"Even the quietest dog, right?"
"Them most of all." Luther smiled. "What brought you all the way up here, Byron?"
"Brother," Old Byron said. "Got the cancer. Eating him alive." Luther looked over at him, saw the weight of it pulling his shoulders down.
"He got a chance?"
Old Byron shook his head. "It's in his bones."
Luther put a hand on the old man's back. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you, son."
"He in hospital?"
Old Byron shook his head. "Home." He jerked a thumb off to his left. "West End."
"You his only kin?"
"Got a sister. She in Texarkana. She too frail to travel."
Luther didn't know what else to say so he said "I'm sorry" again, and Old Byron shrugged.
"What you gone do, am I right?"
Off to their left someone screamed and Luther saw a woman with a bloody nose, her face clenched, as if expecting another punch from the man who ripped her necklace off and then ran toward the Common. Someone laughed. A kid shimmied up a streetlamp pole, pulled a hammer from his belt, and smashed the lamp.
"This getting thick with ugly," Old Byron said.
"Yeah, it is." Luther thought of turning around, since most of the crowd seemed to be moving toward Court Square and then Scollay Square beyond, but when he looked behind him, he couldn't see any space. All he could see were shoulders and heads, a pack of drunk sailors in the mix now, red- eyed and pimple-faced. A moving wall, pushing them forward. Luther felt bad for leading Old Byron into this, for suspecting him, if only for a moment, of being anything but an old man who was losing his brother. He craned his neck above the crowd to see if he could find a way out for them, and just ahead, at the corner of City Hall Avenue, a group of men hurled rocks into the window of Big Chief's Cigar Store, the sound of it like a half dozen rifl e reports. The plate glass broke into fins that hung in place for a moment, creaking in the moist breeze, and then they dropped.
A piece of glass ricocheted into a small guy's eye and he had time to reach for it before the crowd swarmed over him and into the cigar store. Those who couldn't make it inside broke the window next door, this one to a bakery, and loaves of bread and cupcakes sailed overhead and fell into the midst of the mob.
Old Byron looked frightened, his eyes wide, and Luther put an arm around him and tried to calm the old man's fear with idle talk. "What's your brother's name?"
Old Byron cocked his head like he didn't understand the question. "I said what's--?"
"Carnell," Old Byron said. "Yeah." He gave Luther a shaky smile and nodded. "His name's Carnell."
Luther smiled back. He hoped it was a comforting smile, and he kept his arm around Old Byron, even though he feared the blade or the pistol he now knew the man had on his person somewhere.
It was the "Yeah" that got him. The way Old Byron said it like he was confirming it to himself, answering a question on a test he'd over-prepared for.
Another window exploded, this time on their right. And then another. A fat white man pushed them hard to the left as he made his charge for Peter Rabbit Hats. The windows kept dropping--Sal Myer's Gents' Furnishings, Lewis Shoes, the Princeton Clothing Company, Drake's Dry Goods. Sharp, dry explosions. Glass glittering against the walls, crunching underfoot, spitting through the air. A few feet ahead of them, a soldier swung a chair leg into the head of a sailor, the wood already dark with blood.
Carnell. Yeah. His name's Carnell.
Luther removed his arm from Old Byron's shoulders.
"What's Cornell do for work?" Luther said as a sailor with arms slashed to bits by a window pushed through them, bleeding all over everything he touched.
"Luther, we got to get out of here."
"What's Cornell do?" Luther said.
"He a meat packer," Old Byron said.
"Cornell's a meat packer."
"Yeah," Old Byron shouted. "Luther, we got to get free of this." "Thought you said his name was Carnell," Luther said.
Old Byron's mouth opened but he didn't say anything. He gave Luther a helpless, hopeless look, his lips moving slightly as he tried to fi nd the words.
Luther shook his head slowly. "Old Byron," he said. "Old Byron."
"I can explain." Old Byron worked a sad smile onto his face.
Luther nodded, as if ready to listen, and then shoved him into the nearest group to his right and quick-pivoted between two men who looked whiter than white and scareder than scared. He slid between two more men with their backs to each other. Someone broke another window, and then a few someones began firing guns in the air. One of the bullets came back down and hit the arm of a guy beside Luther and the blood spouted and the guy yelped. Luther reached the opposite sidewalk and slipped on some glass pebbles. He almost went down, but he righted himself at the last second and risked a look back across the street. He spotted Old Byron, his back pressed to a brick wall, eyes darting, as a man wrestled the carcass of a sow over a butcher's window frame, the sow's belly dragging across the broken glass. The man wrenched it to the sidewalk where he took several punches to the head from three men who kept swinging until they'd knocked him back through the open window. They availed themselves of his bloodied sow and carried it over their heads down Tremont.
Carnell, my ass.
Luther walked gingerly through the glass and tried to keep to the edge of the crowd, but within minutes he'd been forced toward the center again. It was no longer a group of people, it was a living, think--
ing hive that commanded the bees within, made sure they were all anxious and jangly and hungry. Luther pulled his hat down tighter and kept his head down.
Dozens of people, all cut up from the glass, keened and moaned. The sight and sound of them incited the hive even more. Anyone wearing a straw hat had it wrenched from his head and men beat the shit out of one another over stolen shoes and bread loaves and suit jackets, most times destroying the very thing they tried to possess. The packs of sailors and the soldiers were roving enemy squads, bursting out of the herd in sudden explosions to pummel their rivals. Luther saw a woman pushed into a doorway, saw several men press around her. He heard her scream but he couldn't get anywhere near her, the walls of shoulders and heads and torsos moving alongside of him like freight cars in the stockyards. He heard the woman scream again and the men laugh and hoot, and he looked out at this hideous sea of white faces stripped of their everyday masks and wanted to burn them all in a great fire.