"We'll meet at the bridge at twenty-two hundred, Captain. You think that gives you enough time to push them toward my net?"
"I was just waiting on your orders, General."
"Well, now you have them, Captain. See you soon."
He hung up and Thomas rang Sergeant Eigen's desk. When he answered, Thomas said, "Assemble the men immediately," and hung up. He called Captain Morton. "You ready, Vincent?"
"Ready and willing, Thomas."
"We'll send 'em your way."
"Looking forward to it," Morton said.
"See you at the bridge."
"See you at the bridge."
Thomas performed the same ritual he had the previous night, donning his holster, filling his pockets with shells, loading his Remington. Then he walked out of his office into the roll call room.
They were all assembled--his men, the Metro Park cops from last night, and sixty-six volunteers. These last gave him momentary pause. It wasn't the aged war veterans he was worried about, it was the young pups, particularly the Harvard contingent. He didn't like their eyes, the way they swam with the light of those on a lark, a fraternity prank. There were two sitting on a table in the back who kept whispering and chuckling as he explained their orders.
". . . and when we enter West Broadway, we'll be coming up on their flank. We will form a line stretching from one side of the street to the other and we will not break that line. We will push them west, always west, toward the bridge. Don't get caught up trying to push every single body. Some will remain behind. As long as they pose no direct threat, leave them. Just keep pushing."
One of the Harvard footballers nudged the other and they both guffawed.
Thomas stepped off the rostrum and continued talking as he worked his way through the men. "If you are hit with projectiles, ignore them. Just keep pushing. If we receive fire, I will give the order to fire back. Only me. You are not to return fire until you hear my order."
The Harvard boys watched him come with bright smiles on their faces.
"When we reach D Street," Thomas said, "we will be joined by the men of the Sixth Precinct. There we will form a pincer and funnel what's left of the mob straight at the Broadway Bridge. At that point, we will leave no stragglers behind. Everyone comes along for the ride."
He reached the Harvard boys. They raised their eyebrows at him. One was blond and blue-eyed and the other brown-haired and bespectacled, his forehead splattered with acne. Their friends sat along the back wall with them and watched to see what would happen.
Thomas asked the blond one, "What's your name, son?" "Chas Hudson, Cap'n."
"And your friend?"
"Benjamin Lorne," the brown-haired one said. "I'm right here." Thomas nodded at him and turned back to Chas. "You know what happens, son, when you don't take a battle seriously?"
Chas rolled his eyes. "Guess you'll be telling me, Cap'n."
Thomas slapped Benjamin Lorne in the face so hard he fell off the table and his glasses fl ew into the back row. He stayed down there, on his knees, as blood dribbled from his mouth.
Chas opened his mouth but Thomas cut off anything he might have said by squeezing his hand over his jaw. "What happens, son, is that the man next to you usually gets hurt." Thomas looked over at Chas's Harvard buddies as Chas gurgled. "You are officers of the law tonight. Understood?"
He got eight nods in return.
He turned his attention back to Chas. "I don't care who your family is, son. If you make a mistake tonight? I will shoot you in the heart." He pushed him back against the wall and let go of his chin. Thomas turned back to the rest of the men. "Further questions?"
Everything went fine until they reached F Street. They were hit with eggs and they were hit with stones, but for the most part the mob moved steadily up West Broadway. When one didn't, he was hit with a billy club and the message was received and the mob moved again. Several dropped their rifles to the sidewalk and the cops and volunteers scooped them up as they continued forward. After five blocks, they were carrying an extra rifle per man and Thomas had them stop long enough to remove the bullets. The crowd stopped as well and Thomas found several faces who might have been making designs on those rifles, so he ordered the men to smash them against the pavement. The sight of that got the crowd moving again, and moving smoothly, and Thomas began to feel the same confi dence he'd felt last night when he'd swept Andrew Square with Crowley.
At F Street, however, they ran into the radicalized section--the sign holders, the rhetoric spouters, the Bolsheviks, and the anarchists. Several were fighters, and a melee broke out on the corner of F and Broadway as a dozen volunteers taking up the rear were outflanked and then set upon by the godless subversives. They used pipes mostly, but then Thomas spotted a heavily bearded fella raising a pistol and he drew his own revolver, took one step forward, and shot the man.
The slug hit him high in the shoulder and he spun and dropped. Thomas pointed his revolver at the man who'd been standing next to him as the rest of the Bolshies froze. Thomas looked at his men as they fanned out beside him and he said one word:
The rifle barrels came up in one swift line, as if choreographed, and the Bolshies turned and ran for their lives. Several of the volunteers were cut and bleeding, but none critically, and Thomas gave them a minute to check themselves for more serious damage as Sergeant Eigen checked on the man Thomas had shot.
"He'll live, Cap'."
Thomas nodded. "Then leave him where he lies."
From there they faced no further challenge as they walked the next two blocks and the crowd ran before them. The logjam started when they reached D Street, home of the Sixth Precinct. Captain Morton and his men had pushed from the sides and now the entire crowd was jammed and milling between D Street and A, just short of the Broadway Bridge. Thomas saw Morton himself on the north side of Broadway, and when their eyes met Thomas pointed to the south side and Morton nodded. Thomas and his men fanned out along the south side of the street while Morton's men took the north and now they very much did push. They pushed hard. They formed a fence out of their rifles and used that steel and their own fury and fear to manhandle the entire herd forward, ever forward. For several blocks it was like trying to push a pride of lions through a mouse hole. Thomas lost track of how many times he was spat on or scratched and it became impossible to tell which fluids on his face and neck were which. He did fi nd one reason to permit himself a small smile in the midst of it all, however, when he spotted the formerly smug Chas Hudson with a broken nose and an eye as black as a cobra.