101. Hope

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At three in the morning, Henry made it all the way to Tyson's Pub.

The lights were still on!

Maybe Charles was still there, cleaning up after the last of the patrons had left.

Henry had managed to travel unnoticed, but then he heard the rumble of a car turning onto the street. He ducked into the dark of the alley beside the pub, holding his breath as he stood next to the dented trash pails filled with scraps of decaying food.

A police car slowed to a crawl, as it passed in front of the alley.

The cop seemed to be searching for someone. Probably looking for a robber inside the bar, because of the lights. For a second, the policeman seemed to be staring directly into the alley ... at Henry. But then the cop sped off, and the car coughed plumes of smoke in its wake.

Moments later, Henry emerged from the alley and peeked through the front window of the pub.

The lights flickered inside, but the dingy bar looked as deserted as the overnight streets of the Black Market District.

Henry sighed. The sign on the door read, "Closed for Business." He gave the knob a twist, and it made a rattling sound as if to mock him.

What was he even doing out here anyway? He should have just stayed at home, and let Sarah take care of him.

Henry was about to turn around and head home when Old Man Charles shuffled out of the back room, pushing a broom across the floor. Henry rapped on the glass of the window.

Charles looked up. His eyes grew round with concern, and he hurried to the door.

A half hour later, Henry found himself sitting at the bar, holding a rag against the top of his forehead. He'd already changed into a large black shirt that Charles had given him and was working on his second medicating glass of beer

"I can't believe how everything's turned out, Charles. All I wanted to do was play baseball!"

Charles furrowed his brow. "You want to stop talking there. Just keep that rag in place. I don't want you bleeding all over this bar after I just got it cleaned up."

The feeling of sleep started to tug Henry's eyelids down.

"After that drink, you ought to go home," Charles said. "Let your wife give you a proper patch-up job. You look worse than the garbage pails out back."

Henry gave a humorless laugh. "Thanks, Charles! Exactly what I wanted to hear."

Charles grunted and began rinsing used mugs at the tap behind the counter. "And when you get back home, you better apologize to your wife for leaving her like that."

"I should just give up on baseball," Henry muttered. "It's gotten me into nothing but trouble. It didn't matter that black folks wanted me to play for the Pioneers. Whites thought I was a threat! All I was trying to do was play a lousy game! The game I love! Instead, I've lost my livelihood, my pride, my ... everything. I was jumped by a bunch of bigots! I got whipped senseless ... all because of my color! On top of that, Sarah's probably worried about me. It's all one giant mess!"

"It know it seems bad now," Charles said as he set a washed mug into the dish rack. "But you're a great baseball player. And I don't know if you heard, but the Pioneers lost the last game of the season. They looked pretty bad out there. They aren't the same team without you and Willy. Not the same team at all."

"He's telling the truth!" The voice came from the door, clicking shut now.

Henry turned and saw a familiar, white face, one that he wasn't too pleased to see.

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