Emma James



The fattest man in the room grabbed a mitt full of cash from the table as he winced through the eye-watering smoke of his half-chewed cigar. He peeled off three bills and handed them to the fighter, who was exhausted but unbeaten for the evening, and happy to get her hands on the take. ...Read More

Though, as she watched the yellow stained shirt back of the fat man walked away, she realized that he reaped the majority of the spoils from her pain and sweat. And her palate rebelled at the bitter taste. She wasn’t a veteran to the back alley sport, but she was long enough in the tooth to be hungry for her share. She knew that she wanted something more.
The Journey for Emma James began in the west end of the city of York, winding its way to the East Coast, and making its way back to the city’s downtown streets. Daughter to a critic of the theatre and an educator, Emma was urged and prompted to become a bit of a renaissance woman. She studied philosophy and critical theory at The King’s College in Halifax, and the art of design, dabbled in comedy on the Vaudevillian stage (under the pseudonym Emma Davey), and learned how to pour the meanest of lattes. Her love for drawing pushed her to copy her favourite images until she could create designs on her own, and upon her return to York, she began an apprenticeship as a tattoo artist. But there was also a spirit for the fight that was welling up inside of her. And Emma realized that if she were to survive on the downtown streets alone, she would have to learn to use not only her wits, but her fists as well.
She happened upon illegal bare-knuckle boxing as anyone does…quite by accident. Stumbling one night upon a crowd under a shower of orange light in an otherwise darkened furniture warehouse alley, she couldn’t resist making her way to the front to see what the excited din was all about. There stood two fighters, of generally the same height and build, awaiting the signal that it was time to commence. Bets were being passed around, and the rancid smoke from cheap tobacco barely overpowered the smell of equally inexpensive alcohol. Somehow she was exhilarated by it all. The fight ended as quickly as it had begun, and as if Emma had fallen asleep and awoke mid-dream, she suddenly found herself face-to-face with the victor. She knew that she must have volunteered, and she certainly had her wits about her, but could not remember moving to the centre of the circle to face this opponent, who (unlike with the previous combatant) towered over her as she stood in the cast shadow. She was horribly outmatched and lost quickly, but found herself going back night after night, nevertheless. She was driven, drawn and passionately awaited the moon’s ascension, knowing what lay in store.
Mornings, Emma would train furiously, late afternoons and evening, she would tattoo out of the local speakeasy, garnering her reputation (“Emma James Expert in Traditional Electrical Tattoo” hung painted on a sheet outside). In the late of the night she would ride her velocipede about the alleyways, vying for a position in a local dust-up (where she was also harvesting a heavy rep). A man had approached her one foggy night and offered representation–a promise to land her the best contenders and a “great deal of money”. She knew instinctively that the money was secondary to the deal, but it was, in fact, of less importance to her as well. Emma James tattoo artist could make more than enough for herself to get by, anyhow. As time wore on, however, and her popularity and prowess as a fighter grew, she became weary of the one-sidedness of their deal. He did little for his take, which was the lion’s share, and she found herself exposed and exploited, rather than protected and promoted. He demanded more, and even her tattoo career took a back seat now to the circus that was building up around her at the behest of the fat man. She began to rue the day she signed her contract.
And then fate intervened, as fate often does. Or was it fate? There were rumblings that the Society of the Seven Crowns had been looking for yet another member, and that the position would be very promising to whomever they had chosen. Further, rumours circulated that they had their eyes on Emma James. And frankly, the young fighter had made it clear to any who would listen that she would be happy to join their ranks. It was amidst all of this speculation and murmur that two hooded figures appeared after yet another of her much anticipated victorious evenings.
The negotiations were terse, and the man could not refuse the offer on the table before him. The fact that the cloaked figures wanted the contract was virtually palpable, and their approach was as un-ceremonial as their apparent victory. The fighter sensed that something positive lay in store for her, despite the deliberate ambiguity of the human forms, who were now whisking her into a hansom and ordering the driver to head to the north of the downtown core of the city. Besides, she could take care of herself…hold her own, as it were. Couldn’t she?
She grinned widely as the cab stopped almost abruptly in front of a building of great notoriety. One whose alley would never be approached by ordinary citizens, nor overtaken by a crowd thirsty for a bloody fight. Even the local police would arc far around the mouth of the alleyway or even cross the street to avoid it altogether. Hustled into the lane and up the stairwell, past the glowing eyes of raccoons in the trees and on the rooftops, she glimpsed a sign…”Society” written in a familiar font…and her nervous anticipation completely subsided. Things were going to change for the better. She was home.