The Tribe is proud to publish an exciting new piece of creative writing by Catriona Scott, one of our talented contributors. ‘To Prove a Villain’ is the first part of a brand-new serial publication which will be continued throughout the semester on The Tribe’s Creative Writing section. The serial was inspired by an online writing project called Rewritten City – which Catriona also contributes to – in which writers recreate literary and theatrical characters as inhabitants of modern day New York City. Catriona’s serial focuses on the rise of William Shakespeare’s Richard III after an assassination attempt on his brother spurs Richard and his plots into action. It quickly becomes clear that Richard will stop at nothing to take over his brother’s position as Mayor of New York City…

 

Dramatis Personae

Richard Plantagenet – Comptroller of New York City.

Edward Plantagenet – His brother, Mayor of New York.

Elizabeth Plantagenet – Edward’s wife.

Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.

Katherine Woodville – Elizabeth’s sister and Harriet’s partner.

William Hastings – Public Advocate and good friend to Edward.

Dr Shaw  – Doctor at King’s County Hospital.

 

In ‘To Prove a Villain’, bad publicity and a poor public image have plagued Mayor Edward Plantagenet. When he decides to address the city in an attempt to boost his popularity again as well as assuage the people’s concerns, all hell breaks loose. 

 

The news crews had begun gathering outside around an hour ago and one of the aides had just informed the waiting politicians that the crowd was beginning to grow. It wasn’t just the influential and the wealthy that were turning out that day, though – this was by no means an exclusive event. Edward’s address that day was for everyone, from the businesspeople to those with no business to speak of. The press conference the previous week had dispelled some of the mayor’s recent poor publicity, but it still hadn’t been enough. He knew it wouldn’t have been – and he wanted to right this wrong as much as the rest and address the citizens himself rather than through his council.

“Ed?”

The mayor looked up from the newspaper he’d been glancing over to see his Public Advocate and close friend William Hastings standing before him. He nodded, inviting the other man to continue with what he had to say.

“I just wanted to make sure you’re ready for this, you know, you’ve got your speech ready – you wrote it yourself, didn’t you?”

“Of course,” Edward replied with a laugh. “When have I ever had anyone else write my material for me?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe your first few months in office?” Hastings replied. Edward did not correct him but laughed along with him.

“True – Harry Stafford is a hundred times the speech-writer I am. But I was always told its more about how you speak than what you say.”

“Whatever makes you feel better, buddy.” Hastings’ tone then turned serious, but with an affection behind it that could not be denied as he placed a hand on Edward’s shoulder. “Listen, I’m just kidding around – you’ll be great out there, you’ll knock ‘em dead. You’ve got this.”

“Thanks Will,” Edward replied, with equal affection, pulling the other man towards him in a quick hug. “Now, don’t you have some reporters to talk to?”

“Oh, right,” Hastings grinned as Edward released him. “I’ll just go do that.” He began to move away, before calling over his shoulder. “I’ll see you later, yeah? That bar on West 17th, nine o’clock? Don’t be late this time!”

“I won’t be!” Edward replied cheerily as Hastings hurried back down City Hall’s front steps. He would be – he always was – and they both knew it. But it was funny to imagine the opposite. He chuckled to himself even as he returned his attention to his paper. For all his joking with Will Hastings, he knew his speech had to be good. He had to convince the city that he was still fit to lead it – and with his recent private and political missteps, he feared the task would prove difficult…

“Mayor Plantagenet?”

A cold, clipped voice – certainly not that of Will Hastings – caused Edward to look up from his newspaper once more. The voice belonged to none other than the woman of whom he had been speaking, his former press secretary Harriet Stafford, now the City Council’s Speaker. She should certainly be feeling pleased with herself for this rise in fortunes – but if she did, she wasn’t letting her face know.

“We’ve known each other for years,” Edward told Harriet in a friendly tone, but with a slight hint of exasperation. “And ever since we first met I’ve told you – call me Edward.”

“I hardly think that is appropriate,” Harriet replied. Having said this she held out the folder she was carrying to Edward, which he took with his free hand – but as she kept her hand extended he reluctantly handed over the newspaper. “Your speech is in there.”

“My speech?’ Edward replied, bewilderment creasing his forehead as he looked down at the folder. “I already have my speech – it’s here.” He extracted a folded sheet from his suit pocket, certain as he did so that he caught a flicker of a sneer in Harriet’s expression.

“The Council and I felt some edits were necessary,” she said smoothly, without missing a beat. “Besides, we can’t have you taking your speech out of your jacket pocket – that’s hardly professional.”

Edward was beginning to remember why he didn’t like Harriet very much.

“Right, fair enough, you’ve got me there – but you couldn’t have given this to me sooner?”

“The conference is due to start in forty five minutes,” Harriet replied. “And there’s no need to worry, the edits were minimal. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

With that she brushed past Edward to speak to another of the many aides milling about in the foyer that afternoon. The mayor shook his head and opened the folder, glancing over the speech initially before looking at it in more detail. These edits had not been minimal at all. Damn it, this was not going to go well. But then, what had he just told Will? It isn’t what you say, but how you say it? He almost laughed again. Everything would be fine. He could do this. He was going to “knock ‘em dead.”

 

*****

 

It was a good day for a spectacle like this to be held outdoors. The weather was neither too warm nor too cold; a fair few people had turned out with flags. As Edward stepped up to the podium atop City Hall’s steps, he found himself truly believing his own motivational speech. On either side of him sat the fifty one members of the City Council, as well as Will Hastings and Edward’s own brothers, George and Richard. His wife Elizabeth was there also – having walked with him from the front doors of the building, she took a seat beside her brothers in law. Further rows of chairs faced the stage from the very bottom step at the face of the hall, stretching back for around twenty rows, themselves flanked on either side by various news stations’ cameras. Behind these rows of chairs where the reporters and various businesspeople sat stood the rest of the crowd – there were a few security officials there, but nothing too heavy handed.

Once the applause from the waiting crowd had at last died down – Edward was surprised, and pleased, that he had to raise his hand as a call to silence, rather than the crowds acclaim dying away quickly – he began the conference with a few opening remarks. These were unscripted and very much in his style – professional enough, but with a great deal of good will and humour behind them. He was the type to crack a joke or two, and it seemed the crowd appreciated this. The laughter of several of the politicians near him was forced and fake – Richard and Harriet’s chief amongst this – but they couldn’t be heard over the rest. Besides, Edward wouldn’t have noticed as he was looking at the crowd, and not them. He wouldn’t have cared even if he had noticed. He was in his element now – addressing the people warmly in as friendly a manner as possible from the position in which he stood. Of course, some might say too friendly. But he would ignore them. He addressed them as he would address his friends, even his family – he did mention them at one point, thanking them for their patience with his work in political office, prompting a ripple of laughter as Elizabeth acknowledged this with a wry smile and a nod.

His opening remarks done, Edward began his speech properly. Luckily for him, forty five minutes had been enough time to re-read the edited speech a few times and jot down a few notes to make it sound more like him again, and less like the hard-liner the council clearly wished him to be. The crowd seemed to be responding well, the reporters scribbling away or holding their microphones aloft, trying to ensure they recorded the speech in its entirety. Whenever Edward said anything the crowd particularly agreed with there would be a smattering of applause – sometimes even cheers. He noticed a few people – some of the kids especially –waving their small flags with abandon. Had his children been there, he was sure they would have been doing the same – but this speech was nothing monumental, simply another day in the life of their influential father and no cause, their mother insisted, for them to be excused college or school for the day. Ah well. He was taking them and Liz out for dinner tonight before he met with Will Hastings – it wouldn’t be too long before he’d see them. He smiled at the thought even as he continued to speak.

It was as his speech turned to the recent tax increase that the atmosphere began to change. It was a gradual change, true, but easily noticeable. Even though Edward spoke persuasively as to why he had deemed such a move necessary, the crowd seemed to become more restless, some of the journalists were frowning, several of the people who were seated had now stood up – the better to display their displeasure in more than looks. A discontented murmuring rose from the spectators, and for a moment it looked as though Harriet Stafford was going to stand and call for order, as she might have done in the council chamber – a look from Richard Plantagenet stopped her. Let Edward deal with this – that was the purpose of this conference, wasn’t it? Edward had caused this trouble and now he had to deal with the consequences.

No-one had expected this was the consequence he would face, even as a loud cracking sound split the near silence. A few people looked around, wondering what that noise had been, where it had come from. It soon became obvious. Edward was no longer standing at the podium but slumped against it, holding onto it with one trembling hand, the other clutching his chest. It was only a few moments before his legs buckled and he fell, but this was long enough to see the blood.

It seemed for a few moments as though Edward’s world had become mute and everything was moving in blurry slow motion. Richard Plantagenet was on his feet, reaching into an inside pocket of his coat – he carried his gun constantly with him since his years in the army – but he did not withdraw the weapon. He had no time – in an instant George was on his feet beside him, knocking him backwards as he pushed past him to run to Edward’s side. Then the sound seemed to return, a sudden wall of noise, of panic and confusion. People in the crowd were screaming, some people were fleeing the scene, the security officials had pulled out their guns but they were looking anywhere and everywhere without the first clue where the shot had come from. One scream could be heard even above this sudden din – that of Elizabeth Plantagenet. Elizabeth was kneeling at Edward’s side, frantic, desperate, but with no idea as to what to do. Here and there distinct voices could be heard – voices full of shock, panic, fear.

“Call 911!”

“What the hell’s going on?”

“He’s been shot – the mayor’s been shot!”

“Oh my God!”

These voices and more continued, but they soon became drowned by the incoherent shouts and screams and the sound of people running. Someone called for the journalists to ‘turn the damn cameras off’ but no-one was listening – a few of them even moved forwards to try and get a better view of the fallen mayor, but this proved near impossible as he was surrounded by people. Elizabeth was caught between sobbing and screaming uncontrollably, George tried to pull her away to give Edward some space to breathe but she threw him off. Edward himself was struggling to say something – no-one could hear him even if they had wanted to – he managed to take one of Elizabeth’s hands in his, but this only caused her to panic more, begging him to stay with her, pleading with him not to die.

It was then that Richard and Will hurried up the steps, followed by two medical personnel with a stretcher. Although Will’s expression was almost as frantic as Elizabeth’s, there was something different about Richard’s. He was not panicking and he did not seem afraid – if anything, he seemed almost fascinated as the medics examined the wound, but even as they did so he looked away, towards where the crowd had been. There was no-one there now apart from a couple of reporters with their cameras – but they were soon ushered away by an ashen faced member of the security personnel. Whoever the assailant had been, they were long gone.

 

*****

 

Later that evening the scene remained virtually unchanged, save for the abundance of police barrier tape and the increased presence of law enforcement officials. The chairs were still overturned, the flags on the fences still fluttered, the steps were still stained with blood. Inside City Hall William Hastings, Harriet Stafford and the rest of the city council were in the midst of a fierce, heated discussion. Was it right to regard this threat to the mayor’s life as a terrorist threat? What would the consequences be of implementing martial law?

While this political debate rumbled on, in one of the city’s hospitals it was the personal that was at stake. Edward was in the operating theatre. His political and personal lives had well and truly merged now – and it was uncertain how long either would continue to last…

 

*****

 

BREAKING NEWS: ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AT CITY HALL

Shock waves were felt throughout New York City this afternoon after an unknown assailant attempted to assassinate Mayor Edward Plantagenet on the steps of City Hall.

The mayor was giving a speech regarding some of his latest policies as a follow-up to the press conference on June 3rd when the attack took place at approximately 3:00 PM. The assailant was armed with a SIG Sauer P238 pistol, recovered at the scene, which was fired just once during the attack. This single shot was enough, however, to significantly injure the mayor, and the assailant managed to escape during the confusion which followed. As yet doctors are unable to confirm if this wound to the chest is potentially fatal, but Mayor Plantagenet remains in critical condition in hospital. Those members of his family who were not present at the scene have been informed and are now with him – although Comptroller Richard Plantagenet remained behind to aid the NYPD in their investigation, with his military experience cited as useful in ascertaining the attacker’s methods.

In the hours following the attack a statement was issued by Public Advocate William Hastings which stated, first and foremost: “this attack upon the person of Mayor Edward Plantagenet is being regarded by the government of New York City as a terrorist threat.” The statement outlined measures of martial law which the government intends to put in place for the security of its citizens as well as to aid law enforcement in detaining the mayor’s assailant. These measures included:

All ports and airports shall be closed – citizens are to remain within city limits.

  • A curfew of 9:00 sharp, seven days a week, is to be implemented. Anyone who does not adhere to this curfew will be regarded with suspicion and potentially subject to criminal proceedings.

  • Additionally, all bars and clubs will now change their last call to 7:00.

  • Increased law presences within the city – citizens are reminded that the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies will be given increased powers in light of the severity of this current threat.

Government and law enforcement officials are urging those with information pertaining to the identity or current whereabouts of the assailant to come forward immediately.

 
 

Catriona Scott

 

Don’t forget to check next week’s creative writing section to find out what happens! 

 

Disclaimer:

This serial is inspired partly by historical fact and partly by historical fiction (that being Shakespeare’s Richard III); however, as the setting (New York City) is very much a real location as are other businesses and events I have used I felt the following disclaimer to be necessary.  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
 
 

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