It was a warm spring day in Birmisia Colony, and the people of Port Dechantagne were making the most of it. The parks were full of families, watching children play football or eating picnic lunches. Several practice cricket matches were being played, with more than a few spectators. Outdoor cafes were full and there was a concert scheduled in the downtown amphitheater for later that day. Many strolled along the sidewalk, rather than taking a car. However, one young couple was driving their steam-powered carriage northward into the warehouse district on the peninsula. Both looked to be about twenty years old. Both were dressed in expensive and fashionable clothing, his a sharp grey suit with a red waistcoat, and hers a creamy peach day dress trimmed in white lace.
“I thought we were going to the concert,” said the young woman. She ran her hand over the blond hair that spilled down to her shoulders from beneath the peach tri-corner hat perched atop her head.
“We are,” he replied, steering to the curb of Seventh and One Half Avenue. “I just have to check something first.”
Engaging the parking brake, he hopped out of the vehicle, running around back to open the relief cock. A loud whistle of steam escaped the pipe.
“I’ll be right back,” he said, peeling off his driving gloves and tossing them into his seat.
Then he stepped quickly down the street some twenty feet and disappeared into the narrow space between two warehouses. His destination was a locked door near the rear of the leftmost building, and he was busy fishing the key from his pocket so he didn’t notice the two men coming from the other direction.
One was a shorter man with a thick chest and muscular arms. He was bald and wore an eye patch. The other was a huge fellow, towering over the young man’s six-foot height; with a huge mop of blond hair that half obscured his face.
“We’ll be takin’ your wallet,” said the shorter of the two.
The well-dressed young man looked up, startled.
“Now see here…” his words were cut off when the giant slammed a fist into his stomach. He doubled over, looking up with wide eyes. His expression was not one of fear, but of shock, as if it was simply inconceivable that someone would lay hands on him. He was helpless as the one-eyed man reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his wallet.
“We’ll take that watch too.”
“No…” the young man tried to say.
The giant took him by the shoulders and slammed him against the building wall. The one-eyed man grabbed his watch by its chain and yanked it from his pocket. One brass button shot off his waistcoat and bounced off the neighboring building’s wall.
“Don’t feel bad, boy,” said the thief. “It’s all a part of growing up.”
The two stepped back behind the building and were gone. The young man struggled to take a couple of deep breaths. Then he slowly rose to his feet to find the young woman next to him.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
He shook his head. His eyes brimmed over with angry tears.
“I’ll be right back,” she said.
“No,” he said, but she was already gone. “Kafira damn it all,” he growled, punching the corrugated tin wall of the warehouse, leaving a fist-size indentation. Then he took several more deep breaths, carefully straightened his jacket, and bent down to brush the dirt off his trousers. His bowler hat fell off and rolled several feet away. He retrieved it and brushed it off too. When he stood up straight once again, she was back.
“How are you?” she asked.
“How am I supposed to be?” he said, wiping a stray tear from his face. “I’ve been emasculated twice in one day.”
“Hardly emasculated. There were two of them and they were no doubt seasoned criminals.”
“Once by them and once by you,” he accused.
“Me? What did I do?”
“You tell me. What didyou do?”
“I just taught them the error of their ways.” She held out her hand, holding his wallet and watch. “Here. Don’t be upset, Augie. You are a very powerful man.”
“Not the right kind of powerful, in this case. I shouldn’t need my woman to fight my battles for me.”
“I’m not your woman.”
“You’re supposed to be.”
“What I mean to say is, I’m not awoman. I am what I am, and when somebody harms someone I love… well, they must die. It’s as simple as that.”
“This is my father’s watch,” he said, placing it back in his pocket. “I dare say no one ever took it from him.”
“You shouldn’t let this bother you.”
“I’m going to hire a boxing coach.”
“You don’t need a boxing coach,” she said. “I doubt your father had one. He just acted instead of thinking about it. You’re not a fighter. You’re a thinker. Now don’t look at me that way. I didn’t mean it as a rebuke. Thinking is your strength. Use it to your advantage.”
“How? Hiring a bodyguard?”
“You don’t need a bodyguard.” She gave him a toothy grin. “You have me.”
“They’re dead then?”