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The Train to Litigation
Act 16: Vestus O’Connor, Coach Attendant
© 2024 James LaFond
Advent, Wineday, Sixth Day of Sepulcher
A mark of the true greatness of Rome, and of New York, was the train system, running on time and free for plebes, and even the mobsters that skulked shiftlessly aboard between shifts. Wineday was Litigation Day, when the gladiators appeared before the editor, along with criminals, Saracens, Heathens—the heroes of the Censor of Plebes and some of the condemned, the heroes of the mobsters. These later were normally dressed in felt or straw hats—in the winter knit, as some wore on this snowy Sepulcher day.
Vestus was so very glad that the train was free, that he did not have to extract payment from this mob and also keep order. He heard that in London, the train cost money to take. But that was London. As a coach attendant he was one of two railroad “Police” upon the coach, with 64 seats to be filled. Chosen for his brawn and trained by the Rodmen in the use of his baton, Vestus trusted to judgment to keep order, not the baton which stayed upon his hip.
The Steam Street Crooks boarded, eight strong, respectfully walking by him, their leader, Brick, nodding to him with a sly grin, “Train to Litigation, Aye, Cop?”
“Yes,” he nodded down slightly.
He followed the gaze of the man and saw them rest on the small company of larger-than-life men who had boarded at News Street Station.
The eight mobsters headed straight for that group, seated along the left bench at center coach, past the 24 wooden seats that faced forward, and before the 24 seats which faced backwards.
‘This might be a brawl,’ he flashed eyes over the boarding passengers down to Dan, his assistant.
While the train was stopped, no disorder began in the middle of the car—then a stream of little white-dressed Jap girls and white-suited [white shoes too!] Jap boys boarded on both ends. A few began climbing into the overhead luggage racks on either side of the bench section even as the eight mobsters sat down across from the party of Max Born, the Great Scot.
“Hey, their half-Jap, out of the luggage rack, I say,” he commanded to the nearest.
Then a slight finger tapped him on the shoulder. Looking down he saw a Jap man in a suit, who spoke Breton better then Vestus did, “Honorable Conductor, accept this gift from the Kyoto Daily News.”
Five silver Caesars, two months pay, were placed in his hand as he explained, “The Conductor is attending the patricians ahead.”
The man passed him by, tipping his beaver skin beret, “We appreciate your conduction.”
The mobsters were grinning and even posing for the Japs. As the train hauled off toward Litigation, [0] he and Dan converged on the middle section to preserve order hopefully by the mere observe.
Max was silent, concerned only with the beauty on his arm, who whispered to him seductively, and the tiny gladiator of mobster tyke that squatted like a gargoyle between his feet. To the right was a burly mechanic with wrench and to the left the famous mime Orpheus, and Clyde of Taps.
That last fist-famous man, and Brick, did all of the talking as the Japs sketched and scribbled away.
As Brick spoke, he looked not at Clyde, but to he who he addressed, Max Scot.
Brick: “Ye Scots be no friends of our kind, what with the good Irish heads ye all broke eight years gone.”
Max looked through that man like steel through ice, and the mobster, to his credit, barely half the size of the famed brute, did not wince.
Clyde: “Brick, we’re more crook then you now. This is no time to settle old scores—we like to pay the ultimate debt under this prick Censor we done jipped of his Pollux and Dawn here.”
Brick: “Don’t we know it—we read every Jap comic strip, morning and evening edition!”
Clyde: [Nodding knowingly to the Jap tykes] “Looks like the Steam Street Mob is in the Evening Edition, aye. What’s your caper, Brick?”
Brick: “I has hated me a Scot since I was a mobby tyke?” [glaring at Max, who took up two seats.] “Durin’ the Plebe Mob War, what got me post as head crook of Steam Street—friends to some richy rich on the front of this train for various favors—I took this, from a Scot, heard tell he a brewer now, don’t got no sand for fight. Maybe this ‘ill get it back.”
So saying, Brick extended in his crafty, branded and inked hand, a brass string that held a single medal of a victory on the sands against a Saracen by a Scot.
Brick: “I here gives it back with no apologies, won in fair fight, as it were.”
Max extended his hand and took it with a nod, placing it in his belt purse, before the steel wire gripped hilt of the great dirk.
Clyde: “And, Brick?”
Brick: “The Lictors are set to nab the twins and condemn this here gearbox Plebe and the tyke to fight Lictor champions at litigation. We offer our bricks and hand bars in alliance. The Rodmen are sworn up to keep off any Preatorians and Nets, but as trainers to lictors will not help there. We know well your Pugs and Scots, house Equis as well, won’t broke no interference by police. We got twenty mates waiting at Litigation.”
Clyde: “For what consideration.”
Brick: “For a seat in the arena! Biggest fight in a decade this ‘ill be en we holdin’ stakes for half the mobs uptown.”
Clyde: “You fellas are betting on Max and Clyde against Netty Sam and Rex Born?”
Brick: “Shit no! Think we stupid? We juz wanna make certain this fight comes off. Three-to-one sure money, with every dumbass gang in town backing broken down Max and Clyde Taps? Shit—Nets and Knights all day long!”
Clyde: “That’s a sporty sort! What about Minicus and Billy Gear, what are they looking at?”
Brick: “Billy drew himself a bigass Lictor, Dray Porter, by name. Minicus fights one of the Censor’s very own hounds. Main thing is, at Litigation, the nabbing of this dear prize—her brother be dammed they say, gonna fight a netty man.”
Clyde: “You know you and yours on the Censor’s List now, a hundred eyes upon you.” [1]
Brick: Now turned to the lead sketch artist on him and made the sign of Civic and martial loyalty, fist to heart and open hand to the zenith, “Hail Caesar, Loved and served by the Steam Street Mob.”
His seven companions did the same, the eight standing now, Brick extending his hand to Max, who took it, then, with a nod, let it go.
The eight sat back down and the beauty on Max’s arm wiggled like a leaf in autumn, dreading the promise of winter as, in the window frames, collected the snow of the unseasonable storm as the train to Litigation rolled on.
Vestus could hardly believe his own voice as he handed his silver coins, just given by the Japanese newsman, to Brick, “Two on Billy Gear here, over the lictor and three on Minicus over the dog. I’ll pray that the Brothers Born don’t serve steel over blood.”
‘On no,’ he groaned within, having already forgotten that the scribbling Jab comic news would hit the stands at sundown.
Max gave him a Laconic, huge-fisted salute, to which Clyde grinned, while Brick dictated his entry with his numbers man, the slight black-of-hair, hook-of-nose fellow besides him.
-0. To the reader marooned in False Earth, imagine Litigation, conducted at the very place where the violent “Sentencing” would be done before God the next day, as if like to the weigh in the day before the fight, held at the fight venue.
-1. The Censor’s List of runaways and crooks is fulfilled by his Eyes, spies in various guise, who inform the Censor, who dispatches Netmen, Lictors, Police or Praetorians to bring in the malefactor.
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