Numb Like Her

Chapter 22

Never had there ever been so many Newsies on the street after dark; they were like spiders, climbing over buildings, disappearing through alleyways, anywhere they could reach. Even when they were tired, their feet were throbbing, their hands were cut and blistered, they pushed on, waiting to see a head of long dark hair. But there was no sign of her.

Together, there were twenty Newsies, all older than fifteen, roaming New York, from the Lower East Side to the Upper East Side. Some even went as far as Harlem.

There was only so much they could do at night. But with the cover of darkness, they crept into areas that were off limits in the day, where passers-by would see them. They checked the Rockefeller Mansion on the upper side of Manhattan, crawled under windows and around the staff quarters; they checked the old brothel house where they had to deal with Talia's old pimp, Rufus (he told them, "I haven't seen her. But if I do, you boys will have to pry her from my cold dead fingers."); they checked the docks and the boat yards and searched the tall dark shadows the boats casted.

David stayed with Jack. Jack never said it aloud, but David kept him somewhat calm. He kept him from punching the walls and breaking down doors. He kept him from going to the Rockefeller's Mansion; David kept him far away from there. David was Jack's conscience, telling him the consequences before he performed the action. David was the quiet voice that reminded him not to do anything stupid. Usually, Jack didn't listen to him. But as they wandered the streets and his blood boiled, David reminded Jack that Talia needed him to keep his hands clean; if Jack got in trouble for threatening the Rockefellers' butler, then he would never find her.

Jack needed David. Because Jack was going out of his mind.

Jack felt the invisible strings, tugging at him in all directions: wherever she was, her fingers were tugging at him. He couldn't think about anything else but he couldn't think about her, where she was, what they were doing to her. He was already mad, he didn't want to make himself insane.

All he could think about was her next to him on her living room floor, looking at him and laughing at something he had said, her dark hair covering her face. He had to push her away from his thoughts and focus on just finding her.

The guys were ready to search the city all night if they had to, worried about Talia and worried about Jack. And they saw the silent fury in Jack's eyes; he was ready to tear down the city with his bare hands. While searching, parties would pass David and Jack and they'd give Jack the news he'd been hearing all night: no luck, Jack. We'll find her, Jack. Keep your head up, Jack.

And then there were hours where Jack and David didn't see anyone; the parties had spread out so far that they didn't come into contact with each other. It was near four a.m. and the streets were deserted except for the occasional bum. Jack didn't know where to look. He and David felt like they'd run the entire perimeter of the city. They checked back in with Medda who had Toby with her. He towered next to her, comforting her as she sat at her roll-top desk, her forehand resting in her hand.

"What about the police?" Medda asked. Her eyes were red and puffy though she did not cry in front of the guys. Earlier in Talia's apartment, she was almost in hysterics, blaming herself, worried sick. Now, she was nothing but business; she was determined like Jack to find Talia.

"You know the answer to that as well's I do, Medda," Jack answered solemnly. "Even if they did know where she was, they wouldn't tell us. They're in the Rockefellers' pockets."

The search went on for two days. They sold papes by day, their faces tired and sick with worry and anxiety, and searched by night. But still they came up with the same results. They reported back to Medda and she would cross off a territory on the map of Manhattan on her desk. She'd give them new orders and they'd disappear into the night and early morning. She knew they couldn't search everywhere; she was beginning to feel desperate. But it was all they could do. Jack was right: the police wouldn't help. They would probably hide Rockefeller.

It was like Talia had vanished, like a ghost.

Some were beginning to think the worst. But they didn't say anything; the look on their leader's face kept them going, searching. They hated telling him the news at the end of each search, gathering in Medda's small office where she gave them water. Some, like Mush, Kid Blink, and Race, even slept in Medda's office.

The Newsies hated to see the flash of panic in Jack's eyes that got worse each day. But he stayed strong; he did not break or show his fear, even though they had never seen him so worried. It was a strange new side to Jack. And because they knew he'd search for them, they searched for him, for Talia.

"Jack," David said on the third night, exhausted, "We need a new plan. We're getting nowhere. She may not even be in the city-"

"I KNOW!" Jack shouted, his voice booming in everyone's ears. He was pacing the floor in front of twenty-three pairs of eyes, all crammed into the backstage of the theater. They were tired and sore. He told them to go home two hours ago but they didn't move. Medda was in her office. Toby was outside, keeping watch.

Jack rubbed his hands over his face. He didn't know what to do.

"We need more people, Jack," Kid Blink said as he drained his glass of water.

"We need a miracle," Racetrack mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck.

Jack stared at a stained poster on the wall. It was an old poster of the strike, Medda had kept it. The Newsie leaders of each part of Manhattan had "signed" it with their pathetic scrawls in charcoal.

David went to Jack's side, following his stare to the poster on the wall.

"We need someone who knows this town inside and out," David said. "And I can only think of one person."

Jack tore his eyes from the poster and looked to his tired dejected friends, his dark eyes unwavering.

"We're going ta Brooklyn."

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