One of the Harbor cops, an Englishman named Ethan Gray, handed Danny and Steve their surgical masks and white cotton gloves.
"They say it helps." He smiled into the sharp sun.
"Who's they?" Danny pulled the surgical mask over his head and down his face until it hung around his neck.
Ethan Gray shrugged. "The all-seeing they."
"Oh, them," Steve said. "Never liked them."
Danny placed the gloves in his back pocket, watched Steve do the same.
The other Harbor cop hadn't said a word since they'd met on the wharf. He was a small guy, thin and pale, his damp bangs falling over a pimply forehead. Burn scars crept out from the edges of his sleeves. Upon a closer look, Danny noticed he was missing the bottom half of his left ear.
So, then, Salutation Street.
A survivor of the white flash and the yellow flame, the collapsing floors and plaster rain. Danny didn't remember seeing him during the explosion, but then Danny didn't remember much after the bomb went off.
The guy sat against a black steel stanchion, long legs stretched out in front of him, and studiously avoided eye contact with Danny. That was one of the traits shared by survivors of Salutation Street--they were embarrassed to acknowledge one another.
The launch approached the dock. Ethan Gray offered Danny a cigarette. He took it with a nod of thanks. Gray pointed the pack at Steve but Steve shook his head.
"And what instructions did your duty sergeant give you, Offi cers?"
"Pretty simple ones." Danny leaned in as Gray lit his cigarette. "Make sure every soldier stays on that ship unless we say otherwise."
Gray nodded as he exhaled a plume of smoke. "Identical to our orders as well."
"We were also told if they try to override us using some federalgovernment-at- time-of-war bullshit, we're to make it very clear that it may be their country but it's your harbor and our city."
Gray lifted a tobacco kernel off his tongue and gave it to the sea breeze. "You're Captain Tommy Coughlin's son, aren't you?"
Danny nodded. "What gave it away?"
"Well, for one, I've rarely met a patrolman of your age who had so much confidence." Gray pointed at Danny's chest. "And the name tag helped."
Danny tapped some ash from his cigarette as the launch cut its engine. It rotated until the stern replaced the bow and the starboard gunwale bounced off the dock wall. A corporal appeared and tossed a line to Gray's partner. He tied it off as Danny and Gray fi nished their cigarettes and then approached the corporal.
"You need to put on a mask," Steve Coyle said.
The corporal nodded several times and produced a surgical mask from his back pocket. He also saluted twice. Ethan Gray, Steve Coyle, and Danny returned the first one.
"How many aboard?" Gray asked.
The corporal half- saluted, then dropped his hand. "Just me, a doc, and the pilot."
Danny pulled his mask up from his throat and covered his mouth. He wished he hadn't just smoked that cigarette. The smell of it bounced off the mask and filled his nostrils, permeated his lips and chin.
They met up with the doctor in the main cabin as the launch pulled away from the dock. The doctor was an old man, gone bald halfway up his scalp with a thick bush of white that stood up like a hedge. He didn't wear a mask and he waved at theirs.
"You can take them off. None of us have it."
"How do you know?" Danny said.
The old man shrugged. "Faith?"
It seemed silly to be standing there in their uniforms and masks while still trying to find their sea legs as the launch bounced through the chop. Ridiculous, really. Danny and Steve removed their masks. Gray followed suit. Gray's partner, though, kept his on, looking at the other three cops like they were insane.
"Peter," Gray said, "really."
Peter shook his head at the floor and kept that mask on.
Danny, Steve, and Gray sat across from the doctor at a small table.
"What are your orders?" the doctor said.
Danny told him.
The doctor pinched his nose where his glasses had indented. "So I assumed. Would your superiors object to us moving the sick by way of army ground transport?"
"Move them where?" Danny said.
Danny looked over at Gray.
Gray smiled. "Once they leave the harbor, they are no longer under my purview."
Steve Coyle said to the doctor, "Our superiors would like to know what we're dealing with here."
"We're not exactly sure. Could be similar to an influenza strain we saw in Europe. Could be something else."
"If it is the grippe," Danny said, "how bad was it in Europe?"
"Bad," the doctor said quietly, his eyes clear. "We believe that strain may have been related to one that first appeared at Fort Riley, Kansas, about eight months ago."
"And if I may ask," Gray said, "how serious was that strain, Doctor?" "Within two weeks it killed eighty percent of the soldiers who'd contracted it."
Steve whistled. "Fairly serious, then."
"And after?" Danny asked.
"I'm not sure I understand."
"It killed the soldiers. Then what did it do?"
The doctor gave them a wry smile and a soft snap of his fingers. "It disappeared."
"Came back, though," Steve Coyle said.
"Possibly," the doctor said. He pinched his nose again. "Men are getting sick on that ship. Packed together like they are? It's the worst possible environment for preventing transmission. Five will die tonight if we can't move them."
"Five?" Ethan Gray said. "We'd been told three."
The doctor shook his head and held up fi ve fingers.
On the McKinley, they met a group of doctors and majors at the fantail. It had grown overcast. The clouds looked muscular and stone gray, like sculptures of limbs, as they moved slowly over the water and back toward the city and its red brick and glass.
A Major Gideon said, "Why would they send patrolmen?" He pointed at Danny and Steve. "You have no authority to make public health decisions."
Danny and Steve said nothing.
Gideon repeated himself. "Why send patrolmen?"
"No captains volunteered for the job," Danny said.
"You find amusement in this?" Gideon said. "My men are sick. They fought a war you couldn't be bothered to fight, and now they're dying."
"I wasn't making a joke." Danny gestured at Steve Coyle, at Ethan Gray, at the burn- scarred Peter. "This was a volunteer assignment, Major. No one wanted to come here except us. And we do, by the way, have the authority. We have been given clear orders as to what is acceptable and unacceptable action in this situation."