The men were laughing when they shouted, "Hell no!"
McKenna leaned on the railing and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. "Three days ago, the mayor of Seattle received a bomb in the mail. Luckily for him, his housekeeper got to it before he did. Poor woman's in the hospital with no hands. Last night, as I'm sure you all know, the U. S. postal service intercepted thirty-four bombs meant to kill the attorney general of this great nation as well as several learned judges and captains of industry. Today, radicals of every stripe--but mostly heathen Bolsheviki--have promised a national day of revolt to take place in key cities across this fi ne land. Gentlemen, I ask you--is this the kind of country we wish to live in?"
The men were moving around Danny, shifting from foot to foot.
"Would you like to walk out the back door right now and hand it over to a horde of subversives and ask them to please remember to shut the lights out at bedtime?"
"Hell no!" Shoulders jostled off one another and Danny could smell sweat and hangover breath and a strange burnt-hair odor, an acrid scent of fury and fear.
"Or," McKenna shouted, "would you, instead, like to take this country back?"
The men were so used to saying "Hell no!" that several did so again.
McKenna cocked an eyebrow at them. "I said--Would you like to take this fucking country back?"
Dozens of the men attended BSC meetings alongside Danny, men who just the other night had been bemoaning the shoddy treatment they received at the hands of their department, men who'd expressed kinship for all the workers of the world in their struggle against Big Money. But all that, for the moment, was swept away by the tonic of unity and a shared purpose.
"We are going down to the Dudley Opera House," McKenna shouted, "right now and we are going to order these subversives, these Communists and anarchists and bomb throwers, to stand the fuck down!"
The cheer that rose up was unintelligible, a collective roar of the blood.
"We are going to say, in the strictest terms, 'Not on my watch!' " McKenna leaned over the rail, his neck extended, his jaw thrust forward. "Can you say it with me, gents?"
"Not on my watch!" the men shouted.
"Let me hear it again."
"Not on my watch!"
"Are you with me?"
"Are you frightened?"
"Are you Boston police?"
"The finest, most respected police force in these forty-eight states?" "Hell yes!"
McKenna stared at them, his head sweeping slowly from one side of the crowd to the other, and Danny saw no humor in his face, no ironic glint. Just certitude. McKenna let the silence build, the men shuffl ing from side to side, hands wiping sweat on the sides of pants and the handles of nightsticks.
"Then," McKenna hissed, "let's go earn our pay."
The men turned in several directions at once. They shoved one another gleefully. They barked in one another's faces, and then someone figured out where the exit was and they turned into the rear corridor and moved in a sea through the door. They poured out the back of the station house and up the alley, some already rapping their billy clubs off the walls and the tops of metal trash cans.
Mark Denton found Danny in the crowd and said, "Just wondering . . ."
"We keeping the peace," Mark said, "or ending it?"
Danny looked at him. "Fair question."
When they rounded the corner into Dudley Square, Louis Fraina stood on the top steps of the Opera House, speaking through a bullhorn to a crowd of a couple hundred.
". . . they tell us we have the right to--"
He lowered the bullhorn as he saw them enter the street and then raised it again.
"And here they come now, the private army of the ruling class." Fraina pointed, and the crowd turned to see the blue uniforms coming up the street toward them.
"Comrades, feast your eyes on what a corrupt society does to preserve its illusion of itself. They call it the Land of the Free, but speech is not free, is it? The right to assemble is not free. Not today, not for us. We followed procedure. We filed our applications for the right to parade but those permits were denied to us. And why?" Fraina looked around at the crowd. "Because they fear us."
The Letts turned fully toward them. On the steps, up by Fraina, Danny saw Nathan Bishop. He seemed smaller than Danny remembered.
Bishop's eyes locked on his, followed by a curious cock of his head. Danny held the look, trying to will a pride he did not feel into his own eyes. Nathan Bishop's eyes narrowed with recognition. Recognition, followed by bitterness and then, most surprising, a crestfallen despair.
Danny dropped his eyes.
"Look at them in their domed helmets. With their nightsticks and their guns. These are not forces of law. These are forces of oppression. And they are afraid--terrifi ed, comrades--because we hold the moral high ground. We are right. We are the workingmen of this city and we will not be sent to our rooms."
McKenna raised his own bullhorn as they got within thirty yards of the crowd.
"You are in violation of city ordinances prohibiting assembly without permit."
Fraina raised his bullhorn. "Your ordinances are a lie. Your city is a lie."
"I order you to disperse." McKenna's voice crackled in the morning air. "If you refuse, you will be removed by force."
They were fifteen yards away now and spreading out. Their faces were gaunt and determined and Danny searched for fear in their eyes and found very little.
"Force is all they have!" Fraina shouted. "Force is the weapon of choice for all tyrants since the dawn of time. Force is the unreasonable response to a reasonable action. We have broken no law!"
The Letts strolled toward them.
"You are in violation of city ordinance eleven- dash-four--"
"You are in violation of us, sir. You are in violation of our constitutional rights."
"If you do not disperse, you will be arrested. Come down off those steps."
"I will no more remove myself from these steps than--" "I am ordering--"
"I do not recognize your authority."
"You are breaking the law, sir!"
The two crowds met.
For a moment no one seemed to know what to do. The cops mingled with the Letts, the Letts mingled with the cops, all of them interspersed, and few among them aware of how it had happened. A pigeon cooed from a windowsill and the air still carried a hint of dew. The rooftops along Dudley Square smoked with remnants of the early-morning fog. This close Danny had a hard time telling who was cop and who was Lett, and then a group of bearded Letts walked around from the side of the Opera House wielding ax handles. Big guys, Russians by the look of them, eyes clear of anything that could be confused with doubt.