"Heya, Spot," Race greeted as he passed by.
Spot scowled. That kid was still hanging around. Spot hated to admit it, but this deal wasn't working out the way he had planned. In his mind, the Italian boy would make a hasty promise and change his mind a few weeks later. Then Spot would have the upper hand. But they had made their deal months ago, and Race was still faithfully coming to Brooklyn whenever he pleased, bringing a piece of information with him each time.
Not that the information's any good, Spot thought bitterly. Shockingly, a ten-year-old kid didn't know much about the inner workings of 'Hattan. Spot kicked at a loose stone in his path, glaring at Race's retreating back. This plan was supposta help me prove myself ta Knockout. Good thing I didn't tell him nothin' 'bout it, otha'wise I'se'd be the laughin'stock a' Brooklyn. Then I'd nevah be the leadah.
He got to his feet with a scowl, starting off after Racetrack. It was about time he found out what the kid was up to... once and for all.
Race made his way down to the Italian district. Ducking down a narrow side alley between two tenement buildings, he scaled the fire escape and crawled over to a window on the fourth floor. He had just cracked the window open a few inches when he noticed something inside that made him freeze.
A pair of dirty, worn-out work boots had been kicked unceremoniously into a corner near the door. No, no, no. Why are Papa's boots on the floor? He shouldn't be here, the factories don't let out 'til seven! Race's dark eyes darted around the apartment, taking in details he hadn't noticed before. The faded cap resting on the table, the dark blue coat hanging by the door, the way no one sat in the living room talking like they normally would in the evenings. It's Sunday, ya idiot. The factory men don't work on Sundays.
He started to lower himself back through the iron grate, but the sound of breaking glass through the still-open window made him flinch. Crouched in the shadows below the window sill, he saw a girl in a white nightgown run from the kitchen into the sitting room, a smaller girl clinging tight to her hand. Josie and Bella, Race thought. Josie lifted the edge of the bedspread and coaxed Bella under before diving under herself.
"Tony!" a woman's voice screamed. Begged, more like it. Race felt his stomach so a familiar twist as Anthony Higgins senior staggered into the room. Marie followed him, grabbing his arm before he could make it to the bed. The man raised his hand to hit her, and Racetrack squeezed his eyes shut.
A hand on his shoulder startled him, and he let out a yelp. "Shut up!" a voice hissed. "Ya want your old man ta hear us?"
Race forced his eyes to open, to focus. "Spot?"
"Yeah, it's me," Spot said, in that same harsh whisper. "Ya plannin' on stayin' up here all night, or can we get goin'?"
"How'd ya know where I was at?" Race demanded, allowing the other boy to pull him to his feet.
Spot gave one of his rare grins, his teeth flashing white in the near-darkness. "Brooklyn magic," he said.
In truth, he had been following Race from the moment he set foot in Brooklyn. He had seen him enter the Italian district and rightly guessed the 'Hattan kid was visiting his family. He had seen the two terrified girls in the tenement, one older than Race and one younger, but all three with the same dark hair and eyes. They looked too alike not to be siblings. He had suspected something from the start, but when the girls hid under the bed and Race crouched down under the window he was sure. He had seen it all before. The terrified kids, the protective mother, the drunk and angry father. He had seen it all before.
Within minutes, his battle-ready brain had concocted a plan. Get Race out of there, take him out for a few hours to get his mind off of things, and yes, make friends with the 'Hattan kid.
Race glanced around at the seedy-looking bar Spot had brought him to. "The owner knows us Brooklyn kids," Spot said by way of explanation. "He's willin' ta look the othah way when kids sneak in. The way he sees things, money is money no mattah where it comes from."
Race nodded, dropping into the seat across from Spot. "So whatcha wanna do?" he asked.
Spot leaned back in his chair, studying him for a minute. The kid was still a little jumpy, and his dark eyes were wide and alert.
I know what he's thinkin' right about now, Spot thought. He's beatin' hisself up ovah leavin' his ma and sistahs behind. I'se gotta find some way to distract 'im, or he'll be dwellin' on this for days.
Spot distinctly remembered a day from a few years ago, when Knockout had come home to find him in a fury. He couldn't have been more than seven years old, but he was threatening anyone who looked at him funny, fists and feet flying, and the Brooklyn leader was having none of it. He had locked Spot out of the Lodge House with a slingshot and a bag of cans and bottles and let him shoot things until he calmed down.
It took half an hour for Knockout to coax the truth out of him. He had run into his father on the street that day. He was upset, he was angry, he was terrified his father would find him again, and Knockout had provided a distraction, something to occupy his mind.
And now he would do the same for Race. "Ya ever play poker?" he asked, reaching for the deck of cards he always had in his pocket. Race shook his head. Spot grinned. "How's about I teach ya?"
(A/N): Hey guys! Sorry this chapter took so long! I hope it was worth it. :) Special thanks to Booklover115 and my guest reviewer for reviewing, to SomedayonBroadway for letting me bounce ideas off her and being all-around amazing and reviewing everything I write, and to WordyAF for reviewing this story and writing tons of awesome ones of her own! I've been a fan of hers for awhile now, and it made my day when I found out she had reviewed this story!
If you guys have any requests for future chapters please let me know! There are a few chapters to go before the strike, and I would love some ideas. If you read this story and liked it please drop me a review! Love ya!