Joe decided it was definitely time to head back. He turned and a small, bespectacled man with wet hair and brown teeth stooped in front of him, blocking his path. "You look like a sporting man, Young John. Are you a sporting man?"
"Name's not John."
"Who's to know from names? That's what I say. Are you a sporting man then? Are ye? Are ye?" The man put his hand on his shoulder. "Because, Young John, right down that alley there, we've some of the finest sports betting in the world."
Joe shrugged off the hand. "Dogs?"
"Dogs, aye," the man said. "We've got dogs fighting dogs. And cocks fighting cocks. And we've dogs fighting rats, ten at a time!"
Joe moved to his left and the man moved with him.
"Don't like the rats?" The man haw-hawwed. "All the more reason to see 'em kilt." He pointed. "Right down that alley."
"Nah." Joe tried to wave it away. "I don't think--"
"That's correct! Why think?" The man lurched forward and Joe could smell wine and egg on his breath. "Come now, Young John. Down yonder way."
The man reached for his wrist and Joe saw an opening and darted past the guy. The guy grabbed at his shoulder, but Joe snapped away from his hand and kept walking fast. He looked back and the guy followed him.
"A dandy, are you, Young John? So it's Lord John, is it? Excuse me all to heaven indeed! Are we not to your cultured taste, your lordship?"
The man trotted in front of him and swayed from side to side, as if made jaunty by the prospect of fresh sport.
"Come, Young John, let's be friends."
The man took another swipe at him and Joe jerked to his right and darted ahead again. He turned back long enough to raise his palms 655 and show the man he wanted no trouble, and then he turned forward again and picked up the pace, hoping the guy would tire of the game and spend his energy on an easier mark.
"You've pretty hair, Young John. The color of some cats I've seen, it 'tis."
Joe heard the man pick up sudden speed behind him, a mad scrabbling, and he hopped up onto the sidewalk and ducked low and ran through the skirts of two tall women smoking cigars who swatted at him and let loose high laughs. He looked back over his shoulder at them but they'd turned their attention to the brown-toothed barker who was still in pursuit.
"Ah, leave him alone, ya cretin."
"Mind yourselves, ladies, or I'll be back with me blade."
The women laughed. "We've seen your blade, Rory, and, sure, it's shameful small, it is."
Joe broke back out into the middle of the street.
Rory scuttled up alongside him. "Can I shine your shoes, Lord? Can I turn down your bed?"
"Let him be, you ponce," one of the women called, but Joe could tell by their voices that they'd lost interest. He swung his arms by his side, trying to pretend he didn't notice Rory making ape sounds beside him, the man swinging his arms now, too. Joe kept his head turned forward, trying to appear like a boy with a firm destination as he headed deeper into the thickening mob.
Rory ran his hand gently along the side of Joe's face and Joe punched him.
His fist caught the side of Rory's head and the man blinked. Several men along the sidewalk laughed. Joe ran and the laughter followed them up the street.
"Can I be of service?" Rory called as he trotted behind him. "Can I help you with your griefs? They looks a might heavy for ye."
He was gaining on him and Joe darted around an overturned wagon and through a group of men. He ran past two men with shotguns and through the doors of a saloon. He stepped to his left and watched the doors and took several gulps of air and then looked around at the men, many in their work shirts and suspenders, a majority with handlebar mustaches and black bowlers. They looked back at him. Somewhere in the rear of the saloon, beyond the crowd and the smoke, Joe heard grunts and moans and knew that he'd interrupted some kind of show back there, and he opened his mouth to tell them he was being chased. He caught the bartender's eye as he did, and the bartender pointed across the bar at him and said, "Throw that fucking kid out of here."
Two hands gripped his arms, and his feet left the floor and he sailed through the air and back through the doors. He cleared the sidewalk and landed on the street and bounced. He felt a burn in both knees and his right hand as he tried to come to a stop. And then he wasn't bouncing anymore. Someone stepped over him and kept walking. He lay there nauseated and heard brown-toothed Rory say, "No, allow me, your lordship."
Rory grasped Joe by his hair. Joe swatted at his arms and Rory tightened his grip.
He held Joe a few inches off the ground. Joe's scalp screamed and Rory's back teeth were black as he smiled. When he burped it smelled of wine and eggs again. "You've got trimmed nails and, sure, fine clothes, Young Lord John. You're quite the picture."
Joe said, "My father is--"
Rory squeezed Joe's jaw in his hand. "You'll be finding a new father in me, so ye might want to save your fucking energy, your lordship."
He drew his hand back and Joe kicked him. He connected with Rory's knee first and the man's grip loosened in his hair and Joe got his whole body into the next kick and drove it into the man's inner thigh. He'd been aiming for his groin but it hadn't worked out. But the kick was sharp enough to make Rory hiss and wince and let go of his hair.
That's when the straight razor came out.
Joe dropped to all fours and scrambled between Rory's legs. Once he'd cleared them, he stayed that way, moving through the dense crowd on his hands and knees--between a pair of dark trousers and then a pair of tan ones, then two-toned spats followed by brown work boots caked with dried mud. He didn't look back. He just kept crawling, feeling like a crab, scuttling left, then right, then left again, the pairs of legs growing denser and denser, the air carrying less and less oxygen as he crawled ever deeper into the heart of the mob.
At nine-fifteen, Thomas received a call from General Cole, the acting commissioner. "Are you in contact with Captain Morton at the Sixth?" General Cole said.
"Constant contact, General."
"How many men does he have at his command?"
"A hundred, sir. Mostly volunteers."
"And you, Captain?"
"About the same, General."
General Cole said, "We're sending the Tenth Regiment of the State Guard to the Broadway Bridge. You and Captain Morton are to sweep the crowd up West Broadway toward the bridge. You understand, Captain?"
"We'll pin them down there. We'll start making arrests and hauling them into trucks. That sight alone should disperse the majority of them."