“So’s why ya want t’ talk t’ me, Ronnie? I thought we agreed to, you know,” and Nick pulled at his collar.
They were leaning in the twilight against the side warehouse by the South Fair docks, and this was tonight’s last shipment. Fishmongers and shipmen called to each other from ship to docks.
They weren’t likely to be noticed since the men were scrambling to finish before the last of the sun sank.
Ron sighed. This wasn’t easy, asking for help – especially from Nick, of all people.
“The street boy I took in?”
Nick nodded. “Told ya he’d run away. It’s just what they do, mate. Sorry t’ say.”
Ron shook his head. “No, no, nothing like that. He’s still with me.” That’s actually a bit of the problem, worried Ron.
“No shit? That’s a surpriser. Well, Ronnie, give it a bit of time….”
“Nick, quit the shit for a moment and listen. I need you to….” And Ron trailed off. Wow. This was harder than he thought it would be.
“To…?” Nick rolled his hands around to prompt him.
“Look out for the kid on the street.”
Suspicion made Nick lean on the building and cross his arms. “I thought that’s what you was for, Ronnie boy.”
“Well, in case I’m – not around.”
“Not the hell around? Where do you plan on bein’?”
“Look, Nick. All I’m asking is, will you have your people keep a look out for the boy, even if he’s not working for me? As you say, street kids….”
Nick’s face demanded further explanation.
“You know I have my people, but they’re not like yours – mostly not street folks. This kid, he’s a good one. He was in an orphanage before but ran away –”
“28th Street, I think he told me once.”
Nick nodded. “That ain’t no nice place. Walkin’ nightmares in there. Good for him, runnin’ off.”
“So the street gangs keep beating him up –”
“Ronnie, that’s a street boy’s life, it is, I swear to you –”
“Nick, just listen for once? He refused to join them because he said they were mean to people, and every time they catch him, if he doesn’t join, they beat him up.”
Nick studied him for a moment. Then he looked out toward the sunset and the docksmen. “Ronnie. You can’t rescue every bleedin’ pup –”
“He’s eight, Nick. He pretends he’s ten.”
Nick was quiet.
“Scars on his face….”
“Damn you to every hell, Ronnie!”
“I’ve already bought him a new tunic and breeches, new shoes. He’s a good kid, respectful. Learned his letters and numbers at the orphanage….”
“If he’s so bloody fuckin’ wondaful, why wouldn’t he be stayin’ with you? All I mean to say, Ronnie, for all you run your mouth, you ain’t that bad of a git. Warm place to stay, three squares and a roof. I can’t says for the Master – frankly don’t see him so much about no more but –”
“Just – Nick! Promise me – South Fair honor – you’ll look after the kid on the street when you see him – and by that, I mean you and your people.” Ron had Nick by the balls now – between South Fair, honor, and all of his people, there was no way that Kylon wouldn’t be taken care of somehow, if he didn’t stay with Cradwick.
Nick glared at Ron. “Yeah, all right, promise – I gotta friend the lad could shoulder under if he needed to. And yes, no little street shits will be jumpin’ his skinny arse.
“But you – there’s somethin’ stinks. And I don’t mean smithy soot, neither. Ronnie, you got somethin’ cookin’ an’ right now, I’m thinkin’ it stinks….”
Ron worked more with Kylon. Cradwick was already drinking wine with less sleeping potion in it. By the time he was drinking regular wine, hopefully he would recognize Kylon formally as his new apprentice.
Kylon had a lot to learn, and in so little time….