Ellen Coughlin held out a hand for Joe, but he ignored it. He looked to Nora. "Why's everyone yelling?"
"Come now, woman," Quentin Finn said.
Nora said to Thomas, "Don't do this."
"I said close that mouth."
"Dad," Joe said, "why's everyone yelling?"
Danny said, "Look--"
Quentin Finn crossed to Nora's chair and pulled her out of it by her hair.
Joe let out a wail and Ellen Coughlin screamed and Thomas said, "Everyone just calm down."
"She's my wife." Quentin dragged her along the floor.
Joe took a run at him, but Connor scooped him up in his arms and Joe batted his fists against Connor's chest and shoulders. Danny's mother fell back into her chair and wept loudly and prayed to the Holy Mother.
Quentin pulled Nora tight to him so that her cheek was pressed against his and said, "If someone would gather her effects, yah?"
Danny's father held out his hand and shouted, "No!" because Danny's arm was already cocked as he came around the table and smashed his scotch glass into the back of Quentin Finn's head.
Someone else screamed, "Danny!"--maybe his mother, maybe Nora, could have even been Joe--but by that point he'd hooked his fingers into the socket-bones above Quentin Finn's eyes and used them to ram the back of his head into the dining room doorway. A hand grabbed at his back but fell away as he spun Quentin Finn into the hallway and ran him down the length of it. Joe must have left the front door unlatched because Quentin's head popped the door wide as he went through it and out into the night. When his chest hit the stairs, it pushed through a fresh inch of snow and he landed on the sidewalk where the flakes fell fast and fat. He bounced on the cement and Danny was surprised to see him stumble to his feet for a few steps, his arms pinwheeling, before he slipped in the snow and fell with his left leg folded under him against the curb.
Danny came down the steps gingerly because the stoop was built of iron and the snow was soft and slick. The sidewalk had some slush in the places Quentin had slid through and Danny caught his eye as Quentin made it to his feet.
"Make it fun," Danny said. "Run."
His father grabbed him by the shoulder, spinning him halfway around, and Danny saw something in his father's eyes he'd never seen before--uncertainty, maybe even fear.
"Leave him be," his father said.
His mother reached the doorway just as Danny lifted his father by his shirt lapels and carried him back to a tree.
"Jesus, Danny!" This from Connor, on top of the stoop now as Danny heard Quentin Finn's shoes slap through the slush in the middle of K Street.
Danny looked into his father's face, pressed his back gently against the tree. "You let her pack," he said.
"Aiden, you need to calm yourself."
"Let her take what ever she needs. This is not a negotiation, sir. We firm on that?"
His father stared back into his eyes for a long time and then eventually gave him a flick of his eyelids that Danny took for assent.
He placed his father back on the ground. Nora appeared in the doorway, her temple scraped from Quentin Finn's nails. She met his eyes and he turned away.
He let out a laugh that surprised even him and took off running up K Street. Quentin had a two-block head start, but Danny cut off through the backyards of K Street and then I Street and then J, vaulting fences like he was still altar-boy age, knowing that Quentin's only possible destination was the streetcar stop. He came barreling out of an alley between J and H and hit Quentin Finn up at the shoulders and brought him sliding down into the snow in the middle of East Fifth Street.
Christmas lights had been strung up in garlands above the street, and candles lit the windows of half the homes along the block as Quentin tried to box with Danny before Danny ended a series of light jabs to both sides of his face with a torrent of body blows that finished with the one-two snap of a right and left rib. Quentin tried to run again, but Danny caught him by his coat and swung him around in the snow a few times before releasing him into a streetlamp pole. Then he climbed on top of him and broke bones in his face and broke his nose and snapped a few more ribs.
Quentin wept. Quentin begged. Quentin said, "No more, no more."
With each syllable he spat another fine spray of blood up into the air and back down onto his face.
When Danny felt the ache bite into his hands, he stopped. He sat back on Quentin's midsection and then wiped his knuckles off on the man's coat. He rubbed snow into the man's face until his eyes snapped open.
Danny took a few gulps of air. "I haven't lost my temper since I was eighteen years old. You believe that? True. Eight years. Almost nine . . ." He sighed and looked out at the street, the snow, the lights.
"I won't . . . be a . . . bother to ya," Quentin said.
Danny laughed. "You don't say?"
"I . . . just want . . . me . . . w-wife."
Danny took Quentin's ears in his hands and softly banged his head off the cobblestone for a bit.
"As soon as you're released from the charity ward, you get on a boat and leave my country," Danny said. "Or you stay and I call this assault on a police officer. See all these windows? Half of them belong to cops. You want to pick a fight with the Boston Police Department, Quentin? Spend ten years in an American prison?"
Quentin's eyes rolled to the left.
"Look at me."
Quentin's eyes fixed in place and then he vomited on the collar of his coat.
Danny waved at the fumes. "Yes or no? Do you want the assault charge?"
Quentin said, "No."
"Are you going home as soon as you get out of a hospital?" "Yah, yah."
"Good lad." Danny stood. "Because if you don't, God is my witness, Quentin?" He looked down at him. "I'll send you back to the Old Sod a fucking cripple."
Thomas was out on the stoop when Danny returned. The taillights of his father's car glowed red as his driver, Marty Kenneally, braked at an intersection two blocks up.
"So Marty's driving her someplace?"
His father nodded. "I told him I don't want to know where." Danny looked at the windows of their home. "What's it like in there?"
His father appraised the blood on Danny's shirt, his torn knuckles. "You leave anything for the ambulance driver?"
Danny rested his hip against the black iron railing. "Plenty. I already called it in from the call box on J."
"Put the fear of God into him, I'm sure."
"Worse than God." He fished in his pockets and found his Murads and shook one out of the pack. He offered one to his father and his father took it and Danny lit both with his lighter and leaned back against the railing.