I'm going home.
He lifted Old Byron off the ground and swung him back in the air as the old man howled and when he got to the top of the pendulum, Luther swung it all the way back and threw Old Byron Jackson through the plate glass window.
"Nigger fight," someone called.
Old Byron landed on the bare floor and the glass shards popped all over him and all around him and he tried to cover up with his arms but the glass hit him anyway, one shard taking off a cheek, another carving a steak off his outer thigh.
"You going to kill him, boy?"
Luther turned and looked at three white men to his left. They were swimming in booze.
"Might could," he said.
He climbed through the window and into the store and the broken glass and Old Byron Jackson.
"What kinda debts?"
Old Byron huffed his breath and then hissed it and grabbed his thigh in his hands and let out a low moan.
"I asked you a question."
Behind him one of the white men chuckled. "You hear? He axed him a question."
"What kinda debts?"
"What kind you think?" Old Byron ground his head back into the glass and arched his back.
"You using, I take it."
"Used my whole life. Opium, not heroin," Old Byron said. "Who you think supplied Jessie Tell, fool?"
Luther stepped on Old Byron's ankle and the old man gritted his teeth.
"Don't say his name," Luther said. "He was my friend. You ain't." One of the white men called, "Hey! You going to kill him, shine, or what?"
Luther shook his head and heard the men groan and then scuttle off.
"Ain't going to save you, though, Old Byron. You die, you die. Came all the way up here just to kill one of your own for that shit you put in you?" Luther spit on the glass pebbles.
Old Byron spit blood up at Luther, but all it did was land on his own shirt. "Never liked your ass, Luther. You think you special."
Luther shrugged. "I am special. Any day aboveground that I ain't you or I ain't that?" He jerked his thumb behind him. "You're goddamned fucking correct I'm special. Ain't afraid of them anymore, ain't afraid of you, ain't afraid of this here color of my skin. Fuck all that forever."
Old Byron rolled his eyes. "Like you even less."
"Good." Luther smiled. He crouched by Old Byron. "I 'spect you'll live, old man. You get back on that train to Tulsa. Hear? And when you get off it, you go run your sad ass right to Smoke and tell him you missed me. Tell him it don't matter none, though, because he ain't going to have to look hard for me from now on." Luther lowered his face until he was close enough to kiss Old Byron Jackson. "You tell Smoke I'm coming for him." He slapped his good cheek once, hard. "I'm coming home, Old Byron. You tell Smoke that. You don't?" Luther shrugged. "I'll tell him myself."
He stood and crossed the broken glass and stepped through the window. He never looked back at Old Byron. He worked his way through the feverish white folk and the screams and the rain and the storm of the hive and knew he was done with every lie he'd ever allowed himself to believe, every lie he'd ever lived, every lie.
Scollay Square. Court Square. The North End. Newspaper Row. Roxbury Crossing. Pope's Hill. Codman and Eggleston Squares.
The calls came in from all over the city, but nowhere more voluminously than in Thomas Coughlin's precinct. South Boston was blowing up.
The mobs had emptied the stores along Broadway and thrown the goods to the street. Thomas couldn't find even the strayest hair of logic in that--at least use what you looted. From the inner harbor to Andrew Square, from the Fort Point Channel to Farragut Road--not a single window in a single business stood intact. Hundreds of homes had suffered similar fates. East and West Broadway swelled with the worst of the populace, ten thousand strong and growing. Rapes--rapes, Thomas thought with clenched teeth--had occurred in public view, three on
West Broadway, one on East Fourth, another at one of the piers along Northern Avenue.
And the calls kept coming in:
The manager of Mully's Diner beaten unconscious when a roomful of patrons decided not to pay their bills. The poor sod at Haymarket Relief now with a broken nose, a shattered eardrum, and half a dozen missing teeth.
At Broadway and E, some fun-loving fellas drove a stolen buggy over the sidewalk and into the front window of O'Donnell's Bakery. That wasn't enough revelry, however--they had to set it afire. In the process, they torched the bakery and burned seventeen years of Declan O'Donnell's dreams to soot.
Budnick Creamery--destroyed. Connor & O'Keefe's--ash. Up and down Broadway, haberdashers, tailors, pawnshops, produce stores, even a bicycle shop--all gone. Either burned to the ground or smashed beyond salvage.
Boys and girls, most younger than Joe, hurled eggs and rocks from the roof of Mohican Market, and the scant few officers Thomas could afford to send reported they were helpless to fire back at children. Responding firemen complained of the same thing.
And the latest report-- a streetcar forced to stop at the corner of Broadway and Dorchester Street because of all the goods piled in the intersection. The mob added boxes, barrels, and mattresses to the pile and then someone brought some gasoline and a box of matches. The occupants of the streetcar were forced to flee the car along with the driver and most were beaten while the crowd rushed onto the car, tore the seats from their metal clamps, and tossed them through the windows.
What was this addiction to broken glass? That's what Thomas wanted to know. How was one to stop this madness? He had a mere twenty-two policemen under his command, most sergeants and lieutenants, most well into their forties, plus a contingent of useless frightened volunteers.
He looked up at Mike Eigen, a recently promoted sergeant, standing in the doorway.
"Jesus, Sergeant, what now?"
"Someone sent a contingent of Metro Park Police in to patrol Southie."
Thomas stood. "No one told me."
"Not sure where the order came from, Cap', but they're pinned down."
Eigen nodded. "St. Augustine's Church. Guy's are dropping." "Bullets?"
Eigen shook his head. "Rocks, Cap'."
A church. Brother officers being stoned. At a church. In his precinct.
Thomas Coughlin didn't know he'd overturned his desk until he heard it crack against the floor. Sergeant Eigen took a step back. "Enough," Thomas said. "By God, enough."
Thomas reached for the gun belt he hung on his coat tree every morning.