Peters nodded his thanks and poured a glass of water.
Storrow crossed one leg over the other and reconsidered the man yet again. He pointed at his own glass, and Peters filled it with water and they both sat back.
Storrow said, "How do you envision I can be of assistance?" "You're the most respected man in the city," Peters said. "You are also beloved, sir, for all that you did to keep homes warm during the war. I need you and as many men as you choose from the Chamber of Commerce to form a commission to study the issues the policemen have raised and the counterarguments of Police Commissioner Curtis to decide which have wisdom and which, ultimately, should win the day."
"Would this commission have the power to rule or merely to recommend?"
"City bylaws state that unless there is evidence of reckless misconduct on the part of the police commissioner, he has final say in all issues regarding police matters. He can't be overruled by either myself or Governor Coolidge."
"So we'd have limited power."
"Power to recommend only, yes, sir. But with the esteem in which you are held, not only in this state, but in this region, and at a national level as well, I feel confident that your recommendation would be taken to heart with the appropriate respect."
"When would I form such a commission?"
"Without delay. Tomorrow."
Storrow finished his water and uncorked the brandy decanter. He pointed it at Peters, and the mayor tilted his empty glass in his direction and Storrow poured.
"As far as the policemen's union, I see no way we can ever allow the affiliation with the American Federation of Labor to stand."
"As you say then, sir."
"I'll want to meet with the union representatives immediately. Tomorrow afternoon. Can you arrange it?"
"As to Commissioner Curtis, what's your sense of the man, Mr. Mayor?"
"Angry," Peters said.
Storrow nodded. "That's the man I remember. He served his term as mayor when I was overseer at Harvard. We met on a few occasions. I remember only the anger. Suppressed though it may have been, it was of the most dire, self-loathing tenor. When a man like that regains authority after so long in the wilderness, I worry, Mr. Mayor."
"I do, too," Peters said.
"Such men fiddle while cities burn." Storrow felt a long sigh leave him, heard it exit his mouth and enter the room as if it had spent so many de cades bearing witness to waste and folly that it would still be circling the room when he reentered on the morrow. "Such men love ash."
The next afternoon, Danny, Mark Denton, and Kevin McRae met with James J. Storrow in a suite at the Parker House. They brought with them detailed reports on the health and sanitation conditions of all eighteen precinct houses, signed accounts from over twenty patrolmen that detailed their average workday or week, and analyses of the pay rates of thirty other local professions--including city hall janitors, streetcar operators, and dockworkers--that dwarfed their own pay scale. They spread it all before James J. Storrow and three other businessmen who formed his commission and sat back while they went over it, passing particu lar sheets of interest among them and engaging in nods of surprise and grumps of consternation and eye rolls of apathy that had Danny worried he may have overloaded their hand.
Storrow went to lift another patrolman's account off the stack and then pushed the whole thing away from him. "I've seen enough," he said quietly. "Quite enough. No wonder you gentlemen feel abandoned by the very city you protect." He looked at the other three men, all of whom took his lead and nodded at Danny and Mark Denton and Kevin McRae in sudden commiseration. "This is shameful, gentlemen, and not all the blame falls on Commissioner Curtis. This happened on Commissioner O'Meara's watch, as well as under the eyes of Mayors Curley and Fitzgerald." Storrow came around from behind the table and extended his hand, shaking first Mark Denton's, then Danny's, then Kevin McRae's. "My profoundest apologies."
"Thank you, sir."
Storrow leaned back against the table. "What are we to do, gentlemen?"
"We just want our fair lot, sir," Mark Denton said.
"And what is your fair lot?"
Danny said, "Well, sir, it's a three-hundred-a-year increase in pay for starters. An end to overtime and special detail work without compensation comparative to those thirty other professions we brought up in our analysis."
"And," Kevin McRae said, "it's an end to the company-store policy of paying for our uniforms and our equipment. It's also about clean stations, sir, clean beds, usable toilets, a sweeping out of the vermin and the lice."
Storrow nodded. He turned and looked back at the other men, though it was clear his was the only word that really counted. He turned back to the policemen. "I concur."
"Excuse me?" Danny said.
A smile found Storrow's eyes. "I said I concur, Officer. In fact, I'll champion your point of view and recommend your grievances be settled in the manner you've put forth."
Danny's first thought: It was this easy?
His second thought: Wait for the "but."
"But," Storrow said, "I only have the power to recommend. I cannot implement change. Only Commissioner Curtis can."
"Sir," Mark Denton said, "with all due respect, Commissioner Curtis is deciding whether to fire nineteen of us."
"I'm aware of that," Storrow said, "but I don't think he will. It would be the height of imprudence. The city, believe it or not, is for you, gentlemen. They're just very clearly not for a strike. If you allow me to handle this, you may well get everything you require. The ultimate decision rests with the commissioner, but he is a reasonable man."
Danny shook his head. "I've yet to see evidence of it, sir."
Storrow gave that a smile so distant it was almost shy. "Be that as it may, the city and the mayor and governor and every fair-minded man will, I promise you, see the light and the logic just as clearly as I've seen it today. As soon as I am capable of compiling and releasing my report, you'll have justice. I ask patience, gentlemen. I ask prudence."
"You'll have it, sir," Mark Denton said.
Storrow walked around to the back of the table and began shuffl ing up the papers. "But you'll have to give up your association with the American Federation of Labor."
So there it was. Danny wanted to throw the table through the window. Throw everyone in the room after it. "And put ourselves upon whose mercy this time, sir?"