His father said, "I have no more desire to be here than you--"

"Whore," Nora said to Danny. "I believe that was the last word I heard from this man's mouth. I believe he spit on his own fl oor to emphasize the point."

"Joe's missing," Danny said.

That didn't move her at first. She stared at Danny with a cold rage that, while it encompassed his father, was just as much directed at him for bringing the man to their door. She flicked her gaze off his face and onto his father's.

"What'd you call him to make him run?" she said.

"I just want to know if the boy came by."

"And I want to know why he ran."

"We had a moment of discord," his father said.

"Ah." She tilted her head back at that. "I know all about how you resolve moments of discord with young Joe. Was the switch involved?"

His father turned to Danny. "There's a limit to how long I'll stand for a situation I deem undignifi ed."

"Jesus," Danny said. "The two of you. Joe's missing. Nora?"

Her jaw tightened and her eyes remained ash, but she stepped back from the door enough so Danny and his father could enter the room.

Danny took off his coat straightaway and stripped the suspenders from his shoulders. His father took in the room, the fresh curtains, the new bedspread, the flowers in the vase on the table by the window.

Nora stood by the foot of the bed in her factory uniform--Ladlassie stripe overalls with a beige blouse underneath. She gripped her left wrist with her right hand. Danny poured three whiskeys and gave a glass to each of them, and his father's eyebrows rose slightly at the sight of Nora drinking hard liquor.

"I smoke, too," she said, and Danny saw a tightening of his father's lips that he recognized as a suppressed smile.

The two of them raced each other on the drink, Danny's father draining his glass one drop ahead of Nora, and then they each held out their glasses again and Danny refilled them. His father took his to the table by the window and placed his hat on the table and sat and Nora said, "Mrs. DiMassi said a boy was by this afternoon."

"What?" his father said.

"He didn't leave a name. She said he was ringing our bell and looking up at our window and when she came out on the stoop, he ran away."

"Anything else?"

Nora drank more whiskey. "She said he was the spitting image of Danny."

Danny could see the tension drain from his father's shoulders and neck as he took a sip of his drink.

Eventually, he cleared his throat. "Thank you, Nora."

"You've no need to thank me, Mr. Coughlin. I love the boy. But you could do me a courtesy in return."

His father reached for his handkerchief and pulled it from his coat. "Certainly. Name it."

"Finish up your drink, if you please, and be on your way." chapter thirty -one Two days later, on a Saturday in June, Thomas Coughlin walked from his home on K Street to Carson Beach for a meeting regarding the future of his city. Even though he was dressed in the lightest suit he owned, a blue and white seersucker, and his sleeves were short, the heat soaked through to his skin. He carried a brown leather satchel that grew heavier every couple of hundred yards. He was a little too old to be playing the bag man, but he wasn't trusting this particular bag to anyone else. These were sensitive days in the wards, where the wind could shift at a moment's notice. His beloved Commonwealth was currently under the stewardship of a Republican governor, a transplant from Vermont with no love of, nor appreciation for, local mores or local history. The police commissioner was a bitter man of tiny mind who hated the Irish, hated Catholics, and therefore hated the wards, the great Demo cratic wards that had built this city. He only understood his hate; he did not understand compromise, patronage, the way of doing things that had been established in this town over seventy years ago and had defined it ever since. Mayor Peters was the picture of ineffectuality, a man who won the vote only because the ward bosses had fallen asleep at the switch and the rivalry between the two main and two true mayoral candidates, Curley and Gallivan, had grown so bitter that a third flank had opened up, and Peters had reaped the November rewards. Since his election, he had done nothing, absolutely nothing of note, while his cabinet had pillaged the till with such shamelessness that it was only a matter of time before the looting hit the front pages and gave birth to the sworn enemy of politics since the dawn of man: illumination.

Thomas removed his coat and loosened his tie and placed the satchel at his feet as he came to the end of K Street and paused in the shade of a great elm. The sea lay only forty feet away, the beach fi lled, but the breeze was desultory, the air clammy. He could feel eyes on him, the gazes of those who recognized him but dared not approach. This filled him with enough satisfaction to close his eyes in the shade for a moment, to imagine a cooler breeze. He had made it clear many years ago in the neighborhood that he was their benefactor, their friend, their patron. You needed something, you put the touch on Tommy Coughlin and sure he'd take care of it, he would. But never--ever--on a Saturday. On Saturdays, you left Tommy Coughlin alone so he could attend to his family, his beloved sons and beloved wife.

They'd called him Four Hands Tommy back then, an appellation some believed bespoke a man who had his hands in a lot of pockets, but one which actually took root after he'd apprehended Boxy Russo and three other plug-uglies of the Tips Moran gang after he'd caught them coming out the back of a Jew furrier's place off Washington Street. He'd been a beat cop then and after he'd subdued them ("Sure it must have taken four hands to fight four men!" Butter O'Malley had said when he'd finished booking them), he'd tied them together in twos and waited for the wagons. They hadn't put up much of a struggle after he'd snuck up and slapped his billy club off the back of Boxy Russo's noggin. The galoot had dropped his end of the safe, and so the others had been forced to do the same, and the end result was four mashed feet and two broken ankles.

He smiled to remember it now. Those were simpler times. Fine times. He was young and powerful- strong, and sure, wasn't he just the fastest man on the force? He and Eddie McKenna worked the docks in Charlestown and the North End and South Boston and there was no more violent place for a copper to be. No richer either, once the big boys figured out they weren't going to scare these two off, so they might as well all come to an accommodation. Boston was, after all, a port city, and anything that disrupted the entry to those ports was bad for business. And the soul of business, as Thomas Coughlin had known since he was a lad in Clonakilty, County Cork, was accommodation.

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