She nodded and he could see a clear and sudden recognition in her eyes, as if she knew him again, as if they could heal. He held her eyes and broadened his smile and felt hope stir in his chest.
"Just don't hurt him," she said brightly and turned back to her teacup.
It was Nora who thwarted him. She raised the window on the fifth floor and called down to him as he stood on the stoop. "He wants to stay here for the night, Mr. Coughlin."
Thomas felt ridiculous calling up from the stoop as streams of dagos filled the sidewalk and street behind him, the air smelling of shit and rotten fruit and sewage. "I want my son."
"And I told you, he's wants to stay here for the night."
"Let me talk to him."
She shook her head and he pictured wrenching her out of that window by her hair.
"I'm going to close the window."
"I'm a police captain."
"I know what you are."
"I can come up."
"Won't that be a sight?" she said. "Sure, everyone will be talking about the ruckus you'll make."
Oh, she was a righteous cunt, she was.
"What kind do you think?" she said. "Good day, Mr. Coughlin."
She slammed the window closed.
Thomas walked off the stoop through the throng of reeking dagos and Marty opened the car door for him. Marty came around and got behind the wheel. "Where to now, Captain? Home, is it?"
Thomas shook his head. "Roxbury."
"Yes, sir. The Oh-Nine, sir?"
Thomas shook his head again. "Intercolonial Hall, Marty."
Marty came off the clutch and the car lurched and then died. He pumped the gas and started it again. "That's BSC headquarters, sir."
"I know right well what it is, Marty. Now hush up and take me there."
Ashow of hands," Danny said, "for any man in this room who's ever heard us discuss, or even say, the word strike." There were over a thousand men in the hall and not one raised his hand.
"So where did the word come from?" Danny said. "How is it suddenly that the papers are hinting that this is our plan?" He looked out at the sea of people and his eyes found Thomas's in the back of the hall. "Who has the motive to make the entire city think we're going to strike?"
Several men looked back at Thomas Coughlin. He smiled and waved, and a collective laugh rumbled through the room.
Danny wasn't laughing, though. Danny was on fire up there. Thomas couldn't help but feel a great swell of pride as he watched his son on that podium. Danny, as Thomas had always known he would, had found his place in the world as a leader of men. It just wasn't the battleground Thomas would've chosen for him.
"They don't want to pay us," Danny said. "They don't want to feed our families. They don't want us to be able to provide reasonable shelter or education for our children. And when we complain? Do they treat us like men? Do they negotiate with us? No. They start a whisper campaign to paint us as Communists and subversives. They scare the public into thinking we'll strike so that if it ever does come to that, they can say, 'We told you so.' They ask us to bleed for them, gentlemen, and when we do so, they give us penny bandages and dock our pay a nickel."
That caused a roar in the hall, and Thomas noted that no one was laughing now.
He looked at his son and thought: check.
"The only way they win," Danny said, "is if we fall into their traps. If we begin to believe, even for a second, their lies. That we are somehow in error. That asking for basic human rights is somehow subversive. We are paid below the poverty level, gentlemen. Not at it or slightly above it, but below it. They say we can't form a union or affi liate with the AFL because we are 'indispensable' city personnel. But if we're indispensable, how come they treat us as if we're not? A streetcar driver, for example, must be twice as indispensable, because he makes twice what we do. He can feed his family and he doesn't work fifteen days in a row. He doesn't work seventy-two-hour shifts. He doesn't get shot at either, last time I checked."
Now the men laughed, and Danny allowed himself a smile.
"He doesn't get stabbed or punched or beaten down by hooligans like Carl McClary did last week in Fields Corner. Does he? He doesn't get shot like Paul Welch did during the May Day riot. He doesn't risk his life every minute, like we all did in the flu epidemic. Does he?"
The men were shouting, "No!" and pumping their fists.
"We do every dirty job in this city, gentlemen, and we don't ask for special treatment. We don't ask for anything but fairness, parity." Danny looked around the room. "Decency. To be treated as men. Not horses, not dogs. Men."
The men were quiet now, not a sound in the room, not a cough.
"As you all know, the American Federation of Labor has a long- standing policy of not granting charters to police unions. As you also know, our own Mark Denton has made overtures to Samuel Gompers of the AFL and has been--several times in the last year, I'm afraid--rebuffed." Danny looked back at Denton sitting on the stage behind him and smiled. He turned back to the men. "Until today."
It took some time for the words to sink in. Thomas, himself, had to replay them several times in his head before the enormity of them took hold. The men began to look at one another, they began to chatter. The buzz circled the room.
"Did you hear me?" Danny smiled big. "The AFL has reversed its policy for the BPD, gentlemen. They are granting us a charter. Sign-up petitions will be distributed in every station house by Monday morning." Danny's voice thundered across the room. "We are now affi liated with the biggest national union in the United States of America!"
The men rose, and the chairs fell and the hall exploded with cheers.
Thomas saw his son up on the stage embracing Mark Denton, saw them both turn to the crowd and try to accept the outstretched hands of hundreds of men, saw the big, bold smile on Danny's face, caught up in the thrall of himself a bit, as it would be near impossible not to be, given the circumstances. And Thomas thought:
I have given birth to a dangerous man.
Out on the street, the rain had returned, but it was soft, caught somewhere between a mist and light drizzle. As the men exited the hall, Danny and Mark Denton accepted their congratulations and handshakes and shoulder pats.
Some men winked at Thomas or tipped their hats and he returned the gestures because he knew they didn't see him as The Enemy, knowing he was far too slippery to be caught holding fast to either side of a fence. They mistrusted him as a matter of course, that was a given, but he caught the glint of admiration in their eyes, admiration and some fear, but no hate.