"Calling this home after nine o'clock?" his father said. "Who just signed his own death warrant? Sweet Jesus."
"Dad?" Danny heard Nora pick up the phone in the hall. "Why do you--?"
Nora knocked softly on the door and Thomas Coughlin said, "It's open."
Nora pushed open the doors. "It's Eddie McKenna, sir. He says it's urgent."
Thomas scowled and pushed himself off the desk and walked out into the hall.
Danny, his back to Nora, said, "Wait."
He came out of the chair and met her in the doorway as they heard his father pick up the phone in the alcove off the kitchen at the other end of the hall and say, "Eddie?"
"What?" Nora said. "Jesus, Danny, I'm tired."
"He knows," Danny said.
"My father. He knows."
"What? What does he know? Danny?"
"About you and Quentin Finn, I think. Maybe not all of it, but something. Eddie asked me last month if I knew any Finns. I just chalked it up to coincidence. It's a common enough name. But the old man, he just--"
He never saw the slap coming. He was in too close and when it connected with his jaw, he actually felt his feet move beneath him. All five foot five of her, and she nearly knocked him to the floor.
"You told him." She practically spit the words into his face.
She started to turn and he grabbed her wrist. "Are you fucking crazy?" It came out a harsh whisper. "Do you think I would ever--ever, Nora--sell you down the river? Ever? Don't look away. Look at me. Ever?"
She stared back into his eyes and hers were those of a hunted animal, darting around the room, searching for safety. One more night alive.
"Danny," she whispered. "Danny."
"I can't have you believe that," he said, and his voice cracked. "Nora, I can't."
"I don't," she said. She pressed her face to his chest for a moment. "I don't, I don't." She pulled back and looked up at him. "What do I do, Danny? What?"
"I don't know." He heard his father replace the receiver in the cradle. "He knows?"
"He knows something," Danny said.
His father's footfalls came down the hall toward them and Nora broke away from him. She gave him one last wild, lost look and then turned into the hall.
"Nora," her father said.
"Will you need anything, sir? Tea?"
"No, dear." His father's voice sounded shaky as he turned into the room. His face was ashen and his lips trembled. "Good night, dear." "Good night, sir."
Thomas Coughlin closed the pocket doors behind him. He walked to the desk in three long strides and drained his drink and immediately poured himself another. He mumbled something to himself. "What?" Danny said.
His father turned, as if surprised to find him there. "Ce re bral hemorrhage. Went off in his head like a bomb."
He held out his glass, his eyes wide. "Struck him to the floor of his parlor and he was off to see the angels before his wife could even get to the phone. Jesus H."
"Sir, you're not making sense. Who are you--?"
"He's dead. Commissioner Stephen O'Meara is dead, Aiden." Danny put his hand on the back of a chair.
His father stared out at the walls of his study as if they held answers. "God help this department now." chapter twenty-one Stephen O'Meara was laid to rest at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline on a white, windless morning. When Danny searched the sky he found neither birds nor sun. Frozen snow covered the ground and the treetops in a marble white cast that matched the sky and the breath of the mourners gathered around the grave. In the sharp air, the echo of Honor Guard's twenty-one- gun salute sounded less like an echo and more like a second volley of gunfire from another, lesser burial on the other side of the frozen trees.
O'Meara's widow, Isabella, sat with her three daughters and Mayor Peters. The daughters were all in their thirties and their husbands sat to their left followed by O'Meara's grandchildren, who shivered and fidgeted. At the end of that long line sat the new commissioner, Edwin Upton Curtis. He was a short man with a face the color and texture of a long-discarded orange peel and eyes as dull as his brown shirt. Back when Danny was just out of diapers, Curtis had been mayor, the youngest in the history of the city. He was neither now--young nor mayor--but in 1896 he'd been a fair-haired Republican naif who'd been fed to the rabid Demo cratic ward bosses while the Brahmins searched for a longer-term solution of more substantial timber. He'd left the highest office in City Hall one year after he entered it and the appointments that followed for him had so diminished in stature that two decades later, he'd been working as a customs clerk when outgoing Governor McCall appointed him to replace O'Meara.
"I can't believe he had the guff to show up," Steve Coyle said later at Fay Hall. "Man hates the Irish. Hates police. Hates Catholics. Howie we going to get a fair shake from him?"
Steve still called himself "police." He still attended meetings. He had nowhere else to go. Still, his was the question at Fay Hall that morning. A megaphone had been placed on a stand in front of the stage for the men to give testimonials to their late commissioner, while the rest of the rank and file milled among the coffee urns and beer kegs. The captains and lieutenants and inspectors were holding their own memorial across town with fine china and French cuisine at Locke-Ober, but the foot soldiers were here in Roxbury, trying to voice their sense of loss for a man they'd barely known. So the testimonials had begun to fade as each man told a story about a chance meeting with the Great Man, a leader who was "tough but fair." Milty McElone was up there now, recounting O'Meara's obsession with uniforms, his ability to spot a tarnished button from ten yards out in a crowded squad room.
On the floor, the men sought out Danny and Mark Denton. The price of coal had jumped another penny in the last month. Men returned from work to icy bedrooms puffed with vapor clouds from their children's mouths. Christmas was just around the corner. Their wives were sick of darning, sick of serving thinner and thinner soup, angry that they couldn't shop the Christmas sales at Raymond's, at Gilchrist's, at Houghton & Dutton. Other wives could--the wives of trolley drivers, of teamsters, of stevedores and dockworkers--but not the wives of policemen?
"I'm fed up being put out of my own bed," one patrolman said. "I only sleep there twice a week as it is."
"They're our wives," someone else said, "and they're only poor because they married us."