Excerpt from Chapter 5: Vincent Boys

I ran to catch up to Grin, who was already on the move. I remembered his mentioning the Vincent boys but had no idea what it meant. As we rounded Broadway onto Warren Street it became clear where we were headed: St. Vincent’s Newsboy Home.

53 Warren Street was just two blocks from Newspaper Row. It looked like a religious boarding house, similar to the asylum. I was hesitant to approach.

“It’ll be fine,” Grin laughed. “We won’t go inside.”

Grin walked around back to the alley. Sure enough, there was a band of about ten boys, from ages ten and seventeen, gathered in secret. I wondered what it was about these particular boys that was enough to scare Rat off when Grin mentioned them.

The one leading the conversation had red hair and a black eye patch over his left eye.

“The Long Island boys had it right. The deliverymen was cheatin’ ‘em, givin’ them a stack with a few papes less than their order. They had to soak ‘em,” said the boy with the eye patch.

A tall kid with a heavy brow and rather clean clothes leaned forward. “We don’t need a strike. We all gotta eat. We all gotta pay board.”

“But Abe, ever since de war, it’s still six cents a ten. News ain’t the same now, yet we are still payin’ the same,” said the boy sitting next to him, who looked older than most of the boys.

“I know what we pay, Jim,” sneered Abe.

“It’s Hearst and Pulitzer too. Both are stickin’ to their price,” added the smallest one of the group.

The leader took notice of Grin.

“Grin! Just in time.”

“Kid.” Grin spat in his hand, and the two shook. Kid’s smile faded when he saw me.

“Why the dame?”

I didn’t say anything.

“Why the strike?” Grin countered.

“Boot’s takin’ all his boys up to City Hall Park tomorra. Dave too. They’ll make a decision there.” Kid took a seat without recognizing my presence. I kept standing.

“We need to stand on our own no matter what,” chimed in a stocky little boy with a very round face.

“We always do, Indian” Grin said.

A skinny boy chewing on a pretzel, lifted it in agreement,. “Cheers to that.”

“It sounds like all gangs will be on their own, even if we do strike.” Kid appeared to be the leader of the Vincent boys, and they hung on his every word.

“Will there be enough of us?” Grin challenged.

“There’ll be a hundred boys at Park Row. That’s enough to strike. I say we Vincents lead the cause, rally the others around us,” another boy added.

“We ain’t leadin’ anythin’ yet Fitz.” Kid said, clearly annoyed by him. “But imagine Grin, if de Brooklyn boys are behind this, even Jersey.”

“What about the cops?” Grin took the dice off the table between the boys and shook it in his hand.

“They’re all tied up with the trolley strikers. They don’t care ‘bout us.” The smallest boy interjected, now gnawing on half of the pretzel he seized from the tall skinny boy.

Grin nodded, taking this in.

“So, you with us?” Kid asked.

Grin rolled the dice: snake eyes.

“I’m with ya.”