"If they take control of this, they'll tip the balance. They'll control us. At their leisure, gents, not ours. You're our man with the friends in Canada, Claude."
"And you're our man in the BPD, Thomas, and I'm hearing talk of a strike."
"Don't change the subject."
"It is the subject."
Thomas looked over at him and Claude flicked his ash into the sea and took another hungry puff. He shook his head at his own anger and turned his back to the sea. "Are you telling me there won't be a strike? Can you guarantee that? Because from what I saw on May Day, you have a rogue police department out there. They engage in a gang fi ght, and you're telling us you can control them?"
"I was after you all last year to get the mayor's ear on this one, and what happened?"
"Don't put this on my door, Tommy."
"I'm not putting it on your door, Claude. I'm asking about the mayor."
Claude looked over at Donnegan and said, "Ach," and fl ipped his cigarette into the sea. "Peters is no mayor. You know that. He spends all his time shacked up with his fourteen-year- old concubine. Who is, I might add, his cousin. Meanwhile, his men, carpetbaggers all, could make Ulysses Grant's gangster- cabinet blush. Now there might be some sympathy for your men's plight, but they pissed that all away, didn't they?"
"In April. They were offered their two-hundred-a-year increase and they declined."
"Jesus," Thomas said, "cost of living has risen seventy-three percent. Seventy-three."
"I know the number."
"That two hundred a year was a prewar figure. The poverty level is fifteen hundred a year, and most coppers make far less than that. They're the police, Claude, and they're working for less wages than niggers and women."
Claude nodded and placed a hand on Thomas's shoulder, gave it a soft squeeze. "I can't argue with you. But the thinking in City Hall and in the commissioner's office is that the men can be put on the Pay No Heed list because they're emergency personnel. They can't affi liate with a union and they sure can't strike."
"But they can."
"No, Thomas," he said, his eyes clear and cold. "They can't. Patrick's been out in the wards, taking an informal poll, if you will. Patrick?"
Patrick spread his hands over the rail. "Tom, it's like this--I've talked to our constituents, and if the police dare strike, this city will vent all its rage--at unemployment, the high cost of living, the war, the niggers coming from down South to take jobs, at the price of getting up in the damn morning--and send it straight at the city."
"This city will riot," Claude said. "Just like Montreal. And you know what happens when people are forced to see the mob that lives within them? They don't like it. They want someone to pay. At the polls, Tom. Always at the polls."
Thomas sighed and puffed his cigar. Out in the sea, a small yacht floated into his field of vision. He could make out three fi gures on the deck as thick dark clouds began to mass just to their south and march toward the sun.
Patrick Donnegan said, "Your boys strike? Big Business wins. They'll use that strike as a cudgel to fuck organized labor, Irishmen, Democrats, fuck anyone who ever thought of a decent day's pay for a decent day's work in this country. You let them turn this into what they'll turn it into? You'll set the working class back thirty years."
Thomas gave that a smile. "It's not all on me, boys. Maybe if O'Meara, God rest him, was still with us, I'd have more say in the outcome, but with Curtis? That toad'll blow this city down to its foundations to stick it to the wards and the men who run them."
"Your son," Claude said.
Thomas turned, the cigar between his teeth pointing at Claude's nose. "What?"
"Your son is in league with the BSC. Quite an orator, we hear, like his father."
Thomas removed his cigar. "We stay away from family, Claude. That's a rule."
"Maybe in fairer days," Claude said. "But your son is in this, Tommy. Deep. And the way I hear it, he's growing in popularity by the day and his rhetoric grows exponentially more inflammatory. If you could talk to him, maybe . . ." Claude shrugged.
"We don't have that kind of relationship anymore. There's been a rift."
Claude took that information in, his small eyes tilting up in his head for a moment as he sucked softly on his lower lip. "You'll have to repair it then. Someone has to talk these boys out of doing anything stupid. I'll work on the mayor and his hoodlums. Patrick will work on the public sentiment. I'll even see what I can do about a favorable article or two in the press. But, Thomas, you've got to work on your son."
Thomas looked over at Patrick. Patrick nodded.
"We don't want to take the gloves off, sure now, do we, Thomas?"
Thomas declined to respond to that. He placed his cigar back in his mouth, and the three of them leaned on the rail again and looked out at the ocean.
Patrick Donnegan looked out at the yacht as the clouds reached it and covered it in shadow. "I've been thinking about one of those for myself. Smaller, of course."
"You're building a house on the water. What would you want with a boat?"
"So I could look back in at my house," Patrick said.
Thomas grinned in spite of his dark mood and Claude chuckled. "He's addicted to the trough, I'm afraid."
Patrick shrugged. "I'm fond of the trough, boys, I admit it. Believe in the trough, I do. But it's a small trough. It's a big-house trough. Them? They want troughs the size of countries. They don't know where to stop."
On the yacht, the three figures suddenly moved with quick jerky motions as the cloud above them opened.
Claude clapped his hands together and then rubbed them off each other. "Well, we don't want to be caught out," he said. "There's rain coming, gentlemen."
"God's truth," Patrick said as they walked off the pier. "You can smell it, sure."
By the time he got home it was pouring, a fine black unleashing of the heavens. A man who'd never been fond of a strong sun, he found himself invigorated, even though the drops were as warm as sweat and only added to the thickness of the humidity. The last few blocks, he slowed his pace to a fairgrounds stroll and tilted his face up into it. When he reached the house, he went in through the back, taking the path along the side so he could check on his flowers, and they seemed as pleased as he to finally have some water. The back door opened onto the kitchen and he gave Ellen a start as he came through it looking like something that had escaped the ark.