Sergeant Eigen watched him buckle the gun belt. "I'd say so, Cap'."
Thomas reached for the bottom left drawer of his overturned desk. He lifted the drawer out and propped it on the two upper drawers. He removed a box of .32 shells and stuffed it in his pocket. Found a box of shotgun shells and placed them in the opposite pocket. He looked up at Sergeant Eigen. "Why are you still here?"
"Assemble every man still standing in this mausoleum. We've got a donnybrook to attend." Thomas raised his eyebrows. "And we shan't be fooling about in that regard, Sergeant."
Eigen snapped him a salute, a smile blowing wide across his face. Thomas found himself smiling back as he pulled his shotgun off the rack over the file cabinet. "Hop to it now, son."
Eigen ran from the doorway as Thomas loaded his shotgun, loving the snick-snick of the shells sliding into the magazine. The sound of it returned his soul to his body for the first time since the walkout at five-forty-five. On the floor lay a picture of Danny the day he'd graduated from the Academy, Thomas himself pinning the badge to his chest. His favorite photograph.
He stepped on it on his way out the door, unable to deny the satisfaction that filled him when he heard the glass crunch.
"You don't want to protect our city, boy?" he said. "Fine. I will."
When they exited the patrol cars at St. Augustine's, the crowd turned toward them. Thomas could see the Metro Park cops trying to hold the mob back with billy clubs and drawn weapons, but they were already bloody, and the piles of rocks littering the white limestone steps gave testament to a pitched battle these coppers had been losing.
What Thomas knew about a mob was simple enough--any change in direction forced it to lose its voice if only for a matter of seconds. If you owned those seconds, you owned the mob. If they owned it, they owned you.
He stepped out of his car and the man nearest him, a Gustie who went by the moniker of Filching Phil Scanlon, laughed and said, "Well, Captain Cough--"
Thomas split his face to the bone with the butt of his shotgun. Filching Phil dropped like a head-shot horse. Thomas laid the muzzle of his shotgun on the shoulder of the Gustie behind him, Big Head Sparks. Thomas tilted the muzzle toward the sky and fired and Big Head lost the hearing in his left ear. Big Head Sparks wavered, his eyes instantly glazed, and Thomas said to Eigen, "Do the honors, Sergeant."
Eigen hit Big Head Sparks in the face with his service revolver, and that was the last of Big Head for the night.
Thomas pointed his shotgun at the ground and fi red.
The mob backed up.
"I'm Captain Thomas Coughlin," he called and stomped his foot down on Filching Phil's knee. He didn't get the sound he'd been after, so he did it again. This time he got the sweet crack of bone followed by the predictable shriek. He waved his arm and the eleven men he'd been able to pull together spread along the fringe of the crowd.
"I'm Captain Thomas Coughlin," he repeated, "and be of no illusion-- we intend to spill blood." He swept his eyes across the faces in the mob. "Your blood." He turned to the Metro Park Police officers on the stairs of the church. There were ten of them, and they seemed to have shrunk into themselves. "Level your weapons or stop calling yourselves officers of the law."
The crowd took another step back as the Metro Park cops extended their arms.
"Cock them!" Thomas shouted.
They did, and the crowd took several more steps back.
"If I see anyone holding a rock," Thomas called, "we shoot to kill."
He took five steps forward, the shotgun coming to rest on the chest of a man with a rock in his hand. The man dropped the rock and then urinated down his left leg. Thomas considered mercy and quickly deemed it inappropriate for the atmosphere. He opened the urinator's forehead with his shotgun butt and stepped over him.
"Run, you wretched curs." He swept his eyes across them. "RUN!" No one moved--they looked too shocked--and Thomas turned to Eigen, to the men on the fringe, to the Metro Park cops.
"Fire at will."
The Metro Park cops stared back at him.
Thomas rolled his eyes. He drew his service revolver, raised it above his head, and fired six times.
The men got the point. They began to discharge their weapons into the air and the crowd exploded like drops from a shattered water bucket. They ran up the street. They ran and ran, darting into alleys and down side streets, banging off overturned cars, falling to the sidewalk, stomping on one another, hurling themselves into storefronts and landing on the broken glass they'd created only an hour before.
Thomas flicked his wrist and emptied his shell casings onto the street. He laid the shotgun at his feet and reloaded his service revolver. The air was sharp with cordite and the echoes of gunfire. The mob continued its desperate flight. Thomas holstered his revolver and reloaded his shotgun. The long summer of impotence and confusion faded from his heart. He felt twenty-five years old.
Tires squealed behind him. Thomas turned as one black Buick and four patrol cars pulled to a stop as a soft rain began to fall. Superintendent Michael Crowley exited the Buick. He carried his own shotgun and wore his service revolver in a shoulder holster. He sported a fresh bandage on his forehead, and his fine dark suit was splattered with egg yolk and bits of shell.
Thomas smiled at him and Crowley gave him a tired smile in return.
"Time for a little law and order, wouldn't you say, Captain?" "Indeed, Superintendent."
They walked up the center of the street as the rest of the men dropped in behind them.
"Like the old days, Tommy, eh?" Crowley said as they started to make out the outer edge of a fresh mob concentrated in Andrew Square two blocks ahead.
"Just what I was thinking, Michael."
"And when we clear them here?"
When we clear them. Not if. Thomas loved it.
"We take Broadway back."
Crowley clapped a hand on Thomas's shoulder.
"Ah, how I missed this."
"Me, too, Michael. Me, too."
Mayor Peters's chauffeur, Horace Russell, glided the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost along the fringes of the trouble, never once entering a street so strewn with debris or the throngs that they would have been hard-pressed to get back out again. And so, while the populace rioted, its mayor observed them from a remove, but not so much of a remove that he couldn't hear their terrible war cries, their shrieks and high-pitched laughter, the shock of sudden gunfire, the incessant shattering of glass.
Once he'd toured Scollay Square, he thought he'd seen the worst of it, but then he saw the North End, and not long thereafter, South Boston. He realized that nightmares so bad he'd never dared dream them had come to fruition.