So Danny's cover as Daniel Sante was expected to hold up fi ne under the scrutiny of the various radical movements he encountered. And it did. Not a single person, as far as he could tell, had questioned it. The problem was that even if they believed it, his story still didn't make him stand out.
He went to meetings and wasn't noticed. He went to the bars afterward and was left alone. When he tried to strike up a conversation, he was met with polite agreement of anything he said and just as politely turned away from. He'd rented rooms in a building in Roxbury, and there, during the day, he brushed up on his radical periodicals--The Revolutionary Age, Cronaca Sovversiva, Proletariat, and The Worker. He reread Marx & Engels, Reed & Larkin, and speeches by Big Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Trotsky, Lenin, and Galleani himself until he could recite most of it verbatim. Mondays and Wednesdays brought another meeting of the Roxbury Letts followed by a boozy gathering at the Sowbelly Saloon. He spent his nights with them and his mornings with a curl-up-and-cry-for-your-momma hangover, nothing about the Letts being frivolous, including their drinking. Bunch of Sergeis and Borises and Josefs, with the occasional Peter or Pyotr thrown in, the Letts raged through the night with vodka and slogans and wooden buckets of warm beer. Slamming the steins on scarred tables and quoting Marx, quoting Engels, quoting Lenin and Emma Goldman and screeching about the rights of the workingman, all the while treating the barmaid like shit.
They brayed about Debs, whinnied about Big Bill Haywood, thumped their shot glasses to the tables and pledged retribution for the tarred-and-feathered Wobblies in Tulsa, even though the tarring and feathering had taken place two years ago and it wasn't like any of them were going to go wipe it off. They tugged their watch caps and huffed their cigarettes and railed against Wilson, Palmer, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. They crowed about Jack Reed and Jim Larkin and the fall of the house of Nicholas II.
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.
Danny wondered if his hangovers came from the booze or the bullshit. Christ, the Bolshies blabbed until your eyes crossed. Until you dreamed in the harsh chop of Rus sian consonants and the nasal drag of Latvian vowels. Two nights a week with them and he'd only seen Louis Fraina once, when the man gave a speech and then vanished under heavy security.
He'd crisscrossed the state, looking for Nathan Bishop. At job fairs, in seditionist bars, at Marxist fund-raisers. He'd gone to union meetings, radical gatherings, and get-togethers of utopists so pie- eyed their ideas were an insult to adulthood. He noted the names of the speakers and faded into the background but always introduced himself as "Daniel Sante," so that the person whose hand he shook would respond in kind--"Andy Thurston" as opposed to just "Andy," "Comrade Gahn" as opposed to "Phil." When the opportunity presented itself, he stole a page or two of the sign-in sheets. If cars were parked outside the meeting sites, he copied down the license numbers.
City meetings were held in bowling alleys, pool halls, afternoon boxing clubs, saloons, and cafes. On the South Shore, the groups met in tents, dance halls, or fairgrounds abandoned until summer. On the North Shore and in the Merrimack Valley, the preference was for rail yards and tanneries, down by water that boiled with runoff and left a copper froth clinging to the shoreline. In the Berkshires, orchards.
If you went to one meeting, you heard about others. The fishermen in Gloucester spoke of solidarity for their brothers in New Bedford, the Communists in Roxbury for their comrades in Lynn. He never heard anyone discuss bombs or specific plans to overthrow the government. They spoke in vague generalizations. Loud, boastful, as ineffectual as a willful child's. The same held for talk of corporate sabotage. They spoke of May Day, but only in terms of other cities and other cells. The comrades in New York would shake the city to its foundation. The comrades in Pittsburgh would light the first match to ignite the revolution.
Anarchists' meetings were usually held on the North Shore and were sparsely attended. Those who used the megaphone spoke dryly, often reading aloud in broken English from the latest tract by Galleani or Tommasino DiPeppe or the jailed Leone Scribano, whose musings were smuggled out of a prison south of Milan. No one shouted or spoke with much emotion or zeal, which made them unsettling. Danny quickly got the sense that they knew he was not of them--too tall, too well fed, too many teeth.
After one meeting in the rear of a cemetery in Gloucester, three men broke away from the crowd to follow him. They walked slow enough not to close the distance and fast enough to not let it widen. They didn't seem to care that he noticed. At one point, one of them called out in Italian. He wanted to know if Danny had been circumcised.
Danny skirted the edge of the cemetery and crossed a stretch of bone white dunes at the back of a limestone mill. The men, about thirty yards back now, began to whistle sharply through their teeth. "Aww, honey," it sounded like one of them was calling. "Aww, honey."
The limestone dunes recalled dreams Danny'd had, ones he'd forgotten about until this moment. Dreams in which he hopelessly crossed vast moonlit deserts with no idea how he'd gotten there, no idea how he'd ever find his way home. And weighing down on him all the heavier with every step was the growing fear that home no longer existed. That his family and everyone he knew was long dead. And only he survived to wander forsaken lands. He climbed the shortest of the dunes, scrabbling and clawing up it in a winter quiet.
He reached the top of the dune. On the other side was an ink sky. Below it, a few fences with open gates.
He reached a street of disgorged cobblestone where he came upon a pest house. The sign above the door identified it as the Cape Ann Sanatorium, and he opened the door and walked in. He hurried past a nurse at the admitting desk who called after him. She called after him a second time.
He reached a stairwell and looked back down the hall and saw the three men frozen outside, one of them pointing up at the sign. No doubt they'd lost family members to something that waited on the upper floors--TB, smallpox, polio, cholera. In their awkward gesticulating Danny saw that none would dare enter. He found a rear door and let himself out.
The night was moonless, the air so raw it found his gums. He ran full- out back across the white gravel dunes and the cemetery. He found his car where he'd left it by the seawall. He sat in it and fingered the button in his pocket. His thumb ran over the smooth surface and he flashed on Nora swinging the bear at him in the oceanfront room, the pillows scattered all over the floor, her eyes lit with a pale fi re. He closed his eyes and he could smell her. He drove back to the city with a windshield grimed by salt and his own fear drying into his scalp.