Continue to Huddled Masses Chapter One

Huddled Masses

Author: ringwaldoeuvre
Rating: R (for violence, abuse, sexuality; will reach NC-17 eventually)
Disclaimer: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is the property of Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox, the WB, etc. Any similarity to any book or movie about old New York is purely coincidental.
Notes: (1) Sorry this reads like a gift from the exposition fairy, but I wanted to get all the players established before the story really get started. (2) Liam O'Shaughnessy (Angel) is based on a real person named Big Tim Sullivan, a Tammany politician and boss. Rupert Giles is very loosely based on the Reverend Charles Parkhurst.

Tara was glad that she managed to get a few hours sleep before her shift on Monday morning. It was early, but the crowded streets were already bustling with pushcart peddlers and others like her, making their way to their employers. Her tired bones carried her up Pike Street and over to Orchard Street before she slumped at her stool in the garment district. The wages were small, but she could do nothing. Cheap labor was readily available, and she did not dare take her chances with one of the fancier clothiers on Broadway. One look at her surname would be enough to send her back to Mike, begging for a job as a bargirl to supplement her pay in the variety act.

The blonde began operating the loom before her, and she could hardly hear herself think over the noise of the women working beside her. They seemed so spirited, despite the cramped environs of the factory. Hallie's voice was the only discernible sound one could hear above the humming machines. Though Hallie could be irritatingly cheery, she was glad to hear a familiar language.

Settled into her rhythm, she let her thoughts wander to how life would have been different if her mother had survived the journey across the Atlantic, or if they had never left Ireland in the first place. After her father and brother left for New York City, she and her mother remained in Ireland, waiting for the men to send money to pay for their trip. It had been wonderful spending time alone with her mother, even though they had both been anxious to leave the squalor of County Cork. Her mother seemed so much more alive without the company of the men in the family, which only made her death harder to accept.

Tara winced as her finger was singed on the equipment. She rubbed her eyes, looked through the haze and realized she was leaning too close to the loom. She heard Hallie's exclamation about one of her darling beaus, and hoped that no one would bother to ask if she had any gentleman callers herself. Perhaps one of the girls from the balcony, or a man that would allow her to pursue her... own interests. She desired a companion, but her father seemed almost as preoccupied with her getting married to a wealthy man as he was with her working two jobs. They made ends meet, especially since her father got a job working the railroad, yet her father seemed obsessed with financial gain after her mother died and Donnie left to go west.

She returned to the loom and considered songs to use in her act. Tara never thought she had the talent to pull off an operetta, yet she knew she was above the burlesque performances that seemed to be all the rage. She hoped her father did not get it into his head that she would be better suited in Harry Hill's or Bismarck Hall. The only thing keeping her from that life was the thought that Richard Wilkins would make a perfect husband. He wanted a wife with morals, and he knew Tara had virtue to spare.

Liam O'Shaughnessy hoisted his feet on top of his desk as he read the headlines of the New York Herald. William R. Grace, Irish Catholic Democrat, had been reelected over Hugh J. Grant. He just hoped that Grace did not interfere with Tammany's new entertainment ventures on East 14th Street. The decision to pull in Tony Pastor had barely kept them safe from the religious types that would rather see him and their whole operation sink into the East River. Still, he liked Grace, and he was less worried about the success of Tammany Hall as long as they got their man into Gracie Mansion.

The dark Irishman was glad to be back in New York. His trips to Albany were tiresome, but he knew it was important to have a Tammany man in the assembly. He would have preferred to focus his energies on securing the deal with Harrigan and Hart for the spring picnic. The people and properties affiliated with Tammany Hall had secured its place as one of the most powerful organizations in New York City, and even the state. The picnic was integral to their efforts to put the best face forward.

Just as his eyes shifted to the gossip column, a tall man walked into his office. He noticed the uniform straight away, and hopped up to offer his hand in salutation. The officer spoke first, "Liam O'Shaughnessy? I'm Lieutenant Finn. I was hoping I could have a word."

"Why, certainly officer, have a seat right there. Can I get you a drink? Uh, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"

"No, thank you. I'll get right to the point, Mr. O'Shaughnessy. I've been assigned with cleaning up the third ward, but certain groups have been uncooperative, and I'd like your help."

Liam sat back in his chair and responded, "I see. The third ward, you said? How is it that I think I can help you?"

The officer leaned forward, his square jaw set firm and his eyes focused on his fellow Irishman. He stated, "I think you know how you can help me. I want to get rid of the folks that make the neighborhood the rat's nest that it is. The gangs, the concert halls, the immigrants that use their ignorance of the english language as an excuse to sell opium and avoid the law. I'm sure you share my interests."

"Of course, Lieutenant Finn, but I still don't know how you expect me to aid your efforts," Liam replied.

"Simple, get your boys to lay off the streets, and let these people make an honest living."

"Let me be more clear, Lieutenant Finn. I don't know how to expect me to aid your efforts. There's little I can do to help you, especially since you are one of New York's finest. Sorry to waste your time," the dark Irishman said.

Lieutenant Finn rose from his chair. "Of course, how could I hope a powerful man like you or your bosses to work with the law on these matters." Before he walked out, he said, "You'll be hearing from me again, Mr. O'Shaughnessy."

Liam tried to return to his newspaper, hoping that John Kelly did not catch wind of his confrontation with the lieutenant. He called out, "Hey Kid!"

Daniel Osborne stuck his head into Liam's office, "Yeah boss?"

"Keep word of Lieutenant Finn's visit under wraps until we figure out his game. I want you to follow him and make a note of everyone he talks to. Got it?"

"Sure thing, boss," the red-haired boy responded.

"Good. Now scram," Liam said. He was worried. Tammany had power, and a lot of that was due to the so-called "vice" that took place across the city, but the last thing he needed was for the newspapers to paint him as another Boss Tweed. He swung his legs up, combed his hand through his dark hair, and looked out into the shadows of the alley below.

Willow spotted Buffy in the far corner, and made her way over to her seat in the classroom. The small wooden desks were nailed to the floor in a way that left narrow aisles for her to navigate. She cringed as she passed Cordelia Chase, a girl that still acted like she lived on her house on Fifth Avenue before her father lost all their money in an unlucky stocks trade.

Despite her unsavory classmate, she was glad her parents let her attend the public school instead of Machazikai Talmud Torah. Her friends, few though they were, attended this school and she did not want to struggle with meeting new people. Buffy was her best friend, and Daniel had always been very reliable. It was a shame he had decided to make a living through his gang's ties to certain politicians.

There were plenty of German Catholic schools she could attend, but her parents objected to the idea that she subvert her religious beliefs in this land of plenty, especially when there were many educational opportunities for their daughter. Willow loved school back in Germany, had learned english at an early age, and her father was very insistent that she attend secondary school once they moved to New York City.

Her parents were not as conservative as many, yet they maintained that Willow should receive the best possible education. Her father had just accepted a teaching position at New York University, and her mother had been so busy with her labor work that neither noticed their daughter's male suitors or her unconventional fashion choices. They did not care that she wore pants around the apartment, as long as she wore skirts out in public and did not call attention to herself. They emphasized her academic obligations and even hoped that she could attend a woman's college.

'And if I left New York, they probably wouldn't notice,' the redhead thought as her teacher, Miss Calendar, walked into the classroom and started the lesson. "Hello class, please put your books under your desk and take out a pencil and a piece of paper. I hope you all studied for today's geography quiz. Even you, Mr. Blythe. You won't attend college unless you graduate."

Willow let out a smile, but noticed that Buffy blushed even as the rest of the class laughed. William had just been admitted to Columbia University, in an effort to stay close to his mother. Buffy had confided in Willow that she liked William, but she was not sure if she could combat for his affections with his mother. They were to go to Central Park the following weekend in William's carriage, and Buffy did not want to miss a chance to parade through the town.

Miss Calendar finished writing the questions on the chalkboard, and the redhead set herself on the task at hand. She sharpened her pencil and began to write answers on the blank sheet.

The sun shone on Xander Harris' back as he pushed a cart up Water Street to meet his lovely and frugal bride-to-be. She always waited for him in Chatham Square and took his gains from the Fulton Fish Market. After the Brooklyn Bridge had opened, he found himself to be one of the throngs seeking gainful employment at the base of Manhattan. Xander often woke for his job at the fish market just as Anya crept home after a night in her dancing act.

Sitting on a stoop, Anya found that the best way to shirk off a peddler was to turn it around and try to sell them something. She loathed the daily rendezvous with Xander at the southern end of the Bowery, the filth of the streets and the stench of the passersby cemented her dreams of a house in Brooklyn, Queens, or even further out on Long Island.

At the sight of her fiancee, Anya walked to help push the cart of fish. She saw the contents and said, "Much better, Xander. You and I both know that people don't want to buy those tiny oysters and small haddock. The more money we earn, the sooner we can buy a house and you can start buying me pretty things."

"And good morning to you too, Anya. You're looking lovely as always," Xander replied.

Anya rolled her eyes. "Oh please, there is no time for pleasantries, Mr. Harris. You know we have to get these uptown as soon as possible."

"I'm feeling fine, and you?"

The woman's face softened. "I care about how you feel, Xander," she said with a quick peck on his cheek, "I just don't want to be late, and we both have more work. C'mon, let me get half of this cart."

"Thanks, honey. And you know that it's only a matter of time until we get a real cart, and we can start working for the big distributers," Xander responded.

The pair made their way across Canal Street to sell their fish. Two hours later, exhausted, the pair decided to take advantage of the spare time until they had to report to their other jobs that evening. They walked to the river to catch a glimpse of the opportunities that lay across the river.

Rupert Giles combed his hair down the side of his head and assured that his books and papers were in order before he set forth to greet the women's auxiliary. They had called a meeting to discuss their fundraiser banquet for the spring lecture series on temperance and Christian values with his congregation at the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. He tucked his belongings under his arm as he dashed across 23rd Street to Madison Avenue. With one block to spare, he tried to tidy his collar as a passing carriage splashed water on his coat. His papers cascaded to the ground as he stood on the sidewalk, petrified by shock.

"Blast! And I liked that coat," the preacher shouted. He assembled his books and papers and proceeded to 24th street and rushed into the church building. Six neatly dressed ladies sat round the table in the church meeting room. The most vocal of them, Miss Winifred Burkle, sat at attention when Giles walked through the door.

"Terribly sorry, ladies. I had an unfortunate incident with a carriage on my way here," he apologized.

Miss Burkle replied, "Not to worry, Mr. Giles, we were just discussing the orchestra for the banquet. Why don't you take a seat and tell us about your meeting with Councilman McDonnell yesterday. Has he agreed to be the keynote speaker?"

Pulling his chair closer to the table, Giles answered, "Why yes, he's agreed to greet the banquet attendees. He understands we want the topic to be about the impact of government on the moral fabric of our city, and he's honored that we requested his presence. Shall me move onto the decorations subcommittee?"

"Of course, Mr. Giles. I'm very excited about our work. Now, Harmony, will you inform the group of your progress?"

Giles let out an anxious breath as the women clattered on until lunch. He was glad that Miss Burkle was ambitious in her efforts to eliminate the corruption in this town, even though he would rather not get involved. It was not until several parishioners declared outrage over the filth of the city's underworld that he would have bothered with such a righteous battle.

Tara finished her ten hour shift just in time to prepare dinner for her father in their apartment on Henry Street. Her father often returned from his job before her, and she would find him sitting in the parlor, smoking a pipe and reading the newspaper. His head would turn up with a expectant gaze, and she would know she should head to the kitchen if she knew what was best.

She pulled out a large pot, filled it with water, and turned on the burner. She peeled, rinsed and cut the potatoes and carrots, then proceeded to cut a few pieces of ham and put them in a pan on the stove. Meat was expensive, but it was one of the few luxuries on which her father insisted. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner usually involved bread, potatoes, carrots, onions, and either ham or chicken. On occasion, one of her coworkers from the garment mill would give her the spices her husband could not sell on the previous day.

The blonde hoped that the Morgans would not mind eating the same thing as last night, but she then remembered that they so rarely made it home at the time that she and her father ate on Monday evenings. The Maclays shared the three-room apartment with the Morgans, another Irish family. Frank and Esther shared a room with their niece Lilah, and the recent vacancy of Holtz family meant that the families barely earned enough to pay rent each month. Her brother had gone west to work on the railroads many years before, and she hoped his return might ease the pressure to work long hours at two jobs.

Tara removed dishes and cutlery from the cabinet by the window. Her eye caught the colors of the clothes drying on lines that zig-zagged across the alley, noting how they flapped in the wind like leaves on a tree. The sun had sunk low enough that only a sliver of light lit up Mr. Madison's red underwear across the alley. She thought back to the days when she and her mother would prepare dinner together after they finished their laundry, and her chest tightened at the thought that her mother would have enjoyed meeting all the exciting new people in their neighborhood.

The door creaked, signaling John Maclay's return from work with the elevated railroad. He usually liked to wash the oil off his hands, but his hunger directed him to the kitchen where Tara had just finished dishing a plate for him. She prepared her own plate, they said their prayers, and ate a silent meal.

"Mom! Dad! I'm home!" Willow called for her parents as she entered their home on Suffolk Street. Sheila Rosenberg's attention did not shift from the pile of letters stacked before her, while Ira opened his study door to ask, "Ah, Willow. How was your quiz today?"

"Fine, Dad. I hope I got all the answers right, it was tougher than I anticipated," the redhead replied.

"Oh, well I'm sure you did, Willow. Listen, I'm in the middle of a translating very difficult passage. We may be German, yet sometimes even I haven't the foggiest notion of what our philosophers are trying say! Your mother is tied up with her correspondence, but Miss Evans left a pot of stew for dinner. Be sure you eat up and do your homework before bed."

Willow's eyes fell to the floor and she answered, "Yes, of course. And Dad? I wanted to ask you something: William, Buffy, and Daniel want to go to Central Park next Sunday. William is using his carriage, may I go?"

Her father let out a small grin and said, "As long as you finish all your homework for the weekend. And do be sure to ask your mother. By the way, is that Osborne boy still enrolled in school?"

Willow lied, "Yeah Dad, and Thanks. Good luck with the heavy thinking." The redhead turned to take her books to her room. They were a lucky family, and Willow knew it. Her father could afford to rent a whole apartment on his academic salary. She had her own bedroom, and her father even had a private study next to her parents' bedroom. The parlor faced the front of the building, and the sounds of the street often accompanied the scratch of her mother's pen as she prepared materials for her labor organization.

The redhead closed her door and flopped on her bed. She considered which school assignment she should complete before dinner, but the night at the Haymarket invaded her thoughts. She wished she could return to the Haymarket every night and see Tara, the "Irish Rose." The blonde seemed to captivate her audience, yet her performance was one of dozens in the variety act. Willow wondered why she had not been swept up by a managers hungry for profits.

She began her assignments, never noticing that the sun had set and the moonlight crept into her room as the hours wore on. She finished the book for literature class, and just when she considered sleep, the rumble of her belly reminded her to eat. She made her way to the kitchen and ate a solitary bowl of stew before she drifted to sleep.

Continue to Huddled Masses Chapter Three

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