A St. Patrick’s Day Treat!

I haven’t posted in a while, so I decided, for no reason at all, to post today. I will be posting chapter two from my unpublished (and award-winning!) novel Boston Betty. This is the story of a vampire named Elizabeth (who you might recognize from the Suburban Vampire series) and her experiences in Boston during the time of prohibition. As it says, it is set on St. Patrick’s day among a crew of expatriate Irishmen. So, here goes. Enjoy, and Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!


St. Patrick’s Day, 1931

            O’Connor’s was a furniture warehouse. At least, it said so on the outside; inside, however, was a different matter. The men of the neighborhood knew it to be the headquarters for the Association of Celtic Gentlemen, a private club of sorts that also operated a speakeasy, where they could gather with other expatriate Irishmen and drink beer and whiskey and where, as they would say, ‘the craic was always ninety’ (in other words, a good time was had by all). This particular day was special; as St. Patrick’s Day, it was a time to celebrate their heritage, which could, of course, only be properly done with a pint in one’s fist. The men of the table laughed and sang songs, and soon began raising pints in toast. One after another would rise and raise his glass:

            “To old Erin and the Republic, long may she last, and may the counties of the north soon join her!”

            “To the immortal memory of the Irish patriot Michael Collins, may he find rest in Heaven’s green pastures!”

            “To the memory of me older brother Paul, who was murdered on Bloody Sunday!”

            “To the memory of those boys who were stolen from us by the English, forced to fight and die in Flanders, when they should have fought and died in Connemara, or Meath, or on the bloody streets of Dublin!”

            “To freedom and to the Republic! Fuck the English and fuck prohibition!”

            The last sentiment was echoed throughout the room with cries of “Fuck prohibition!”. This included one who was at that table, one who, unusually (for this was considered a men’s-only space) was female; a dark-haired lass with a beret on her head and who otherwise was dressed entirely in black. After the men toasted, she stood with her own pint.

            “And to me father, who the bloody English transported to Australia for the crime of patriotism!” She said. Several men looked at her with questioning eyes.

            “Now, wait, lass,” A heavy-set red-haired man said, “The last act of transportation was in 1868. How is it possible that he was able to father you from such a far-removed time and distance?”

            Elizabeth didn’t have a reasonable answer for that. She certainly didn’t want to tell anyone she was a vampire, even if it was the truth. Instead, it was none other than her sponsor and “business partner”, Sean Flaherty, now with thinning hair and wearing a grey pinstripe suit, who came up with a more acceptable explanation. “What Elizabeth means is, he was hanged. Her father was hanged by the English. Isn’t that right, Elizabeth?”

            “Uh, yeah, yeah, that’s right,” She replied. “Hanged. Hanged, he was!”

            The men didn’t question that, but instead toasted to Elizabeth’s father’s memory. When they downed their pints, one of the men, a barrel-chested older man with graying mustache and beard, stood and lifted his pint one more time. “All right, all you gobshites,” the man bellowed, “Not only are we here to honor this day and its namesake,” he crossed himself at this point, “And to honor our dear old Ireland, we are here to honor two of our members. Aye, two here have acquitted themselves well for the Association, and have brought us a pile of money in these hard times! Indeed, during the hardest years of the Depression, we helped feed many a widow and wee wean, and it was in no small part to these two. I speak, of course, of the finest pair of hijackers and rumrunners this side of the Atlantic! I present to you my nephew, Sean Flaherty, and his associate, Elizabeth O’Neill! Slainte mhath!” 

            All around responded to the toast with a resounding “Slainte!”. As the others broke into song, the older man approached Sean and Elizabeth. As he did so, a red-headed boy of about twelve years ran into the room. “What the hell do you want, Tommy?” the older man asked. “Is it the coppers? The revenuers? What is it?”

            “No, grandpa,” The boy said. “You said I could have a drink!”

            “Your ma would kill me were she to find out, boyo. Oh, what the hell, you’ve got to be a man sometime. All right! Benny, at the bar, will set you up. No hard stuff, though, only the stout! Then get your arse back to the door!” As the boy ran to get his beer from the barman, Michael “Big Mike” Callahan laughed. “That’s me grandson,” He said to Sean and Elizabeth. “Taking after me already!”

            “He’s sure enough to be a wee hellraiser, that one,” Sean said.

            “Aye, indeed. He’s a Callahan! Our people are known hellraisers! By the by, I meant all I said. You and Elizabeth have been real good to me, and to the Association.”

            “’Tis only because you’ve been real good to me,” Elizabeth said. “You’ve provided me with a home and family.”

            “Ah, you’ve earned it, love! Saving me nephew’s life is just one of the things you’ve done for us. We are grateful for all you’ve done.”

            “And what about me?” Sean asked.

            “Didn’t you already hear me, you tosser? Clean your bleeding ears out, already!”

            “I kid, Big Mike! Of course I heard, and more than that, I too am grateful. Because of you, I too have a family.”

            “Aye, indeed, a wife and wee ones to care for! Hey, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you share one of your stories with us. One of your exploits.”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. “No one wants to hear such shite, do they?”

            Big Mike turned to the other men. “Oy! Oy, you wankers! Listen up! Sean and Elizabeth are going to tell us one of their stories. Ain’t you?”

            “What do you say, Elizabeth?” Sean asked. “Which one would make a grand tale?”

            “How about the Watertown heist?” She responded.

            “All right, Watertown it is.”

            “Ah, this is a good one,” Big Mike said. “Now, listen to this, you bastards, or I swear by Christ and St. Patrick that I’ll cut you all off! Now, Sean, me boy, tell us a story.”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” Sean responded. “Elizabeth tells it far better than I.”

            “Then go on, Elizabeth! Tell it!”

            “Well, if I must,” Elizabeth said. All in the room listened intently as she began her story. “All right. Imagine, if you can, the dark of night. ‘Tis me and Sean. We’re sitting in that rattletrap old Ford of his—”

            “It’s no rattletrap!” Sean protested. “And she’s not that old!”

            “All right, anyway! So, we’re sitting on our asses in that alley way—”

            “And this kid comes up to us and asks us what we’re doing there!”

            “Shut up! Are you telling this story, or am I? Anyway, I chase the wee bastard off. That’s not the important part. So, we knew the trucking company’s schedule, right? We knew that this truck was leaving the warehouse at about ten o’clock that night in order to make it some fucking where—”

            “It had to make the waterfront. They were going to ship the cargo down the Charles to East Cambridge or Charlestown or—”

            “Or some fucking where, like I said! Anyway, so, I’m listening, and I got real good hearing—”

            “She does, she does!”

            “Right. Anyway, so, I hear this truck coming, and I tell Sean to move aside. I was taking the wheel.”

            “And I’m going, what? If me wife finds out you wrecked our car, she’ll skewer you for sure, and me for good measure!”

            “Ah, she’d try. She couldn’t touch me. You, I’m not sure about. Anyway, back to the story: So, I take the wheel, I hit the gas, and the bloody pedal went down to the floor!”

            “Turns out she flooded the engine.”

            “Aye, all you mechanically inclined men can laugh at the silly lady, she flooded the fucking engine. So, I give up on the piece of shit, and I get out and stand in the street.”

            “It’s true! She walks right out into the street like she owns the fucking place!”

            “And here comes that truck. Bastard driving her leans on the horn like he thinks I’m deaf or something. Finally, he decides to apply the brakes. He’s glad he did, because if he hit me, I’d be a wee bit upset, right? So, this asshole stops the truck and looks out the window. He says to me, ‘hey, sweetheart, move your ass!’.”

            “So she does. You boys have to hear this part.”

            “So, I go to the driver’s door, and this idiot is staring at me like he’s the one in the headlights. He says to me, ‘what the hell do you want, lady’? And I says to him, ‘I want this truck’. Son of a bitch and his partner just laugh at me, like I told him a joke. Of course, he says I can’t have his truck.”

            “So, you know what she does? She rips the door right off!”

            “I was getting to that part! I rip that fucking door off and drag the bastard out!”

            The heavy-set red-headed man, who questioned Elizabeth earlier, balked at the suggestion that a mere woman could have the strength to pull a truck’s door from its hinges. “Bollocks! You did not rip a truck’s door off!”

            “It’s true, Feeney!” Sean said. “I don’t know, maybe it was rusty, or Elizabeth here don’t know her own strength.”

            “All right, supposing that’s true, what did she do then?”

            “I smiled at him,” Elizabeth said.

            “That’s it? Don’t get me wrong, lass, you’ve a lovely smile, but it sounds like malarkey.”

            Neither Elizabeth nor Sean were about to say that she flashed her vampiric fangs at the driver. “Oh, no, it’s not, Feeney,” Sean said. “She said something to him, what was it?”

            “I told him I’d rip his balls off right there if he didn’t give me what I wanted,” Elizabeth said. “It worked. Well, not on the driver’s partner. The bastard pulls one of those Ithaca Auto-Burglar guns on me.”

            “But I was there with me .38 Smith & Wesson. I stuck it in the bastard’s back. He drops the gun and raises his hands, and he says, ‘they don’t pay me enough for this shit’!”

            “Aye, so we tell them to run, and run they do. Truth be told, I’ve never seen men run as fast as those two tossers!”

            “Anyway, as it turns out, we checked the cargo. I was expecting something interesting, and interesting it was. I should have known it as soon as I smelled it.”

            “Hogs! Fucking huge hogs!”

            “Turns out it was no warehouse they’d come from, ‘twas a stockyard. And I say to herself, ‘Elizabeth, you didn’t tell me we were hijacking a load of hogs!’”

            “And I told himself, ‘well, Sean, boyo, you should have asked!’”

            “Aye,” Big Mike said as he finished laughing, “And ‘twas a good thing you two did! We kept the poor Irish of South Boston in sausage and bacon for the better part of a month!”

            A man with greying mutton chops rose from the table and lifted his glass. “Aye,” He said, “And it was me pleasure to butcher the lot of them for you!”

            “And we thank you, Bill McDonald!”

            “Although I have to wonder why you felt the need to bleed them out first. It’s not as though I was afraid of making a mess in me abattoir. I could have used that blood to make pudding!”

            Big Mike raised his pint yet again. “Then to Bill and his slaughterhouse, and to the provision of Sean Flaherty and Elizabeth O’Neill, the finest hijackers in all Boston, nay, in all Massachusetts!”

            As the others responded with a hearty “slainte!”, Feeney slammed his pint onto the table. “I still say it’s bollocks,” he said. “Ain’t no woman strong enough to pull a grown man from a truck. And you, Sean Flaherty, I know you! You’re well known for your blarney!”

            Elizabeth leaned forward. “Now, Sean, allow me to silence this wanker. Feeney, you don’t know shit.”

            “I know that ain’t no woman strong enough to do what you said you did!”

            The men of the room both laughed and gasped. “You don’t know women much, do you, Feeney?”

            “I know the truth!”

            “Ah? The truth? And who the fuck are you, Seamus Feeney, to be determining the truth? Have you a direct line to the almighty? Here I thought the Pope was God’s man on earth!”

            “Don’t fucking blaspheme, you lying cunt!”

            “Cunt? Me? Well, I’ll tell you this, Seamus Feeney: why don’t we prove you wrong?” Elizabeth rolled down her sleeve and put her arm on the table. “You and me, Feeney. What say you?”

            Feeney looked around at the other men gathered around the table. “Ah, well, you’re a lass, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

            “You accuse me of lying, and you don’t want to prove me wrong? Are you afraid of something, Feeney? If you were, I’d say that makes you a coward!”

            The men at the table all gasped at that. The term ‘coward’ was one of the highest insults that could be used, and here a woman was using it, against Seamus Feeney, of all people! “God damn you, I’m no coward! If you wished me to rip your arm from its socket, you’ll have what you want!”

            “All right, all right!” Big Mike said. “Make way, you hooligans! This is a contest between Seamus Feeney and Elizabeth O’Neill. The rules must be observed! No cheating! Keep your elbows on the fucking table, do you hear me, Feeney?”

            Feeney rolled up his sleeve and walked around the table to face Elizabeth. “Aye, aye, I hear you, Big Mike!” He then sat down across from her and put his beefy, muscular arm on the table. He opened his powerful fist. “Come now, girl, or are you afraid I’ll break that dainty hand of yours?”

            Elizabeth slapped her hand into Feeney’s paw. Feeney would have cried out in pain, but he didn’t want to look less manly to his mates. “I’m not the one who’s afraid here, Feeney,” Elizabeth said. “All right, let’s do this.”

            “On my mark,” Big Mike said, “Begin. Ready?”

            He clapped his hands. The men of the room began shouting, some in support of Feeney, others in support of Elizabeth. The two titans stared each other down as the room roared.

            “I don’t want to go too hard on you, lass,” Feeney said, “So, I’ll—”

            Slam. Feeney’s arm was down before he even finished the sentence. The room came alive with cheers, praising Elizabeth’s victory. “Now, now, wait!” Feeney cried. “I wasn’t ready!”

            “Oh, come now,” Elizabeth chided, “You were given ample opportunity.”

            “No! I demand a rematch!”

            “Why? So’s I can humiliate you again?”

            “Who here wants to see a rematch?” Big Mike asked. The crowd shouted its approval. “All right, then. Feeney, ‘tis your funeral.”

            Again, Feeney put his arm on the table and opened his hand. Again, Elizabeth placed her ‘dainty’ hand in his. Again, she slammed his arm to the table before anyone could say anything, and the room erupted in laughter.

            “Hey, Feeney,” Sean said, “Why don’t you give up, before she thoroughly embarrasses you?”

            “Ah, you’re in me book, Flaherty,” Feeney said. “I demand a rematch!”

            “Someone likes being humiliated,” Elizabeth said. “I’m more than willing to oblige you, Feeney!” Again, Feeney propped his arm on the table. “All right, I’ll make you a deal: you can use two arms.”

            “I only need one!”

            “Like the man said, ‘tis your funeral.”

            As Elizabeth embarrassed Feeney once more, young Tommy Callahan ran up to Sean, still holding the pint his grandfather allowed him to have. “Hey, Uncle Sean,” The boy said. “There’s a man here for you.”

            “What man?” Sean asked.

            “Shannon. Bobby Shannon. You know, the union man.”

            “Well, all right, boy, let the man in! How’s the stout, by the by?”

            “Tastes like motor oil.”

            “Tastes like… well, there’s no accounting for taste. Go get the man, lad!”

            As Feeney allowed Elizabeth to continue to make a fool of him, Tommy brought a slender, tall man with glasses into the room. Sean rose from his seat and took his hand. “Bobby Shannon!” Sean said. “What brings you to O’Connor’s tonight? Would you fancy a pint?”

            “I would, for certain. Looks like a lively crowd, tonight.”

            Sean motioned to the bar, where the barman poured a glass of stout then brought it over. “Ah, they’re enjoying watching Seamus Feeney’s humiliation at the hands of a lass.”

            Shannon looked to the table. “Ah, that’s the one they call ‘Boston Betty’, ain’t it?”

            “Never to her face, they don’t, if they wish to remain in good health. Did you come to wager, or drink?”

            “Neither,” Shannon said, “The fact is, there’s trouble at the docks.”

            “Oh? What kind of trouble? Are the bosses leaning on you again?”

            “No, it isn’t that.”

            “Then is it the port? The law? What troubles you, Bobby?”

            “It’s the DeMarcos.”

            At the mention of the name ‘DeMarco’, the smile that had been on Sean’s face faded. “Ah, shit. What do they want?”

            “It’s Vincent DeMarco. He came down to the union office earlier today. He knows that the Association and the dockworkers have a special arrangement.”

            By ‘special arrangement’, Shannon meant that the dockworkers either turned a blind eye toward or participated actively in the smuggling of contraband into the port of Boston. Sean and Elizabeth themselves had set up a network of rumrunners who would go to ports in Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean and bring back alcoholic beverages, which the Association would then distribute throughout the Boston area. “Aye, it’s no secret,” Sean responded. “What was DeMarco’s concern?”

            “He wants in, Sean. He wants in on the business.”

            Before he said anything, he motioned to Big Mike, who had been enjoying the spectacle of Feeney’s constant defeats. Big Mike came over to Sean and Shannon. “Bobby, my boy,” Big Mike said, clasping his arm around Shannon’s shoulder. “How’s the family? Your sainted mother, is she well?”

            “Aye, she sends you her best, Big Mike,” Shannon said.

            “Only you hear Bobby out,” Sean said to Big Mike. “We’ve got trouble at the docks.”

            “Aye, it’s true,” Bobby said. “Like I was telling Sean, Vincent DeMarco paid me a visit today.”

            Big Mike’s smile disappeared much as Sean’s had earlier. “Jesus Christ,” Big Mike said as he crossed himself. “What did that dago bastard want?”

            “He wanted a cut of the action. He said to me that his people could help distribute our product better.”

            “Distribute better? What the bloody fuck does that even mean? We’re distributing it right fine, ain’t we, Sean?”

            “Aye, it’s true,” Sean said.

            “He was real insistent, Big Mike,” Shannon said, “Real insistent. The Italians, they’ve got clout, both with the longshoremen and with the city.”

            “Ah, but so do we, don’t we, Big Mike?”

            “Aye, we do,” Big Mike replied. “I thought it had been agreed upon: the Italians take care of their own, the Jews take care of their own, the darkies take care of their own, and we take care of our own. Why is Vincent DeMarco getting greedy all the sudden? I know his old man, and we crossed paths before, but he was always a reasonable man. His boy doesn’t seem to be that way.”

            “I’ll go speak with him,” Sean said. “I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding. Once I remind him of the way things have been, and how we’ve all benefitted, I’m sure he’ll be as reasonable as old man DeMarco was.”

            “Right,” Big Mike said to Shannon, “Don’t you worry none. Just continue as normal. If any of those thieving wops should give you a time, give me or my nephew here a call, and we’ll come a running.”

            “Thank you, Big Mike,” Shannon said, “The boys and me would appreciate it. You know, we’re all good Irishmen, the lot of us, and we support the Association.”

            “I know it, lad. Go get yourself another drink before you leave, all right? And you give your ma my best, won’t you, now?”

            Shannon thanked Big Mike and headed to the bar. “You think you can talk sense to DeMarco, Sean, my boy?” Big Mike asked.

            “Ah, I got me the gift of blarney!” Sean said as he laughed. “Yes, I’m sure it will be no problem. Like I said, a misunderstanding. We’ll get it all smoothed over, I’m sure.”

            “Take Elizabeth with you.”

            “Ah, now, Mike, I don’t think that’s necessary—”

            “Do it. How is she, by the way?”

            “What do you mean? Why don’t you ask her yourself?”

            “Because I’m asking you, you wanker! I’m serious, Sean, how is she doing?”

            “I still don’t understand the question, Big Mike.”

            “Christ almighty, boy, I know her. I know what she is and what she is capable of. Just be straight with me. How is she doing?”

            “She’s keeping fed. McDonald’s slaughterhouse is a convenient source for her, though Bill don’t know it. She’s doing fine, Big Mike, don’t you worry.”

            “That’s good, because I do worry. Worry is part of me job, you know.”

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