Chapter 2- The Foster Kids
1972, 13 years before
Mrs. Dapolito knocked gently upon the door of her neighbor in the rented duplex house next door. She was trying not to be nosy, but something in her intuition was forcing her to make a welfare check.
Maggie, a young single mother, was messed up and getting even more so as the weeks went on. Young men- a different one each week, it seemed- were heard screaming and cussing in Maggie's apartment, with Maggie holding her own and defending herself; screaming and cursing back. Doors slammed, objects were thrown around. The two little children would be crying, usually the little girl but on some occasions the boy.
The Sunday before, Mrs. Dapolito saw Maggie sitting alone with her little ones at Mass in the Cathedral Basilica at Jay Street in Brooklyn. They were adorable kids, as fair and blonde as their pretty Irish mother.
Maggie Conlon put up a good facade of being a conservative Catholic young lady in her flower print dresses, her blonde hair pulled back in a white band. She didn't look like one of those dirty young hippies at least, Mrs. Dapolito thought. Sean and Bridget always looked so clean, so pretty and well-taken care of.
But children could be children. About halfway through Mass, Sean became restless and started kicking the pew in front of him. At first it was small taps with his shoe, but soon he started to kick harder and harder. People stared at Maggie and her kids with judgment and annoyance. Maggie had no choice but to pack up the kids, her handbag, and the picture book Bridget was contented with, and take them home.
Mrs. Dapolito talked with Maggie- Miss Conlon- on occasion, and the unwed mother told her story. Her first boyfriend and high school sweetheart had been killed in Vietnam in '68 while she was pregnant with Sean. Her second rebound boyfriend, little Bridget's father, turned out to be a 'mean, drunken asshole.'
Unfortunately, it seemed every man she was involved with since was the same exact way. Her parents had kicked her out. They never forgave her for getting irresponsibly pregnant at seventeen.
Mrs. Dapolito was kind when she listened to the girl's tale of her bad luck with men, but she secretly thought that the petite blonde would have been so much better off had she kept her legs together in the first place. It wasn't fair for the kids, she reasoned.
When she knocked that afternoon, it just seemed too quiet for the fact Maggie's rusty car was parked in front of the street. She put her ear to the door and heard the sad sound of a child sobbing. She turned the knob and found it was unlocked. She went in.
"MOMMY! Mommy!" the child was crying. In between the words, she heard tearful, hiccuping gasps.
It was a pitiful, heaving, hyperventilating kind of cry, unlike any crying she'd ever heard. This was no tantrum, or him trying to test his will. It was pure, raw, human pain.
The apartment seemed too tiny for a family of three, but was kept neat enough. The older woman crept to the source of the sound and found herself in a bedroom.
The little blond boy was sitting on the bed on top of a heap covered by a blanket. When Mrs. Dapolito came near, she saw the head on the pillow.
Maggie Conlon was staring up at the ceiling, her blue eyes glassy and vacant.
Mrs. Dapolito stifled a scream and rushed to the little boy, touching his arm to let him know she was there.
"Wake 'er up! Wake 'er up!" he begged. How long was he alone with her, as she was dying? Dead?
"Honey, I have to call the doctor!"
The woman scooped Sean up and carried the kicking, fighting boy into another room where she could call for an ambulance. Soon the ambulance and two squad cars from the Brooklyn P.D. arrived.
Mrs. Dapolito located the other child in the apartment, the toddler girl Bridget. She was thankfully in a crib, sleeping through it all.
The judge listened to the case patiently while the social worker and public defender sat on one side of the table, the foster parents on the other. Between them sat a surly, scowling seventeen year old.
"Mr. and Mrs. Adams, Sean has been truant from school a total of thirty-six days this year. He has been found loitering and wandering about the neighborhood, often in the company of adults. One of the adult males was identified as being involved in drug possession with intent to sell," said the social worker.
The public defender spoke. "Now, of course, he hasn't yet been suspected or proven to be taking part in these activities himself. Your Honor, I ask that he be medically monitored and given drug tests. Any indication of illegal use and he could be formally arrested. You can decide now, Mr. and Mrs. Adams, to terminate placement and your guardianship. It's your decision."
Mr. Adams stress-sighed and gave his incorrigible foster son, Sean- or 'Spot,' the nickname he'd carried all throughout his placements- a disappointed look.
"I'm startin' to lean that way. I've just about had it!" he declared.
"George- we can't! Sean and Bridget have always been together," said Mrs. Adams.
"Yeah, George!" Spot Conlon piped up, unable to control himself. "If I go, Bridge gave 'er word she's gonna go where I go! She's blood, she says she won't ditch me even if you're gonna!"
"Order, please!" the judge said sternly, reaching for his gavel.
Mr. Adams looked at his wife. "That's it, Patricia! He turned a glare at the teenager.
"Sean, do not use your sister as a shield!" he spat. "If you do the crime, you'll pay! Patricia, I think it's for his own good that he gets locked up in the juvenile facility for a couple'a months. Sean, you can still stay with us, but under the condition that if ya screw up, that's where you're goin!" He jerked his thumb toward the courtroom door.
"Thank you, George, for giving him one more chance," said Mrs. Adams. "We need Bridget with us. I'm so afraid she'll lose the stability she needs if she has to follow Sean to another placement, after all these years. She's such a good girl! So quiet, never any trouble, does so well in school-"
"Will you frickin' shuddup about how perfect she is?" Spot roared. "So what if she's a dweeb losah wit' no life. I'd rather be ME 'dan her!"
"One more chance," George Adams said, stifling his anger. "If you get out and go gallivanting with those gangs, it's the facility. Think of your sister."
"Fine," Spot said, averting his eyes from his foster father.
At the Adams' home later that evening, Spot crept out of the bedroom he had been advised to stay in, determined to alleviate his crushing boredom. He decided to strong-arm Bridge into letting him use the telephone in her room.
Pop music- something from the Flashdance soundtrack, wafted from Bridge's room; her door was slightly open. He peeked in. She was finishing her aerobics routine and was on the floor doing clumsy leg exercises in her pink shorts. Spot smirked; Bridge would have to diet and work out for a year in order to look anything like Madonna or Irene Cara. He couldn't stop himself from the delight of mocking her.
"Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle-" Spot sang the song from a Jell-O commercial.
Bridge whipped her head in his direction from the floor and her soft pale legs stopped 'jiggling' as she froze. "Shut up, Spot!" she shouted angrily.
"Gotta use the phone. Scram for a couple minutes, will ya?"
"This is my room."
"The phone's George and Patty's." Spot argued back. "Just 'cause it's in here doesn't mean it's yer property."
"You just want to call your drug-dealing punk friends. No way, Jose!" She stood up and turned her boombox off.
"I wanna call Anthony."
"Anthony?" Bridge reconsidered, glancing over at the phone. "Then I'm not leavin.' I'm gonna listen in and make sure it's him you're talking to."
"Kay, sis. Forget about it." Spot strode over to a little handmade pottery bowl on Bridge's bedside table and snatched a handful of her quarters and loose change.
"Deal's a deal. You said I pay you for use of the phone in privacy. So I'm takin' back my fair share." He headed out the door. Bridge rushed to him, trying to grab his arm to get the money back.
"You wanna keep your money? Ya let me talk on the frickin' phone! Or next time I'll take a pict-cha of your sloppy fat ass when you're bent ova' doin' yer exercise. And show it to Race and Jack Kelly."
Bridge's blue eyes widened in her pinkened face. "I'll go downstairs. Just call Anthony though. Nobody else." she said quietly.
"Thanks," Spot said, giving her a proud grin as he put the coins back into her palm. "I'll tell Race you're the best girl in Brooklyn. Put in some good words for ya," he added, knowing that Bridge had an obvious crush on Anthony Higgins.
She bounded downstairs, and Spot immediately rushed back to her room and picked up the small rotary phone on Bridge's desk, dialing the number. It rang about four times before someone picked it up.
"Hello?" Spot recognized the young voice as Snipeshooter.
"Hey, is Race there?"
"Yeah," the boy replied, and within a few minutes, Race took the phone.
"Spot! Hey man, I heard about the court date. What happened?"
"Still stayin' with 'em. Sucks though. One more screw up and I'm sent to the clink."
"Hey, that's good. Why doncha take a real job or somethin? Me and the guys are all gonna do a paper delivery. You can do one, I'll even have Jack send you an application if ya can't go to the Times-"
"The hell? What kind of baby job is that?"
Race chuckled. "Some'a the other guys said the same but they wanna. A job that'll keep you outta the juvenile facility, Spot," Race added with a somber tone. "I don't wantcha goin' there. You can make money."
"Ya know how much money I made-" Spot lowered his voice to a whisper and looked out the hall to make sure no one was on the second floor of the house- "sellin' that dime bag? Two-fifty! Two hundred and fifty, fer just a ten minute walk from Brian's car to Grimace McKay's place! That's frickin' bank, man! And the more I make, the more territory I'm in charge of. I'll be rulin' the neighborhood soon. Grimace promised me heat. He's gonna buy me a Glock I can stash in the basement. Soon 'dose Green Angels are gonna be answerin ta-"
"Spot!" Race's voice was getting quavery. "You keep doin' this shit, I won't hang with ya anymore. Forget you ever met me."
"You don' mean that."
"I mean that."
"You wanna stop me, then you get ova' here tonight. Take the bus."
"I'm bored. Bridge is gonna go wit' the Adams out to dinner and I 'aint comin, I'll pretend to be sick. Come on."
"No. You come here."
"I can't. They're makin' me stay here."
"I dunno. This weekend. Not tonight."
"Come 'ere soon."
"I'll try," said Race, determined.
Race sat on his bed and snuck one of the cigars he had stashed, lighting it before opening the window. He knelt down in front of it, smoking so that it wafted out over the street below. He was trying to be responsible, stay out of trouble, just like most of his buddies in the neighborhood.
He ought to just forget Spot Conlon existed. But he just could not stop thinking of the other boy across the bridge, always hopeful for the chances to go see him and get mixed up in his chaos. He had a hold on him he just couldn't shake.
A.N.- A little backstory for Spot in this universe. And he gets a sister. Who he's very mean to, but that's how I'd imagine he'd treat a sister close to his own age. In spite of that they love each other dearly.