"So yer the one they calls 'The Preacher,'" The
King said in his deep, bass voice, as he sized Winkler up. "Ya
got religion or somethin?"
This was the first time they'd met since Winkler'd become
Boss of the Roslyn Crew, the local chapter of the larger Mayfair
Gang. After checkin his staff and colours with the bouncer at
the door, Winkler'd been shown into his club, to the booth near
the stage where The King often conducted his business.
"Fraid not." Winkler chuckled. "To tell
ya the truth, I figures The Book's just a tempt by the
Lords to maintain cultural hegemony mong the workin classes, so
as to keep us all in line durin the Enclosure. The other two testaments,
well, they're just a matter of faith, ain't they, and I ain't
got none of that neither."
The King just laughed and nodded. It was a slow, deep rumble.
He was Fallen emself. He'd done some time as a polfacter for dealin
drugs or somethin. But he'd been born Chosen, so the prep lingo
wasn't lost on em.
"Good." The King's face wore a wry smile. "Some
of the old timers still sez The Book's all a pack of lies,
that it was all made up. Yer pretty smart for a crewboy. But then
yer mom was Chosen too, weren't she?"
The crewmen all sumed the lingo was somethin he'd learned
from his mom too. They all knew Somerset'd been born on the Island
erself; just like The King. Til she was down-and-outed as a young
woman. But she'd brought er books with er when she was exiled
to the Mainland, carryin Winkler long in er belly, so as he could
have a proper education when he was old nough. It was the prep
lingo and his outspoken attitude when it come to religion that'd
resulted in his nickname.
"So how can The King help ya today?"
"Well, I was hopin ya might be able to resolve a little
problem we've been havin with the Straddy Boys." Winkler
began to briefly recount the story.
Course a lot of it was familiar to the King anyhow. His
place was right in the middle of the greyland tween their two
neighborin terries, an area into which the feud tween the two
rival crews often spilled.
Winkler emself membered the day the feud'd started vividly.
It was the same day he'd first learned he'd become Boss after
Jonesie bout two years previous, back when he emself was still
just a crewboy. That was also the same night Richard, Jonesie's
second at the time'd been killed by the Straddy Boys.
Bout two weeks previous to that a bunch of the crewmen'd
come home from a raid gainst the Straddy Boys terry, braggin bout
how they'd happened on one of the bangers who hung with em bein
shown home by two of their crewmen. They'd bled the crewmen and
laid em out in a trace, then taken turns havin a go with the banger.
"It wasn't til after Richard's death that we learned
the truth, though," Winkler said. "Crazy Boy'd been
screamin bout it as he held up his sharpie after slittin Richard's
throat. That'd been no banger, that'd been Crazy Boy's girl, the
one he was gonna marry. He called feud in revenge for us havin
The King nodded grimly.
When Winkler got to the part bout the set up leadin up
to Richard's murder, though, he could see that The King hadn't
been ware that it was a contact from his own club who'd betrayed
em. And while Winkler emself never said as much, he could also
see from his reaction that The King realized that his club'd become
directly embroiled in the feud.
"Course, there was nothin I could do bout the feud
so long as Jonesie and Crazy Boy remained as Bosses, coz there
was far too much bad blood tween em. So I never even suggested
the idea of a truce to Jonesie while I was his second. But both
of em retired only bought a month previous, as ya know, without
nother death on either side since. So it's the Straddy Boys who
still owes us blood. Ya know that leaves me an openin to try to
resolve things with their new Boss, cordin to code."
The King nodded slowly and thoughfully as he considered
all he'd just heard. He was familiar with the code from his frequent
dealins with the crews. So when Winkler mentioned his plan to
make peace with the Straddy Boys, The King seemed greeable.
"I could use yer influence on my side," Winkler
concluded. "Yer word carries weight with both crews."
"Awright," The King seemed to preciate Winkler's
gesture of respect. "Well peace in the streets won't hurt
my club none, like ya sez."
Nor would it fect his trade in weapons, as both crews'd
always need those. Winkler emself'd be orderin nother batch of
staffs soon as they recruited some more crewboys the followin
"So then ya wants me to broker it, contact Robbie
and get em and his boys down here for a meetin. What ya do then?
They still owes ya blood, like ya sez."
"I'll offer em peace, like I sez. But if Robbie won't
give us what's owed, we'll take it from em, one way or nother."
The King just laughed gain, "I like yer style kid.
I'll see what I can do."
* * *
One of The King's men brought word to The Black Hole, the
booze can he and his crew ran in their clubhouse, only a couple
days later. He said the Straddy Boys'd meet em out front of the
King James the followin weekend. Saturday night, 10 pm.
Winkler and his full crew rived five minutes early. He
stationed emself in the centre of the street, with all of those
with staffs spacin emselves from sidewalk to sidewalk on either
side. They limbered up, and gave emselves plenty of room to maneuver
if they should be forced to defend emselves. Less than half of
the crew could cover the entire street. The rest spread out behind
em as back up, sharpies and bashers at the ready. Two crewboys
placed a case of corp whiskey on the street behind Winkler, before
retreatin back to the safety of their own terry.
A crowd sembled on the sidewalk on both sides of the entrance
to the King James as they waited. No doubt takin a break from
their drinks inside, waitin to witness the show in the dimly lit
Bout a dozen of The King's men, all wearin dark suits,
peared momentarily. They took up positions in a semicircle round
the steps leadin up to the King James. Then, just before ten,
the Straddy Boys rounded the corner at the far end of the street,
proachin cautiously from the opposite direction. They stopped
bout ten yards way, spreadin emselves out in a group behind Robbie,
all wearin the blood red vests and headbands of their gang. The
two crews faced one another uneasily, with The King's men tween
em, their weapons not drawn, but no doubt well armed, as everyone
knew. The King kept the best weapons, such as real pol guns and
zappers, for his own men.
The King emself peared at the top of the steps a moment
later, also wearin a dark suit, as well as his stylish black fedora.
The King was a large, bald, black man with a full beard and multiple
piercins in both ears. He was middle aged, but still a solid block
of muscle; well over 200 pounds, even though not much taller than
Winkler's six feet. He stood quietly for a long moment, his large
hands clasped together before em. He slowly surveyed the crowd
to either side, and the sembled crews, who all waited expectantly.
Finally he spoke, his voice boomin out over the street.
"The Roslyn Crew's asked for this meeting, and for
me to arrange and broker it." He used prep lingo to emphasize
the formality of the situation. "Robbie you've agreed. There
will be no violence here today, whatever the result, or else you
will all have to answer to me."
He paused for a moment to let his words sink into both
crews, sensin their unease, Winkler thought, before he continued.
"All these people," he gestured with both hands
towards the sembled crowd, "will witness what happens here
today, as well as any agreements or oaths made.
"The Preacher," The King gestured towards where
Winkler stood, his staff in one hand, "has a proposition
for the Stradbrook Crew to consider."
The King nodded in Winkler's direction.
Winkler took two paces forwards before stoppin, facin Robbie
and what peared to be his two seconds, who stood at his shoulders
to either side. He looked all three of em in the eyes in turn,
his gaze finally settlin on Robbie, lettin the expectant silence
lengthen for a moment.
Then he spoke, loudly, so as all sembled could hear.
"There's blood tween us, we all knows that. But that's
in the past, tween Crazy Boy and Jonesie. There ain't nothin yet
tween Robbie and me, which is why I've ranged for this meetin."
He paused to let everyone consider what he'd said before
"I'm here to offer the Stradbrook Crew peace on behalf
of the Roslyn Crew. I'm here to end the feud." He paused
gain, briefly, waitin for the crowd's murmurs to subside.
"Now there's two ways this can end. On the one hand,
Robbie there can swear an oath on behalf of his entire crew to
keep the peace that I offers, payin with his own blood what's
owed us, as the code requires. In that case," he gestured
with his staff, "I've a case of corp whiskey here to share
with my friends.
"On the other hand," he continued, his eyes starin
coldly into Robbie's, "you can refuse my offer of a truce,
and leave the debt unpaid. In that case I bring you a warnin,
and a promise. The next Straddy Boy who steps into our terry will
pay the debt with his life."
The crowd murmured gain, after hearin em threaten to call
feud, then fell silent, waitin Winkler's next words.
"The choice is yours." He stared icily at Robbie
for a long, tense moment.
Then, suddenly, followin his silent cue, he and all of
his other crewmen moved as one, vancin nother two paces towards
the Straddy Boys. Winkler and the rest of the crewmen with staffs
moved as though they were a single menacin creature, their staffs
a blur before em as they vanced, followed by all of the others.
They also stopped as one, a pace behind em, cappin their display
of what the Straddy Boys faced if their offer were refused, by
slammin the base of their staffs to the broken pavement, so as
they made a single, solid thump.
Perfect synchronization, Winkler thought, proudly, and
the Straddy Boys line had even wavered slightly.
It was also now clear to everyone, that while the two crews
were relatively equal in terms of numbers, he and his crew held
a distinct vantage in terms of both weapons and discipline. What
he'd said to the Straddy Boys'd been no idle threat, and everyone
knew it, even the Straddy Boys emselves.
Winkler gave Robbie a final icy stare, then turned to look
up at The King, givin em a slow nod.
There was the ghost of a smile on his lips, Winkler could
see. He held up his hands for a long moment, finally silencin
the crowd, which'd been abuzz after their display.
"You have all heard what The Preacher has said,"
the King finally boomed out. "A truce has been offered, and
the offer honourably made." Then, after a short pause, and
a brief glance in Winkler's direction, "I would also like
to see peace in my streets.
"After all," he continued, playin to the crowd
by quotin a well known passage from The Book, "charity
is like the pure love of Christ, ain't that right Preacher?"
The crowd outside the King James laughed, while Winkler
emself simply smiled grimly, preciatin the irony, his eyes never
"What is the Stradbrook Crew's reply?"
Robbie turned back towards his seconds, after shootin Winkler
a final intense glance, and the three of em conversed momentarily
in hushed whispers. The two crews stood silently, expectantly,
as they waited the outcome. The crowd was equally silent.
Then, finally, Robbie turned, drawin his sharpie and steppin
forward, his eyes settlin on Winkler, where he stood with his
staff in one hand, at the ready.
Robbie stopped half way tween the two crews, raised both
of his hands and turned so as the crowd could see em. His sharpie
flashed in the light as he cut his left palm, then, holdin it
high so as all could see, clenched his fist til blood dripped
to the pavement.
"The Stradbrook Crew recognizes the debt," he
shouted. "We owed ya blood and we've given it to ya. But
the debt is paid. The oath is honourably made. All is done cordin
"Then there will be peace," The King's voice
boomed out, to the cheers of both crews and the sembled crowd.
He then stepped forward, descendin the steps with dignity, his
men movin side to low em to pass.
Winkler nodded towards Robbie as he bound his hand with
the piece of cloth one of his seconds'd handed em, and received
a cautious nod in return. Then he turned to the nearest crewman
behind em. He motioned for Johnson, his own second, to bring the
case of whiskey forward. Johnson placed the case on the street
at Winkler's feet, tween he and Robbie, just as The King rived.
Winkler opened the case. He passed bottles to both Robbie and
The King, and took one emself.
The three of em stood facin one nother for a moment, then
raised the open bottles bove emselves formally, til their necks
finally clinked in the centre. They then drank deeply, before
holdin the bottles up gain, displayin em to the crowd.
"It is done," The King shouted to all. He held
the bottle high bove his head. "We have shared the whiskey
as friends, just as The Preacher promised. The peace is made."
Then, as he lifted the case of whiskey with his free hand
and passed it to one of his men, he shouted, "Drinks are
on the Roslyn Boys."
Everyone cheered gain, the crowd beginnin to mill bout
as The King's man began passin the rest of the bottles out to
be shared mong both crews, as well as the spectators.
"Nice show kid," The King said with a wink a
moment later, before he returned to his club.
Both crews drank late into the night, the celebration continuin
both inside the King James, and when it was filled to capacity,
spillin into the dreary streets of the greyland outside.
* * *
The Straddy Boys'd been true to their word since, too,
Winkler thought, with satisfaction. He and Robbie'd even become
friends of a sort over the last while. Leastwise they'd sit and
have a drink together if they met at the King James.
The truce'd also lowed the crew as a whole to focus on
what was really their primary responsibility, leastwise far as
Winkler was concernedto provide security for their own turf,
coz the pols couldn't be bothered. Endin the Straddy Boys' raids'd
certainly pleased the shopkeepers long the strip, Winkler knew,
who treated all of the crewmen with new respect now, specially
The Straddy Boys were still wary of comin into their terry,
though. After all, peace didn't make ya allies, cording to code,
and he had threatened to call feud on em.