"You, da leadah o' Queens?" The handsome boy before me, known as Jack Kelly, laughed. "Prove it."

I responded accordingly. I landed a right hook, rapidly followed by a jab to his gut, a quick feint, and ended with me gripping him in my special hold: my right arm looped through his two, held in the back, and my knife at his throat. None of this was intended to hurt him, for despite his misgivings about girl leaders, I liked him.

Jack stood, stunned, for about three seconds. Then I felt, rather than saw, a wide grin grow over his face.

Then he asked a question which startled me considerably. "How old are you?"

"What!" Surprised, my grip loosened slightly.

He threw himself backwards, causing me to nearly fall over backwards. I recovered, however, and had him on the ground, his arm pinioned across his back.

"How old are you?" He repeated the question as though the answer would settle something.

"Fifteen," an unexpected voice said, lazy yet sharp at the same time. "Very good, little sister."

I glanced up and grinned. "Thanks, Spot," I answered the cocky boy, "but next time, don't call me things I ain't."

"What? Oh- you mean you ain't very good." That cocksure voice drawled.

"Yeah right. I ain't much smaller than you, and I ain't your little sister anyway."

Another voice came across to me at this interval, sharp and sarcastic. "Well, now, da new leadah o' Queens!" It was Brick, as cutting and sarcastic as ever. "Well, this Torch is going to burn herself out to the ground."

"Yeah, Brick." Said a voice coming from beneath me, quietly menacing. I was startled. I allowed Jack to stand, and he faced Brick, daring him to challenge my authority and his choice. "She is the leader of Queens."

I stood in shocked appreciation. The support of Manhattan was huge; and the very fact that Kelly had voiced his agreement to help thus was enormous to me.

Brick stood, stunned. "A girl leader?"

I blinked. "Why not?" I exclaimed suddenly.

Brick wheeled and gave me a sharp look. Before he could ask anything, I continued, "Why not a girl leader? What's the matter with girls?" I turned my sparkling gaze upon Spot. "Why not a girl leader?" I said, almost tauntingly.

"Why not, indeed," he remarked, quirking an eyebrow. Then he turned to Brick, his face hardening again. "You won't object, certainly," he said smoothly.

Brick glowered and said nothing.

Spot tapped his cane and smiled unpleasantly.

Jack stood with his arms crossed, silently challenging Brick.

I stood and looked on with an amused expression (which I have found is most effective for making people annoyed).

Finally, Brick muttered, "Yeah. No hard feelings."

But he was glaring quite violently.

At me.


Brick didn't dare challenge my authority openly, because that would mean open war with both Brooklyn and Manhattan- and Queens, too, now. Because (and I can say this without boasting) I was becoming quite a popular figure. I tried to care about everyone, to be fair, and to make sure all sides of a matter were heard before making judgements. Of course, I wasn't perfect, and had once had a run-in with a certain boy who made me judge very quickly that he was a very strange sort of boy, and rather weak...

~Flashback~

"So, Jacobs." I fingered my trademark object- a weapon I myself had invented called a Gypsy's finger*- and lounged against the wall of some tailor's shop or other. "What are you complaining about again?"

David looked irritated. "Queens. Your territory. Your people won't leave me and my siblings alone."

I shook my head. "Descriptions."

David looked startled. "You don't believe me?"

I gave him a sharp look. "I don't know if you actually know anything about me, but if you did, you would know that I am not going to make me decisions without hearing about the facts. The way things look, it could be totally out of me control."

"Oh." David thought. "Well- it's different people all the time, you know, and-"

"David." I stood. The usage of his first name made him give me a slightly surprised look. "I may be the leader of Queens, but that don't mean I can control everything that goes on within my borders."

David's shoulders seemed to take a downward decline, but he took on courage and said, "But- you're the most respected and famous leader in all of New York- and probably everywhere else!"

I smiled, but rather curtly; I was not interested in flattery, nor in being polite. "Flattery won't get you nowhere." I said shortly.

Consternation covered his face.

"But I will." I was tired. "Go back home. I'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again."

"Thanks." David did.

After he was gone, I assigned one of my strongest birds, named Turn'Er (as in "turn her"- he had made his name by turning people around before hitting them) to shadow David and his family.

I didn't know why I did it; perhaps because of the methods David used to try to get me to help him. They were certainly unusual for the streets in Queens. Here, people would just come up to you and say, "I've got this problem, fix it or else" or would just take care of it themselves.

~End of Flashback~

A Normal Day at the Queen's Newsies Lodging House:

We lined up to get our daily hunk of bread from Ham, the owner of our lodging house.

His actual name was Hamilton, but we, after the course of a few months, had lovingly given him his fitting nickname.

Quiz, one of the newsies who was of a rather enquiring nature, said in greeting, "Hiya, Ham! How's the other pigs?"

"I ain't seen no pigs till just now. Look at yourself, and maybe you can tell me how the other pigs are!" Was the biting retort.

Quiz blushed bright red with embaressment, and, grabbing his hunk of bread, rushed out. Everyone else laughed good-naturedly, but Sweetheart, feeling sorry for him, rushed out after him.

I stepped up next.

"Hiya, Hambone! How's the tricks?"

"They been better! Hey, when's you boys gonna pay?"

"For what?"- With an expression befitting an angel.

"You know! Don't play innocent with me!"

"All right, all right!"

I dug around in my pocket for a moment or two; then pulled out... a live snake!

I grabbed my hunk of bread, put the snake in his outstretched hand, and fled laughing.

At the door I met Jack Kelly.

Although we were on the best of terms, I made short of my greeting. "Whatcha want?" I could tell he had something on his mind.

He made short of his business. "I just came to warn you about something. There's trouble brewing in the air. The prices for the papes is going up, the people bringing the papes in are cheating us- it looks an awful lot like a strike just waiting to happen."

"Does Spot know?"

"Spot ain't stupid. I'm sure he's sensed somethin' goin' on."

"I'll be ready. Thanks."

I spat on my palm and held it out genially.

Jack stared at it.

"'Smatter?" I asked, confused; this was traditional.

"I don't spitshake with girls." His reply sent me into gales of laughter. I wiped my hand off on my trousers and held it out again. I could barely see straight, I was laughing so hard. He shook it, and I went off to work.