The Devil’s Dilemma


Pop singer Beyonce – Image Source: Getty / Larry Busacca

The radio was playing the oddest song. “What the hell?”

“Don’t curse, Timmy.” 37-year-old Colleen Quinn looked ten years older, particularly when she was scolding her 16-year-old son in the living room of their worn down tenement flat in the middle of New York’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Timothy Patrick Quinn thought he’d heard the last of those strange news stories coming out of the radio after it told him about a 14-year-old newsie named Alexander Luszock who was supposed to be murdered by another crazed killer, this one named Carl Panzram. It had happened to him before, almost a year ago. That’s when he started hearing news stories from the future. This last time, he didn’t try fighting Panzram himself, though he had to give his Mom and his foreman at work an excuse why he had to take the bus to D.C. and visit for a day or so. He had to be near the crime scene to make an anonymous call to the cops, and then stay nearby to make sure they stopped Panzram’s attack on Luszock in time. That worked out a lot better than when he did this once before.

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Seven Weeks of the Devil

hell's kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen in the 1920s – This file is licensed under a free license.

I was working as a printer’s devil for old man MacPherson, me, an Irish boy of only sixteen, but it was good pay, through my hands became black as night as I sorted the cast metal type in the hellbox and put ’em back in the job case. I’d gotten used to the noise, but in order to kill the monotony, Grady Owens, the chief printer, set up a radio so we could listen to music and the news, though he had to turn the volume up pretty high.

I figured I’d do my hitch at MacPherson’s, learn my way around the trade, then move up to something more substantial. Occasionally, he’d have me move heavy reams of newsprint, but I didn’t mind. Gave me a chance to wash my hands, then have a smoke with the other boys and men on the dock before putting my back into it. Even the older Joes respected me on account of my bouts at Clancy’s on the weekends. Clancy says I’ve got potential, box like the devil, which is another reason they call me that name.

I’ve always been big for my age, which causes Ma fits because she keeps having to let the hem out of my trouser legs.

For a long while, I didn’t have a clue that what I was hearing on the radio was different than everyone else. While they were listening to “Cow Cow Blues,” “A Gay Caballero,” and “Sonny Boy,” I was hearing nothing but the news. That wouldn’t be too unusual, but I’d get all kinds of news, from different days, and weeks, and months, all in the same hour.

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