By the time they reached Scollay Square, there had to be four thousand of them. Tremont widened here and Luther finally broke from the center again, made his way to the sidewalk, heard someone say, "Nigger got his own hat," and kept moving until he ran into another wall of men pouring out of a shattered liquor store, draining the bottles and smashing them to the sidewalk and then opening replacements. Some inbred-looking short sons of bitches kicked down the doors of Waldron's Casino, and Luther heard the burlesque show in there screech to an end. Several of the men came right back out pushing a piano in front of them, the piano player lying belly-down on top, one of the short sons of bitches sitting on his ass and riding him like a horse.
He turned to his right and Old Byron Jackson stabbed him in the bicep. Luther fell back against the wall of Waldron's Casino. Old Byron swung with that knife again, the old man's face a feral, terrifi ed thing. Luther kicked out at him, then came off the wall as Old Byron lunged and missed, the knife sending a spark off the brick. Luther cuffed him in the ear but good, bounced the other side of his head off the wall.
"The fuck you doing this for?" he said.
"Got debts," Old Byron said and came at him in a low rush.
Luther banged into someone's back as he dodged the thrust. The man he'd bumped grabbed his shirt and spun him to face him. Luther jerked out of the man's grasp and kicked behind him, heard the kick connect with some part of Old Byron Jackson, the old man letting out an "oof" of air. The white man punched him in the cheek, but Luther had expected that and he rolled with it right into the crowd still dancing out in front of the liquor store. He broke through them and leapt up onto the piano keys, heard a smattering of cheers break out as he vaulted off the keys and over the piano player and the man riding him. He landed on the other side and kept his footing and got a quick glimpse of a guy's shock at this nigger dropping out of the sky and then he pushed into the crowd.
The mob moved on. They poured through Faneuil Hall, and some cows were set loose from their pens, and someone overturned a produce cart and lit it on fire in front of its owner, who dropped to his knees and pulled his hair out of his bleeding scalp by the roots. Up ahead, a sudden burst of gunfire, several pistols fired above the crowd, and then a desperate shout: "We are plainclothes police offi cers! Cease and desist at once."
More warning shots and then the crowd started shouting back. "Kill the cops! Kill the cops!"
"Kill the scabs!"
"Kill the cops!"
"Kill the scabs!"
"Kill the cops!"
"Back off or we will shoot to kill! Back off!"
They must have meant it because Luther felt the surge change direction and he was spun in place and the swarm moved back the way it had come. More shots fired. Another cart lit afire, the yellow and red reflecting off the bronze cobblestone and the red brick, Luther catch--
ing his own shadow moving through the colors along with all the other shadows. Shrieking that filled the sky. A crack of bone, a sharp scream, a thunderclap of plate glass, fire alarms ringing so consistently that Luther barely heard them anymore.
And then the rain came, a fat pouring of it, clattering and hissing, steaming off bare heads. At first Luther held out hope it would thin the crowd, but if anything it brought more of them. Luther was buffeted along within the hive as it destroyed ten more storefronts, three restaurants, rushed through a boxing match at Beech Hall and beat the fi ghters senseless. Beat the audience, too.
Along Washington Street, the major department stores--Filene's, White's, Chandler's, and Jordan Marsh--had loaded up for bear. The guys guarding Jordan Marsh saw them coming from two blocks away and stepped off the sidewalk with pistols and shotguns. They didn't even wait for a debate. They set themselves in the middle of Washington Street, fifteen of them at least, and fired. The hive went into a crouch and then took another couple of steps forward, but the Jordan Marsh men charged them, guns booming and chucking, and the surge reversed again. Luther heard terror screams and the Jordan Marsh men kept firing and the hive ran all the way back to Scollay Square.
Which was an uncaged zoo by now. Everyone drunk and howling up at the raindrops. Dazed burlesque girls stripped of their tassels wandering around with bare chests. Overturned touring cars and bonfi res along the sidewalk. Headstones ripped from the Old Granary Burying Ground and propped up against walls and fences. Two people fucking on top of an overturned Model T. Two men in a bare-knuckle boxing match in the middle of Tremont Street while the bettors formed a ring around them and the blood and rain- streaked glass crunched under their feet. Four soldiers dragged an unconscious sailor to the bumper of one of the flipped cars and pissed on him as the crowd cheered. A woman appeared in an upper window and screamed for help. The crowd cheered her, too, before a hand clamped over her face and wrenched her back from the window. The crowd cheered some more.
Luther noticed the dark bloodstain on his upper sleeve and took a look at the wound long enough to realize it wasn't deep. He noticed a guy passed out against the curb with a bottle of whiskey between his legs and he reached down and took the bottle. He poured some over his arm and then drank some and watched another window explode and heard more screams and wails but all of them eventually drowned out by the leering cheers of this triumphant hive.
This? he wanted to scream. This is what I kowtowed to? You people? You made me feel like less because I wasn't you? I've been saying "yes, suh" to you? "No suh"? To you? To you fucking . . . animals?
He took another drink and the sweep of his gaze landed on Old Byron Jackson across the street, standing in front of a whitewashed storefront, what had once been a bookstore, several years abandoned. Maybe the last window left in Scollay Square. Old Byron looked down Tremont in the wrong direction, and Luther tilted his head and drained the bottle and dropped it to his feet and started across the street.
Glazed, white, maskless faces loomed all around him, drunk from liquor, drunk on power and anarchy, but drunk on something else, too, something nameless until now, something they'd always known was there but pretended they didn't.
That's all it was. They did things in their everyday life and gave it other names, nice names--idealism, civic duty, honor, purpose. But the truth was right in front of them now. No one did anything for any other reason but that they wanted to. They wanted to rage and they wanted to rape and they wanted to destroy as many things as they could destroy simply because those things could be destroyed.
Fuck you, Luther thought, and fuck this. He reached Old Byron Jackson and sank one hand into his crotch and the other into his hair.