Smith, Sailor, Artist, Assassin
I always have had this TL idea rattling around in my head. A little difference in 1889 leads to a completely different world from what we know. Needless to say, I have finally found the courage to put it down on paper.
Duck and Cover!
Part XII: The California War.
Part I: Havana
San Michael Speakeasy and Boxing Ring
412 Loverture Street.
Havana, Cuba, United Caribbean Republic.
July 14th 1923
When the SS Mary Castile II pulled into Havana harbor earlier that day Thomas Mason did not think that he would end up here: staring at the ceiling of an underground boxing ring covered in blood, mud, and more bruises than he could hope to count.
The ringing in his ears drowned out the frantic shouting of the drunken crowd, the betters who frantically swapped United Carib dallars, and the raucous cheering of the American tourists looking for legal booze and a taste of the infamous Havana nightlife.
Join American Lines! See the world! The pay is good! Tom chuckled. So much for all that bull shit.
Spitting out a broken tooth and a gooey dollop of blood, he barely felt the hands that dragging him up. Resting his back on the makeshift fence that served as the ring, the strangers tilted his head back and poured a grimy elixir down his throat.
“GET BACK” shouted an indistinguishable voice from behind him. “GIVE THE KID SOME ROOM TO BREATHE.”
Gagging on the alcohol burning its way down his throat he coughed, spraying the ringside with blood and cheap vodka.
“Are you OK?” a thick German accent asked.
Turning his battered face to the left he could barely make out the form of the speaker. He tried cracking a smile but only ended up contorting his face into an ugly grimace.
“Sure whatever” Tom slurred rolling his tongue over the empty hole where a tooth had been. Nice, the girls love “veterans.”
His head lolled to the right, Tom noticed the second figure. The small Irishman clutched cheap vodka. The German and the Irishman’s heads were bowed together, planning something.
I wonder how much they have riding on me. Tom thought. Probably just trying to hedge their bets now.
The German lowered his face next to Tom’s.
“Do you think you can take him?” The German asked intensely.
“Are you fucking kidding?” Tom asked spitting more blood on the ring floor. “I can’t even fucking see Bruder.”
“Well you can just quit laddie.” The Irishman soberly gazed at Tom’s opponent.
“Fuck quitting” Tom muttered.
Thomas threw himself upwards. Thomas Mason never quits echoed in his throbbing head.
He stumbled toward the center of the ring.
The big Africano across the ring laughed. Jumping nimbly to his feet, he stretched his shoulders and squared up with Tom’s waving form.
“You know big man you can give up before I kill you.” The Africubano’s voice boomed over the shouting crowd.
“I’ll give up after you do.” Tom spat back, showering the Africubano with spit and blood.
Wiping the blood off of his face the Africubano reared back for a punch.
Tom stood stock still.
The white coated waiter rang the bell to start the match.
The punch landed, throwing him backward. Staggering he felt his knees give.
Then everything exploded.
With his eyelids swollen and caked nearly shut, Tom could only hear the commotion.
The door splintered. “Rangers!” was shouted. He was grabbed under the armpits. Someone was shouting at the tourists “Rangers!” No response. “Police!” Frantic footsteps pounded toward every door. He was dragged. His feet rattled off of a back alley. Gunshots erupted from the speakeasy. A woman screamed. The grunts of men being beaten with billy clubs echoed.
Tom found himself wedged between the Irishman and the German in the back of a taxi.
“You know,” the German said “he’s either tough or dumb. Which would you prefer?”
The Irishman laughed “Tough, and pray to god he’s smart.”
“If…” The German looked at Tom. “What’s your name?”
“Thomas, Thomas Mason” Mason mumbled.
“If Mr. Mason is as smart as I believe we may have a job opportunity for him.” The German looked to the Irishman.
“Well lad what do you think?”
Thomas Mason lifted his concussed head to speak, and promptly passed out.
“So you want me to be a spy?” Tom was sitting on a bed in the Havana Palace, one of the most expensive hotels in the western hemisphere.
“Not exactly Mr. Mason,” the German stood by the open window, a light breeze was blowing in from the coast. “The job my friends and I want you to do is a little more complicated than that. You see since the fall of the Kaisereich at the end of the Great War of ’09 and the rise of the ‘Workers Federation of Germany’ it has gotten harder and harder for displaced German nobility such as me to survive. Now the new Kaiser did set up a nice resort in the Empire of New Guinea, with the help of our British friends, but compared to the old German Empire it is nothing. We have little money and are, quite sadly, heading toward extinction.”
The Irishman returned carrying quality cognac on a silver tray. Or as Mason remembered, the Brit returned carrying quality cognac on a silver tray. The man was from the Northern Diaspora or some whatnot, having been kicked out of Ireland after the rise of the Erin People’s Republic.
“Thank you, McAlister.” The German said plucking a cup off of the tray.
“Good god Von Graffen I am not your servant, stop talking to me like that.” The Irishman, now Tom knew McAlister downed his cognac in one swallow.
“Oh yes very sorry. Now what were we talking about…” He looked around the room and settled on Tom.
“Yes, yes indeed. No you aren’t going to be a spy per say as no government is looking out for you, but rather a few well connected gentlemen. And you mission is quite distasteful for any government to get involved with. Does the name Alois Hitler the Second mean anything to you?” Von Graffen fished around in a suitcase and found a file case and, flicking through it, pulled out a thin packet.
Tom shook his head.
“How about the name Enrich Stalhern? Does that ring a bell?” He handed Tom the file.
Thomas fell back in shock.
“You want me to kill the Volksfurher of Red Germany?” Tom asked.
"Yes, and by the way, never call me Bruder again."
Duck and Cover!
Part XII: The California War.