Bytown e1c5: A Message You Shall Be
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Peter Aylen walked with purpose. Always. There was not a moment in the day he didn't have someplace to be, some problem to solve, some point to be made. If he slept at all--and even his closest associates were unclear whether he did--it would be a quick nap during a carriage ride, while listening to a particularly boring Englishman speak.
He had a circuit that brought him from Corkstown, up through the Market and Lowertown, and out east, into the fringes of the logging zones. It was so well-tread, it might have seemed like an official route, but for the meandering way it wove through seemingly disconnected parts of the burgeoning village. But they weren't disconnected at all: Corkstown was where Aylen's people lived; the market was where they stocked their larders; Lowertown was where they drank away their money; and the logging zones were the front lines of the battle for Bytown.
This evening, there were fewer people to stop him along the way to beg for favours, but nowhere near none. He afforded each one a polite smile, a tip of the hat, a patient ear--even if they had to scurry to keep up with his brisk pace. "It'll be settled by the morning," he would say. "I'll talk to him myself." "You'll get the time you need, madam. Consider it done." Even the scoundrels who came for one too many hand-outs were treated well on Aylen's walks: "Come now, Charlie, any more tales and one might think you're not an honest man."
By the time he got to the edge of the forest, his associates were starting to swarm. The wiry man had run up ahead, and was now looping back with the latest information, which he imparted breathlessly: "A group of them, sir," he said. "Fifteen to start, twenty now. Hell-bent on justice."
"Hmm," said Aylen, handing his hat to another man, taking his gloves off and dropping them in it. He ruffled his tangled hair, shoved his scarf in the pocket of his jacket, then pulled the coat open so his stark white shirt made a slice through the dim moonlit landscape. His stride changed the closer he got to the site, from determined sophistication to a lumbering swagger. He put his hands in his trouser pockets when he arrived at the clearing, and finally let himself pause.
Ahead of him, in a space cleared as a base of operations for a logging crew, were twenty or so Irishmen in a rowdy circle, pushing and jostling to get a little closer, to get a better angle on the show. Their voices weren't angry, though, just mocking and teasing, like schoolyard bullies in much heftier bodies.