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Thinking Things Through

After the roughing up she’d received on her way home from The Clarendon that morning, Junie moved from place to place in the city, not wanting to go home, and not wanting to be alone.  Finally she made her way into ‘Cuffs, still looking visibly shaken and more than just a little annoyed. Seeing Sky tending bar, she sat down and asked for a bourbon.

Sky noticed that Junie wasn’t in the best of moods and quickly poured her drink. “Evening, Junie! Looks like something is on your mind?”

Junie took a hasty drink and looked into the glass.  How much could she say?  How much should she say? Her arms were bruised where she’d been in the grip of the men in the alley, and the ache reminded her of the threat that had been levied at her. She opted to throw caution to the wind.

“I’ll give you a hint,” she said. Sloshing liquid from her glass carelessly, she mimed as she spoke. “Tall top hat…monacle…cape. Hulking thugs.”

Sky tilted her head as she listened, her expression changing noticeably at the mention of a tall hat, then once again as Junie gave the other hints. Pouring herself a cocoa she questioned, “Let me guess…Doc O, perhaps?  I hope you don’t mean that peanut fellow,” she added as somewhat of a joke.

Junie squinted and scrunched her nose while shaking her head. “Yeah. No. Not the peanut chap.” She shrugged. “I suppose it probably was Doc O. I’ve never met the man before. He’s the one who destroyed The Piermont, yes? That happened soon after I arrived.” She held out her glass for a refill.

Sky gave a slow nod in the affirmative, then filled Junie’s glass again. “Yeah, seems like that’s what I heard.”

Junie let out a long sigh and looked around the bar to confirm it was empty except for Sky and herself. “Sky,” she said in a low voice. “I still don’t know a lot about what goes on here. I desperately need some advice.”

Sky raised an eyebrow and set her cocoa down on the counter, showing she meant business, her eyes unmoving from Junie’s. “I’ll help as much as is within my power.”

Junie at her solemnly. “Do you have any idea of why he, whoever he really is, would want Ms. Book to win the boxing match tomorrow?  And…if this “gentleman” was to threaten YOU with bodily harm if Ms. Book DIDN’T win…well…what would you do?”

Sky opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out at first. Slightly taken aback, she snapped her mouth shut as she thought about the question posed to her, “Uh, I don’t rightly know why he would want Book to win. Kinda seems counterintuitive since they are arch enemies or something of that sort.” Sky straightened a bit, lowering her voice a touch, “And I would….” she interrupted herself and shook her head, “no….evidently the question here is what YOU would do, eh?”

Junie pursed her lips as she thought, swirled the liquid in her glass absently. “Hm.  You’re right.” She let out a deep sigh, as if she’d been holding her breath the whole time. “A long time ago, in another city,” Junie said, “I fell in with some petty pickpockets and thieves. They were good at what they did. They’re the ones who taught me to fight, actually, though I’ve rarely had to. But the important thing is that they told me this: if threatened at knifepoint, give the bully whatever he wants. Chances are far better that way for walking away in one piece.”

She paused and then spoke bluntly. “Doc O and his men pulled me into an alley earlier and demanded I take a dive tomorrow. I agreed, and it got me out of that alley. But now I have a choice: be a coward and throw the fight, or give Ms. Book an honest match and take my chances.”

Sky tried to not smile a bit at the mention of learning from pickpockets and thieves. She gave her friend a nod, “yep, those are your two options. I have a sneaking suspicion which you’ll choose.” Sky let her smile break through before growing serious again, “if you do choose the latter, remember that Book, happily, is not the one asking for your cowardice.”

Junie raised her eyebrows and nodded before gulping down the last of her drink. “True. Ms. Book wasn’t the one in the alley. And I’d venture a guess that she’s in this far deeper than I am.” 

She jumped off the bar where she had perched when she’d come in. “It’s uncanny, Sky. I did most of the talking and I still feel like you solved this for me.” She cracked a hint of a smile and put some coins on the bar to pay for her drink.

Sky grinned widely at the thanks and slid the coins off of the bar into her hand, “Nah, you solved it yourself. You evidently had excellent teachers.” She watched Junie head to the open wall of the building and said quickly, almost pointedly, “Oh! And just know that Scottie and I will be there, as well as others….should you need us.”

Junie nodded and gave a smile of resignation. “Thanks.” She held up her hand in a bit of a wave and walked out toward the docks.

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