WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART TWENTY-SEVEN: KINGDOM COME
“While we’re on the subject of the Judge and his cronies,” said Count Justin Victor to Pappy O’Day and Tipsy Smith, “what are we to make of Police Captain Tom Aston? You know that on many occasions I have had to buy my way out of the jam, and he’s the Peeler to speak to when the ooftish changes hands. But more to the point—he sees to it that all the wheels are greased. Need to make sure your candidate is voted into office? Call Tom Aston. Hooligans on the street making mischief? Hoboes in the tramp lodgings causing a nuisance? Call Tom Aston. Riff-raff hanging around your groggery making trouble? Call Tom Aston. He’ll send out some rollers like Smash Conklin to crack some heads and put paid to the Wild Boys. And, as regards your beer garden, he’ll even turn a blind eye to ‘The Sunday Question’. But as always, there’s a price to be paid. For, as you well know, Tipsy, the scoundrel is notorious for blackmailing saloonkeepers. That row of tenements in Blowtown hard by the train tracks? Near the canal that they use as run-off for the paper mill? That’s owned by Aston, and he bought ‘em on the cheap by way of the rake-off. It’s deadly down there, but he got the land and the buildings dirt cheap and rents them out to a lot of dirt poor families for twice the prevailing rate. The poor always gets it and gets it good in this equation. Not only does the whole area stink, but they get to pay extra for it. That’s the way of the world when it comes to the poor, who are without influence and therefore without hope. There is no grand collusion, as some would think, between the factory owner and the slumlord, to keep the poor man in his place. But there might as well be. Factor in the grocery and the groghouse keeper, and you’ve got a perfect system in place seemingly designed to keep the working man and his family in a condition close to utter starvation. The only thing the poor man has going for him is the broadness of his back and the fact that if he’s a citizen—and even if he ain’t—he can cast a vote. Wouldn’t it be nice, you think, if the poor man could become a policeman? But that doesn’t happen, as they are natural enemies. To be a policeman in Noxtown, ye needs must know someone as “knows a man”. No, the policeman is mostly appointed, and his one major job is to keep the poor and the other rabble well in their place, for the benefit of people who can afford to maintain brick houses and stable hosses. You call them gentlemen, and their favorites haunts are not the churches, but the golf course and the fancy restaurant, where hunchbacked minions toil in hundred degree kitchens to plate up their delicacies. All the same, I would rather be a policeman than a chef in even the finest restaurant in the world. The money is far better for a man as knows his business. Alas, I was never much one for vigorous physical activity, however. I could never do what Tom Aston did, back when he was a raw recruit, to make it to the top of the ant-heap. Namely, shower the chief and the assistant chief and the Sergeant and Captain above him with fistfuls of lucre.
“Every other Sunday he’ll address meetings of the goo-goos, and assure them that all their demands are being met, and that the streets are safe and they can walk out of their brownstones and be completely secure in their persons and the saloons are not wide-open as they are under police control and there’s no drinking on Sundays as the law is being enforced, and he’ll talk as smooth as an Eye-talian gigolo and assure them that ordinary citizens are never in any danger from drunken brawlers and are never found more dead than alive in an alleyway after frequenting one of these establishments, and that the police don’t need a bunco squad because all the so-called chiselers have been driven out of town, which is a mendacity on the face of it, since Noxtown in general and Blowtown in particular is the confidence man’s sanctuary, as I have reason to know well. He lies and says that the police no longer need to make vicious allies of thief-takers and other men who are little better than criminals themselves, when the fact is that without informers, the Noxtown police would solve nary a single crime.”
“O, the silver-tongued rogue! You should see him—him, in his uniform, looking almost respectable. Oh, you’ve seen him at his worst, but at his best, with a little bit of powder and rouge—rouge, I kid you not—I hear tell that Guiseppe the barber cuts his rude shock of hair and makes him up so his face don’t so much resemble a slab of rotten roast beef and his gin blossoms ain’t quite so prominent and his fat red phiz doesn’t glow brighter than the lights in the red-lamp district. Don’t tell a soul, but the boys down at the precinct call him ‘The Great Stone Face,’ and worse besides. He’s only about 45—a child next to the likes of us—and yet that belly of his makes him look like a slobbering old blubber-guts. Don’t know why he carries that Elks tooth around except maybe as a good luck charm because I don’t even think he’s in the Elks, as he is a dyed in the wool Mason, though there’s no reason you can’t be both, I reckon.”
“I reckon you don’t get to be Captain unless you have at least a sixth-grade edumacation and can use words like ‘investigate’ without sounding like you’ve just gotten fallen off’n the turnip truck. Y’see, before Aston came around, for a brief time Noxtown used to be all hell for any criminal as liked to make an honest living. They had a real hard-charger on the scene—I think his name was Cornelius, and he was no respecter of persons and didn’t believe in discrimination but instead he would go after anyone for any reason whatsoever, though the job he was trying to accomplish was trying to hold back an ocean tide of filth with a dainty little parasol, because he tried to make it clear that there would be no law breaking at all, and so none of the town honchos would talk to him or answer his calls, and pretty soon he was out of his ass.
“And that’s how they brought Tom Aston in.”
BETTER GET IT IN YOUR SOUL
GOOD COMPUTER TRICKS THAT AREN’T COMMONLY KNOWN
F*CK THAT: A GUIDED MEDITATION
JARED FOGLE RAN PORN RENTAL SERVICE FROM HIS DORM
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
A HANDY GUIDE TO GENTRIFICATION
6* DAILY UTILITY
THE HISTORY OF HIPPIES, YOGA AND VEGETARIANISM
4 MISERABLE EXPERIENCES YOU CAN’T AVOID AT COMICON
KIM FOWLEY, RAPIST
WHY MANSON MIGHT NOT BE GUILTY
BY VINCENT COLLINS
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
JOB SKILLS EMPLOYERS WANT BUT CAN’T FIND
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
804. 2200 RADICAL POLITICAL POSTERS DIGITIZED