Thomas waved it off and nodded at the same time. He closed his eyes for a moment and squatted by his oldest friend. He could see them as boys, filthy from their sea passage, as they ran from their captors. It had been Eddie who had picked the locks that had bound them to the galley sink. He'd done it on the last night, and when their jailers, two crewmen named Laurette and Rivers, came looking for them in the morning, they'd already insinuated themselves among the throngs in steerage. By the time Laurette spotted them and began pointing and shouting, the gangplank had been lowered and Tommy Coughlin and Eddie McKenna ran at top speed through a gauntlet of legs and bags and heavy crates that swung through the air. They dodged shipmen and customs men and policemen and the shrill whistles that repeatedly blew for them. As if in welcome. As if to say, This country is yours, boys, all yours, but you have to grab it.
Thomas looked over his shoulder at Gleason. "Leave us, Detective."
Once Gleason's footsteps had left the alley, Thomas took Eddie's right hand in his. He looked at the scars on the knuckles, the missing flesh on the tip of the middle finger, courtesy of a knife fight in an alley back in '03. He raised his friend's hand to his lips and kissed it. He held on tightly and placed his cheek to it.
"We grabbed it, Eddie. Didn't we?" He closed his eyes and bit into his lower lip for a moment.
He opened his eyes. He put his free hand to Eddie's face and used his thumb to close the lids.
"Ah, we did, boy. We surely did." chapter thirty-six Five minutes before the roll call of every shift, George Strivakis, the duty sergeant at the Oh-One station house on Hanover Street, rang a gong that hung just outside the station house door to let the men know it was time to report. When he opened the door late in the afternoon of Tuesday, September 9, he ignored a small hitch in his step as his eyes took note of the crowd gathered on the street. Only after he had rung the gong, giving it several hard hits from his metal rod, did he raise his head fully and take in the breadth of the mob.
There had to be at least five hundred people in front of him. The back edges of the throng continued to swell as men, women, and street urchins streamed in from the side streets. The roofs on the other side of Hanover fi lled, mostly kids up there, a few older ones who had the coal-pebble eyes of gang members. What immediately struck Sergeant George Strivakis was the quiet. Except for the scuffling of feet, the stray jangling of keys or coins, no one said a word. The energy, though, lived in their eyes. To a man, woman, and child they all bore the same pinned- back charge, the look of street dogs at sundown on the night of a full moon.
George Strivakis withdrew his gaze from the back of the crowd and settled on the men up front. Jesus. Coppers all. In civilian dress. He rang the gong again and then broke the silence with a hoarse shout: "Offi cers, report!"
It was Danny Coughlin who stepped forward. He walked up the steps and snapped a salute. Strivakis returned the salute. He'd always liked Danny, had long known he lacked the political touch to rise to a captaincy but had secretly hoped he'd become chief inspector one day like Crowley. Something shriveled in him as he considered this young man of such evident promise about to engage in mutiny.
"Don't do it, son," he whispered.
Danny's eyes fixed on a spot just beyond Strivakis's right shoulder. "Sergeant," he said, "the Boston police are on strike."
With that, the silence shattered in a roar of cheers and hats thrown high in the air.
The strikers entered the station and filed downstairs to the property room. Captain Hoffman had added four extra men to the desk, and the strikers took their turns and handed in their department-issued property.
Danny stood before Sergeant Mal Ellenburg, whose distinguished career hadn't been able to surmount his German ancestry during the war years. Down here since '16, he'd become a house cat, the kind of cop who often forgot where he'd left his revolver.
Danny placed his own revolver on the counter between them, and Mal noted it on his clipboard before dropping it in a bin below. Danny followed the revolver with his department manual, hat number plate, call box and locker keys, and pocket billy. Mal noted it all and swept it away into various bins. He looked up at Danny and waited.
Danny looked back at him.
Mal held out his hand.
Danny stared into his face.
Mal closed his hand and opened it again.
"You gotta ask for it, Mal."
Danny gritted his teeth to keep his mouth from trembling.
Mal looked away for a moment. When he looked back, he propped his elbow on the counter and flipped his palm open in front of Danny's chest.
"Please turn over your shield, Offi cer Coughlin."
Danny pulled back his jacket and exposed the badge pinned to his shirt. He unhooked the shield from its pin and slid the pin out of his shirt. He placed the pin back behind the hook and placed the shield in Mal Ellenburg's palm.
"I'm coming back for that," Danny said.
The strikers assembled in the foyer. They could hear the crowd outside and by the volume Danny assumed it had doubled. Something rammed into the door twice and then the door was flung open and ten men pushed their way inside and slammed the door shut behind them. They were young mostly, a few older men who looked like they had the war in their eyes, and they'd been pelted with fruit and eggs.
Replacements. Volunteers. Scabs.
Danny placed the back of his hand on Kevin McRae's chest to let him know the men should be allowed to pass unmolested and unremarked, and the strikers made a path as the replacements walked between them and up the stairs into the station.
Outside, the sound of the mob rattled and shook like a storm wind.
Inside, the snap of gun slides being racked in the fi rst-fl oor weapons room. Handing out the riot guns, readying for a tussle.
Danny took a long, slow breath and opened the door.
The noise blew up from all sides and blew down from the rooftops. The crowd hadn't doubled; it had tripled. Easily fifteen hundred people out here, and it was hard to tell from the faces who was for them and who was against because those faces had turned into grotesque masks of either glee or fury, and the shouts of "We love ya, boys!" were 6intermingled with "Fuck you, coppers!" and wails of "Why? Why?" and "Who will protect us?" The applause would have been deafening if it weren't for the jeers and the projectiles of fruit and eggs, most of which splattered against the wall. A horn beeped insistently, and Danny could make out a truck just beyond the fringe of the crowd. The men in back were replacements by the look of them, because the look of them was scared. As he descended into it, Danny scanned the crowd as best he could, saw some crudely fashioned signs of both support and condemnation. The faces were Italian and Irish and young and old. Bolsheviks and anarchists mingled with several smug faces of the Black Hand. Not far from them, Danny recognized a few members of the Gusties, the largest street gang in Boston. If this was Southie, the Gusties' home turf, it wouldn't have been surprising, but the fact that they'd crossed the city and spread their ranks made Danny wonder if he could honestly answer the shouts of "Who will protect us?" with anything but "I don't know."