She was maybe 8 or 9 years old. The Great Depression was hard on everyone, especially families who had to try and make it when they lost their ways of income. Carol had lost her parents only a few months before, and as such was very lonely. She had worked hard to stay alive, very determined and strong at heart, but she was just a child. Kids her age were frequently used as cheap labor in factories these days for only pennies pay, and she had recently started somewhere like that to earn her food. It was hard, but she was full of dreams and determination, and wouldn’t let it bog her down. The one thing she loved to do, however, was read. Her mother had taught her how when she was 5, and she had latched onto literacy like a plauge. It was marvelous, what somone could do when they were reading! Visit far off lands, travel and smile and forget all cares… She had a small bag she used to carry her personal things in; a spare shirt that had belonged to her father, two of her favorite story books, and her change purse when it was full. It was a ratty old thing, as were the clothes she already wore, but that was fine. There were churches to sleep in, and some factories let childred rest in them if they were orphaned and homeless, as well as sometimes a kind person who would give them bread. It was about knowing where to look.. Carol was good at it. She learned about many people and places, about the histories of new york buildings and other things, and craved information more than her next meal. Today, the small, shaggy looking child was trying to haggle a man for a newspaper. “I only have one penny though, Sir.. Can’t I come back thursday to give you the other two..?” The man seemed fed up with a street urchin bothering him about a paper, and maybe even thought she was trying to pick pocket him. “Gett outta here before I call tha police, you runt..!” He waved a foot at her, then smiled and nodded to another customer that paid and took a paper. She looked desperate. “But please, Sir..! Can’t I buy at least a part of it..?” He growled. “I won’t be sellin’ a part of a paper! Now get off with you, and come back when you have the full fee!” she flinched and her eyes filled with tears, but she begrudgingly pulled back. Her mind wondered though.. Could she take one..? The small girl made like she was walking away, and then quickly snatched a paper from the pile, taking off quickly down the street as fast as she could. The paper seller behind her shouted. “HEY! Stop, you little thief! Someone stop that girl!!”
Gustav and the newspaper that he was the Vice President of meanwhile was doing well for themselves. They printed the paper everyday, kept a small staff, and sold the paper for a decent price for the times. Plus there is the information business… Gustav was also careful with his money. Both on spending and carrying it with him. He spent enough to keep it circulating and saved enough so he didn’t have to worry to much about his income. This day he had gone out to go and buy himself some groceries before spending the day home with his books and his writing. Mostly working on a collection of stories of the Prohibition age and the Great Depression that he was working on. As he walked he heard someone shout about a theif and saw a girl running with a Paper. A curious expression flickered across his grim face for a moment. This was certainly something unusual to him. What child… No. What person would steal a paper in this age? Food is what most would steal. So. For now, Gustav let his curiosity about this girl get the best of him. Moving slightly he stepped into her path and caught her. Placing a hand on her shoulder he didn’t take the paper from her right away. “Miss. Stealing a paper. You should know better then that.” The man said in an ambiguous tone, making it seem more like he knew the girl to the shop keeper. “Go on return the paper like a good girl.” Gustav said looking down on her, his expression actually fairly soft at the moment to goad her into returning the paper.
For a moment, she felt like she was going to get away, and the rush was prickling at her heart. She wasn’t a thief and had never stolen a thing in her life, but it had been a moment of weakness for her. Then, suddenly, the thought of getting away crashed down. A man was in front of her and caught her, stopping the small girl in her tracks. Her face paled and she was sure she’d be thrown into prison for this, as she looked up at him. The man was scolding her, now, very much gentlemanly, asking her to return the paper. He was speaking to her as one would a true lady, and she was flustered. The look on his face was kind as well. Carol hugged the paper to her chest, and went to argue, but something in his face made her stop, defeated. Feeling hope for her paper… She looked back, then up at him one last time, then looked like she was going to cry. “…Y.. Yes sir…” hesitating, she turned and slowly made her way back to the confused looking newspaper salesman, holding it out to him with a meek apology. “I.. I’m sorry… Please don’t send me to prison!” The man snatched it from her with a scowl. “I have mind to! You there, surely this street brat isn’t yours? Maybe she works in your factory?” He looked at Gustav accusingly.
Looking satisfied at the girl giving the paper back the gentleman then turned his gaze towards the shop keeper. “That isn’t a point of concern at the moment sir.” Gustav said. “I appologize for the trouble. But I assure you she won’t do this again.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a dime and held it to the man. “For your trouble.” He normally wouldn’t do such a thing, but this girl interested him. And she did see like such a good child. “If you don’t mind. I’ll take care of her from here.” The sooner he got rid of the man he could talk to this girl and figure out why of all things she stole a paper. Depending on her answer he might treat her to one. Since he could do so easily and all.
You and your money. The man seemed to change completely as he was presented with the dime, and he took it with a pleased smile. “Well, I do hope so. We have enough trouble without little hooligans deciding to steal papers. Pleasure doing business!” he tipped his hat, then went on calling headlines. Carol looked immensely uncomfortable. The girl shifted, watching as the man paid what she thought was an uncomfortable amount of money for her trouble. Why was he standing up for her? Was he another factory owner..? He didn’t seem like one.. He seemed very rich, though.. She wondered if she should just slip away..
He wastched the man walk away before letting out a breath. Giving the girl a curious look as he turned his gaze down on her. Letting go of her trusting she wouldn’t run away. Then he crouched down some to be more on her level. “Now. Young miss. Would you tell me why you would steal something like a paper? Isn’t taking things like food more what a poor girl would need to do?” He asked. Gustav wanted to know. His voice reflected his curiosity. But he also made sure to keep his tone soft so that he wouldn’t scare the girl away. “You certainly look like you need food more then a paper. Unless you needed something to burn for later tonight.” That was the logical thing. But his instinct told him that wasn’t the case.
Her thoughts of running away were stopped then, and she found she couldn’t look at him directly as he spoke to her, kneeling down to her level. She knew it was an odd thing to steal, but… She couldn’t help it. The girl mumbled an ‘um..’ as she wrang the cloth of her old dress. She shook her head. “..I.. Might have used it to burn eventually… But.. I really only wanted to read it..!” She felt very out of place, and figured they must have looked a sight; a classy man like him and an orphan like herself. “They paid us only two pennies this week, and the man wouldn’t sell it to me for less, and papers are less expensive than a book..! And the information is always different! I just wanted to read it..”
“Oh? Is that right…?” Gustav said listening to her. Books and papers. And she wanted them for the reading material? But she was so young… She must have lost her parents to, was his guess… “Are you alone as well miss?” He asked her, needing to make sure. This girl did intrigue him quite a bit. If she said she was he already had a plan in the works for if she wanted a chance to read all she liked and not need to worry about taking care of things like food.
She had a sinking feeling, thinking maybe this man really was going to take her in to the police, so they could throw her in prison. “It’s true, I absolutely promise!” Maybe if he knew how honest she was, he wouldn’t send her to jail. Tears were stinging her eyes again. Then he moved on and the sinking feeling grew. She nodded slowly. “If.. You mean my parents, then yes, I’m alone.. Father passed working on the railroad and Mama was very sick.. Please, sir! I don’t want to go to prison!” It was safer on the street.
Letting out a breath he put his hand to his hat as he stood up. “I don’t plan on doing any such thing.” He said taking on his normal expression. “But. I think I will do something. Miss, I am Gustav St Germain, the Vice President of The Daily Days. And. I think… As payment for getting you out of trouble you will come work for me.” He doubted this child would turn him down on this ‘demand’, after all this meant she could work in the paper. “I could use an assistant. And you are quite the interesting youg lady.” He said keeping his gaze on her.
She was dumbfounded as she went on. She knew of both his name and the paper. The Daily Days was slightly harder to get than the paper she had just been trying to steal, and the information.. The stories.. They were always fascinating. And he was telling her as payment, she needed to work for him? It sounded too good to be true. The shocked look on her face still, she stared at him. “I-i am..? You.. You truly want me to be your assistant?” Was this really true? He didn’t seem like a dishonest man, but she was a bit wary. “…When will I work…?”
“I do. There aren’t many children your age that are more willing to steal a paper to read rather then burn. Or chose that over food. It would be a shame for you to not cultivate such things!” Gustav said looking fairly amused with her. He really wanted this girl to work for him. Even if only as an assistant. She could be a big help, and he could teach her a lot he felt. Yes. This was the right thing to do. “You will start as soon as you tell me your name. Of course you would need to get cleaned up as well.”
Meaning new clothes and a bath. “So. What is your name?” This is your interview Carol.
So he was serious.. It didn’t sound like he was going to make her do some kind of printing work, or something where she could only see the papers… No, he was speaking like she would be allowed to read them, among other things. She looked up at him with some sort of awe in her eyes, then looked like she wanted to cry again. Why was he being so kind? “C.. Carol… My name is Carol…” It had been so long since she had given out her last name, she didn’t even bother with it. “Sir.. Why are you being so kind to me..? Just because I love to read..?”
“That certainly is part of it. But you are also such a good hard working child Carol. That sort of spirit and mind does not need to be on the streets.” Reaching his hand out he placed it on her back. So much for his time out. Oh well. “So you will come stay with me and work as my assistant.” She had no where else to go. And he did have the means to take care of her. He gave her a bit of a smile. “Come Carol. Let’s get you cleaned up. You will be my assistant from now on. Looking like that simply won’t do now will it?” He could keep her looking like a little street rat after all. It would be poor taste for him, and she deserved better. He could take her home and ask his housekeeper (he doesn’t seem the type to clean his own house or cook) to get clothing.
- Fanfic by our Carol
(Please note that this is all HeadCanon)
Baccano! © Ryohgo Narita
Characters © Ryohgo Narita
Official Baccano! Art by Enami Katsumi
-Incorporates aspects of Baccano! novels.