A thick guy popped out of the crowd and punched Kevin McRae full in the face. Danny was separated from him by a dozen people. As he pushed his way through, he heard the thick guy shouting, " 'Member me, McRae? Broke my fucking arm during a nick last year? What you gonna do now?" By the time Danny reached Kevin, the guy was long gone, but others were taking his cue, others who'd shown up to do nothing more than pay back beatings they'd received at the hands of these no-longer cops, these ex- cops.
Danny lifted Kevin to his feet as the crowd surged forward, bouncing off them. The men in the truck had dismounted and were fi ghting their way toward the station house. Someone threw a brick and one of the scabs went down. A whistle blew as the doors of the station opened and Strivakis and Ellenburg appeared on the steps, flanked by a few other sergeants and lieutenants and a half dozen white-faced volunteers.
As Danny watched the scabs fight their way toward the steps and Strivakis and Ellenburg swing their billy clubs to clear a path, his in--
stinct was to run toward them, to help them, to join them. Another brick sailed through the crowd and glanced off the side of Strivakis's head. Ellenburg caught him before he could go down and the two of them began to swing their billies with renewed fury, blood streaming down Strivakis's face and into his collar. Danny took a step toward them, but Kevin pulled him back.
"Ain't our fight anymore, Dan."
Danny looked at him.
Kevin, his teeth bloodied, his breath short, said it again. "Ain't our fight."
The scabs made it through the doors as Danny and Kevin reached the back of the crowd and Strivakis took a few last swooping cracks at the crowd and then slammed the doors behind him. The mob beat on the doors. Some men overturned the truck that had delivered the recruits and someone lit the contents of a barrel on fire.
Ex- cops, Danny thought.
For the time being anyway.
Commissioner Curtis sat behind his desk with a revolver lying just to the right of his ink blotter. "So, it's begun." Mayor Peters nodded. "It has, Commissioner."
Curtis's bodyguard stood behind him with his arms folded across his chest. Another waited outside the door. Neither was from the department, because Curtis no longer trusted any of the men. They were Pinkertons. The one behind Curtis looked old and rheumatic, as if any sudden movement would send his limbs flying off. The one outside the door was obese. Neither, Peters decided, looked fit enough to provide protection with their bodies, so they could only be one other thing: shooters.
"We need to call out the State Guard," Peters said.
Curtis shook his head. "No."
"That's not your decision, I'm afraid."
Curtis leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling. "It's not yours, either, Mr. Mayor. It's the governor's. I just got off the phone with him not five minutes ago and he made it very clear, we are not to engage the Guard at this juncture."
"What juncture would you two prefer?" Peters said. "Rubble?"
"Governor Coolidge stated that countless studies have shown that rioting in a case like this never begins on the first night. It takes the mob a full day to mobilize."
"Given that very few cities have ever watched their entire police department walk off the job," Peters said, trying to keep his voice under control, "I'm wondering how many of these countless studies pertain to our immediate situation, Commissioner."
"Mr. Mayor," Curtis said, looking over at his bodyguard, as if he expected him to wrestle Peters to the ground, "you need to take your concerns up with the governor."
Andrew Peters stood and took his boater from the corner of the desk. "If you're wrong, Commissioner, don't bother coming to work tomorrow."
He left the office, trying to ignore the tremors in the backs of his legs.
Luther!" Luther stopped at the corner of Winter and Tremont Streets and looked for the source of the voice. Hard to tell who could have called to him because the streets were filling as the sun flattened against red brick and the greens of the Common darkened with its passing. Several groups of men had spread themselves out in the Common and were openly running dice games, and the few women still on the streets walked quickly, most tightening their coats or cinching their collars close to their throats.
Bad times, he decided as he turned to walk down Tremont toward the Giddreauxs' home, are defi nitely coming.
"Luther! Luther Laurence!"
He stopped again, his windpipe grown cold at the sound of his true surname. A familiar black face appeared between two white faces, swimming its way out of the crowd like a small balloon. Luther recognized the face but it still took him a few anxious seconds to place it with certainty as the man split between the two white people and came toward the sidewalk with one glad hand raised above his shoulder. He slapped the hand down into Luther's and his grip was fi rm.
"Luther Laurence, I do declare!" He pulled Luther into a hug.
"Byron," Luther said as they broke the hug.
Old Byron Jackson. His old boss at the Hotel Tulsa, head of the Colored Bellmen's Union. A fair man with the tip pool. Old Byron, who smiled the brightest of all smiles for the white folk and cursed them with the nastiest shit imaginable as soon as they'd left his presence. Old Byron, who lived alone in an apartment above the hardware store on Admiral, and never spoke of the wife and daughter in the daguerreotype atop his bare dresser. Yeah, Old Byron was one of the good ones.
"A bit north for you, isn't it?" Luther said.
"That's the truth," Old Byron said. "You, too, Luther. As I live, I never expected to find you here. Rumors had it . . ."
Old Byron looked out at the crowd.
"Had it what?" Luther said.
Old Byron leaned in, his eyes on the sidewalk. "Rumors had it you were dead, son."
Luther gestured up Tremont with his head and Old Byron fell into step as they walked toward Scollay Square and away from the Giddreauxs' and the South End. It was slow going, the crowd thickening by the minute.
"Ain't dead," Luther said. "Just in Boston."
Old Byron said, "What brings these folks out like this?"
"Police just walked off the job."
"Hush your mouth."
"They did," Luther said.
"I read they might," Old Byron said, "but I never would have be - lieved it. This going to be bad for our folk, Luther?"
Luther shook his head. "I don't think. Ain't a lot of lynching up here, but you never know what'll happen someone forgets to chain the dog."