhaps those hours of sleep would be free of the plague that was Connor Sullivan.
Jack knew the headlines wouldn't be.
Connor Sullivan had money, and he spent it on the best doctors he could find, in hopes they could restore his wife's health. As Nora got sicker and sicker, Connor frequently retreated to his office to escape the constant parade of doctors and nurses coming and going from his home. Even when Nora finally started to improve, Connor continued to immerse himself in his work.
The doctors finally deemed it safe for the children to return, but life in the big apartment overlooking the Park was never quite the same. A hushed silence settled over the house as the children observed the constant stream of doctors and nurses coming and going, day after day. Though she was better, the fever had left Nora Sullivan weakened and a shadow of her former self. Nora valiantly rose from bed each day, intent on spending time with her son and daughter-playing a game, reading a book, dressing up a doll-only to weaken a return to bed a few hours later.
Then came the day when the children couldn't rouse Nora from bed. Connor's daughter's screams and pleading echoed through the house, causing several members of the staff to come running to Nora's bedside. One of the butlers was dispatched immediately to Connor's office, another to the doctor's.
Connor arrived home to find his children in the sitting room. His five-year old daughter was inconsolable, though her brother tried valiantly to comfort her by placing an arm around the girl's shoulders. Connor rushed to his wife's bedside to find her slipping in and out of consciousness as she took shallow, ragged breaths. The doctor, standing silently in the corner, was not prepared for Connor's rage.
"You said she was better!" he shouted, grabbing the doctor by the throat and lifting him to the wall. "Cured! I'll kill you! I'll kill you, you murderer!"
The helpless doctor sputtered out an incoherent answer, his feet flailing wildly as they searched for solid ground. Overcome with emotion, Connor finally released the man, and fell to the floor in tears. Finally lifting himself up, he crawled to his wife's bed and laid down beside her, holding her frail body as his tears fell into her hair.
Two days later, Nora Sullivan was dead.
"Sit still, will ya?" Tricks said irritably, her tongue clenched in between her teeth as she balanced a pair of scissors a half inch from Mush's hair. "Ya keep fidgetin' and ya gonna end up without an ear."
"I'm tryin'!" Mush complained, straightening his back against the chair in an effort to sit still. "If it weren't so damn hot in here-"
"Keep complainin' and I just won't cut the second side," Tricks replied, rolling her eyes. "Gotta lotta other stuff I could be doin'."
"Like what?" Mush asked pointedly. "Not like you been runnin' around helpin' Denton lately." Though it was tempting fate with such sharp scissors so close to his head, Mush spit out what had been bugging him for the past two weeks. Since Mush's recovery, Tricks had been dodging Denton at every turn, opting to sell papers instead of going to work at The Sun.
"Told Denton I'm out," Tricks said shortly, snipping at Mush's unruly hair. "I'm not doin' the interviews anymore."
Mush ripped his head away from Tricks and turned around. "Ya gotta keep doin' them!" he insisted.
"Why? All they do is cause trouble," she said calmly, turning Mush back around forcefully and finishing up her work.
Mush stayed still until her heard the blades snap together, then turned slightly. "Those idiots are in jail," he said seriously, "Ya were doin' somethin' good, something worth it."
"Gave Denton enough contacts," Tricks said, tapping Mush's shoulder so he would get out of the chair, "He can keep goin'."
Mush switched spots with Tricks and took the scissors from her hands, "Wish I could do somethin' like youse doin'. Ya don't get it, Tricks."
"Then tell your story," Tricks said simply, shrugging her shoulders and turning around. She was one of the few people who knew how Mush ended up a Newsie.
"Why not? It's a good story, Mush," Tricks insisted. "Good as most of the others we got printed."
Mush considered the idea for a moment. "I'd think 'bout it," he said finally, "but only if ya the one doin' the interview."
Tricks narrowed her eyes at Mush, realizing that the situation was hopeless, "Just cut my hair."
"What am I doin' again?"
"Cut here," Tricks said, wedging about an inch of her hair between two fingers. "Straight across the whole thing, just like that."
Mush nervously replaced Tricks's fingers with his own and started to cut, slowly letting the scissors slice through his girlfriend's hair. Her straight scarlet hair fell to the floor, landing neatly on top of the mess of brown curls from his own head. "Shouldn't ya have one of ya goilfriends doin' this?"
Tricks turned and gave Mush a small smile. "Don't have many of those," she said sadly, "You're all I got."
It took a year after his wife's death for Connor Sullivan to fully fall into the madness that would end with a murder. As he sank deeper and deeper into his depression, it became apparent to his household staff that they would need to make sure the children's needs were fully attended to. Both were in school and were escorted to and from classes each day by the butler, Thomas.
Connor sank into a depression, retreating to his personal office each morning with a bottle of rum in hand, emerging only to eat once a day. He barely acknowledged his children, and when he did, it was often in confusion, thinking they were home when they were not.
Furious at Mr. Sullivan's refusal to take any interest in his own flesh and blood, Clara, who tended to his children, lashed out.
"Ya have no business ignorin' those children, Mr. Sullivan!" she yelled one day, watching Connor's stoic face as his daughter tried to tell him about her day at school. "Youse all they have left in this world, and ya treat 'em like they don't matter at all."
Incised and feeling ridiculed, Connor Sullivan dismissed his entire staff, leaving just him and his two children to wander aimlessly around the apartment. The children stopped attending school, and Connor's business partner seized control of his assets, locking them up in a trust and allowing Connor Sullivan just enough to maintain a decent lifestyle. Most of that money was spent on liquor at the new club, Irving Hall. With no help left, Connor took his children along with him to the show each night, depositing them near the door and telling them not to move.
Bored and tired of being cooped up in an apartment with a crazy man, Francis Sullivan took to the streets. He learned where his father hid the money; each day he would steal enough from his father's stash to procure food for himself and his sister. While roaming around New York, he slowly befriended a group of boys hawking newspapers on the corners each morning.
August was drawing to a close with wet, muggy weather that sent the newboys of New York scurrying for shelter as soon as they'd sold their last pape. The streets were empty, with the majority of the city's residents preferring to languish indoors and wait out the storms. Not even the warm, cozy atmosphere of Irving Hall could entice them; Tricks was sent home early as not a single person had shown up for that evening's performance.
Though she was just as disturbed by the headlines as Jack was, Tricks tried her best to ignore the stories and not let them interfere with her life. The trial was due to start the next day, but could take weeks. Since there was no actual confession from the man accused of the murder, just an allegation from a mob informant looking for a lesser sentence on a smaller crime, there was a chance that Connor Sullivan would remain firmly ensconced in jail.
Determined to not let tomorrow's event disrupt her now-free evening, Tricks sauntered into the basement with a large grin on her face, calling dibs on the next one-on-one round of pool. Soon she was facing off against Skittery, as Mush and Race played cards at a nearby table.
Tricks's rambunctious laughter filled the room as Skittery tried in vain to catch up to her on the pool table. When he couldn't sink his own shots, he resorted to shooting at Tricks's billiards to make her shots harder. Tricks winked as she stretched across the table, placing one toe on the ground and sinking a particularly tricky shot to end the game.
"Doesn't count!" Skittery insisted angrily, folding his arms. "Foot was off the ground."
"Was too on the ground," Tricks insisted, throwing down her pool cue on the table.
"No way. Ya what? Five foot nothin'? I can't make that shot and I'm a foot taller than ya."
"Maybe ya should borrow Spec's glasses, 'cause ya obviously are goin' blind in your old age," Tricks shot back, taunting Skittery.
"Why I outta-" Skittery threatened.
Tricks, realizing she was at a distinct height disadvantage, jumped up on the pool table. Her hand on her hips, she towered over Skittery's lanky form as she yelled back.
"Don't know how ya handle that one, kid," Race said with a shake of his head as he folded his hand and tossed his cards into the pile.
Mush shrugged, "Ya ever take out a pretty goil, but all she does is talk and bore ya ta death?"
Mush grinned, "Tricks is nevah borin'."