"Con'--" Danny started, but his younger brother held up a hand. "Dan, Dan, I know something . . . happened between you two. I'm not blind. The whole family knows."
This was news to Danny. Above him, Joe scrambled around the tree like a squirrel. The air had cooled, and dusk settled softly against the neighboring row houses.
"Hey, Dan? That's why I'm telling you this. I want to know if you're comfortable with it."
Danny leaned against the rail. "What do you think 'happened' between me and Nora?"
"Well, I don't know."
Danny nodded, thinking: She'll never marry him.
"What if she says no?"
"Why would she say that?" Connor tossed his hands up at the absurdity of it.
"You never know with these Bolshies."
Connor laughed. "Like I said, that'll change quick. Why wouldn't she say yes? We spend all our free time together. We--"
"The flickers, like you said. Someone to watch a show with. It's not the same."
"Same as what?"
Connor narrowed his eyes. "That is love." He shook his head at Danny. "Why do you always complicate things, Dan? A man meets a woman, they share common understandings, common heritage. They marry, raise a family, instill those understandings in them. That's civilization. That's love."
Danny shrugged. Connor's anger was building with his confusion, always a dangerous combination, particularly if Connor was in a bar. Danny might have been the son who'd boxed, but Connor was the true brawler in the family.
Connor was ten months younger than Danny. This made them "Irish twins," but beyond the bloodline, they'd never had much in common. They'd graduated from high school the same day, Danny by the skin of his teeth, Connor a year early and with honors. Danny had joined the police straightaway, while Connor had accepted a full scholarship to Boston Catholic College in the South End. After two years doubling up on his classes there, he'd graduated summa cum laude and entered Suffolk Law School. There'd never been any question where he'd work once he passed the bar. He'd had a slot waiting for him in the DA's offi ce since he'd worked there as an office boy in his late teens. Now, with four years on the job, he was starting to get bigger cases, larger prosecutions.
"How's work?" Danny said.
Connor lit a fresh cigarette. "There's some very bad people out there."
"Tell me about it."
"I'm not talking about Gusties and garden-variety plug-uglies, brother. I'm talking about radicals, bombers."
Danny cocked his head and pointed at the shrapnel scar on his own neck.
Connor chuckled. "Right, right. Look who I'm talking to. I guess I just never knew how . . . how . . . fucking evil these people are. We've got a guy now, we'll be deporting him when we win, and he actually threatened to blow up the Senate."
"Just talk?" Danny asked.
Connor gave that an irritated head shake. "No such thing. I went to a hanging a week ago?"
Danny said, "You went to a . . . ?"
Connor nodded. "Part of the job sometimes. Silas wants the people of the Commonwealth to know we represent them all the way to the end."
"Doesn't seem to go with your nice suit. What's that color-- yellow?"
Connor swiped at his head. "They call it cream."
"It wasn't fun, actually." Connor looked out into the yard. "The hanging." He gave Danny a thin smile. "Around the offi ce, though, they say you get used to it."
They said nothing for a bit. Danny could feel the pall of the world out there, with its hangings and diseases, its bombs and its poverty, descend on their little world in here.
"So, you're gonna marry Nora," he said eventually.
"That's the plan." Connor raised his eyebrows up and down.
He put his hand on his brother's shoulder. "Best of luck then, Con'."
"Thanks." Connor smiled. "Heard you just moved into a new place, by the way."
"No new place," Danny said, "just a new floor. Better view." "Recently?"
"About a month ago," Danny said. "Apparently some news travels slow."
"It does when you don't visit your mother."
Danny placed a hand to his heart, adopted a thick brogue. "Ah, 'tis a fierce-terrible son, sure, who doesn't visit his dear old mudder every day of the week."
Connor chuckled. "You stayed in the North End, though?" "It's home."
"It's a shit hole."
"You grew up there," Joe said, suddenly dangling from the lowest branch.
"That's right," Connor said, "and Dad moved us out as soon as he was able."
"Traded one slum for another," Danny said.
"An Irish slum, though," Connor said. "I'll take it over a wop slum anytime."
Joe dropped to the ground. "This isn't a slum."
Danny said, "It ain't up here on K Street, no."
"Neither's the rest of it." Joe walked up on the porch. "I know slums," he said with complete assurance and opened the door and went inside.
In his father's study, they lit cigars and asked Danny if he wanted one. He declined but rolled a cigarette and sat by the desk beside Deputy Chief Madigan. Mesplede and Donnegan were over by the decanters, pouring themselves healthy portions of his father's liquor, and Charles Steedman stood by the tall window behind his father's desk, lighting his cigar. His father and Eddie McKenna stood talking with Silas Pendergast in the corner, back by the doors. The DA nodded a lot and said very little as Captain Thomas Coughlin and Lieutenant Eddie McKenna spoke to him with their hands on their chins, their foreheads tilted low. Silas Pendergast nodded a final time, picked his hat off the hook, and bade good-bye to everyone.
"He's a fine man," his father said, coming around the desk. "He understands the common good." His father took a cigar from the humidor, snipped the end, and smiled with raised eyebrows at the rest of them. They all smiled back because his father's humor was infectious that way, even if you didn't understand the cause of it.
"Thomas," the deputy chief said, speaking in a tone of deference to a man several ranks his inferior, "I assume you explained the chain of command to him."
Danny's father lit his cigar, clenching it in his back teeth as he got it going. "I told him that the man in the back of the cart need never see the horse's face. I trust he understood my meaning."
Claude Mesplede came around behind Danny's chair and patted him on the shoulder. "Still the great communicator, your father."