"That'd be nice," Danny said.

Raphelson stretched a long arm across the desk. "I'll be in touch." Danny shook the hand. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet, but as you said"--Raphelson glanced at the rain--" 'why not?' "

Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis tipped the printer's courier a nickel and carried the boxes to his desk. There were four of them, each the size of a brick, and he placed one in the center of his ink blotter and removed the cardboard cover to consider the contents. They reminded him of wedding invitations, and he swallowed a sour and sad reflection of his only daughter, Marie, plump and dull-eyed since the cradle, now fading into spinsterhood with a complacency he found sordid.

He lifted the top slip of paper from the box. The script was quite handsome, utile but bold, the paper a heavy cotton bond the color of flesh. He placed the slip back on the top of the stack and decided to send the printer a personal letter of thanks, a commendation on such a fine job delivered under the stress of a rush order.

Herbert Parker entered from his office next door and said not a word as he crossed to Curtis and joined his friend at the desk, and they stared down at the stack of slips on the ink blotter.

To:

Boston Police Offi cer By authority conferred on me as Police Commissioner, I hereby discharge you from the Boston Police Department. Said discharge is effective upon receipt of this notice. The cause and reasons for such discharge are as follows:

Specifi cations:

Respectfully, Edwin Upton Curtis "Who did you use?" Parker said. "The printer?"

"Yes."

"Freeman and Sons on School Street." "Freeman. Jewish?"

"Scottish, I think."

"He does fi ne work."

"Doesn't he, though?"

Fay Hall. Packed. Every man in the department who wasn't on duty and even some who were, the room smelling of the warm rain and several de cades' worth of sweat, body odor, cigar and cigarette smoke so thick it slathered the walls like another coat of paint.

Mark Denton was over in one corner of the stage, talking to Frank McCarthy, the just- arrived organizer of the New England chapter of the American Federation of Labor. Danny was in the other corner talking to Tim Rose, a beat cop from the Oh -Two who pounded the bricks around City Hall and Newspaper Row.

"Who told you this?" Danny said.

"Wes Freeman himself."

"The father?"

"No, the son. Father's a sot, a gin junkie. The son does all the work now."

"One thousand discharge slips?"

Tim shook his head. "Five hundred discharge slips, five hundred suspensions."

"Already printed."

Tim nodded. "And delivered to Useless Curtis himself at eight sharp this a.m."

Danny caught himself tugging on his chin and nodding at the same time, another habit he'd inherited from his father. He stopped and gave Tim what he hoped was a confident smile. "Well, I guess they took their dancing shoes off, uh?"

"I guess they did." Tim gestured with his chin at Mark Denton and Frank McCarthy. "Who's the swell with Denton?"

"Organizer with the AFL."

Tim's eyes pulsed. "He bring the charter?"

"He brought the charter, Tim."

"Guess we took off our dancing shoes then, too, eh, Dan?" A smile exploded across Tim's face.

"We did at that." Danny clapped his shoulder as Mark Denton picked the megaphone off the floor and stepped to the dais.

Danny crossed to the stage, and Mark Denton knelt at the edge to give Danny his ear and Danny told him about the discharge and suspension slips.

"You're sure?"

"Positive. They got to his office at eight this morning. Solid info." Mark shook his hand. "You're going to make a fine vice president." Danny took a step back. "What?"

Denton gave him a sly smile and stepped up to the dais. "Gentlemen, thank you for coming. This man to my left is Frank McCarthy. He's your New England rep with the AF of L. And he's come to bring us something."

As McCarthy took the dais and the megaphone, Kevin McRae and several other officers of what was about to become the extinct BSC stopped at each row to hand out ballots that the men passed down the rows, their eyes pinwheeling.

"Gentlemen of the Boston Police Department," McCarthy said, "once you mark those ballots 'yay' or 'nay,' a decision will have been made as to whether you remain the Boston Social Club or accept this charter I raise before you and become, instead, the Boston Police Union Number sixteen thousand eight hundred and seven of the American Federation of Labor. You will, with some measure of sadness I'm sure, be saying good-bye to the notion and the name of the Boston Social Club, but in return, you will join a brotherhood that is two million strong. Two million strong, gentlemen. Think about that. You will never feel alone again. You will never feel weak or at the mercy of your bosses. Even the mayor, himself, will be afraid to tell you what to do."

"He already is!" someone shouted, and laughter spread through the room.

Nervous laughter, Danny thought, as the men realized the import of what they were about to do. No going back after today. Leaving a whole other world behind, one in which their rights weren't respected, yes, but that lack of respect was at least predictable. It made the ground firm underfoot. But this new ground was something else again. Foreign ground. And for all McCarthy's talk of brotherhood, lonely ground. Lonely because it was strange, because all bearings were unfamiliar. The potential for disgrace and disaster lay ahead everywhere, and every man in the room felt it.

They passed the ballots back down the rows. Don Slatterly rounded up the stacks from the men collecting them like ushers at mass and carried the entire fourteen hundred toward Danny, his steps a bit soggy, his face drained of color.

Danny took the stack from his hands, and Slatterly said, "Heavy, uh?"

Danny gave him a shaky smile and nodded.

"Men," Frank McCarthy called, "do you all attest that you answered the ballot question truthfully and signed your names? A show of hands."

Every hand in the room rose.

"So that our young officer to stage left doesn't have to count them right here and right now, could I get a show of hands as to how many of you voted in favor of accepting this charter and joining the AF of L? If all of you who voted 'yay,' would please stand."

Danny looked up from the stack in his hands as fourteen hundred chairs pushed back and fourteen hundred men rose to their feet.

McCarthy raised his megaphone. "Welcome to the American Federation of Labor, gentlemen."

Source: www.StudyNovels.com