I was the kind of guy who cracked dames like her across the jaw when they got too fresh. She was the kind of dame who worked her way under a man’s skin until he thought he’d go crazy with the itching. My kind of dame. Hair a shade of blonde that she didn’t get from nature, eyes like stars burning themselves out, a figure that’d send a good man blind and legs that just didn’t know when to quit. See, I was an earl and she was queen and it was never going to work out between us. She was way too good for me and she knew it. We’d had a thing there for a while and she was real wild, scratch a man’s eyes out she would, then kiss him like she was kissing the face of God. Mouth like a sailor, lips like an angel.
I sauntered on down to Paul’s Cross to hear what my brother had to say about things. He had a way with words, was the brains of the family. I couldn’t string two words together, not then, not now. So George is talking to the crowd, stirring them up, getting them to come round to our way of thinking. They were looking at him like he was God’s representative in this filthy hellhole of a city, which I guess he was, seeing as how he was an Archbishop and all. Good looking man, my brother. Dames just melted when he talked, which a real shame seeing as how he’d turned himself over to God and kept himself all pure and holy. When he spoke, they listened. They always did. See, he had this thing, this way with words like I said, like he could see down into their souls and what he saw there wasn’t pretty.
“We made a big mistake a few decades back,” he said. “You know, when we let Henry IV be king. That was a seriously bad move and a lot of things have gone wrong since then. But, it’s not too late to make things right. See, the Duke of York… stop me if I’m going too fast. Or if you’ve heard all this before. Have you?” They looked at him like they didn’t know what day it was but they’d believe him if he said it was Judgement Day. “All right. See the Duke of York should have been king, not Henry VI. But he’s dead now, so…” He looked at them as if he expected something from them. Could have told him he was wasting his time. “So… the person who should be king, is his s… his so…”
“His son!” a bright spark from the crowd piped up.
“Got it in one!” George said.
I was impressed, though I wouldn’t like to admit it. He had them right where he wanted them and I could get on with the next part of the plan without having to worry about what was going on here in Sin City.
Towton. Now there’s a name should strike fear into a man’s heart. Bleached white death zone of snow and ice. Not a place to take a vacation. But I wasn’t here for fun. I was here because there was a job to be done and there was only one man could do it. He was tall, hair the colour of cornstalks, eyes that undressed a woman almost as quick as his hands. Ned, my cousin and right hand man. He was another one never had to deal with a shortage of dames.
He sauntered over to me, kicking up the snow with his size thirteen boots. Men ducked out of his way when he came. Maybe they were afraid he’d trample on them. But they’d lay down their lives for him and die with a smile on their faces. Nothing but lowlife bootlickers anyway, there were plenty more were they came from.
“We ready?” he said.
Well, I was never ready, never ready for this kind of business. But sometimes a man just has to set aside his doubts, especially when there was a job to be done and we had one hell of a job on our hands. I nodded and waited for him to talk.
“Will you talk to this rabble of cannon fodder,” he said, trying to sound casual. “Or you want me to do it?”
“You got ’em wrapped round your little finger, Ned,” I said. “You go right ahead and talk.”
He got ready to give the speech of his life and I sauntered over to a tree and leaned against it, cleaning my nails with my knife. I’d heard it all before. There wasn’t going to be anything new. We’d been up against it from the start. They say sometimes its hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but I knew which side I was on. I might not look much like it, but I was on the side of the angels. The crowd fell silent, gawping up at Ned as if he was God Almighty himself. He cleared his throat and looked at them all as if he loved each and everyone of them. Quite a trick, if you could pull it off.
“Men,” he said.
I kind of drifted away at that point. My mind just kept coming back to her. She was trash, I knew that, even though she was a queen. She had the morals of a cat and the eyes to match. Too many good men were dead because of her, and my Dad was one of them. I should have hated her, but there was something about her that kept me coming back for more. A man could get lost in a dame like that.
There was going to be a fight. A big one. If I walked away from this alive, I was going to hunt her down, get my hands around her neck and just squeeze. This one’s for you, sweetheart, I said to myself, and I raised a phantom chalice to her memory. This one is all for you.
Then it seemed like all hell had blown up in our faces. I’d never seen so much blood, so many mangled bodies. Now I may have thrown in my lot with the angels, but I’m no angel myself. I’d stab a man in the back for his shoes if my feet were cold. And the snow was getting into my boots like the sound of a dame’s voice gets into a man’s soul. I don’t know how many men I killed that day, lets just say it was more than a few. They ran like dogs and we hunted them down, sent them to hell quicker than they could let them in. It was a dirty day’s work but I consoled myself with the thought that I was on expenses.
I found Ned knee deep in bodies a stupid grin on his handsome face.
“That went well,” he said.
“Not bad,” I said. “Now all we got to do is figure out our next move.”
“Now I get to be king! The dames won’t be able to resist.”
“But what about the work?” I said. “Takes a lot of work to be king.”
“Work?” Ned’s handsome face crinkled into a frown, like bells were ringing in his head and he didn’t like the tune. “No, I don’t want to do that.”
“Ok, you just amuse yourself while I do the work. How does that sound?” It wasn’t difficult in this business to grow a little cynical. I’d been around enough kings to know just what was going on. Most of them were just in for the fancy clothes and the dames. Well, the last one, maybe he was different, but it was too late now.
“Bargain!” Ned said, turning his his million watt smile up to eleven.