They pulled into the driveway of a dark brown Tudor and James stopped the car, which was good, because Luther was so dizzy he worried he might get sick.
Lila said, "Oh, Luther, couldn't you just die?"
Yeah, Luther thought, that there is one possibility.
The next morning Luther found himself getting married before he'd had breakfast. In the years that followed, when someone would ask how it was he came to be a married man, Luther always answered:
"Hell if I know."
He woke that morning in the cellar. Marta had made it plenty clear the evening before that a man and a woman who were not husband and wife didn't sleep on the same floor in her house, never mind the same room. So Lila got herself a nice pretty bed in a nice pretty room on the second floor and Luther got a sheet thrown over a broke- down couch in the cellar. The couch smelled of dog (they'd had one once; long since dead) and cigars. Uncle James was the culprit on that score. He took his after- dinner stogie in the basement every night because Aunt Marta wouldn't allow it in her house.
Lot of things Aunt Marta wouldn't allow in her house--cussing, liquor, taking the Lord's name in vain, card playing, people of low character, cats--and Luther had a feeling he'd just scratched the surface of the list.
So he went to sleep in the cellar and woke up with a crick in his neck and the smells of long- dead dog and too-recent cigar in his nostrils. Right off, he heard raised voices coming from upstairs. Feminine voices. Luther'd grown up with his mother and one older sister, both of whom had passed on from the fever in '14, and when he allowed himself to think of them it hurt enough to stop his breath because they'd been proud, strong women of loud laughter who'd loved him fiercely.
But those two women had fought just as fierce. Nothing in the whole world, in Luther's estimation, was worth entering a room where two women had their claws out.
He crept up the stairs, though, so he could hear the words better and what he heard made him want to trade places with the Hollaway dog.
"I'm just feeling under the weather, Auntie."
"Don't you lie to me, girl. Don't you lie! I know morning sickness when I see it. How long?"
"I'm not pregnant."
"Lila, you my baby sister's child, yes. My goddaughter, yes. But, girl, I will strap the black straight offa your body from head to toe if you lie to me again. You hear?"
Luther heard Lila break out in a fresh run of sobbing, and it shamed him to picture her.
Marta shrieked, "James!" and Luther heard the large man's footfalls coming toward the kitchen, and he wondered if the man had grabbed his shotgun for the occasion.
"Git that boy up here."
Luther opened the door before James could and Marta's eyes were flashing all over him before he crossed the threshold.
"Well, lookit himself. Mr. Big Man. I done told you we are churchgoers here, did I not, Mr. Big Man?"
Luther thought it best not to say a word.
"Christians is what we are. And we don't abide no sinning under this here roof. Ain't that right, James?"
"Amen," James said, and Luther noticed the Bible in his hand and it scared him a lot more than the shotgun he'd pictured.
"You get this poor, innocent girl impregnated and then you expect to what? I'm talking to you, boy? What?"
Luther tilted a cautious eye down at the little woman, saw a fury in her looked about to take a bite out of him.
"Well, we hadn't really--"
"You 'hadn't really,' my left foot." And Marta stomped that left foot of hers into the kitchen floor. "You think for one pretty second that any respectable people are going to rent you a house in Greenwood, you are mistaken. And you won't be staying under my roof one second longer. No, sir. You think you can get my only niece in the family way and then go off galavanting as you please? I am here to tell you that that will not be happening here today."
He caught Lila looking at him through a stream of tears. She said, "What're we going to do, Luther?"
And James, who in addition to being a businessman and a mechanic, was, it turned out, an ordained minister and justice of the peace, held up his Bible and said, "I believe we have a solution to your dilemma." chapter three The day the Red Sox played their fi rst World Series home game against the Cubs, First Precinct Duty Sergeant George Strivakis called Danny and Steve into his office and asked them if they had their sea legs.
"Your sea legs. Can you join a couple of Harbor coppers and visit a ship for us?"
Danny and Steve looked at each other and shrugged.
"I'll be honest," Strivakis said, "some soldiers are sick out there. Captain Meadows is under orders from the deputy chief who's under orders from O'Meara himself to deal with the situation as quietly as possible."
"How sick?" Steve asked.
Steve snorted. "How sick, Sarge?"
Another shrug, that shrug making Danny more nervous than anything else, old George Strivakis not wanting to commit to the slightest evidence of knowledge aforethought.
Danny said, "Why us?"
"Because ten men already turned it down. You're eleven and twelve."
"Oh," Steve said.
Strivakis hunched forward. "What we would like is two bright officers to proudly represent the police department of the great city of Boston. You are to go out to this boat, assess the situation, and make a decision in the best interest of your fellow man. Should you successfully complete your mission, you will be rewarded with one half-day off and the everlasting thanks of your beloved department."
"We'd like a little more than that," Danny said. He looked over the desk at his duty sergeant. "With all due respect to our beloved department, of course."
In the end, they struck a deal--paid sick days if they contracted whatever the soldiers had, the next two Saturdays off, and the department had to foot the next three cleaning bills for their uniforms.
Strivakis said, "Mercenaries, the both of you," and then shook their hands to seal the contract.
The USS McKinley had just arrived from France. It carried soldiers returning from battle in places with names like Saint-Mihiel and Pont- -Mousson and Verdun. Somewhere between Marseilles and Boston, several of the soldiers had grown ill. The conditions of three of them were now deemed so dire that ship doctors had contacted Camp Devens to tell the colonel in charge that unless these men were evacuated to a military hospital they would die before sundown. And so on a fine September afternoon, when they could have been working a soft detail at the World Series, Danny and Steve joined two officers of the Harbor Police on Commercial Wharf as gulls chased the fog out to sea and the dark waterfront brick steamed.