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Authors: P. J. Brown

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Placing Out

BOOK: Placing Out
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Amber Quill Press, LLC

 Placing Out

An Amber Quill Press Book


This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or have been used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.


Amber Quill Press, LLC
All rights reserved.
No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.


Copyright © 2011 by P. A. Brown
ISBN 978-1-61124-093-1
Cover Art © 2011 Trace Edward Zaber
Published in the United States of America
Also by P. A. Brown
The Bear
Fall Into The Night
Lynx Woods
Memory Of Darkness
Dedicated to Carol Zampa, who read a raw first draft and gently steered me to fix what was wrong.




The New York Times
Thursday, May 15, 1919




Two children named Daniels, aged respectively two and eight years, last night sought shelter in the 6th precinct station house and told the sergeant in charge that their father turned them into the street, and told them to help themselves. The children will be sent to the Almshouse.

* * * *

Five Points, New York, 1919


I always remember the train. A black dragon, it smoked and roared, throwing up sparks that burned my face and left spots on my brand new shirt. The one the lady from the Five Points Mission got us so we'd be ready for our placing out. She told Da we had to look good for our new family. Every time I hear a train whistle now, I think back on that day. And all the days that followed on my trip west and the new life I had there.

Don't remember Ma and Da much. Ma wasn't there at all in the end, and Da was gone most of the time working, out looking for work or in jail when he got pinched working for the Five Pointers or the Gophers. I barely remember Ma at all. She died in that big fire at her job in the garment factory when the owners locked all the doors and no one could get out. Da was never the same after. Only a year later, the fever took Flora and Mary, our little sisters. They were both sweet girls. That only left me and Sean, who was only two. Moira, the oldest, was always a bitch. Even Ma said so, calling her a witch and born slattern.

Didn't matter. After Ma died, Da said it was up to Moira to take care of us. She got out of that when she run off with Jimmy Paglia, that no good Eye-tal-yan Wop. She married him. Da nearly had a fit when she did that. But it was worse when she told us she wasn't gonna mind me no more. She called me a no good street rat who should have been drowned at birth. I slugged her and ran away. No one caught me. No one ever could when I didn't wanna be caught. They call me Jack because I was as fast as a jackrabbit.

I ran with Ding Dong for a while, helping him and other Dusters with their hustles. Until the coppers got me cornered behind Old Bailey's saloon. I'd run off with a bottle of gin. Stuff tastes like piss, but I can sell it for two bits, and ain't that sweet. Except this time the coppers caught me and tossed me in the hoosegow. I figure Da would come around and get me out. He did, then he turns around and put us out, sayin' we were too much trouble.

Sean was the one took us to that police station. They sent us away, too. I was still expecting Da to come get us, instead this wrinkled old dame showed up carrying a Bible. Tells me she's from something called the Five Points House of Industry. Her skirts were all black and crinkly and rustled whenever she moved. I don't remember Ma wearing anything so fancy. This lady said her name was Rose Marie and she was a woman of God, doing God's work. When I ask her what that is, she say it's saving lost and fallen souls like me.

"I ain't lost," I told her. "And I ain't fallen nowhere. I'm standing right here."

"You are indeed, young man. You're a poor orphan boy who has taken to the dirty streets to survive. You have fallen into that vast and stinking den of iniquity. Arrested stealing a bottle of the devil's drink."

"Ain't no orphan neither."

"Your ma died. You live in squalor among the most base humans. You're father can't take care of you. He told me as much." She patted the folds of her big dress and touched my head. I jerked away from her, wanting to tell her not to touch me. Instead I batted her hand away when she tried to touch me again. "We're going to take care of you, Dylan Daniels. You and your brother. We're going to take you to a place where you can learn to be a man."

"A man?" I snorted. "I'm ten years old. I ain't no man."

"Nonetheless." She was all stuffy and stiff. I didn't like her. She didn't care. "You are going to be placed out."

"I don't know what you're talking about, lady. I ain't going nowhere."

She looked around the filthy cell they had put me in. It smelled like piss and shit. There was a sparkle in her brown eyes when she looked back at me. "No, young man, you aren't. For now."

I still didn't know what she was talking about it. I didn't know until Da came with a bag I recognized as belonging to Ma, all tied up with twine. He also handed me a silver dollar.

"You be a good, boy. Make your mother proud."

I stared down at the bag and the dollar glittering in the palm of my hand. I'd never had that much money in all my life. I still didn't get it.

"They haven't told me where you're going to, but Missus Matthews says they're all good homes. You're getting a real chance if you behave and mind your betters."

It hit me like I got kicked by one of Tony Gambol's big bay Clydesdales. Da was sending both of us away. "I won't go," I said, folding my arms over my chest. "You can't fuckin' make me."

He slapped me across the face. I didn't see it coming and fell back, landing on my ass on the dirty, rough floor. I threw myself to my feet but he backed away, going to the jail cell door.

"I don't like doin' that, Jack-boy, but you ain't got no choice in this. I can't be your ma and pa both. With your ma gone, I gotta do what's good for both of you."

I argued and yelled but no one listened. Da left and I was alone. I stayed alone until the Five Points lady came for me and took me and my bag and silver dollar, now carefully hidden in my shoe, to the train station. Sean was there with Da. He clung to Da 'til he shoved Sean at me. Then he hung on to me so tight my hand fell asleep. He was already wailing when I dragged him into the belching monster. It shuddered and grunted as it pulled away from the station. I looked at the platform through a grimy, soot-covered window, but Da was already gone.

I got so I could sleep in the dragon's belly. I met other kids like me. Over a hundred of us. Some were real orphans, some were like me, picked up by the cops, others volunteered to be placed out. They fed us mustard sandwiches and sometimes jam. In Omaha they divided our four cars up into cities. Our car was going to Nebraska. Someplace near North Platte. The resident agent, William T. Elder, took us out in a horse drawn wagon to introduce us to our new family, the Chatterfields. As we drove away from the still belching train, I watched until we turned a corner and headed on a dusty road out of town and I couldn't see the train no more. Then I turned in my seat and stared straight ahead, knowing I ain't never gonna see Da or Moira agin. Sean kept at me about when Da comin' to get us 'til I slapped him.

Folks asked me later if I cried. 'Course not. I don't cry. What do they think I am? A baby? Sean was the baby, not me.

* * * *

Los Angeles, February 1, 1933


The shot slammed through the door seconds after Sergeant Cody Temple kicked it open.

Ben Carter caught him under the arms as he folded. Dead weight pulled Ben off his feet, out of the path of the second shotgun blast. The shot peppered the barrels on the wagon behind him. Cody grunted when Ben fell on top of him.

Ben rolled to a crouch, dumping the shotgun in favor of his .45. It might not have the stopping power of the Remington, but he was a hell of a lot more accurate with it.

He had the Experts Pistol trophy from last year to prove it and nearly every month took away the bonus for excellence. But Ben already knew from his five years on the job that didn't mean squat out here on the street. He took aim where he'd seen the flash of the second shot and fired three times in rapid succession, then paused, listening. Silence.

Cody groaned and Ben knelt on one knee, eyes darting between his sergeant and the door Red Jeb McIntosh was taking pot shots through. Cody groaned again. He tried to sit up.

"Stay down," Ben hissed, pushing him back onto the rotting loading dock behind Red Jeb's bootleg warehouse. The lighting was bad. A single, grimy sulfur light was covered with dead bugs and caked-on oily dust kicked up by the delivery trucks that came and went from this place all hours of the night.

Captain Roarke had sent Cody to check the place out three hours ago. Now it was going on midnight. Roarke also told the man to take backup.

Ben was that backup.

"Cody, you're an idiot." Ben wanted to shake the guy, but the blood seeping out of Cody's shoulder meant he couldn't do that. Instead he held the squirming man down on the filthy loading dock and growled, "You should have brought Grogan and the guys for this."

"Fuck you," Cody muttered. "This is my collar."

"It's gonna be your funeral."

Cody grabbed his arm. "He's mine."


Ben shook his head, but he scooped up the discarded shotgun, checked the load on it and his .45. He patted Cody's shoulder and, still in a crouch, crab-crawled closer to the half-open door. The wooden dock creaked under his boots. He froze. Listened for movement inside. But Red Jeb, if he was still in there, wasn't moving. Had he been hit? Fled the scene?

Only one way to find out. He crept closer. Somewhere on Spring Street the Red Car clattered by. A Model-A aooaghed, the sound fading as the vehicle moved away. But no sounds from inside. He was back on his papa's farm in Iowa. Hunting deer in the early hours. Listen and wait. Listen. Move softly. Ben had been one of the best hunters in the Carter clan. He brought in more game every fall and winter than anybody else. From turkey to a fat whitetail buck. If it crossed Ben's path, he'd bring it down.

Now he was hunting a man. Smarter than even the tricky coyotes Ben hunted that killed their chickens. Ben knew he had to be smarter or he'd end up on a slab at the morgue. He'd seen Doc Horner use his knife in an autopsy. He didn't ever want to be on the receiving end of his services.

He inched forward, his breathing shallow to avoid the dust coming off the boards under his boots. He didn't want to break cover with a sneeze. A soft whisper to his right made him inch around. Was that breathing? It got louder as Ben edged closer. Sounded like an injured animal.

His eyes were adjusting to the dim interior of the bootleg warehouse. The air felt stuffy, full of the stink of mold, whiskey and burning fuel. There was a soft, irregular drip of liquid falling from someplace overhead. He saw deepening shadows between stacks of barrels that reached the ceiling. There must have been a hundred of them. Maybe more. Then shadows broke away from between the rows.

"Temple, you're an ass," he muttered under his breath. Cody had told him Red Jeb was alone tonight. So much for his sources. They needed backup. Cody needed a doctor. This was all going to hell faster than you could say Grandma's mittens.

Ben eased back toward the door. His boots clinked against something metallic. A shot whistled from his right. He whirled and fired. Two more shots behind him. Spin around, blast into the darkness. A man screamed.

Ben froze again. Hunter-eyes trying to pierce the darkness. There, a shadow moved. Aim, squeeze another round off. Another shout of pain.

Three more blasts in close succession came from the direction of the first shot. Whoever it was had abandoned his shotgun for a pistol.

"Jeb!" he shouted. "Give it up. We got cops all over the place."

The sound of someone scraping across the loading dock. He spared a glance. It was Cody.

"I told you to stay put."

"You ain't never gonna convince that Reb asshole you're more than one person without me.

Before he could say anything, another blast came from the far side.

Cody already had his .45 out and he let two rip. Ben shook his head. Much as he hated it, Cody was right. Two
better than one.

"We get out of this mess," Ben muttered, taking aim on the shadows where he last saw movement, "you're a dead man, Cody."

Ben fired off two rounds in rapid succession. A groan came from the deepest shadows, followed by silence. "Jeb, give it up. You ain't gettin' out of here."

BOOK: Placing Out
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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