Jack gripped the rail to the rooftop so tightly that his knuckles were beginning to turn white. Crutchie....he got Crutchie. Everything had been going according to plan until the bulls descended upon them. A well executed plan had soon turned into absolute chaos within the blink of an eye.
Jack felt his blood run cold at the very thought of Crutchie trapped alone within the walls of Jack's personal hell. The guilt was causing his throat to swell and his eyes were beginning to sting. How could he have ran? Deep down he knew that there was no saving Crutchie as soon as the Delancey's dragged him away...but as soon as Snyder caught sight of him, he bolted.
It was as if no thoughts mattered other than not meeting the same fate as his brother. He couldn't do it again, he couldn't find the strength to face the Spider again...not after last time.
Jack turned around startled to face the ladder to his rooftop to see Race cradling his prized cigar in between his teeth as he ascended.
"Heya Race," Jack responded as he made his way to another part of the rooftop. He didn't want to look anyone in the eye much less Race. Race regarded Crutchie as a little brother himself and couldn't have come up here for any reason other than to tear Jack apart for letting Snyder get a hold of him.
"Figured I'd find ya up here mopin'," Race began, not moving from his spot near the ladder.
"Oh yeah, how'd ya figure?" Jack shot back, trying not to sound snarky, but it was proving difficult as the guilt continued to claw away at him.
"Well, I know I ain't too smart, but Snyder being there and you not exactly wanting another vacation in prison kinda did the math for me," Race replied.
"Well even if you ain't too smart, anyone with half a brain could see that we lost. And Crutchie--" Jack trailed off unwilling to say the words out loud.
Race's expression darkened as he moved closer to Jack. "Yeah, I saw that all right. I could kill those Delanceys for what they did to him and I figure we'll get to that, but first all's I know is that we're gonna get Crutchie outta there."
Jack scoffed at the statement and turned to face Race. "Oh, is that what we're gonna do? How do you figure we do that, huh? Got any bright ideas?"
"Kelly, you may good with paint and paper, but you pretty much invented the art of escape. If anyone knows how to get Crutchie outta there, it's you."
"Race, you don't know what you're talkin' about," Jack muttered darkly.
"I'm just stating the facts, Jack. Ain't no one can argue with the facts."
"The only things you know is what everyone knows. Did it ever occur to you that I'm not the great leader everyone decided I am? Any one of you ever figure that all I am is what you want to see?" Jack began and couldn't stop the words pouring out of him as he began to slowly advance towards the younger Newsie.
"You think escapin' that place...escapin' him is an art? Let me tell you somethin' kid and listen good, every time I escaped that hell was purely a matter of timing and luck. Each and every time got tougher as soon as the Spider caught on to my tricks. Escape through a window? Up go the bars. Escape through the front door? Add three more locks to pick."
"Teddy Roosevelt?" Race supplied wondering how Jack could dispute that one.
"Wasn't even my idea."
Race blinked in surprise. "Everyone knows the story, Kelly. You got out of the Refuge by--"
"Hiding in the back of Roosevelt's carriage, yes, I'm aware," Jack cut him off. "I'll say it again for the audience in the back since it seems clear that they didn't hear me so good. Not my idea."
"That so? Then tell me, whose idea was it then, Kelly?"
Jack turned away and gazed out at the lights of the city promptly ignoring the question. Memories of the Refuge were expressly off-limits and everyone around him knew full well not to pry. Regardless of the fact, Jack couldn't help himself from the words that decided to come next.
"You don't know what it's like in there, Race. You don't know what it's like to not only look after yourself, but have to protect all those around you."
He'd been free again from Snyder's hold for nearly 6 months but despite that, he had never felt more trapped. It was as if the Spider knew what would hit him the hardest and he struck just like any vicious spider would. It was clear to him that Crutchie wasn't taken purely by coincidence.
Race regarded Jack with sympathy, he knew better than anyone how far Jack was willing to go in terms of sacrifices. He'd never forget the debt he owed his leader for the time he'd been sick and Jack had been caught stealing clothing and food in an attempt to save his life.
"We're gonna get him back, Jack," Race reassured as he came up behind Jack and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "We'll get him back before the Refuge has any chance to do real damage, ya hear?"
Jack didn't respond to Race's declaration. He simply closed his eyes and took a deep breath wanting to believe in those words more than anything. He knew what was waiting for Crutchie at the Refuge and he couldn't get the image of the small crippled boy suffering a fate that was meant for him out of his head despite every effort.
The images continued to race through his mind faster than he could even process them: Crutchie lying over the table, lying frozen on a bed with no blanket, trapped alone in the closet with no light and no hope. On and on the images went causing Jack's head to spin and a wave of nausea to rush through him. Within an instant he knew that he had to get away from Race, the rooftop, the strike, all of it.
Race nearly fell over in surprise as Jack turned abruptly and made his way towards the ladder.
"I'm going to Medda's, need to think a while," He called out in his way of apology as he descended down towards the New York pavement.
"Mr. Pulitzer, sir. Mr. Snyder is here to see you."
Pulitzer glanced up from his paperwork at the announcement anticipating the arrival of the Warden, but was surprised when not only the man in question strolled in, but behind him were the two Delancey brothers dragging along what appeared to be one of those striking street urchins.
"Mr. Snyder, always a pleasure," Joe greeted, standing up from his desk to greet his guest with a handshake. "To what do I owe the honor of my extra guests?"
Snyder released the handshake and with his now free hand, removed his hat and held it in a frustrated grip.
"The raid was successful and we were able to contain it as you requested. I managed to arrest one boy," He gestured towards the boy who was looking a bit worse for wear and who was certainly only still remaining upright with the help of the brother's grip on each of his arms. "It's with regret that I inform you that Kelly managed to escape."
Pulitzer came out from behind his desk and began to advance towards the warden, the expression on his face resembling anything but friendly.
"And why pray tell did we not apprehend the boy? How difficult is it to snap a pair of handcuffs on a teenager's wrists and get him into a wagon? It appears that it was well within your abilities, but on the wrong target," He snarled, gesturing towards the boy who looked as if he were ready to fall over. "Would you two kindly get that boy into a chair? We're in a business meeting and I find his overall state distracting."
The Delancey's did as instructed and sat the still restrained Newsie into a chair beside Pulitzer's desk. They both kept a warning hand on each of his shoulders to keep him seated; although it was apparent that the boy was unable to walk on his own, let alone stand without assistance.
"One simple thing Snyder and you couldn't manage it?"
"It was my intention, Mr. Pulitzer," Snyder responded earnestly. "I have been trying to get that boy back to my Refuge longer than I care to admit. He has the most frustrating luck and has managed to escape me at every turn."
Joe sighed in frustration and rubbed at his temples. He was raising a teenager of his own; a daughter no less and willful as she was, even she couldn't manage to bring him such a headache.
"If I may make a suggestion, sir?" Snyder responded, regaining the attention of the businessman as he reclaimed his seat behind the desk.
"By all means, Mr. Snyder."
"It's clear that chasing after the boy and attempting to capture him through those means is proving to be impossible, what would you say if we were to set a trap?"
The idea brought a curious smirk to Pulitzer's face as he considered the Warden's words.
"A trap you say? What do you have in mind?"
Snyder approached the desk and laid his palms flat on the desk as he informed Pulitzer of his foolproof plan.
"The boy here," He began, gesturing towards the boy in the chair who was looking in between the two men in a state of fear at their scheming. "What's your name, boy?"
The boy continued to stare, not uttering a single word.
"It's Crutchie," Morris Delancey supplied to fill the silence.
"Crutchie?" Pulitzer scoffed at the name. "Who on God's green earth comes up with these ridiculous names? Mr. Snyder, you may continue."
Snyder didn't hesitate at the invitation. "It's come to my attention from Oscar and Morris here that whilst we may not have captured Kelly, we caught us the next best thing. You see, this boy here, Crutchie is the closest thing to Kelly. So close that they consider each other brothers and then there is also the matter of that reporter girl that I am hearing is capturing the boys affections--"
Pulitzer placed a hand up to silence the man across from him. "Yes, I'm well aware of her involvement with those miscreants and as a father I must say that it has me in quite an embarrassing position. My own daughter reporting against me and traipsing around with a boy so beneath her--I just think of my late wife and how she must be rolling in her grave at the very idea of it all."
"I-I didn't realize she was your daughter," Snyder sputtered in surprise at this admission.
This news was a surprise to not only Snyder, but to everyone else in the room. Crutchie sat blinking in complete disbelief. Katherine Plumber, the girl who had been nothing short of invaluable for their strike efforts was the daughter of the very man they were striking against? What reasons could she have to go against her own father and help knock him from his tyrannical throne? It didn't make any sense.
"Yes, my daughter," Pulitzer responded with a sigh. "Proving to be quite impossible these days, but if you please, Mr. Snyder, the floor is still yours and I wish to hear out the rest of your plan."
"You'll forgive me, sir. The plan I had concocted includes the girl, but that was before I knew she was yours," Snyder continued hesitating before Joe raised his eyebrows urging him to continue. "I planned to use her and the boy to set a trap for Kelly. I know that losing the boy was going to be a crushing blow for Kelly but to threaten her as well? I feel like it would give him no choice but to surrender to me."
"Provided that no harm comes to my daughter, I am curious to know what you plan to do by means of threatening?"
"We keep both her and the boy restrained here and then send a message to Kelly that if he doesn't surrender himself, then we will have no choice but to send both Katherine and the boy to the Refuge...so what I'm aiming for here is a trade if you will. I'm nearly certain the boy will be unable to refuse."
Joe considered the plan and stroked his chin in fondness of the plan. "A way to bait Kelly, get him back to prison where he belongs...and not only will he will be away from my daughter, we can put an end to this hopeless strike with no harm coming to my daughter in the process."
"That is precisely right, sir. You win and I win," Snyder responded, relieved that Pulitzer seemed to be considering his plan.
"Jack won't do it."
Both men were surprised to hear a weak voice sound from the chair. The boy who had been beaten down and dragged to this office against this will looked to have more fight behind his eyes than ever before.
"Come again, boy?" Pulitzer inquired, looking over the boy who he was certain hadn't bathed in at least a fortnight and was more than likely staining his chair with dirt and blood, but that didn't concern him as much as the words he had just uttered.
"I said," Crutchie began again staring defiantly up at the monster they were fighting against. "That Jack won't do it. He won't fall for it....he's smarter than that."
Both men shared a look between one another and both found themselves chuckling in pity at the boys brave words.
"I'm not sure who you're trying to convince more, boy. Us? Or yourself?" Snyder shot back with another chuckle.
"He won't give himself up to you. He won't never go back to that prison, mark my words," Crutchie continued, wincing as the Delancey's tightened their hold on his shoulders but despite the increased pressure, he continued.
"You don't know him. He's sacrificed everything to protect us...including allowing himself to be caught by you and whatever you did to him last time was enough. So mark my words, Spider, he won't go back."
Crutchie truly knew Jack better than anyone, he supposed sharing a rooftop and being his right hand would be reason enough. Jack had been his savior from day one when he had been abandoned by his family and thrust out onto the cruel New York streets with nothing but his crutch and the clothes on his back. No one wanted to pay any mind to the boy with the bum leg until twelve year old Jack Kelly who had been dealt a cruel hand himself by losing his own folks to an early death had taken notice and took him under his wing.
In the beginning, Jack had been more on the quiet side, owing to the fact that he had just recently escaped the Refuge for the second time. Despite whatever horrors he had witnessed, there was still a strength and fight in him that Crutchie was immediately taken to as soon as he met him.
Who Jack was today was thanks to all the time he spent away from the hell that was the Refuge and the man who had been the cause of countless nightmares that Crutchie had to wake Jack from. He would never explain the cause of the nightmares, always not wanting to burden his brother with the skeletons in his closet.
"The nightmares ain't nothin' that mornin' won't chase away, Crutch. Now get yourself some sleep. Papes don't sell themselves." Jack would always say.
Over time, Jack began to distance himself from whatever horrors he had faced in the children's prison and within a matter of two years, Jack quickly rose through the ranks and became leader of the newsies of Manhattan by age 14; Crutchie right alongside him as any brother would be.
Despite being chased down through the years by the Spider, Jack had managed to keep his freedom for nearly three years before the winter of 1897 when he had been caught again for stealing food and clothes for Crutchie and Race when they both had gotten very sick. Whatever had happened in the Refuge that time that lead to Jack escaping by means of Roosevelt's carriage had to have been the worst six months that Jack had ever spent because when he returned to them; he hardly spoke for a week and never wanted to be indoors if he could help it. When he eventually came around to talking he would explain that he just felt suffocated and spent more time on the rooftop drawing more than usual.
"I'm afraid you don't know him as well as you think, boy," Snyder sneered, in response to Crutchie's declaration.
"I'm not sure what lies Kelly has been feeding to you and your band of miscreants over the years, but I assure you, the boy has been far from truthful," Snyder continued in a tone that could almost be construed as pity if it weren't for the cruel smirk and gleeful mockery dancing in his eyes.
Snyder soon turned his attention back to Pulitzer who seemed to also be finding the whole exchange rather entertaining.
"If the boy has any sense of loyalty, I'm sure he'll give in, Mr. Pulitzer."
"I am inclined to agree with you, Snyder," Pulitzer responded. "Do forgive me, but I can't help but to wonder at your intentions. I understand what I have to gain by the boy returning to the Refuge, but I am quite curious as to why you are going to such great lengths to achieve this."
Snyder shifted uncomfortably and placed himself down into the chair across from the desk.
"Jack Kelly and I have a very long history together. I've never admitted this to anyone since he has made a mockery of me with each and every one of his escape attempts, but I've known the boy since he was roughly around the age of four. You see, I was a friend of the Kelly family before they passed...way too soon for such a young couple in love. God rest their souls," Snyder explained attempting to sound sincere but for someone with half a brain, it was easily transparent.
"Moira and Robert Kelly were murdered in cold blood in their apartment in December of 1889 while their seven year old son slept in the next room. Such a tragedy, really. No murderer was ever caught and their son was left an orphan with no family to take him in.
After I learned of the dreadful news, I knew that the best way I could help during such a troubling time was to fight for custody of young Jack and despite the efforts of another family friend who also wished to take the boy, I won. I took him away from a life of poverty and idiotic notions with that dreadful woman who had no business in raising the boy whatsoever. I attempted to raise him myself to be a fine upstanding gentleman, but as we can see, he has a defiance in him and a disregard for authority that I haven't managed to cure him of...yet. I fear that he gets that from his mother...always was a stubborn one."
"T-that's impossible," Crutchie stuttered, not believing what he was hearing. "If you adopted him, how is it that no one knows the truth and why would Jack feel the need to run from you if you're this saint you're paintin' yourself to be?"
Snyder narrowed his eyes at the newsie but continued to speak to Mr. Pulitzer rather than entertain the boy with answers.
"I won't have the state meddling in my affairs, so it's been simpler to maintain that Kelly is an escaped criminal than having to explain his deplorable behavior on anything else. He lacks discipline no matter how many times I try to teach it to him. He just turned seventeen years old, yet insists on behaving like a child. His prior escape attempt lead him to crime when he was caught stealing and now on his next little adventure, he's lead a revolution against you. So as far as my intentions in the matter, it's clear that boy of mine has some lessons to learn and I intend on teaching them to him."
"Please Mr. Pulitzer, Sir, Jack isn't what Snyder is paintin' him up to be," Crutchie pleaded. "Ya gotta believe that. There's gotta be a reason that Jack keeps runnin' away from him, I'm sure of it. The Refuge ain't right and--"
"This is a conversation for grown ups, boy and you will do well to learn your place," Snyder silenced him with a growl.
"Please, Mr. Snyder," Pulitzer chuckled in response. "No sense in speaking so harshly. These boys are so misguided and it seems that Kelly has really done a number on them and their way of thinking. In light of your story I believe that our plan should continue forward."
Removing a pad of paper and pen from his desk he continued. "So we need to send our young troublemaker a message, but the question that remains is where to have it sent? I'm certain the boy has no legitimate place of residency?"
"I'm pretty certain that he has found some gutter or rooftop to call home, but as to its whereabouts I'm uncertain; if I were, I'd have caught him long ago. There is only one place I'm certain that he would go; a place that I've never been able to gain access to despite my best efforts," Snyder admitted. "Even when I gained custody, that woman still managed to find him and fills his head with all sorts of ideas I'm sure. So if we want to make sure the boy receives the message, send it to Medda Larkin's theatre."