The first of them reached the throng and swung his ax handle.
Fraina shouted, "No!" but that was lost in the sound of the wood connecting with the domed helmet of James Hinman, a patrolman at the One-Four. The helmet sprang up out of the crowd and hung in the sky. Then it clanged to the street, and Hinman disappeared.
The closest Lett to Danny was a thin Italian with a handlebar mustache and a tweed cap. In the moment it took for the guy to realize how close he stood to a cop, Danny snapped his elbow into his mouth and the guy gave him a look like he'd broken his heart instead of his teeth and hit the pavement. The next Lett charged Danny by stepping on his fallen comrade's chest. Danny cleared his nightstick but Kevin McRae rose out of the crowd behind the big Lett and grabbed him by the hair, giving Danny a wild smile as he twirled the guy through the crowd and ran him into a brick wall.
Danny traded punches for several minutes with a small, balding Rus sian. Small as he was, the fucker could jab, and he wore a matching pair of knuckle- clusters over his fists. Danny concentrated so hard on slipping the jabs to his face that it left him open to body shots. The two of them went back and forth along the left flank of the crowd, Danny trying for the knockout punch. The guy was slippery, but then he caught his foot in the cracks between the cobblestones, and his knee buckled. He stumbled and fell on his back and tried to scramble to his feet but Danny stomped on his stomach and kicked him in the face and the guy curled up and vomited out the side of his mouth.
Whistles blew as the mounted police tried to wade into the crowd, but the horses kept backing up. It was all incestuous now, Letts and cops intertwined and the Letts swinging sticks, swinging pipes and blackjacks and, Jesus, fucking ice picks. They threw rocks and threw punches, and the cops started to get savage, too, gouging at eyes, biting ears and noses, banging heads off the pavement. Someone fi red a pistol and one of the horses rose up on its hind legs and threw its rider. The horse tipped to its right and toppled, hooves kicking at anything in its way.
Two Letts got Danny by the arms and one of them butted the side of his face. They ran him across the cobblestones into a metal store grate and his nightstick fell from his hands. One of them punched him in the right eye. Danny stomped blindly and hit an ankle, drove his knee up and hit a groin. The breath blew out of the guy and Danny swung him into the grate and pulled one arm free as the other man sank his teeth into his shoulder. Danny spun with the biter draped over him and ran backward into a brick wall, felt the guy's teeth leave his skin. He took a few steps forward and then ran himself backward again, twice as hard. When the guy fell from his body, Danny turned and scooped up his nightstick and swung it into the guy's face, heard the cheekbone crack.
He added a final kick to the ribs and turned back to the center of the street. A Lett charged back and forth along the rear of the crowd on one of the police horses, swinging a length of pipe at any domed heads he saw. Several of the other horses roamed riderless. On the far side of the street, two patrolman lifted Francie Stoddard, a sergeant at the One-Oh, onto a loading dock, Stoddard's mouth wide and gulping, his shirt open at the collar, one palm pressed to the center of his chest.
Shots hit the air and Paul Welch, a sergeant with the Oh- Six, spun and grabbed his hip and then disappeared in the crush of men. Danny heard a scuffle of footsteps and turned in time to duck a Lett charging him with an ice pick. He speared the guy's solar plexus with his nightstick. The guy gave him a look of self-pity and shame. Spit popped out of his mouth. When he hit the pavement, Danny grabbed his ice pick and hurled it onto the nearest roof.
Someone had gotten a grip on the leg of the Lett on horseback and he vaulted off the animal and into the crowd. The horse galloped up Dudley Street toward the el tracks. Blood poured down Danny's back and the vision in his right eye blurred as it began to swell. His head felt as if someone had hammered nails through it. The Letts were going to lose the war, Danny had no doubt, but they were winning this battle by a large fucking margin. Cops were down all over the street while burly Letts in their coarse Cossack clothing screamed in triumph as their own heads rose above the throng.
Danny waded into the crowd, swinging his nightstick, trying to tell himself he didn't love it, he didn't feel his heart swell because he was bigger and stronger and faster than most and could down a man with one blow from either fist or nightstick. He took out four Letts with six swings and felt the mob turn toward him. He saw a pistol aimed at him, saw the hole in the barrel and the eyes of the young Lett wielding it, a boy really, nineteen, tops. The pistol shook, but he took little comfort from that because the kid was only fifteen feet away, and the crowd opened up a corridor between them to give him a clean shot. Danny didn't reach for his own revolver; he'd never clear it in time.
The kid's finger whitened against the trigger. The cylinder turned. Danny considered closing his eyes but then the kid's arm shot straight up above his head. The pistol discharged into the sky.
Nathan Bishop stood beside the kid, rubbing his wrist where it had made contact with the kid's elbow. He looked reasonably untarnished by the fighting, his suit a little rumpled but mostly unstained, which was saying something for a cream-colored suit in a sea of black and blue fabric and swinging fists. One of his eyeglass lenses was cracked. He stared at Danny through the good lens, both of them breathing hard. Danny felt relief, of course. And gratitude. But shame larger than all that. Shame more than anything.
A horse burst between them, its great black body trembling, its smooth flank shuddering in the air. Another horse burst through the throng followed by two more, all in full charge with riders astride them. Behind them was an army of blue uniforms, still crisp and unsoiled, and the wall of people around Danny and Nathan Bishop and the boy with the pistol collapsed. Several of the Letts had fought in guerrilla campaigns back in the motherland and knew the benefi ts of cut-and-run. In the mad-dash dispersal, Danny lost sight of Nathan Bishop. Within a minute, most of the Letts were running past the Opera House, and Dudley Square was suddenly littered with blue uniforms, Danny and the other men looking at one another as if to say: Did any of that just happen?
But men lay crumpled in the street and against walls as the reinforcements used their nightsticks on the few that weren't brothers of the badge whether the bodies were moving or not. On the far fringes of the crowd, a small group of demonstrators, the last ones out apparently, were cut off by more reinforcements and more horses. Cops had cut heads and cut knees and holes that leaked from their shoulders and hands and thighs and swelling contusions and black eyes and broken arms and fat lips. Danny saw Mark Denton trying to pull himself to his feet, and he crossed to him and gave him his hand. Mark stood and applied weight to his right foot and winced.