The faces of the mob, however, did not elicit anything near to joy in him. His people, the faces nearest him as Irish as potatoes and drunken sentiment, all twisted into repulsive, barbaric masks of rage and self- pity. As if they'd a right to do this. As if this country owed them any more than it had handed Thomas when he stepped off the boat, which is to say nothing but a fresh chance. He wanted to push them straight back to Ireland, straight back to the loving arms of the British, back to their cold fields and their dank pubs and their toothless women. What had that gray country ever given them except melancholia and alcoholism and the dark humor of the habitually defeated? So they came here, one of the few cities in the world where their kind was given a fair shake. But did they act like Americans? Did they act with respect or gratitude? No. They acted like what they were--the niggers of Europe. How dare they? When this was over, it would take Thomas and good Irishmen like him another decade to undo all the damage this mob had done in two days. Damn you all, he thought as they continued to push them back. Damn you all for smearing our race yet again.
Just past A Street, he felt some give. Broadway widened here, opening into a basin where it met the Fort Point Channel. Just beyond was the Broadway Bridge, and Thomas's heart fairly leapt to see the troops arrayed on the bridge and the trucks rolling off it into the square. He allowed himself his second smile of the evening, and that's when someone shot Sergeant Eigen in the stomach. The sound of it hung in the air as Eigen's face bore a look of surprise mixed with growing awareness. Then he fell to the street. Thomas and Lieutenant Stone reached him first. Another bullet hit a drainpipe just to their left and the men returned fire, a dozen rifles discharging at once as Thomas and Stone lifted Eigen off the ground and carried him toward the sidewalk.
That's when he saw Joe. The boy ran along the north side of the street toward the bridge and Thomas made out the man chasing his son as well, a onetime pimp and barker named Rory Droon, a pervert and rapist, now chasing his son. Thomas got Eigen to the sidewalk and they lowered him so that his back was against a wall, and Eigen said, "Am I dying, Cap'?"
"No, but you'll be in a fair sight of pain, son." Thomas searched the crowd for his son. He couldn't find Joe, but he saw Connor suddenly, streaking up the street toward the bridge, dodging those he could, bulling his way through others, and Thomas felt a flush of pride for his middle son that surprised him because he couldn't remember the last time such a feeling had come upon him.
"Get him," he whispered.
"What's that, sir?" Stone said.
"Stay with Sergeant Eigen," Thomas said. "Slow the bleeding." "Yes, Captain."
"I'll be back," Thomas said and headed into the mob.
The volleys of gunfire had whipped the crowd to a boil. Connor couldn't tell where the bullets were coming from, just that they were coming, pinging off poles and brick and street signs. He wondered if this is how men had felt in the war, during a battle, this sense of complete chaos, of your own death flying past you in the air, ricocheting off something hard and coming back for a second pass. People ran every which way, banged into one another, snapped ankles, shoved and scratched and wailed in terror. A couple ahead of him fell down, either from a bullet or a rock or just because they entwined their legs and tripped, and Connor vaulted into the air and cleared them. As he came down he saw Joe up by the bridge, the dirty-looking man grabbing him by the hair. Connor sidestepped a guy swinging a pipe at no one in particular, then spun around a woman on her knees, and the dirty-looking guy was turning his way when Connor punched him full in the face. His momentum carried him forward so that he fi nished the punch by landing on the guy and dropping him to the street. He scrambled up and grabbed the guy by the throat and raised his fi st again but the guy was out, out cold, a small pool of blood forming on the pavement where his head had landed. Connor stood and looked for Joe, saw the kid crumpled in a ball when Connor had managed to knock them both over. He went to his little brother and turned him over and Joe looked up at him with wide eyes.
"Here." Connor stooped and Joe wrapped his arms around his shoulders and Connor lifted him off the street.
"Fire at will!"
Connor spun, saw the State Guard troops coming off the bridge, their rifles extended. Rifles from the crowd pointed back. A collection of volunteer policemen, one with a black eye and broken nose, leveled their weapons as well. Everyone was pointing at everyone else, as if there were no sides, just targets.
"Close your eyes, Joe. Close your eyes."
He pressed Joe's head to his shoulder and all the rifles seemed to go off at once. The air exploded with white puffs from the muzzles. A sudden, high-pitched shriek. A member of the State Guard grabbing his neck. A bloody hand raised in the air. Connor ran for a car overturned at the base of the bridge with Joe in his arms as the crack of rifl e fire erupted anew. Bullets sparked off the side of the car, the clang of them like the sound of heavy coins thrown into a metal bowl, and Connor pressed Joe's face harder to his shoulder. A bullet hissed by on his right and hit a guy in the knee. The guy fell. Connor turned his head away. He'd almost reached the front of the car when the bullets hit the window. The glass slid through the night air like sleet or hail, translucent, a shower of silver rushing out of all that blackness.
Connor found himself on his back. He didn't remember slipping. He was just suddenly on the ground. He could hear the ping of bullets grow less insistent, could hear the yells and moans and people shouting out names. He smelled cordite and smoke in the air and the faint odor of roasted meat for some reason. He heard Joe call his name and then shriek it, his voice wracked with horror and sadness. He reached out his hand and felt Joe's close over it, but Joe still wouldn't stop screaming.
Then his father's voice, shushing Joe, cooing to him. "Joseph, Joseph, I'm here. Ssssh."
"Dad?" Connor said.
"Connor," his father said.
"Who turned out the lights?"
"Jesus," his father whispered.
"I can't see, Dad."
"I know, son."
"Why can't I see?"
"We're going to get you to a hospital, son. Immediately. I swear." "Dad?"
He felt his father's hand on his chest. "Just lie still, son. Just lie still." chapter thirty-nine The next morning, the State Guard placed a machine gun on a tripod at the northern end of West Broadway in South Boston. They placed another at the intersection of West Broadway and G Street and a third at the intersection of Broadway and Dorchester Street. The Tenth Regiment patrolled the streets. The Eleventh Regiment manned the rooftops.