A Tale of a Hated Hero
Your first sentence delivers tension and imagery artfully fused together— something you maintain throughout the piece. It’s no wonder your writing is award-winning! You build intriguingly complex characters in an equally complex society. Your turn-of-the-century small town cruelty is exceptionally well done. It’s a perfect environment for your outcast butcher. A reluctant rejected protagonist makes for an unlikely savior and an intriguing read. I look forward to seeing where this story goes.
Read the story now
As this is a draft, I took the liberty of adding some line edits.
The opening sequence happens in slow motion— with the girl falling— which at first made me think she might be falling from a great height. It might be worth positioning her in the street a bit earlier, but it reads fine as is. It’s part of your style— you tend to do your scene setting in a way that teases some sort of reveal (the fall, the cigar smell, etc), but there are points where you might be able to still accomplish that, but make it feel a little more real-time by adding a bit of positional clarity. Entirely up to you.
“Had it been anyone else he might have taken pleasure in standing back to watch…” So this is a tricky sentence… anyone else refers to the girl, but it could be interpreted to refer to the Conroy. “Had it been anyone else falling in front of that carriage…” might work better.
“The mother listened with interested” I think you meant “interest”
I would have preferred the opening of Chapter 2 to be an extended monologue, told by Babcock instead of presented in 3rd person.
The shuffling apprentice during the meeting with Babcock is a little disorienting before he’s introduced. Plotwise, he feels like a bit of a plot device. I think he's an excellent vehicle for your character's motivation, his appearance is just slightly too convenient-- it would be nice if he were introduced more fully in perhaps the first chapter or the beginning of the scene, instead of an undefined lurker in the background, that way he might feel a little bit more established before he arrives in the story.
All in all, a great read!