John Fallis was ten when he began to carry a knife.
The older boys, the bigger boys, picked on him. He fought back. They thought it was funny. Until he got the knife.
When he became a man, no one thought it would be funny to pick on John Fallis. He brooked no insult, would not be cheated, would not be pushed around. He bent a knee to no man.
He was the King of Craw and Lucas Deane was his acolyte.
I came to know Mister Fallis through Lucas. That’s how I thought of him—as Mister Fallis.
He was strikingly handsome. He had a charm that was almost magnetic. When he chose to use it, which was not always, he won friends easily and women became willing prey. Being around him was like being swept up in a vortex of energy where something exciting, something dangerous, something unexpected could happen, would probably happen, at any second. I fell gladly into his orbit. I was only a boy then.
We were in the seventh grade, Lucas Deane and I, when we met. I was transferring in from a distant school. Lucas was already there.
That year was nineteen-twenty. The Great War was over. The country was opening the door to the Roaring Twenties. The Big Shoot-Out was a year in the future. The Big Shoot-Out. The day John Fallis took on the entire city police force.
You’ve heard of it. Everyone’s heard of it. Even the New York Times was appalled.
But John Fallis was special to Lucas Deane long before that.
Lucas and his mother would have starved but for John Fallis.
Lucas’s mother was ill and couldn’t work. They were penniless. No money for food, no money for rent. Lucas was only seven at the time. John Fallis heard of it. He found Lucas and gave him a job … things he could do, sweep up at the grocery after school, stock the shelves … and paid him enough that they could get by.
Later, Mr. Fallis kept Lucas on. He liked the boy. Lucas’s gratitude was endless, his admiration boundless.
I could understand that. I came to admire John Fallis, too. But not to the point of blind devotion.
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