Disclaimer: Any characters you recognize in this story are the property of Disney and their likenesses are only used for fan related purposes. Any original characters featured are the intellectual property of their creators.
One By One
Using his good eye, Hayden "Kid Blink" Moore peered nervously at the island that was just beginning to blossom in front of him. He sighed in relief. Almost there. This was already his third trip out to Randall's Island that day alone—but, as the purple storm clouds rolled overhead, it was bound to be the last.
Blink didn't normally sail with Captain Snyder. The captain—a man whose strict manner of being and perverse sense of humor had long ago earned him the nickname of the Warden—was usually a loner who sailed his little craft all by himself and protected it fiercely, never allowing any of the sailors to get too close to it. Blink himself was primarily a dockworker. But when the Warden was willing to offer a pretty penny to the first sailor who would help him spend the afternoon ferrying passengers across the river to the isolated Island, well... how could he resist?
Except, now that the thunderstorm was closing in upon them, he was beginning to wish he had. Six miles was six miles and he had seen firsthand the damage that the East River could inflict on a dinghy of this size when it was angry and Blink wasn't too thrilled with taking his chances. Despite only having the use of his right eye—his left eye blinded too many years ago to remember and hidden away behind a brown felt patch—Blink could swim with the best of them. But, still, six miles...
They shouldn't even have had to make this trip. When they let that last trio of men off, the Warden had told him that they would be docking for the night—until, that is, the last passenger came stumbling down the wooden planks toward them, offering ten dollars if the Warden would ferry her to Randall's Island immediately.
In order to get her way, the woman flirted incessantly with both men though she had to be at least twice Blink's age, and the Warden fell for her act hook, line and sinker. Maybe it was the big doe eyes, maybe it was the red curls or the over-the-top stage make-up she wore or even the affected Swedish accent that came and went in between her purring, but it was the Warden's turn to say yes.
In Blink's opinion the Warden got off easy. As captain, he spent the hour and a half trip manning the rudder, steering the small boat forward and while their passenger sidled close to him for a few short yet intimate conversations, she had flagged Blink over to sit with her for most of the ride. Blink had tried to pretend that the Warden needed him but somehow he ended up spending close to an hour listening to the woman talk about her heyday as a vaudeville performer before those damn talkies meant no one was seeing her show. For the last part of the journey, right about when he first started to notice the storm clouds, he had listened with a kind smile and a sympathetic ear but he couldn't deny that it was a blessing when the Warden finally called for him.
Blink excused himself, spared another look at the bruised clouds, said a silent prayer that the storm would hold out a little longer and then hurried to the captain's side.
"You smell that?" the Warden asked him, never once taking his eyes off of the waves in front of him.
"Smell what?" Blink took in a deep breath. "You mean the storm?"
The Warden gave a quick bob of his head. "That's right, boy. Storm's coming. If we're lucky, we should just make it back in time to get to shelter before it hits." He paused and exhaled. "You worried?"
There were plenty of rumors circulating around the docks when it came to Captain Snyder. Blink couldn't bring himself to believe most of them but it seemed pretty reliable that the old sailor got a kick out of sniffing out liars and making them regret it. He wasn't taking any chances. "A little," he admitted.
"Don't be. Worryin' never paid the bills. That's what money's for... and speakin' of money," he said and his suddenly queer smile left Blink more than a little uncomfortable, "tell me, what do you think of our guest?"
Grateful to have an excuse to look away from the Warden, Blink glanced over his shoulder to where Medda had spread out the full skirt of her outrageously purple gown. She caught his good eye looking at her and blew him a kiss. He tried not to let his pale cheeks color. "I don't know. She's just another passenger. Why do you ask?"
"Because Ms. Larkson seems keen on your company. She's offered me another five dollars if we help her carry her suitcases where she's headed to onshore. Ten dollars if I wait on the boat and you go with her yourself." He paused, fiddling the rudder just a bit to account for the wind. "I said you'd do it. It's five dollars extra for ya on top of what I'm paying you."
Blink's stomach sank a little further. So much for a quick return. He knew better than to argue with Snyder, too. Something told him that, if he declined, there was a good chance he wouldn't get any money for the day's work.
Trying not to sound too defeated, he asked, "So where do I bring 'em?"
"The Big House." The Warden's tug of the rudder gave the small boat a jerk and left Blink more than a bit weak in the knees. "You ever heard of it?"
Blink nodded. He'd never actually been to Randall's Island before, there never had been a reason for him to, but he knew that the old juvenile detention center that used to dominate Randall's Island had been converted into a rather ritzy manor house. It had some fancy name but all of the sailors just referred to it as the Big House because of its history as a jail for kids.
"It's barely a mile walk from the shore. You think you could make it?"
"Yeah. No problem, Warden."
"Then make it quick, boy. Even with the wind blowing in our favor, it's still gonna be at least an hour ride back. I want to beat this storm to the shore—so if you're not back soon, I'm gonna have to leave you here. Plus I'm keeping the ten dollars myself if I have to come back for ya. And it wouldn't be tomorrow, either. Three trips today, I'm taking the day off."
Blink squinted as he glanced over at the Warden's expression, hoping to find some sign that his well-known ill-suited sense of humor was at play, but there was nothing there. The strange smile was eerily missing. He was serious. Snyder's no-nonsense frown told him as much.
He remembered that frown his entire journey off of the Refuge—because the Warden's sense of humor extended right to the name of his boat: the Refuge, a glorified paddleboat that masqueraded itself as a ferry—and onto Randall's Island. Ms. Larkson, or Medda as she insisted Blink call her, had brought enough luggage with her that it appeared at first glance that she was moving in. Though she carried one small case and her purse herself, that left Blink with at least five other larger cases to drag with him as the headed towards the Big House. One in one hand, two in the other, and then another two slung around his neck, weighing him down.
Of course, the fact that the rain started to pour down on them with a vengeance when there was still a quarter mile left to go didn't make the walk any easier. Medda sniffed and huffed, complaining that her coiffure was ruined, that her make-up was ruined, that her host should have at least been gracious enough to have an automobile waiting to drive her the rest of the way, and Blink couldn't help but agree with her. At one point he dropped the heaviest of her suitcases into a mud puddle that seemed to appear just in time for the slick rain to coat his hand and make his grip slippery and had to listen to Medda coo and comfort him that his poor, unfortunate clumsiness wasn't his fault but, well, if he could just be more careful, dear...
By the time they finally reached the Big House—"big" being an understatement for the three-floor mansion that dominated the whole of Randall's Island—Blink was ready to demand every single one of the ten dollars for this. He was cold, he was soaked to the bone and his hands felt like they were welded onto the handles of Medda's suitcases for how carefully he was carrying them now.
Desperate to get out from underneath the torrential downpour, Medda strode through the open gates and hurried right for the front door. Her once-buoyant gown was plastered to her arms and her legs, nearly tripping her up. Her vibrant red curls were stuck to her forehead, neck and cheeks, mingling with the remnants of her fancy black mascara that dripped down her cheeks like she was crying tears of motor oil.
Blink could only imagine what he looked like but, just then, he didn't care. All he wanted was to put those darn cases down and, as Medda pressed the doorbell royally once or twice before giving up, giving in and banging on the front door in a most unladylike manner, that's exactly what he did. He rubbed his cramped hands, stretching them and wondering if he could nudge the suitcases the rest of the way with the toe of his boot.
There were lights on in every room of this grand house and Blink wondered, with that many rooms, how would someone know that she was out there? But they did. The two of them only had to endure another minute in the chilled rain before the grand mahogany door swung inward revealing an elderly man in a suit who had thin white hair and bright dark eyes shining behind his thick glasses.
He got one good look at them and bowed. When he had straightened, he gestured at Medda. "Ms. Larkson?"
"Medda," she purred, her smile returning. Any of her annoyance or complaints vanished when confronted with another male. Somehow, Blink wasn't surprised.
"Yes... we've been waiting for you." The man pushed his glasses up his nose and flashed a small, tight-lipped almost grin that didn't quite meet his eyes. "I'll be your butler during your stay here. My name is Alfred Kloppman, but you can call me Kloppman. No 'mister' is needed, please. Now come on in, make yourself warm. There are towels in your room if you'd like to dry off. Second floor, your name is on the door." He turned to Blink. "Yours too," he added before reaching out a gnarled old hand, clearly intending to take the many suitcases himself.
Blink stepped back, lifting up the lightest of the cases and holding it in front of him as if it were a shield. "Oh, no... I'm not staying. I was just bringing the lady's bags in for her. In fact, I've gotta be goin'."
That surprised the butler—and Kloppman looked like a man who wasn't easily surprised in the least. He kept his hand reaching out though he didn't sound quite so certain as he asked, "Surely you're another guest?"
"Not me." Blink shook his head, splattering Kloppman with droplets of rain from his drenched blonde hair. "I ride out on the Warden's boat."
Kloppman finally drew his hand back. But, rather than let his arm fall back to his side, he reached inside of his vest and took out a piece of starched, ironed stock. Removing his glasses, he brought the card up to his nose and peered at the letters with eyes like a pair of beetles: small, dark and reflective. He clicked his tongue. "Don't tell me you're not, er, Kid Blink Moore."
Blink froze. Though he wasn't a suspicious young man by nature, even he couldn't let something like that slip by him without a question. "How do you know my name?" he demanded, spitting some of the rain drops out of his mouth with the force of his words.
The answer was right in front of him. In spite of the rain, Kloppman held the piece of paper out to Blink. His yellowed fingernail was pointing to one name in particular.
"Because," Kloppman said simply, "you're on my guest list."
End Note: Okay, now we know we have the ten members of our cast :) Some of them might not know why they're there - and neither do we - but I have a pretty good idea they'll figure it out before too long. Heh. Because, you see, now that they've arrived on Randall's Island, the fun can really begin! Oh, and I should probably note that I've taken quite a few historical licenses with the island, its location, what happened with the Refuge, all of it. This is an AU for quite a few reasons, and my tweaking of the setting for my needs is one of them, just like the fact that none of these characters have ever met before - or have they? Hmmm...
I just wanted to say thanks again for everyone taking the time to read this and even review it! It's just starting out but your kind words and interest make me feel like this was a good idea for me to undertake to get my creative juices flowing again. And, as today is April 10th, I want to wish all the Newsies fans out there a very happy anniversary! Today marks the twentieth anniversary of our beloved film being released to the theatres. Don't worry - if you hear sobbing, that's just me in the corner as I realize that 1992 was already twenty years ago!
- stress, 04.10.12