"Never thought of it that way."

Federico pointed at his prized possession. "That is made of wood. It is a tree, but it is not a tree. And the wood is wood, yes, but what it does to the music that comes from it? What is that? Do we have a word for that kind of wood? That kind of tree?"

Danny gave him a small shrug, figuring the old man was getting a bit tipsy.

Federico closed his eyes again and his hands floated up by his ears, as if he were conducting the music himself, willing it forth into the room.

Danny caught Tessa looking at him again and this time she did not drop his gaze. He gave her his best smile, the slightly confused, slightly embarrassed one, the small boy's smile. A flush spread under her chin, and still she didn't look away.

He turned back to her father. His eyes remained closed, his hands conducting, even though the disc record had ended and the needle popped back and forth over its innermost grooves.

Steve Coyle smiled broadly when he saw Danny enter Fay Hall, the meeting place of the Boston Social Club. He worked his way down a row of folding chairs, one leg dragging noticeably after the other. He shook Danny's hand. "Thanks for coming."

Danny hadn't counted on this. It made him feel twice as guilty, infiltrating the BSC under false pretenses while his old partner, sick and unemployed, showed up to support a fight he wasn't even part of anymore.

Danny managed a smile. "Didn't expect to see you here."

Steve looked back over his shoulder at the men setting up the stage. "They let me help out. I'm a living example of what happens when you don't have a union with negotiating power, you know?" He clapped Danny's shoulder. "How are you?"

"Fine," Danny said. For five years he'd known every detail of his partner's life, often on a minute-to-minute basis. It was suddenly odd to realize he hadn't checked in on Steve in two weeks. Odd and shameful. "How you feeling?"

Steve shrugged. "I'd complain, but who'd listen?" He laughed loud and clapped Danny's shoulder again. His beard stubble was white. He looked lost inside his newly damaged body. As if he'd been turned upside down and shaken.

"You look good," Danny said.

"Liar." Again the awkward laugh followed by an awkward solemnity, a look of dewy earnestness. "I'm really glad you're here."

Danny said, "Don't mention it."

"Turn you into a union man yet," Steve said.

"Don't bet on it."

Steve clapped him on the back a third time and introduced him around. Danny knew about half of the men on a surface level, their paths having crossed on various calls over the years. They all seemed nervous around Steve, as if they hoped he'd take whatever affl icted him to another policemen's union in another city. As if bad fortune were as contagious as the grippe. Danny could see it in their faces when they shook Steve's hand--they'd have preferred him dead. Death allowed for the illusion of heroism. The maimed turned that illusion into an uncomfortable odor.

The head of the BSC, a patrolman named Mark Denton, strode toward the stage. He was a tall man, almost as tall as Danny, and rail thin. He had pale skin, as hard and shiny as piano keys, and his black hair was slicked back tight against his skull.

Danny and the other men took their chairs as Mark Denton crossed the stage and placed his hands on the edges of the dais. He gave the room a tired smile.

"Mayor Peters canceled the meeting we had scheduled at the end of the week."

Groans broke out in the room, a few catcalls.

Denton held up a hand to quiet them. "There're rumors of a streetcar workers strike, and the mayor believes that's of more pressing importance right now. We have to go to the back of the line."

"Maybe we should strike," someone said.

Denton's dark eyes flashed. "We don't talk of strike, men. That's just what they want. You know how that would play in the papers? Do you really want to give them that kind of ammunition, Timmy?"

"No, I don't, Mark, but what are our options? We're fucking starving out here."

Denton acknowledged that with a firm nod. "I know we are. But even whispering the word strike is heresy, men. You know it and I know it. Our best chance right now is to appear patient and open up talks with Samuel Gompers and the AFL."

"That really happening?" someone behind Danny asked.

Denton nodded. "In fact, I was planning to put a motion to the floor. Later tonight, I'll grant you, but why wait?" He shrugged. "All those in favor of the BSC opening up charter talks with the American Federation of Labor, say aye."

Danny felt it then, an almost tactile stirring of the blood throughout the room, a sense of collective purpose. He couldn't deny his blood jumped along with everyone else's. A charter in the most powerful union in the country. Jesus.

"Aye," the crowd shouted.

"All against?"

No one spoke.

"Motion accepted," Denton said.

Was it actually possible? No police department in the nation had ever pulled this off. Few had dared try. And yet, they could be the fi rst. They could--quite literally--change history.

Danny reminded himself he wasn't part of this.

Because this was a joke. This was a pack of naive, overly dramatic men who thought with enough talk they could bend the world to their needs. It didn't work that way, Danny could have told them. It worked the other way.

After Denton, the cops felled by the flu paraded onstage. They talked of themselves as the lucky ones; unlike nine other offi cers from the city's eighteen station houses, they'd survived. Of twenty onstage, twelve had returned to duty. Eight never would. Danny lowered his eyes when Steve took the dais. Steve, just two months ago singing in the barbershop quartet, had trouble keeping his words straight. He kept stuttering. He asked them not to forget him, not to forget the fl u. He asked that they remember their brotherhood and fellowship to all who'd sworn to protect and to serve.

He and the other nineteen survivors left the stage to loud applause.

The men mingled by the coffee urns or stood in circles and passed around fl asks. Danny quickly got a feel for the basic personality breakdown of the membership. You had the Talkers--loud men, like Roper from the Oh-Seven, who rattled off statistics, then got into high-pitched disagreements over semantics and minutiae. Then there were the Bolshies and the Socies, like Coogan from the One-Three and Shaw who worked Warrants out of headquarters, no different from all the radicals and alleged radicals Danny had been reading up on lately, always quick to spout the most fashionable rhetoric, to reach for the toothless slogan. There were also the Emotionals--men like Hannity from the One-One, who had never been able to hold his liquor in the first place and whose eyes welled up too quickly with mention of "fellowship" or "justice." So, for the most part, what Danny's old high school English teacher, Father Twohy, used to call men of "prattle, not practice."

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