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Wings of Riches
By Al Lacy JoAnna Lacy
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 ALJO PRODUCTIONS, INC.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was Wednesday morning, November 10, 1847. A cold wind whipped along the street as hired buggy driver Willie Domire sat in his buggy on Broadway in downtown Manhattan, New York, his coat collar pulled up over his ears and his cap tugged tight on his head. In spite of his heavy coat, Willie felt the freezing wind pierce his joints. He breathed in the frigid air, wincing at the sharp crispness that stung his throat.
The dark brown gelding harnessed to Willie's buggy swished his tail, shook his head, and whinnied softly at the wind as it bit into his eyes and fluffed his mane.
Dark clouds filled with snow hovered over the city. Willie cast a glance above, waiting for the first snowflake to flutter down and ride the wind.
Willie's buggy was third in line in the hired buggy area in front of the tall office buildings on the east side of Broadway, which was near the north corner of the 3800 block. Located on the corner was the large building housing the offices and press rooms of the New York Tribune.
Men and women fought the wind, gripping their hats or scarves and hurrying along the sidewalk, huddled into their coats. Their breath came out in small plumes.
Willie Domire watched them for a few minutes, then lifted his eyes once againoverhead. This is going to be a big storm once it gets started, he thought. Our first snowfall is late this year, but when it starts, I'm afraid it's going to be a furious one.
Abruptly, newsboys pushed their way out the lobby doors of the Tribune building, carrying their portions of the morning edition. They tightened their shabby coats around themselves and pulled their colorful stocking caps low on their foreheads, covering their ears against the icy wind. They scurried toward their various corners along Broadway, hoping the papers would sell quickly so they could seek warm shelter.
Soon people were emerging from the nearby buildings and some of them were heading for the hired buggy area.
The two buggies ahead of Willie were quickly hired out, and he moved his buggy to the head of the line. Just as he tugged on the reins to stop his horse, he saw a familiar figure come out of the Tribune building and head toward him, signaling with a gloved hand.
The short, stocky thirty-seven-year-old founder and owner of the New York Tribune drew up to the buggy, and Willie smiled and said, "Good morning, Mr. Greeley."
Horace Greeley held onto his hat, bent his head against the arctic gale, and started to climb into the buggy. "Good morning to you too, Willie. Looks like we've got a big snowstorm coming in."
Before Willie could comment, a feminine voice pierced the air: "Stop that man! He has my purse!"
Greeley looked down the gravel sidewalk toward the sound of the frantic voice and caught sight of an unkempt young man running his direction with a black purse in his hand. The middle-aged woman who was crying for someone to stop the purse snatcher was scurrying after him. There were other men and women on the sidewalk, but Greeley was closest to the thief. Quickly, he stepped in front of the young man, raised his hands, and shouted, "Hold it right there!"
The thief tried to dodge Greeley, but Greeley met him head-on with a punch that lifted him off his feet and dropped him to the gravel on his back. The purse slipped from his hand.
Greeley's hat flew off and was carried away by the wind. A man on the street ran after it.
The purse snatcher lay on the sidewalk, dazed. Horace Greeley picked up the purse while looking at the frantic woman as she came closer. Several people hurried toward the scene from both directions.
Greeley smiled at the woman as she drew nearer, and at the same time, the purse snatcher rolled onto his knees, blinking and glaring with fire in his eyes at the man who had punched him.
The stout owner of the New York Tribune stabbed a stiff forefinger down at him and growled, "Stay right where you are!"
The thief rose to his feet, mumbling vile words. Greeley smashed him on the jaw with his right fist, then followed quickly with a left that caught him flush on the mouth. Without a sound, the thief went down flat on his back, unconscious. Two men pounced on him to hold him securely while another man shouted at a pair of mounted policemen who were just approaching Broadway from the closest intersection. The two officers put their horses to a gallop, making dust clouds on the dirt street.
The middle-aged woman glared down at the purse snatcher, then turned to Horace Greeley, who asked, "Are you all right, ma'am?"
A smile broke across her worn features as she nodded. "Oh, yes, thank you. I know you! You're Mr. Greeley, the owner of the Tribune."
"Yes ma'am," he said as he handed her the purse.
Tears were in the woman's eyes. "Thank you, Mr. Greeley. Thank you so much for what you just did. My name is Helen Simmons."
The man who had chased down Greeley's hat stepped up and handed it to him. Greeley thanked him, and the man smiled, nodded, and slipped into the gathering crowd. There was a cacophony of voices as each person who had witnessed the incident told his or her version of what happened.
Helen Simmons raised her voice above the others and praised Greeley for his heroism. He blushed and said, "Mrs. Simmons, I simply did what needed to be done."
The two policemen drew up, left their saddles, and moved into the crowd. The voices grew louder as the witnesses began telling the officers what had happened.
One of the officers held up both hands, palms forward. "Hold on, now, folks! We can't understand a thing you're saying when you all talk at once! I've picked up that there was a purse snatching, and I see what looks to be the snatcher lying on the ground. Who's the victim, here?"
The petite, silver-haired Helen Simmons moved up to the officer. "I am, sir," she said in a soft, quavering voice. "My name is Helen Simmons." She pointed to the short, stocky man. "That's Mr. Horace Greeley. He's the one who put the thief down and retrieved my purse for me."
The officer smiled at Greeley. "I know him, ma'am. Good work, Mr. Greeley."
Greeley hunched his wide shoulders. "He was running right toward me, Officer O'Brien. Wasn't hard to stop him."
Frank O'Brien grinned, then he and his partner stepped to where the two men held the purse snatcher down. The guilty man was conscious now, though his eyes were glazed and blood was running from the cut on his lips.
The other officer, Clyde Hopper, bent over the thief and regarded him with a steady glare. "Just out of jail two days and you're right back at it, eh, Butch? Well, this time you'll be in a lot longer!"
The thief licked his bleeding lip, gave Officer Hopper a look of scorn, but said nothing.
By this time, a reporter from the New York Herald, which was located three blocks away, was on the scene. Clayton Hayman, pencil and paper pad in hand, had already picked up on what had happened. He stepped up beside Officer Frank O'Brien and said, "Seems you and your partner know the purse snatcher."
"What's his name?"
"Butch Kemper. He's been in trouble with the law time and again for being a thief and a robber. Recently finished a three-year sentence behind bars."
Hayman grinned as he wrote. "Butch Kemper. Mm-hmm. Seems I've heard that name before." He turned to the Tribune owner, who had just spotted two of his reporters standing close by. Hayman smiled. "Mr. Greeley, you are to be commended, sir, for single-handedly thwarting this crime."
Greeley made a thin smile, then set his gaze on the two Tribune reporters and shook his head as if to say, Don't put this in the Tribune.
Clayton Hayman then turned to the middle-aged woman, who was now standing once again at Greeley's side. "Ma'am, it was your purse that was snatched, correct?"
"And your name is ..."
"I'm Helen Simmons, young man. My husband is Ralph Simmons, who owns the Simmons Pharmacy two blocks down the street."
Hayman was writing it down when Helen said, "If you're putting this in your paper, be sure to tell that Mr. Greeley is the hero, here."
At that moment the officers lifted Butch Kemper to his feet, cuffed his hands behind his back, and escorted him away. When they reached the horses, Kemper looked back over his shoulder and lanced Horace Greeley with hate-filled eyes.
Greeley met the hateful gaze with cool eyes, then turned and spoke to Hayman in a low voice. "Clayton, please don't put this incident in your paper."
Hayman smiled. "Mr. Greeley, what you did here was a very brave and unselfish thing. The people of New York need to hear about it. I see a couple of your own reporters here, and from what I've observed, you won't want the incident published in the Tribune."
"But I work for the Herald, and I'm going to see that we put it on the front page of tomorrow's edition."
"Good for you," said Helen. "Mr. Greeley is a hero, and the people of this city need to know it."
"That's right!" shouted a man in the crowd. "Print it!"
The rest of the crowd cheered Hayman and called out their agreement.
Greeley shook his head, smiled, and said, "Clayton ... Mrs. Simmons ... I must be going." He stepped to his two reporters and said so only they could hear, "Boys, the story is going into the Herald, and there's nothing I can do about it. But I don't want it in our paper. It would look like I was trying to shower myself with glory. Understand?" Both men nodded and said they understood.
Greeley made his way back to the hired buggy area, where Willie Domire had waited for him. When the Tribune owner stepped up to the buggy, Willie said, "Mr. Greeley, that really was a brave thing for you to do. I'm proud of you."
Greeley blushed and stepped into the buggy. "I need to go to the Turley Department Store, Willie. And if you can wait for me while I get fitted for a couple of new suits, I'll make it well worth your while."
Willie pulled his coat collar up around his ears again and smiled. "As you wish, sir."
Willie put the horse in motion, pulled onto Broadway, and headed north. As they moved along with the other traffic, Willie spoke over his shoulder. "Mr. Greeley ..."
"Are you acquainted with Wallace Turley?"
"I am now, Willie. I had seen him at different social functions over the past few years, but actually became personally acquainted with him just a month ago, when I was asked to serve on the board of directors for the Bank of New York. Mr. Turley has been a director there for several years."
Willie guided the buggy around another buggy that was parking at the curb. "Doesn't Mr. Turley own other department stores somewhere?"
"Yes, he does. This store here in Manhattan where he has his main offices is the oldest and largest. His other stores are in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, and Baltimore."
"Mr. Turley must be quite wealthy."
"That he is, but let me say that his wealth hasn't made him snobbish and tight like happens to so many people who become rich. He's a fine gentleman. He's also very generous with his money and is a very pleasant person to be around."
Willie Domire thought to himself, Just like you, Mr. Greeley.
Excerpted from Wings of Riches by Al Lacy JoAnna Lacy Copyright © 2005 by ALJO PRODUCTIONS, INC.. Excerpted by permission.
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