This is Chapter Twenty-six -- "The Incident -- Part II"
The other stories in the "Wayfarers" series.
Features Brian Kinney, William Reynolds, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Reynolds has a run of bad luck in Manhattan. New York City, May 1844.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
New York City, May 1844
A few days after the evening at the Bowery Theater Reynolds and Brian were having breakfast in their hotel room. Reynolds was reading the 'New York Sun,' which was delivered to the room each morning, but he found it exceedingly dull. He took a 5-cent piece from his pocket and handed it to Brian. "Run to the newsstand on the corner and buy a copy of the 'Herald.' Then we shall see what is really happening in this city."
Brian pocketed the nickel. "I thought you said that the 'Herald' printed nothing but scandal and gossip about the lowest scoundrels in Manhattan!" he laughed.
Reynolds sniffed. "How else shall I know what my nefarious acquaintances are up to if I do not follow their doings in the 'Herald'? Now get me that paper, Boy. I also wish to see the timetables for the railway trains to Boston, so procure one of those as well."
Brian's eyes widened. "Are we going to Boston on the train?" Brian had never been on this new conveyance before. He had heard that the train was noisy and dirty and moved at a thrilling rate of speed through the countryside. He could not wait to ride on it. "When are we leaving New York?"
Reynolds rubbed his forehead. "In a few day's time. I have had enough of this city. It is profitable here, however...." Reynolds frowned. There were too many memories in New York. Memories that Reynolds wished to evade, especially now that he had Brian in his life. He could not forget that encounter with his cousin on the street. The exchange haunted Reynolds and he was afraid that Jacob, who was not a man to take no for an answer, had been seeking him out ever since. His cousin meant well, but Jacob could never understand the life that Reynolds now lived. He thought about the way his cousin had looked at Brian, especially when Reynolds had informed him that the Boy's mother was an Irishwoman. Jacob had been shocked that a Rosenblum had apparently taken a wife from outside the Faith, especially one from a group despised even by Gentiles. How flabbergasted would Jacob be to know that the Irish Boy was not his cousin David's son, but his paramour and his beloved partner in crime?
"Off with you! And don't spend the remainder of that money on sweets!" said Reynolds, pushing the Boy towards the door.
"I won't," Brian grinned. The newspaper cost only a penny, so the extra four cents was pure profit. Brian was saving his pennies to buy himself a fancy waistcoat, just like the ones that Reynolds wore. Perhaps one in bright green. Or white satin with green shamrocks embroidered on it. That could be his trademark, like his master's red roses, which everyone in the sporting life recognized as the personal emblem of William Reynolds.
It was a bright May morning, almost June, and the sun was already waxing hot. Brian would be happy to get out of this town before the real summer heat set in. He walked down Park Row towards the newsstand. The man nodded to the Boy and gave him a 'Herald' and four cents in change for his nickel. Brian also took a railway timetable and put it in the pocket of his brown jacket. He thought about riding on the steam train and smiled to himself. The train was much faster than any coach. He had seen the tracks along the highway on their way up from Baltimore and heard the whistle, but he had not been able to see the train in action. And now he would be on it!
Brian perused the other papers and periodicals at the stand, wandering around the side to look at all the available merchandise. Besides the daily newspapers, there were ladies' weeklies, literary magazines, and sporting gazettes. One of the sporting papers featured an etching of some prizefighters on the front page. Brian leaned over to look at it more closely.
"My master has a message for your Mr. Reynolds."
Brian looked up to see the yellow-haired servant of Reynolds' friend from the house they had visited after the theater. Brian curled his lip. He did not care for the servant's insolent demeanor. "He can send it to our hotel. It is just down the street."
"My master wants YOU to take it to Mr. Reynolds -- personally," the servant insisted. Then he took a staunch hold of Brian's arm. There was a closed carriage stopped next to the sidewalk, only a few steps away. "My master wishes to speak with you so that you get the message correct."
Brain balked. But then the carriage door opened wide and, before Brian knew what was happening, he was inside.
Reynolds finished dressing while the breakfast dishes were cleared away. Perhaps they would take the ferry over to Brooklyn today. He had not been over there in some time, but he knew that there were many interesting sights to see in the smaller city across the river. Brian would enjoy the ferry ride. Brian had once been afraid of boats, but now the Boy seemed to love the water as much as Reynolds did himself. Yes, after summering in Montreal, they could easily take one of the new fast steamer ships across to London and thence to Paris. There was money to be made abroad, but there was also Brian's education to think of. A season in London and then on the Continent would add polish to the Boy. With his looks, sharp mind, and winning charm, who could tell how far Brian might go?
Reynolds glanced at his pocket watch and realized that Brian had been gone a long while. He did not like the Boy lollygagging on the dirty sidewalks. There were rough street boys about and other shady characters even in decent neighborhoods. Brian was well-dressed and clean and that might make him a target for robbery or at least for being harassed. That had not happened since Brian had been beaten by that gang of youths in St. Louis the previous summer, but it was always a possibility. Brian went out on small errands for Reynolds almost every day, but he was rarely gone for more than a half-hour. Reynolds looked at his watch again and began to worry.
When an hour had gone by, Reynolds left the hotel room and checked at the front desk. No one had seen Reynolds' Boy. He hurried out into the street and headed directly for the newsstand. Yes, the Boy had purchased a paper, but the vendor did not see which direction the lad had gone. The man shrugged. "He's probably roaming the streets, looking for adventure."
Reynolds glared at the fellow. "My Boy does NOT 'roam the streets'! If you do not know where he has gone, then say so, damn it!" Reynolds turned his anger on the newspaper vendor, but in truth he was more fearful than angry. This was very unlike Brian. He was never one to simply wander off or be distracted from his errand, especially when he knew that Reynolds was waiting for him.
Reynolds walked the length of the block and then back again. He also searched the park, looking for sights that might interest a curious boy. Some children were playing, watched by their nurses. But no one had seen a tall, chestnut-haired Boy in a brown jacket and black britches.
That was when Reynolds found himself outside the nearest Watch Station. In most instances he avoided any encounters with the police, unless, as with his duel with Pascal Leclerc, they needed to be bribed. But this was another matter altogether. He watched two men emerge from the station, their hats and copper badges marking them as constables of the newly organized New York Police Force. Reynolds drew a deep breath and walked into the Station.
The Chief Constable, Mr. Tilton, was sitting in his office, going over piles of paperwork. That was much of what he did all day -- paperwork. It was never-ending. And the busy man was not amused by the tall, fashionably-dressed man's request. "You want me to send my officers out to do WHAT?"
"To look for my ward!" Reynolds was almost shouting in frustration. "He would never be gone this long if he had not met with foul play! I want someone to begin looking for him! You are a man in authority -- I want YOU to do something!"
Chief Tilton groaned. "Do you know how many wild boys there are on the streets of Manhattan, Mr. Reynolds? Thousands! Newsboys, street urchins, beggars, apprentice boys, messengers, pickpockets, horse-holders, runaways, and simple idlers. And you want me to send constables out to search for ONE boy among these multitudes? How old is the lad?"
Reynolds slumped in the wooden chair that faced the Chief's desk. "He's just turned 14. He's... a mere child." Reynolds' voice faltered. "And he is not an idler or a street urchin! He is a well-educated, well-bred Boy! He is not a runaway!" Reynolds swallowed. "Brian knows no one in this city but myself. He would never go off with a stranger. He would never go too far from the hotel. He is a sensitive Boy. The bustle of the city makes him nervous!" Reynolds stood up and began to pace the small office. "He might have come to harm! And it will be YOUR fault that you, who are sworn to protect the public good, did NOTHING!"
The Chief sat back in his chair. "Please calm yourself, sir. The boy may well have found some companions in the street and forgotten the time. When he is hungry he will return home and all will be well."
Reynolds paused in his pacing. "You have no idea what you are saying, sir. You may be describing other boys, but that is NOT my Brian! This is impossible! What good is a police force if they do not investigate abductions?"
Tilton sighed. "Please, Mr. Reynolds, there is no evidence that the boy was abducted or that he has met with any mishap. There is no proof that a crime has been committed. I will send a man out to the local hospitals to see if a boy of your ward's description has been treated there. However, I suggest that you go back to your hotel. I am certain the lad will turn up. There is nothing more that the law can do."
"Do you know the works of the esteemed Mr. Charles Dickens, sir?" said Reynolds, his voice shaking. "If not, then I will quote his words to you: 'The law is an ass!' And so, sir, are YOU!"
The Chief stood up and pointed to the door. "Good day, Mr. Reynolds! There is the door. You may use it forthwith!"
After 24 hours had gone by with no sign of Brian and no word of his whereabouts, Reynolds was back in the office of Chief Constable Tilton.
"What do you wish for me to do, Mr. Reynolds?" inquired the Chief. "The Watch is currently being reorganized and I have a hard enough time finding the men to allot to crimes that have already been committed, let alone sending men to find... what, sir? A single boy in this city? To investigate an abduction that may or may not have occurred? What would you have me do?"
Reynolds, who had not eaten or slept since Brian had disappeared, stared at the officer with hollow eyes. "Something! Anything! I beg you! There must be something that you can do! Are the authorities powerless in this city?"
Chief Tilton looked grim. "Practically, Mr. Reynolds. We ARE powerless in that we do not have the men we need to keep the peace. Gangs rule the streets and they outnumber us. There are men of violence who I cannot pursue and stolen property that I can never hope to recover because I do not have the means to do it. If you believe that your ward was abducted, then to what purpose? Have you received a request for a ransom? Have you an enemy who wishes to make you suffer? Or a family member who would take custody of the boy? It does not make sense that he should simply vanish from the streets for no reason."
"Brian is... a beautiful Boy," said Reynolds, quietly. "That is enough for some people. He's young and innocent. That is enough of a challenge to those who would take that innocence for their own purposes. Men who live to break beautiful things. To smash them into a thousand pieces!" Reynolds' voice rose to the breaking point.
The Chief Constable rubbed the bald spot on the top of his head. "Have you canvassed the hospitals? You might try some in Lower Manhattan as well. If a person was found injured, he might be taken to the closest institution. There are a number of charity wards near the Five Points and on the Bowery."
"I have already done so," said Reynolds, dismally. "And... been to the City Morgue."
The Chief flinched. "I'm sorry, Mr. Reynolds, but if anything turns up I will send an officer to your hotel to inform you."
Chief Tilton extended his hand and Reynolds shook it limply. "Thank you, sir. I know that you are doing the best that you can." Which is worthless, Reynolds added to himself. Completely worthless.
On the morning of the fourth day that Brian had been missing Reynolds sat in his hotel room, the timetable for the Boston railway train in his hands. He knew that he should leave the city and continue on with his life, but he could not bring himself to do it. Not yet.
Reynolds had no hope that he would ever see his Boy again. He knew too well the evils of this city and the ways of the men who did that evil. Brian was either dead and his body sunk deep in the East River, or else he was already far from New York, on his way to a brothel in a distant town. He might even be in transit to the West Indies or South America where a beautiful white boy would be a valuable commodity.
William Reynolds had searched every corner of the New York underworld that he dared, every saloon and brothel and sporting house that was likely to harbor men with a taste for boys. He had put out the word that he was willing to offer a reward for the Boy's return, no questions asked. He also offered a smaller reward for the return of the body or some proof that Brian was dead, again, with no questions asked. Anything would be better than not knowing. Never knowing.
But no one had heard anything. No one had seen anything. In one thing the Chief Constable had been mistaken -- there might be thousands of 14 year old boys in Manhattan, but Reynolds' Boy stood out from the common crowd. Every man and woman in the sporting life had seen or heard of him, if only by reputation, just as they knew of Reynolds. A Boy of Brian's description and provenance would be recognized immediately, which was how Reynolds was certain that the Boy was no longer in the city. Or no longer alive.
As he drank his way through another endless night, Reynolds had considered which Fate was worse. If the Boy were dead, then that was that. The gambler could only hope that he had been dispatched quickly after whoever had him was finished with him. The other alternative was almost as grim. Reynolds had no illusions about the treatment of whores, especially young boys. Madame Heloise and others of her profession could be kind, but they were not the norm, especially in the larger cities or in foreign places. A whore's life was often a short one, and the life of a boy whore, who would no longer be saleable after he became a man, might be even shorter. There were many men who had a taste for violence that could only be sated on the bodies of the young and helpless. And it was easy to make a child helpless with constant rations of opium or cheap alcohol. Reynolds tried not to think of some of the dreadful places he had seen in his travels, or of the terrible things he had seen done to the children in those places. He had been cynical then and had turned his eyes away from the pale, hopeless faces he had seen there. They had been nameless. They had been none of his concern. But those faces haunted him now.
Now, in the harsh light of day, William Reynolds had to make a decision. It was bootless to remain in this city. Every day he stayed was torture. He vowed to leave and never return. Reynolds dressed and packed his trunk. Brian's smaller trunk had already been closed and locked. He would take it with him. He could not bear to abandon it. He went downstairs. The concierge of the hotel could obtain a ticket for the railway. Reynolds only needed to tell him the time he wished to leave.
"Mr. Reynolds, there was a constable here, asking for you. Just a moment ago," said the clerk at the front desk. "I sent a boy up to your room to summon you. You must have passed him on your way down." The clerk called to a tall man loitering by the entrance. "This is Mr. Reynolds, officer."
The tall constable nodded. In his new hat and shiny badge, he was obviously one of the young and inexperienced recruits to the newly organized Police Force. "Could you come with me, sir? I was sent by Chief Constable Tilton to bring you to Mercy Hospital."
"Mercy Hospital? Where is that, man?" Reynolds swallowed, almost unable to hope.
"On the lower Bowery. It is run by the Sisters of St. Martha." The younger man led the way out of the hotel and began walking. But Reynolds hailed a cab. Walking all the way down to the lower Island would take too much time. The officer climbed eagerly into the cab next to the gambler. "I never been in a horse-cab before, mister!"
"Direct the driver and tell him to hurry!" Reynolds urged. "I assume this is about... about my ward? Has he been found? Is he... alive?"
The young constable grinned. "If he weren't alive, mister, I'd be taking you to the Morgue!" Then he saw Reynolds' stricken face. "Begging your pardon, sir. I was just told to bring you along. That's all I know."
The journey downtown seemed interminable to William Reynolds. Traffic on Broadway was thick and movement was slow, but finally the cab pulled up to a large gray institution that looked more like a foreboding prison than a hospital. Reynolds was aware that for most people a hospital was a refuge of last resort, a place not where you were cured, but where you were dropped off to die in the tender care of the Sisters.
The young constable directed Reynolds to the second floor and then took his leave. The gambler climbed the staircase and wandered the hallways, looking for the Chief Constable or at least a man in authority. Finally, one of the orderlies led him into a small ward. Most of the men there seemed to be workmen who had been injured in some way. Bandaged heads and arms and legs were much in evidence. Reynolds spotted Chief Constable Tilton in the far corner next to a wooden screen. He was speaking softly with one of the gray-habited Sisters of St. Martha.
"Here is Mr. Reynolds now," said the Chief, looking up. The nun, an older woman with a kindly but deeply lined face, nodded.
"Tell me what has happened! For God's sake!" Reynolds demanded. "Where is the Boy? Is he all right?"
Tilton held up his hands. "He's alive and has suffered no permanent harm that I can see. The physician is examining him now. He will be able to tell you more when he is finished."
Reynolds took a deep breath. "Where was Brian found?"
The Chief frowned. "In an alley off the Bowery, not far from here. It was early this morning. A ragpicker saw what he thought was a bundle of clothing and went to claim it. When he saw that the child was alive, he summoned a constable, who carried the lad here."
"Thank God!" said Reynolds. The Sister crossed herself, which made Reynolds shudder. The sooner he got Brian out of this place, the better. The sooner they got themselves out of this city, the better!
"How... how badly is Brian injured?" asked Reynolds, almost afraid to know. "Tell me the truth!"
The Chief avoided the tall man's gaze. This was not a subject he wished to discuss with anyone, let alone the boy's guardian. And the nun was standing right there! Better that the doctor give Mr. Reynolds the sordid details of the case. But Tilton watched the man's eyes. Reynolds seemed already to know what had happened to his ward. The Chief thought of some of thethings the gambler had said to him in his office. About beauty and innocence smashed. Well, the boy was hardly smashed, but he had certainly been damaged. And how would the boy deal with that? How would any man deal with such a thing and retain his manhood?
The doctor came around the screen and motioned to the Chief Constable. "You may question the patient now, sir. But I don't know how much you will get out of him. He claims to have no memory whatsoever of the past few days -- which is probably a mercy, considering his injuries."
"This is Mr. Reynolds, the lad's guardian," said Tilton. "Reynolds, this is Dr. Kraus. He is the attending physician at Mercy Hospital."
Reynolds stared intently at the doctor. He was a German so Reynolds expected no prevarication from the man. "What is the prognosis, Doctor? Do not mince words with me. Brian had little of value on him to be stolen, so I can imagine only one reason why he would be taken off the street in broad daylight -- to be assaulted -- and raped!" Reynolds glanced at the nun, but she did not flinch at his words. These Sisters who nursed the poor had seen all manner of evil, Reynolds thought. This is only one more example.
"Unfortunately, you are correct, Herr Reynolds. Someone tied the child, that is certain," said Dr. Kraus. "He has rope burns upon his wrists and ankles. The rope bit deeply into his skin, so he must have put up a struggle to free himself, but to no avail, it seems."
"Brian would fight," said Reynolds, softly. "He would fight until the end."
"He has bruises on his face and body, received, perhaps, when he was taken," the doctor continued. "He was also beaten with a switch or riding crop, which left some marks, but no lasting scars."
"No lasting scars on his body, you mean!" Reynolds said. "But what about on his impressionable mind? What about on his memory, sir? What of those scars?"
Dr. Kraus shrugged. "The boy claims that he remembers nothing after he was taken into a carriage against his will. It is possible that he was kept drugged so that he would not remember what was done to him. Any man who would use a boy in the way he was used would not wish for the child to remember what had happened."
"Unless the bastard did not care if the Boy remembered or not," Reynolds declared. "A drugged victim is less exciting to a degenerate than one who fights back. One who tries to escape. Who begs for mercy." Reynolds closed his eyes, thinking of a dark place he had visited in Paris where cold-eyed men enjoyed making their partners cry out in pain. And he shuddered thinking of when he himself had inflicted pain on his Boy that first time on the riverboat. Of the way Brian had cried out in fear, begging for him to stop. Was he any better for what he had done than whoever had abused Brian? "Was the Boy... was he badly used? Is he in pain? Much pain?"
"Badly enough," Dr. Kraus said matter of factly. "He was treated roughly. However, I would say that the child is lucky to be alive. Whoever took him made sport with him, but they could easily have killed him before they discarded him. He has a bump on his head and he was unconscious when he was found. Perhaps they meant to kill him and did not finish the job. What wounds he has will heal." The doctor picked up his leather bag. "I have given the Sisters instructions for his care. Laudanum in small amounts to relieve the pain. The greatest risk now is infection. But he should be walking in a day or two. Where is your abode, sir? Do you have a wife who can tend to the child? Or servants?"
"It is just the two of us. We are in the city on business and living at a hotel on Park Row," said Reynolds. "I... I will do what I can. Whatever needs to be done."
The doctor nodded. "If the child heals well while he is here, then I will give you salve to apply -- Sister Margaret will show you what to do. She has been tending to the child since he was brought here. And I will prescribe more laudanum if the pain continues. But do not give him too much. Some come to crave the drug and cannot do without it. It is the opium in the laudanum that takes hold even after the pain has been conquered."
"I understand, Doctor," said Reynolds. "I have no desire to see my ward become an addict."
Chief Constable Tilton came around the wooden screen. "That was useless!" he huffed. "The boy can tell me nothing! No description of anyone. No idea of how many men there were. No memory of the premises where he was kept. He just stares at me with those big eyes and doesn't answer. All he can say is, 'I don't remember.'"
"He must have been drugged," offered Dr. Kraus. "Or else the blow to the head drove out his memory. It may yet return."
Tilton snorted. "If it does, someone send word to me so I can get a description." The Chief glared at Reynolds. "I cannot catch perpetrators with nothing but air, Mr. Reynolds. If your ward remembers anything at all, take note of it. Otherwise, the men will get off scot-free!"
"I will, sir," said Reynolds. He shook the Chief Constable's hand. "I do not wish for the villains to get off without punishment. Believe me on that."
Sister Margaret, who had been standing by the wooden screen in silence, touched Reynolds' arm. "Come now, sir. You may see the boy."
"Thank you, Sister," Reynolds replied. And he followed the nun behind the wooden screen to see Brian.
Continue on to Chapter 27 "The Incident -- Part III" .