Danny shrugged. "Fuck 'em. What can they do to me?"

Thomas placed his foot on the edge of the step. "You think because you've a good heart and a good cause that it'll be enough? Give me a fight against a man with a good heart any day, Aiden, because that man doesn't see the angles."

"What angles?"

"You've proved my point."

"If you're trying to scare me, you--"

"I'm trying to save you, you foolish boy. Are you so naive as to still believe in a fair fight? Did you learn anything as my son? They know your name. Your presence has been noted."

"So let them bring the fight. And when they come, I'll--"

"You won't see them come," his father said. "No one ever does.

That's what I'm trying to tell you. You pick a fight with these boys? Jesus, son, you best be prepared to bleed all night."

He waved his hand in exasperation and left his son on the stoop. " 'Night, Dad."

Marty came around to open his door and Thomas leaned on it for a moment and looked back up at his son. So strong. So proud. So unaware.

"Tessa."

"What?" Danny said.

He leaned on the door and stared at his son. "They'll come after you with Tessa."

Danny said nothing for a bit.

"Tessa?"

Thomas patted the door. "That's what I'd do."

He tipped his hat to his son and climbed into the car with Joe and told Marty to take them straight home.

BABE RUTH and the SUMMER SWOON chapter thirty-two It was a crazy summer. No predicting it. Every time Babe thought he had a grip on it, it slipped free and went running off like a barnyard pig that smelled the ax. The attorney general's home bombed, strikes and walkouts everywhere you looked, race riots, first in D. C., then in Chicago. The Chicago coloreds actually fought back, turning a race riot into a race war and scaring the ever-loving shit out of the entire country.

Not that it was all bad. No, sir. Who could have predicted what Babe would do with the white ball, for starters? No one, that's who. He'd had an embarrassing May, trying to swing too big, too often, and still being asked to pitch every fifth game, so his average found the cellar: .180. Good Lord. He hadn't seen .180 since "A" ball with Baltimore. But then Coach Barrow allowed him to lay off the pitching starts until further notice, and Babe tweaked his timing, forced himself to begin his cuts a little earlier but a little slower, too, not rev up to full power until he was halfway into the swing.

And June was glorious.

But July? July was volcanic.

The month arrived with a curl of fear at its back when word spread that the goddamned subversives and Bolshies had planned another wave of national carnage for Inde pendence Day. Every federal facility in Boston was surrounded by soldiers, and in New York City, the entire police force was sent to guard the public buildings. By the end of the day, though, nothing had happened except for the walkout of the New England Fishermen's Union, and Babe didn't give a shit about that anyway because he never ate anything that couldn't walk on its own.

On the next day, he hit two home runs in one game. Two of the fuckers--sky-high. He'd never done that before. A week later, he ripped his eleventh of the season straight at the Chicago skyline, and even the White Sox fans cheered. Last year he'd led the league with a fi nal tally of eleven. This year, he wasn't even warm yet, and the fans knew it. Middle of the month, in Cleveland, he hit his second home run of the game in the ninth. An impressive accomplishment on its own, another twofer, but this was a grand slam to win the game. The hometown crowd didn't boo. Babe couldn't believe it. He'd just driven the nail straight through the fucking coffin and down into the funeral parlor floor but the folks in the stands rose to their feet as one joyous, addled mass and chanted his name as he rounded the bases. When he crossed home, they were still standing and they were still chopping the air with their fists and still calling his name.

Babe.

Babe.

Babe . . .

In Detroit three days later, Babe took an 0-2 pitch, down and away, and hit the longest home run in Detroit history. The papers, always a step or two behind the fans, finally noticed. The American League single- season home run record, set in 1902, by Socks Seybold, was sixteen. Babe, heading into the third week of that stupendous July, had already smacked fourteen. And he was heading home to Boston, to sweet, sweet Fenway. Sorry, Socks, I hope you've done something else for people to remember you by, because I'm just going to snatch up that little ol' record of yours, wrap my cigar in it, and set a torch to it.

He hit his fifteenth in the first game back home, against the Yanks, plopped it high in the upper deck of the right-fi eld bleachers, watched the fans up in those cheap seats fight for it like it was food or a job as he trotted down the first base line and he noticed how full the seats were across the entire park. Double, easily, what they'd had for the World Series last year. They were in third place right now, third and sliding toward the basement. No one had any illusions about a pennant this year, so about the only thing to keep the fans coming to the ballpark was Ruth and his dingers.

And, boy, did they come. Even when they lost to Detroit a few days later, no one seemed to care because Babe hit his sixteenth long ball of the year. Sixteen. Poor Socks Seybold now had company on the podium. The streetcar and el operators had walked off the job that week (Babe thinking, for the second time that year, that the whole fucking world was walking off the job), but the stands filled anyway the next day when Babe went for magic number seventeen against those wonderfully generous Tigers.

He could feel it from inside the dugout. Ossie Vitt was up and Scott was on deck, but Babe was batting third, and the whole park knew it. He risked a glance out of the dugout as he wiped down his bat with a rag, saw half the eyes in the stadium flicking his way, hoping for a glimpse of a god, and he ducked back in again as his whole body went cold. Ice cream cold. The kind of cold he imagined you only felt just after you'd died but before they put you in the coffin, when some part of you thought you still breathed. It took him a second to realize what he'd seen. What could have done this to him. What ripped the confi - dence from his limbs and his soul so completely that, as he watched Ossie Vitt ground out to short and went to take his place in the on-deck circle, he feared he might never get another hit the rest of the season.

Luther.

Babe risked another sideways glance from the on- deck circle, his eyes flitting along the row just past the dugout. The front row. The money row. No way any colored man would be sitting in those seats. Never happened before, no reason to think it would happen now. A strange optical illusion then, a trick of the mind, maybe some of the pressure getting to Babe, pressure he hadn't acknowledged until now. Silly, really, when you thought what--

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