[Excerpt from a series of letters sent by a member of the Bottle Street Gang]
You want the chinwag on Slackjaw? What he was like when we was young, before he got his name? Oh, he's got a cool head now, but it weren't always like that in the days before he was boss of the Bottle Street gang. Time was, young Slackjaw wasn't such a reasonable man.
Like most of us, he grew up on the streets, running with a pack of ragamuffins and avoiding the law, pinchin' whatever he needed. Dark haired and dark eyed, smokin' a pipe by the age o' ten. For them born into the brothels or coming from the orphanages, it was either the gangs or workin' with the mud larks and no one wants that. Some got pressed into the Navy or put down in the mines run by the Pendleton or Boyle families. As hard as it was on the streets, as hungry as we all got, at least we was free.
By the time we weren't little 'uns any more, Slackjaw was one to watch, usually callin' the shots when we took down a farmer's cart or sidewalk street vendor. He'd come up with the plan, give everyone some part to play and decide on the split. Most of us just went along, 'cause we learned fast that we made out better like that. More food, more coin. Plus, none of us wanted to deal with Slackjaw when he was in a rage.
He worked on a couple of big jobs with Black Sally across town, and that was enough to get the attention of the other bosses. He wasn't just a street kid any more. Now he was an up-and-comer, which meant trouble.
Another guy who fancied himself as such was Mike the Fish, who was workin' his way up running the protection racket among the factory women. One fine evening we're all taking in a bawdy show in the theater house. Mike the Fish and his lot are there in the cheap seats too, just down the aisle from us. Mike gets a wild idea - he wasn't big on planning - and throws a heavy ceramic spittoon at Slackjaw. Hits him square in the face and breaks his jaw. We look to see if there's gonna be a blood brawl, but Slackjaw just points at the door and we all leave, with Mike laughing at our backs.
Waking up the next day, without telling us why, Slackjaw motions for us all to follow. He still can't say a word, so we just come along. We stop at the docks and Slackjaw buys - actually pays coin for it - a heavy chain covered in hooks. It's for fishing in the deep, something you'd attach to a long line off the side of a ship. It's about four feet, made of thick links, and there are shark hooks comin' off it at different angles. Slackjaw's got that thing wrapped around his left arm, danglin' at his side.
Not sure how he knew where Mike the Fish was stayin', but when we reach his girl's house, Slackjaw throws a bottle through the window just like that. It's almost noon. There's a bunch of screamin' inside and Mike pokes his head out, looking wide-eyed and baffled. When he sees Slackjaw out in the street, a look comes over his face that still gives me the willies. Pure murder.
Mike comes out the side door bellowin' like a bloodox, holding a cleaver, heading straight for Slackjaw. When they come together in the street, Slackjaw spins and the shark hooks bite deep into Mike's arm and shoulder. He screams, but Slackjaw holds onto the chain. He's standin' there with his jaw broken, clenched tight, with the chain wrapped around his left arm, hooks sunk into Mike the Fish, just knifing him as fast as he can. Mike couldn't fight very well, hooked like that and using his left hand, but he was a big guy and it took a lot of stabbin' before he went to his knees. Everyone was cheering at first, but then we all went quiet. It just kept goin' and goin', until finally it was just Mike the Fish blubberin', cryin' like a baby, and the sound of Slackjaw's knife.
When it was over - and here's the brilliant part - Slackjaw took out a note and stuck to Mike's face with a nail. It just said, If you want a job, come to Bottle Street.
Slackjaw didn't talk right for a couple of months, but word spread fast.
By the end of the year, once we had a sizable gang goin', he sent out letters to the other bosses, tellin' them that he was running a brand new crew over on Bottle Street. Most of them laughed or beat up the guys who delivered the letters. Green-eye Trish even came back missing a thumb. But apparently Slackjaw was expecting that kind of reaction and had a backup plan.
A week later, four of the bosses were dead. Seemed like a series of unfortunate events, but everyone knew better. One shot dead by the Watch while standing in the middle of a meat market. Another slipping and falling into the water, out cold. One of the older bosses found in bed with his belly opened wide and a Tyvian pear stuffed into his mouth. Still not sure what that meant. And Sheila Barnsworth was found bubblin' in a cauldron o' hot wax.
Slackjaw sent out another set of letters. Offers to the under-bosses, telling 'em they'd be treated fair as peers. He even sent Green-eye Trish with one of the letters. All of the under-bosses accepted.
After spilling the guts of his main competition, Slackjaw went in for stabilizin' his business, real neat like. Calling in favors, smoothing things over, giving everyone a little bit of coin or drink as a bonus. Showin' what he could be like as boss. So everything got quiet, which always makes the boys of the City Watch nervous, of course.
Word went out among the Royal Spymaster's snitches, the Responsible Citizens Group they called themselves, telling everyone working in a shop or sweeping off the front steps of their homes to keep watchful eyes for Slackjaw and his men. Tryin' to suss out what they were up to and what had just happened. But Slackjaw aint stupid. He greased a few palms among the shopkeepers and the Watch too, telling them that he was in town to stay and that things would be run properly from now on, without so much blood. He was finally a real boss, ready to settle into the business of moving whiskey, running the hound fights, and offering up the ladies and gentlemen of the night if you take my meaning.
Then the plague came.
At first it seemed like a good thing. A few people got sick and everyone wanted to buy those potions, from Sokolov or Piero. Health elixir or spiritual remedy they call 'em. Slackjaw told me he saw an opportunity. We already had an old whiskey factory with a still, where we could water the stuff down and sell it discounted. Doing the same with Sokolov's elixir was a smart plan. Pretty soon everybody in the slums was sick and business was good. But after a while there were so many people down with plague that everyone got scared. Everybody started actin' real nasty and everything fell apart. When people can't work, they don't have the coin for elixir, watered down or pure.
When the Empress died, it seemed like Dunwall would slide into the Void. Spymaster Burrows took over and the Watch started using all that new Sokolov technology. Watchtowers, tallboys and them arc pylons. They put up a wall of light across Clavering Boulevard and cracked down hard.
But Slackjaw surprised us again. Instead of leaving town on a boat bound for Morley or one of the other Isles, he stayed and kept it all together. We get as much elixir to fight off the plague as the City Watch, with their taxes and rations. And that's kept us alive, so far.
--Crowley, Bottle Street Gang