Once the wife beaters and husband beaters and Bolshevik beaters were dealt with, there would be pickpockets, penny-to-nickel extortions, dice games on blankets, card games in the back rooms of cafes and barbershops, and members of the Black Hand selling insurance against everything from fire to plague but mostly from the Black Hand.
"Got another meeting tonight," Steve said. "Big doings."
"BSC meeting?" Danny shook his head. " 'Big doings.' You're serious?"
Steve twirled his pocket billy on its leather strap. "You ever think if you showed up to union meetings, maybe you'd be bumped to Detective Division by now, we'd all have our raise, and Johnny Green'd still have his wife and kids?"
Danny peered up at a sky with glare but no visible sun. "It's a social club."
"It's a union," Steve said.
"Then why's it called the Boston Social Club?" Danny yawned up at the white leather sky.
"A fine point. The point of the matter, in fact. We're trying to change that."
"Change it all you want and it's still just a union in name. We're cops, Steve--we've got no rights. The BSC? Just a boys' club, a fucking tree house."
"We're setting up a meeting with Gompers, Dan. The AF of L."
Danny stopped. If he told his father or Eddie McKenna about this, he'd get a gold shield and be bumped up out of patrol the day after tomorrow.
"The AF of L is a national union. You crazy? They'll never let cops join."
"Who? The mayor? The governor? O'Meara?"
"O'Meara," Danny said. "He's the only one that matters."
Police Commissioner Stephen O'Meara's bedrock belief was that a policeman's post was the highest of all civic posts and therefore demanded both the outward and inward reflection of honor. When he'd taken over the BPD, each precinct had been a fiefdom, the private reserve of whichever ward boss or city councilman got his snout into the trough faster and deeper than his competition. The men looked like shit, dressed like shit, and didn't give shit.
O'Meara purged a lot of that. Not all of it, Lord knows, but he'd fired some deadwood and worked to indict the most egregious of the ward bosses and councilmen. He'd set the rotted system back on its heels and then pushed, in hopes it would fall over. Didn't happen, but it teetered on occasion. Enough so he could send a good number of the police back out into their communities to get to know the people they served. And that's what you did in O'Meara's BPD if you were a smart patrolman (with limited contacts)--you served the people. Not the ward bosses or the midget czars with the gold bars. You looked like a cop and you carried yourself like a cop and you stepped aside for no man and you never bent the basic principle: you were the law.
But even O'Meara, apparently, couldn't bend City Hall to his will in the latest fight for a raise. They hadn't had one in six years, and that raise, pushed through by O'Meara himself, had come after eight years of stalemate. So Danny and all the other men on the force were paid the fair wage of 1905. And in his last meeting with the BSC, the mayor had said that was the best they could look forward to for a while.
Twenty-nine cents an hour for a seventy-three-hour week. No overtime. And that was for day patrolmen like Danny and Steve Coyle, the plum assignment. The poor night guys were paid a flat two bits an hour and worked eighty-three hours a week. Danny would have thought it outrageous if it hadn't been steeped in a truth he'd accepted since he could first walk: the system fucked the workingman. The only realistic decision a man had to make was if he was going to buck the system and starve, or play it with so much pluck and guts that none of its inequities applied to him.
"O'Meara," Steve said, "sure. I love the old man, too, I do. Love him, Dan. But he's not giving us what we were promised."
Danny said, "Maybe they really don't have the money."
"That's what they said last year. Said wait till the war's over and we'll reward your loyalty." Steve held his hands out. "I'm looking, and I don't see no reward."
"The war isn't over."
Steve Coyle made a face. "For all intents and purposes."
"So, fine, reopen negotiations."
"We did. And they turned us down again last week. And cost of living has been climbing since June. We're fucking starving, Dan. You'd know it if you had kids."
"You don't have kids."
"My brother's widow, God rest him, she's got two. I might as well be married. Wench thinks I'm Gilchrist's on store- credit day."
Danny knew Steve had been putting it to the Widow Coyle since a month or two after his brother's body had entered the grave. Rory Coyle's femoral artery had been sliced by a cattle shear at the Brighton stockyards, and he'd bled out on the floor amid some stunned workers and oblivious cows. When the stockyard refused to pay even a minimal death benefit to his family, the workers had used Rory Coyle's death as a rallying cry to unionize, but their strike had only lasted three days before the Brighton PD, the Pinkertons, and some out-of-town bat swingers had pushed back and turned Rory Joseph Coyle right quick into Rory Fucking Who.
Across the street, a man with an anarchist's requisite watch cap and handlebar mustache set up his wood crate under a street pole and consulted the notebook under his arm. He climbed up on the crate. For a moment Danny felt an odd sympathy for the man. He wondered if he had children, a wife.
"The AF of L is national," he said again. "The department will never--fucking ever--allow it."
Steve placed a hand on his arm, his eyes losing their usual blithe light. "Come to a meeting, Dan. Fay Hall. Tuesdays and Thursdays."
"What's the point?" Danny said as the guy across the street started shouting in Italian.
"Just come," Steve said.
After their shift, Danny had dinner alone and then a few too many drinks in Costello's, a waterfront saloon favored by police. With every drink, Johnny Green grew smaller, Johnny Green and his three fights in one day, his foaming mouth, his desk job and eviction notice. When Danny left, he took his flask and walked through the North End. Tomorrow would be his first day off in twenty, and as usually happened for some perverse reason, his exhaustion left him wide awake and antsy. The streets were quiet again, the night deepening around them. At the corner of Hanover and Salutation streets, he leaned against a streetlamp pole and looked at the shuttered station house. The lowest windows, those that touched the sidewalk, bore scorch marks, but otherwise you'd be hard-pressed to guess anything violent had ever happened inside.
The Harbor Police had decided to move to another building a few blocks over on Atlantic. They'd told the papers the move had been planned for over a year, but nobody swallowed it. Salutation Street had ceased being a building where anyone felt safe. And illusions of safety were the least a populace demanded of a police station.