Union Candy (part 6 of 19)
Union Candy (part 6 of 19) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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A funeral.

Union Candy (part 6 of 19)

When they were finally ready and Finny was fuming just a little bit at the fact that Joe and Aunty had dressed her up like the creepiest-doll-ever between them,

she and Joe left the junk emporium into the bright morning sun.

There were three cars waiting for them outside, and half a dozen or so men and women Finny recognised as Joe's associates.

The fact that they were all dressed up too, and looking as uncomfortable about it as she felt, should have made Finny feel better, but it didn't.

Now she also felt like the smallest doll at the tea party.

Finny followed Joe to his car, only to be turned around and scooted off to ride with Ned.

Now fuming and annoyed, Finny went to get into the back seat of the car Ned was driving, only to be told this time that she was to ride shotgun.

So arms folded and lips pressed tightly together, Finny rode with Ned, and three others who were squished together on the back seat,

out of New Flagstaff and then on north to she had no idea where. Still, it was interesting to be out of Flag again.

It turned out that the 'where' was a few miles up the road, and a well-cared-for cemetery near Aesterly; and they weren't the first to arrive.

There were lots of cars parked along the roadside and up against the cemetery railings and many people, at least thirty or forty, also dressed in black just like them.

Finny's grumpiness lifted a little but not as much as it should have at such a solemn affair because Ned put his hand on her shoulder,

holding her back from joining Joe who had walked off and was now talking to some woman.

"You're with us, Finn." Finny twisted her head to look at him. Seeing the expression on her face, Ned hurried on. "Joe's orders. You're to stand right in front of me wherever I go, see.

Joe's busy talking with the bigwigs."

"Fine. I'll just stand here then, shall I?"

Ned didn't dare respond. Instead, he patted Finny on the shoulder and resisted saying 'good girl'.

Resigned to being an ornament then, Finny looked around at all the other people.

Behind the woman Joe was talking to, there were three kids who looked kinda shell-shocked and sad all at the same time.

The littlest one, a boy of maybe six, was quietly crying and his older brother, who looked about twice his age, didn't seem far off joining in.

Behind them, and with her comforting hands around their shoulders, was a girl of about sixteen. She looked more angry than anything else and was giving Joe the stink-eye.

It dawned on Finny that these and the woman must be the family of whoever had died, probably the dad. Finny supposed she should be sad, but she just wasn't feeling it.

She moved on to other people.

It seemed that everyone, like them, were also clustered in little groups who kept away from each other. Finny turned to ask Ned about them and saw that he, too, was watching the others.

"Who are all the people?"

When Ned replied, his eyes stayed on the other groups, moving from one to the other all the time.

"Hmmm? The people? Some of them are family of the bloke who croaked, like his missus and kids over there. The others? Let's see." Ned bent over so that his head was on a level with Finny's.

He pointed.

Finny followed Ned's pointing finger as it moved from group to group. She listened closely.

"That's Fat Eric and his boys."

Finny hadn't recognised Fat Eric because he wasn't in his usual outrageous wardrobe. The finger moved on to point out other groups, all with 'business' gang names.

Finny recognised the Bonito Boys name. According to Ned they had been a gang of violent thugs back in the day but had quietened down some.

Something the residents of Bonito Street were very glad about.

Finally, Ned pointed out a small group who kept their distance from all the others.

"And that," Ned said, with a hint of hostility in his voice. "Is the Gold family."

Finny screwed up her eyes to try and get a better look as Ned expanded on his description.

"They pretty much rule The Borough now, and they've become a pain in Joe's butt."

"So why doesn't he do something, make friends or something?"

"They're Travellers. You have to be a Traveller to make friends with those people."

"Well, why doesn't Joe shoot 'em up or something?"

Ned grinned; he liked the way Finny thought.

"Because that would mean taking men into The Borough, and that wouldn't end well for us."

Now Ned's finger moved from figure to figure. "That's Moira Gold. She's the leader. Next to her is Danior, her oldest brother. Next to him are the twins, Silvanus and Shelta."

Ned looked at Finny to get her attention. "Nasty they are, you stay clear of those two."

Finally, Ned pointed at the last member of the little family. "And the little feller on the end is Patrin." This time when Ned looked at her, he was smiling. "He's about your age."

Finny stared hard at Patrin. There was something about the way Ned had said 'he's about your age' that turned her freckled face into a mask of guarded curiosity.

"What does that mean?"

Ned stood up quickly.

"Nothing. Nothing." He patted Finny's shoulders like some proud uncle. "See, Joe is coming over now."

The distraction worked. Joe arrived and went to tousle Finny's hair, but Finny was by now very adept at dodging such annoying grown-ups' habits, and Joe tousled thin air.

"Right, the service is about to start..."

Finny frowned.

"Who died anyway?"

Joe and Ned exchanged a glance that held a conversation that started with, 'You haven't told her yet?' and finished with, 'I want a word with you later." Then Joe turned to Finny.

"He was a business associate."

"Was he in your gang?"

"No, and we don't call it a gang, remember?"

"Who was he then? And why are there all these other gangs here?"

"Again, we don't use the 'G' word. He was a broker."

"What's a..."

"It's a person who arranges deals between ga... private companies."

Finny stored the word away.

"How did he die?"

Again, the look between Joe and an increasingly nervous Ned Flowers. Joe turned on his smile.

"He got hit crossing the road."

Finny, used to Joe's smiles, didn't flinch.

"What hit him?"

Ned jumped in with the answer.

"Some bullets."

Joe walked away, shaking his head, to stand at the end of the line of his gang members.

Finny stayed, standing directly in front of Ned, who now had both of his hands on her shoulders. Probably Joe's orders again, Finny thought.

The service began, and Finny very quickly became bored.

They got to the throwing dirt into the grave bit, and it was when the widow and her children were standing in a tight group at one end of the hole that it hit Finny.

In the house she had burgled at Joe's bequest, there had been lots of photos on the table by the safe.

Family photos, the same woman and the same children, but there had been a man with them, too.

After the funeral was over, Joe had Finny ride with him back to New Flagstaff. The funeral had upset Finny.

Not so much because the broker man had died and his widow and kids were very sad, Finny was ok with that because she lived a life where pretty much everyone she knew had a sad story.

Finny was upset about the funeral because she felt that she might have had a part in the man's death.

Maybe the man had died because she had burgled his house and taken all his money, something like that anyway. So, Finny was unusually quiet on the drive back.

Once safely back inside the concrete jungle that was home, Joe pulled the car over, and they talked.

It took half an hour for Joe to convince Finny that the man had been killed the previous evening and Finny was only retrieving Joe's chips which were sitting in the broker's safe before

the completion of a deal.

Finny turned her own 'gang leader' gaze on Joe. The same hard stare that usually worked on Casper, Onetooth... and sometimes Worms.

"Did you kill the man?"

Joe suddenly felt he was looking at a short version of Kirsten, or even his mum.

"No. And I don't know who did, but I'm working on it."

"Why did I hafta come to the funeral then."

This was a tricky one, and Joe chose his words carefully.

"Well, certain people knew that you were doing 'jobs' for me." He smiled. "Word gets around in this business.

So, because everyone was going to be at this guy's funeral, I thought I'd let them see that you, er, work for me."

The freckles huddled together around Finny's nose.


Joe stared at her for a long pair of seconds. Did he tell her that it was so they wouldn't try and poach her off him? After all, good cat burglars are hard to come by.

Or did he tell her the truth? No, not yet.

"Because only our, most trusted associates got to come to this funeral. So, you being there lets everyone know that I'd be very upset if they tried to get you to work for them."

It was Finny's turn to hold Joe's stare for a meaningful pause. She felt the warm glow of Pride tingle through her.

But, behind that, Caution was jumping up and down with its hand in the air trying to get her attention. She let Pride have its moment, but she'd have a quiet word with Caution at bedtime.

In the meanwhile...

"Can I keep the outfit?"

Joe totted up the cost. The plan had been to return Finny's clothes to Aunty Wainwright for a small rental charge. Well, Aunty had called it small, but it had made Joe's eyes roll.

He looked down into the enormous green eyes of a professional child and sighed.

"Fine, look after it. Funerals are... Well, an occupational hazard."

They drove back to the junk emporium to pick up Finny's clothes and then Joe gave her the rest of the morning off... all forty-five minutes of it.

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