"Make . . . this right."
"Okay," Luther said and put the gun into the folds under the Deacon's chin and pulled the trigger with the man looking in his eyes.
"That fucking do?" Luther shouted and watched the man tip to his left and slide down the back of the booth. "Kill my friend?" Luther said and shot him again, though he knew he was dead.
"Fuck!" Luther screamed at the ceiling, and he grabbed his own head with the gun clutched against it and screamed it again. Then he noticed Smoke trying to pull himself across the stage in his own blood and Luther kicked a chair out of his way and crossed to the stage with his arm extended and Smoke turned his head and lay there, looking up at Luther with no more life in his eyes than Jessie's.
For what felt like an hour--and Luther would never know how long he stood there exactly--they stared at each other.
Then Luther felt a new version of himself he wasn't even sure he liked say, "If you live, you'll have to come kill me, sure as sin."
Smoke blinked his eyelids once, real slow, in the affi rmative.
Luther stared down the gun at him. He saw all those bullets he'd scored in Columbus, saw his Uncle Cornelius's black satchel, saw the rain that had fallen, warm and soft as sleep, the afternoon he'd sat on his porch, willing his father to come home when his father was already four years five hundred miles away and not coming back. He lowered the gun.
He watched the surprise flash across Smoke's pupils. Smoke's eyes rolled and he burped a thimbleful of blood down his chin and onto his shirt. He fell back to the stage and the blood flowed from his stomach.
Luther raised the gun again. It should have been easier, the man's eyes no longer on him, the man probably slipping across the river right at this moment, climbing the dark shore into another world. All it would take was one more pull of the trigger to be sure. He'd had no hesitation with the Deacon. So why now?
The gun shook in his hand and he lowered it again.
Wouldn't take the people the Deacon associated with long to put all this together, to put him in this room. Whether Smoke lived or died, Luther and Lila's time in Tulsa was done.
Still . . .
He raised the gun again, gripped his forearm to stop the shakes and stared down the barrel at Smoke. He stood there a good minute before he finally faced the fact that he could stand there for an hour and he'd still never pull that trigger.
"Ain't you," he said.
Luther looked at the blood still leaking out of the man. He took one last look behind him at Jessie. He sighed. He stepped over Dandy's corpse.
"You simple sons of bitches," Luther said as he headed for the door. "You brought this on yourselves." chapter eight After the flu had passed on, Danny returned to walking the beat by day and studying to impersonate a radical at night. In terms of the latter duty, Eddie McKenna left packages at his door at least once a week. He'd unwrap them to find stacks of the latest socialist and Communist propaganda rags, as well as copies of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, speeches given by Jack Reed, Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Jim Larkin, Joe Hill, and Pancho Villa. He read thickets of propaganda so dense with rhetoric it may as well have been a structural engineering manual for all it spoke to any common man Danny could imagine. He came across certain words so often--tyranny, imperialism, capitalist oppression, brotherhood, insurrection--that he suspected a knee-jerk vocabulary had become necessary to ensure a dependable shorthand among the workers of the world. But as the words lost individuality, so they lost their power and gradually their meaning. Once the meaning was gone, Danny wondered, how would these noodle heads--and among the Bolshie and anarchist literature, he had yet to find someone who wasn't a noodle head--as one unifi ed body, successfully cross a street, never mind overthrow a country?
When he wasn't reading speeches, he read missives from what was commonly referred to as the "front line of the workers' revolution." He read about striking coal miners burned in their homes alongside their families, IWW workers tarred and feathered, labor organizers assassinated on the dark streets of small towns, unions broken, unions outlawed, workingmen jailed, beaten, and deported. And always it was they who were painted as the enemies of the great American Way.
To his surprise, Danny felt occasional stirrings of empathy. Not for everyone, of course--he'd always thought anarchists were morons, offering the world nothing but steel-eyed bloodlust, and little in his reading changed his opinion. Communists, too, struck him as hopelessly naive, pursuing a utopia that failed to take into consideration the most elemental characteristic of the human animal: covetousness. The Bolshies believed it could be cured like an illness, but Danny knew that greed was an organ, like the heart, and to remove it would kill the host. The socialists were the smartest--they acknowledged greed--but their message was constantly entwined with the Communists' and it was impossible, at least in this country, for it to be heard above the red din.
But for the life of him Danny couldn't understand why most of the outlawed or targeted unions deserved their fate. Time and again what was renounced as treasonous rhetoric was merely a man standing before a crowd and demanding he be treated as a man.
He mentioned this to McKenna over coffee in the South End one night and McKenna wagged a finger at him. "It's not those men you need to concern yourself with, young protege. Ask yourself instead, 'Who's funding those men? And to what end?' "
Danny yawned, tired all the time now, unable to remember the last time he'd had a true night's sleep. "Let me guess--Bolsheviks."
"You're goddamned right. From Mother Rus sia herself." He widened his eyes at Danny. "You think this is mildly amusing, yeah? Lenin himself said that the people of Russia will not rest until all the peoples of the world join their revolution. That's not idle talk, boyo. That's a clear fucking threat against these shores." He thumped his index finger off the table. "My shores."
Danny suppressed another yawn with his fist. "How's my cover coming?"
"Almost there," McKenna said. "You join that thing they call a policemen's union yet?"
"Going to a meeting Tuesday."
"What took so long?"
"If Danny Coughlin, son of Captain Coughlin and no stranger himself to the selfi sh, politically motivated act, were to suddenly ask to join the Boston Social Club, people might be a bit suspicious."
"You've a point. Fair enough."
"My old partner, Steve Coyle?"
"The one who caught the grippe, yeah. A shame."
"He was a vocal supporter of the union. I'm letting some time pass so it'll seem I passed a few long dark nights of the soul over him getting sick. Finally my conscience caught up, so I had to check out a meeting. Let them think I have a soft heart."