"And what is acceptable?" one of the doctors asked.
"As to the harbor," Ethan Gray said, "you are allowed to transport your men by launch and launch only to Commonwealth Pier. After that, it's BPD jurisdiction."
They looked at Danny and Steve.
Danny said, "It's in the best interest of the governor, the mayor, and every police department in the state that we not have a general panic. So, under cover of night, you are to have military transport trucks meet you at Commonwealth Pier. You can unload the sick there and take them directly to Devens. You can't stop along that journey. A police car will escort you with its sirens off." Danny met Major Gideon's glare. "Fair?"
Gideon eventually nodded.
"The State Guard's been notified," Steve Coyle said. "They'll set up an outpost at Camp Devens and work with your MPs to keep anyone from leaving base until this is contained. That's by order of the governor."
Ethan Gray directed a question to the doctors. "How long will it take to contain?"
One of them, a tall, flaxen-haired man, said, "We have no idea. It kills who it kills and then it snuffs itself out. Could be over in a week, could take nine months."
Danny said, "As long as it's kept from spreading to the civilian population, our bosses can live with the arrangement."
The fl axen-haired man chuckled. "The war is winding down. Men have been rotating back in large numbers for the last several weeks. This is a contagion, gentlemen, and a resilient one. Have you considered the possibility that a carrier has already reached your city?" He stared at them. "That it's too late, gentlemen? Far, far too late?"
Danny watched those muscular clouds slough their way inland. The rest of the sky had cleared. The sun had returned, high and sharp. A beautiful day, the kind you dreamed about during a long winter.
The five gravely ill soldiers rode back on the launch with them even though dusk was still a long way off. Danny, Steve, Ethan Gray, Peter, and two doctors stayed in the main cabin while the sick soldiers lay on the port deck with two other doctors attending. Danny had seen the men get lowered to the launch by line and pulley. With their pinched skulls and caved-in cheeks, their sweat-drenched hair and vomit-encrusted lips, they'd looked dead already. Three of the five bore a blue tint to their flesh, mouths peeled back, eyes wide and glaring. Their breaths came in huffs.
The four police officers stayed down in the cabin. Their jobs had taught them that many dangers could be explained away--if you didn't want to got shot or stabbed, don't befriend people who played with guns and knives; you didn't want to get mugged, don't leave saloons drunk beyond seeing; didn't want to lose, don't gamble.
But this was something else entirely. Could happen to any of them. Could happen to all of them.
Back at the station house, Danny and Steve gave their report to Sergeant Strivakis and separated. Steve went to find his brother's widow and Danny went to find a drink. A year from now, Steve might still be finding his way to the Widow Coyle, but Danny could have a much harder time finding a drink. While the East Coast and West Coast had been concerned with recession and war, telephones and baseball, anarchists and their bombs, the Progressives and their ole- time-religion allies had risen out of the South and the Midwest. Danny didn't know a soul who had taken the Prohibition bills seriously, even when they'd made it to the floor of the House. It seemed impossible, with all the other shifts going on in the country's fabric, that these prim, self-righteous "don't dos" had a chance. But one morning the whole country woke up to realize that not only did the idiots have a chance, they had a foothold. Gained while everyone else paid attention to what had seemed more important. Now the right of every adult to imbibe hung in the balance of one state: Nebraska. Whichever way it voted on the Volstead ratification in two months would decide whether an entire booze-loving country climbed on the wagon.
Nebraska. When Danny heard the name, about all that came to mind was corn and grain silos, dusk blue skies. Wheat, too, sheaves of it. Did they drink there? Did they have saloons? Or just silos?
They had churches, he was fairly certain. Preachers who struck the air with their fists and railed against the godless Northeast, awash, as it was, in white suds, brown immigrants, and pagan fornication.
Nebraska. Oh, boy.
Danny ordered two shots of Irish and a mug of cold beer. He removed the shirt he wore, unbuttoned, over his undershirt. He leaned into the bar as the bartender brought his drinks. The bartender's name was Alfonse and he was rumored to run with the hoolies and bullyboys on the city's east side, though Danny had yet to meet a copper who could pin anything specific on him. Of course, when the suspect in question was a bartender known to have a generous hand, who'd try hard?
"True you stopped the boxing?"
"Not sure," Danny said.
"Your last fight, I lose money. You both supposed to last to the third."
Danny held up his palms. "Guy had a fucking stroke."
"Your fault? I see him lift his arm, too."
"Yeah?" Danny drained one of his whiskies. "Well, then it's all fine."
"You miss it?"
"Bad sign." Alfonse swept Danny's empty glass off the bar. "A man don't miss what a man forgot how to love."
"Jeesh," Danny said, "what's your wisdom fee?"
Alfonse spit in a highball glass and walked it back down the bar. It was possible there was something to his theory. Right now, Danny didn't love hitting things. He loved quiet and the smell of the harbor. He loved drink. Give him a few more and he'd love other things-- working girls and the pigs' feet Alfonse kept down the other end of the bar. The late summer wind, of course, and the mournful music the Italians made in the alleys every evening, a block- by-block journey as flute gave way to violin giving way to clarinet or mandolin. Once Danny got drunk enough, he'd love it all, the whole world.
A meaty hand slapped his back. He turned his head to find Steve looking down at him, eyebrow cocked.
"Still receiving company, I hope."
"Still buying the first round?"
"The first." Danny caught Alfonse's dark eyes and pointed at the bar top. "Where's the Widow Coyle?"
Steve shrugged off his coat and took a seat. "Praying. Lighting candles."
"No reason. Love, maybe?"
"You told her," Danny said.
"I told her."
Alfonse brought Steve a shot of rye and a bucket of suds. Once he'd walked away, Danny said, "You told her what exactly? About the grippe on the boat?"