The Preacher
by Dudgeon
forum: The Preacher
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Preacher


        "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 raped er."

        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 summer.

        "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 street.

        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 continuin.

        "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 leavin Robbie's.

        "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 to code."

        "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 concerned—to 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 emself.

        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.





copyright 2007 Dudgeon.

Dudgeon is a social scientist who was raised on a farm in southern Manitoba, Canada. He currently teaches part time at a local university in the city of Winnipeg, as well as working on short speculative fiction and his first novel.

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