Isaiah took his customary seat by the hearth. "I expect the rioting is near over."
"I certainly hope so." Yvette folded the paper and placed it on the side table. She smoothed her dress against her knees. "Luther, would you pour me a cup of tea?"
Luther crossed to the tea service on the sideboard and placed a cube of sugar and spoonful of milk in the cup before adding the tea. He put the cup in its saucer and carried it to Mrs. Giddreaux. She thanked him with a smile and a nod.
"Where were you?" she said.
"We were upstairs."
"Not now." She took a sip of tea. "During the grand opening. The ribbon cutting."
Luther went back to the sideboard and poured another cup of tea. "Mr. Giddreaux?"
Isaiah held up a hand. "Thank you, but no, I'm fine, son."
Luther nodded and added a cube of sugar and sat across from Mrs. Giddreaux. "I got hung up. I'm sorry."
She said, "That big policeman, oh, he was mad. It was as if he knew exactly where to look. And yet, he found nothing at all."
"Strange," Luther said.
Mrs. Giddreaux took another sip of tea. "How lucky for us." "I guess that's how it turned out."
"And now you're off to Tulsa."
"It's where my wife and son are, ma'am. You know if there was any lesser reason, I'd never be going."
She smiled and looked down at her knees. "Maybe you'll write." That damn near broke Luther, damn near brought him to his knees. "Ma'am, you surely know that I will write. You surely must know that." She gathered up his soul in her beautiful eyes. "You do that, my son. You do that."
When she looked back at her knees, Luther met Isaiah's gaze. He nodded at the great old man. "If I may impose . . ."
Mrs. Giddreaux looked back up.
"I still have a bit a business to clear up with those white friends I made."
"What sort of business?"
"A proper good- bye," Luther said. "If I could stay one or two more nights, it sure would make things easier."
She leaned forward in her chair. "Are you patronizing an old woman, Luther?"
She pointed a finger and wagged it slowly. "Butter wouldn't melt in your mouth."
"Might could," Luther said. "Depends if it got some of your roast chicken attached to it, ma'am."
"Is that the trick?"
"I believe it is."
Mrs. Giddreaux stood and smoothed her skirt. She turned toward the kitchen. "I have potatoes need peeling and beans need washing, young man. Don't be tarrying."
Luther followed her out of the room. "Wouldn't dream of it."
It was sundown when the mobs returned to the streets. In some sections--South Boston and Charlestown--it was the same random mayhem, but in other areas, particularly Roxbury and the South End, it had developed a po liti cal tenor. When Andrew Peters heard about this, he had Horace Russell drive him over to Columbus Avenue. General Cole didn't want him to leave without a military escort, but Peters convinced him he'd be fine. He'd been doing it all last night and it was a lot easier with one car than three.
Horace Russell stopped the car at Arlington and Columbus. The mob was a block farther down, and Peters stepped out of the car and walked half a block. Along the way he passed three barrels fi lled with pitch, upended torches sticking out of them. The sight of them--the sense they gave of the medieval--stoked his dread.
The signs were worse. Whereas the few he'd seen last night were mostly crude variations on either FUCK THE POLICE or FUCK THE SCABS, these new ones had been carefully prepared in red lettering as bright as fresh blood. Several were in Rus sian, but the rest were clear enough: revolution now! end the tyranny of the state! death to capitalism! death to slave drivers! overthrow the capitalist monarchy!
. . . and the one Mayor Andrew J. Peters liked least of all . . .
BURN, BOSTON, BURN!
He hurried back to the car and told Horace Russell to drive straight to General Cole.
General Cole took the news with a knowing nod. "We've received reports that the mob in Scollay Square is also growing political.
South Boston is already bursting at the seams. I don't think they'll be able to hold them back with forty policemen, as they did last night. I'm sending volunteers to both areas to see if they can quell the disturbance. Barring that they're to report back with specifics about crowd size and the depth of the Bolshevik infl uence."
" 'Burn, Boston, burn,' " Peters whispered.
"It won't come to that, Mr. Mayor, I assure you. Why, the entire Harvard football team is now armed and standing by for orders. Those are fine young men. And I'm in constant contact with Major Sullivan and the State Guard Command. They're just around the corner, sir, standing at the ready."
Peters nodded, taking comfort in that, however small. Four full regiments plus a machine-gun unit and the motor and ambulance corps.
"I'll check in with Major Sullivan now," Peters said.
"Careful out there, Mr. Mayor. Dusk is near upon us."
Peters left the office that just yesterday had been occupied by Edwin Curtis. He walked up the hill to the State House, and his heart leapt at the sight of them--my god, an army! Under the grand archway at the back of the building, the First Cavalry Troop paraded their horses back and forth in a steady stream, the clop of the hooves sounding like muffled gunshots against the cobblestones. On the front lawns facing Beacon Street, the Twelfth and Fifteenth Regiments stood at parade rest. Across the street, at the top of the Common, the Tenth and Eleventh stood at full attention. If Peters had never wanted it to come to this, he could nevertheless be forgiven for the swell of pride the sight of the Commonwealth's might birthed in him. This was the antithesis of the mob. This was calculated force, beholden to the rule of law, capable of restraint and violence in equal measure. This was the fist beneath the velvet glove of democracy, and it was gorgeous.
He accepted their salutes as he passed through them and up the front steps of the State House. His body felt utterly weightless by the time he passed through the great marble hall and was directed to Major Sullivan in the back with the First Cavalry. Major Sullivan had set up his command post under the archway, and the telephones and field radios on the long table in front of him were ringing at a furious pace. Officers answered them and scribbled on paper and handed the papers to Major Sullivan, who took note of the mayor as he approached, and then went back to scanning his latest dispatch.