Across the street, yet another mass of police and workingmen taunted a small group of residents. At least this mob showed some mercy, allowing a pregnant woman to detach from the other victims and walk away without harm. She hurried along the sidewalk, her shoulders hunched, her hair covered by a dark shawl, and Danny's thoughts returned to his room on Salem Street, to the gun in his holster, the bottle of scotch.
The woman passed him and turned the corner and he noticed that from behind you'd never guess she was pregnant. She had the walk of the young, the unencumbered, not yet weighted down by work or children or graying wishes. She--
Danny was crossing the street before the word had even passed through his head.
He didn't know how he knew, but he knew. He got to the other side of the street and stayed a full block behind her, and the more he watched her walk with that confident languor, the more convinced he became. He passed a call box, then another, but never thought to unlock either of them and phone for help. There was no one in the station houses anyway; they were all out in the streets getting payback. He removed his helmet and coat and tucked them under his right arm, over his gun, and crossed to the other side of the street. As she reached Shawmut Avenue, she looked down the sidewalk, but he wasn't there, so she learned nothing, but he confirmed everything. It was Tessa. Same dark skin, same etched mouth jutting like a shelf above her chin.
She turned right on Shawmut, and he lagged for a few moments, knowing it was wide there and if he reached the corner too early, she'd have to be blind not to see him. He counted down from five and started walking again. He reached the corner and saw her a block down, turning onto Hammond Street.
Three men in the rear seat of a touring car were looking back at her while the men in the front seat looked at him, slowing, noticing his blue pants, the blue coat under his arm. They were all heavily bearded. They all wore watch caps. The men in back of the open car brandished sticks. The front- seat passenger narrowed his eyes and Danny recognized him: Pyotr Glaviach, the oversize Estonian who could out-drink any saloon's worth of men and probably outfight them all, too. Pyotr Glaviach, the veteran of the most vicious Lettish warfare in the moth--
erland. The man who'd considered Danny his fellow pamphleteer, his comrade, his brother-in-arms against capitalist oppression.
Danny had found there were times when violence or the threat of it slowed the world down, when everything came at you as if through water. But there were just as many times when violence moved faster than a clock could tick, and this was one of those. As soon as he and Glaviach recognized each other, the car stopped and the men piled out. Danny's coat got caught on the butt of his pistol as he tried to clear it. Glaviach's arms closed over his, pinning them to his side. He lifted Danny off his feet and carried him across the sidewalk and rammed his back into a stone wall.
A stick hit his blackened eye.
"Say something." Glaviach spit in his face and squeezed his body harder.
Danny didn't have the air to speak so he spit back in the big man's hairy face, saw that his phlegm already had some blood in it as it landed in the man's eyes.
Glaviach rammed his skull into Danny's nose. His head exploded with yellow light and shadows descended on the men around him, as if the sky were dropping. Someone hit his head with a stick again.
"Our comrade, Nathan, you know what happened to him today?" Glaviach shook Danny's body as if he weighed no more than a child. "He lose his ear. Maybe sight in one eye. He lose that. What you lose?"
Hands grabbed at his gun and there wasn't much he could do about it because his arms were numb. Fists battered his torso, back, and neck, yet he felt perfectly calm. He felt Death on the street with him and Death's voice was soft. Death said: It's okay. It's time. His front pocket was ripped from his pant leg and loose change fell to the sidewalk. The button, too. Danny watched with an unreasonable sense of loss as it rolled off the curb and fell through a sewer grate.
Nora, he thought. Goddammit. Nora.
When they were done, Pyotr Glaviach found Danny's service re- volver in the gutter. He picked it up and dropped it on top of the unconscious cop's chest. Pyotr recalled all the men--fourteen-- he'd killed, face-to-face, over the years. This number did not include an entire unit of czarist guards they'd trapped in the center of a burning wheat field. He could still smell that odor seven years later, could hear them crying like babies as the flames found their hair, their eyes. You could never lose the smell from your nostrils, the sounds from your ears. You couldn't undo any of it. Or wash it off. He was tired of the killing. It was why he'd come to America. Because he was so tired. It always led to more.
He spit on the traitor cop a couple more times and then he and his comrades returned to the touring car and drove away.
Luther had gotten good at sneaking in and out of Nora's rooming house. He'd learned that you made the most noise trying to be quiet, so he did his due diligence when it came to listening from behind her door to the hallway on the other side, but once he was sure there was no one out there, he turned her doorknob quick and smooth and stepped into the hall. He swung the door closed behind him, and even before it clicked against the jamb, he'd already opened the door into the alley. By then, he was in the clear--a black man exiting a building in Scollay Square wasn't the problem; a black man exiting a white woman's room in any building whatsoever, that's what got you killed.
That May Day night, he left the bag of fruit in her room after sitting with her about half an hour, watching her eyelids droop repeatedly until they stayed down. It worried him; now that they'd cut her hours, she was tired more, not less, and he knew that had to be about diet. She wasn't getting enough of something and he wasn't no doctor so he didn't know what that something was. But she was tired all the time. Tired and grayer, her teeth starting to loosen. That's what made Luther take fruit from the Coughlins this time. Seemed he remembered fruit was good for teeth and complexions. How or why he knew that, he couldn't say, but it felt right.
He left her sleeping and went up the alley, and when he came to the end of it, he saw Danny lumbering across Green Street toward him.
But not Danny, really. A version of him. A Danny who'd been fi red from a cannon into a block of ice. A Danny with blood all over himself as he walked. Or tried to. Reeled was more like it.
Luther met him in the middle of the street as Danny fell to one knee.
"Hey, hey," Luther said softly. "It's me. Luther."
Danny looked up at him, his face like something someone had tested hammers on. One eye was black. That was the good one. The other was so swollen shut it looked to have been sutured. His lips were twice their normal size, Luther wanting to make a joke about it but feeling it was definitely the wrong time.