Acting upon orders from Safety Commissioner Wilson, Ed Fearenside had assisted earlier that morning in the removal of two caskets and their contents from two tenement apartments not far from the Hook. After the caskets had been loaded into mortuary wagons, one was dispatched to Jersey City Cemetery, the other to the ferry and then to the Moravian Cemetery at Port Richmond, Staten Island. An unpleasant business, all around. But even during the hubbub, the angry and obstreperous shouting by the dead strikers’ families and friends, even then Ed Fearenside had noticed people noticing the big gauze slabs taped to the left side of his head and catching on that he was the plainclothes cop whose ear was bit off by a midget—by Andy Iron, Lil Andiron, chief of the Black Hood bandits. No one, naturally, had showed Fearenside any sympathy, and many had openly smirked.
Now, just before noon, still aggravated by those dirty little smirks and with his head cloudy from codeine, Fearenside entered the Bayonne Hospital and Dispensary. After crossing the lobby, he found himself walking up the main staircase behind Recorder William J. Cain and someone he recognized from the municipal prosecutor’s office. Recognized, but couldn’t remember his name. Was it Brady? No, that wasn’t it. “We should have a word,” said the prosecutor’s man, taking Fearenside by an elbow and steering him up the corridor; meanwhile, the Recorder stepped into Joe Bloodgood’s guarded room. “What’re you doing here, detective?”
Benford! Brian Benford.
“I thought I’d try talking to the kid again. This whole Black Hood shootings thing is strictly for the birds. It’s driving me nuts, and I thought if I could—”
“No,” said Brian Benford, clearly uncomfortable. “Forget it. But I’m going to ask you some questions in there.” He had comb-grooved sandy hair that shot from his scalp like a fountain and then flop-curled dramatically; his head was small and his face bland. “Just answer them, but keep your opinions to yourself, all right? Understood?”
“Say, what’s going on?”
“Let’s just do the best we can, okay?” Benford nodded at Fearenside’s bandage. “I’d thought it was joke, all that talk we’d hear about Andy having rats’ teeth.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“But did you have to break his neck? Jesus. What’d you do, step on it?” Without waiting for a reply, which turned out to be, “Hey, wait a minute!,” Benford went back down the corridor and into Joe Bloodgood’s room. Fearenside stood there red-faced and flexing his jaw. No, he hadn’t ‘stepped on’ Andy Iron’s neck! But he had flung the runt across the interrogation room, just to get him the hell off, and his scrawny neck hit the wall straight on. Fucking L’il Andiron had gone nuts!
“—to determine whether Joseph Bloodgood should be remanded for criminal trial,” Cain was saying when Fearenside came in. “Attempted burglary. Oh. Detective Fearenside, I’m not sure if you know Daniel F.X. Tumulty, here on behalf of Mr. Bloodgood.” Fearenside knew Tumulty, all right, but what was a fat silky mouthpiece like him doing representing a crumb bum like Joe Bloodgood? Fearenside barely nodded, and Tumulty just flicked his self-important blue eyes in Fearenside’s direction. “Now, let’s proceed,” said the Recorder. “Mr. Benford?”
Benford was brisk; he summarized the shootings that had occurred late the previous evening at Ninth Street and the Hudson County Boulevard, City of Bayonne, directly in front of the residence belonging to Pearl L. Bergoff, the well-known labor adjustor; then he asserted that William Alfred Bloodgood, of such and such address in the city of Elizabeth, had, while acting in collusion with members of the so-called Black Hood robbery gang, driven in a stolen motor-car to the aforementioned residence with the criminal intent of breaking and entering.
Detective Edward Fearenside, said Benford, had been among the first police officers to arrive at the scene of the mayhem, and he then proceeded to ask Fearenside a number of questions—what he’d seen, where the bodies and the wounded men had been situated, and with whom he’d spoken subsequently inside the Bergoff residence.
Fearenside answered everything without comment or tone.
At that point, counselor Tumulty stepped forward to inquire what in the holy name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any of this folderol had to do with his client? Joseph Bloodgood had been tricked into believing the aforementioned motor-car ride had been taken only to consult with Mr. Pearl Bergoff about an opportunity for employment in his organization. “The poor boy was bamboozled!”
“That’s the long and short of it,” piped in Joe Bloodgood who’d been following everything from his sick bed. The only evidence of his wounds was the bulk of a bandage under his gown, fastened to his left side. His face looked drawn. He seemed weak. “I just come to town yestiddy and was bamboozled! I was bamboozled!”
“Mr. Bloodgood,” said Recorder Cain. “You’ll have your chance to speak, if you wish. But when I say so. And, detective, be quiet.”
“I didn’t know they was crooks! I just met these two jays at the train station. It ain’t my fault, judge, it’s theirs, seeing as how they got me into such a fix.”
“Second and last warning. That goes for you as well, Mr. Tumulty. Mr. Benford, you may proceed.”
Benford resumed, seeming eager to wrap up what he had to say: “Joseph Bloodgood was found wounded in the rear compartment of the motor-car, and we have the statement of Mr. Bergoff’s private operative—”
“Which is worth a hill of feathers!” thundered counselor Tumulty as Joe Bloodgood sat up straighter. “The statement of a strike thug who was traveling with the bandits: you cannot be serious!” He started ticking items off his fingertips. “One, my client was not found to be in possession of a weapon. Two! Nor was he in possession of a black hood. And three!”
“Mr. Tumulty, cut it out,” said Recorder Cain. “Let Brian finish, he was almost done.”
Tumulty ticked off his last item anyway. “Three! This is the first time in his life Mr. Bloodgood has ever even been to Bayonne—when did he even have the time to join a gang? He just got here! And now I’ll shut up.”
“Thank you. Mr. Benford?”
“I’m done. Except…”
“Yes? Mr. Benford, you were going to say…?”
Benford was nodding to himself, and Ed Fearenside got the impression he’d been just about to veer off-script, but caught himself at the last second. Now he gave a quick what-the-hell kind of a shrug and finished: “Except to ask, who goes looking for a job at eleven o’clock at night?”
The Recorder looked surprised, then annoyed. “Thank you. Now, Mr. Tumulty, if you have anything else to add.”
He didn’t, surprisingly; his three points, he said, had just about covered everything. Then, equally surprisingly, at least Cain and Tumulty looked surprised, Benford squared his shoulders and pointed out that while no pistol had been found on Mr. Bloodgood’s person, nonetheless an extra pistol—he consulted his notes—“a 32-caliber Colt hammerless”—had been discovered on the floor in the rear of the motor-car, and an extra black hood had been retrieved from the curb directly outside of the open rear door beside which Mr. Bloodgood was sitting slumped over in distress.
Fearenside caught Benford’s eye and mouthed, Good man.
“Extra!” cried Tumulty. “An extra pistol, an extra mask! What do you mean, extra?”
“The other men who were shot had pistols either in their hands or in their coats. They also had black hoods in their possession. And there was one extra pistol in the motor-car at Mr. Bloodgood’s feet and one extra black hood floating in a rain puddle outside of his open door. I’d say that proves extra. Mr. Bloodgood’s items, we might logically presume.”
“You might, sir, but I do not! And what about the big hero, King Touey? Did he have a mask?”
“And we know he had a pistol.”
“We do, indeed.”
“And this strikebreaker, we’re being told, is in reality some kind of a secret agent! Do you have any proof? Did you see his work contract? Can you produce it for us?”
“A private operative, not a ‘secret agent.’ And we have verbal confirmation by his employer, Mr. P.L. Bergoff.”
“I see.” Tumulty’s tone was dubious and sarcastic, but his eyes were twinkling.
“That’s fine,” said the Recorder. “Now, let’s move along. Mr. Bloodgood. You say you came to Bayonne just yesterday?”
“And I got the ticket stub to prove it!” He looked to Tumulty, who confirmed.
“And why did you come here now?”
“Because of the strike–natcherly. Seemed a good bet for a guy that needs to eat. I’ll be a scab. I got no pride.” He seemed defiant and courageous proclaiming that, like somebody in a history story facing death for a principle.
Recorder Cain turned away, tapping a knuckle against the soft bottom of his jaw. To Ed Fearenside, the Recorder didn’t look like a judge so much as a high-society physician as rendered with pen and ink in popular magazines: tall, middle-aged but robust, with a full head of dark, flowing hair, an open, amiable face, and a deep cleft in his chin; solid, not portly.
Finally, the Recorder turned back around, and taking one glancing look at Joe Bloodgood, addressed the men at bedside, his eyes darting equitably from face to face. “In light of the absence of physical possession of either a pistol or a mask, and despite the proximity of these hoodlums to this gentleman, and considering that Mr. Bloodgood actually did nothing except let himself be shot twice, I’m of a mind to think he’s suffered enough and to let him go with a firm warning to pay better heed to new companions.” He looked sadly down at Joe Bloodgood. “And seeing as how the gentleman, here, strikes me as being not the sharpest knife in the cabinet”—Joe Bloodgood took the patronizing insult without any change of expression—“I’m for Christian mercy. Now, son, be grateful, and also be out of here and quit of town just as soon as they say you can travel. How grave are your wounds?”
“Ah, they ain’t too bad, judge. I was sitting right next to that maniac and he had to fire almost straight down since we were all kind of pressed in, so it mostly just took out some meat, thanks.”
“Well. Back to Elizabeth with you, and I don’t want to see your face again.” He looked slowly around at Tumulty, Benford, and Ed Fearenside. “Charges dismissed for lack of evidence. So shall I record later this after—” He broke off at the sound of fingers being snapped.
“Sorry.” Joe Bloodgood dropped his hand to his thigh.
“You thought of something?” said the Recorder.
“No—well yeah, but it’s not important. I only just realized who this guy is,” said Bloodgood and hiked a thumb at Ed Fearenside. “I was seeing that bandage he got there, but it didn’t ring any bell till this second. Guess you’re right about the knife and the drawers, judge. He’s the bum killed L’il Andiron! After Andy jumped on him and bit off his ear.” He guffawed suddenly and looked back over at Fearenside. “Did he swallow it?”
“I’ll swallow you, you little runt!”
“Detective, that’ll be enough. And the same goes for you, Mr. Bloodgood.” The Recorder pushed some papers he hadn’t referred to during the proceedings back into his open satchel, and belted it and tested the buckles, as if he were tightening a saddle. “Gentlemen,” he said with a nod, and unable now to resist, he sneaked a quick look at Ed Fearenside’s bandage before making a beeline for the door. Benford and Fearenside shrugged and left the room together.
“Well, that was slick,” said Fearenside.
“Is that what it was?”
“Seemed to me. Especially how Tumulty went after King Touey like he really meant it.”
Quirking a thin smile, Brian Benford ran a hand over his spouting hair. “See you around, Ed. And I’m, uh, sorry about, you know.” He touched his left ear, tugged on the lobe.
“No big deal. I’m told it’ll grow back.”
Benford laughed all the way down the staircase.
“Can you walk?” Counselor Tumulty shut the door. “I asked, can you walk?”
“They’re lettin’ me outta here already?”
“They aren’t, I am. Now, snap to it, boy. In that sack I brought there’s some clothing. Get dressed and I’ll drive you to the train.” He pushed a cuff back and looked at his strap watch. “You can make the 1:20.”
“Do I have to pay for anything?” said Joe throwing off his covers. He sat up making a pained face. “Before I can leave?”
“Do you have money?”
“Then why bother to ask? Hurry it up.”
Bloodgood opened the paper sack and stuck his nose inside. “Say, this is plenty white o’ you.” The sack was printed with the logotype of Golden Brothers, a boys’ and men’s cheap clothing store on Broadway; Tumulty had stopped there on his walk to the hospital. “How’d you know my size?” Bloodgood had the trousers held aloft by one hand, the sack by the other.
“I didn’t. I guessed.” He’d seen his share of street toughs in his time; he’d had to, growing up in Bayonne and first becoming involved in politics at the ward level. He’d seen enough street toughs to know they usually were short and malnourished, but really it was just a good guess.
Bloodgood had something else he wanted to ask. “What’s a private operative?”
“We’re wasting time, sir.”
“If you don’t mind, I’m goin’ t’change in the terlet.”
“I don’t care where you do it, just stop talking. You’re giving me a headache.”
After Bloodgood had dragged himself into the terlet, Daniel F.X. Tumulty took out a platinum cigarette case and a lighter that produced a small, neat flame. He smoked and tapped a foot impatiently. This was not the kind of law that he ordinarily practiced. He should hope not! But as a favor to a very important client, a client whose real estate work had meant to counselor Tumulty the difference between a bungalow at Asbury Park and a shingled pile in Spring Lake. When a client such as Pearl Bergoff asks you for a favor, you do it.
“What do you think?” said Joe Bloodgood, standing now in the room with his feet slightly apart and his arms held out a little, but gingerly, from his sides, as if he were trying on new school clothes for his mother.
“Can you walk all right?”
“Oh sure. I’m just a little—it’s sore if I move the wrong way.”
“Then don’t move the wrong way—come along.”
Almost always there were at least two taxicabs outside of the hospital, but naturally not today. Daniel F. X. Tumulty with a gust of annoyance went over to the admitting desk in the lobby and had the woman there call and have one dispatched. He looked around for Bloodgood, and found him sitting in one of the upholstered chairs by the newsstand. When Tumulty went over to get him, he didn’t want to get up. “I got dizzy all of a sudden.”
Tumulty grimaced and peered around for a water fountain; when he located one, he pointed it out to Bloodgood, who only shook his head. He looked ghastly pale. Tumulty sat down and leaned forward, speaking in a low tone, “Before the taxicab arrives, we need to have a little conversation.”
“Here’s what you should know. You’re lucky to be getting away from here, make sure you stay away. I think you should change your address, move out as quickly as you can from where you’re living and don’t leave any forwarding. And if I were you, son, I’d consider changing my name.”
Joe Bloodgood was staring back in amazement. “Change my name? What’re you even talking about?”
“If there are ever criminal or civil cases stemming from last night’s shootings, we don’t want you being served with papers. Is that understood?”
“I have to move?”
“Here’s our cab,” said Tumulty, getting to his feet. “Do you need a hand?”
“No.” Bloodgood seemed dazed, but he braced his hands on the chair arms and pushed himself to his feet. “No, I’m okay.”
Tumulty walked alongside of him through the lobby. “Do you have any relatives living in other parts of the country?”
“Have you ever considered moving to New England?”
Bloodgood, head down, trembling in the knees, managed to climb into the back of the taxicab. Tumulty followed him in and told the cabdriver, “Eighth Street Station.”
They rode in complete silence, Tumulty turning his hands over and over each other in a scrubbing manner, and Joe Bloodgood shifting around on the seat, looking pained and uncomfortable. They got to the station, Tumulty told the cabdriver to wait, and he and Bloodgood went up the stairs from the sidewalk. At the top, Tumulty took out his billfold, extracting three singles and a two-dollar bill. “Take this. I’ll go get you a ticket. Stand right here.”
This mouthpiece was too bossy to live. But Bloodgood was happy for the cash and held his tongue. His side was burning, so he started to pace. He stopped when he happened to glance across the platform to the bench where he and King Touey first met and talked, and where after a while he’d helped Li’l Andiron get the drop on his nibs. He found a different slatted bench now and sat down next to a morning newspaper someone had left. He picked it up and there on the front page above the fold was the crazy bastard, himself—the dirty rat King Touey photographed at night by flashlight, posing near the open back doors of a mortuary wagon, hands clasped over his head while cops frowned and a doctor inside the wagon shut his eyes at the sudden lamp flare.
Bloodgood had not gone far in school, fourth grade, but he could read, and after he’d read just the photograph caption and the headline, he’d read enough. Hero! King Touey was a crazy dirty rat bastard! You weren’t supposed to pass yourself off as a gang man, no matter how unreliable, and secretly be a cop! Bloodgood had been ready to let it all go, to chalk it all up to good/bad luck, still alive and free, but damaged—he’d figured King Touey for a lunatic, maybe a hophead. In Joe Bloodgood’s universe, two out of five guys were lunatics. Or hopheads. Or both. It was just the condition of things. But a cop! A cop. Or like the mouthpiece had called him, a private operative. Bloodgood wished he hadn’t picked up that newspaper. It stirred him.
And whenever he got stirred, his dear old ma had told him often, he became a danger to himself and others.
Daniel F.X. Tumulty came outside five minutes later holding a one-way ticket to Elizabeth Station, but Joe Bloodgood was gone, and so was the taxicab.
“How badly?” Sheriff Kinkaid narrowed his eyes listening. “Okay, and? Yeah, okay—where is he now?” Nodding, slotting his tongue, he looked up and across the hotel room to Mickey Ahern, whose face had turned chalk white. Removing his left hand from around the candlestick telephone, the Sheriff made a slight pushing-away gesture and silently enunciated, Leg wound. Ahern fished out a St. Jude’s medal from the open neck of his shirt and pecked it with a kiss.
“And how many, do you think? Would you say? Your best guess,” said the Sheriff. “Well, have some of your officers stick with them, close but not too close, yes? And they are not to engage, is that clear? And Bergoff’s men?” He listened, he frowned, he grunted. “All right.” Rolling his knotted shoulders, he stood up from the desk chair. “I’d hoped to be there by now, but—uh huh, I agree, and will see to it personally. Sounds like you have it all in hand, loo—.” He winced. “Tell the—oh, I know—tell the deputies their replacements are on the way. Just as soon as I—well, they needn’t know that. Forty, I think. I hope.” He looked at his strap watch. “By two, if not before. And lieutenant? Thank you. You’re a credit to your city.” He clipped the earpiece to the stick and closed his eyes. Then, sitting back down, he clasped his hands behind his neck with his elbows spread wide.
“Hennessey sent Bergoff’s hoodlums into the street. Again.”
“Tierney’s detail got them back inside, but now the strikers are all up high in the air. Jesus sweet Christ, Mickey.” He leaned back, moving his lips but saying nothing. Nearly 45 minutes had passed since he’d dispatched Charlie Gillick to Prospect Street, and he still wasn’t any closer to getting on with his day than he’d been when that sorrowful excuse for a police officer had gone pedaling off on a bicycle! The phones had not stopped ringing—if it wasn’t the fink Mayor of Bayonne passing along another crackpot rumor, it was the Commissioner of Public Safety, Wilson, reporting that he’d sent Bayonne policemen to confiscate the bodies of two dead strikers and canceled their scheduled funerals; he’d been afraid of riots during the processions from their homes to their churches; and if wasn’t Wilson, it was one of the two federal conciliators from D.C. announcing they’d arrived by train and were on their way to City Hall to meet with the strike committee—just as soon as they’d had some lunch, and could the Sheriff recommend a decent restaurant. And if it wasn’t them it was the Sheriff’s wife down in Sea Girt with the children wanting to know when he might be joining them—Gene, it’s been almost a week! Gene, we have the most beautiful speckled turtle living in the garden, we’ve named her Clara—at least I hope it’s a her. Gene, do you think you might possibly be down by Tuesday? The Carrolls have invited us to dinner…
Pulling apart his laced fingers, the Sheriff let out of a soft groan. “I’m telling you, Mick, I should’ve followed me heart and become an actor.”
“And who says you haven’t?”
Kinkaid smiled, reaching for the telephone. After toggling it, he identified himself to the operator and demanded to be put through to Mayor Garvin. While he waited, he lighted a fresh cigarette. “Mr. Mayor!” he said, but then before he had the chance to say why he was calling—to make sure all of the city commissioners would be available to the two mediators whenever they finally showed up—Garvin was rattling on with still another rumor, this time concerning a cache of dynamite the strikers presumably had laid their hands on; then he went veering off to inform the Sheriff, although he’d already informed him about it earlier, twice, that shots had been fired at the rectory of Mount Carmel Church. He’d had a report that at least ten bullets were lodged in the wall directly beneath Father Swider’s study window.
“Mayor, that’s…that’s, uh huh, yes but that’s an exaggeration. We sent an officer and, uh huh, uh huh…” He rolled his eyes to Mickey Ahern, who shrugged and went to answer a knock at the door. “There was a shot fired at the rectory, that’s true,” said the Sheriff, “but so far as we can ascertain, it was just the one…well, of course that’s still serious, I’m not say—I’m saying it’s…” He breathed in deeply, snuffled, and watched through the open bedroom door and across the parlor as Ahern accepted a tray of sandwiches from a boy in a short red jacket and matching pillbox hat. “Well, if you talk to Father Swider again, you might advise him—I’m saying if you do—” He snapped his fingers to get Ahern’s attention, and when he had it, he pointed to a scattering of loose change on his desk by the ashtray. Ahern put the plate of sandwiches down on the bed, scooped up two dimes, went back and tipped the boy, and shut the hall door after him.
One of the other phones started to ring. Ahern answered it, turning his back to the Sheriff and speaking in a low voice. Even so, Kinkaid heard him exclaim, “What? What are you telling me?” but then, rubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray, he brought his full attention back to his own conversation.
“If you do, you might suggest that it’s unwise at this point for him to urge the men to go back to work, they’re not in any mood to hear—” His face turned red. “Yes, sir, I know he’s a priest, but I’m the Sheriff. So you just tell him what I say, if you see him again. And I wouldn’t worry about dynamite, sir—sir, I’m talking, if you don’t mind: I wouldn’t worry about any dynamite, there’s no dynamite.” Rolling his head around his shoulders, he picked up the ashtray, overfull, and emptied into the wastebasket next to the desk. “The men from—no dynamite, no—the men from the Department of Labor should be at City Hall within the hour.” Glancing around the desk top, he spotted a slip of paper and snapped it up. “Their names are Moffett and Smyth. Double-f, double-t, and s-m-Y-t-h-e, correct, pronounced that way and spelled with a y. Thank you. That will be, that’ll be most helpful.” When he looked down and noticed a small fire burning in the wastebasket, he said quickly, “I’ll be in touch,” and hung up. He doused the flames with what remained in his coffee cup, muttered “God give me strength,” and was carrying his cup to the bathroom to fill it with water, just to make certain he didn’t burn down the hotel, when Mickey Ahern said, “Gene, that was Klarkowsi.”
“Don’t tell me. Charlie Gillick never showed up.”
“Oh, he showed up all right.”
The only other time in his life Charlie Gillick was knocked out cold had also been in the month of July; he was seven and fell from the Dutch elm in his front yard. Acting on a sudden impulse to show off in front of Liz Touey, who was across the street pushing a grass mower, he’d shimmied up the trunk and mounted it spraddle in the crotch. Grabbing hold of a knot with one hand, and flinging his other arm high and free, Charlie had commenced bouncing up and down in a credible imitation of a bull rider. It was unlike him—wholly out of character—for little Charlie Gillick to do anything that involved risk of injury (in fact, that was the first time he’d ever climbed a tree), but he was so smitten by Liz and had been for so long already (the better part of a year!) that he’d disregarded his natural bent for caution. And, too, Liz that morning was dressed all in white, in white linen blouse and trousers—trousers!—and she was by herself, and it was just the two of them outdoors, West Sixth Street otherwise deserted, and, well. Charlie rode that branch dramatically.
When Liz had glanced up and seen him, her hands dropped from the mower’s push handle. “Charlie Gillick, you be careful up there!” But pretending not to hear, he’d swung his arm with still more abandon, and lost his balance. He saw the ground coming up fast, and that was all he remembered till he came to and his blurred vision clarified, and there was Liz Touey’s face—to Charlie the most honest and wholesome face in the world—and then he realized she’d scooped him up and cradled him in her arms, one arm behind his neck, the other below his knees, and she was running him up the porch steps, muttering, “Oh Charlie Charlie, you poor baby,” and then raising her voice to shout, “Mrs. Gillick! Come quick!”
No such luck this time.
This time, somebody slapped his cheeks, openhanded and backhanded, hard, several times, and when his head snapped up, lifted off the street, and his eyes opened wide—his vision instantly lucid—Charlie discovered a gaunt and stringy man in a green storekeeper’s apron hunkered down beside him. Sweat gleamed on the man’s long pitted face and dripped from his chin. “I’ll help you stand up,” he said. Charlie nodded, or maybe just thought he did. His head had started clanging, he felt sick to his stomach, and when the man took him by an elbow and tried to lift him, a spray of black flocking arced in front of his eyes. He slumped, collapsed, the man let go, and Charlie was left sitting in the street with his knees hiked up.
“Give me a second,” he said.
“You oughta get up right now,” said the man. “I don’t like the looks of this.”
A group of men in their twenties and older teenaged boys, all glowering, stood in a ragged semi-circle not ten feet away. Between them and Charlie, Joe Dell’Appa’s body lay curled in a ball. Streamlets of dark blood from his head broke around the grip of the pistol that had killed him and pooled in the chinks between cobblestones. One of the men, who had on a cloth cap and wore a shiny black vest over his work shirt, took a step forward. “Leave him be, Stosh.”
The man squatted beside Charlie didn’t say anything, just gripped him by the collar of his uniform tunic and hoisted him to his feet. Turning his back on the mob, he walked Charlie slowly out of the street and across the blue-slate sidewalk to the foot of the wooden steps of the paint and hardware store. Charlie sat down and put a hand over his throbbing temple. “Get your wits, Irish,” said the man. He walked back into the street and picked up the pistol. “It’s empty, Stosh. We all can count.” With a contemptuous glance at the man wearing the cloth cap and vest, Stosh carried it back to the steps, wiping the blood on his apron. He fitted it into Charlie’s right hand. “And don’t drop it.” Then he went up the steps and across the porch and into his store. He came right back with a box of proper bullets, took the gun from Charlie, and deftly reloaded it. Charlie reached and took back the gun.
“You’re going to be sorry about this,” said the man in the cloth cap and vest. He’d taken a few more steps closer to the curb, carefully skirting the corpse, and the others had done likewise.
“Shut your mouth.” He looked to Charlie. “If you’re all right—”
“—I’ll go put in a call.”
When Stosh the hardware man had gone back inside, Charlie rose slowly, never shifting his stare from the men in the street. None of them had been among the group that attacked Joe Dell’Appa, so far as Charlie could tell. No, he was sure of it: none of them. So these men, here, had hung back during the violence and clustered only after it was over and Dell’Appa was dead on the ground and the Irish cop was unconscious. Odds were, then, they wouldn’t jump him. They were just a bunch of gawkers acting tough in front of the neighborhood. At least that’s what Charlie told himself; counted on. Jamming the pistol into his waistband, he unbuttoned his tunic and shrugged it off one shoulder. He removed his arm from the sleeve, and then shrugged the tunic off his other shoulder, and caught it by the collar as it fell. Dragging it behind him, he started across the sidewalk. The men all moved back half a pace.
Charlie stepped down off the curb and walked over to Joe Dell’Appa’s body, he covered as much of it as he could with the tunic. Then he glared at the men. “This fellow,” he said, “had nothing to do with the Standard Oil. He was a barber. From Jersey City.”
“You’re full of shit,” said the man in the cap and vest. He pointed off to the sidewalk. “There’s his guard badge.”
Charlie did not look, but he said, “I’ve no idea how he got that, but I’m telling you, he wasn’t a scab and he wasn’t a mercenary. I put him in jail this week for shooting two women over on Avenue C.”
That piece of news took the men by surprise; most of them frowned, but a few of them, including the man in the cloth cap and vest, thought it was pretty funny—shot two women! Their laughter sent Charlie into a boiling rage suddenly. His right hand moved toward the pistol grip, but he forced it away. He turned his back and walked to the hardware store. When he reached the foot of the steps, he turned around to find the group of men separating, moving away up the street or to the opposite sidewalk, singly or in twos. The hardware man stood on the porch with one hand resting on the awning crank. “I thank you,” said Charlie.
Stosh nodded at the body covered, half of it covered, by Charlie’s tunic. “A barber?”
“What they tell me.”
At the first wail of a patrol car’s siren, they both looked north. They were still looking in that direction when a child, a small boy of seven or eight with a dead-white complexion and tangled black hair, came around the corner of Twenty-fourth Street holding a wrinkled brown paper sack by a fist. He stopped and bent over to pick up the guard badge that had fallen from Joe Dell’Appa’s pocket. “Hey kid,” snapped Charlie, “leave that alone. You hear me?” The boy dropped it and commenced walking again while reaching into his sack and taking out a thick woody stem clustered with grapes. When he came abreast of the hardware store, he offered it to Charlie.
“Naw. You keep ’em. Thanks, though.”
The boy stared at him for an uncomfortably long moment, narrowing his eyes, going beady, as if in shrewd appraisal. At last, he nodded and went on his way just as the first police-department automobile swung around the corner at Twenty-fifth Street. Then Charlie saw the Sheriff’s big handsome Packard, with Chief Deputy Ahern driving, enter Prospect Street from the south. Kinkaid jumped out before it could roll to a stop.
Liz Landrigan had cleared off her desk and emptied its drawers of the few personal items she kept there—a framed studio portrait of her late husband, a hand-painted ceramic shepherdess (also a bell), a tiny oval photograph of Patsy in a frame she’d braded from his gray hair, a spool of black thread and a needle, nail whites and a cuticle remover; not much considering the length of her employment at Gillick, Gillick & Gillick. She’d left the office without speaking a word to anyone.
Stepping outside into the late morning sunshine, her head whirled and she’d felt about to drop; fortunately, a short ironwork railing was at hand and she’d gripped it till she no longer was swooning. But still Liz felt weak; it seemed impossible she could walk home. Fortifying herself with a deep breath, she’d aimed herself at the little park in the middle of West Eighth Street, and slowly, stepping carefully on the cobblestones, made for one of the slatted benches by the fountain. She sat down and closed her eyes and wished she were dead.
After Liz had gained some control again, she’d opened her eyes and seen Charlie Gillick. He was leaving the hotel across the street and then taking a bicycle from a bellboy who’d wheeled it up from Broadway. She’d called to him, but instantly regretted it. What could she say to Charlie if he came over? He’d scarcely looked at her, though—nodded, casually saluted, and then mounted the bicycle, pedaled away. Did he know? How could he—already? Oh God. She did wish she were dead.
But she wasn’t dead, and furthermore, she was Lizzie Landrigan, and Lizzie Landrigan was not a jellyfish! She was a woman who dealt with things, foursquare. That she always had, and always could, was her secret weapon. She wasn’t beautiful, or even pretty; she was tall and plain and bony with no special talents or gifts, unless you counted “good clerical skills,” which she was not inclined to do; and while she was bright enough, it was just enough, she felt; barely enough. She was cranky and petty and critical (Oh, I am! I am, too!), and not at all admirable —but! She had sand. She definitely had sand.
Reaching down for her deep handbag tucked between her shoe tips on the grass, Lizzie stood up glaring back at the offices of Gillick, Gillick &Gillick. Then she strode off down the short hill to Broadway. Walked north for a block and a half to a tea shop. Going inside and taking a table by the window, she ordered a cup of tea and a biscuit, and then stared off into space.
Once more seated under the steering wheel (and in near-full possession of his mental faculties and muscle coordination), Charlie Gillick motored away from Prospect Street.
The Sheriff sat next to him on the Packard’s divided front seat, lightly tapping Charlie’s decked notation cards against the back of one hand. Behind them, Chief Deputy Ahern nibbled his lip and drew on a cigarette in between nibbles. The Harrigan bicycle was jammed into the tonneau.
Kinkaid told Charlie about the most recent riot at the Standard, and how several packs of unruly strikers had wandered away from Constable Hook into Bayonne. They were angry at not being paid wages they’d earned before the walk-out. He also told Charlie that two mediators from the federal Department of Labor were in town to speak with Bayonne officials and the strike committee, but that the Standard management was still refusing to meet with anyone till the men returned to work with no guarantee of a raise or even of amnesty. “In the meantime,” said the Sheriff, “I’m expecting 40 well-rested deputies to be waiting at Headquarters, and the three of us are going to escort them down to the works. I don’t want them running into any of those strikers out for a constitutional.”
“No sir,” said Charlie, immeasurably flattered that Kinkaid had felt the inclination to fill him in on recent developments.
“You sure you’re all right? Charles?”
“I’m sure.” His head was killing him.
“I’m sorry as hell I sent you into such a predicament.”
“It was a total accident, sir. Who could’ve known? But I can identify the man who clubbed me and shot that fugitive.”
“Save it for another day.”
“I just don’t—”
“Save it. And let me give you some advice. Never lay down a loaded gun.”
“But otherwise you did good, son.” The Sheriff held up the little squares of cardboard covered with Charlie’s ingrained Palmer method penmanship. “And I thank you.” Earlier, Kinkaid had seemed especially grateful to get Klarkowski’s tip about the strikers’ ammunition run to New York and said he’d send plainclothes detectives to watch the ferry terminus, but he’d turned livid when he realized that he’d been tricked by Jeremiah Baly. The Sheriff had mistaken Baly for a well-spoken refinery worker; now it turned out he was a labor radical, an outside agitator. A Socialist. An imposter. Baly would pay a steep price for his deception, Charlie suspected. Especially since it was the Sheriff who’d recommended that Baly chair the strike committee. He’d been played for a fool and it made him righteously vengeful.
Working men in caps and shirtsleeves clogged the street outside of Police Headquarters.
“Don’t run anybody over, Charlie.”
“I’ll try not to, sir.”
He brought the car to the curb and turned off the motor.
“Mickey?” said the Sheriff. “Round up the deputies and see if you can find Judge Leahy. Charlie? You come with me.” He threw open his door, plunged out of the automobile.
Inside, Headquarters was dim with a subdued, aqueous light, and cool; heavy green shades were pulled down on the tall narrow windows, level with the sills, and electric fans roared. Patrolmen that Charlie knew, several of them fellas he’d been sworn in with last February, glanced his way, some of them doing double-takes, others rudely shining their noses with their fists. He flicked them off, and sprang up the stairs, arriving at the top just in time to see the Sheriff go into Chief Dorsey’s office.
He’d left the door half open, so Charlie followed after. But someone gripped him by an elbow and yanked him back out into the corridor. “Gillick? What’s going on? Why are you dogging the Sheriff ? Where’s your tunic?” Captain Freel stepped forward. “Is that blood in your hair?”
“It is, sir. I was attacked on Prospect Street. It’s a long story. My tunic is part of it. Sir.”
Freel looked ill, his legs seemed unsteady; there were plasters on his face and forehead, and he kept his right arm snug to his side. “So were you assigned to Sheriff Kinkaid. Is there paperwork?”
“I’m not sure, sir. I’d guess not. He just told me I had to be his driver.”
“He did, did he?” Freel crinkled his forehead. “Well, don’t worry about it, son. You’re not in any trouble.” He pointed a finger to Charlie’s clotted scalp. “But you should have that wound looked after.”
“I will, sir.” Charlie lifted an eyebrow. Will that be all?
“I wanted to talk to you about the firehouse. Did you…happen to see—the Steranchak boy?” He bent his knees to look Charlie square in the eye. “Did you actually see what happened?”
“And did you see who fired the gun?”
Charlie’s eyes flicked away. “Yes, sir.”
“Do you think you saw me? Officer Gillick? Are you under the impression that you saw me shoot the boy? Yes or no?”
“Thank you, Richie.”
“This is a unit, son.” He slapped Charlie on the shoulder. “We look out for one another.”
Charlie nodded, but it wasn’t a firm nod. Wasn’t much of a nod at all. If he ever had to testify under oath, he wouldn’t perjure himself for Lieutenant Freel. What was it that King Touey called practically everybody? Shitbirds. Charlie wouldn’t lie under oath for this shitbird! But he hoped it never went as far as that.
Entering Chief Dorsey’s office, Charlie planted himself beside a glass-fronted mahogany bookcase. The Chief was in his chair behind his big leather-topped desk. The Sheriff stood in back of him, looking out the big oriel window. An American flag hung on a pole that jutted out beside the window. “I have been reminding the men,” the Chief was saying, “I have. They know they’re not to draw their weapons unless they’re in danger of great bodily harm.” He turned half-around in his chair and looked at the back of the Sheriff’s head. “Any guess when this could be wrapped up?”
“I do,” said the Sheriff. “Tomorrow.” When he turned around, he was smiling and he beamed his smile fully on Charlie. “What do you think, Patrolman Gillick? Can we wrap things up with a bow no later than tomorrow?”
“Sir? I have the greatest confidence in you.” Then Charlie remembered where he was. “And in the Bayonne Police Department.”
The Sheriff laughed. “Listen, Dick,” he said, “do me a favor, will you? I’m going to need one of those.”
“One of those what? I wish to God you wouldn’t stand behind me!” Chief Dorsey got up from his desk chair. “One of what?”
“One of those,” said the Sheriff, and pointed to the American flag.
A few minutes later Charlie was following a civilian clerk down to the basement. At the foot of the metal steps, the clerk glanced to his left, into a narrow passage to the police surgeon’s office and the morgue. (Charlie wondered, with a small pang, if Joe Dell’Appa’s corpse was currently en route there.) Then he turned right and led Charlie past doors posted Arrest Records and Institutional Records before stopping in front of one posted Ceremonial and Sundry. From the far side of the basement came a low roar from the holding pens and two-man cells.
The clerk unlocked the door, stepped into a surprisingly deep room, and with scarcely a moment’s hesitation, worked a large carton down from a shelf at eye level. He set it on a table. Opening the flaps, he reached in with both hands and lifted out a triangularly folded and bulky post flag. With a somber expression, as if he were handing it over to a bereaved parent after a military burial, he passed the flag to Charlie.
“Am I supposed to sign something?”
“I memorized your shield number.” The clerk proudly tapped his temple with a finger.
“I’ll bring it back.”
“See that you do.”
When Charlie came out of Police Headquarters, the fabric top of the Packard was down and the Sheriff was standing on the front seat. “Men of the Standard!” he shouted through a buff-colored megaphone. “This is not where you belong, you belong on your picket lines! In the name of order and by the powers vested in me as Sheriff of Hudson County, I order you back to Constable Hook. I’m working to get you your just wages, but you must give me time. I need your patience.”
Charlie sidled up alongside of Chief Deputy Ahern watching from the sidewalk. “What’s that for?” said Ahern when he’d noticed the flag.
Charlie shrugged. “Sheriff wanted it.”
There was, just then, a distinct trudging sound. Charlie went on his toes, looking past the Bayonne policemen in front of him, and saw the strikers moving off together, more or less. When they’d gone as far as Broadway, Sheriff Kinkaid ordered the replacement deputies, all civilian men in suits and ties and summer hats, to gather promptly and file off in a triple-line formation. “Acting as your Captain of the Guard today is Judge George Leahy, a distinguished jurist from Jersey City. Listen to him!” The Sheriff sat down in the motor-car, and then stepped out by the driver’s door. Before going around the bonnet, he reached back inside and finically brushed off the seat cushion.
Stowing the bulky flag in the tonneau with the bicycle, Charlie climbed back in under the wheel. Once everyone was settled as before—Kinkaid up front, Ahern in back—he pressed the starter button, put the machine into gear, and then made a wide U-turn to come around behind the eastward-facing deputies, who weren’t acting martial in either their lining up or their bearing. They were glancing uneasily from side to side. This wasn’t fun any longer and they wanted the strike to be over. “Charlie, get out and go tell Judge Leahy he can start the forward march whenever he pleases. He’s up at the head.”
Judge Leahy was a good friend of Charlie’s father and had been to the Gillicks’ house often for Sunday dinner and holiday parties. He was a tallish, trim, flinty man of 50-some years with snow-white hair but grizzled—repulsively wild-grown!—black eyebrows. This afternoon he had on a starched blue uniform with a high piece of cardboard stuck in his cap that, in hasty lettering, proclaimed him Captain of the Guard. He was calling for silence and for everyone to freeze in place, right where they stood. As Leahy inspected his motionless deputies and did a silent head count, Charlie approached him. The judge held up one finger. Charlie waited. Finally Leahy got his count and said, “Yes?” with no indication he’d ever seen Charlie before in his life.
“The Sheriff said any time you want to march them….”
“And you can tell the Sheriff there’s a rumor those strikers that just passed us by are going to wait at the trestle on East 22nd Street. Some of these men,” he gestured at the deputies, “heard talk.”
Charlie ran back and, once he had the wheel in his hands again, repeated the rumor.
“And why would they do that? What’s the point of an ambush?” said Kinkaid. His cheeks lost their high, hearty color.
The men directly in front of the Packard started to move—it was scarcely marching, more like reluctant shuffling—and the procession plodded down 26th Street across town to Avenue E, then continued south.
Ten minutes later, Judge Leahy and the first column of deputies turned, straggling and disorderly, into East 22nd Street, where it pitched downhill and ran under the Jersey Central Railroad Bridge. The embankments swarmed with strikers armed with sticks and stones. The bridge itself was filled with more men similarly armed, as well as with women and adolescent children. Leahy called a halt and sent back one of the deputies to the Packard; the Sheriff was to return with him. He needed to make the call whether to proceed, not Judge Leahy.
By then, the strikers had commenced jeering, waving their fists and daring the fink deputies to keep right on marching. Rocks and old bricks encrusted with mortar came hurtling pell-mell through the air. Most of the missiles thudded or burst harmlessly in the street, but a few struck deputies, on an upthrown wrist or a quickly turned shoulder. A railbed cinder skimmed Judge Leahy’s forehead and tore open a flap of skin.
This was the first time Charlie Gillick had to reach an arm through the window to squeeze the klaxon and meanwhile steer with one hand. But he managed to bring the Packard to the front of the line and to pull it off to the side of the street and park it without bumping into or running over anyone. The Sheriff, Chief Deputy Ahern and Charlie all piled out and were instantly pelted. Charlie still had the loaded revolver from Prospect Street and was working it from his waistband when Kinkaid said, “No weapons. Ow!” His cap sailed off his head. “These are my deputies!” he shouted, looking fiercely to his left and right and then up at the crowd pressed against the stone trestle wall. “On their way to Constable Hook to protect the lives of working men and their homes!” Someone overhead shouted, “Bull puck!” and a burst of laughter preceded another volley of stones and brickbats. Several crashed into the Packard, cracking the windshield and creating starbursts.
Judge Leahy, blinded by the blood that poured from his wound, lolloped into the Sheriff’s path. Kinkaid took him by an arm and led him over to the curb and sat him down, before dashing back into the middle of the street. Standing erect, he addressed the deputies who’d broken ranks and gathered into several huddled groups like cows in a rainstorm. “You men! On my count of three, proceed directly under the bridge, no running but be brisk about it. I think we’ll be all right.” He took a deep breath. “One!”
At that moment Charlie had the strangest, almost hallucinatory feeling, as if he were a costumed extra in a stage melodrama. Everything seemed bright, overly bright, artificially lighted, and the Sheriff was waving his arms bombastically, playing to the second balcony. “Two! Three!” The deputized civilians moved cautiously toward the underpass, using interlaced hands to cover their hats and protect their skulls. The strikers pelted them with more stones, and with a few beer bottles they’d scavenged, but their vehemence was gone. They began to disperse, first gradually, then quickly, peeling away from the embankments and emptying the overpass.
Kinkaid bent down and retrieved his cap. After he’d dusted it off and put it back on, he set off again, arms pumping, and weaved his way through the clumps of deputies and got to the front. Spinning around, then walking backwards, he shouted, “We’ll continue straight on down to the Chinese Wall—you’re doing yourselves proud, men!”
They marched on unmolested.
Charlie and Chief Deputy Ahern had been crouched behind the Packard, watching; now, as the deputies moved away, passing beyond the trestle, they rose up and looked at the damage to the windshield. Ahern rubbed his chin and walked around the front of the car and pulled open the driver’s door. He leaned inside. Using an elbow and a fist, he went about dislodging, knocking free, the splintered glass, big chunks of it sliding off the rounded bonnet and crashing into the street. “At least you’ll be able to see to steer,” he told Charlie. “Now give me a hand with the judge.”
But Leahy was no longer seated on the curbstone.
Charlie gazed around in search of him, and—there!—spotted the judge moving at a slow stagger back up the hill toward Avenue E. Without being told, he ran after him.
Leahy flinched when Charlie caught up at the top of the hill and seized him gently by an arm. “Come with me, sir. I’ll walk you back to the motor-car.”
“Are you taking me to the hospital?”
“To the Standard. There’s a doctor on the premises.”
“Are you sure?” said Leahy, blotting at his face with a blood-soaked handkerchief. “It’s all confusion.”
“I’m fairly sure, sir. Come with me.” Charlie tried to lead him, but the judge freed his arm in a gesture of irritation.
“‘Fairly sure isn’t good enough! Take me to the hospital—or else let me be and I’ll get there by myself.”
“Sir, please, we don’t—”
“Charlie Gillick?” said the judge leaning forward, perplexed and peering. “John J.’s boy?”
“Yes sir, Judge.”
“You’re a policeman? Does your father know about this?”
“He does, sir,” said Charlie with a slight smile. “Now, let me help you along.”
“Take me to the hospital, Charlie. Do you see what’s happened?” He pointed to the gash in his forehead. “I need to see a doctor.”
“The Standard is much closer, Judge.”
“Do as I tell you, Charlie Gillick—I’m Captain of the Guard!”
“I know you are, Judge, but technically I’m a deputy sheriff at the moment and the Sheriff—”
“Goddamn you!” Judge Leahy twisted away from Charlie. After swaying, he righted himself and tottered to the sidewalk, where he braced against a telephone pole, breathing hard and staring down at his shoes, their toe caps spotted with blood. “Dirty little scut.”
Ahern saw Charlie hurrying back by himself. “Where’s Leahy?”
“He won’t come unless I drive him to the hospital.”
“For the love of Pete.” Then, as Charlie joined him: “Listen, son, you might as well do as he asks.”
“But…” Charlie glanced toward the trestle, and beyond it. The last of the straggling deputies already were a quarter-mile away.
“Yes, sir.” Charlie wasn’t sure whether he was disappointed or relieved. If forced to pick, though—relieved. He’d pick relieved. A guy’s brains can get pummeled only so many times before he ends up a cretin. As he was climbing back into the Packard, Ahern said, “Wait a minute.” Looking over a shoulder, following Ahern’s gaze, Charlie saw one of the strikers, a really big man, six three or four, maybe two-thirty, stagger down the steps from the trestle. One hand clutched the pipe railing, the other was pressed to the back of his head. His shirt front was bloody. His feet slid out from under him and he sat down hard. Ahern scurried over there.
When Charlie got there himself, he was doubly startled, first at seeing the big laborer’s face and hands—the flesh disfigured by leathery burn scars—and then at hearing Chief Deputy Ahern utter a rush of nasal vowels and hard consonants, speaking fluently to the dazed man in his own language. The man shook his head. Ahern spoke foreign again, louder and more emphatically, and the man leaned forward as if he’d been ordered to. His thick hair was drenched with blood that kept flowing out around the hand that he’d clapped there.
Ahern threw off his tunic. Bunching his left shirtsleeve, just above the elbow, in his right fist, he gave a sharp, violent tug. The broadcloth tore off at the shoulder seam. He yanked it free, rolled it twice, and then it was an absorbent wound dressing; he wrapped it around the big man’s head and tied a full knot. When the man pulled away and raised himself to a half-standing posture, Ahern clamped a hand down on his shoulder and spoke to him again. He sounded especially harsh, coercive. Then he turned to Charlie. “I could use your help.” Charlie moved in and the two of them lifted the man to his feet and assisted him down the last few steps. Slowly they led him across the pavement. “I told him he was under arrest,” said Ahern. “Otherwise he might jump out of the car.”
“The car, sir?”
“Take him along to the hospital with Leahy. He looks in worse condition. And by the way, Charlie, I just told him he was under arrest. He’s not, and we can’t really be bothered with that, can we? But let’s just see that his wound is treated, all right?”
Charlie nodded and sneaked a glance at the big man’s face, at the raised, shiny, bluish scar tissue there, and then down at one of his huge maimed hands. “What happened to him?”
“I gather he walked in front of a rock that one of his chums meant for us.”
“No, I meant—his face and….”
Ahern frowned. “I didn’t ask him, but I’d bet my hat he’s a still cleaner. Hold on tight now, Charlie, I’m going to let go for a second.” He did, reaching quickly for the chrome handle on the rear compartment door of the Sheriff’s Packard and pulling on it. “And I’d also bet our man isn’t a whole lot older than you are.”
He looked to be at least 50. Or maybe 60. “Still cleaner?” said Charlie.
“Meaning somebody—ach, take him by a belt loop, son, hoist a little…steady now—that scrapes tar from the tanks twelve hours a day, six days a week, in 200 degree heat.” The man didn’t resist when they helped him carefully into the rear compartment of the motor-car. He slumped over onto his side, his eyes wide and unblinking. He kept moving his lips. Ahern shut the door. “They work for ten minutes, shoveling that goo, then run outside red as beets so that somebody else can throw a bucket of water on them. Then it’s right back in again. It’s hot work, Charlie. Very hot work.”
Charlie said nothing. He was trying to imagine 200 degrees.
“Even so, while sympathy is all well and good, they’re the miserable bastards that caused all of this ruckus—the still cleaners. They went out first. After being told they had some crust asking for twenty-five cents more a day.” Charlie noticed the muscles of Ahern’s face tightening. “Business! Don’t get me started on business, Charlie, and those who go about their lives conductin’ it!”
“And how they’ll always mulct the workin’ man!”
Ahern laughed, but whether at Charlie’s obsequiousness or to mock his own heated oratory, Charlie couldn’t decide. “Turn this machine around and see if you can’t find the judge. Though by now he might already be at the hospital.”
“I doubt it, sir.”
After Charlie had started the Packard, Ahern walked around to his window and said, “Soon as you leave them two off, meet us at the Standard.”
“I’ll be as quick as I can.”
“And Charlie? If we’re not there, like as not Gene went and commandeered somebody’s else’s motor-car.” He smiled. “In that case just bring this one back to the hotel.”
It was not lost on Charlie that Chief Deputy Ahern had just referred to the Sheriff as Gene, as if the three of them were comrades. He sat up straighter and said, “I will,” and having the common sense not to address Ahern as Mickey, added, “sir.” Then he said, “Sir? How come you can talk Polish? If it’s all right to ask.”
Ahern grinned. “Makes me life a lot simpler than it’d be otherwise.”
“I married a Polish girl,” he said, stepping away from the car. “The former Catherine Gwiazdowski, who still blesses me each and every day for giving her a more reasonable name.” He pointed up the hill. “Go. And don’t forget to pick up the judge.” The moment Charlie rolled away, Ahern turned and ran under the trestle, on his way to the refinery.
After leaving the tea shop, where she’d spent well over an hour staring off into space, Liz Landrigan continued up Broadway. At 12th Street, a crowd of men in shirtsleeves and cloth caps thronged the sidewalk and filled the street waving tagboard signs. They shouted two- and three-word slogans in what sounded like several different, but not entirely different, foreign languages rife with hard, cracking consonants. Liz’s hand went to her heart. Her mouth fell open. Except for the occasional smell of burning crude oil, and the bawling sirens of police cars and fire trucks speeding toward the Hook, this was the first time since the Standard strike had broken out that she’d had any direct experience of it.
An unshaven man with a large bulbous nose turned toward her. She flinched, put her hands up defensively. The man shook his head and looked crestfallen. “No, no, lady,” he said. “I won’t hurt you.”
“I should say you won’t!” And there it was again: sand. “Now, are you people going to let me pass, or must I go entirely out of my way? You’re blocking the public sidewalk!” She turned her head and saw half a dozen pale female faces staring out at them from behind the plate window of a fabric and notions shop.
“They won’t pay us,” said the man. “They don’t pay us.”
“Of course not, you’re on strike.”
“What we earned before,” said the man. “They keepin’ what they owe us.”
“That doesn’t seem fair, does it? I’m sorry,” said Liz. Turning to go back down Broadway, she wondered if she ought to give the man a quarter. She decided against it. She didn’t want to insult him or hurt his feelings. He hadn’t asked for money.
She swung back around. “I don’t like being called ‘lady.’”
“Missus,” he said after glancing at her ring finger and seeing the band.
“Better,” said Liz, and smiled. “Now, what did you want?”
“We don’t break no windows.”
“Oh, and for that, I suppose you want a medal?”
The man looked startled for a second, then he broke into laughter that bent him over and caught the attention of several fellow strikers nearby. When they glanced at Liz, she made a disgruntled face and hurried back down to the corner of 11th Street, crossed, and continued walking east. We don’t break no windows! And for that, what did they want, a medal? The very idea!
Sheriff Kinkaid and his men were a block and a half away from the Standard Oil plant when a hotheaded striker, or striker’s boy, darted from an alley between tenements and bashed a deputy in the head with a brown-glass bottle. The deputy pitched forward but caught himself and didn’t fall. The next deputy over in line drew a pistol and fired. The assailant grabbed at his shoulder and spun away running. Immediately, there was more shooting by other panicked deputies, and then return fire by strikers behind alley fences and open windows along East 22nd Street. At that point, no matter what the Sheriff said, he couldn’t be heard and it was every man for himself, the deputized druggists, billing clerks, barbers, saloon-keepers and newspaper pressmen breaking and running under a rain of bullets, racing for the breastworks and, behind them, the Standard gates held open by other civilian deputies on duty.
Kinkaid was pushed and jostled and almost sent flying. Sweet weeping Mary, what a fiasco this had turned out to be! The Sheriff looked blank for a moment, but then, face set and stern, he walked on, maintaining a steady and measured tread in the middle of the now-deserted street. Gunfire continued to pour down. If they wanted to shoot him, they could go ahead and shoot him, but he didn’t think they would. And if he was right and they didn’t, then for certain they would talk about him, saying that Sheriff, nothing rattles that big Irisher Sheriff. They’d respect him. He realized that his hands were clenched and so he opened them and let them dangle, and kept on toward the Standard wall, moving deliberately with the springy gait of a hoofer.
By the time he reached the deadline, where city policemen huddled behind the breastworks, the gunfire had ceased and it was so quiet that Kinkaid could hear the squeaking of his heavy steel-toed shoes. He turned around. Milling in front of Mydosh Hall, diagonally across the cobblestones, were a few dozen strikers just staring—not glaring—at him; dozens more, he felt certain, watched from the tenements.
“Are you all right, Sheriff?”
When Kinkaid pulled his head back and looked up the filthy white wall of the refinery, he was startled to find George Hennessey, the plant superintendent, standing on the parapet among heavily armed company and Bergoff guards.
“I’m fine. Thank you. But is that a weapon I see you holding, Mr. Hennessey?”
With obvious pride and a sudden chuckle, Hennessey raised a Winchester by the breechblock. “Indeed it is, sir.”
“Put it down. That’s an order.”
Hennessey reared back. “I remind you, Sheriff, that this property belongs to the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, and that I am in charge here.”
“And still I order you to put down that rifle! The same goes for the rest of you up there!” He swung an arm in a wide half-circle. “Put down your weapons!” And looked to the city policemen crouched behind oil barrels and piled-up sewer pipes. “You too, men.”
The strikers, meanwhile, had moved away from the shingled brown heap of Mydosh Hall and were edging, en masse, toward the breastworks. Swiftly, Kinkaid brought up a hand, palm out to them. They halted. With a thin smile, he turned back to Hennessey and the guards, who all had their rifles trained now on the strikers, some even taking a bead.
“Sheriff,” said Hennessey in a loud arrogant voice, “you need to understand, sir, that in my capacity as—”
“Damn your capacity,” said the Sheriff shouting him down. His face reddened. “Let me tell you something about my capacity, Mr. Superintendant! I promise you, promise and warn you, that if any shot is fired except in defense of life, and by that I mean life, not property, I will personally arrest you and every single other officer of the Standard Oil that I can find on the premises!”
“Understood? Every. Single. Last. One. Of you!”
Hennessey considered, and then with an irritable intake of breath, he leaned his rifle against the parapet. He nodded to the guards on either side of him to do the same. But to save face, he had to say, “We won’t tolerate any more trouble, Sheriff.”
“Nor will I.” Kinkaid smiled, showing white teeth and healthy pink gums. “Thank you, Superintendent.”
The strikers, of course, were watching and listening, absorbed. After sending another glance in their direction, the Sheriff let his smile fade and looked back up the wall. “One more thing.”
“Why don’t you just come inside and we can—”
“No time for that. One last thing—these men are owed wages for labor performed before the strike began, and your company has a moral obligation to see they are paid.”
“Kinkaid”—so it was just Kinkaid now, was it?—“you can’t expect me, considering their behavior over the past several days, to allow those men inside these walls! No!”
“Did I say anything about their going inside, Hennessey?” Tit for tat. “Did you hear me say anything along those lines?”
“Then what do you propose?”
“I propose that you instruct your paymaster to have all of the men’s pay envelopes filled to the penny by nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t worry about where, Mr. Hennessey. Thank you.” Best, thought the Sheriff, to end this on a cordial note. But on second thought, maybe not. “Just do as I say.”
At Avenue C, Liz stopped into a butcher’s shop for calf’s liver and several rashers of bacon, and by the time she got to her house, she was feeling almost like herself again.
“Pats?” she called up the front stairs. “I’m home early! Pats?” Continuing to call his name, Liz walked through the parlor riffling the post, then tossing it all (the water bill, a clutch of solicitations from Catholic charities, the new McClure’s) onto the sideboard. She stood there for a moment pulling off her white gloves. Going into the kitchen, Liz stopped dead and then pressed fingers to her mouth.
On the table were two scarcely touched soft-boiled eggs in caddies, two spoons, two butter knives, two plates of buttered toast, two cups filled with cold coffee.
She swung around to look behind her, as if—as if what? Her brother King might be sneaking up? After what happened at the office, and despite the chatter there about King when she’d first gone in that morning, and the questions put to her delicately by her co-workers, Liz virtually had forgotten the telephone call she’d received before leaving the house, the newspapers she’d seen, the fact that King was back in Bayonne and had shot four men in an automobile last night. She hadn’t entirely forgotten, of course, she’d just—tucked it away. And considering what she’d had to deal with once she was called into John J’s office (the terrible, contemptuous look on the old man’s face: that, she’d never forget), Liz wasn’t surprised now that she’d tucked away any thoughts and feelings about King’s return, and what it could mean, the trouble it could make, for Patsy and herself, to the very farthest cove of her mind.
At any rate, King wasn’t sneaking up behind her.
“Pats?” she said again, softly.
She put the packages from the butcher’s into the ice box and was about to climb the back stairs to Patsy’s attic room when the Cat of Ashes flowed in through the cat door from the mud room. He glided over to Liz, and then, after bumping her ankle with his head, brushed up against it, which always had given her a disagreeable chill and did again now. “Well, you’re back too, I see.”
Opening the kitchen door, Liz stepped into the mud room and then, peering through the back door window, saw Patsy out in the yard. He was snugged down in one of the four green-painted Westport plank chairs that Michael had bought the first summer they’d lived in the house; with a wince, she recalled how she’d pursed her mouth and complained tartly about their color: “I’d think you’d know I’d prefer blue.” Oh dear God, she could be such a grump! Naturally, Michael had offered to re-paint them whatever shade of blue she desired, but, also naturally, Liz, martyr-like, had only tipped up her chin, shook her head fractionally, and replied, “No, it’s quite all right, they’ll do.”
Before she went outside, Liz stood watching Patsy, who’d taken off the good clothes he’d dressed in that morning intending to go out searching for his cat, and replaced them with a soiled white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a pair of old pilly gray trousers, and his bedroom slippers. His knobby elbows were planted on the wide chair arms while, over and over with a listless but regular rhythm, he brought his hands together, to touch fingertips lightly and then fling them wide apart. He looked sadder than usual. And his face seemed flush, which, given his history of illness, caused Liz to feel a nervous twinge—though it could’ve been, surely was, just from sitting outside in direct sunlight without a hat. His bright cheeks and his steady, peculiar gesture had so transfixed Liz that she didn’t notice for half a minute that her kitchen broom was propped against the chair on Patsy’s far side. Not the broom again! And then the cat came out into the mud room, glided around Liz’s skirts, and streaked through his little back door.
The squeak and thump of the flap startled Patsy. He looked up, squinting in the bright sun, and then looked back to the house. He saw his sister through the window. While he was struggling up from his chair, Liz stepped out onto the short porch.
“King was here! Didn’t I tell you he was coming back?”
“You most certainly did. I should always trust your intuition.”
Patsy bent down and scooped up the Cat of Ashes. “Oh, but it was this little fella told me!”
“That little fella, huh?” Patsy grinned, Lizzie rolled her eyes. Honestly, she couldn’t remember when the Cat of Ashes had become, in her poor brother’s mind, his roving surrogate, but it had been quite a while; like his midnight whisperings into the telephone, his cat’s reconnaissance reports (“Cassius was by the firehouse today, Lizzie—they washed all the trucks.” “Cassius went over to Melville Park last night, Liz—says the carousel’s not working, he says”) never had ceased to unnerve Liz, although by now she guessed she’d grown used to them. She came down off the porch and met her brother in the yard, giving him a hug and then a kiss on his forehead. “Where’s King now?” she asked, trying to sound casual.
“He had to see a man about a horse. But I don’t know. One of those fellas that came around said it was a moving-picture man.”
She listened smilingly, but thought, Here we go. “One of what fellas?”
Patsy shrugged. “They came in a motor-car without a top. Three of them.”
“Hmm. Did King say—is he coming back?” Liz eased down into one of the Westport chairs and nodded Patsy into the one directly opposite, not the one he’d been sitting in. He bent over, released the cat, then took the broom from where it was leaning and leaned it against the chair Liz had indicated. Then he sat down. Cassius sprang into his lap. “Will he…be here for supper? Did he say?”
“You’re home early.”
“Yes.” A false, forced smile rippled across her mouth. “I’m not feeling well.”
“What’s the matter? Do you need an aspirin?” Patsy started to stand, but she waved him down.
“I’ll be fine.” Languidly, she brushed away a horsefly. “Did you and King…have a nice chat?” Had he told Patsy what happened?
“He’s a big hero now. He was outnumbered. Four to one.”
Well, that answered her question.
“He doesn’t want a medal,” said Patsy, shyly and in a hoarse whisper, “but he wouldn’t mind a cash reward.”
“I’m sure.” Liz made a wry mouth: she couldn’t help it. “Pats. Is he coming back later?”
“We were supposed to take a walk to the bay, but those fellas came, so we didn’t. He can’t live here, though. How could he? Now that all the crooks know that he’s a, he’s a…”
“Of course,” said Liz. She was too weary to ask more questions, or even to think of any. “Daring, I’m not feeling well at all. Would you mind if I go lie down? Will that be all right?”
“Should you call the doctor?”
“Oh no no no,” she said getting to her feet. “I just want to rest for a bit. And don’t you stay out here too much longer without a hat.”
She went inside the house and climbed the back stairs to her bedroom, which was overbright and stifling. She pulled the shades, removed her skirt and blouse and stretched out on the bed with the heel of a hand pressed to her forehead.
She would deal with everything, the way she always did; she would—but later.
Half an hour into her first acting lesson, while Al Coffey was putting her through more pantomime exercises—“Excited! Annoyed! Panicked!”—all of a sudden Olive Ince was buoyed and possessed by incomparably high spirits. Her mind lit up like a magnificent ballroom, and she laughed out loud just seconds after Al had called for “Petulance!” “Let me try that one again.” She took a deep breath, concentrated. Drew down her eyebrows, set the corners of her mouth, tucked in her chin: Petulance!
Then Al said, “Infatuation,” and that threw her, but only for a moment. Adjusting her posture, straightening tall, Olive parted her lips and willed blood into her cheeks—she didn’t think her blood actually obeyed, but she felt proud of her instincts, nonetheless. Look how she was picking this up! Like she’d never picked up singing or dancing or playing the piano; poor Aunt Dot, despite prolonged efforts to teach Olive the piano, had despaired finally and given up on her. But this! This acting game, it wasn’t easy, but it felt, somehow, natural. To her. Natural to Olive. Something she could do, and then do better, maybe even do well. “Proud!” said Al. “Baffled! Curious! Enraged!”
She’d been a beautiful baby, an adorable little girl, and was now a stunning young woman, but what, except practice good grooming, had Olive ever done to achieve her status as the Great Beauty of Bayonne? Nothing. Not a single thing. And what sort of status was that, anyhow? Being fussed over, as far back as she could remember, was just embarrassing, annoying.
Done with the eyes.
Accomplished with the mouth, the cheeks.
Managed—despite a sharp twinge from that damnable bullet wound—with the shoulders.
Growing up, Olive never had been good, or even competent, at athletics and games—not basket-ball, not swimming, not bicycling; not hopscotch; not hoops, not darts, not yo-yos, not quoits. And she’d never, not once, tried to walk along the top of an orchard fence, convinced she couldn’t, that she’d fall and look like a fool. And her mother would only scold her and spank her for soiling a pretty dress, for scratching her extraordinary face.
“Sullen! Ambitious! Ashamed!”
Around the time Olive was 9 or so, Helen Ince had started bringing her along to vaudeville and roof-top theaters, occasionally to ones in Bayonne, Jersey City, and Hoboken, but usually to those in New York, at Union or Herald squares, or well uptown on Broadway, and almost always to weekday matinees. She would arrive at St. Mary’s School and take Olive from her classroom, from her late-morning geography or spelling lessons, with a lie about an “ailing relative,” or a “situation at home.” Because the nuns were aware, of course, that Olive’s father had a weakness for drink, they presumed the ailing relative or the situation at home meant, in face-saving code, that Daniel Ince had suddenly returned, shellacked and ill, from one of his selling trips (if he’d happened currently to be employed) or from just another brannigan, and that Helen needed Olive’s help in dealing with the poor, weak man; they would nod and smile sympathetically (wondering, meanwhile, why the mother hadn’t collected both daughters; Mary Margaret, the older, plain child, was never summoned away during an Ince family crisis), and Olive would calmly gather up her books and pencils and eraser and join her mother at the classroom door.
“Now how about this—ashamed but angry, too!”
Without thinking, she cut her eyes to the corners. Flared her nostrils. Compressed her lips. Al laughed and clapped. “Take a little break?”
“No, let’s continue,” said Olive, and waited for him to think up another emotion, a different state of being.
Although charmed by the performers she’d seen in sketches and plays on a dozen different stages, Olive had never caught the acting bug—she couldn’t imagine herself memorizing all of those words—but she was deeply impressed by the actors’ bravery (what else would you call it, going out there in front of hundreds of people?) and by the thunderous applause their bravery commanded. It would really be something, she’d thought, to be applauded, to be celebrated, for something she’d actually done, and knew she could do again. Throughout her girlhood she’d tried hard to believe there was a reservoir of specialness, some special gift, stored inside of her, but if so, the reservoir must have been very deep, indeed, and sheltered.
“Listen, Olive, a little less exaggerated. That translates well enough, but people are getting tired of the big sweep. Try grief now—but strictly with the lips. Go!”
Eventually, by the time Olive was in seventh grade, her mother had grown tired of “traipsing off to the theater”; at least that’s what she’d said—Olive suspected it was more likely there wasn’t money enough any longer for such extravagances, not after Olive’s dad left the house one late spring morning on a selling trip and never was seen or heard from again. But Olive, too, had tired of theater-going; the comedies and the melodramas seemed repetitious and tiresome, and while she’d maintained a keen appreciation for the bravery of the players, and a genuine envy of their freewheeling and scandalous lives (They lived in hotels! Practiced Free Love! Were often named as correspondents in sensational divorce cases!), she’d remained firm in her belief that if there was any secret specialness inside of her, it wasn’t a talent for acting.
Until this very hour!
She could just kiss Al Coffey, although the sweet little man would be mortified.
Olive dropped into the rocker, fanning her face with a hand while Al filled two clean glasses from the pitcher of lemonade that had been sitting on the table since Bill set it down there last evening. He handed a glass to her and drained his own in one long, throat-rippling gulp.
He’d said, a little more than an hour ago, “Bill’s a funny guy, all right, but still it beats me why he never mentioned that he wants you for the strike picture. Hell’s bells, Olive, he told everybody in the place! She’s perfect, he says about you. You’re not just pretty, you got steel in your spine.”
“Steel in my spine?” My goodness. Well, did she? Yes. Yes, as a matter of fact. Oh Bill. Oh honey. “But I don’t know the first thing about playing in a picture. All I did as a little girl was shoot off a gun.”
“I saw that picture! Bill showed it to Bud and me. It was the first time you two met, he says.”
“You must’ve made quite the impression.” Al had frowned briefly, thinking. “Listen, Olive, I could show you a few things. How it’s done. It’s all in the face, mainly, and moving your body. Using it. And if somebody’s making a speech, don’t react till he’s done. Same goes for you. Make your speech and then react.”
“That’s what I’m worried about, making speeches.”
“Ah!” He’d lifted a hand and then brought it down as if slapping the hind quarters of a horse. “Nothing to it! You can say whatever you like, really—there’s no sound, except it’s best to approximate what the intertitle’s going to say since, you’d be surprised, a lot of people can read lips.”
“I could do that.”
“Sure you could. Just, you can’t think one thing and say another. Don’t be thinking about you’re hungry when you’re telling the guy playing your dad it’s too dangerous to go to the factory.”
“All right, that’s good to know.”
“Otherwise, it’s all just expressions. Showing the audience what you’re feeling in a split-second. Or sooner. And some business, of course.”
“Yeah—picking up a knife, closing the window. I’m not saying there’s nothing to it, sweetheart, but Bill thinks you got the stuff, and I trust him. Just talking to you like this? I can see what he sees in you.” But when Al realized what he’d said, implied, he’d blushed crimson. “I mean—I can see you got character.”
Character. Oh, she supposed, she had that, but if she were entirely honest with herself, Olive would have had to admit it wasn’t of the strength, uncommonness, and reliability that she would’ve desired. It was just enough to get by. “So then. You’ll give me a lesson? Now?”
Al had glanced at his strap watch and said, sure, why not? They’d start with some pantomime, using her arms, using her hands, her spine, her shoulders, see how good she was at facial expressions.
Pretty good, as it turned out, especially once she took her wounded arm out of the damnable sling and tossed it aside.
Now, she was holding her lemonade glass to her mouth, ticking it lightly against her front teeth. She set it down on the table. “Do you know Bill from California?”
Al nodded. “I fell in with Horseley’s outfit not long after Bill came out. We worked on a lot of pictures together there, and then when Horseley sold off his company—more like he was forced to—Bill and me, and Bud Bleach by then, went out on our own. Making Foreign Legion pictures in Death Valley, pirate pictures on Catalina Island, shooting on roped-off city streets every Sunday morning when nobody was around. Driving up the San Jacinta Mountains and making believe it was the Klondike. But watching out for mountain lions.” He smiled, pouring himself a little more lemonade. “We had fun. Bill loves making pictures, and so do I. So does Bud.”
“So you three are…partners?”
“Suppose so, yeah, though me and Bud didn’t put much spondulex into the company—some, but not a fraction as much as Bill. And when we were almost broke—our pictures didn’t always land right—when we were broke, or getting there, Billy just went and invented some new camera lens or something, then took it over to the Alexandria Hotel and sold it to a competitor in the lobby. And we’d be back in business again.”
“Sold it outright?” She was thinking, Billy? She’d never heard anyone call him Billy.
“You’re a quick one, Olive. We told him not to. But you know what he’d say? ‘There’s always more where that came from.’” Al pulled his head back and laughed. “Any rate, there always does seem to be more, and then more, when it comes to our Bill.”
“Why’d you all move back here?” said Olive.
“Not my idea. Or Bud’s, either. Nobody’s making pictures in the East anymore, or hardly anybody. But Bill’s mother wrote and told him about this old brewery up for sale, knowing he’d been itching to come home. I’m guessing you’re a big part of it, miss, if not the entire reason.”
Olive said, “Mmm.” Then she said, “Tell me something, Al.” She’d been working around to this; she’d set it up, now she asked: “And you got here—when? In March?” As if she didn’t know.
“Well, Bud and I did. Bill went straight to Delaware and stayed there till maybe two weeks ago. Or not even. All the work of turning this place into a studio, he’d send us up his drawings and we’d hire who we needed to, and just—”
“What, he never told you about Delaware?”
Olive picked up the lemonade pitcher and topped off her glass, refilled Al’s. “No,” she said, “he did not. Would you care to?”
Charlie had found Judge Leahy right where he’d left him, leaning against the same telephone pole. But instead of getting into the front of the Packard, as Charlie said to, he’d pulled open the rear-compartment door and so discovered the colossal still cleaner lying across the seat with his legs drawn up to his chest. “Good God!” He’d jumped back. “Someone’s hiding in there, one of them!”
With a meant-to-be-heard gust of exasperation, Charlie leapt out and charged around the front of the car to the other side.
“No one’s hiding, Judge. I’m bringing him to the hospital, same as you. Now climb in.” He yanked open the front door. “Please.”
“I will not! He could strangle me from behind.”
Out of patience, Charlie had taken Leahy by an elbow and forced him into the Packard. He’d struck a warning finger. “If you get out, I’m going on without you.”
“I can hardly believe who your father is! He must be mortified!” That’s all the judge had had to say; after that he’d glared straight ahead, humiliated and deeply angry.
Now, Charlie brought the Packard to rest on the grass behind the hospital. Before he could even engage the brake, Judge Leahy lurched from the car, walked off in a slewing gait. He pounded on a side door and was admitted.
With difficulty Charlie dragged out the giant and stood him on his feet. He seemed less dazed, but much weaker. Confused. When he staggered, Charlie put an arm around his back, but if he fell, he’d take down Charlie with him. They started to walk, slowly. As they approached the hospital, a nurse opened the rear door and sidestepped to let them in. Once she’d found an invalid chair and a medical orderly to push him in it, Charlie felt free to leave, and started to.
“Officer? Wait just a moment.” The nurse was a pale, pleasant-faced woman not far past with straw-colored hair pulled back in a thick bun. She was taller than average, though not nearly as tall as Lizzie Landrigan. Grabbing Charlie by his wrist, she frowned at the bloody matted hair above his right ear. “Come with me.” She pointed to a door with a large window of frosted glass.
“I really can’t, I should—”
“Don’t be silly, you have a cut that needs cleaning. It won’t take five minutes.” She smiled like a normal woman, but sounded like an old crabby nun. Charlie blushed and followed her meekly into the dark room. He sat in a hard chair when she told him to. There were glass-fronted cabinets on two walls, a cupboard with half-a-dozen drawers, a wet sink, and a zinc table with rolls of tape and gauze on top. Hanging above that was a little square mirror. Seeing all of the scabbing on his face, the scratches, the swelling, the big lump on his forehead, Charlie averted his eyes. He didn’t look into the mirror again.
After raising the heavy paper window shade, the nurse opened a cabinet and reached down a bottle of iodine. Then she opened a drawer in the hutch, shut it, opened another drawer, and found a cloth that she ran under the tap and wrung out. “Now, sit still.” She stood beside Charlie, wiping his hair—it crackled—and daubing the shallow gash where he’d been cracked with the pistol. She carefully spread it apart with a thumb and first finger. He winced.
“Did this happen at the Standard?”
“No,” he said, thinking about the blond, moon-faced man, then about the man with the cloth cap and vest, and then about Stosh, his good Samaritan from the hardware store. You oughta get up right now. I don’t like the looks of this. He remembered what Joe Dell’Appa’s body looked like sprawled out in the street. How grotesque. Dark blood running in the crevices between cobblestones. Charlie’s hand moved automatically now to his tunic pocket, just to make sure he still had the black pistol. But he wasn’t wearing his tunic; he’d left it on Prospect Street, draped over the corpse. He startled—
“It’s only a little iodine,” scolded the nurse, applying it. “My goodness.”
—but then he slumped, prickling with relief—
“Don’t fidget, please, I’m nearly finished.”
—because he remembered that he’d still had the pistol with him during the trestle riot, that he’d pulled it from his trousers’ waistband, but the Sheriff had told him to put it away: so he’d stuck it under the Packard’s front seat, wedged against a heavy coil spring.
“Did you hear what I just asked you?”
“No,” said Charlie, “I’m sorry.”
“I asked you about these bruises on your face.” She touched a long scratch on his neck. “And this.”
“Those I did get at the Standard. Yesterday.” Only yesterday?
“Lift your chin, look at me.” When he did, she asked him, “Do you have a headache?”
“I do. Yes.”
With a nod, she went and filled a glass with water and handed it to Charlie, along with two aspirins. “I’ll be right back.”
“Nurse, really, I need to go.”
“You need to stay right where you are,” she said, more nunlike than before, and Charlie stayed. Slumping, he looked out the window. He could see where he’d parked the Sheriff’s Packard on the grass. As soon as he got back there, he’d feel around under the seat and retrieve that pistol. It was—evidence. Although he supposed that not much noise, maybe none, would be made over the death of Joe Dell’Appa. And in that case, Charlie would just hold on to it—it might come in handy.
The door opened and nurse came back in with a sad-faced doctor who looked about 40. Without introducing himself, he squatted in front of Charlie. “Follow doctor’s finger,” said the nurse as he moved it horizontally to the left and then to the right. He twisted around and shook his head.
“You don’t have a concussion,” the nurse told Charlie. He started to get up. She pushed him back down. “Doctor, and would you have a look at this?” She took Charlie’s head in both hands and swiveled it brusquely. “I wondered if he might need stitches.” With a weary expression, the doctor bent over, pinching Charlie’s scalp wound. He looked at the nurse and nodded She brought out black thread and a needle from another drawer in the hutch. The doctor put in three stitches. Then he hurried off. He hadn’t spoken a word.
The nurse walked Charlie back down the corridor, to the door where he’d come in. It had been another crazy day, she told him–about forty men from the Standard had been treated for injuries, and half a dozen guards. The doctors and nurses and orderlies were being worn to nubbins, she said, and hoped to Almighty God the strike would end soon. Charlie assured her it would.
“And your assurance is based on what?”
“I’m working with the Sheriff,” he replied. “And the Sheriff says tomorrow. It’ll all be wrapped up with a bow sometime tomorrow.” He touched the brim of his cap. “Good day, ma’am,” he said and felt a small, pleasing tingle of self-importance.
In the Packard again, Charlie found the black pistol he’d stuck away and laid it down next to him on the seat. Then he drove to Constable Hook.
The streets around the Standard were miraculously passable, clear of working men; a strike meeting was in progress at Mydosh Hall. Charlie had missed the Sheriff, though, by half an hour. As Chief Deputy Ahern suggested might happen, Kinkaid had appropriated a police-department car and motored himself and Ahern to City Hall.
Which left Charlie Gillick with nothing to do but return to the hotel, as he’d been instructed, and wait.
After they’d left Pearl Bergoff’s mansion and were motoring back uptown, Bill Harrigan’s friend and associate Bud Bleach really let him have it. Bad enough, said Bud, that Bill had promised–signed–away the armored truck in return for, at best, five or ten minutes of documentary footage at the strike zone and peep inside the refinery; that was bad enough, but agreeing to put King Touey in the picture? To make him the principal? “You’re seven kinds of a fool!” roared Bud. “Seven damn kinds of a fool!”
Bill got angry, but then caught himself and apologized. What he’d done that afternoon was stupid, impulsive and stupid. Agreed. “But what am I supposed to do about it now? We made a deal.”
“You and your deals! Every single time you make one, you give away the store, and me and Al with it!” Flipping up his thumb, Bud said, “That guy in Victorville, how much did you pay him to rent his crummy ranch for two weeks? How much, Bill? Practically the picture’s entire budget!” Then, sticking out his first finger: “And that guy who owned the gold mine? You promised him half the goddam profits on our picture if we could make it there, and then when there were no profits, who had to go shoot a stag film for the old bastard? Me! Me and Al. A stag film which, I probably don’t have to remind you, Billy, has earned him a lot more lucre than any five of our pictures put together, and we never saw one lousy cent!”
When Bud gripped the top of his middle finger to tick off his next grievance, Bill finally lost his temper. “Enough! What’s done is done, and I’m still the boss, so this discussion is over. We got what we wanted—tomorrow we shoot at the Standard.”
“You got what you wanted!”
That was true; Bud and Al and a small crew easily could have built a fair approximation of the Standard’s Chinese wall, built it out of plywood and plaster of Paris, but it was Bill—it was always Bill—who insisted that everything in his pictures look as real as possible, be as real as possible: a continuing bone of contention between him and his two associates. “Seven kinds of a fool,” Bud muttered.
“As may be. But I’m still the boss.”
“You always have to have the last word.”
After they’d garaged the truck behind the studio, and while Bud was closing and locking the double doors, Bill said, “You might as well come over to my place. Al’s there, I’ll bet, waiting to hear what happened.”
“He’ll be thrilled.”
As Bill expected, Al Coffey was in his apartment—but so was Olive Ince. My, but she looked pretty. Oh, and the sling was off her arm. “What’re you doing here?””
Drawing herself up to her full height, Olive swept the back of a hand across her forehead. “Al’s been kind enough to give me some acting lessons. Since, it appears, I’m supposed to act in your new picture.”
“Ah, don’t look at me like that,” said Al, “everybody knew but her! Besides, it wasn’t me that told her, Billy, it was George.”
“And why was she even talking to George? Olive, I don’t—”
“The man that shot me and my sister escaped and I thought I’d be safer here, but you weren’t around, and then I met that terrible Mr. Wunsch, and then—”
“Escaped from jail?”
“Relax, miss,” said Bud Bleach, calling over a shoulder as he took Al by an elbow and drew him aside. “Somebody shot him. I heard it from a cop while I was waiting for Bill, here, to make his deal with the devil!”
“Oh my God!” said Olive. Her right hand went straight to her breast. Too histrionic? She let it drop. “He’s dead?”
“As a door knob, miss.” Then Bud put his mouth close to Al Coffey’s ear and whispered.
Al reared back. “The truck? We could’ve used that thing, Bill–in all kinds of ways. We could’ve made war pictures with it! We talked about that!”
“I’ll build another!”
After Bud whispered again, Al flinched. “King Touey? Harrigan, you must be nuts!”
“What about King Touey?” said Olive.
“You’re going to let a fink play in our strike picture?”
“My strike picture,” said Bill.
“Go to hell!” Al’s face had turned purple. “For such a big brain, Billy, you sure are a big dope.”
“Well,” said Olive, “if King Touey is playing in your silly picture, count me out!” Her shoulders pulled back and her top lip drew in: “affronted,” “mulish.” (But Al, she feared, was too upset with Bill to notice her swift, clean, instantly apprehensible expression. Too bad!) “I’ll have no involvement in such an enterprise.”
“Olive, quit it. Stop all that queening,” said Bill. He clamped a hand to the top of his skull, tugged at his hair “Relax, all right? I’ll explain everything.” He turned angrily to Al and Bud. “And you two crybabies, get out of here! Go!”
“Don’t worry,” said Al, “we’re leaving. Come on, Bud.”
Shaking their heads, they left. Bill snatched at his hair again, tugging harder, and called after them, “Just see you’re back here by six in the morning ready to work!”
Olive, in the meantime, had gone and sat down in the fan-backed chair. She’d folded her hands in her lap. Now, she moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue, inclined her head and gazed stonily at Bill. (She dubbed that expression “quiet contempt.”) “So. Explain to me how you could even consider putting King Touey into your picture after what I told you last night—not to mention after what you told me about wanting to beat him up! My big brave hero. Jesus mothering Christ.”
“Simmer down, honey. It’s not like I had any choice.” Now that Bill was certain this conversation would not end with them in a clinch and petting, he took out his cigarettes and did a little trick where he jiggled the paper packet, just so, and up shot two, not one, not three, not a bunch, always two. Olive slid out hers, he slid out his and lit them both, hers first. He sat down on the sofa. “You sure it’s okay to take off that sling?”
“Don’t change the subject, mister. Why didn’t you have a choice? My arm is fine.”
“If you really want the straight of it, okay. This Pearl Bergoff knows how to swing a bargain.”
“And you don’t.”
“What do you want so much from him that you’ll give away your truck?”
“And put King Touey in the picture.” Bill sighed. Drew on his cigarette and blew smoke out. “I really blundered!”
“You did,” said Olive standing up, looking around for her handbag.
“So what do you want so much?”
“To film the strikers outside of the Standard, to use them in the picture. I did it a few times in Los Angeles, we set up our cameras at the racetrack and filmed a bunch of real horse races and made up a fiction story around the footage.”
“So what are you going to do now?”
Bill turned his palms out. “Find another actress?”
“Don’t you dare!”
“So what’re you saying, then? You’d work with King Touey?”
Olive’s face reddened. “Yes.”
“Even if. Even if that. Even if it meant your doing a few…love scenes with him?”
Her jaws tightened.
Olive’s eyelids quivered, then stabilized; she pressed her lips together, firmly, so that her under lip bulged out and her chin dimpled: “Inner struggle,” she thought. She breathed out. “Yes.”
“Olive Ince! You New Woman, you!”
“That’s enough!” She mashed her cigarette in the ash tray. “For such a brain, Billy, you sure are a big dope.”
“I know.” He tugged at his hair again.
“Stop that! You’ll go bald. I could be good in pictures. I think.”
“So do I. Obviously.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me that’s what you wanted?”
“I was—waiting for the right moment.”
“Lord, you’re a complete mystery.” She sat down beside him, looked him full in the face. “And you really swapped away your truck? Al said it was—”
“Would you like to see it?” Instantly, Bill seemed his usual boyish self again: wide-eyed, bumptious, eager. “Come on, honey, you have to see this. It’s corking!” He led her out the door, up the short flight of steps and down a long hall, past a room with two men in white coats mixing green and yellow chemicals poured from heavy milk jugs; then past another room, smaller, windowless, where a Negro woman in a blue work smock was taping together snips of perforated film. (Bill employed Negroes? Olive didn’t know how she felt about that. Oh, she supposed it was all right.) He dragged her through the big open room below the skylight that had jammed open during yesterday’s electrical storm, and out through a broad and tall wagon door, across the sandy yard where Olive had seen Al Coffey directing a picture, and finally to a block of four stuccoed garages. She was out of breath and her left shoulder was throbbing. Perhaps she ought to have left the sling on? No, no, it was all right. She’d be fine. She was fine.
The garage on the end was not only the widest, it had a shingled extension at the rear that made it significantly deeper than the others in the block. That garage was the one Bill opened. With a showman’s flourish, he presented his war-car. Twenty-one feet long! Nine feet high! Eight feet wide. “Made of, and armored with, tungsten steel!” Removing a ring of keys from his coat, he selected one, fitted it into a lock and heaved open the rear doors. He climbed in, but when he reached back for Olive, she refused his hand.
“I’ll just…admire it from here. If you don’t mind.”
“Suit yourself. See these?” Bill pointed to a number of small oval holes in both side walls, about three quarters of the way up from the floor. “Gun ports, but my lenses fit perfectly. Cameras stand here, bolted there, and the truck comes equipped with the best friction absorbers in the world—naturally, since I built ’em! So whatever we photograph tomorrow on our way down Twenty-second Street and on into the Standard, it won’t be shaky, guaranteed!”
“You made this—yourself?” Olive hadn’t meant to admire it for real, but–my goodness! She rolled a fingertip over a rivet the size of a crab apple.
“Well, I designed it, honey, but I had some help putting it together.”
“Wilmington. But the proving ground was quite a ways from there.”
“A place with all kinds of different terrain. Difficult terrain. Where we’d put our prototypes through their paces, usually in front of a bunch of colonels from the War Department.”
“Oh, your ‘prototypes,'” said Olive. “La-di-da.” She rolled her eyes. And repeated–rolled them again because it seemed something that could be repeated later in performance, possibly telegraphing a particular category of ridicule–“sassy ridicule”; then she rolled her eyes again, on the same principle that using a new word three times makes it “your own.” By then Bill looked utterly puzzled. What was going on with all that eye rolling? Olive flushed and quickly said, “But Al told me the Army…didn’t like it?”
“Ah, what does the Army know?” He smiled. Then he scowled. “You should see what they went for, honey, it would just break your heart. Broke mine, I can tell you! The thing looks like a birthday cake made out of blue steel! Hideous!”
“Hmmm,” said Olive. “So they just gave you this one back? They said, Thanks, Bill, we don’t want it, we like the birthday cake, but you go ahead and take this one home?” If they gave it to Bill, though, and Bill, in turn, gave it to this hard-bargaining Mr. Bergoff, then really, Olive reasoned, it wasn’t such a terribly big deal. It wasn’t unforgivably stupid. But. Something wasn’t right. “Bill?”
He averted his eyes and stooped to squint through one of the small round holes in the truck’s left hand wall.
“They paid you to make it—Bill? Then just let you have it? That’s what Al said. But it doesn’t sound like—”
“Not let me have it, exactly. Gave me the chance to, well, buy it.”
She knew it!
“Bill, really!” Striking the pose she’d struck earlier for “reproachful,” Olive put a hand to her forehead and let her head dip.
“They would’ve scrapped it, hon., and I couldn’t let them do that. Isn’t it beautiful?”
“It’s a truck, Bill. A truck. That Al says you spent three months of your life building so you could make money to make your pictures—did you end up with anything?”
“It’s not really a truck, Olive. It’s what you call either a war-car or a scout-car. Personally, I prefer scout-car, but most people–”
“Al’s got a big mouth.”
“Did you? Come back from Delaware with any money? At all?”
“Not much.” He started to reach for his hair again, but thought the better of it and rubbed his chin instead. “I still have another two payments. Maybe four.”
She turned on her heel—very expressive, she thought, but not too—and marched back across the yard.
“Olive!” Bill jumped down. He slammed the doors, locked them, and ran after her. Calling, repeatedly calling her name, he followed her inside the studio building and back to his apartment. At the door, Olive stood with arms folded till he’d unlocked it, then she briskly sailed across the living room and scooped up her handbag. When she spun around to leave, Bill stood against the door, blocking her.
“It was going to be your wedding present,” he said.
“Not the truck! Good lord. The picture!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“On our wedding day, you see? I planned to tell you then.”
“Tell me what?”
“That I was making you the female principal in my new picture, Olive. A big, expensive, important picture. But then—I stayed in Delaware longer than I’d meant to, and the fellow I’d heard from who works for the Bayonne Times, Richie Wires—Richie Wires said a strike at the Standard wouldn’t happen till August, at the earliest. But suddenly, gosh, it was all a mad rush, the strike was on and we weren’t ready, we didn’t have the scenario, we didn’t have the money, and besides all of that—I not only didn’t marry you, honey, I didn’t even look you up. I didn’t even let you know I was back. I’m so sorry.”
Olive looked stricken. “Let me get this straight. My wedding present is, you put me to work? No,” she said. “No, no, no.”
“You sound like a white slaver!”
“Oh, come on.” He laughed. “You’re being silly.”
“Am I? You think so?” Olive squared her narrow shoulders—the way Al Coffey told her to do it when he’d told her to act “disdainful.” Squared her shoulders, and then (still another interpolation of her own devising!) she lifted her eyebrows, slightly, and looked down her nose. “Then let me try being serious for a moment, all right? I’ll bet I can. I think I’m up to it. Are you ready? I have no more intention of marrying you than the man in the moon!”
“You can’t mean that.” He braved a look at her face. “Are you…sure?”
“God! Try not to sound so devastated.”
“I am devastated. Of course I am, Olive, that’s not fair.”
“And I don’t wish to be touched, stop it!” She slapped away his hands when he tried taking hers. He did look pale. But devastated? Not really, no. “I’m breaking off our idiotic engagement, and that’s final.” She took a long breath. Let it out. “But! I will act in your big, expensive, so-called important picture–for which, Mr. Harrigan, I expect to be paid! Handsomely. Now, move your carcass, I’m going home.”
Curtly she declined his offer of a ride and whirled out of there.
“Not one more word about it,” said Ed Fearenside. “Else I’ll bite off your ear.” He stepped away from the side of the ferry house and looked out over the blue-black Kill van Kull, following yet another white Port Richmond foot ferry as it arced around, wake churned and foamy, and aimed in toward the Bayonne terminal. They’d been hanging around there for over an hour. Six ferries. “Let’s just pay attention to what we’re doing, all right?”
“Whatever you say. But I only asked you how you were feeling,” said Ted Boyle. “Geez.” Among their fellow police officers, the wiseacres among them, at least, the two detectives—friends since third grade—often were referred to as “Ed & Ted, The Plainclothes Kids,” as if they were rambunctious urchins from the funny papers. Ted thought it was humorous, and kind of liked it; Ed didn’t, and didn’t.
Boyle stepped over to the Indian nut machine, put a penny in the coin mechanism, and turned the dispensing wheel. He caught the nuts in the palm of his hand, started chewing them as the ferry came gliding in.
“It hurts like a son of a gun.”
“I’m really sorry, Ed.” Boyle looked at his sideways. “Can I ask you something else?”
“No. Go ahead.”
“What’s left under there?” Boyle pointed. “Is there, like—a hole in your head?”
“Well, what’s left?”
“A big hole, like you surmised—now I can charge people a nickel to look in at my brains.”
“You think they’ll be able to see anything that small?”
Fearenside had to laugh. He made a fist and biffed his partner in the upper arm. You got me. Then he said, “Hey,” and the two cops turned and faced the slip as the apron ramp of the docking ferryboat slammed down and met the fixed ramp at the terminus. Once the deck and slip crews had secured the white boat, passengers started down the ramp, some of them—schoolboys—rolling bicycles. There were half a dozen men in denim coats carrying lunch pails and folded newspapers, and several young mothers with small children in tow or in buggies.
Boyle removed his hat and wiped the sweat at his hairline. After he’d put it back on, he glanced at Fearenside and then nodded slightly toward the fixed ramp.
“I see them,” said Fearenside.
Two long and stringy men in cheap suits, neither wearing a hat; one man’s hair was shaggy black, the other’s was lank and yellow. They were lugging hard carry cases.
“Pardon me, gentlemen.” Fearenside pushed back his coat lapel to show the police badge pinned to his shirt and a pistol grip peeking out from his shoulder holster. “Would you mind stepping over there, please?”
The men lunged, using their carry cases to batter through. Fearenside cursed when the brassed corner of one struck the bandaged side of his head. His man, the bushy-haired one, twisted, dodged, and ran like hell. Boyle grabbed the other man’s wrist, and turning swiftly, drove an elbow, hard as he could, into his jaw. The man’s head snapped sideways and he crumpled, landed on his knees, stupefied. Out of commission. As was Fearenside, stomping around in a circle and cursing a blue streak with his left hand clapped to his bandage. So Boyle took off running, repeatedly blowing on his whistle, tearing down First Street past the clapboard penny arcades and the white-tiled City Pleasure Palace (that week and next presenting the Bayonne Players Stock Company’s production of “The Trial of Mary Dugan”), chasing after the bushy-haired man, who was heading toward Newark Bay.
The man veered off the sidewalk and into a deep lot of scrub land that stretched to a bulkhead at the kill. Boyle veered after him, putting on speed. Gaining. His lungs felt on fire but he was no more than twenty feet behind. Fifteen. Ten. The man risked a glance back, and spotting Boyle, feinted right and jerked left. But then he tripped over something in the high grass, some humped shape that could’ve been a rotting barge timber or a sack of wet garbage–tripped and stumbled, pin wheeled and fell, landing hard on his face and forearms. He bounced once, rolled onto his side, and tried scrambling to his feet. By then, Boyle was there. He snatched him by his shirt and jacket collars, bunching them in one hand, yanking him halfway up, making his back arch, and then he pasted him in the cheek. As he let the man drop to the ground, Teddy Boyle got a whiff of sweet rot. And looked around.
The humped shape in the grass wasn’t a barge timber or a sack of wet garbage. It was a corpse. Badly decomposed. A dead human animal. Terrible sight. Boyle had to turn away. He yanked the bushy-haired man to his knees while deftly releasing his come-along from a belt loop. Hunkering, he snapped open the steel bracelets and cuffed the man with his hands twisted behind his back. Then, fetching out a handkerchief and holding it to his nose, he stepped back over to the body. Instinctively, he made the sign of the cross, touching two fingers to his forehead, his breastbone, left shoulder, right shoulder: “Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” The dead man’s face was collapsed, raw, and empurpled. The corpse had been lying out there for days, maybe for as long as a week. Animals had been at it, and bugs. Boyle nearly retched, but coughed instead.
A few feet away from the body were two empty pint bottles of Old Crow bourbon and a pair of cheap boots slathered in gummy crude oil. Bending over, Boyle gingerly picked up one of them; inked on the boot strap was a narrow rectangle with three tepee-shaped triangles along the top. He dropped it and picked up the second boot: same little diagram.
Starting back to the sidewalk with his limping prisoner, Boyle wigwagged to a stout and red-faced beat cop he spotted pushing his way through a crowd that had gathered to watch the collar. “Get me a patrol wagon, won’t you?” He showed his detective’s badge. “And there’s a body out in the grass, too, so you might ask for a dead-wagon as well.” He pointed to the general area. “We’ll be at the terminal.” He put a hand flat on his prisoner’s back, roughly shoved him. “Let’s go, you.”
When they got back, the bushy-haired man’s accomplice was sitting on the ground, his left ankle secured by Fearenside’s come-along to the base cylinder of the nut machine; his face was bulbously swollen. After likewise securing his own man, Boyle joined Fearenside inside the small waiting room, where he had both carry cases spread open on one of the plank benches.
Each case was neatly packed with boxes of ammunition for Springfield rifles.
“You okay, Ed?”
With a nod, Fearenside closed and refastened the cases. “Help me get these back outside, Teddy, and I think we’re done.”
They dragged the cases to the sidewalk, but instead of immediately loading them into their car, a 5-passenger Ford, they sat down on them. They might as well sit while they waited for a patrol wagon. Fearenside’s right hand kept moving cautiously to his bandage. The adhesive tapes had come loose; he’d press them back down and then let his hand fall to his lap. They’d come loose again and he’d press them down again. There were pindots of blood seeping through the gauze.
Boyle told Fearenside about the corpse he’d found in the vacant lot.
“Anybody we know?”
“Not this time.”
More than a few corpses they’d discovered or eventually were called to view as detectives had been people they’d known, people from the neighborhood or people they’d gone to grammar school with, somebody that Boyle’s sister used to go out with, a cousin of Fearenside’s. Bayonne wasn’t a very large city.
“Signs of a beating or the like?”
“No. Just a couple of empties. ”
“Natural death, then.”
“Nothing worse,” said Fearenside, “than a putrid corpse.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
“Nor should you.”
“Nor would I.”
They both nodded in unison, putting that little conversation to rest.
Five minutes later, a patrol wagon pulled up alongside of the high curb directly ahead of the detectives’ Ford.
Fearenside went and pulled open the wagon’s curbside door and spoke briefly with the uniformed officers inside. Half-turning, he pointed at the prisoners shackled to the nut machine. The driver and the rider climbed out, the rider drawing his service revolver while the driver unlocked the rear doors and brought out two pairs of convict-grade wrist restraints. After the prisoners had been cuffed again, with their hands behind them, Fearenside and Boyle, both hunkering, unlocked and retrieved their own come-alongs. The patrol wagon motored away, heading north on Avenue C, going back to Police Headquarters. The two detectives watched it go before loading the drummers’ cases into their Ford machine. Fearenside pulled open the passenger-side door. He lowered his head to climb in. “You can drive, Ted.”
“Glad to, Ed.”
They didn’t speak again for a while.
As they were going under the railroad overpass at West Eighth Street, Boyle glanced over at Fearenside. The pindots of blood he’d noticed earlier seeping through the gauze had widened into ragged, sodden blots. He shook his head and tightened his grip on the wheel. “Did you keep it?”
“I knew you’d ask!”
“Then why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I kept it, yeah.”
“In a Mason jar.”
“Good man,” said Ted Boyle. “I’d’ve done the very same thing.” He sneaked another look at Fearenside just as a drop of blood broke from underneath the gauze to trickle down his partner’s neck and behind his shirt collar. “Preserve it in a Mason jar. A relic, like. So that future generations can come venerate the holy ear of Ed!”
“Go fuck yourself,” said Fearenside.
But he was grinning.
So was Boyle.
Then they both were laughing.
The Plainclothes Kids.
Friends since third grade.
Despite entreaties from the Sheriff, the Mayor, the Adjutant General (in Bayonne today on behalf of the Governor), and the two commissioners of conciliation from the federal Department of Labor–despite all of that begging, the Standard Oil refused to attend that afternoon’s arbitration meeting; the company maintained it was able to settle its labor difficulties and did not need, nor would it accept, mediation. With the Standard’s participation, nothing could be accomplished, but since so many people already had showed up at City Hall for the meeting, it was decided just to bring the meeting to order and see what happened. The Mayor tapped a ceremonial gavel.
Supinski the lawyer for the strike committee put up his hand and was recognized. When he stood up, he read the workers’ latest set of demands into the public record–a 15% pay increase, a 50-hour week, 9 hours per day, 5 hours on Saturday, time and a half for overtime, no disciplining of strikers, and the immediate firing of the most abusive foremen. He sat down.
The Mayor leaned forward and wanted to know if it was true what he’d been told, that the strikers had gotten hold of dynamite.
That brought Jeremiah Baly to his feet; he was the chairman of the strike committee. “You have dynamite on the brain, Garvin,” he said in a firm and slightly high-pitched voice with Slavic inflection.
“Show some respect, junior!” said Wilson the Public Safety Commissioner. “And from now on you’ll address our mayor either as Mister Mayor or Mister Garvin. How dare you!”
Baly was only 22. Hence the “junior” crack. Twenty-two years old, and slightly built, almost frail. His hair was blond, honey-colored, and his steel-rimmed spectacles sat high on the bridge of a long, bony nose. He’d come to City Hall in a summer weight tan suit–a cheap one, but clean and pressed; it fit him well. His shoes were also tan. His socks were white. He wasn’t wearing a necktie. Seated next to him at the conference-room table were two other members of the strike committee, a pipefitter named Albert Gzelina and a yard laborer named Alexander Androkeski; both men were in their middle forties and were dressed in work clothes. They both had big shoulders and big hands, and neither of them had spoken a word since taking their seats.
“I meant no disrespect to the Mayor,” said Baly.
“The hell you didn’t.” Wilson was feeling combative: he locked eyes with Baly and wouldn’t break his gaze, meanwhile he growled a little.
“In any case, I apologize.”
“Do you want me to come over there and wipe that sneer off your face?” Wilson moved to rise in his chair, but his assistant pressed him on the arm, and he sat back down.
“Gentlemen,” implored Smyth, one of the men from Washington, “let’s move on now and see if we”–with a nod of inclusion to Moffett–“can assist you in bringing a little more focus to the situation.” From under the table he dragged a well-stuffed leather briefcase and set it down on the top; Moffett brought out and set down an identical briefcase, although his was less fat and considerably more scuffed. They undid buckles, drew out hard brown folders, each folder impressed with an official seal.
Smyth began, a preamble, then Moffett too it up, a practiced relay, and expressed the Government’s interest in maintaining a peaceful labor climate in Bayonne while also insuring there is no serious interruption in the refining and sale of petroleum products and byproducts; and then it was back to Smyth again. “…at terrible cost, a few hard lessons have been learned, on all sides. But we believe now, truly believe, that we have developed an approach…”
Up and down both sides of the long mahogany table, men cleared their throats, coughed, refilled their water glasses from pitchers, relit their cigars.
It was a warm Friday in July, well past four in the afternoon, the drapes were closed against the sunlight, and nobody was paying much attention.
Moffett and Smyth droned on and on, and on, now reading from typewritten documents a series of strategies designed to bring the general strike at the Standard Oil plant (or any other general strike, for that matter) to a satisfactory conclusion; strategies for dealing with distrust and stalemate. Each individual strategy had a name, two separate descriptions (one brief, the other detailed), and narrative summaries of the desired outcomes for each party in the dispute, ranked in order of desirability.
“Now,” said Moffett, “we have, uh, some interesting statistics that may, uh, throw some light on, uh…”
The Commissioner of Public Works and his aide excused themselves–another meeting, they said. And thanked Smyth and Moffett for coming all the way up from Washington. They wished them a safe trip back.
“Roman number two, section two, paragraph B,” said Smyth, reading carefully from a document bound with three brass fasteners.”‘All complaints against supervisory personnel deemed legitimate will be recorded and filed in an appropriate manner (see Roman numeral one, section seven, subsection three, paragraph C); however, all recorded and filed complaints may not necessarily…'”
The Assistant City Attorney (who’d announced at the top of the meeting that the City Attorney himself, John J. Gillick, could not be in attendance today due to a unexpected family emergency) excused himself to use the facilities–and never returned.
“–within a period not to exceed, uh, fourteen days,” read Moffett
The Sheriff sat there quietly, lighting and smoking and lighting cigarettes. Filling an ashtray. He just smoked cigarettes. One right after the other. Or else he rubbed his temples with the tips of his fingers. Every so often, his eyes would flick to Baly, stay fixed upon him for a moment, then shift and look past him and out the window. He appeared to be calm, attentive, ruminative, but actually was in a state of suppressed fury.
In his mind, in his imagination, he was pummeling Jeremiah Baly senseless. Punching and kicking him.
Lie to me, will you? Take that! And that!
“However, ” continued Moffett, “in, uh, certain instances…”
The Commissioner of Finance stood up, hesitantly and while clearing his throat, then apologized–previously scheduled appointment, too late to cancel; he nodded good-day to everyone. “Let’s hope this cooler weather holds through the weekend, yes?”
The Second Assistant City Clerk looked at his wristwatch (by prearrangement, it seemed like) and nudged the First Assistant, who tapped the City Clerk, who promptly rose from his chair. Then the two assistants rose from theirs. So did the City Engineer and his Second, seated across the table.
They all left the room, without explanation or apology.
“…at which time,” read Moffett, “locks will, uh, be removed from all entrances to, uh, the premises.”
Sheriff Kinkaid fitted another cigarette between his lips and struck a match.
Mayor Garvin nodded off.
“Roman numeral three, section 4, paragraph A, Upon removal of said locks…excuse me, paragraph B: Upon removal of said locks–”
“Enough!” Jeremiah Baly cried out and banged a hand down on the table, startling Mayor Garvin awake. Baly stood up, so did the two men who’d come with him. Supinski the lawyer grudgingly made four men standing. “Life is short, and so’s our patience. I’ll say one thing and then we’ll take our leave. For more than a week now, the men on strike against Standard Oil have relied upon credit to feed themselves and their families, expecting that today, this morning, the company would meet its obligation to pay out wages earned for labor provided prior to the strike. But seeing as how that didn’t happen, merchants and shopkeepers at the Hook are now telling us they can no longer extend credit, at least not till they’re paid what they’re owed. Things, gentlemen, are about to get rough. Because, faced with starvation–”
“Sheriff, I’m speaking.”
“Now there, you see, there you’re wrong. I am.” Kinkaid shoved his chair back, he rose to his feet. He patted the air. “Sit down. All of you.” He smiled at the two other strike-committee members, and, nervously, they retook their seats. Supinski the lawyer rolled his eyes and sat down again. Baly remained standing. “Was it really necessary to bring starvation into the conversation?”
“Yes, it was. Because–”
“Nobody’s going to starve.” Kinkaid moved–trudged–two steps closer to Baly. “Didn’t you hear me just an hour ago–I know you heard me, Jer, I saw you there when Mr. Hennessey and myself had our shouted, you might even say our heated, conversation up and down the Chinese Wall. You heard me tell our Mr. Hennessey, there, to have every last penny that’s owed to the men ready for disbursement tomorrow morning. I know you heard me say that.”
“I heard it. Sure. But do you seriously believe he’ll comply?”
“I do. Yes.”
“Hennessey won’t let the men through the gates.”
“There are other places besides the yard where a pay envelope might be handed over.”
The Mayor jumped forward in his chair. “I’ve told you already, Sheriff, I won’t allow Police Headquarters or City Hall to be used as a paymaster’s window! Too dangerous! I can’t have violent men–”
“Violent men!” said Baly.
“Yes, violent men. If the Standard refuses to open their gates for your hooligans,” said the Mayor, “can I be expected to open the entire city?”
“You didn’t open it for them today,” said the Sheriff, “and yet, son of a gun, here they came!”
“That’ll be enough, Sheriff Kinkaid,” said Wilson, the Commissioner of Public Safety. “I detest snippiness.” Everyone, Mayor included, turned to him and chuckled. A pink flush spread across Wilson’s cheeks. He hadn’t intended his reproof to be quite so amusing. “We seem to have gotten off track.”
“You can thank the Sheriff for that–the man hijacks every meeting he attends.” Baly by then was on his way to the door, giving Sheriff Kinkaid wide berth as he strode past that end of the table, leading his entourage. “I’ll tell the men to rally outside the gates tomorrow morning–at nine, wasn’t that,” he called back over a shoulder, “what you told Hennessey?”
“It was.” The Sheriff looked past Baly to Chief Deputy Ahern, posted at the rear of the meeting room and standing against the chair rail, whereupon Ahern stepped forward and detained Baly. The Sheriff took his time strolling there, but he finally arrived and stuck his face into Baly’s. He stared amiably for a long moment, then said, “And where do you work at the refinery, son?”
Baly blinked, once. “Cooperage.”
“With those hands?” said the Sheriff, gesturing at Baly’s soft white ones, which Baly immediately tucked behind his back.
“Cooperage,” he repeated. Adamant. Insolent.
“Well, make sure you bring your brass with you in the morning.”
At the Standard, every man hired was issued a brass tag with a number on it; he showed it at the paymaster’s window on payday and received an envelope stamped with the same number. The number not the man was paid in cash and coin.
“I’ll remember,” said Baly.
“Good.” With a nod, the Sheriff let him go. He beckoned Ahern over and they huddled for a minute, the two of them walking in a circle, Kinkaid’s arm draped across Ahern’s shoulder. When they looked up again, and around, the meeting room was empty. They went downstairs to a small office on the second floor the Sheriff had been using since he came to Bayonne. It contained a metal desk with a telephone, a desk chair and a side chair, and a three-drawer wooden filing box. They hadn’t even sat down yet when the telephone bell started ringing. “Sheriff Kinkaid.” He listened. He took out the note cards that Charlie Gillick had given him, uncapped his pen and jotted a few words on the back of one of them. He jotted some more words. Then still more. “Thank you so much, Gladys. I need to give you a raise, don’t I?” She said something that made him laugh. “Yes, well, that is certainly true enough. Thanks again.” He hung the ear piece on the candlestick telephone. “Just as Klarkowski said. This Baly is all made up. He’s so fake there’s not a truth in him.” He pulled out another cigarette from his packet. “Jeremiah Baly is not only not an employee of the Standard Oil Company, he’s not even a resident of Bayonne. Or even of Hudson County! He’s from Elizabeth.” Kinkaid blew on the cards, drying the ink.
Ahern dropped into the side chair. “No excuses–we should’ve known this before now. But we didn’t. So now we do, so let’s just move on. Gene, are you listening?”
The Sheriff had struck a match, now he was leaning toward it and lighting his cigarette. For a moment a cloud of blue smoke obscured his face. He looked at the card again. “Salesman for the Singer Sewing Machine Company.”
“What Gladys just said.”
“And so why is he here in Bayonne, then, and not at work in Elizabeth?”
“That’s the strangest thing, Mick. Far as the Singer people are concerned, our man is on his annual paid vacation. He didn’t quit or go missing.”
“Vacation. And this is how he’s spending it. Instead of going to a lake or something.”
“Is the man a lunatic?”
“No, no, just a well-meaning Socialist.” Kinkaid tossed the card away, on top of the set of three or four. “At least Gladys found something that convinced her of that.”
They sat smoking, sharing an ashtray. Ahern finished his cigarette and was rubbing it out when he said, “And how did Gladys find all of this out in less than an hour?”
“Considerably less than an hour. I called her just before we went into the meeting. Forty minutes.”
“She’s better than our detectives.”
“That’s what she just said!” He snorted. “I should give her a raise.”
“No, you should make her a detective.”
“Not even in jest, Mick. Not even in jest. I got enough headaches.” The telephone bell rang again. “Speaking of which…” He unclipped the earpiece, leaned toward the mouthpiece. “This is Gene Kinkaid–yes? Thank you! Perfect! Put him through!”
He smiled at Ahern, silently enunciated: Frank Monahan.
Jersey City Chief of Police.
Ahern enunciated back: Good luck.
“Chief! How are you this afternoon? Late afternoon, you are so right. I’m well, thank you for asking. And I’m grateful you saw fit to call me back at last. Now, Chief. Now, Chief. That’s a fabrication, that’s a, that’s a lie.” He chuckled. “Venial sin, Chief! You’ll have to take that one to confession.” He laughed for part of a minute. “Are we done now? Can we talk like serious men? Good. I’m finished with deputizing numbskulls who don’t know about maintaining law and order. Enough with civilians, I need men in uniforms. Raise your right hand, Frank. You heard me. I know I can’t see you, but I expect you to be doing as you’re told. No, this is not a joke.”
The Sheriff hunched forward. “You’re sworn in. Stop squawking. You’re my deputy now, and I’m telling you to report to me at Constable Hook, down off Bayonne, tomorrow morning at 6:45. If you. If. You can do that, of course, if you like, but then consider yourself under house arrest. I can. Now, that’s where you’re wrong. Absolutely I can. And where’s Big Frank? Oh, is he? Well, if I see Commissioner Hague, he’ll be pushing back strikers right alongside of you, Chief, come tomorrow morning. I need men in uniform and I’ll have them!” He broke the connection, repronged the earpiece, then gave out with a great belly laugh. Ahern was smiling back at him, just waiting for what was to come next. “Up for taking a ride through Jersey City and Hoboken?”
“If that’s where you want to go.” Not a surprise, the Chief Deputy had anticipated the Sheriff making such a move. He’d been with Gene Kinkaid since before he’d been a U.S. Congressman, they’d met right after law school; first-job friends. Hudson County prosecutor’s office. He knew how the man thought. Most of the time.
“You heard Baly, he’ll have the Pollacks out in the street by nine o’clock tomorrow morning,” said Kinkaid. “We’re going to need a lot more cops there than we have now. The Poles will salute anything in a uniform.”
“Well, they didn’t salute Charlie Gillick.”
“Aye, Charlie Gillick. The wretched exception that proves the rule.”
They both laughed.
“You can go deputize every city cop and fireman in the county, Gene, you can deputize anyone you like, that don’t mean they’re going to do what you tell them.”
“But if I don’t go deputize every city cop and fireman I can find, sure as hell I won’t have any extra men in uniforms over at the Hook tomorrow morning keeping order–isn’t that right, Mick?”
“That is correct, Sheriff.”
“Well, then.” He plucked the earpiece off the phone stick, got the operator, and asked her to put through a call to the front desk of the St. Charles Hotel. “Good afternoon,” he said as soon as he was connected. “This is Sheriff Eugene Kinkaid. I wonder if you’d do me a very great favor. Would you look around the lobby? Yes, the one right in front of your nose. And tell me if you see a young man wearing a policeman’s uniform except for the tunic? A young man with a battered-looking face. You do? Excellent. His name is Gillick, Charlie Gillick. Oh, do you? That’s fine. Could you page him, tell him that he’s wanted on the telephone? Thank you. Of course.” He looked slowly around the little office while he waited. Charlie came on the wire, “Yes? Sheriff Kinkaid?”
“Yes. Did you get the judge to the hospital all right? And yourself? You’re okay?”
“Everything’s fine, Sheriff.”
“That’s grand. Well, here’s what’s happening at the moment, Charlie. By the way, did you return the bicycle? I don’t want the county paying another day’s rental fee.”
“I did, sir.”
“And the flag?”
“Right here in my lap.”
“Good man! Listen, Charlie, Mickey and I have some business now in Jersey City and Hoboken, so here’s what I want you to do. Call Feeney’s garage and tell Feeney you’re calling on my behalf and he needs to get another windshield in my Packard. The Chief Deputy tells me it’s completely knocked out.”
“Yes, sir, that’s right.”
“Tell Feeney he can come over and drive it away from the hotel and he can see to it at his convenience seeing as I have another vehicle for my use at the moment.”
“I could easily drive it up to Feeney’s myself, Sheriff.”
“But why should you, is my point. You go on home, Charlie. And would you mind terribly just keeping the flag with you? Go on home, have a nice dinner with your family, and if I need you tonight for anything I’ll telephone or just drop by. Is that all right?”
“Sheriff…I thought we…”
The Sheriff frowned. He didn’t know what Charlie Gillick was referring to; he thought they…what?
Finally, after an awkward pause, Charlie said it outright: “Those rifles from Mydosh Hall?”
Oh. Jesus Christ. Charlie Gillick’s big plan. Kinkaid had forgotten; he shouldn’t have, of course, but he’d never intended to go sneaking through a ground-floor window in a Polish social hall with a rookie policeman; he had, however, intended to dispatch a carload of plainclothesmen to do that very thing, slip into Mydosh Hall by the window and get those rifles. He realized that Charlie sincerely believed the pair of them were going to do it together, make the raid, just the two of them. He said, “I should’ve told you. We confiscated the ammunition they were smuggling in by way of the Staten Island ferry. I heard about it just a little while ago. So we don’t need their rifles if we already have their ammunition.”
“Oh,” said Charlie. “Well, good. I’ll, uh, call Feeney’s now.”
“Charlie, for God’s sake!”
Mickey Ahern’s head snapped up: he’d been reading a newspaper while Kinkaid was on the telephone, but the annoyed vehemence in the Sheriff’s voice broke his concentration.
“Don’t ‘what’ me, Charlie. You sound like you’re going to burst into tears! We’re not cowboys, Charlie. I wasn’t crawling through the old saloon window with you or anybody else, but you especially.” He rolled his eyes. “Charlie. Say something.”
“I understand, Sheriff.”
“Good. Now go call Feeney and go home. Is everything okay at home?”
“Yes, why shouldn’t it be? Why are you asking?”
“Your father skipped a meeting at City Hall today, saying something about a family crisis.”
“Nothing I know anything about.”
“Well, good. Maybe he was just playing hooky. I’ll be back in touch.”
“Charlie. It’s better this way. Take the night off. Go to bed early. Charlie?”
The Sheriff pulled the earpiece away from his head and peered at it, amazement on his face, down the length of his arm. “He hung up on me.”
The moment Lizzie Landrigan woke from her nap, she remembered everything. King was back. She’d lost her job. Her reputation. Johnny Gillick was a coward. A man with a big fat penis and a little tiny spine. And his father threatened to throttle her. Immediately she turned on her side to go back to sleep. But no. No, she needed to get up and fix supper. Talk to Patsy. Try to make things right again, turn things back into some semblance of right, although she had no idea how to go about it, no inkling of where to start. Well, she could start by going to Confession. Was there Confession this evening at St. Andrew’s mission? Not on Friday evenings, there wasn’t. Oh, for the love of Pete, she thought, it’s Friday, Friday! And she’d bought liver and bacon for supper.
That was just too, too bad, then: she’d bought it and by God they’d eat it. Patsy wouldn’t care, he never paid attention to the days of the week. They could have fish tomorrow. Abstain from meat tomorrow. Do penance tomorrow.
She put on a different skirt and a fresh shirtwaist, used a comb to fix her shingled hair, and went down to the kitchen.
Liz soaked the liver in milk and then dusted it in flour while the bacon cooked in a 12-inch skillet, and Patsy, bent over the table, clumsily plied a scissors and cut out the front page story about King from the afternoon edition of the Bayonne Times. “Pats,” she said, “I know it’s thrilling to have our brother come back after such a long time, but you remember what we talked about, don’t you? What King says he did, or didn’t do, isn’t always…so. It’s not always the case. Pats?”
Liz sat across the table from Patsy and watched him separate sautéed onion from his liver with a fork. He crumbled his bacon with the fork’s tines, and picked up his lemon wedges, set them down beside his plate, and pushed them both under the rim, out of sight. “Pats,” she said, “I want you to think about this. Even if King is a hero, and we’re so grateful that he didn’t get hurt, but, darling, think about this. Those men that he shot, even if they weren’t good men, what if they had brothers and sisters too? Or mothers and fathers, or wives, or children? How do you think they feel right now? Pats?”
Liz poured boiling water over coffee she’d ground while Patsy, with his back to her, scrubbed and rinsed and set aside their dinner plates at the sink. “Pats,” she said, “listen to me. Everybody works—you most certainly did, when you were able to, and you cleaned our streets and made them beautiful, and everyone was grateful. Weren’t they? And King works, too, of course, but what he does, sometimes, sometimes he hurts people, and that’s not good, is it? And here’s something else. When somebody hurts people like that, when that’s what they do, I think you can understand why other people like you and me, ordinary people, don’t always want somebody like that coming around. Pats?”
Liz stood in the archway between the dining room and the parlor sipping from her coffee cup, holding the saucer in her free hand, while Patsy sat in his favorite chair at a front window and vigilantly watched the sidewalk. “Pats,” she said, “I won’t be going out to work every day anymore, at least not for a while. I think that’ll be good, though, don’t you? We can spend more time together, doing things, and that’ll be…Pats?”
Patsy twisted around in his chair and fastened his pale green eyes on her face. “Can we go to the park now?”
In a dim, low-ceilinged German restaurant on Broadway at Thirtieth Street, Pearl Bergoff, having dismissed as altogether insignificant that afternoon’s riots and the city-wide roaming of Standard Oil workers, was now summing up the struggle between Labor and Capital.
“It’s no contest! Why, it’s—it might as well be the struggle between mashed potatoes and a ton of bricks! Labor loses, and that’s a fact. It’s just a fact of history, it’s historical. And do you know why?” He glanced levelly around the roughhewn table—at his brother Leo, at his partner Jimmy Waddell, and at Big Sam Cohen, his Captain of the Guard, all of whom had come over from Manhattan to confer with the General on strategy for the ongoing Standard campaign; narrowing his eyes to a squint, he looked across at King Touey engrossed in his menu and paying no attention.
King put the menu down, having heard an interrogative tone of voice, but feeling pretty sure he wasn’t being asked a direct question. “I’ll tell you why,” continued Bergoff, and with a vague nod King went right back to mulling over what he’d order for his meal. It was between clams in dough and pickled fish, and he might start with a nice bowl of tomato soup. What was pancake soup? He’d never had it. Might be tasty, could be disgusting. What kind of pancakes? He wished it wasn’t a Friday—or, rather, he wished the General hadn’t taken him out to dinner on a Friday, seeing as how the General was a recent convert to Catholicism and probably still was sticking with that no-meat-on-Fridays malarkey. If it wasn’t Friday, or if he wasn’t being blown to his feed by the General, King would’ve gone for the chicken fricassee with butter rice. Now, that sounded good! His gaze dropped to the menu again, then to the desserts, and he noticed they had red berries with vanilla sauce, and that sounded good, too, but probably he’d order the apple strudel. If there was strudel on a menu, strudel it was. Off, King heard Bergoff saying, “…ignorant peasants,” and he looked up for a moment—to see the General making a broad gesture, sweeping the air with the back of his hand—and then he looked back down to the menu flat on the table in front of him. He liked a good vanilla sauce, though, so maybe he’d go with the red berries. For a change. Where was the shitbird waiter, for crying out loud? King was ravenously hungry.
“They like being martyrs,” said Bergoff. He spread his hands and shrugged. “It’s all about the next life anyhow, so they tend to give it up in this one.”
“They’re fatalists,” said Leo Bergoff, a rotund little man with faded yellow hair and the roseate nose of a heavy drinker. His green eyes were magnified behind thick-lensed spectacles.
“Listen to my kid brother: ‘fatalists.’ But you’re right, Leo, they are. Especially the Pollacks. I dare you to find a bigger bunch of fatalists anywhere.” He frowned, glancing irascibly to his left, his gaze moving past King and continuing on, sweeping the little restaurant. “Where the fuck is our waiter?”
“What I’m thinking,” said King, then he shot up from his chair and went charging across the restaurant to a corner table for two, where a bushy-haired waiter stood patiently listening to an elderly man and his wife discuss what to order. From behind, King snatched the waiter’s jacket collar, taking him so completely by surprise that both of his hands flew up, his fingers opened, and his writing pad smacked the old man in the face. His pencil rolled down the wife’s bosom, went skiing off into the air.
Five seconds later, everyone in the dining room already knew who it was dragging the waiter to his table—if they hadn’t recognized King from his picture in the newspapers, they heard his name being whispered all around them now.
Releasing the waiter’s collar, King said, “You can start by taking General Bergoff’s order since he’s footing the bill.”
With a snap of his napkin, he retook his seat just as the first tentative cracklings of applause broke out in the restaurant.
As soon as they’d left the house, Liz and Patsy held hands and slowly walked north on the County Boulevard. They crossed at16th Street, and continued westerly into the park, trailed by the Cat of Ashes. The red sun was descending. Although the day had been mild and coolish, Liz could taste a burnt and mildly sour edge to the air—the humidity creeping back.
She felt glum and hopeless. Her nerves were raw. She wondered again what Johnny and Mr. Gillick would tell, had already told, the other people at the law office. They’d have to say something. She’d been foolish to think they’d say nothing. They couldn’t cook up anything criminal, couldn’t say she’d embezzled money, but they could say she’d mishandled funds at a considerable loss to the practice, but at no personal gain. They might say something like that. They’d just never tell the truth, never reveal the true reason she’d been suddenly discharged, although the truth had a way of coming out eventually, didn’t it? God in Heaven, she might have to move! Sell the house and leave Bayonne with Patsy! What if she could no longer find employment here, because of the talk, because of the sex rumor, because of whatever damaging story the Gillicks had cooked up and told the staff!
She wouldn’t move. Would not.
They went down a double hill to a grassy lawn set with bright-green benches and adorned with a bronze statue commemorating the Spanish-American War.
Patsy led the way, and he turned them left, striking off at an angle. Children in smocks and coveralls played with balls and chased around on the fresh-clipped grass. Liz recognized one of the vigilant mothers—they’d gone to high school together, Bernadette Walsh, Bernadette Something-else now, of course.
They didn’t skim eyes or acknowledge one another.
Approaching the shingle beach on Newark Bay, Lizzie pulled her hand out of Patsy’s. “I don’t want to go down there. I’ll turn my ankle. Let’s head back.” He startled her then by snatching her by the wrist and leading her to a slatted bench, the last one of them along the wide gravel path that ended at a short flight of steps down to the bay beach. They sat.
“Is something the matter?”
“Why aren’t you going out to work every day anymore?”
“Oh. Oh well, it’s time for a change, can we just leave it at that?” She squeezed his fingertips. “And don’t worry about money, we’re good. All right? Were you worried about money?”
“No.” He looked straight ahead. “I don’t think so. I’m not sure. I don’t know. Maybe I was, a little.”
“So now there’s no reason to be.” She knew she hadn’t actually lied to Patsy, conditions were adequate financially for the time being; she had some cash in the bank, but she wasn’t quite so blithe about it as she’d sounded, or tried to sound. “Okay? Okay, Pats?”
He tilted his face down, he didn’t seem convinced. Then he leaned forward, searching around his feet and in back of him. “Where’s Cassius?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been paying attention.” She got up and looked down the path, the way they’d come, and then up the path, toward the stairs. She walked over there and looked down to the beach. She didn’t see the Cat of Ashes.
“It’s all right,” Patsy called to her from the bench. She could hear him snickering as she returned. “He’s over at the swings, licking up an ice cream that a little girl dropped. And she’s crying bloody blue murder!” Patsy smiled. “He’ll always find cream, that one,” he said getting up and setting off at his peculiar hitching gait down the path; coming this way they’d passed the playground with swings, and Liz supposed that’s where he was going now.
She fell into step behind him. Yes, she thought, money might become a problem, but not before late in the year; she was pretty sure they could get along fine through November. Oh God! this all made her so angry she wanted to break something. And not only could she not do that, she couldn’t vent her anger, period. Not out loud, not in public, not around Patsy. When she thought—again!—of the ambush, of the way she’d been ambushed that morning! When she thought about it again, Liz wanted to throw punches. Men. Damn them. All of them. Not one of them was any good! She didn’t mean it. She did. She really didn’t, really, but the way that Mr. Gillick had lashed into her! And the way that Johnny had renounced her! And in such an awful, cowardly way! God.
She could spit nails.
Ahead, just inside the high fence that surrounded the swings, ladders, sand gardens, slides and teeter-totters, Patsy stooped and lifted his cat away from a puddle of vanilla ice cream.
As she must’ve done a hundred times before, Liz shook her head. How had he known the cat was there, doing that? It was as if he could see and hear what Cassius saw and heard; not always, but sometimes. Now, right now–but not this morning. This morning he hadn’t known where Cassius was, and turned frantic. And he hadn’t known yesterday, either, although yesterday it had seemed the cat told Patsy, somehow, about King’s return to Bayonne when he’d come back from an all-day saunter. It was unnerving, and Liz would have to say that she hated it, every time it happened. Hated it enough to wish the cat would just die. God knows, it was old enough. And then Liz being Liz, she’d feel guilty for ever wishing such a thing. Patsy loved that animal, he’d be devastated if Cassius died.
“You ready to go home?” she asked coming up alongside of her brother. He was holding Cassius at his chest, like a baby for burping, the cat’s paws resting on Patsy’s shoulders, his big gray head rolling toward Liz as she put her fingers to his ruff and stroked and tickled it a little.
“Yes,” said Patsy. “Ready to go.”
As Liz started to withdraw her fingers from the cat’s throat, Cassius pinioned her wrist between his two front paws. She looked to his eyes, they were shiny and fixed, staring back at her, incurious, unblinking, green—they were cat’s eyes, that’s all they were. Ordinary cat’s eyes. On an ordinary cat. She gave his fur a final comb-through with her fingers, the red medallion lying across her knuckles, and then she withdrew her hand.
The crust of Johnny Gillick! Saying he was ashamed of himself and that Liz ought to be ashamed of herself, too. The crust of that man!
Lucky for him there hadn’t a glass paperweight in reach.
Directly, the Cat of Ashes demanded to be let down, and after Patsy had done so, he trotted ahead and they followed him out of the park. He dashed ahead across the County Boulevard. When they reached the other side themselves, he was gone again.
“He’ll find his way home,” said Liz, “he always does.”
“I’m not worried,” said Patsy and reached and took her hand again.
It was getting dark. Colonies of lightning bugs glowed in the trees…
“Mrs. Landrigan, John J. said to send you in as soon as you arrived.”
“Is there some problem,” said Lizzie drawing off her gloves. She was still feeling punchy from the newspaperman’s telephone call. Her brother King was back in Bayonne and had shot four men. Apparently he was all right, unhurt himself, but was he in jail? Liz was frantic, she couldn’t even remember walking to the law offices from her house.
“No, he said just to send you in,” said Miss O’Donnell, John J’s secretary. She pointed to the door with her pencil. Oh, and John Jr. was in there, too, she decided to add as Liz made her way around the desk. This wasn’t good. Logically enough, Liz decided it had something to do with the shootings, with her brother’s involvement in the shootings, so it came as a complete shock hardly a minute later when John J. furiously put his face into hers and hissed that she had ten minutes to empty her desk and be out the front door. It felt like an ambush, like being clubbed by Algonquin. She looked over to Johnny, but he looked away, cringing, wouldn’t meet her eyes. She planted herself and refused to budge till she had an explanation. And finally Johnny muttered one: somehow, his father had heard about Johnny’s early arrival at the office every Friday morning, to meet with a valued railroad client. And since the practice had no railroad clients, valued or otherwise, no railroad business whatsoever, he’d decided to go in early himself some Friday morning; this Friday morning. Today.
To see what was really going on.
“And?” said Liz. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, she felt dizzy. “How does that concern me? I just got here!” But she managed to catch Johnny’s eye, and it was a fatal moment: her stomach dropped. Jesus Christ, Johnny! You didn’t! Oh, but he did. He had. He’d told his father about the two of them.
“Leave these premises, Mrs. Landrigan,” said John J. Gillick, “before I throttle you!”
“You had better not, I won’t stand for it!”
Throttle me? she thought. Dear God.
Liz staggered out of John J’s office and made her way down a paneled hallway to the rear door. She pushed through it into the little courtyard behind the St. Charles Hotel.
…She sat up, and the novel she’d been trying in vain to read–When Patty Went to College—fell to the floor with a thump. The living room was damp, and when she looked to the open front windows, Liz was surprised to find it completely dark outside. She heard Patsy in the kitchen putting on water for tea. “Put on enough for me to have a cup, Pats!” she called through the house, and she heard him say all right.
She picked up her book and sat back in her chair with her hands clasped over it.
“Mrs. Landrigan, John J. said to send you right in as soon as you arrived.”
The conversation at the Bergoff table had turned to business, and now the General, with high-nosed contempt, was talking about the pipsqueak mayor of Bayonne, Garvin. “He must’ve called me up four times since this morning. Finally I had to tell him, Don’t wet your pants, Pierre, it’s all fine. Fine? he says, there were two riots today, and I said, yeah? So? Everybody’s back where they belong, aren’t they? Don’t wet your pants, sonny, just leave everything to me.” Bergoff shook his head. “And then he says, General, do you think it’ll be over tomorrow? And I said, Maybe.” He gave his head one final shake, fed up to the teeth.
“Tomorrow?” said Jimmy Waddell. He was a small man of 50 with a lined, sallow face and dark brown smudges below his eyes. A tic set his left cheek to quivering six times a minute. “I sincerely hope not, P.L. We talked about this. I’m counting on at least a full week. Our expenses—”
“Don’t you wet your pants, either, all right? It’s not ending tomorrow, trust me.”
“Because if it is, you have to let me know. I got twenty fresh men out of Long Island showing up t’ Water Street tomorra morning, expecting to come on over here. I got a barge reserved. So I need to make sure that we cancel if—”
“Sam,” said Bergoff. “Poke that putz in the head for me, will ya? I can’t reach.”
Sam Cohen, a stocky, muscular, short man with a boxer’s scarred face, crooked an arm, fist at his sternum, and made as if to drive the elbow vertically into Waddell’s ear. Waddell flinched, and Cohen did the same fake all over again.
“Cut it out! I’m just asking, it’s my job.”
“Jimmy. Relax,” said the General. “My prediction? Nine days. At least. The Standard won’t talk to anybody, and Kinkaid’s running around like a chicken without its head. I promised you we’d bill for a minimum seven days, but now I’m predicting nine, maybe ten. We’re lucky, even two weeks. Relax.” He scraped up the last residue of ice cream with the tip of his spoon, swallowed it and then pushed away the cup.
Everyone in the Bergoff party had had ice cream for dessert, except for King Touey, who’d not even had his dinner yet; there sat his plate of clams in dough, untouched.
Less than two minutes after he’d snatched up the curly-haired waiter and dragged him across the dining room, a line of autograph-seekers was snaking through the restaurant, bending around tables and squeezing in-between the backs of chairs. It became so congested finally that none of the waiters and servers could pass. King didn’t like missing his meal, of course, not for one second, but to his surprise, he’d discovered he couldn’t resist the adulation of strangers, even if they were all just a bunch of good-for-nothing Bayonne shitbirds. From the first hesitant “Excuse me, Mr. Touey, but would you mind…?” our man had cheerfully—cheerfully!—embraced his new celebrity, even taking pride in showing the General and the others at the table the clever rebus he’d created during a long, boring train ride last year to a job in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania—created and, from then on, adopted in lieu of a regular run-of-the-mill pantywaist’s signature: he simply sketched a long narrow rectangle, see, and then added three quick triangles on top—a King’s crown! Get it? His mark. “Yeah, yeah, brilliant,” said Pearl Bergoff. “Now take it outside like the man is asking you to.” The General had then indicated the harried restaurant proprietor, a fat German with a big old-fashioned Bismarck moustache.
King Touey had been outside for well over half an hour now, making his tiny regal mark with a grease pencil (provided by the restaurant) on detachable shirt cuffs and collars, hat bands and hat linings, business cards, calling cards, and library cards; on dollar bills, bills of fare, ladies’ paper fans, and—by far the most frequent surface offered to him—on a photograph of his own grinning face as reproduced in half a dozen editions of several different local newspapers…
Pearl Bergoff and his cronies smoked El Rey Del Mundos and drank blond coffee. “Has he strangled anybody yet?” asked the General once Sam Cohen rejoined them after taking a quick look outside.
“Not yet,” said Cohen. He picked up his cigar, relit it. “General…”
Bergoff held a hand up. “You don’t have to say it.”
“Say what?” asked his brother.
“Leo, for crissake!”
“The man,” said Cohen, “is an infernal device—given the smallest bump, he’s going to blow. Again.”
“Yes, but we always knew that,” said Jimmy Waddell. “Like that time in Pittsburg?”
“That was in the field, Jimmy, the field. Last night he shot four men in front of my house.”
“But, P.L., everybody’s lining up for his autograph, he’s a hero—thanks to you.” Leo Bergoff was stirring around two heaping spoonfuls of sugar he’d just tipped into his coffee. “And that’s got to be good for us. On your own initiative, you sent out a man who smashed a hold-up gang that’s been brazenly—brazenly operatin’ and terrifyin’ the entire populace for how many years?” He smirked and raised his cup to his lips. “What? What’s that look? You’re getting as much credit as he is.”
“Jesus H. Christ.”
“What? It’s true, ain’t it?”
“Leo, I made up that story!”
“Yeah, I know. Of course you did. That’s not the point. The point, brother, is they bought it! And I got to hand it to you, you sure handled that situation beautifully—a thing of beauty!”
“You don’t get it, do you?”
“Get what? asked Leo Bergoff and Jimmy Waddell at the same time.
“I made up that cockamamie story so’s I didn’t have to read in today’s papers that a noble of mine was driving around with a bunch of thieves and then shot them! But the fact remains, the question remains, what in holy hell was he doing riding along with those bastards in the first place? They were coming to rob and kill me!”
Leo said, “Yeah, but—”
“But what, Leo? What the hell was he doing with them?”
Sam Cohen said, “Did you ask him?”
“That’s just the thing, it’s just the thing! He stood there listening to what I told that fucking detective and ever since then it’s been like—he’s acting like that’s what really happened. Go ahead! Go outside right now and ask him. Guaranteed, he’ll swear up and down he’s my ‘confidential operative.’ He believes my own horseshit!”
“He’s pulling your leg,” said Jimmy Waddell.
“And I’m telling you he’s not!” said the General. “He’s loony. They’ll be coming for him with a net. He stays at my house last night and, get this, I come down this morning and he’s walking around with a cat on a rope! A cat! On a rope! I get him a haircut, put him in a brand-new suit of clothes so he can talk to some newspaper boys coming over to see him, I tell him exactly what to say, he says all right, sure, General—and the next thing I know, he’s gone! Vanished! Him and the goddamn cat! From one second to the next, you never know what he’s going to do! He’s a lunatic.” General Bergoff shook his head in disgust. “If you fellas are about done, I’m for home.” He dabbed his mouth with his linen napkin. Looking behind him, he called over the German with the big mustache, the proprietor. “Wrap that up and stick it in a paper bag or something,” he said pointing to King Touey’s cold dinner.
The proprietor nodded stiffly and whisked away the plate.
When he was gone, Sam Cohen leaned forward on folded arms. “So what are we keeping him around for?”
“I’m not! I’m not keeping him around.” Bergoff took a luxuriously long drag on his cigar, grinning as the coal glowed. He removed the cigar from his mouth, rested it carefully on a wide notch in the tin ash tray. “I’m putting him into pictures!” He laughed, he winked, and when the others stared at him blankly, he told them about his meeting with Bill Harrigan. “I’m putting King Touey into pictures with all the other nuts! It’s easier and a lot less messy than asking you to shoot him, Sam.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”
“Starting tomorrow, our crazy friend is out of the labor adjustment business and in the moving picture business!” He tapped his temple: smart, eh? “Say, have I told you fellers I’m going to be driving that machine in the morning?” He closed his fists around an invisible steering wheel, and rocked them steadily. “While they’re turning their cameras, I’ll be operating a war-car. Like I was a German in Belgium!”
“Did the Harrigan guy show you how?” said Jimmy Waddell.
The General waved away that minor technicality. “There’ll be time in the morning. I’m not worried. I’ve operated streetcars and dock cranes, how hard can it be?”
The proprietor returned with a paper sack neatly folded twice from the top. He also put down the bill of fare. “Have a good evening, gentlemen,” he said like he was telling them all to go to hell.
“Hey, wait,” said Bergoff. “Get me something to write with, will you?” He brushed a languid hand through the air, sending him off. After directing a scowl at the bill, he drew out his moneyfold from an inside coat pocket. At that, his associates thanked him for their meal. The German returned with a small grease pencil, identical to the one he’d given King Touey, and Pearl Bergoff printed carefully on one side of the paper sack: “BE ON THE STANDARD WALL AT 7 A.M. SHAVE! P.L.B”
“We’re leaving without him?” said Jimmy Waddell.
The General didn’t reply, just clapped on his jet-black derby hat and rose from the table.
Two minutes and a side-door-exit later, they were back in the silver Lozier touring car, Leo driving, making their way downtown to the Bergoff mansion.
After leaving Bill Harrigan’s moving-picture factory, Olive had walked to Avenue C and waited for a jitney, which came by in ten or fifteen minutes. Riding downtown, she’d turned her face to the rattling window and put her features through a drill: “petulant,” “surprised,” “amused” (both vastly and slightly), “melancholy,” “aghast,” “sullen,” and so on till she had to reach up and pull the bell cord for her stop at Thirtieth Street. At a corner grocery store, she purchased a loaf of crusty, flour-dusted bread and a quarter-pound of soft yellow cheese. For the first time since “the outrage”—what the newspapers called both the woundings of Olive and her sister Mary Margaret by Joe Dell’Appa and the affiliated death of baby Tim Cudhy—for the first time since then, Olive Ince had an appetite, and while she wasn’t feeling exactly hungry, she was definitely peckish, which she took as a welcome sign that her spirits were lifting; improving.
The moment she stepped from the grocery store onto the sidewalk, Olive nearly was knocked down by a pair of nine-or-ten-year-old boys speeding past hunched over the handlebars of bicycles; one bicycle was bright shiny red, the other cadet-blue, both were trapped out with squares of cardboard clipped to the wheel spokes and simulating a motorcycle engine’s guttural putts. Harrigan bicycles, Olive recognized, on the instant blaming Bill for the near-collision. And now that she was thinking about Bill again—what a relief! What an idiotic engagement! And the truth was, she’d never felt much affection for the man, hardly any at all. Never knew if he was making fun of her or being entirely serious—leaving flowers at her front door without a note, and always a ten-pound box of candies “from your secret admirer” on her birthday. If he met Olive on the street and they were both alone, he’d stop and chat with her a moment, but just a moment. “We’re still engaged, remember.” “I haven’t forgotten.” It was all so ridiculous. “Still plan to marry me?” “Sure.” “That’s my girl!” But she had to admit it made getting through adolescence a lot easier for her than it otherwise would’ve been. As she turned ever prettier, as her body changed, when she got a waist and a bust, Olive grew more and more, in her own mind, engaged to Bill Harrigan. Complacently engaged, with nothing swoony about it. It made it a cinch to snub boys at school (as well as men on the street), which might well have been her inclination even without Bill, but having him as her secret fiancé made it not just easier, but principled. She could daub up and gad with the popular crowd, but decline every offer of a date. She supposed she was lacking in the sex impulse, but that hardly bothered her; she enjoyed being untouchable and condescending.
Bill, she’d told herself at 14 and 15 and 16, would become a millionaire making pictures, and marry her when she turned 21, to everyone’s surprise and envy, especially her mother’s, and then she’d go to live out in Los Angeles and wear white clothes in the daytime, and jodhpurs, and dark sunglasses that would make her look mysterious. She’d expected, during her chaste and standoffish high school years, that once she married Bill Harrigan and moved across the country, she would begin to drink a lot, and in the afternoon. She read about the Hollywood film colony in different monthly photoplay magazines and told herself—even though, honestly by then, she didn’t believe it would ever happen, not really—she told herself that knowing about people in the picture business just made good sense; she would be an informed wife and help chart Bill’s career. Once or twice, Olive had been thrilled when his name, in boldface, jumped off a magazine page at her…
As she approached her apartment house, she noticed a little girl from one of the rear flats on the second floor rocking a dolly carriage over the exact hardpack of dirt where Joe Dell’Appa had writhed as Olive kicked him in fury and without mercy after he’d shot her and after Charlie Gillick had crowned him with his riot stick. Her stomach twisted now at the flash of memory. The man was dead. Then she remembered him as he was at the dance in the county park, so ridiculous in his clumsy rapture, refusing to leave Olive alone with her girlfriends. He wasn’t bad-looking, Italians could be handsome, but he was short, and could barely speak English. Finally she’d danced with him, because she’d felt sorry for him and was worn down. And that was enough for Joseph Dell’Appa. Suddenly she was his girl! The atrociously ungrammatical letters, the silly presents (a box of Italian cookies, hair papers, lips pastes!), then suddenly his grandmother’s ring!
“Are you all right?” The little girl had come over and stood peering up into Olive’s face. She had on a gingham-pattern sundress.
“Just a little dizzy,” said Olive putting on a smile (a “trooper’s smile,” she thought, filing it away), and then climbing the front steps and going into the barnlike apartment house and trudging up the stairs. When she reached the top, her floor, there was a strong odor of gas. Although the house had been electrified, pipelines in the individual apartments had never been sealed permanently. As she turned to go back down for the super, her head started spinning and she felt befuddled; she’d breathed more gas than was safe. Things went dark and her knees buckled, her legs folded, and then she was toppling, but didn’t know where she was.
She hoped it wasn’t at the head of the stairs.
When he discovered that Pearl Bergoff and the others had ditched him, King Touey felt a flicker of anger. But then he laughed. So long as the General had taken care of the feed bill, it was okay by him. He’d had enough of those shitbirds anyhow.
Leaving the restaurant with his carry-away bag, he waved off another couple of requests for his autograph and trudged west along Thirtieth Street toward Avenue C. He’d gone only half the block before he noticed that he had company: the Cat of Ashes had fallen into step alongside of him; suddenly the wicked gimpy creature was right there. “You again!” King sat down on a low cement wall and unrolled the top of the paper sack. The cat tried to get a peek, but King pushed him away. He broke off a wet piece of dough and put it down on the wall. There was a gray speck of clam in it. Cassius went for that, nipping it free. King rerolled the sack and set off again. He came to C and crossed it, and kept going. It was only then he knew where he was headed: back to his sister’s house. Well, then that’s where he was headed. It was an axiom in King’s life that you never needed to know your intentions ahead of time.
He came to a crowd blocking the sidewalk, some in groups, some in pairs, everyone being shouted at and pushed back by a trio of loud cops. An ambulance was parked in front of an apartment house on the corner, and King watched two police surgeons carry out a stretcher bearing a belted-down swaddled corpse. As he elbowed his way through the crowd, everyone muttering, King absorbed the gist of the situation–a suicide, a violinist who’d grown despondent after his wife left him and his eyesight started to fail. He’d been discovered seated on a chair in his closet under the open gas, his violin on his lap. The strings were torn out of place, supposedly. The gas had overcome half a dozen tenants. King wondered if he’d ever do that. Grow despondent enough to sit under an open gas line. He’d just have to wait and see, wouldn’t he? No sense worrying about it now.
After he crossed to the other side of the street, he passed a large brown-shingled private house with a sloping grassy side lawn where several men and women sat rubbing their heads and breathing deeply. Among them was Olive Ince. King walked past her as if hadn’t recognized her, but fuck that shit, he wheeled around and tramped back and poked Olive in the knee with his finger. Her legs were drawn up and her arms were clasped around them. She was glaring at King. “Sister, you still got a grudge against me?” He turned to a woman in a headscarf sitting close by. “Make some room, lady, would you?”
Olive hissed like a snake. “Don’t you dare tell her to move! This lawn is reserved for people overcome by gas, so just get out of here, you.”
The woman moved anyhow, giving King room, and he folded himself down beside Olive. “I’d just washed my hands and there was no towel in the kitchen. You act like I killed you.”
“Only you wouldn’t know how inappropriate that is. Treating people no better than a hand towel!” She looked away, but then looked right back at him. “And you hadn’t just washed your hands, you were stirring a pot of tomatoes!”
“Since when have I ever stirred a pot of tomatoes in my life?”
“You’re as funny as your own funeral, “ she said, then kept talking about that day at the Shore, but since it all had happened years ago and was of a no importance, never had been, King ceased to listen.
“Irregardless,” said Olive when she’d finally run out of complaint. “Should we appear in a picture together—that’s work. Otherwise, stay away from me.”
“What are you saying, you’re for the same picture that I’m in? If that don’t beat everything!” King was all smiles now, full of himself.
“Can you remember that smile?” she said.
“Which smile? This smile?” Which was more a leer than a smile.
“Not that one, you goop. The last one.”
“Why should I remember a smile?”
“Because it was good.”
“I don’t even know what we’re talking about.”
“You sound like I’ve hurt your feelings. No! I mean, it’s a good smile to use in the picture. When you need to show your teeth.”
“Yeah? Like this?”
“That’s not the smile.”
“That’s not it, either. You’ll be hopeless. You’re going to ruin my chances.” He’d started eating a wad of dough from his carry-away bag. “What’s that?” Olive asked.
He opened the top of the bag wider, tipped it, showed her.
“Is this the smile?”
“Yes!” She laughed, and King pulled off a piece of dough and tried giving it to her. Olive made a disgusted face.
“Where’s the cat?” he said.
“My brother’s cat was following me.”
“I didn’t see any cat.” They each took a rudimentary look around. No cat. “Anyway, yes, That was the smile. Were you making those other stupid smiles on purpose?”
Stupid smiles? King thought for a moment and said, “Sure I was.” Then he said, “People are going back in.” The woman he’d displaced had gone already, and so had most others from the casualty lawn. He watched Olive rise to her feet, then rose to his. “What’s in your bag?”
“Bread and cheese.”
“You should have some. They say to eat bread if you breathed in a lot of bad gas.”
Instead of answering, he nodded at her bag. “What kind of cheese?”
“I’m going in. Good night.”
“Wait up, wait up,” said King trotting after her. “Damn it to hell, will you wait a minute? Could I sleep on your floor tonight?” He almost laughed when that popped out of his mouth; he hadn’t expected to say it. Bold as brass, as the old man used to say about him. Bold as brass.
“You’re out of your mind.” said Olive. “Good night.”
“Well, aren’t you superior!” Like that, King had turned nasty, challenge in his eyes. “Say no, but watch that other stuff, girl.” Olive had to stop short when he dashed ahead, made a sudden pivot, and blocked her way. “Watch your mouth.”
“Go stay with your sister and your brother.”
“Maybe I’ll go see if your mother’ll have me, instead.” Why hadn’t he thought of that before? “I bet she would.” Of course she would.
“You stink on ice,” said Olive. “You know that? You really stink!” She looked away and saw that she and King were being observed now by a uniformed policeman stationed at the door of the apartment house, seeing people back inside.
Stepping sidelong, she continued on to the front steps, King Touey calling her after, “So you liked that smile? Is this it? I’m doing it again. Look! This it? Hey!” After she’d gone inside, he stood glowering for a minute, then went on up to the corner and started walking south on the County Boulevard. Next thing he knew, he was in a flower-shop basement on Twenty-fifth Street, on his knees drinking a very smoky bourbon and shooting craps…
Tommy, the middle Gillick brother, had been an eighth grader when Charlie, the baby of the family, was born; Johnny, the eldest, had been a high school junior. Consequently, neither sibling ever had been much interest in Charlie, and neither considered him a genuine brother—more along the lines of, say, an orphan rescued from an institution or the gutter. It didn’t help matters any, of course, that Charlie was never good at athletics (Tommy’s track and field medals and Johnny’s competitive swimming trophies still were displayed on virtually every shelf and mantle in the Gillick home), or that, unlike his brothers who had excelled at their studies, he’d done mediocre, even poor, work throughout his school days. According to their father, Charlie was the first Gillick “in generations” to bring home report cards bristling with C’s and D’s and even the occasional red F.
But while Johnny simply ignored Charlie when he was growing up, Tommy had criticized and tormented him. And of all the criticisms and torments that Tommy had lashed upon Charlie—he was clumsy, he was a dunce, he had the face of a leprechaun and the gapped teeth of a hippopotamus, he couldn’t do the simplest arithmetic—his harshest words and cruelest sneers, his most contemptuous secret punches to the kidneys all had sprung from Charlie’s enchantment with the despicable Touey children. Or as Tommy Gillick had referred to Patsy, King and Liz Touey, “that hateful brood across the street.”
Tonight, as Tommy sat on the creaking front porch glider at his parents’ house, he stared grimly off at the former Touey residence, and Charlie suspected his brother was recalling that old calumny, was thinking about them.
Over there now, a children’s birthday party was winding down. A few small boys raced laughing across the front lawn in the full dark making figure-eights with German sparklers, but the colored balloons had all been removed from the folding chairs and then either popped or carried away; the ice cream churn had been taken back inside the house by Mr. Stocker, and Mrs. Stocker was going around loading a tray with bowls and cups and the last of the bakery cake.
Because the two brothers had been sitting together in complete silence for the past twenty minutes, as soon as Tommy gave a low snort, Charlie, desperate for some talk, leaned forward in his rocker. “What?”
Tommy glanced across at Charlie. His face had a scoffing expression. “I was just remembering when that little moron used to take out his kitchen broom every day and sweep the sidewalks, if you must know.” A motor-car with its lamps on purled slowly along West Sixth Street, illuminating the end of the porch where the brothers sat; Tommy put a hand up to shield his eyes and then frowned at Charlie’s swollen face just as it became obscured again by deep shadows. “Jaysis, kid, if you don’t quit getting beaten up, pretty soon people might start mistaken you for an eggplant.”
Charlie laughed. “I suppose they might.” It had been a long time since Tommy managed to get his goat, and he meant to keep it that way. Charlie had never cared much for Tommy, and never would–Tommy had always done his best to make Charlie feel unwelcome in the family–but he did feel sorry for him lately: his brother’s profligate betting ways had lost him not just his wife and three small children, but also his big house on Newark Bay by the County Park, even his summer cottage in Maine. Not to mention their father’s respect. He lived by himself now in a small flat on Second Street above a green grocer’s; he was a great big man, but, like Johnny, he’d gone to fat—he was fat and jowly and slow moving, and his hands trembled so badly that either he kept them plunged deep in his pockets or doubled into fists. So who the hell was he to make cracks about Charlie or Patsy Touey? Rising from his chair, Charlie stretched his back, and then tugged down the hem of a fresh uniform tunic he’d put on after his bath.
“Why’re you still wearing that?” said Tommy. “You working tonight?”
“I’m not sure.” Charlie nearly added—boasted—that the Sheriff had said he might come by, swing by the house, if he needed Charlie for anything, but what would be the point? This was Tommy he was talking to, and Tommy wouldn’t be impressed. Charlie walked over to the glider and, much to his brother’s surprise, insinuated himself beside him. Tommy didn’t shift any or slide over to give him more room. “So, Tom, would you care to tell me what’s been going on?”
Tommy had showed up unexpectedly, soon after dinner, and then he and their father, without explanation, had gone down to the basement and talked there for more than an hour; from time to time, Charlie and his mother, exchanging anxious looks, would hear Mr. Gillick raise his voice in a roaring “Goddamit it to hell!” or a blistering “I won’t stand for it!” or an incredulous “What was John thinking?”
“It doesn’t concern you, or Mom.”
“Oh, come on. You were talking about Johnny—we heard his name a hundred times.”
Tommy reached inside his coat and took out a box of matches and a packet of cigarettes—he was smoking caporals now, not the English kind he used to keep in a pewter case and set fire to with a brass strike lighter. “What time do you have?”
“Where’s that watch I gave you?” While Tommy had never cared one fig for Charlie, he’d usually given him pricey but dull gifts at Christmas and on his birthday, to impress their parents, Charlie always felt, and to disappoint him: a daily missal bound in calf’s leather, a wooden fountain pen, a color atlas. A strap watch with phosphorized hands and numerals.
“You lost it, didn’t you? Like you’ve been losing things all your life.” He lighted a cigarette and blew out the match. “You know what we always called you, me and John? We’d say, That Charlie boy, he’s a regular—”
“It’s upstairs.” Charlie turned away, eyes cast down, his goat gotten. “But it’s probably around 9:30.”
“Then I should be on my way.” Tommy rolled forward to stand up, but Charlie stretched an arm out and blocked him.
“Pop and Johnny have some kind of falling out? And Johnny asked you to come talk to him on his account? That’s what it sounded like.”
“You’re a patrolman, kid, don’t start acting like you’re a detective. What, you think that’s funny?”
“A little bit, yeah.” He withdrew his arm. “Now, tell me: what’s going on?”
“M.y.o.b., kid,” said Tommy, but then, since he’d never been able to resist the needle when it came to Charlie, he added with a level, scrutinizing look, “And besides, you don’t want to know. It would only break your heart.”
“Break my heart?” Charlie sensed all at once where this was headed, or more like it, whom it really concerned. Liz was part of this. What he’d seen her do behind the hotel was part of this. And he was afraid, in the same instant, that whatever Tommy finally said would break his heart. “Just tell me.”
Springing to his feet, Tommy regarded Charlie with a cool stare. When he started down the steps, Charlie felt he should go after him and give Tommy a clout on his chin, but that seemed ridiculous–what did Tommy do?
This was about Liz. This had to be about Liz! Break his heart? Who else could break Charlie’s heart? Everyone knew how he felt about Liz.
“Good night, kid.” said Tommy from the foot of the porch. “And try not to get beat up again,” he said with a shine of mockery in his eyes. “You have few enough brains as it is.”
Tonight, as Bill Harrigan went back and forth from the studio building to the garage lugging cameras, tripods, and heavy canisters of 35-millimeter film, he was a downcast man. For most of the evening he’d worked on the script for Lily of Labor, but it was still a mess. Hopeless. Incoherent. He was good at mechanics, he could make things that worked, that moved, that improved other things, but he knew little about anything else, especially people, as Al and Bud kept telling him. While he made pictures with enthusiasm and spared no expense, he didn’t always make good pictures. He knew this was true. Both Al Coffey and Bud Bleach could make a profitable comedy in a couple of days, and George Wunsch knew more about how to put together a good picture than anyone else; Bill was painfully aware that he should stick to inventing better hardware, better cameras and lenses and rolling tracks and, most recently, better light reflectors; he should stick to the hardware side of the business and then maybe they’d start making money. But dammit, he wanted to make pictures; he insisted upon it. He just didn’t know much about people, and that’s what, unfortunately, audiences wanted pictures to be about. People.
But he was going to make Lily of Labor—tomorrow he’d shoot hundreds of feet of film, develop it all and see what they, what he, actually had, then write a story around that. He’d make sure there was a lot of running around, confusion, gunsmoke— it’d be fine.
He got out of the truck and slammed the door. Opened the garage doors, came back and pulled the light chain, then went and dragged the garage doors shut and locked them. He hoped Olive could act, at least a little. He didn’t know what the hell he could do about King Touey. Call in George Wunsch? No, Bill wasn’t that desperate, not yet. He could handle King Touey, he’d find some way to handle him. He thought, You’re Bill Harrigan, you’re William L. Harrigan, the director.
No matter what, it would be an adventure.
By the time he had his pajamas on and was brushing his teeth, he was hopping from one bare foot to the other nervously, boyishly, trying to work out some pent-up excitement. He wondered if Olive could act. He spat into the sink, dabbed his mouth dry with a towel. He wondered if he might have to pad her bust, just a little. He got into bed at ten past ten, set the alarm for 4:45, and turned out the light. Just a little padding, not much. He’d see what Al and Bud thought about it.
Gosh, he hoped tomorrow wasn’t a complete fiasco.
When his mother stepped out on the porch, the screen door clicking shut behind her, Charlie Gillick hurriedly wiped his wet cheeks; if she asked, he’d say it was pollen, or was it the wrong time of year for pollen? At any rate, she didn’t ask. “Tommy’s gone? Without saying good bye?”
“He remembered he had to be somewhere.”
She sniffed the air. “Have you been smoking?”
She frowned, tutted, and sat down on the glider. He moved over to give her room. He wished her bosom wasn’t so ample—and so near. It embarrassed him. They sat for a quiet minute and just watched the treetops sparkle softly with lightning bugs. From the Harrigan house they heard Mrs. Harrigan’s typewriting machine rhythmically clicking and its bell, at ten-second intervals, brightly ding. “Another novel!” said Charlie’s mother. “God help us all.” She smiled and it lingered on her lips. Then she said, “I spoke to your father. As we suspected, he and Johnny had another of their periodic disagreements. But I think Tom smoothed it out.”
“It wasn’t the end of the world. When is it ever? Something wasn’t filed in time, or an ‘i’ wasn’t dotted or a ‘t’ crossed, or the like of that. But you know how your father can be. Or John, for that matter. But it’s all fine.” She patted Charlie’s hand. A little sigh escaped her. “You look exhausted.”
“Well, it’s better than looking like an eggplant.”
After shooting him a glance, she burst out laughing. “Did Tommy say that?”
“You do not look like an eggplant! But oh my dear sweet boy, you have looked better.”
Charlie reached, squeezed her fingertips. “I’m sure. You off to bed now?”
“In a minute.” With a frown, she sat back down on the glider. “Charlie…”
It was spoken with that plaintive tone, that pleading look, and he quickly said, “I know what you’re going to tell me—it’s still July and there’s time yet to put in my application for college. But I don’t want to go to college.”
“Why not? You’re a bright young man.” From a dear sweet boy to a bright young man in, what? Twenty seconds? “You have a good head on your shoulders.”
“Even if it’s a little dented?”
“Even so, yes.” He’d made her grin, and that was a pleasure. “Gene Kinkaid went to college—he went to law school!”
“It’s just, well, you seem so much taken with him, and he with you, and I just thought…”
“I don’t think he’s taken with me at all, Ma. In fact, I’m not sure he even likes me.”
“Why would you say such a thing?” She gave him a moment’s glance, then looked away. “Well, I think I will go to bed now. It must be getting on ten. She rose from the glider and walked to the top of the porch steps and looked about. Most of the houses on the street were dark now, although some lamps still were on downstairs in the Stocker—the Touey—house. She slapped her arm suddenly, in two places. “I’m being eaten alive!” Then she said, “I don’t understand, Charlie. If you’re his driver, why does he always come by here and pick you up?”
“It’s his automobile. I drove it back to his hotel this afternoon and left it there.”
“Then why doesn’t he just drive it himself?”
“Gene Kinkaid’s always been too full of himself by half. I’m sorry, but it’s true. A driver! Now the man is so important he needs a driver! Well, just mind you don’t get used to it. You’re made for bigger things.”
Charlie felt himself blush. “It’s not like that, I’m not just…driving. He’s the Sheriff and I’m—I’ve been a cop not even six months and here I am going around everywhere with the Sheriff of Hudson County. Ma, that’s pretty good. I think.”
“Oh you do, do you?” She turned and smiled fondly at him.
“I do, yes. I’m lucky for the experience.”
“Some experience,” she said and touched both her cheeks and then her forehead, and soundly tapped the side of her head. “Any more ‘experience,’ Charlie Gillick, and you’ll find yourself bedridden.” She looked away. “I’m sorry.” She looked back at him with a pained face. “That was unkind. You’re a good boy, a fine young man, and I’m proud of you.” Before pulling open the screen door, she kissed him on the crown of his head. “Gene Kinkaid is the lucky one, it seems to me—to have you.” Then she laughed again.
“Oh, I was just recalling when your brother Johnny and Gene Kinkaid were in that play together back at college—did you go along with us to see it? Oh, I guess not, you were too little.” She wagged her head. “It was one of those plays by that dreadful Clyde Fitch, Beau Brummell—and poor John was so, so bad!” Now she snorted. “Oh dear God, your poor father was dying the whole time, he was so embarrassed. Johnny kept forgetting his lines and tripping over the furniture. The clumsiest Prince of Wales you ever saw! But Gene Kinkaid, God bless him—he was good as anybody you’d see on a stage in New York City. That man could’ve been a professional actor. Which he had his heart set on becoming once upon a time, I’ve heard. It was probably John told me that. Another William Gillette. A born actor, was our Gene. And so good-looking in those days, too. Not that he’s not still a good-looking man, but he’s put on a bit of weight, hasn’t he? He’s filled out.” She stood there holding the screen door open—something she would’ve scolded Charlie for doing—with a pleasant and reminiscent smile on her face. “Oh my, could that man act!”
“Was he Beau Brummell?”
“He was indeed!” She pointed a finger at Charlie. “And of course he likes you. Why ever else would he ask you to drive his machine?”
“I think I just happened to be available.”
“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Gillick. “The man knows quality when he sees it. Good night, son.”
Talking with the ma, Charlie’s spirits had lifted, but now they crashed again. He gave a deep sigh, letting his thoughts wander, and then it was Liz Touey framed in her bedroom window, second-floor front, golden lighted from behind, slowly and monotonously brushing out her long brown hair, and young Charlie standing mesmerized by the side of his house holding a paper sack of wet garbage he’d been carrying out to the trash barrel—standing there hypnotized for so long that the bottom of the sack shredded away and spilled egg shells, cucumber peelings, steak bones and coffee grounds all down the front of his Knickerbocker trousers to splatter his brand-new scout shoes; and then it was Liz in a church pew reading silently along from her cheap missal at the 9 o’clock Mass, Sunday after Sunday, and, Sunday after Sunday, Charlie, from his pew, studying her profile, the back of her head, the set of her narrow shoulders, spellbound; and then it was Liz calling, “Good morning, Big Chief Powhatan!” as Charlie—how old was he then, eight?—ran around his front yard in an Indian outfit with a brightly feathered warrior’s headdress, beating a tom-tom. He’d stopped dead, thrilled she’d noticed him, and addressed him, and then with a wink and a slow smile, she’d added, “Just mind you beware those Englishmen, Chief, they’re not to be trusted.” He hadn’t known whether to laugh or to look solemn (what did she mean?), so he’d looked solemn, and she’d blown him a kiss. And finally Charlie recalled now the utter despair he’d felt as a nine-year-old the day Liz Touey had married handsome Michael Landrigan. From behind the big Dutch elm he’d watched her come out of the house across the street that late spring morning in her beaded satin wedding dress and wished he could fall down and die! He’d galloped back to his house and pulled away an edge of latticework and crawled under his porch—precisely below where he was sitting tonight on the glider—and stayed there past noon in his cowboy hat and togs hunkered in the soft red dirt with his skinny arms wrapped around his bony knees, crying and sniffling, disconsolate….
Once Charlie was certain his mother had gone upstairs, he quietly opened the screen door, quietly shut it behind him, and walked down the hall past the front and back parlors. He crept into his father’s dark study and helped himself to half a dozen American cigarettes from the lacquered box on top of the desk.
When he stepped back outside onto the porch with the cigarettes bunched in his fist, Charlie was startled to hear a voice. “Officer Gillick! I was not aware that you were a smoking man.” The Sheriff came forward from the dark end of the porch. “Let me have one of those.”
Charlie passed over a cigarette.
“I’ll take a light too, if you have it.” Kinkaid put his head back and drew deeply on the cigarette, then took it from his lips and exhaled a long jet of smoke. “Do you have any cold ham or chicken?”
“I haven’t had a bite of food since six o’clock this morning and here it is ten-thirty at night. Son, would you starve your poor old Sheriff? Be good now.”
Charlie said okay, certainly, and led Kinkaid down the hall and into the kitchen. He pushed a wall button and a double rack of bulbs glared down on a long butcher-block preparation table. The walls were covered in white, crackled, reflective tile. Charlie opened the icebox and had a look. “Do you like gelatin?” The Sheriff had sat down at the butcher-block table, perched on a stool.
“What kind of gelatin? Sweetened gelatin?”
“No, just gelatin. It’s supposed to be a delicacy, there’s parsley on it.”
“Even so,” said the Sheriff, “I’m sure I don’t want it. Do you have any bread and butter?”
“What about a roasted chicken?”
“Just the thing. I’ll pick at it if you’ll be so kind as to get me some cutlery, a sharp knife and a fork should do it.”
As Sheriff Kinkaid set upon the chicken, Charlie cut a few slices of white bread and put them on a plate. He poured the Sheriff a glass of cool water from a pitcher he took from the ice box. “Charlie, this is just perfect. Thank you.”
Charlie propped his chin on his right fist and watched the Sheriff’s greasy hands pulling at the bird. He shifted his chin over to his left fist, propped it with that, and drummed the counter with his right-hand fingers. “I’m sorry we got separated today, you would’ve found it amusing to come along on my deputizing raid. We must’ve deputized well over a hundred men, Mickey and me, as long as they were in uniform, I hailed them, I followed them down a hall way, out a side door, out a lot of side doors at a lot of different station houses, and once I even followed them down a firehouse pole. Raise your right hand, raise your right hand!” The Sheriff raised his right hand, then pulled it down and raised it again, gesturing with a piece of bread. He laughed. “I had to sock a couple of guys before they’d raise their right hands, but I got them to!”
Charlie said, “Do you think they’ll show up at the Hook tomorrow morning?”
“Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?” He tore off another piece of breast meat. Threw it in his mouth and chewed.
“You know,” said Charlie before the Sheriff could swallow and start up talking again, “not to beat a dead horse or anything like that, but they could have ammunition you don’t know about. I wouldn’t leave those guns there.”
The Sheriff swallowed, and gave Charlie the squint-eye. “Who said anything about leaving them there?”
“Oh,” said Charlie. “Oh!” He went pale and felt stupid. “So it’s just not us who’s snatching them out of there.”
“Is there any cake?”
“I don’t think so,” said Charlie.
“Have a look.”
“I said I didn’t think there was any cake.”
“And I said, look anyway.”
Charlie looked and reported back: no cake.
“Ah well,” said the Sheriff, sliding off the stool and then wiping his hands on a towel he found draped at the end of the preparation table. He kept wiping and wiping his hands on the towel. “By the way, you hung up in my ear this afternoon. Do you remember doing that?” He wadded up the towel and flung it at Charlie. “While you were catching that, I could’ve kicked you in the balls. I was considering it. I almost kicked you in the balls for that kind of disrespect. You know that, right? I’m serious, kid. Look at me.” He took Charlie by the chin and roughly jerked his face around. “You see how serious I am?”
Charlie was forced to nod yes, then the Sheriff let him go.
“But in light of the fact that Chief Deputy Ahern said he would’ve hung up on me too, in light of him saying that he felt I’d spoken to you in a condescending manner, I want to call it even between us.” He stuck out his hand, startling Charlie. “Friends?”
They shook hands.
“I’m sorry, Sheriff.”
“No, it’s behind us. It wasn’t our finest hour, let’s press on.” He patted Charlie on the shoulder. “While you clean up here a little, I’m going to place a call from your father’s study. I presume it’s still down there to my left?”
“Yes, sir. I hadn’t realized you knew this house.”
“I was here often when John and I were at school together. You were little, but I’m surprised you don’t remember. I remember you. I remember you liked Arthur Rackham’s pictures for Robin Hood.”
“Yeah, remember those?”
“I do. I loved them.”
The Sheriff smiled at Charlie, then said, “Clean up so your mother doesn’t come after me, and I’ll rejoin you as quickly as I can.”
Charlie put everything away and wiped off the butcher-block table, there wasn’t much to do, then he went out and down the hall. The Sheriff had pulled the door almost closed at his father’s study. “Yes, I’m still waiting, Operator. Let it ring.”
“Charlie!” At the top of the hall, Mr. Gillick’s head appeared over the baluster. “What’s going on?”
“The Sheriff is using the telephone.”
“Kinkaid? Gene Kinkaid is in my study?”
“I don’t know if I like that. Charlie? Did you hear me?”
“I heard you, Pop.”
“And you had nothing to say? You couldn’t have told him to use the one in the front parlor?”
“Pop, go back to bed, why don’t you?”
Mr. Gillick blinked at Charlie, Charlie stared back. Eventually the old man withdrew and went back up the stairs to his bedroom. With a foot, Charlie pushed the study door slightly more open and stood outside leaning against the wall and wearing a satisfied grin. Something important had just happened.
Charlie looked around the door jamb, to Sheriff Kinkaid’s wide back; he was seated at the big desk holding his father’s European-style telephone device to his ear; it was the kind that had the listening piece at one end and the speaking tube at the other end of the same narrow cylinder. He hunched forward. “Thank you, Ed. We can be there in fifteen minutes.” He nodded. “See you then.” He rose from the chair and then bent over and opened the lid on Mr. Gillick’s cigarette box, he scrabbled out three Old Golds and deposited them for later in his tunic pocket.
He turned and looked over his shoulder. “Charlie, I know you’re there. Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” Charlie let the Sheriff precede him up the hallway and out to the porch through the screen door. The Sheriff kept going down the porch steps, so Charlie pulled the front doors shut behind him and ran to get ahead of the Sheriff, to pull open the front gate for him. The Sheriff had arrived in a police-department Ford, the same one he’d commandeered at the Standard Oil after the trestle riot. Charlie was very familiar with the mechanics of the machine. He opened the passenger-side door for the Sheriff, and closed it and then ran around the hood and got in under the steering wheel. “You still haven’t said where you want me to drive you.”
“Point it toward Mydosh Hall,” said the Sheriff, “and I’ll tell you when to stop. And I’ll tell you something else, Charlie. Don’t gloat. You’ll spoil it. It wasn’t your pouting got you what you wanted. You convinced me at better safe than sorry.”
And then King Touey, vision jittery, legs rubbery, was walking down East Twenty-second Street, keeping to curbside, not trusting the inky doorways of tenements and little stores. He had no idea what time it was. Late, probably. When he was stopped at the deadline in front of the Standard works, all of the Bayonne cops and civilian deputies recognized him immediately; the way they stared at him, King felt like an entertainer in front of an audience, especially since the lights pouring down into the street were so violently bright. Even so, they made him wait till someone from the Bergoff organization, in this case Billy Carroll, came out and vouched for King. Nobody asked for his autograph.
Five minutes later, he was back in the nobles’ barracks, tossing off his new suit of clothes, courtesy of the General, and putting on old brown trousers and a wrinkled tan shirt. His cot looked tempting. While he was stretching out on it for a nap, he remembered that he’d intended to stop in at his sister’s house and see Patsy before heading down here to the refinery. Or had he intended to ring the bell next door at Helen Ince’s house? Well, he must not have intended doing either thing since he’d done otherwise.
About two in the morning, a damp silvery fog advances from the south, its long swirling front moving across Raritan Bay and Staten Island, sweeping over the Kill von Kull into Bayonne, then diffusing and spreading north, blanketing everything, turning streets ghostly, and gradually stinking of crude oil.
In his suite at the St. Charles Hotel, Sheriff Kinkaid, dressed now in sky-blue pajamas trimmed with four frog fasteners and pearl buttons, lifts his nose and sniffs. Rubbing his eyes, he goes around banging shut all of the bedroom windows. He considers placing a call to Sea Girt, but it’s too late and he knows better than to wake a peace officer’s wife at that tragic-news time of the morning. Kinkaid looks to the bed. He should sleep a few hours, but he’s too keyed up for that—or even to stretch out and rest. When this strike is over, he’ll take a good long rest, he’ll sleep around the clock. But only when it’s over, and he’s decided it will, by God, be over today
After pouring himself a glass of whisky, he stands there sipping occasionally, and mulling. He finishes the last of his drink, sets down the glass, pushes fingers through his thick curly hair, and starts pacing the hooked rug, going around in circles. He stops short, closing one eye and chewing his bottom lip. Fists at his hips, he leans forward, considers, reconsiders, narrows his gray eyes, and blurts to the empty room, “While the destruction of property won’t be…will not be…is not to be tolerated, the law, the law—the law will not, does not…” He raises one hand, stroking his chin again. Begins over: “While disorder is not to be tolerated, the law does not permit corporations, powerful corporations, wealthy corporations, wealthy corporations to gun down unarmed men, defenseless men, shoot down defenseless men when…when—when destruction of property is the only, the sole, the only provocation.”
He decides he likes how it sounds so far, he’s satisfied, and with a shrug and a tiny, quick smile, the Sheriff of Hudson County goes around behind the desk and takes out a sheet of hotel stationary and a sharpened pencil from the top drawer. The moment he presses the pencil against the second digit of his index finger, he winces. He looks at the splinter in better light; it’s pretty long, a good eighth of an inch, looking dark under there. Damn. “While disorder is not to be tolerated,” says Kinkaid out loud so he doesn’t forget anything, “while-disorder-is-not-to-be-tolerated-the-law-does-not-permit-wealthy-corporations-to-shoot-down-defenseless-men. Defenseless men. Does-not-permit-wealthy-corporations.” He’s gone and found a tweezers in his shaving kit, and he’s trying to nab an end of the splinter; using a corner of the tweezers to lift a flap of skin. Snags it. Slides it. Pulls it out and holds it up, a chip of soggy wood, from the window ledge over in Mydosh Hall.” With the splinter gone, the Sheriff sits down, picks up the pencil, and scribbles, “While disorder is not to be tolerated, the law does not permit wealthy corporations to shoot down defenseless men when destruction of property is the only provocation.” He reads it over silently, then straps on his revolver holster and ammunition belt over his pajama bottoms, and gesturing for everyone’s attention—striking out an arm and waving it laterally, he runs the line several times in his deep, rich voice, fussing over which syllables to stress—tolerated, not, defenseless, destruction. With a jolt of satisfaction and self-regard, he picks up his pencil again and, still standing, scribbles more, and then more, but not so much more that he can’t easily memorize it.
On the front seat in the black Ford parked outside the hotel, Charlie Gillick finishes smoking the last of the cigarettes he took from his father’s desk. He pitches the stub out through the driver’s window. The fog is so lush and heavy that he can’t see the train station, or even glimpse the little park in the middle of West Eighth Street. The two illuminated globes flanking the front door of the hotel are vague yellow smudges behind a dizzy swirl of white.
Since there’s no clock on the Ford’s instrument board (and, of course, since he lost his strap watch at the fire station riot), Charlie is unsure how long he’s been sitting here. An hour, at the very least. Oh, probably longer, much longer. It must be 3 or 3:30 already. Or maybe it’s much earlier and he’s all out of square. Although what has square got to do with time, he thinks and then falls into a heavy sleep…and wakes suddenly.
There’s a cat standing on the bonnet, nose pressed to the windscreen, looking in at him. It’s Patsy Touey’s cat, one of those roamers everyone knows and has seen a hundred times–the one people call the Cat of Ashes. And beyond the cat’s face, past the bonnet and the radiator, past the hotel, where the fog has cleared a little, thinned, there–if Charlie is not mistaken– is Liz Landrigan stooping to drop something through the mail slot in the door of Charlie’s father’s and brothers’ law office. Without hesitation, he levers his door open; the cat is gone by the time he steps into the street.
She straightens up, guiltily, and looks around for whomever called her name. But then quickly she pulls the shawl that she took with her into the fog closer around her and hurries to the corner and turns it, heading uptown. She doesn’t know what happened to Cassius–she wishes he hadn’t gotten through the door before she could shut it. Well, he knows his way home. She realizes that she is no longer trembling–she’d been in a trembling rage since the moment she answered her doorbell much earlier tonight, after she’d had a cup of tea with Patsy, after he’d gone to bed. She was back reading…
“Do you know what time it is?”
“I had to see you.”
“No, you did not.”
“Lizzie, I’m so sorry. Please take this.” He pressed a white envelope into her hands. Then he turned and rushed down the front steps. He kept walking, down street.
“Johnny! What is this?” She stepped out onto the porch, tearing open the envelope. It contained (she could see by streetlight) a letter of introduction, To Whom It May Concern, recommending Elizabeth Landrigan for her sterling character and outstanding office management and secretarial skills. Also, there was cash. Liz didn’t count it–already she was trembling with rage–but there was a wad of it, all 20-dollar bills. She went back into the house and continued trembling till she knew what to do, and then she found a new envelope and put the cash into it, sealed the flap, and printed Johnny’s name, with “Esq.” after it, on the front. Then she sat down, hesitant to go out so late at night. She put the envelope aside and picked up her book again. She read and dozed, read and dozed, and finally, twenty minutes ago, she woke up and knew that she had to go and return the money tonight. Not tomorrow morning, tonight. She couldn’t keep it in the house.
She took her lightweight shawl from the shelf in the hall closet and let herself, and without meaning to, the Cat of Ashes, out to the front porch. The crust of that man! She’d kept the letter of introduction. Liz Landrigan was nobody’s fool. But she wouldn’t keep the money, though she ought to have taken out this week’s salary, at least; she couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t send her a pay check, though. She kept the letter, but the money, all of it, she returned through the mail slot at Gillick, Gillick & Gillick.
“Liz! Wait up!”
“I thought I was imagining things,” she says now, turning as Charlie Gillick jogs raggedly up behind her. “What are you doing out so late, Officer?”
“I could ask the same thing of you, Mrs. Landrigan. I just got back from the Hook, where we stole a whole locker full of Remington rifles from right under the strikers noses.”
“How thrilling.” She laughs at how completely not thrilled her voice sounds. “Can you walk with me for a while?”
“I can walk you home.”
“Oh, that would be lovely.” She thinks to take his arm, but doesn’t. “Charlie, did you hear about King?”
“I did, yes. Have you seen him?”
“No, but Patsy has.”
“I don’t think the story that we’re all getting is what really happened, though—do you?”
“No,” says Liz, “I don’t. But I don’t know anything, to tell you the truth.” There is just ankle fog now and it’s like they’re kicking their way through shallow water. The moon is out again. And there goes Patsy’s crusty old cat dashing from behind them and trotting ahead.
“Lizzie, what are you doing out so late?”
“I had to run an errand.”
“At this time of the morning?”
“I had to drop off some papers for John. I needed to get them out of the house. I won’t be going in to work Monday.”
“Why is that?”
St. Mary’s church, looming as a Gothic silhouette, is in the next block.
“Why won’t you be going into work on Monday? Are you on vacation?”
“No. I’m not on vacation.”
“Charlie, you’re going on and on. Can we talk about something else? Tell me about stealing all those rifles?”
“I saw you this afternoon, you and Johnny. Behind the hotel.”
“What?” Liz stops, truly shocked.
“The Sheriff’s room in the hotel looks down on the courtyard behind Dad’s practice. I saw you and Johnny. It seemed like you were having an argument.”
“And what are the chances of that? You looking out the window and seeing us?” She sounds almost cross.
“Were you? Having an argument?”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Charlie, I’d think you’d know enough to mind your own business!”
“I’m sorry, I apologize.”
“Good night, Charlie Gillick, thank you for walking me.”
The cat is waiting on her front porch, they go inside together. After locking up and turning off the downstairs lamps, Liz drapes her shawl across the newel post. Halfway up the front stairs, she pauses. Then she continues on to her stuffy bedroom.
“Mrs. Landrigan, John J. said to send you right in as soon as you arrived.”
Abruptly, Liz turns and hurries back down the stairs and, after unlocking it, out through the front door. “Charlie!”
“Right here,” he says, at the foot of the porch steps slightly unclarified by fog.
“You scared me!” She puts a hand to her heart. “Why are you still here?”
“Why’d you come after me?”
The beams of a motor car’s headlamps catch their attention.
“I’m sorry I was rude. Tell me about the rifles!”
“Another time, it’s late.”
“I know it is, but–would you like a cup of tea?”
“Are you serious? I’d love one,” says Charlie, coming up the steps.
One minute he’s shivering, the next, sweating with a fever. Joe Bloodgood can’t remember the last time he ate solid food, but doesn’t think he could keep anything down. He could use a drink of water, though. Doesn’t even have to be cold water, just wet. He’s sitting on the floor in a corner of a tiny storage shed about a quarter of a mile south of the Standard works, along the flats; it belonged to a thermometer company that shut down many years ago. The big redbrick factory nearby, a massive silhouette in the dark, has fallen into a state of advanced dilapidation, almost ruin; at first Bloodgood thought he’d spend the night inside of it, but the floors are dangerously rotted and covered with broken window glass. The shed is good enough. It’s empty, which means nothing to sit on but the hard floor. He wishes he could lock the door, but doesn’t think anyone will come by. Why should they? And if they do? He’ll just move on.
Christ, but it’s damp. If he raises himself a little, he can see through a tiny window; the fog still shrouding everything outside.
Liz says, “Let’s take these into the parlor,” and Charlie follows her while conveying his teacup and saucer with great care from the kitchen through the house. They both sit on the sofa, Charlie at one end with a lamp table, Liz at the opposite end with the matching lamp table. The lamps are turned off; it’s dark except for a pale glow from the fogged-over streetlight at the corner. After putting down their cups and saucers, they turn to each other, Liz says, “Now don’t keep me in suspense–tell me all about this locker filled with rifles.” She rubs her hands together briskly, as if warming herself up to hear a real humdinger of a campfire tale.
“You’re making fun of me,” says Charlie.
“No, I’m not.” Very suddenly she’s cross. How dare he sound petulant.
“You and everybody else in the world.”
“Oh poor Charlie Gillick!”
Charlie looks at her dumbstruck; the tone in her voice was so cruel–impatient; harsh: deliberately mocking. He’s never heard that tone in Liz’s voice before. His cheeks seem to have burst into flame. This isn’t going well. He stands. “I really should leave.”
“And why is that?” She meets his eyes; looks up and meets and holds them. Is not letting him off the hook. “I merely said I was looking forward to hearing about the rifles.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” says Charlie. “I thought you were making fun of me for sounding so excited. If you weren’t–”
“Shut up. Would you please? Just shut up. And sit down.”
When he does as he’s told, Liz reaches for his hand. Squeezes it. “I don’t know what you’re going to hear about what happened today, but whatever you do hear, please don’t hate me.”
“You dad fired me. He screamed at me and fired me and I’m really embarrassed. It’s worse than that.” She’s just given Charlie the saddest, most forlorn smile. “I’m ashamed. I’m really ashamed of myself.”
Charlie pulls her close and kisses her.
“No, Charlie,” she says, twisting away. Removing her mouth from his. “And let go of my hand.”
He does, mortified, but when Liz gives a small shiver, he realizes that she’s crying, Charlie feels awkward, ashamed, a little afraid. He puts an arm around her and she lets him. He holds her close, strokes her hair.
“I think you’re my only friend.”
“That’s not true, Lizzie, and you know it,” but now that he thinks about it, he’s never seen her with women of her own age. With anyone, really. She’s always by herself. Or with Patsy.
“Yes?” He thinks she might kiss him now.
“You’re right, you should leave,” says Liz in a firm, louder voice while moving farther away from him. “I’m sorry, but you should. My reputation is in enough jeopardy. I shouldn’t risk it becoming even more damaged. Or dragging you into all this.”
“What happened today, Liz?” He’s not budging. “Just tell me. Why’d my father let you go?”
“Because he found out–you know.”
“No, I don’t know. Found out what?”
“About John and me!” She hasn’t been looking at Charlie, but now, suddenly, she looks at him straight on, straight into his eye. “John and me!” She wants to gauge his reaction. “John and me!”
“Oh no,” says Charlie. Quietly. Without inflection. As soon as he heard it, though, John and me, he knew he’s known about it since noontime, since he saw Lizzie and his brother in the courtyard shared by the Sheriff’s hotel and his family’s law practice. “Oh no,” he says again. “Found out. You said my dad found out. Did he–”
“Oh dear God no. No! No, Charlie.” She is blushing now, and seems quite near to bursting into laughter. “No, Charlie, he found out. Was told.” The hysteria quickly passes. She’s so ashamed.
“By Johnny himself. That’s by whom,” says Lizzie because there was no way she wasn’t going to correct Charlie’s grammar, even during such a dire, unhappy exchange. “Being a lawyer you’d think he’d know better and not admit to anything, but oh no. Not Johnny! Not your brother! No, he had to go and tell your father everything!”
“There was a lot to tell?”
“That’s not quite what I meant, Charlie. I meant he gave your father…the full scope of our relationship. Informed him about its nature. How long it’s been going on, and all of that.” She breathes out sorrowfully.
Charlie is nodding. “How long has it been going on?”
“No, Charlie, please?” She puts two fingers on his chin, turning his face toward her. “I mean it, though. I do. About your being my only friend.”
“Okay,” he says. He turns away from her and moves himself farther toward his end table, sliding, then he swings his torso around, and using both hands, picks up his cup and saucer. He sips. Can sense himself being stared at in profile. His cheeks feel icy now. He returns the cup and saucer to the end table and then stands up. “I never told you about the rifles. Should I?”
“Oh…gosh. Well, I guess so. Why not?”
Charlie goes over and plops down in the upholstered chair that Lizzie sat in all evening; he plants his feet wide apart, leans forward and claps his fists over his spread-apart knees. “I guess I might’ve built it up by mentioning it over and over, so now it won’t sound so great, but… It was my idea to steal the rifles. I had it last night. I showed him the window was unlocked, on the Twenty-first Street side of Mydosh Hall, the downtown side, and I told him I’d seen those rifles myself, with my two eyes. We could just climb in and scoop them up, pass them out the window, and be done in five minutes.”
“Now, who was it that you showed the window that was unlocked? Gene? The Sheriff?”
“The Sheriff, yes.”
“And there were rifles in the room with the window that was unlocked.”
“Yes,” said Charlie, “so I proposed that the two of us should go back there tonight. It wouldn’t take us five minutes, I said, to clean out that room. Get all the guns.”
“And that’s what you did? You and Gene Kinkaid.”
“Yes. What I’ve been trying to tell you. But not at first. At first he was going to send a couple of detectives. I didn’t know it, but he’d had second thoughts about doing this himself, at his age, probably. He’s not a kid. He’s 45 or 46. Crawling through a window and such. And I believe also that he entertained some doubts about me.” Charlie made that face he always made, had been making all of his life, whenever he was being self-deprecating: he slanted his head, lifted his eyebrows, pursed his mouth. “But I was such a nuisance about it, he changed his mind and I drove him down 21st Street around 11 o’clock last night, and we met the two detectives who were waiting for us in their own machine. Their names,” said Charlie, and stopped. “Were.”
“Why are you stopping and starting? I’m paying attention.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Oh, I’m trying to, Charlie. Forgive me.”
He dashes a hand, irritably, impatiently, by the side of his head, and Lizzie bursts into tears. She bends forward and buries her face in her cupped hands. When she makes herself sit back up straight again, her face is a blotchy mess. The tip of her nose is bright red.
“I couldn’t tell you why it happened,” she said.
“And I probably still wouldn’t understand it if you could.”
“Still friends?” She uses the napkin she brought in with her tea to dry the inside corners of her eyes.
“Sure. Why not?” He picks up the saucer and the teacup, sips, puts the saucer down, then the cup. “I went in with the Sheriff and we passed the rifles out to the two detectives and they put them in their car. Over in five minutes.”
“As you’d said it would be.” She gives him a wan smile. “You’re leaving.” He’s already standing.
“Yes, I should go.”
She’s walking him to the vestibule now, opening the front door. The night air is cool, almost chill, it’s quiet along Avenue C. She takes Charlie by the arm, pressing softly with her long fingers. “If you run into King while he’s here, be careful.”
“I will.” He tries a grin, but it’s more a grimace. “I sure will.”
“No, please don’t for one second expect him to do anything remotely expected. It’s why he’s so impossible.”
Liz shuts and quietly latches the screen door after Charlie has slipped through it to the porch. He smiles back at her and goes down the steps. She closes and locks the front door with a smile of her own. Turning to go back upstairs, though, she flinches and lets out an audible gasp. On the third step the Cat of Ashes is having a convulsion, jerking in violent spasms. Behind him, ejected across the lower steps, is a trail of white vomit. And what’s that sudden moaning upstairs? “Patsy? Pats, are you all right, darling?”
But now Patsy is not just moaning, he’s crying out that he has That Headache again!
The fog. It’s evaporating, pulling apart, raveling out and vanishing in most residential and commercial parts of the city, especially below Twentieth Street, but far to the east, at Constable Hook, it’s still thick and churning and obliterating. If you aren’t within five feet of it, you can’t see the Standard’s high white Chinese wall, and even if you could see the wall, you still couldn’t look up and see any of the guards on the parapet. There are five of them, all Bergoff men, when King Touey steps off the top of the ladder at ten minutes of four in the morning. The guards all hear him and turn, and King can make out, through silvery mist, moving dark smudges to his left and right. “Just taking a stroll,” he says going to the wall, bracing his hands and looking out. Nothing except fog. It’s significantly warmer than it was three hours ago when King got to the refinery.
A large and heavy hand drops on his shoulder. “So you’re back. Didn’t think we’d be seeing you here again.”
“Big Spanish.” King regards the other noble for a couple of seconds before looking back at the fog. “I don’t expect I’ll be staying too long, though.”
“Naturally not, naturally not. A man as infamous as yourself.”
“Think you’re funny, mutt, don’t you? That I wouldn’t know the difference between famous and infamous. Well, I do.”
“Of course you do.” There is a sound of running feet directly below, and then from out of the fog flies a jagged rock that strikes Big Spanish glancingly in the neck. He shrugs and starts rubbing the spot with his fingers. “Stinking bastards know we’re not going to shoot into that soup.”
“They know that, do they?” says King drawing the revolver he took away from his brother Patsy. “So they know that for a fact?”
Joe Bloodgood reaches for the pistol when he hears two pops, gunfire. But that’s the end of it, and it came from up across the flats anyhow, at the refinery. Setting the pistol back down, he turns it around on the floor so the barrel points away. If he felt better, he might go look for a better piece, but he feels poorly and this one will just have to do. It sure is ugly! Bloodgood has never seen one like it, a five-shooter with a cockamamie cylinder the size of an apple that bulges out from both sides of the frame. It must be old, and the old iron is heavy.
Crazy, what a hard time he had today finding a gun he could use. He didn’t have enough money to buy anything except the most unreliable piece, but he thought he could steal a good shooter from a gun shop. Till he discovered that all of the gun shops in Bayonne were closed for the duration of the strike, and that all of the hardware stores had been ordered to remove their rifles, shotguns, and pistols from display and lock them away. Bloodgood wasn’t in any shape (or well-enough armed: all he had on him was a penknife) to commit a hold-up; there were too many idle clerks in each of the hardware stores he’d wandered through. And he didn’t want to break into a house, either, he just didn’t have the pep—although you could always depend on there being a loaded pistol in every bedside table, excepting nurseries.
Bloodgood had the taxi man take him only a few blocks from Eighth Street station; he’d got out at Broadway and Eleventh; that’s when he’d started to keep an eye out for gun shops and hardware stores but quickly learned the current hard truth about those establishments. After he’d walked a few blocks, his left side began to hurt; the pain grew worse and he had to slow down. He heard a burst of raised voices, and up ahead, pressing hard into Broadway from the intersecting side streets came dozens of riled-up strikers from the Standard Oil works. They all shouted in alien languages, but some carried signs in English. He wondered if many of those birds were packing, and was willing to bet that quite a few were, and then he determined this might be his best way to get hold of a gun.
Bloodgood wasn’t a pickpocket, per se, but he could snatch, he always could snatch, or at least he could when he wasn’t gunshot. He thought he might be able to snatch and get away, though, in the confusion of a labor march. Or. Or, he thought, he could just keep his eye on that old man, right over there, a scruffy unshaved geezer who was nearly being carried along by the crowd; the man had to be 70, at least, and looked distressed, bewildered. Why he’d originally caught Bloodgood’s eye—the old man had turned suddenly and when his reechy coat flapped open there was a leather holster and the yellowed-ivory grip of a big sidearm.
Wading in among the strikers, Bloodgood merged with the mob, shuffling along, bobbing up and down but staying close behind the old man. They both were on the sidewalk—first they’d been in the street but now they were on the sidewalk, and Bloodgood glanced to his right and spied an open doorway to a narrow tenement hallway lined with mailboxes. He made his move, stepping briskly up behind the old man and taking him by his coat collar and the back of his pants. He hoisted him and ran him straight into the hallway, throwing him against the wall, stunning him. He kicked the outside door shut, then moved in and kicked the geezer a few times, ripped the gun from the holster and walked back out onto the sidewalk. Something definitely had torn, though, and Bloodgood’s pain now was the worst since actually being shot. But the excitement of the attack, its success, and the necessity to get away, allowed him to move more rapidly and fleetly than he would’ve been able to otherwise.
And now here he is, cold and miserable and, he hopes, not dying. But what if he is dying? He’s never believed any of that churchy stuff, he has his own faith in nothingness and it’s comforting, not that he wants to croak, not by a long shot. But if he, if he does, it’ll be okay, just endless nothing. He won’t know he’d ever been alive, so he won’t feel bad or nothing. He doesn’t want to die, though! Not ever, but especially not here. Why’d that crazy guy shoot everybody? That crazy son of a bitch! What’d he do that for? The doctor said something about infection if his wound reopened, and Bloodgood is pretty sure it did. It reopened. He hasn’t had the courage to confirm that with his fingers, but it sure as hell feels reopened…
His head snaps back, his eyes pierced with first sunlight. He must’ve dozed. It’s morning, a brand-new morning and he hasn’t croaked. He might even feel…better. Might. Gingerly, shimmying with his back to the shed wall, he rises to his feet. When he bends to pick up his pistol, the pain comes back, as bad as ever. It occurs to him this could be his last day.
So let’s, he thinks, make it count for something.