"But then," Danny said, seeing hope for the first time on this black day, "they'll see that it's a ruse, that I'm just a token symbol of impartiality, and they'll--"
"You idiot," his father said, and Danny heard the thump of his heels as they came off the edge of his desk. "You idiot. The press will get curious, Aiden. They'll dig. And fairly quickly they'll unearth the fact that you are the son of a precinct captain. And they'll spend a day talking about that before they decide to investigate further, and sooner or later, one honest scribe will run into one seemingly innocuous desk sergeant who mentions, quite casually, something along the lines of 'the incident.' And the reporter will say, 'What incident?' To which the desk sergeant will respond, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' Then that reporter will really dig, my boy. And we all know that your recent affairs will stand up dimly to scrutiny. Curtis designated you the staked goat, son, and the beasts in the woods have already started sniffing your scent."
"So what's this idiot supposed to do, Dad?"
"Can't do that."
"Yes, you can. You just don't see the angles yet. The opportunity will come, I promise. They're not as afraid of your union as you think, but they are, trust me, afraid. Use that. They will never yield, Aiden, on the affiliation with the AF of L. They can't. But if you play that chip correctly, they will yield on other issues."
"Dad, if we give up the AFL affiliation we'll have corrupted everything we--"
"Take what you will from my musings," his father said. "Good night, son, and the gods be with you."
Mayor Andrew J. Peters believed implicitly in the primacy of a single principle: Things had a way of working themselves out.
So many men wasted so much valuable time and energy placing faith in the canard that they could control their destinies when, in fact, the world would continue to entangle and disentangle itself whether they were part of it or not. Why, one just had to look back at that terrible foreign war to see the folly of making rash decisions. Any decisions, really. Think, Andrew Peters would say to Starr on late afternoons like these, what a different outcome would have been accomplished if, after the death of Franz Ferdinand, the Austrians had refrained from rattling their sabers and the Serbians had done the same. Think, too, how pointless it was for Gavrilo Princip, that hopeless fool, to assassinate the archduke in the first place. Just think! All those lives lost, all that earth scorched, and to what end? If cooler heads had prevailed, if men had had the temperance to refrain from acting until their countrymen forgot all about it and went on to other thoughts and other things? What a nice world we'd have today.
For it was the war that had poisoned so many young men's minds with thoughts of self- determination. This summer, colored men who'd fought overseas had been the main agitators behind the civil disorder that had resulted in the slaughter of their own people in Washington, Omaha, and most terribly in Chicago. Not that Peters was justifying the behavior of the whites who had killed them. Hardly. But you could see how it had happened, the coloreds trying to upset the applecart like that. People didn't like change. They didn't want to be upset. They wanted cool drinks on hot days and their meals served on time.
"Self-determination," he muttered on the deck as Starr, lying beside him, tummy down on a chaise, stirred slightly.
"What's that, Poppa?"
He leaned over from his own chaise and kissed her shoulder and considered unbuttoning his trousers. But the clouds were massing and the sky was low and the sea had darkened, as if from wine and grief.
Starr closed her eyes. A beautiful child. Beautiful! Cheeks that reminded him of apples so ripe they might burst. An ass to match. And everything in between so lush and firm that Andrew J. Peters, mayor of the great city of Boston, occasionally imagined himself an ancient Greek or Roman when he was inside her. Starr Faithful--what an apt name. His lover, his cousin. Fourteen years old this summer, and yet more mature and lascivious than Martha would ever be.
She lay nude before him, Edenic, and when the first raindrop hit her spine and splattered, he removed his boater and placed it on her ass and she giggled and said she liked rain. She turned her head and reached for his waistband and said, in point of fact, she loved rain. In that moment, he saw something as dark and stricken as the sea pass through her eyes. A thought. No, more than a thought, a doubt. It unsettled him--she was not supposed to feel doubt; the concubines of Roman emperors, he was reasonably sure, hadn't--and as he allowed her to unbuckle his belt, he felt visited by an ill-defined but acute sense of loss. His pants fell to his ankles and he decided it might be best to get back to the city and see if he could talk some sense into everyone.
He looked out at the sea. So endless. He said, "I am the mayor, after all."
Starr smiled up at him. "I know you are, Poppa, and you're the bestus at it."
The hearing for the nineteen suspended officers occurred on the twenty- sixth of August in the Pemberton Square office of Police Commissioner Curtis. Danny was in attendance, as was Curtis's right-hand man, Herbert Parker. Clarence Rowley and James Vahey stood before Curtis as the attorneys-of-record for all nineteen defendants. One reporter each from the Globe, Transcript, Herald, and the Standard was allowed inside. And that was it. In previous administrations, three captains and the commissioner made up the trial board, but under Curtis's regime, Curtis himself was the sole judge.
"You will note," Curtis said to the reporters, "that I have allowed the one nonsuspended offi cer of the illegal AF of L policemen's union to attend so that no one can claim this 'union' was underrepresented. You will also note that the defendants are represented by two esteemed counsel, Mr. Vahey and Mr. Rowley, both with prodigious experience representing the interests of labor. I have brought no counsel on my behalf."
"With all due respect, Commissioner," Danny said, "you're not on trial, sir."
One of the reporters nodded furiously at the comment and scribbled on his notepad. Curtis flicked a pair of dead eyes at Danny and then looked out at the nineteen men seated before him in rickety wooden chairs.
"You men have been charged with dereliction of duty, the worst offense a peace officer can commit. You have, more specifi cally, been charged with violation of Rule Thirty-five of the Boston Police Code of Conduct, which states that no officer may affiliate with any organization that is not part of the Boston Police Department."
Clarence Rowley said, "By that yardstick, Commissioner, none of these men could belong to a veterans' group, say, or the Fraternal Order of Elks."