His father's eyes flicked over at Claude as Charles Steedman sat in the window seat behind him and Eddie McKenna took a seat to Danny's left. Two politicians, one banker, three cops. Interesting.
His father said, "You know why they'll have so many problems in Chicago? Why their crime rate will go through the roof after Vol-stead?"
The men waited and his father drew on his cigar and considered the brandy snifter on the desk by his elbow but didn't lift it.
"Because Chicago is a new city, gentlemen. The fire wiped it clean of history, of values. And New York is too dense, too sprawling, too crowded with the nonnatives. They can't maintain order, not with what's coming. But Boston"--he lifted his brandy and took a sip as the light caught the glass--"Boston is small and untainted by the new ways. Boston understands the common good, the way of things." He raised his glass. "To our fair city, gentlemen. Ah, she's a grand old broad."
They met their glasses in toast and Danny caught his father smiling at him, in the eyes if not the mouth. Thomas Coughlin alternated between a variety of demeanors and all coming and going with the speed of a spooked horse that it was easy to forget that they were all aspects of a man who was certain he was doing good. Thomas Coughlin was its servant. The good. Its salesman, its parade marshal, catcher of the dogs who nipped its ankles, pallbearer for its fallen friends, cajoler of its wavering allies.
The question remained, as it had throughout Danny's life, as to what exactly the good was. It had something to do with loyalty and something to do with the primacy of a man's honor. It was tied up in duty, and it assumed a tacit understanding of all the things about it that need never be spoken aloud. It was, purely of necessity, conciliatory to the Brahmins on the outside while remaining fi rmly anti-Protestant on the inside. It was anticolored, for it was taken as a given that the Irish, for all their struggles and all those still to come, were Northern Europe an and undeniably white, white as last night's moon, and the idea had never been to seat every race at the table, just to make sure that the last chair would be saved for a Hibernian before the doors to the room were pulled shut. It was above all, as far as Danny understood it, committed to the idea that those who exemplifi ed the good in public were allowed certain exemptions as to how they behaved in private.
His father said, "Heard of the Roxbury Lettish Workingman's Society?"
"The Letts?" Danny was suddenly aware of Charles Steedman watching him from the window. "Socialist workers group, made up mostly of Rus sian and Latvian emigres."
"How about the People's Workers Party?" Eddie McKenna asked. Danny nodded. "They're over in Mattapan. Communists."
"Union of Social Justice?"
Danny said, "What's this, a test?"
None of the men answered, just stared back at him, grave and intent.
He sighed. "Union of Social Justice is, I believe, mostly Eastern European cafe intellectuals. Very antiwar."
"Anti-everything," Eddie McKenna said. "Anti-American most of all. These are all Bolshevik fronts--all of them--funded by Lenin himself to stir unrest in our city."
"We don't like unrest," Danny's father said.
"How about Galleanists?" Deputy Chief Madigan said. "Heard of them?"
Again, Danny felt the rest of the room watching him.
"Galleanists," he said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice, "are followers of Luigi Galleani. They're anarchists devoted to disman tling all government, all property, all ownership of any kind."
"How do you feel about them?" Claude Mesplede said.
"Active Galleanists? Bomb throwers?" Danny said. "They're terrorists."
"Not just Galleanists," Eddie McKenna said. "All radicals."
Danny shrugged. "The Reds don't bother me much. They seem mostly harmless. They print their propaganda rags and drink too much at night, end up disturbing their neighbors when they start singing too loud about Trotsky and Mother Rus sia."
"Things may have changed lately," Eddie said. "We're hearing rumors."
"An insurrectionary act of violence on a major scale."
"When? What kind?"
His father shook his head. "That information carries with it a need-to-know designation, and you don't need to know yet."
"In due time, Dan." Eddie McKenna gave him a big smile. "In due time."
" 'The purpose of terrorism,' " his father said, " 'is to inspire terror.' Know who said that?"
Danny nodded. "Lenin."
"He reads the papers," his father said with a soft wink.
McKenna leaned in toward Danny. "We're planning an operation to counter the radicals' plans, Dan. And we need to know exactly where your sympathies lie."
"Uh-huh," Danny said, not quite seeing the play yet.
Thomas Coughlin had leaned back from the light, his cigar gone dead between his fingers. "We'll need you to tell us what's transpiring with the social club."
"What social club?"
Thomas Coughlin frowned.
"The Boston Social Club?" Danny looked at Eddie McKenna. "Our union?"
"It's not a union," Eddie McKenna said. "It just wants to be."
"And we can't have that," his father said. "We're policemen, Aiden, not common laborers. There's a principle to be upheld."
"Which principle is that?" Danny said. "Fuck the workingman?" Danny took another look around the room, at the men gathered here on an innocent Sunday afternoon. His eyes fell on Steedman. "What's your stake in this?"
Steedman gave him a soft smile. "Stake?"
Danny nodded. "I'm trying to figure out just what it is you're doing here."
Steedman reddened at that and looked at his cigar, his jaw moving tightly.
Thomas Coughlin said, "Aiden, you don't speak to your elders in that tone. You don't--"
"I'm here," Steedman said, looking up from his cigar, "because workers in this country have forgotten their place. They have forgotten, young Mr. Coughlin, that they serve at the discretion of those who pay their wages and feed their families. Do you know what a ten-day strike can do? Just ten days."
"It can cause a medium-size business to default on its loans. When loans are in default, stock plummets. Investors lose money. A lot of money. And they have to cut back their business. Then the bank has to step in. Sometimes, this means the only solution is foreclosure. The bank loses money, the investors lose money, their companies lose money, the original business goes under, and the workers lose their jobs anyway. So while the idea of unions is, on the surface, rather heart-warming, it is also quite unconscionable for reasonable men to so much as discuss it in polite company." He took a sip of his brandy. "Does that answer your question, son?"