Western Fiction posted April 18, 2013 Chapters:  ...19 20 -21- 22... 


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Caitlin continues her search for the Sullivans.

A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO

Chp. Eight-Part 2A

by c_lucas



Background
This relates nine-year-old Caitlin Wiley's troubles to reconnect with her extended family.










NEW YORK CITY
FIVE POINTS, IRISH SLUMS
JANUARY, 1879

ENDING OF THE LAST CHAPTER: “Sister Abigail said you knew where Grandmother Sullivan moved to. Would you please contact her and ask her to send Conor for me?” Eyes locked on her former tormentor, Caitlin waited for an answer.

“Yes, I do and I can, but you need to atone for the trouble you caused me and Sister Abigail. Take off your coat, pull up your dress and lay across my desk.” She pulled a leather strap out and laid it on the desk.

The girl looked over her shoulder; Sister Abigail was guarding the locked door. "Never show fear." Heather’s words whispered in her mind. Caitlin took a deep breath and looked at the Reverend Mother.

“I done nothing you didn’t deserve. You punish me when you knew I was innocent.” Caitlin stepped deeper into the room, away from the nun behind her. “Will you tell me where Mrs. Sullivan moved to, or do I need to ask Father Paul?”

“Father Paul doesn’t know. Do as I told you.” The Reverend Mother’s venom-filled look didn’t affect the girl.

“No!” Caitlin put her hand in her coat pocket.

“Grab the little troublemaker!”

Sister Abigail spread out her arms and came at Caitlin in a crouch.

Caitlin’s first rock hit the nun on her anklebone. She fell down, screaming. The second rock hit the Reverend Mother above her left eye, and she fell over her desk chair. The girl ran toward the door, and fumbled with the lock. In her haste, it took her longer to unlock the door.

“You’ll pay for that, you little brat.” Sister Abigail hobbled toward the girl, almost reaching her before Caitlin opened the door and fled.
******

Caitlin ran through the back gates and didn’t stop until she traveled several blocks from the convent.  She saw no one was following her and cut a straight line to the park, finding it to be empty.  I’ll go to Lila’s home. Her mother will help me.

She hurried the two blocks north of the park and opened the front door to Lila Doyle’s apartment building. She knocked on Apartment Three A. Caitlin did not know the woman who answered.

“Who are you to be disturbing us at supper time?” The woman scowled at the girl.

“I’m looking for Lila Doyle, ma’am.” Caitlin shifted her feet, prepared to run.

“The Doyle family moved to Kansas last summer. I don’t know what part.” The woman dismissed Caitlin and started to close the door.

“Please, Ma’am, do you know where the Sullivans moved to?” Caitlin felt a knot growing in her stomach.

“What this?” a man came to the door. “First you be asking about the Doyle family. Now, you be asking about the Sullivans. Mr. Sullivan was killed and two of his boys shot up. If you have any questions, go ask Father Paul or the Reverend Mother.” He closed the door in Caitlin’s face. She heard him say, “Woman, I’m hungry. Don’t be wasting yer time prattling with some girl when yeh should be fixing me dinner.” She heard the sound of a slap and the woman cried out.

Caitlin stood for a moment, staring at the door. She turned and walked away, toward the church, and reached her destination as the sun lowered and the moon began to rise. Her stomach began to rumble.

There may be money in the pauper’s box. She entered the church’s vestibule and sneaked up to the sanctuary entrance. She saw a few parishioners waiting quietly for the beginning of the evening mass. She picked up the cedar wood box and raised the lid. The girl placed the meager offering, two large cent pennies, in her left coat pocket.

“Caitlin, where have you been?” Father Paul looked down at her. She dropped the box, skirted around the priest and ran out the door. “Caitlin, wait!” The priest ran after her and almost caught her.

The girl darted out into the street and just missed being trampled by a two-horse carriage.
By the time the driver brought his horses under control and the priest could cross safely, Caitlin was nowhere in sight.

Caitlin ran three blocks before she was rudely stopped by someone grabbing the back of her coat. “Whoa there, what’s your hurry?”

“Let go of me!” Her captor lifted her up until their faces were even.

“You be mighty small to hand out such big talk.” He  looked away as she put her hand into her coat pocket.

Catlin threw a rock aimed at his head. It hit and bounced off the left ear.

Her captor dropped her and felt his ear. He stared at his bloodied fingers. “Why, you little bitch!”

Caitlin stomped the arch of his left foot and took off running.

The boy, hopping on one foot screamed “Get her!”
Rocks flew around her and a large one hit her in the small of her back, almost knocking her down. She stumbled, cut around a corner, and turned into the next alley, away from the boys. As she neared the end of the alley, a boy jumped out, and yelled. “I’ve got her.”

Caitlin lowered her head, ran at her adversary and speared the boy’s genitals. He screamed and she turned left. Soon, she did not hear any sounds of the chase. The girl headed for the back of the church. She slid under the gate, picked herself up, got her bearing and raced to her mother’s grave. Caitlin flung her body over the grave. The metal pipe gouged into her hip. She adjusted it and lay there, gasping as a fog drifted over the cemetery.

Caitlin controlled her breathing and lay there, listening. Soon her day’s activity caught up with her and she fell asleep. A pink mist covered her, bringing her warmth.
 

The crowing of a rooster brought Caitlin out of her sleep-state.  She brushed herself and went behind a tree to relieve her bladder. Thoughts of Mr. Johansen filled her head. He can help me. She hurried down the back street, which ran parallel to the main street. When she felt safer, she moved to the main street and kept her eye out for the horse-drawn trolley.

Caitlin caught the first trolley of the day, paid her two cents and rode to The Bird Nest. When she spied the herbal shop, she jumped off the trolley and hurried across the nearly deserted street. The young girl stopped when she noticed the For Sale sign in the entrance door’s window.

Caitlin placed her face against the glass and stared into the empty shop.

“Can I help you, Miss?” A policeman, tapping his night stick against his leg stared down on her.

The girl swallowed. “Do you know where Mr. Johansen is?” She felt uneasy when the policeman continued to stare at her. “I have a message from my grandmother for him.” The lie made her squirm.

“A message from your grandmother, eh? For Mr. Johansen, eh? Why would you be delivering so early in the morning?”

“Oh! There be my father waving for me.” She caught the policeman flat-footed and took off across the busier street. Once across, Caitlin turned and saw the policeman had not followed her. She waved and started running down the street. When she stopped and checked on the policeman, he was walking in the opposite direction.
 

Caitlin walked several blocks the way she had come by the horse trolley. The hunger pains increased and she began looking for a place to raid their garbage cans. She spied four small children being bullyied by three large boys. The one she thought was the leader took something from a small boy, pushed him to the ground, and kicked him.

From less than thirty feet away, Caitlin pulled one of her diminishing supply of rocks from her coat pocket and threw it at the bully’s head.  Before it connected, she charged the other two with her metal pipe.

The bully screamed as the rock struck his right ear. She connected with one boy’s knee and the other’s shin bone. They began hopping around cursing. Without stopping, she turned her attention to the bully and brought the bar down on the arch of his right foot, finishing him by smashing his knee cap.

“Run!” Caitlin pointed in the direction from which she came. The children ran. She brought her pipe across the bully’s nose and ran after the children, easily overtaking them, helping them across the busy road, and turning them down the second alley.

The four young ones stopped and began to check the garbage for food. Caitlin’s stomach was beyond growling. She joined in the search for food. Afterwards, they continued on their journey to The Blessed Church of the Immigrant. Caitlin halted their journey two blocks away from the church.

She waited for the sun to go down, before she had the children slide under the gate. One of the girls walked over toward Father Paul’s office. The girl started to eat something. Caitlin hurried over and saw a dim outline of a plate with sandwiches and cookies setting on a window ledge. She offered the plate to the other children, reminding them to be quiet.

When the plate was cleaned, Catlin led the children to the back of the graveyard. Beginning with the foot of her mother’s grave, Caitlin had the children lie on the ground as a fog rolled in. She made sure they lay close together and she lay close to the head. The pink mist covered all, keeping them warm.
 

The following morning Caitlin led the children to the convent. “I’m going to leave you here. The sisters will take care of you, even if you are not members of the Catholic Church.”

“My name is Linda, what’s yours?”

“My name is Jo. Linda, make sure everyone stays right here until the nuns get up.”

Caitlin hugged and kissed each child. She waved at them and slipped under the gate. All morning she searched for someone who knew the whereabouts of the Sullivan family, but without success.
 
Around noon, Caitlin passed a fruit stand. She stood there, admiring the apples. She raised one to her nose and sniffed it, enjoying the fragrance.

“Stop thief!” The vendor hurried toward her.

Surprised, she held on to the apple and turned to run.

Someone grabbed her.

“I’ve got her, sir. She hadn’t bitten into the apple, yet.”

Caitlin looked into the eyes of one of the boys from yesterday. Soon, other hands took hold of her. She recognized her other two enemies.

“We caught her red-handed, sir.”
 
 
 
 
 
 


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