Categories > Movies > Newsies > Goodbye

Chap 1: FIRE

by Sagey1899 0 Reviews

A Deadly fire strikes in the heart of Manhattan just before Christmas. Can Jack and the others save one of their own? (WARNING: character death)

Category: Newsies - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama - Characters: Crutchy, Jack Kelly, Kid Blink, Mush, Racetrack Higgins, Skittery, Spot Conlon - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2007/07/07 - Updated: 2007/07/07 - 1965 words

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DISCLAIMER: They ain't mine! I just like to take 'em out to play once in a while so they don't get too rusty or dusty when their real owners don't have anything for them to do.

Jack, Blink, Skittery, Mush and, Race, of course, were sitting in the lobby of the lodging house playing cards. It was a few nights before Christmas, 1899. Bitter cold days and even worse nights were keeping most of the newsies close to the Lodging House. It wasn't the Ritz, but it was warm and the company was good.

Jack was finally begining to believe he'd get the feeling back in his fingers and that his toes wouldn't fall off from being frozen.

"FIRE!" Shouts came from the street."FIRE!"

The boys all jumped and headed for the door. Fires were something that were devestating in Manhattan. More often than not, if a fire started and was big enough to engulf one building, an entire city block, or more, would also go up in flames. They had all seen it happen far too often.

Once out the door and into the dark city streets the boys could see flames leaping from buildings a few streets over. That whole part of the horizon was ablaze with crimson and smoke was thick, nearly enough to choke them.

Jack grabbed one young man by the shoulders, he was covered in soot and looked dazed. "What's goin on kid?"

"ST. JOHN'S!" He coughed, gasping for breath. "It's burnin'!" He slipped into a coughing fit. When the hacking and gasps brought tears to the boy's eyes, Jack ordered Mush to take the kid inside out of the cold. Mush looked a little disappointed but supported the boys gasping frame and lead him into the Lodging House. Jack and the others ran as fast as they could toward the church, paying little attention to the slush covering the side walks and the streets.

St. John's was the Catholic church just a few streets over. It was the Parish that Race, Crutchy and some of the other's attended regularly. Even more went to Mass there on Christmas and Easter.

Crutchy had gone to the church an hour or so before. He was looking into becoming a Priest, and had taken to spending much of his free time helping out at the church. Most of the boys supported him in this. He had a good personality for it, kind and patient, and being a newsie was becoming harder for him. Years of abuse from the Delanceys had taken a terrible toll on his body, as had the day to day life of a newsie. Jack was relieved that Crutchy had found something he seemed to enjoy and it would be a safe place for him. He wouldn't have to worry about the Delancey's, getting around in the bad weather, or where his next meal was coming from.

The boys took a shortcut through an alley and made it to the blazing building before there were any Bulls or Firemen on the scene. The church had been decorated for Christmas festivities, but the trees and fir boughs were awfully dry, causing them to ignite like kindling.

Father Duncan stumbled from the inferno, carrying an unconscious woman in his arms, gasping for air through the thick smoke. Jack and the others rushed forward, Skittery took the lifeless woman from the Father's arms and carried her to the far end of the Church yard. Jack and Blink half carried half dragged the priest over to the same area. Race ran to get Dr. Trenton. Once in air not so choked with smoke and ash, the woman sputtered and coughed, sucking the cold fresh air deep into her lungs.

"Is anyone else inside?" Jack demanded.

Father Duncan nodded. "C-Crutchy...the children....and Father Mike" He managed between hacking spurts.

Father Mike Malloy, was the most popular priest in Manhattan. He played stick ball and other games with the kids in the parish. He was friendly and kind to everyone, regardless of religion or social status. But, beyond that, he was Crutchy's mentor, his Spiritual Advisor, and was guiding him through the steps to become a priest.

Almost before the dreaded words were out of the Father's mouth Jack turned on his heel and ran back to the blazing Church. Skittery close on his heels.

"Jack! WAIT!" Skittery shouted over the roar of the flames and the din of whistles and bells finally being heard.

Jack turned, his heart in his throat, nearly choking him. "I gotta get Crutchy!"

Skittery frowned. "WE, gotta get Crutchy, but we can't run in there with no idea where he is!"

Jack nodded, knowing Skitts was right. Sharp screams came from inside the church. Any thought of further discussion on the matter died and both boys ran headlong into the blaze.

Smoke was heavy stinging their eyes and burning their throats. Jack slid his bandana up over his mouth and nose, like a bank-robber. It helped a little. They bent over to stay closer to the layer of air that somehow still existed near the floor. Huddling near the front of the church they found five children, dressed in their Christmas Pageant costumes, terrified and screaming.

"Git them outta heah!" Jack ordered, heading deeper into the building.

Skittery nodded quickly and rushed to the terrified children. "Are youse ok?" he asked. The children nodded, their faces dirty and tear streaked. "Everyone hold hands, I'm gonna get ya out" The kids did as they were told, all but one terrified little girl. Skittery picked her up and he rushed the line of children back to the door of the church and out into the cold night. They were greeted by a rush of bystanders, clutching and hugging them. "Parents," he thought with a sigh, and turned to go back in.

The deeper into the church Jack got, the darker it was, he could see the Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby, it had been knocked over and with the lit candles on the branches, had set the curtains on fire. Evergreen boughs and strands of popcorn hung all over the place, most of which acted as kidling for the flames.

Jack moved into the large congregation area. "Crutchy!" He shouted and coughed alternately. "Crutchy!!" It was a deep resonating sound coming from his mouth, unlike any he had heard from himself before.

Jack quickly removed his bandana and flipped it so it unfurled and he retied it around his neck, pulling it up over his nose and mouth to help block the smoke.

Blink appeared as Skittery was about to re-enter the church. "Deh's ten moah kids!"

Skittery nodded and both boys ran into the burning church.

The church was old and the timber dry so the flames spread rapidly to the rafters. The back half of the church was already fully burning. Jack made a mental note. There was no way the fire was just from the burning tree in the lobby. There was too much space between there and the most violent flames. Bits of the ceiling began to fall in flaming chunks. Jack shielded himself from the falling debris with his arms, suddenly wishing he had grabbed a jacket on his way out the door. The thin shirt and long johns offered little protection from the flaming embers that were dancing around and stinging him like bees.

"Crutchy! Crutchy!" His cries were getting more desperate now.

Blink dashed up next to Jack. Jack opened his mouth to tell him to get out, but closed it again, grateful for the assistance. "Jack we gotta get outta heah!..." The ceiling groaned, showering more debris close by. "Jack come on!" Blink tugged at his sleve.

Jack shook his head. "I can't! Crutchy's in heah and so are da uddahs!"

Blink heard cries from a corner of the room. "Jack this way!" He made his way through the rubble. Four small children and two preteen girls, huddled together on the floor, holding hands. The two older girls had the smallest sitting on their laps, doing what they could to shield them from the intense heat and chunks of flaming ceiling.

"Where's Skittery?!" Jack shouted as he followed close behind Blink. He began helping the children up from the floor.

"I'm all right!" Skittery answered from behind Jack. "Any sign of Crutchy or Father Mike?"

"Come on kids...it's ok!" Blink said as he placed a comforting hand on the oldest girl's shoulder.

Jack shook his head. "Not yet." The smoke was getting to Jack, he'd been inside for a long time and the thin bandana offered little in the way of real protection to his smoke filled lungs. "I'll look ovah deh!" Jack pointed to an alcove near the confessionals, and headed off in that direction.

The ceiling gave another unsettling moan. "The buildin's cavin in! Hurry Jack!" Skittery called after him. Skittery and Blink snatched up the younger children and had the girls en-tow as they ran as fast as they could for the door.

Father Mike and Crutchy emerged from the thick smoke in the alcove. Father Mike had two young kids clutched under his arms like footballs. Crutchy was a step behind struggling to keep up. Jack rushed to them. Father Mike shoved the two small children at Jack, who took them and slung them over his shoulders like sacks of grain. He looked at Crutchy, worry and relief sharing his expression.

"I'se right behind ya Jack!" Crutchy nodded. Even now, an easy smile graced his lips.

Father Mike wrapped an arm around Crutchy's waist so he could hurry him up a little.

"Jack! Crutchy! Hurry!" Blink and Skittery shouted at the top of their lungs from just inside the door.

Jack turned back toward the door, toward freedom from the fires of Hell, and ran. A smirk on his face at the irony of it all, running from the church would mean salvation. The smoke was getting to him though and he had to slow his pace, coughing and gasping for air.

Skittery darted forward, grabbing the two children from Jack. "I got 'em Cowboy! C'mon!" He quickly made his way back outside to safety.

But rather than following Skittery out of the church, Jack turned back for Crutchy. They weren't far behind.

The ceiling and roof began to cave in, the beams and supports holding the roof up started crashing around them. One large flaming section hit Jacks shoulder forcing him to the floor. He screamed as the flames began to eat through his shirt and bite his flesh, but rolled instinctively, to put out the flames. He scrambled to his feet, the heat of the fire and the smoke so intense he could barely breathe. As he turned and met Crutchy's gaze, the remnants of the ceiling and roof fell....

"CRUTCHY!"

~*~

"Jack...Jack!" Race spoke authoritatively, willing Jack to wake up and realize he was safe. "It's okay, yer safe."

Jack lay on his stomach on a cot in the Lodging house sick room. His back was blistered and raw, oozing a strange mix of yellow fluid and blood. He looked over at Racetrack, his eyes full of fear. He didn't even need to ask about Crutchy, he knew from the look in Race's eyes that his friend hadn't made it out alive.

"Where....?" He croaked, his throat sore and gravelly from the smoke he'd inhaled.

"Skittery and Blink are fine. They'se just exhausted." Race nodded to the other cot that held the two newsboys, asleep, leaning against the wall, Blink's head on Skittery's shoulder.

Jack turned his head away from his friends, ignoring Race's questions about how he felt, and closed his eyes. A single tear fell, soaking into his pillow.
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