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First Page: unpublished manuscript M/M Historical Romance

First Page: unpublished manuscript M/M Historical Romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

“Stupid!” Lucky exclaimed, breaking the rain-soaked silence. “You’re so stupid! What did I do to wind up with such a stupid brother?”

“It was an innocent mistake, Lucky.” Frank shoved his hands in his pants pockets and scowled at the car that shot by, splattering his shoes with dirty water, even though he was pressed all the way back against the building, under the awning. “Anybody could’ve done it.”

“No.” Lucky flicked ash from his cigarette. “Falling for that hijacker trick was stupid. You knew your orders. Don’t stop for nothing when you’ve got a full truck.”

“I said I was sorry!”

“Sorry ain’t gonna be good enough for the Boss.” Frank could see now that Lucky’s hands were shaking, though it wasn’t that cold for April. “Not when somebody else is distributing the product we risked our necks to bring in. It almost would have been better if you’d gotten caught. They might have released you. Or it would have made a nice excuse to go to war. Now it just looks bad for me, your brother, who recommended you for the job.”

“You don’t seriously mean I should’ve died?”

Lucky sighed. “No. It’s my fault. I thought you understood what was putting food on your table your whole life. I thought you wouldn’t just abandon the truck when you got in a tight spot. You had backup three blocks away.”

“Thanks,” said Frank bitterly. He wanted to put a tough face on it, but he was more humiliated than he’d ever been in his life. He’d lost the organization serious money, a lot of booze, and a truck, looking like nothing more than a wet-behind-the-ears kid. He hoped the Irish boys had enjoyed a good laugh along with their booze, at the sight of a Masi Family soldier fleeing down the street before they’d so much as fired a shot.

The door to the apartment building opened behind them.

“Come on up,” said the sentry. He didn’t look directly at either of the two brothers.

“Okay.” Lucky pitched his cigarette into the street and slapped Frank on the back. “Let’s go, kid. Best thing to do now is own up to it and maybe you won’t find yourself waking up at the bottom of Lake Michigan tomorrow morning.”

The sentry led the way up the carpeted stairs. It was an old building, still lit by gas, and the effect made shadows dance in the stairwell as the three men made their way up. Frank had never met anyone higher ranking in the organization than Lucky, who was a Capo, only a couple steps ahead of him and the leader of their crew of soldiers. Even Lucky only reported directly to the Underboss, not the big man.

The closer they got to the top, the more he felt the urge to run again. Then, he thought of how he must have looked on Friday, tearing down the street so fast his hat flew off.

No, he’d face this, like the man he was supposed to be.

When they reached the top, Lucky knocked twice on the door. “Luca Denino.”

“Come in,” growled a voice.

Lucky opened the door, taking off his hat. Frank quickly copied him, schooling his expression into one of remorse. Maybe he ought to think of it like church.

The apartment’s front room was dark and smoke-filled. Frank recognized three of the men at the table as friends of Lucky, other Capos. Then, there was the Underboss and the Consigliere, both of whom Frank had seen briefly, visiting various hangouts of their gang. The man in the middle was the Boss, Rocco Masi. Frank had never met him, but he’d seen his photo in the papers and remembered bragging as a kid about the notorious bootlegger his brother worked for (which had earned him a rare thrashing).

Then, Frank noticed the man standing behind the Boss, the youngest of the group; he could have been Frank’s own twenty-one. His bearing was different than that of the big tough guys who made up the rest of the table. It wasn’t just his build, or the piercing gray eyes that were presently assessing Frank. There was something unusual about him that Frank couldn’t quite articulate.

He didn’t drag his gaze away until Masi himself spoke.

First Page: Unpublished Manuscript Historical

First Page: Unpublished Manuscript Historical

Welcome to First Page Sunday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

With the tip of her boot, the young woman scraped together a toe-high pile of snow and nudged it over a puddle of congealed blood. Half a dozen men and women in muddy aprons stood around the flagstoned area in front of a tall, narrow brick building, among them a youngster who was stirring the contents of a cauldron with a paddle-like spoon. Heated by a smoky wood fire, the mash inside the copper was steaming horizontally, as if the icy nor’westerly was the breath of a giant cooling his morning porridge. Through the open door, in the half-light, the bulky silhouette of a body dangling from chains fastened to the roof.
‘That looks like a job well done, Master Hallet,’ she said. ‘He was the last one to go before Christmas, wasn’t he?’
‘He was, m’lady. Now there’s only the roasting geese to do. We’ll leave them till next week, though.’ It was the oldest man who had answered, cap between red, calloused fingers. The young woman’s eyes flitted from the butcher’s massive shoulders to the ox’s corpse in the slaughterhouse.
‘Very well,’ she nodded, hugging herself in her double-breasted great coat. ‘Can you manage a dozen on Monday and another on Tuesday? One to go to each needy family on the estate, and the rest for the manor house. And I’ve brought you this, to cheer you at the plucking.’ She turned and produced two stoneware bottles from holsters strapped to her horse’s saddle. ‘Mrs Galbraith’s mirabelle brandy. But Jemmy, for the love of God, don’t tell her I took them. Not until you bring her the dead birds.’
‘Thank ‘ee kindly, m’lady, from all of us, I’m sure.’ The butcher returned her conspiratorial grin and took the bottles; the small group’s appreciation manifested itself as low murmur and a large cloud of breath. ‘Now, as for this one: will Mrs Galbraith be wanting the head and pluck, or Rafe Galbraith the horns and hide?’
He stepped aside and revealed the pale head of an ox, skinned and tongueless, stuck on a pike in the wall of the house. The remains of his windpipe and gullet were dangling below his chin, like the cambric bands of a priest’s collar.
She stared at it. Many people were finding it difficult, this autumn, to slaughter their animals with the same matter-of-factness as in previous years.
‘Dear Lord, Jemmy. He looks like a clergyman murdered in a Paris prison.’
‘Aye, we was jus’ sayin’ that,’ the butcher nodded, quelling two giggling lads with a stern glance. ‘Poor devils. But what do you expect from papists and Frenchies? Anyways, we was quick with him, merciful quick, which is more than –’
‘Father! Father! There’s a – oh, beg pardon, my lady!’ A boy of some eleven or twelve years came hurtling down the path that led up to Brading Downs. His cheeks were flushed, the air around his head a cloud of excitement. He doffed his cap and ducked his head towards the great-coated figure.
‘A coach coming down the Upper Road, m’lady,’ he now addressed himself to her. ‘Seb Adams spoke to Mr Johnson, ‘oo spoke to the skipper ‘oo brought the gen’leman over, and ‘ee says it’s ‘is lordship!’
She had been watching the boy with good-humoured expectation, but at this last, triumphant conjecture, the smile froze on her face.
‘Lord Arlington?’
Jemmy Hallett stopped kneading his cap. Frank Hallett stopped stirring the blood pudding. The only movement seemed to be the boy’s heaving chest and the swirls of breath moving in the air.
‘Where was the coach when you saw it, Georgie?’
‘Going past the Grove, m’ lady. And going fast, so –’
‘Give me a hand, Jemmy, please.’
The butcher sprang into action and linked his fingers while she was already reaching for the reins and pommel. She was up in one swift leap, leaving a spray of earth and snow and frozen blood behind her as she dug her heels into her horse’s sides.