"I don't follow."
Danny stood. "Mr. Storrow, we all respect you. But we've accepted half-measures before, and they've all come to naught. We work at the pay scale of 1903 because the men before us took the carrot on the stick for twelve years before demanding their rights in 1915. We accepted the city's oath that while it could not compensate us fairly during the war, it would make amends afterward. And yet? We are still being paid the 1903 wage. And yet? We never got fittingly compensated after the war. And our precincts are still cesspools and our men are still overworked. Commissioner Curtis tells the press he is forming 'committees,' never mentioning that those 'committees' are stocked with his own men and those men have prejudicial opinions. We have put our faith in this city before, Mr. Storrow, countless times, and been jilted. And now you want us to forswear the one organization that has given us real hope and real bargaining power?"
Storrow placed both hands on the table and stared across at Danny. "Yes, Officer, I do. You can use the AFL as a bargaining chip. I'll tell you that fact baldly right here and now. It's the smart move, so don't give it up just yet. But, son, I assure you, you will have to give it up. And if you choose to strike, I will be the strongest advocate in this city for breaking you and making certain you never wear a badge again." He leaned forward. "I believe in your cause, Officer. I will fight for you.
But don't back me or this commission into a corner, because you will not survive the response."
Behind him, the windows looked out on a sky of the purest blue. A perfect summer day in the first week of September, enough to make everyone forget the dark rains of August, the feeling they'd once had that they would never be dry again.
The three policemen stood and saluted James J. Storrow and the men of his commission and took their leave.
Danny, Nora, and Luther played hearts on an old sheet placed be tween two iron smokestacks on the roof of Danny's building.
Late evening, all three of them tired--Luther smelling of the stockyard, Nora of the factory--and yet they were up here with two bottles of wine and a deck of cards because there were few places a black man and a white man could congregate in public and fewer still where a woman could join those men and partake of too much wine. It felt to Danny, when the three of them were together like this, that they were beating the world at something.
Luther said, "Who's that?" and his voice was lazy with the wine.
Danny followed his eyes and saw James Jackson Storrow crossing the roof toward him. He started to stand and Nora caught his wrist when he wavered.
"I was told by a kind Italian woman to search for you here," Storrow said. He glanced at the three of them, at the tattered sheet with the cards spread across it, at the bottles of wine. "I apologize for intruding."
"Not at all," Danny said as Luther made it to his feet and held out a hand to Nora. Nora grasped his hand and Luther tugged her upright and she smoothed her dress.
"Mr. Storrow, this is my wife, Nora, and my friend, Luther." Storrow shook each of their hands as if this kind of gathering occurred every day on Beacon Hill.
"An honor to meet you both." He gave them each a nod. "Could I abscond with your husband for just a moment, Mrs. Coughlin?"
"Of course, sir. Careful with him, though--he's a bit spongy on his feet."
Storrow gave her a wide smile. "I can see that, ma'am. It's no bother."
He tipped his hat to her and followed Danny across the roof to the eastern edge and they looked out at the harbor.
"You count coloreds among your equals, Offi cer Coughlin?" "Long as they don't complain," Danny said, "I don't either." "And public drunkenness in your wife is no cause for your concern either?"
Danny kept his eyes on the harbor. "We're not in public, sir, and if we were, I wouldn't give much of a fuck. She's my wife. Means a hell of a lot more to me than the public." He turned his gaze on Storrow. "Or anyone else for that matter."
"Fair enough." Storrow placed a pipe to his lips and took a minute to light it.
"How'd you find me, Mr. Storrow?"
"It wasn't hard."
"So what brings you?"
"Your president, Mr. Denton, wasn't home."
Storrow puffed on his pipe. "Your wife possesses a spirit of the flesh that fairly leaps off her."
"A 'spirit of the flesh'?"
He nodded. "Quite so. It's easy to see how you became enraptured with her." He sucked on the pipe again. "The colored man I'm still trying to fi gure out."
"Your reason for coming, sir?"
Storrow turned so that they were face-to-face. "Mark Denton may very well have been at home. I never checked. I came directly to you, Officer Coughlin, because you have both passion and temperance, and your men, I can only assume, feel that. Officer Denton struck me as quite intelligent, but his gifts for persuasion are less than yours."
"Who would you like me to persuade, Mr. Storrow, and what am I selling?"
"The same thing I'm selling, Officer--peaceful resolution." He placed a hand on Danny's arm. "Talk to your men. We can end this, son. You and I. I'm going to release my report to the papers tomorrow night. I will be recommending full acquiescence to your demands. All but one."
Danny nodded. "AFL affiliation."
"So we're left with nothing again, nothing but promises."
"But they're my promises, son. With the full weight of the mayor and governor and the Chamber of Commerce behind them."
Nora let out a high laugh, and Danny looked across the roof to see her fl icking cards at Luther and Luther holding up his hands in mock defense. Danny smiled. He'd learned over the last few months how much Luther's preferred method of displaying affection for Nora was through teasing, an affection she gladly returned in kind.
Danny kept his eyes on them. "Every day in this country they're breaking unions, Mr. Storrow. Telling us who we have a right to associate with and who we don't. When they need us, they speak of family. When we need them, they speak of business. My wife over there? My friend? Myself? We're outcasts, sir, and alone we'd probably drown. But together, we're a union. How long before Big Money gets that in their head?"
"They will never get it in their heads," Storrow said. "You think you're fighting a larger fight, Offi cer, and maybe you are. But it's a fight as old as time, and it will never end. No one will wave a white flag, nor ever concede defeat. Do you honestly think Lenin is any different from J. P. Morgan? That you, if you were given absolute power, would behave any differently? Do you know the primary difference between men and gods?"