The Green Family in Headlines, Breadlines and Deadlines

Michael Panush

Oswald Sherman Green sat on a short brick wall outside of his school, his book bag sitting next to him. He was holding a dog-eared pulp magazine, a luridly covered digest featuring a combination of an exploding zeppelin, a scantily clad blonde, a raging gorilla, and a square-jawed, well muscled man wielding a pair of electricity-blasting pistols. 'Doc Jupiter in 'The Apes of Wrath' the cover read. Oswald smiled as he turned the page, kicking his legs idly.

He was nine years old, small for his age, and he wore a green vest and matching tie over a well-pressed collared shirt. He wore knickers, knee-high plaids socks and a newsboy cap over his curly, light brown hair. His blue eyes sparkled behind the glasses as he turned the page, a look of amazement on his freckled face. Oswald loved pulp magazines and he didn't mind that the class at his private school had let out an hour ago and his father was late. He especially didn't mind that his father was late.

A four-door Packard parked on the curb, and the driver stepped out. "Oswald?" he asked. "I'm here now. Sorry I'm late. Very sorry." Charles Green walked over to his son, who was still wrapped up in his magazine. "Oswald?" he asked.

"Hmmm?" Oswald looked up. "Oh, Papa! You're here." Oswald hopped off the brick wall and walked to the automobile, holding his book bag next to him. Charles walked after him, and the boy climbed into the backseat. Charles Green got into the front and started the Packard, and soon it was rolling down the steep hill of San Francisco.

Charles resembled his son. He has the boy's curly hair, though his was a bit darker. Charles also wore eyeglasses, but he wore a neat dark suit, matching vest, striped tie and a bowler hat. He had a moustache as well, the same dark color as his hair. He wore a white note card in his hat brim, the word 'press' written on it in thick black letters. "How was school?" Charles asked.

"Hmmm?" Oswald was still reading the pulp magazine.

"Are you reading?" Charles looked at his son, who hastily dropped the magazine. "Oswald, you know you shouldn't read in the car! It'll make you nauseous." He spotted the cover. "A pulp? You know your mother doesn't like you reading those."

"But they're so exciting, papa!" Oswald cried. "Just like Grandpa Clark's stories. In this one, Dr. Jupiter, he's this scientist and super soldier, he and his zeppelin crash in this savage jungle full of man-eating gorillas."

"I don't think gorillas eat people," Charles said. "They're herbivores, if I remember correctly."

Oswald listened to his father intently. "You saw some of them, didn't you?" he asked. "In Africa, when you and Grandpa Clark visited?"

"Yes, I saw some. And you have too." Charles nodded as he turned the corner. "In the zoo, right?"

"It's not the same," Oswald said.

"You probably got a better view of them than I did," Charles replied. "Oswald, we can't go home right away. I have to go by the Worker's offices, and get this report filed. I've got the evidence I need to nail the Octopus Club. Did Grandpa Clark tell you about the time we met them first, when we came here for the first time?"

"Oh, yes! " Oswald cried happily. "And you met a giant squid, and the Emperor of San Francisco, and you set the squid free!"

"That's it," Charles agreed. "You don't mind, Oswald, just stopping by in the office for a bit, do you?"

"No, papa, of course not," Oswald said quickly.

"It's just that, I've been working on this article all week, and Mr. Hotchkiss, the editor, he'll take it out of my hide if I don't get it in. It deserves to be in too. The Octopus Club has been blackmailing and bribing every politician in this city, and everyone knows it." Charles gripped tightly to the steering wheel. "Everyone in this city, too scared or too satisfied to admit it."

"I don't mind," Oswald put in quickly. "And I hope they all go to jail!"

"If I had my way, they would," Charles agreed. "But I don't know if that will happen. Still, that's the point of telling the truth. That's the point of doing my job."

He pulled into a parking lot of a large brick building, joining several other cars. A police cruiser was parked across the street. Charles stared at it, meeting the cold eyes of the officer behind the wheel. "You can bring your book inside," he told Oswald, patting his son's thin shoulder. "It might be a while."

"But I thought you said momma doesn't like me reading it?" Oswald asked, clutching the pulp magazine to his chest.

"She does, and she certainly wants the best for you, but I'll be a little more lenient," Charles said, as they walked inside. "And you deserve to be entertained." They walked down the tiled hall, passed a couple of printing machines and into a large office. The sign plastered above the office read 'The Weekly Worker: Truth for Troubled Times.' Charles walked around the main group of cubicles, heading to his office.

He to his office when he spotted T.L. Hotchkiss, editor in chief of the Weekly Worker, standing in front of his door. Hotchkiss was a tall man, rapier thin, with a harsh glint in his eyes and steely gray hair. He wore a gray vest, and smoked a cigarette in a cigarette holder, and his arms were crossed. "Got your column, Green?"

"Yes, sir," Charles said.

"I see you brought the little Green around." Hotchkiss looked at Oswald. "How are you, little Green?"

"I'm okay, sir," Oswald said, a little put off by the editor.

"Good. Your daddy's got to get his column because we go to print tomorrow, and we would have gone to print today if your daddy knew what deadlines meant!" Hotchkiss looked up at Green. "Were you sleeping in late, Green? Maybe taking a long walk round the park when you should've been cranking away at your typewriter?"

"I was doing research, sir." Oswald stepped back, and Charles put his hand on his son's shoulder. He spoke calmly to his editor. "And you could have gone to press today and missed my column."

T.L. Hotchkiss took the cigarette out of his mouth and blew out a cloud of smoke. "And miss one of the best damn columns in the whole rag? I'm not a mad man, Green." He pointed to his office. "You'll have to wait a little before you start working. Man in there to see you. I didn't ask why." Hotchkiss turned away.

"Goodbye, sir," Oswald said.

"Hurry up with the damn column!" Hotchkiss cried, disappearing down a corner with a cloud of cigarette smoke following.

Charles smiled. He looked down at Oswald and grabbed a folding chair, setting it near the door. "Can you just stay out here and read until I'm done in there?" he asked. "Like I said, it might be a little while."

"Sure, papa." Oswald sat down in the chair. "You'd better hurry. Mr. Hotchkiss seemed a little angry."

"Mr Hotchkiss acts like that when he's unwrapping his Christmas presents or when he's stubbed his toe." Charles chuckled. "But he's a good man." He opened the door to his office and looked inside.

A hawk-nosed fellow stood in front of Charles's desk, looking at the pictures next to the typewriter and piles of paper. He wore a fedora and a pinstripe suit, no vest, and he had a toothpick between his teeth. When Charles opened the door, took the toothpick out of his mouth and put it in his breast pocket. "Mr. Green!" he said. "How you doing?"

"Very well, thank you." Charles walked inside, closed the door behind him and sat down at his desk. His visitor had wavy brown hair and a scar on his cheek. "I'm sorry, but I do have a little work to do, so I might be in a bit of a hurry."

"No problem. You're all business. I like that. You understand the way things work!" The man held out his hand. "Donovan Jones."

Charles shook his hand. "Pleasure, sir. Are you a reader of the Weekly Worker?"

"A reader? Nah, I'd have to be out of my head to read a commie rag like this one!"

Despite himself, Charles felt his lip quiver. "We're not associated with the Communist Party, sir. I was in Russia, during the revolution, and I would never sign up for any publication that was related to Stalin and his ilk."

"Don't matter what you say. It's red, back to front." Jones sat down, crossing his legs. "And the way I here it, you got quite a bit of money lying around in your pockets, Mr. Green. You ain't gotta associate with these rabble-rousers."

"That's true," Charles said. "My family owns Winston's Dry Goods, and my wife inherited a great deal from here family. But that doesn't mean I can't turn my head away from the horrors that I see."

"Can't turn your head away. Now that's a problem." Jones reached into his pocket and drew out a business card, showing the logo of a black octopus on a red background, its tentacles flexed. "You recognize this, Mr. Green?"

"I do." Charles looked at the business card. "That's the Octopus Club, a social organization for tycoons, robber barons, and moneyed men of all kinds. I've received offers to join, and I've turned them down. They control half of the west coast, and have their eyes on the other half, and their hands seem to get dirtier every day." Charles tapped his typewriter. "I've been digging up some of that dirt, and I will pin it on them." He looked at Donovan Jones. "Mr. Jones, what the hell is this about?"

"I work for the Octopus Club." Donovan smiled. "If they have them some trouble, I take care of it."

"You're an enforcer, a hired thug."

"And you're a smart man." Donovan pointed to the picture on Charles's desk. It was a family picture, showing Charles, Oswald, Charles's wife and Grandpa Clark all standing in front of their house and smiling. "You got a nice little boy, he's right outside I think. You got a beautiful twist for a wife, you got some old coot sitting around in your house. And if you know what's best for them, you'll drop this story about the Octopus Club and pick something else to do your little expose on."

Charles stood up, his face burning. "Did you just threaten my family?" he asked. "Did you just threaten my boy?"

"I can see you're a smart man, Mr. Green, I just—"

Charles's fist shot out, crashing into Donovan's jaw and sending him rocking back. Charles stepped around his desk, his fists up. Donovan Jones picked himself up and put his hat back on. Charles's mouth was set in a grim line. "Get the hell out of my office," he commanded. "Get the hell out!"

"You're making a mistake, Mr. Green," Jones stood up and reached for the door. "I can make your life a living hell and get away with it, and I can do the same for your little—"

"Get the Hell out!" Charles kicked Donovan Jones in the chest, sending him flying out the door. Oswald gasped as he saw the man hit the ground, and his father step outside after him. "Get out of this building and crawl home to your masters and tell them not to pick on my family!" Charles shouted. Oswald's eyes widened as Jones stood up, brushed himself up, and walked away.

Charles's face was red and Oswald stared up at him. "Papa?" he asked. "What happened?"

"Nothing. Everything's fine." Charles breathed a sigh of relief as T.L. Hotchkiss walked by, his hands in his pocket.

"Get into a little scrape, Green?" Hotchkiss asked.

"Yes, sir," Charles said, nodding. "I'll get that article for you now, sir. Just give me a few minutes to type in the finishing touches."

"I was gonna talk to you about our new international desk, but I guess you're picking a new career as a boxer." Hotchkiss shrugged. "Leave it on my desk?"

Oswald stood up. "Papa, can I come in and sit with you until you finish?" he asked.

Charles smiled at his son. "Of course."

They walked inside and Charles stood behind the typewriter. His fingers moved like lightning over the Underwood, punching in the details of is research, telling of how the Octopus Club routinely bribed the mayor, police, and everyone else of power, including the owners of most major newspaper in California. He finished the last page, placed in the pile, and dropped it off on Hotchkiss's desk on the way out.

Oswald and Charles walked out of the door and headed to their automobile outside. Charles looked up and saw the police car was gone. He guessed Donovan Jones had arrived in it. Charles got into the driver's seat, Oswald hopped into the back, and they set off down the hill. They turned the corner and drove by the water front, heading for a nicer area of town near Nob Hill.

Oswald pressed his nose to the glass and looked out at all the ships. He saw a long line of men, women and children, all dressed in ragged clothes, all standing out in the cold in front of a small soup kitchen. "That's a breadline, papa?" Oswald asked.

"Yes, Oswald," Charles said, nodding. "Poor folks. They must have lost everything in the depression, a depression that was caused by the rich playing around and then the poor get stuck picking up the pieces."

"We're never gonna have to go in a breadline, papa, are we?" Oswald asked, a little nervously. "I know we won't."

"No, son," Charles looked at Oswald. "No. We're very, very lucky."

The Greens resided in a large two-story house, the same one Charles had spent the last years of his childhood in. Clark Reeper had bought the house when he settled in San Francisco, and it had survived the earthquake and many more years. After they had parked the automobile outside, Charles and Oswald walked inside. Charles opened the door and headed in, taking off his coat and hat.

Catherine Landers Green was waiting for them. "You're a little late," she said, hugging Oswald and pointed in the direction of the kitchen. "Grandpa Clark is waiting for you at the dinner table."

"Okay!" Oswald said excitedly, heading off and leaving his hat and book bag behind him. Catherine picked them up and set them on the cupboard near the door. She looked at Charles and frowned. Catherine Parks Green wore a pearl gray housedress, and her blonde hair was bobbed short. Charles smiled weakly.

"What happened?" Catherine asked.

"Nothing, really," Charles said quickly. "You look beautiful tonight, Catherine. Stunning."

"I guess I should. Sitting around all day, sitting on my hands while the servants do all the chores and thinking of what dull things I'll talk about when the ladies come over the play bridge at two, doesn't exactly hurt one's features." Catherine kissed Charles and led him towards the kitchen. "Now what happened?"

"You could always get a job, go back to teaching school or something. Whatever you want, I'd be for it," Charles suggested.

"I'm a married woman, Charles. I can't just get a job teaching or in a shop or something! It wouldn't be right." Catherine sighed. "And you're dodging the issue. Something happened and I have a right to know about it."

"We'll talk later," Charles said, as they walked into the kitchen. The table was set, the dishes ready, it was chicken and mixed greens, a favorite of their cook Matilda, and it looked and smelled delicious. Oswald sat at the right of the head table, right next to Granda Clark. The elderly man wore a red robe and a pair of spectacles, his few wafts of pure white hair topped with a old Stetson, nearly worn to pieces. His face was wrinkled and toughened, like ancient rawhide, but his eyes still sparkled.

Grandpa Clark was talking to Oswald and he had the boy's full attention. "So there we was, me and your old man Charles, up against a couple hundred fish folk in some godforsaken little New England hellhole. They was waiting for us outside of our hotel room, waiting to come on in and drag us away!"

"What would they do to you?" Oswald asked, his eyes wide.

Clark shrugged. "I don't rightly know. Eat us, maybe, as punishment for all the fish we done ate in our lives! But I weren't about to let that happen." Clark held up his withered hands, making a gun with each one. "I took out my two Colt Peacemakers, finest revolvers around, you know, and I blasted them fishy bastard to Kingdom Come!"

"Wow!" Oswald clapped his hands. "Amazing! What happened then?"

"Then," Catherine said, sitting next to her son. "Then Grandpa Clark woke up and realized he was just having a crazy dream." She smiled at Clark. "Right, Mr. Reeper?"

"You can call me, Clark, ma'am," Clark said, smiling. "I never get tired hearing a pretty girl say my name. Only Charles calls me 'Mr. Reeper', even though he ain't a youngster no more and ain't got cause to do that."

"I can't help it, Mr. Reeper." Charles sat down on the other side of his adopted father. "Let's eat now. I am quite hungry."

They gobbled down the meal, talking about their days and some of the recent news. Catherine had spent the day at home, as usual, the only break in her monotonous day being some of her friends meeting for bridge. She didn't mention the boredom of it, but she didn't need to. Charles talked at length about the Octopus Club, and the details of his column for the Weekly Worker.

"I think Mr. Hotchkiss wants to open an international desk," Charles said. "The Weekly Worker's expanding."

"An international desk?" Catherine asked. "You mean like, to cover events from around the world."

"I think so," Charles said.

"You should take it!" Oswald cried. "You could go all around the world, and see different countries and amazing animals, and have adventures in each one." He smiled at Charles. "Maybe you could bring me back a pet."

"We'll get you a puppy when you're old enough," Catherine said. "We've been through this before, Oswald."

"When will I be old enough?" Oswald asked.

"When your mother and I decide," Charles said quickly.

"Little fellow wants a dog, you ought to get him a dog," Clark suggested. But he turned to Oswald and changed the subject. "How was your school, son? That damn, pardon me, ma'am, dang ciphering still giving you trouble?"

After dinner was over they went into the living room around the radio. They listened to classical music while Oswald work on some homework, and turned on one of his favorite radio shows, a western called Tom Mix's Ralston Straight Shooters. Clark grumbled as the opening blared into their living room.

"Tom Mix, that fellow's about as much a cowboy as some hog with boot strapped on!" Clark muttered. "If I had some strength in my limbs, I'd go over to Tom Mix and introduce him to the floor of some saloon until he got a good taste of the western life! Then I'd shoot him."

But he saw Oswald looking at him and he smiled. "Hell, son. Don't worry about me. You go on and enjoy your fantasy."

They finished listening to the first half of the program and then Oswald for the tenth time and Catherine and Charles exchanged a glance. "I think somebody needs a little rest," Catherine said, helping Oswald one. "Let's get you to bed."

"I'm not that tired…" Oswald said.

Grandpa Clark patted the boy's shoulder. "Ought to get your sleep, son. Fellow ain't gonna last long if he's always tired." Clark stood up, Charles helping him stand, and he leaned on the couch for support. "I'll take you upstairs and tuck you in. Maybe tell you about he and your pa shot our way out of that town of fish folk."

"You don't have to—" Catherine started, but Grandpa Clark held up his hand.

"It ain't a chore, ma'am. It's a pleasure." He leaned on his grandson's shoulder, and they both headed up the stairs.

Charles sat down on the couch and Catherine sat next to him. She turned down the radio. "All right, Charles," she said. "I've waited long enough. Tell me what's wrong."

"I, well, I got into a little fight today." Charles looked at his shoes.

"What?" Catherine asked in surprise. "Jesus, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Charles said. "The other guy didn't lay a finger on me." He looked up at Catherine. "It's what he said that scared me. He was some thug, Donovan Jones, sent by the Octopus Club to make me scared. When he started threatening you and Oswald, he just made me angry instead and I hit him."

"Charles!" Catherine said harshly. "You're only going to cause more trouble. Maybe I should talk to my parents. My father knows some of the people in the Octopus Club and—"

"I won't negotiate with them!" Charles cried. "These are bad people, and they've done a lot of harm. The world deserves to know that."

"I know, I know." Catherine stood up. "But things like this make me worried. You should try and be more careful."

"I was afraid you would get worried." Charles stood next to her and put his arms around her. "I wouldn't worry about those losers, Catherine. I think I scared him. He probably won't come back, and he certainly won't go after Oswald."

"Okay." Cahterine pointed upstairs. "Lets go on and tuck him in, and then go to bed. You must be tired from valiantly standing up for the rights of the common man."

"It does get me a little fatigued," Charles agreed, winking. They walked upstairs to tuck in their son.

Lionel Thaddeus Brenchwood looked over the coffee table in the Octopus Clubhouse at Donovan Jones. Brenchwood was a fat man with a blonde walrus moustache and pince-nez glasses. He was the chairman of the Octopus Club, having inherited most of his money and spent it wisely on influence around the country. Brenchwood wore a checkered suit and vest with a bowtie, a badge showing the Octopus Club's insignia on his breast. He held a thick cigar in one hand and a tumbler of port in the other.

The drawing room of the Octopus Club was lavishly furnished and decorated. A number of other members stood about, smoking and drinking as they talked, and waiters in tuxedoes walked back and forth, carrying trays with more cigars and drinks. Brenchwood stared at Donovan for a while, and then set his glass on the table. He reached into his coat and withdrew a rolled up newspaper.

"Do you know what this is, Donny?" he asked.

Jones stared at it. He felt a bit uneasy, surrounded by much money. Still, he recognized the newspaper easily. "That's a copy of the Weekly Worker, boss."

"Very good." Brenchwood yawned. "In the second page it includes an article written by a Charles Green, a very thoroughly researched and well written article. It describes my dealing with the offices of the mayor, the police commissioner, and several other noteworthy local and national politicians, in excruciating detail. But it is not that which terrifies me, Donny. No, surely it is not. Do you want to know what it is about this article that makes my blood run cold?"

"What, sir?" Donovan Jones asked.

"This, right here." Brenchwood pointed to a small line of text near the headline. "Part of a series. Green's going to be writing more. What happened, Donny? I told you to frighten him."

"He didn't scare, boss," Donovan explained. "Not after I brought up his wife and kid, he didn't scare and then he slugged me. I bet he doesn't think we mean business."

"Then show him, Donny," Lionel Brenchwood commanded. "Start with his boy. Hurt him, but not too badly. Nobody will mind if some Jew Brat is beaten. And for god's sake, don't muck it up."

"Yeah, boss." Jones stood up and reached for his hat. "Afterwards, shall I come back here?"

"No. I'll contact you at your apartment. Me and the boys are going out for drinks later, and the social clubs we frequent wouldn't allow someone of your…swarthy countenance."

"What are you talking about?" Jones asked.

"Your name. 'Jones.' Simple, American, unremarkable. Doubtlessly why you changed it from whatever Polish or Italian or Yiddish moniker your parents gave you." Brenchwood sucked on his cigar. "Please leave now, Donnie. I grow tired of breathing the same air as you."

Donovan Jones turned away. "Yeah, boss," he muttered. "Yeah."

School had just let out, and Oswald Green made his way out into the yard with the other children. They played hopscotch and various other childhood games, and talked about the Tom Mix show last night.

"The Silver Specter is on tonight!" Oswald told his friends as they walked out, blinking and squinting in the sun. "He's gonna take on the Nazi menace, I think."

"That'll be swell!" One of Oswald's friends piped. "Do you like the modern stories or the western ones more, Oswald?"

"I don't know," Oswald said. "I guess the westerns, but that's because my Grandpa Clark was really there, and he can tell me if they're truthful or not."

"Oswald!" Another of Oswald's friends shook his head. "Your Grandpa Clark is the biggest liar in San Francisco. He told me that he fought vampires, and aliens from Mars, and there's way that can be true!"

"It's true," Oswald said certainly. "He wouldn't lie to me."

They walked to the edge of the schoolyard. "Hey, kid!" a harsh voice called. "Four-eyes, over here!" Oswald looked up and saw a familiar looking figure standing by the gate. Oswald recognized him as the man his father had attacked the previous day. He had a black eye, and still wore a pinstriped suit and fedora. A large Ford was parked behind him. "Get over here," he repeated.

"Uh…sir?" Oswald walked over to the fence. "Weren't you the guy who my father knocked the stuffing out of, yesterday?"

"I wasn't ready," Jones muttered. "Now I am." He reached out and grabbed Oswald's vest, pulling him to the fence. He withdrew an automatic pistol from his coat and pressed it against Oswald's chest. "Get outside and go into the backseat of my car. Do it now or I ventilate you and your little friends here and now."

Oswald felt his face go pale. He gulped and looked back at his friends. "O-okay," he whispered, stuttering. Slowly, he walked towards the gate, pushed it open and stepped through. He nearly tripped on the ground, but stayed upright. With his heart thundering inside of him, he walked to the automobile. The door opened and a broad-shouldered thug in a porkpie hat and a camel hair coat and bowtie stared at him. Before Oswald could protest, the bruiser grabbed his arm and hauled him into the car.

"We start here?" he asked, his voice slurred and rough.

"You crazy?" From the passenger seat, a hatchet-faced man leaned back. He wore a black suit and vest, with a fedora. "Not near the school! Will go out by the docks, where nobody's watching, and we'll do it then."

Donny walked back, and he got into the driver seat and started the flivver. "Bums didn't suspect a thing," he said, starting the car. He looked back at Oswald and smiled. The boy sat in the backseat, clutching his book bag to his chest and staring with wide, terrified eyes at the men around him.

"What…" he whispered, just to muster up the courage. "What do you want?"

"Just teaching your old man a lesson." Donovan Jones drove the car away from the school, joining the busy hills of San Francisco. He headed out towards the docks, leaving the gentrified area around Oswald's private school and driving past the long rows of saloons, gin joints, and opium dens that had once been Barbary Coast. The vice row was not the same since the earthquake, but it still featured hundreds of business that catered mostly to the sailors that flocked into the bustling port.

They drove down an abandoned strip of alleys and abandoned saloons, places that no one had bothered to rebuild, even this long after the earthquake. Jones spotted a large pier, jutting out into the cold gray water, and he drove the car over to it. He parked the auto and turned around, leering at Oswald. "You think your pop's ready to learn?"

"My papa won't be scared," Oswald said, his voice not cracking. "He'll come and rescue me, and you'll go to jail, or he'll just beat the crap out of you!"

The big thug snorted. "I had enough out of this mouthy kid. Let's do him right now." He opened the door and stepped out, grabbing Oswald by the shoulders and throwing him out. The boy landed hand on the pier. The big bruiser stepped out, his thinner friend in the passenger seat joining him. The big thug opened the back and withdrew a lead pipe and a pair of brass knuckles. He handed the pipe to his thin buddy and then stepped over Oswald. "You got some lip on you, you damn brat!"

"Sir, please—" Oswald raised his hands, but the big thug brought his boot down on the boy's chest. Oswald winced and stood up. He tried to punch the big thug, but the broad-shouldered man grabbed his arm and slugged him hard in the chest. Oswald sank to his knees, gasping in pain.

"Look at this brat!" The broad-shouldered man laughed. "Who you think you are, Dempsey? I'll teach you to aim a swing at me!"

"Easy, Benny," Jones commanded. "Brenchwood don't want a corpse on his hands. Just knock him around a bit, but don't kill the kid."

"Huh, okay. I won't bump him." He kicked Oswald again, straight in the boy's side. "I'll just get close!"

Oswald stared up at the gray sky. He didn't seem to feel anything as a fist cracked into his skull and his glasses fell away. The boy didn't bother to scream.

Meat Hook Mulligan woke up slumped in the corner of some seedy bar in the former Barbary Coast, his head aching. He stood up shakily on his feet, reaching out to the bar and pulling himself up. "Goddamn," he whispered. "What the hell happened last night?"

"Same as happened night before, Mulligan." The bartender, a middle aged man in shirtsleeves, was sitting behind the bar and polishing a glass. "You came in around ten, got soused up good by eleven, started a fight at twelve. Lost it at one."

"Jesus Christ on a stick." Mulligan looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar. He wore a ragged brown sweater under a ragged trench coat, with a newsboy cap pulled low over his eyes. His faced carried the bruises of the night before and his whole life, purple welts around his eyes, cauliflower ears and a crushed nose. "Well, barkeep, did I give as good as I got?"

The barkeep shrugged. "Put a guy's eye out with a broken bottle."

"Hell." Mulligan looked at the bottles. "Time was, I could—"

"Time's past. You gotta pay me for damages and all the booze you knocked back last night," the bartender ordered. "Got any dough in them pockets of yours?"

"Let me check…"Mulligan reached into the pockets of his coats and worn trousers and came up empty. "Sorry, pal. Ain't got a dime."

"Typical." The barkeep pointed outside. "Joey Fingers is hiring longshoreman. Go on and get yourself a job. You got good arms on you, why don't you use them? Then come back here and pay me back."

"All right, all right." Mulligan stepped outside, blinking into the fog-strained sunlight. He walked down the street along the dock, past another breadline. Mulligan thought about waiting in it and getting breakfast, but decided against it. "Other mugs need it more than me," he told himself. "Got more of a right too it, as well." He walked down the wooden dock, past the large cargo ships from around the world, stepping out of the way of crowds of sailors and other dockworkers.

Mulligan came to a thin man in dingy work clothes standing on a crate, looking a clipboard through glasses. Mulligan took off his hat, running his hands through his rumpled black hair. "Hey, Joey Fingers! You got a job for me?"

Fingers looked up from his clipboard. "For you? You gotta be kidding me!"

"Come on," Mulligan cried. "I can do a day's work!"

"A day's work, and a night's worth of trouble after you get a mouthful of drink in you." Fingers hopped down from the crate. "You look like hell, Mulligan. You need some sleep and some coffee, and then maybe you can see me about a job."

"I ain't got a dime to my name, and all my stuff is locked up in my apartment, which they kicked me out of when I didn't cough up the rent." Mulligan sighed. "Come on, Fingers. I'm on my knees here! You remember how I helped out, I cracked skulls for you and Harry Bridges during the strike last year!"

"And you would have done the same for the company scabs, if they had hired you first!" Fingers pointed out.

"Get me a fight then, huh? I can box." Mulligan held up his hands. "Gloved or bare-knuckles, I can do it."

"I ain't backing a roundheels like you," Fingers said. "You may have been a bruiser once. Now? You're just a boozer." He sighed. "But I shouldn't turn a man away. And this is the definition of charity here, but I'll give you a quick errand. There should be some boxes of bananas down on the south docks, past some of the old earthquake ruins. Head down there and open them, make sure they ain't rotten, and come on back." He reached down near the crate and picked up a crowbar. "You can open them with this."

"God bless you, Joey Fingers," Mulligan said.

"Yeah, yeah," Fingers muttered. "Get out of here!"

Meat Hook Mulligan turned away, the crowbar swinging from his hands. He hummed a little tune as he walked to work, and his stomach rumbled, but he ignored it. Mulligan walked off the dock and headed along the sidewalk, shivering slightly in the fog. He left the crowded northern docks behind, walking past some of the old shops that had been destroyed by the earthquakes.

There were a few wharfs pointed outward into the cold gray sea, and Mulligan noticed a Ford parked on one of them. He walked over, his crowbar swinging from his hands, and saw three men standing around it. One, a guy in a pinstripe suit and a fedora, was leaning against the automobile and smoking. The other two, a broad-shouldered torpedo in a porkpie hat and a thin fellow in a Fedora were lashing out at someone lying on the ground.

"Hey!" Mulligan shouted, walking to the dock without a thought. "What the hell are you doing?" He stared at the two men and saw a young boy, maybe eight or nine years old, lying on the pier. "Are you beating on some kid?"

The man in the pinstripe suit stood up and walked over to Mulligan. "This ain't your business, bo. Go take a walk."

"The Hell with you!" Mulligan shouted. "You're give some poor kid the Broderick!"

"I'll only say it again, bo, this ain't your damn business. Now go dangle!" He reached into his coat, but Mulligan moved quicker. Without a second thought, Mulligan drew out his crowbar and cracked it over the man's head. He went down without a sound, an automatic pistol in his hand. Mulligan kicked it away, and it fell into the ocean below the pier.

He walked forward, the crowbar held low. "You mugs want a taste of this?" Mulligan asked.

"Hah! Look at the lip on you!" The broad-shouldered guy walked over to Mulligan reached into his coat and coming back with a pair of brass knuckles. "Gonna make you scream, mug. You should learn not to butt your fat head into other people's—"

Mulligan crashed his crowbar into the big man's chest, then pulled it back and slammed it over his head. The broad-shouldered man winced but didn't go down. He lashed out with a brass-knuckled hand, and Mulligan stepped out of the way of the blow. The thin man ran forward, swinging down his lead pipe. Mulligan grabbed his arm and headbutted him in the chest, forcing him off the dock and into the water below.

"Son of a—" the broad-shouldered man ran back to the auto, heading for the trunk. "Gonna drill you, you son of a—" He pulled open the trunk and drew out an automatic pistol, but Mulligan hurled his crowbar. The metal rod smashed into the broad-shouldered man's skull, knocking him backwards onto the pier. Mulligan walked over and looked down at him.

"Who the hell are you?" the broad-shouldered man asked.

"Meat Hook Mulligan." Mulligan raised his foot. "It's been a pleasure." He cracked down his foot on the man's head, breaking his nose. Mulligan picked up the crowbar and tucked it into his coat then ran to the side of the boy. He leaned down by the boy's side, picking him up and carrying him away. He was surprisingly light. "Hey, kiddo," Mulligan asked. "You okay?"

"What?" Oswald asked. "You..saved me?"

"It's all right. You're fine. Let me set you down and I'll call up your folks." Mulligan walked down the sidewalk, breaking into a run after he spotted a bench and a payphone. He sat the boy down on the bench, wrapping him in his trench coat. Mulligan quickly looked over the boy. "No broken bones," he said. "Good, good. Looks like you got a goog in your right eye, some bruising on your face. You'll be all right. Good."

"Who are you?" the boy whispered.

"Meat Hook Mulligan," Mulligan said. He noticed the boy was holding something in his hands. Mulligan opened the hand and saw a pair of eyeglasses. "Hold on, let me get your specs on, kiddo." He put the glasses on Oswald's face. The boy blinked. "You got a name, sonny?"

"Oswald, sir. Oswald Sherman Green." Oswald sat up, blinking rapidly. "You saved me. Thank you, Mr. Mulligan. Thank you."

"Hell, it weren't nothing." Mulligan shrugged. "Any mug would have done it. You just lie there, okay? Now, uh, you got some parents or something? Someone I can call?"

Oswald told him his home number. "My mother should be home. Thank you, Mr. Mulligan."

"You can just call me Mulligan," Mulligan said, walking over to the phone booth. He stopped and looked back at Oswald. "Ah, Jesus," he muttered. "Say, you got a quarter I can borrow?"

"A quarter. Of course, Mr. Mulligan." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few quarters. "Will this be enough, sir?"

"Yeah. Jesus, I'm sorry." Mulligan stepped into the phone booth and quickly dialed the number Oswald had given him. The phone was picked up on the second ring, a woman's voice answered.


"Mrs. Green? My name's Mulligan, I just found your son."

"Oswald?" Her voice had some panic in it. "Is he all right?"

"He's fine, ma'am. A couple of mugs were really working him over, but I sorted them out okay. He's a little banged up. Maybe they was trying to snatch him or something, but he's safe now."

"Thank God," Catherine said quickly. "Where are you?"

Mulligan told her the street name and intersection.

"My husband works near there. I'll call him and tell him to pick up Oswald." Catherine paused, her voice nervous. "And thank you, Mulligan."

"Hey, I just did what any bum would've done," Mulligan muttered. He hung up and sat down on the bench next to Oswald. The boy was sitting up now, staring up at the sky. He smiled at Mulligan, and then his smile vanished.

"Oh," he whispered. "I left my book bag in their car."

"You lost your schoolbooks?" Mulligan scratched his head. "Ah, forget them. They never have anything good in them anyway. Just a lot of facts and figures."

"Well, I had a pulp magazine in there too." Oswald shrugged. "It's all right. I can get another."

"What was it?" Mulligan asked.

"Dr. Jupiter," Oswald said quietly, a little embarrassed. "He's probably my favorite."

"He's the guy with the electric heaters, right?" Mulligan formed his finger into a gun and pointed, making his best electricity noise. Oswald smiled and Mulligan laughed. "Wish I had me a pair of them roscoes. Zap!" Mulligan grinned.

A Packard sped down the street, burning rubber as it screeched to a halt. Charles Green kicked open the door and ran to his son. "Oswald!" he cried, tears running down his face. "Oh God, Oswald, are you all right?" He picked up Oswald and kissed him on the cheek.

"I'm okay, papa," Oswald said. "This man, Mr. Mulligan, he saved me."

"It's just Mulligan," Mulligan muttered.

Charles walked to the car and set Oswald down in the back. "We'll go right home, and I'll have the doctor over to take a look at you. Don't worry." He took off his boy's cap and brushed his hair back, smiling broadly. Oswald had never seen his father so worried. Charles turned around and held out his hand. "Mr. Mulligan, I can't thank you enough. You saved my son's life, and I owe you everything."

"Ah, it weren't nothing. Just bashing a couple of bad numbers upside the head." Mulligan shrugged. "I just did what any mug would have done, soon as they saw some poor kid getting beat up."

"I want to repay you." Charles reached for his wallet, but Mulligan held up his hand.

"Ah, it weren't nothing," Mulligan said. "Look I got a job to do on the south docks. I guess the kid's all right, so I'll head off." He turned away.

Charles grabbed his shoulder. "Please, Mr. Mulligan, if I want to get in touch with you again—"

"It's just Mulligan," Mulligan said.

"Right, sorry. How can I get in touch with you?"

Mulligan looked back at Charles Green. "I do most of my drinking in a little gin joint on the Barbary Coast, called the Blue Mermaid. You know it?"

"I can find it," Charles said. "And I will." As Mulligan walked off, Charles raised his hand. "Thank you again, sir!" he called. "Thank you!"

Mulligan just walked away, not looking back.

Quickly, Charles got into the driver's seat and turned the automobile around. He headed back towards Nob Hill, looking back at Oswald every couple of seconds, as if the boy would disappear if he wasn't checked on. None of them spoke for a while. Finally, Charles gulped and looked back at his son. "It was…it was the man from my office yesterday, the one that I hit, right?"

"Yeah, Papa," Oswald agreed. "It was him."

"I'm sorry, Oswald." Charles looked back on the road. "I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," Oswald said instantly. "Papa, you should have seen how Mr. Mulligan saved me! He just came in with a crowbar, and smashed it over all of those bad guys' heads and laid them right out!" Oswald sat up, wincing a little. "And I didn't get hurt too bad. Why did Mr. Mulligan just leave though? We have to do something to thank him."

"I don't know why he left, Oswald," Charles said. "Maybe he just prefers to be alone."

"That's kind of sad," Oswald replied, looking out of the window.

"Yes, it is," Charles agreed.

When they drove home, Catherine had the doctor waiting. He helped Oswald out of the automobile and into the house, then up to his room where the doctor quickly examined him. Luckily, he didn't have any broken bones, and the doctor just had to bandage a few minor cuts and bruises. While he worked, Catherine, Charles and Clark Reeper waited tensely outside. Clark was the first one to speak.

"I still got my six-guns," Grandpa Clark said. "Upstairs in the attic, so the boy didn't get a hold of them. Reckon I can dust them off and put these Octopus bastards in the ground, if I got to."

"No, Mr. Reeper," Charles said, putting his hand on Clark's shoulder. "Nobody has to die."

"We shouldn't rule anything out," Catherine muttered. She looked at Charles. "I guess you underestimated the Octopus Club."

"Yeah," Charles agreed. "I'm sorry, Catherine. I can't tell you how sorry I am."

"We all are, son," Clark muttered. "It ain't your fault."

Catherine glowered at Charles. "I knew we should have talked to my father. He loves Oswald! He would have turned the Octopus Club away, I know he would!" She realized she was shouting and stopped. "Look, Charles, something has to be done. They can find out where we live, they know where Oswald goes to school, and they can hurt us."

"I know, damn it." The phone in Charles and Catherine's room rang. "I'll get it," Charles said quickly. He walked over to his room and picked up the phone, sitting on his bed. "Hello?" he asked.

"Green, it's Hotchkiss. You headed out of there pretty fast, like a bat out of hell. What's the deal?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Hotchkiss. My son, he was attacked."

"What?" Hotchkiss's voice was scared. He cursed loudly, obscenely deriding the Octopus Club. After he was finished, he took a breath. "Well, Green, what are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know, sir. I just don't know."

Hotchkiss snorted. "In the old days, back when the war was going on, you wouldn't have given a fat man's fart about any threats made against you. I was looking at some of your old work, when you were working with Jack Reed, and I can see the fire that was in you."

"I was just a kid then, Mr. Hotchkiss," Charles said, smiling slightly as he remembered.

"A kid that spent a night in the state pen because he was caught protesting the draft!" Hotchkiss laughed. "You went toe-to-toe with cops and vigilantes before you were old enough to shave!" He sighed. "But then again, times have changed."

"Yeah," Charles agreed. "And I don't what Catherine getting hurt, or Oswald…When I saw him lying there, on the bench, all beat up I just felt my heart die. They're the light of my life, Mr. Hotchkiss. I'm gonna have to quit the paper."

"Now hold on, Green!" Charles could hear papers rustling. "There's still a way you can write for the Weekly Worker and keep your family safe. There's the new international desk. In fact, I need someone to leave to cover the Chaco Conflict between Bolivia and Paraguay."

"I wouldn't want to abandon my family…"

"They could come with you," the editor suggested. "I know you've got the money, and there's room for them in the boat. One leaves for South America tomorrow evening, and I could call ahead and get a stateroom in your name. What do you say, man?"

Charles thought about it. "I'll have to ask my family," he said.

"Go ahead. Give me a call when you get an answer." Hotchkiss paused. "And Green?"

"Yes, Mr. Hotchkiss?"

"Tell the little Green, Oswald, tell him to get well soon."

"Okay, Mr. Hotchkiss." Charles hung up and walked back down the hall. Catherine and Clark stared at him. Charles smiled. "Okay," he said. "Catherine, how would you like to take a little trip?"

She stared at him.

"The international desk at the Weekly Worker, Mr. Hotchkiss just offered it to me. There's a ship that leaves for South America tomorrow evening, and we can be on it. Oswald and I can get away from here, Oswald will be safe, and when we return the Octopus Club will have moved on. What do you think?"

"Absolutely not," Catherine said immediately. "No way am I sending my boy on some voyage halfway around the world to God knows where! And this will interrupt his schooling and his normal life! There is simply no way."

"Ah, it won't be that bad!" Clark said. "Hell, me and Charles started traveling together when he weren't older than Oswald is now. He kept up with his reading and writing while we were moving, and he did just fine." Clark nodded. "I can get my bags and be ready to mosey on out tomorrow morning!"

"Well, actually Mr. Reeper," Charles said quickly. "I don't think you should go."

"Why's that?"

"Well, you need your rest, and someone should stay and mind the house and—"

Clark's eyes widened. "You're worried I'll get hurt or something. And I guess at my age I couldn't quite walk away from it." He nodded slowly. "Well, all right. I'll stay here with the little lady and keep her company."

"What are you talking about?" Catherine asked. "I'm going with you. Someone has to tutor Oswald, and I can do that. I was a schoolteacher before I married and I think I could do a fine job."

"I have no doubt of that," Charles said quickly. "But It might be dangerous."

"So you're willing to take our boy into danger but not me?" Catherine pulled Charles close to her. "I will go with you. I saw you help him inside today, and I'll be damned if I let them happen to my son again."

"I don't if I know if I can protect you," Charles whispered. "I mean, after today I don't know if I can protect anything, really."

"Then you ought to find someone who can," Clark said. "I'll volunteer for the job!"

"You're not going, Mr. Reeper," Charles said.

"Fine," Clark muttered. "I'm gonna go sit down, then. Old bones ain't what they used to be."

The door opened and the doctor stepped out. "You can see him now," he said, and Clark, Charles and Catherine rushed inside and ran to Oswald's bed. The boy sat up, a few bandages wrapped around his chest and arms, and one on his forehead. The doctor, a white mustached fellow in a tweed jacket, stepped behind them. "He'll be fine," he said. "Just needs a day or so of rest and the bandages can come off."

"Thank you," Charles told him. He looked back at Oswald. "How are you doing?"

"I'm okay," Oswald said. He smiled weakly. "Grandpa Clark, were you ever as beat up as this?"

Clark shrugged. "I don't rightly know. I figure not, though."

Charles leaned over and patted his son's head. "Oswald, how would you like to go on a little trip, a vacation?"

"A vacation?" Oswald asked. "Where to?"

"Well, it would be to South America first, somewhere in Paraguay or Bolivia, and then somewhere else. I've been thinking of taking up the Weekly Worker's International Desk, and they would send me all over the world, and you would come along."

"Could momma come?" Oswald asked.

"I'd be there," Catherine said, staring at Charles.

"She'd be there," Charles agreed.

"And Grandpa Clark?" Oswald wondered.

"Well, son, I don't reckon I can stomach another bunch of travelling," Clark said. He kneeled down next to Oswald, groaning a little. "Hell, my damn, I mean dang, legs are already going out on me." He patted Oswald's head. "And someone ought to stay and look after things here. But I'll stay in touch, and you'll come right back a see me."

"Okay," Oswald said, nodding. "Well, I guess that's all right, then." He looked up at Charles. "So, we'll be globetrotting adventurers?"

"I don't know if I'd put it that way—" Charles started.

"A whole family of globetrotting adventurers!" Clark said, interrupting Charles. "What do you think of that, son?"

Oswald smiled. "Swell," he said.

Charles stood up. "Okay, Catherine, Mr. Reeper, could you start packing and getting things ready? And can you give Mr. Hotchkiss a call and tell him that I accept and ask for the boat number and the time tomorrow?"

"What do you have to do?" Catherine asked.

"Well, I think I have to go downtown." Charles kissed his son on the forehead. "Yes, I have to head to the docks, to a saloon. There's a man I have to see."

"Is it Mr. Mulligan?" Oswald asked. "Are you gonna thank him?"

"I think so," Charles agreed.

The Packard backed out of the neat two-story house and rolled down the road. It was the early evening now, and the streetlights had yet to flicker to life. Down the street, away from the Greens' house, a limousine with tinted windows sat in the darkness. Donovan Jones looked outside, watching the Greens with a pair of binoculars. "It's just him," he said. "Just the man of the house, leaving." He looked back to Lionel Brenchwood, who sat on one of the leather seats, two bulky bodyguards flanking him.

"We'd better follow him," Brenchwood said. "And see exactly what he's up to."

"Do you think he's gonna fold?" Donavan asked. "I mean, me and the boys gave his brat a pretty good beating."

"Yes, until some good Samaritan showed up and wiped the floor with you and your boys, Donny. You really do disgust me." Lionel Thaddeus Brenchwood motioned to his bodyguards. One placed a cigar in his mouth and the other lit it. Brenchwood puffed smoke for a while. "I believe Green will attempt to flee, perhaps the city, perhaps the country. This must not be allowed to happen. I want you to see just what Green is mustering up, and then you will proceed to some lowlife bar of yours, and hire a great many men of violence, with Octopus Club money. And you will ensure that Charles Green, Catherine Green, and even dear little Oswald Green do not leave this city alive. A bunch of Bolshevik Hebrews will not be missed. Do you understand?"

"I do, boss," Jones agreed. He opened the door and stepped out. "I'll take a cab after him. Won't be too hard. And yeah, I'll bump off the lot of them. It will be a pleasure."

Charles walked into the smoky interior of the Blue Mermaid bar. He stood out, badly. Most of the other patrons were booze-sodden barflies, rough sailors from around the world and local toughs drinking up in preparation for the nightly battle that would tear through the joint. Charles Green, in his neat suit, vest and bowler hat, was out of place, but he didn't care. Charles walked inside, his eyes scanning the darkened saloon. He spotted Meat Hook Mulligan, sitting at the bar without a drink, and walked over to him.

"Hello, sir. Mr. Mulligan." Charles patted the seat. "Mind if I sit here?"

"Knock yourself out, pal." Mulligan nodded. "Mr. Green."

"Sure." Charles looked at the seat, noticing on odd stain. "Is that blood?"

"Could be. Or it could be the stuff that links out of eyeballs sometimes. You gonna sit down or what?"

Charles sat down. "Mr. Mulligan, I mean, just Mulligan, I never got a real chance to thank you, for saving the life of my only child."

"I don't want your money," Mulligan replied. "You ought to keep it, give it to the boy if you want. I'd only drink it away." He looked down at the table. "Well, maybe you could give me a little. I ain't used to being sober."

"My adopted father had a similar problem," Charles said. "He wanted to prevent his mind from focusing on something terrible which had happened to him. I wonder, if it would too forward of me to ask if something similar had ever to you?"

"Mr. Green, that's my whole goddamn life story. After I got back from the War, I just had enough of the world. I worked my way across the country, getting more a souse everyday. And now I'm about the biggest boozehound in the world." Mulligan looked up at Charles. "You got a great life, Mr. Green. You got a good dame, a wonderful little boy, and from the car you drive and the suit you wear, enough money. You don't to go into my world, and I don't want to take you there."

"Well, Mulligan, that's not why I'm here." Charles set his hands on the bar. "The reason my son was so horribly attacked was that I'm a reporter, and I wrote some articles that upset some very important people. In order to get away from those people, my son, my wife and I, are taking the paper's international desk. The paper is the Weekly Worker, if you ever heard of it."

"That's a commie rag, ain't it?" Mulligan asked.

"Somewhat yes," Charles said, quickly. "We'll be sailing for South America, to cover the Chaco Conflict, and I'm afraid I don't exactly trust myself to keep my family safe, completely. I would like it you came along, as our bodyguard."

"Me? A bodyguard? I don't know, Mr. Green." Mulligan scratched his head. "I don't know if I can keep myself safe, let alone your wife and kid."

"Oswald told me you defended him splendidly. And you mentioned you were a veteran. You've obviously seen a great deal of combat."

"I guess I have." Mulligan pulled open his trench coat, revealing the crowbar tucked in his belt. "Funny, but I ain't returned this thing and I don't think I ought to. I've beat the snot out of folks with things like these hundreds of times, blackjack or club in New York, rifle butt in France during the war. But I like the feel of this one." He snorted. "Hell, why am I telling a nice family man like you these things?"

"I' no stranger to violence, Mulligan." Charles nodded. "I covered the revolution in Russia, and I've seen a great deal of brutality and horror during my childhood. Have you ever heard of Clark Reeper?"

"Might have read about him in a dime novel or something," Mulligan said. "Western hero, bounty hunter, I think."

"That's him. He is my adopted father, and Oswald's loving grandfather."

"I'll be goddamned." Mulligan grunted. "You're a regular two-gun newshound!" Mulligan shrugged. "Well, I guess I could go with you for a bit. You pay me well?"

"Of course," Charles agreed.

"I'll bet you will." Mulligan held out his calloused hand. "Give me a hundred bucks off the bat, and I'll get into my apartment again and get back some of the things they took when they dumped me out of there."

Charles took out his wallet and quickly paid him. "You an grab whatever you need and then I'll give you a ride to my house. We'll leave tomorrow evening, and I'd like you to meet Catherine and I know Oswald will be delighted to see you. I know I'm not making a mistake," he said, handing Mulligan the money. "I saw you watching over my boy today, Mulligan, and I know I can trust you."

"Sure thing," Mulligan said, taking the money. He looked at the crisp c-note and then at the bartender and the rack of drinks behind him. He gulped. "Now, let's see if I can trust myself."

The next morning, Donovan Jones stepped through the door of a downtown bar, a local dive that was a known hang-out for Wiseguys and guns-for-hire. Jones was flanked by his two pals. Benny, the broad-shouldered bruiser, had a bandage wrapped around his head, his porkpie hat sitting uncomfortably on top of it. The thin fellow had a bandage on his nose. All three of them narrowed their eyes, scanning the crowded bar.

Jones moved to the center of the bar. "I got a truck full of gats, pistols, shotguns, even a chopper or two, outside. I need a few people dead and I'm willing to pay top dollar for your services. One of them is a dame, and one of them is a kid, but they're all kikes. Anyone who don't want to get that kind of blood on their hands, better head on out right now."

A few of the men stood up, leaving. More remained. Donovan Jones smiled. "Okay, now here's what I think is gonna go down." He leaned back on the bar. "The mark is leaving his house with his family and moving to the docks. He's gonna get on a boat and sail away. We gotta meet him on the way and finish off the lot. Now, he's just some dumb newshound, I'd be surprised if he's even packing, but he hired someone, a big roundheels who gave Benny that new head wrap yesterday, to watch his back."

"You know his name?" A man sat at the bar, a cup of coffee and a sandwich in front of him. His back was turned to the rest of the bar. He wore a worn trench coat and fedora, pulled low over his face.

"Mulligan," Jones said. "He called himself Meat Hook."

The man at the bar chuckled. "Oh," he said. "Mulligan."

"You know him?"

"Yeah, from back in New York, from before the war." The stranger took a sip of his cup of coffee. "It was three way war in those days, all over the Five Points. There were the Eastmans, Monk Eastman's outfit, and they was a bunch of tough heebs. There were the Five Pointers, Paul Kelly and Johnny Torrio's boys, and that was who I was with, most Italians, and then there were the Whyos, the last of the Irish Gangs on their way out. And that who Mulligan was with. He was their top button man, a killer like you never seen."

Donovan Jones gulped. "What do you know," he said. "You ever seen him in action?"

"Yeah." The stranger laughed. "Me and two other fellows, real tough Five Pointers, decided to do Mulligan in once and for all. He was at O'Davy's, some mick bar in Hell's Kitchen, and we all went in. Nicolas had a new automatic, I had two revolvers, and Jackie had a hatchet. The joint was empty, just Mulligan sitting alone at the bar, drinking. We come in through the back and start firing."

"W-what happened?" Big Benny asked, nervously fingering his bandages.

"He leaps over, all our slugs miss, the bum comes up with a shotgun." The man at the bar slammed his hand against the table. "Nicolas ain't got a face no more. Jackie rushes him with the axe, knocks the coach gun out of his hand, but Mulligan slugs Nicolas in the chest and he drops his axe, then Mulligan picks it up and gives it back, blade first, right into Nicolas's chest. By now, I'm running, I know the attack is over. He comes at me from behind and knocks me to the ground, the two heaters are gone. He picks me up and throws me straight through the glass window, face first."

Slowly, the stranger turned around. Jones gulped, looking at the man's face. His face was crisscrossed with hundreds of red lines, poorly healed scars.

The scar-faced stranger grinned, splitting more of his flesh. "While I'm on my belly, my blood just pouring out of me, Mulligan walked over and puts his boot on the back of my head. He pushes my head into the fragments, and the next thing I know, I look like Lon Cheney having a bad day." He stood up. "They call me Scars, and I'm dying for another shot at Mulligan."

Jones grinned. "Well, we'd be glad to have you." He looked around the bar. "Anyone else?"

A few hands shot up, and Donny counted them quickly. He nodded to himself. "A dozen guys. I've had worse odds." He nodded to Benny. "Okay, let's get everyone armed and move out."

Meat Hook Mulligan awoke in a clean bed, with clean sheets and fresh pillows. He sat up and rubbed his head, surprised that it wasn't aching from booze or brawls. "Where the hell am I?" Mulligan asked. He stood up and saw a beat-up suitcase lying on the ground, containing bundles of his unwashed clothes. There were a few other things as well. "Oh right," Mulligan muttered as he remembered. "Bodyguard to the Green Family. All right."

The first thing he did was open the valise and take out his weapons. He pulled out a long barreled revolver, a big .44. Next was a shotgun, a twelve gauge pump action. Mulligan liked the big weapons, guns that could put somebody down with one or two shots. He tucked the revolver into his coat and left the shotgun where he could easily get it, making sure to load it.

Then, he walked to the door and creaked it open. The sunlight poured in from a window in the hallway, and Mulligan looked out at the yard, still a little frosty from the morning. He walked down the hall, and hearing voices downstairs, headed down the staircase and into the kitchen.

"Hello, Mr. Mulligan!" Oswald Green sat at the table, a bowl of cereal sitting in front of him. An weathered old man sat next to him, sipping on a glass of milk. He wore a crumbling Stetson, which seemed more dust than hat. Oswald had a few small bandages on his face.

"Hey there, kiddo," Mulligan said, sitting down. "How you doing?"

"Very well, Mr. Mulligan." Oswald tapped the older man on the shoulder. "This is my grandfather, Clark Reeper!"

"Clark Reeper," Mulligan said. He didn't bother correcting Oswald about his name, not really seeing the point. He held out his hand and Clark shook it, and the old man's grip was like coiled steel. "Pleasure, sir."

"You heard of me?" Clark asked.

"Oh yea. You, Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid, all Wild West Legends." Mulligan smiled. "They'll be telling stories about you, I think."

"I wish they wouldn't," Clark muttered. "I like living out of the public eye and all that. I hope you don't want me to autograph nothing, because I'm liable to start a fight if you do."

"Grandpa Clark!" Oswald cried. "Mr. Mulligan saved my life. Please be nice to him."

"It's all right," Mulligan said. "I don't need no autograph."

A woman walked into the kitchen, a blonde in a white house dress. She stepped behind Oswald, putting her hands on his shoulders. Mulligan looked up at her figure and smiled, as Charles Green also walked in.

"Catherine Green," she said, holding out her hand. Mulligan stared at it.

"Can you make me some breakfast?" Mulligan asked.

"What?" Catherine stared at Mulligan like he was speaking another language.

"I said, get yourself in the kitchen and make me some breakfast. Cereal or eggs or whatever, I don't care." Mulligan waved his hand. "Go on, you silly twist, we ain't got all morning."

Catherine looked up at Charles. "Who the Hell is this guy, Charles? He smells like alcohol, and he's got the manners of a polecat!"

Quickly, Charles stepped next to Mulligan. "That's my wife, Mulligan," he said. "Please, can you show a little respect?"

"Sounds like she ain't showing no respect to you," Mulligan muttered. "Where I come from, a dame knows her place, and she don't talk back to her husband."

"Well, Mr. Mulligan, we are assuredly not where you come from!" Catherine stepped out of the room, Oswald and Clark calling after her. Charles ran after here, following her into the pantry

Catherine leaned against the wall, sighing. Charles ran to her. "Catherine," he said. "That man's going to be our bodyguard as we travel around the world! There's no reason to be rude!"

"You ought to tell him that," Catherine said. "He treated me like I was a piece of furniture!"

"He doesn't know any better, okay?" Charles pleaded. "Look, I know he's a little rough around the edges, but you should have seen how he took care of Oswald when our boy was hurt, and you've heard Oswald praise him! He's got a good heart."

Catherine said nothing.

"Honey…" Charles grabbed her arm. "I need him along, okay? I'm…well, I'm scared."

Slowly, Catherine sighed. "Just keep him away from me," she muttered, walking out of the pantry. "I'll have Matilda cook him up something."

After breakfast, Charles stood in front of the table and told them what was going to happen. "We should pack for most of the morning, getting everything ready." He looked at Oswald. "Please don't try and bring too many books. I don't want your suitcase too heavy to life. And don't forget to bring shirts this time, like you did when we visited Monterey."

"Okay," Oswald agreed.

"And honey?" Catherine added. "If you get tired, just lay down and rest. Your father and I can pack as well. Don't strain yourself."

"Okay," Oswald repeated.

"Then, around the afternoon, I think we should visit Myrtle," Charles said. "I would like to see her before we leave."

"Who's this Myrtle bird?" Mulligan asked.

"Closest thing Oswald has to a grandmother on his daddy's side," Clark explained. He looked at the table. "We was gonna be married, but she didn't live long enough. She's in the graveyard outside of town, been there for years. Poor Oswald ain't never known her."

"I'm sorry," Mulligan said.

"It's okay," Oswald told him. "It's very peaceful there, and we put flowers on her grave. Charles and Grandpa Clark tell me about her, and she seems very nice."

"She was," Charles said. "We'll see her, come back here and finish packing, and then head out. Mr. Hotchkiss, that's my editor, will meet us at the docks and take us to the San Carlos, which will leave for Callao tonight. We can sleep on the ship." Charles nodded, reassuring himself. "That sound good?"

"Peachy," Mulligan agreed.

The next couple of hours were spent in a flurry of packing. Oswald took Mulligan up to his room, showing the ex-boxer his collection dime novels. Mulligan helped Oswald place a good stack of them in his suitcase, and made sure that the absent-minded boy remembered to bring important articles of clothing. Charles and Catherine packed up a pair of suitcases each. Catherine had some school supplies from her time as a teacher, and Charles brought his typewriter and a few other journalistic instruments. Clark helped for a little bit, but soon became fatigued. He sat down in the armchair in Oswald's room, watching Oswald and Mulligan pack.

Around noon, they all piled into the Packard and rode to the graveyard at the edge of town. Nobody said a word as they approached the green hills dotted with tomb stones, and Mulligan kept silent. They parked at the bottom of the hill, and Charles opened the door. He took a carried a bouquet of flowers, and handed them to Clark. Charles helped his father up the green hill, walking along the cobblestone path. Catherine followed, her arm around Oswald, and Mulligan brought up the rear.

They walked down a long path, one that they had obviously walked many times before. Mulligan stayed at the rear, looking behind him. He always felt uneasy around outpourings of emotion, and today was no exception.

Soon, they came to a single grave, an older pale marble tombstone that had been kept in good repair. Clark walked over to the tomb and Charles helped him kneel down. The old man reached out a hand and put it on the top of the tombstone. Mulligan leaned in and read the text. "Myrtle Sherman," he read, remembering Oswald's little name. "Must have been some bird," he whispered.

Clark leaned his head down, touching the tip of the marble. "Well, Myrtle," he said. "I don't rightly know if there's heaven, but if there is, I know you're up there, looking down on us. And you can see Oswald, and how wonderful he is and how happy he's made me. Goddamn, darling, I wish you could see him." The old man touched his hands in the dirt. "Well, Charles and Catherine, you remember Catherine, I know that, and Oswald and this fellow saved Charles, an Irishman named Mulligan, they're lighting out for some journey round the world. I just want you to know that." Grandpa Clark broke down then, sobbing like a child. Charles, Catherine, and Oswald ran to him, hugging him tightly and helping him up.

Mulligan stared Clark, and watched as he wiped the tears from his face. "I can't believe it," he told himself. "A top gunslinger like that crying like baby! Just don't make sense."

They walked back to the automobile, Catherine and Charles helping Clark along. Oswald walked back, and he waited until Mulligan stood next to him. Oswald looked up at Mulligan and they walked behind the boy's parents and grandfather.

"He really loved her, didn't he?" Mulligan asked, looking at old Clark Reeper.

"Oh, Grandpa Clark was going to marry her!" Oswald said. "But there was all this chaos during the time before the earthquake, just when my father and Grandpa Clark were getting settled here, and he made an enemy with someone, and she was killed right after the quake. And Grandpa Clark doesn't like talking about things that happened after that, at least until he and my father went traveling around the world." Oswald looked at Mulligan. "Have you ever loved anyone like that?"

"I don't know," Mulligan muttered. "I seen plenty of dames in my time, and I swore I had the hots for some of them, but I don't know one twist that would get me bawling if she kicked the bucket."

They walked back to the Packard and then drove home to the Greens' house to finish packing and to make the final preparations. They had to close the suitcases, zipping them up and pushing them down. They dressed carefully, Charles making sure his son wore a jacket over his vest, and Catherine Green changing into a brown woman's suit with a trousers and a small striped tie. They carried their suitcases and valises down to the bottom floor.

While the Greens were getting ready, Mulligan walked back up to his room. He peered out of the window, squinting through the coming evening gloom. "Damn," he whispered, noticing the unremarkable black tudor sedan parked on the corner, another one across the street. "Bastards are waiting for us. Well, Mulligan, time to earn your keep." He took his hands out of the sleeves of his trench coat, letting the coat hang over his shoulders like a cape. Mulligan picked up his shotgun and held it with one hand, letting the folds of the trench coat hide it. He used his free hand to pick up his suitcase and walked downstairs.

Clark Reeper sat on the stairs, looking at his family. "Well, I guess I ought to say so long," he said, Mulligan walked around him and standing with his employers. Clark sighed. "I'll be goddamned, danged, if y'all ain't a sight for sore eyes already."

He stepped forward and walked over to Oswald. "You watch yourself, son," Clark told Oswald, ruffling the boy's hair. "It's a dangerous world out there. I should know. But you stay true to your heart, because you got a good one, and you keep asking questions and wanting to learn."

"Okay, Grandpa Clark," Oswald said softly. He hugged his grandfather back. "I'll miss you."

"I will too, son." Clark looked up at Catherine. "My son's a lucky man. He loves you and Oswald more than life itself. I know you won't have trouble remembering that." He kissed her hand. "Come back safe."

"I will, Mr. Reeper," Catherine said.

"Good." Clark looked up at Charles. He embraced his son. "Take care of them," he told Charles. "But I don't need to tell you that, I think." Lastly, he looked at Mulligan. "You watch after them, mister."

"Sure thing," Mulligan agreed.

They walked to the door, saying their goodbyes to Grandpa Clark as they got into the car. Catherine went into the back with Oswald, while Charles drove, and Mulligan sat in the passenger seat. Charles started the automobile and backed out into the street. Oswald leaned out of the window and waved back to Grandpa Clark, even as the automobile rolled down the street and down the hill, and then turned the corner. The Green Family's journey had begun.

Charles Green looked at Meat Hook Mulligan and noticed the stock of a gun, wrapped in his coat. "Is that what I think it is?" Charles whispered.

Mulligan jabbed his thumb out the window. "Two boilers, tinted windows, driving up fast. You see them?"

"I do," Charles said, looking in the rear view mirror. Catherine and Oswald were talking about Oswald's schooling and the subjects Catherine would be tutoring him in, and weren't listening. The Packard was driving near the docks now, heading past the remains of Barbary Coast and along the south docks. "What should I do?"

"We gotta play this one real smart," Mulligan replied. "You pull over near the docks, but be sure to keep the engine running. Tell your woman and the boy to get their heads down. I'll deal with the droppers, and when they automobubble up here, you step on the gas and get out of the way. Got it?"

"Yeah," Charles agreed, tightly gripping the wheel. "Oh God…" he whispered. He drove over to the dock, the wooden pier and gray ocean right outside of the car. "Oswald?" he asked. "Catherine? Get your heads down, please."

"What do you mean, papa?" Oswald asked.

Mulligan opened the door and stepped out. The two autos came down the hill. On the foremost vehicle, Big Benny stepped out of the passenger seat and stood on the runner, an automatic in his hands. Mulligan pulled the shotgun out, bringing it up to his shoulder.

"Second shot, you mick bastard!" Benny cried.

"Get down, honey!" Catherine cried, pushing Oswald down to the seat and ducking low just as Mulligan's shotgun thundered. Benny flew off of the truck, a shell planted into his gut. His body rolled and bounced on the street before coming to a stop.

Mulligan walked forward, unloading his shotgun at the incoming automobiles. The first auto kept driving, careening forward after Mulligan's second shot shattered the windshield and slaughtered the driver. The auto slid out of the way, turning over and crashing hard on the ground. The second automobile kept on driving, two gunmen on the runners.

"Now!" Mulligan shouted back to Charles Green, throwing himself out of the way of the speeding car. Charles stepped on the gas and his Packard shot forward, straight out of the way of the second automobile. It rolled down the dock, its breaks squealing to no avail. The automobile flew off the edge, crashing straight into the cold water.

By now, the button men in the first automobile had gotten out, one of them limping from a shot to his leg. "Remember me, Mulligan?" A Thompson submachine rattled to life, and Mulligan ducked for cover and bullets cracked into the pavement around him. The man holding the Thompson walked forward, and Mulligan saw his hideously scarred face. He raised his shotgun, but a burst of machine gun fire struck his shoulder and the weapon fell from his hands. Mulligan fell down on the pavement.

Scars walked towards "Do you remember me, huh?" he asked, holding up the Thompson.

Mulligan stared at him. "Nope," he said.

Scars' mouth opened in surprise and Mulligan drew out his long-barreled revolver and fired, putting a bullet between the mobster's eyes. Mulligan stood up, using his wounded arm to support the revolver and firing the rest of the shots at the automobile. From the pavement, Big Benny came shakily to his feet. He took a halting step towards Mulligan, before Mulligan grabbed the fallen shotgun with one hand and fired, taking Benny in the face. He toppled over and did not rise again.

Another engine's roar split the night. Mulligan looked up and saw another automobile racing towards the scene. "Get out of here!" he shouted to the Greens, walking forward as he pulled out more shells from his pocket and slid them into the shotgun. He worked the pump and fired, taking out the front two tires in an explosion of rubber. The auto slid crazily forward before coming to a stop, and Mulligan ran to the car and pressed the muzzle of his shotgun inside. He fired and fired and blood erupted from windows and one of the doors opened and corpses rolled out.

The passenger door opened and a Donovan Jones stepped outside, bringing up a sub-gun. Mulligan turned around and fired the shotgun at him, but the gun clicked empty. "Hah!" Jones laughed. "Got you now, big fellow! Got you—"

Mulligan grabbed the Thompson and pushed it up, Jones pulling the trigger and firing into the air. Mulligan pushed the gun away and Jones reached into his coat and drew out an automatic, but Mulligan smashed him with the shotgun but, knocking out several of his teeth and crushing his nose, and the pistol fell from his hands, the shotgun following it.

"I'll show you, I'll show you," Donovan whispered, reaching into his pockets. He drew out a switchblade and flicked it open. "I'll show you!" He stabbed it forward, slashing Mulligan's arm, but the ex-boxer's other hand was already up and raised, holding the crowbar.

"Then show me!" Mulligan shouted, bringing the crowbar down on Donovan's head. Jones's mouth opened and the switchblade fell from his hands. He slunk slowly to the ground, and Mulligan kicked him while he was down, then turned back to the Green Family's Packard.

Charles stood by the opened door, staring at Mulligan. The bruiser raised his hands. "Why didn't you dust when I told you to?" he asked.

Oswald stuck his head out of the window, Catherine covering his eyes. "We wanted to make sure you were okay, Mr. Mulligan," Oswald said.

"I'm fine, I'm fine." Mulligan walked back, picking up the shotgun and tucking it under his arm.

"You're shot," Charles pointed to Mulligan's shoulder.

"So we'll bandage it once we get out to see. It barely touched meat anyway." Mulligan walked around and got into the passenger seat of the Packard. All of the Greens stared at him. "Well?" Mulligan asked. "Hurry up and drive! You don't want to miss your boat!"

Donovan Jones had bandages wrapped around his head and his nose, and several of his front teeth were gone. He sat in the lobby of the Octopus Club, tapping his loafers on the tiled floor impatiently outside of Lionel Thaddeus Brenchwood's office. He had spent the day at the beach, waiting for the bodies of his thin pal and some of the men he had hired to wash up. A few of them were still in decent condition, but most hadn't made it. That was better than the rest of the hoodlums he had brought against the Green Family.

"You may enter," came Brenchwood's deep voice.

Jones walked inside and sat down. Brenchwood sat at his desk, smoking a cigar. He looked up at Jones and frowned. "A failure, Donny," he said. "That is, exactly, what you are."

"Hell, Mr. Brenchwood," Jones muttered. "I was doing my best! We almost nailed that sucker, and we would have kicked off the lot if he wasn't in the way!"

"And yet you did not." Brenchwood opened one of the drawers on his desk. "I needed Green and his family dead and yet they live. How do you explain that?"

"It's this new mug they got watching their backs!" Donny cried. "Meat Hook Mulligan, some hardcase Mick with a death wish. He went through my men like he weren't even trying, and the Greens got away without a scratch. It's gonna be tough to whack them now, boss."

"I would agree, seeing that they have left the country!" Brenchwood pulled out a revolver from his desk and aimed it at Jones. "I should kill you right now!" he shouted. "There would be no inquest! There would be no one looking for you! I could walk out of the office and the janitors would dispose of you without even my asking. You are a maggot in the dirt and I am God and you have failed me."

Jones stared at the revolver, a silver inlaid weapon covered with intricate scrollwork. "You ain't gonna kill me," he told Brenchwood.

"Oh? And why is that?" Lionel Brenchwood enquired.

"Because I deserve another shot at that Mick, and by golly, you're gonna give it to me!"

Brenchwood smiled. "That's a good attitude, Donny." He set the revolver back. "But there are some rules now, especially since they've left the country."

"What do you mean? You must have folks all over the globe. They can track them, and then I'll catch up, bring some button men with me, and finish those stinking Greens."

"I'm afraid it simply isn't that easy." Brenchwood patted the issue of the Weekly Worker, now kept near his desk. "Our influence is lessening in this city, and I don't want an international incident, even against some Jewish Bolsheviks, to compound matters. We have to wait until it is an advantageous time to strike, and then we shall."

"Oh, we shall all right!" Jones agreed. "And I'm gonna waste that bastard!"

The Green Family met T.L. Hotchkiss at the dock. He wore his customary vest and tie, a camel hair coat protecting him from the cold, and he handed them all a ticket. "I rented one stateroom, three bedrooms," he said. "I hope that will be enough."

"It should," Charles said, looking at the large ship behind them, steam pouring out its smokestacks as it prepared to leave the docks. "And thank you, Mr. Hotchkiss. I do appreciate this."

"Well, I will appreciate some good articles. On time, at that!" He pointed to the ship. "It will go to Callao, but there's been a change of plans. Instead of going inland to the Gran Chaco region, I wish you to take another boat, a smaller craft, out into the ocean, and land on the Lost Islands."

Oswald's eyes widened in excitement. "You mean, the islands just discovered by Sir Douglas Percy Mooning ten years ago? With all the ancient animals and things on them? With the dinosaurs?"

Hotchkiss nodded. "Very good, little Green. For some reason, the Bolivian and Paraguayan armies have started a second front, right in the Lost Islands. You will observe the Paraguayan group, currently encamped on Isla de Plata island. The Bolivians landed on Isla de Bronce island, and Isla de Oro, the final island, is between them."

"Okay," Charles agreed. "We'll be there."

"Good. I'll be in touch via telephone and radio." T.L. Hotchkiss held out his hand and Charles shook it. Hotchkiss looked at Oswald. "And I am dreadfully sorry for what happened to you, Oswald. You are a very good boy, and you make your father proud. Good luck, boy."

"Thank you, sir," Oswald said. He shook Hotchkiss's hand, and then the Greens walked up the gangplank and onto the boat.

"The Lost Islands?" Catherine asked. "I don't like it, I just don't. They're unexplored, and who knows what kinds of dangers will be lurking there, not to mention the fact that its about to become a war zone!"

"We'll be fine," Charles insisted. "We'll be observers, and no one wants to start an international incident by shooting an American reporter, or his family.

They walked below decks, and headed to their stateroom, placing their luggage in a corner. Oswald clambered onto the nearest bed. "Can we listen to the radio?" he asked, yawning. "I'm not tired…"

"Don't you want to see us pull away from the docks?" Mulligan asked. "I only saw it once, when I left for France in the Great War, but it was some sight. Come on, let's go on deck."

Oswald hopped off the bed and he and Mulligan walked upstairs, Charles and Catherine following him. They stood on the deck and looked out at San Francisco. The city glowed in the distance, every window and streetlight seemed to be full of light. The San Carlo pulled away from the dock and steamed out into the gray ocean, the blinding lights of the city falling further and further away.

Oswald looked back at his family and smiled. "This is swell," he said happily.

Charles and Catherine walked up to him. Catherine smiled at Charles as they looked at the city. "Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all," she said. "I guess I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Oswald should see sights like this."

"Thanks," Charles said. "And so should you."

Mulligan leaned forward on the railing and looked back at the Greens. Oswald waved goodbye to San Fransisco, and Charles and Catherine followed suite.

"You've had worse jobs," Mulligan muttered to himself. He looked back at San Francisco, receding into the darkness as the Green Family began their international adventure.

-The End-