"A little bit."

"A little bit." Danny threw back his second shot. "We've been sworn to silence by state, federal, and maritime authorities. And you tell the widow?"

"It wasn't like that."

"What was it like?"

"All right, it was like that." Steve downed his own shot. "She grabbed the kids, though, and run right off to church. Only word she'll say is to Christ Himself."

"And the pastor. And the two priests. And a few nuns. And her kids."

Steve said, "It can't stay hidden long, in either case."

Danny raised his mug. "Well, you weren't trying to make detective anyway."

"Cheers." Steve met the mug with his bucket and they both drank as Alfonse replenished their shots and left them alone again.

Danny looked at his hands. The doctor on the launch had said the grippe sometimes showed there, even when there were no other signs in the throat or head. It yellowed the flesh along the knuckles, the doctor told them, thickened the fingertips, made the joints throb.

Steve said, "How's the throat?"

Danny removed his hands from the bar. "Fine. Yours?"

"Tip-top. How long you want to keep doing this?"

"What?" Danny said. "Drinking?"

"Laying our lives on the line for less than a streetcar operator makes."

"Streetcar operators are important." Danny raised a glass. "Vital to municipal interests."

"Stevedores?"

"Them, too."

"Coughlin," Steve said. He said it pleasantly, but Danny knew the only time Steve called him by his last name was when he was irate. "Coughlin, we need you. Your voice. Hell, your glamour."

"My glamour?"

"Fuck off, ya. You know what I mean. False modesty won't help us a duck's fart right now and that's God's truth."

"Help who?"

Steve sighed. "It's us against them. They'll kill us if they can." "Forget the singing." Danny rolled his eyes. "You need to fi nd an acting troupe."

"They sent us out to that boat with nothing, Dan."

Danny scowled. "We get the next two Saturdays off. We get--" "It fucking kills. And we went out there for what?"

"Duty?"

"Duty." Steve turned his head away.

Danny chuckled. Anything to lighten the mood, which had grown sober so quickly. "Who would risk us? Steve. On the Blessed Mother? Who? With your arrest record? With my father? My uncle? Who would risk us?"

"They would."

"Why?"

"Because it'd never occur to them that they couldn't."

Danny gave that another dry chuckle, although he felt lost sud- denly, a man trying to scoop up coins in a fast current.

Steve said, "Have you ever noticed that when they need us, they talk about duty, but when we need them, they talk about budgets?" He clinked his glass quietly off Danny's. "If we die from what we did today, Dan, any family we leave behind? They don't get a fucking dime."

Danny loosed a weary chuckle on the empty bar. "What are we supposed to do about it?"

"Fight," Steve said.

Danny shook his head. "Whole world's fighting right now. France, fucking Belgium, how many dead? No one even has a number. You see progress there?"

Steve shook his head.

"So?" Danny felt like breaking something. Something big, something that would shatter. "The way of the world, Steve. The way of the goddamn world."

Steve Coyle shook his head. "The way of a world."

"Hell with it." Danny tried to shake off the feeling he'd had lately that he was part of some larger canvas, some larger crime. "Let me buy you another."

"Their world," Steve said. chapter four On a Sunday afternoon, Danny went to his father's house in South Boston for a meeting with the Old Men. A Sunday dinner at the Coughlin home was a political affair, and by inviting him to join them in the hour after dinner was served, the Old Men were anointing him in some fashion. Danny held out hope that a detective's shield--hinted at by both his father and his Uncle Eddie over the past few months--was part of the sacrament. At twenty-seven, he'd be the youngest detective in BPD history.

His father had called him the night before. "Word has it old Georgie Strivakis is losing his faculties."

"Not that I've noticed," Danny said.

"He sent you out on a detail," his father said. "Did he not?" "He offered me the detail and I accepted."

"To a boat filled with plague-ridden soldiers."

"I wouldn't call it the plague."

"What would you call it, boy?"

"Bad cases of pneumonia, maybe. 'Plague' just seems a bit dramatic, sir."

His father sighed. "I don't know what gets into your head." "Steve should have done it alone?"

"If need be."

"His life's worth less than mine then."

"He's a Coyle, not a Coughlin. I don't make excuses for protecting my own."

"Somebody had to do it, Dad."

"Not a Coughlin," his father said. "Not you. You weren't raised to volunteer for suicide missions."

" 'To protect and serve,'" Danny said.

A soft, barely audible breath. "Supper tomorrow. Four o'clock sharp. Or is that too healthy for you?"

Danny smiled. "I can manage," he said, but his father had already hung up.

So the next afternoon found him walking up K Street as the sun softened against the brown and red brick and the open windows loosed the smell of boiled cabbage, boiled potatoes, and boiled ham on the bone. His brother Joe, playing in the street with some other kids, saw him and his face lit up and he came running up the sidewalk.

Joe was dressed in his Sunday best--a chocolate brown knickerbocker suit with button- bottom pants cinched at the knees, white shirt and blue tie, a golf cap set askew on his head that matched the suit. Danny had been there when his mother had bought it, Joe fidgeting the whole time, and his mother and Nora telling him how manly he looked in it, how handsome, a suit like this, of genuine Oregon cassimere, how his father would have dreamed of owning such a suit at his age, and all the while Joe looking at Danny as if he could somehow help him escape.

Danny caught Joe as he leapt off the ground and hugged him, pressing his smooth cheek to Danny's, his arms digging into his neck, and it surprised Danny that he often forgot how much his baby brother loved him.

Joe was eleven and small for his age, though Danny knew he made up for it by being one of the toughest little kids in a neighborhood of tough little kids. He hooked his legs around Danny's hips, leaned back, and smiled. "Heard you stopped boxing."

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