He opened his eyes and they filled with the blue glitter of the sea and he shoved off again, making his way along the seawall toward Carson Beach. Even without the heat, this summer was already taking on the feel of a nightmare. Dissension within the ranks that could lead to a strike on his beloved force. Danny in the midst of it. Danny, too, lost to him as a son. Over a harlot who, in his good graces, he'd taken in when she was little more than a shivering puddle of gray flesh and loose teeth. Of course, she'd been from Donegal, which should have been fair warning; you could never trust a Donegalan; they were known liars and fomenters of dissent. And now Joe, missing for a second day, out there somewhere in the city, eluding all attempts to recover him. He had too much Danny in him, that was plain to see, too much of Thomas's own brother, Liam, a man who'd tried to break the world open, only to see it do the very same to him. He'd died, Liam had, gone now these twenty-eight years, bled out in an alley behind a pub in Cork City, his assailant unknown, his pockets picked clean. The motive had been an argument over a woman or a gambling debt, both, in Thomas's mind, pretty much the same thing in terms of risk versus reward. He'd loved Liam, his twin brother, the way he loved Danny, the way he loved Joe--in confusion and admiration and futility. They were windmill tilters who scoffed at reason, who lived through their hearts. As had Liam, as had Thomas's father, a man who'd drank the bottle until the bottle drank him back.
Thomas saw Patrick Donnegan and Claude Mesplede sitting in the small gazebo that looked out on the sea. Just beyond it was a dark green fishing pier, mostly empty at midday. He raised a hand and they raised theirs as he began the trudge across the sand through families trying to escape the heat of their homes for the heat of this sand. He would never understand this phenomenon of lying by the water, of taking the entire family to engage in the mass indulgence of idleness. It seemed like something Romans would have done, baking under their sun gods. Men were no more meant to be idle than horses were. It fostered a restlessness of thinking, an acceptance of amoral possibilities and the philosophy of relativism. Thomas would kick the men if he could, kick them from the sand and send them out to work.
Patrick Donnegan and Claude Mesplede watched him come with smiles on their faces. They were always smiling, these two, a pair if ever there was one. Donnegan was the ward boss for the Sixth and Mesplede was its alderman, and they had held these positions for eighteen years, through mayors, through governors, through police captains and police commissioners, through presidents. Nestled deep in the bosom of the city where no one ever thought to look, they ran it, along with a few other ward bosses and aldermen and congressmen and councilors who'd been smart enough to secure positions on the key committees that controlled the wharves and the saloons and the building contracts and the zoning variances. If you controlled these, you controlled crime and you controlled the enforcement of law and, thus, you controlled everything that swam in the same sea, which was to say, everything that made a city run--the courts, the precincts, the wards, the gambling, the women, the businesses, the unions, the vote. The last, of course, was the procreative engine, the egg that hatched the chicken that hatched more eggs that hatched more chickens and would do so ad infi nitum.
As childishly simple as this pro cess was, most men, given a hundred years on earth, would never understand it because most men didn't want to.
Thomas entered the gazebo and leaned against the inner wall. The wood was hot and the white sun found the center of his forehead as a bullet to a hawk.
"How's the family, Thomas?"
Thomas handed him the satchel. "Tops, Patrick. Just tops. And the missus?"
"She's fit, Thomas. Picking out architects for the house we're building in Marblehead, she is." Donnegan opened the satchel, peered inside.
"And yours, Claude?"
"My eldest, Andre, has passed the bar."
"Grand stuff. Here?"
"In New York. He graduated Columbia."
"You must be fierce-proud."
"I am, Thomas, thank you."
Donnegan stopped rummaging in the satchel. "Every list we asked for?"
"And more." Thomas nodded. "We threw in the NAACP as a bonus."
"Ah, you're a miracle worker."
Thomas shrugged. "It was Eddie mostly."
Claude handed Thomas a small valise. Thomas opened it and looked at the two bricks of money inside, both wrapped tightly in paper and taped. He had a practiced eye when it came to such transactions, and he knew by the thickness that his and Eddie's payments were even larger than promised. He raised an eyebrow at Claude.
"Another company joined us," Claude said. "Profi t participation rose accordingly."
"Shall we walk, Thomas?" Patrick said. " 'Tis diabolical heat." "A sound suggestion."
They removed their jackets and strolled to the pier. At midday it was empty of fishermen, save for a few who seemed far more interested in the buckets of beer at their feet than any fish they could jerk over the rail.
They leaned against the rail and looked out at the Atlantic and Claude Mesplede rolled his own cigarette and lit it with a cupped match that he flicked into the ocean. "We've compiled that list of saloons that will be converting to rooming houses."
Thomas Coughlin nodded. "There's no weak link?"
"Not a one."
"No criminal histories to worry about?"
"None at all."
He nodded. He reached into his jacket and removed his cigar from the inside pocket. He snipped the end and put his match to it.
"And they all have basements?"
"As a matter of course."
"I see no problem then." He puffed slowly on the cigar.
"There's an issue with the wharves."
"Not in my districts."
"The Canadian wharves."
He looked at Donnegan, then at Mesplede.
"We're working on it," Donnegan said.
He turned to Mesplede. "Do you know what will happen if we don't control point of entry and point of contact?"
"I said I do."
"The lunatic Irish and the lunatic dagos will organize. They won't be mad dogs in the street anymore, Claude. They'll be units. They'll control the stevedores and the teamsters, which means they'll control transport. They'll be able to set terms."
"That will never happen."
Thomas considered the ash at the end of his cigar. He held it out to the wind and watched the wind eat the ash until the flame glowed underneath. He waited until it had turned from blue to red before he spoke again.