Royal Laffingstock uses a utensil almost as big as he is to stir a cauldron of fish stew. Two of Royal's young sisters sing as they peel vegetables. Two of Royal's younger siblings play in the dust at their mother's feet. Alice takes a whiff of the stew, reaches for a jar in the cupboard.
Alice hears the back door open and thinks, Madame's early. "The stew's an hour yet," she says without looking up from the oversized pot.
"I'm sure it'll be worth the wait," says Deuce as he stands in the doorway leading to the backyard. Alice throws her arms around her son. As Alice loosens her hold on her eldest, she notices three figures standing behind him. Mary Bartoli smiles, Alice smiles back reluctantly.
"It's wonderful to see you again," Alice says as she gives Mary a hug. "Welcome home."
Mary waves her son forward. "Anthony," she whispers. Anthony steps forward, removes his cloth cap, and extends his hand to Alice. She scoops the boy into her arms and spins him around laughing.
Soon Anthony is laughing along with his Aunt Alice, but he's relieved when she sets him back down. Alice studies his face for long seconds. "Are you hungry, Anthony?", Alice asks.
Anthony looks at his mother. She just smiles back. Behind her, a voice says, "I'd go for a nibble." Mary steps aside to reveal a short figure in a long coat, hat in hand.
Deuce says, "Allow me to introduce Cyrus Duprey, late of Ontario."
Cy fidgets with his hat, nods repeatedly, and shuffles into Alice's summer kitchen. Alice hands him a tin plate. "Try the stew," she says.
"Always one to complicate matters," Alice tells her son. She turns to Mary. "I take it you haven't yet paid your respects to your parents."
Mary looks Alice in the eye but doesn't answer. "We were led to believe the matter had been remedied," Deuce says.
"Remedied?", Alice asks. "Remedied by your Uncle Joe, I imagine," she says.
"Have you seen him?", Deuce asks.
Alice brushes her apron."Not in years," she says.
"What about Papa?", Deuce asks.
"New Mexico. Returns next month, Lord willing," Alice says. "Your remedy include lodgings? Thought not."
Alice ponders the stew simmering on the wood stove. Cy quietly slurps from a bowl. "Mary, you and Anthony are welcome until--", she stops. Alice looks at Anthony Jr. "Until you can make other arrangements," she says. She pokes Deuce in the shoulder. "You and him--", she pauses, "--are on your own."
Cy asks, "That's good, eh?"
Royal offers, "They can stay in our room."
Alice says, "You're out here. Mary and her boy will be borrowing your room." Alice turns to Deuce: "I expect I'll find you two down at the pier."
"Make yourself useful by taking this stew to Madame at Creve Coeur," Alice tells Deuce. "She might even have a bunk for you and Ontario."
"Cyrus, ma'am. Duprey," says Cy. "Ontario's just a place I'm from. Though I knew an Ontario Muskerfield. From Quebec, said he was anyway."
"I'm more interested in where you're going than where you've been," Alice says to Cy. She turns to Deuce: "I'll settle Mary and her boy. When I come back downstairs, you, the stew, and Mr. Duprey will be absent." Alice adds, "I suggest you stay clear of Second Street."
"I am happy and sad to see you," Madame Bouchet says after Deuce and Cy set the stew pot down. They're in the back room of Creve Coeur hall. "Soon I think your uncle comes," Madame continues. "With your uncle comes trouble always." She looks Deuce in the eye. "Bad for you too."
"He's coming for Mary and his son," Deuce says. "Not for trouble."
Madame Bouchet whispers, "What will he do? Take them on boat with him?"
"Take them somehow," Deuce says. "I don't expect them to settle in San Francisco. Mr. Bartoli--."
"Will kill them both," Madame interjects.
"Can I leave Cy with you for a bit?", Deuce asks Madame Bouchet. "He's a good man with a broom, but don't let him get too near your larder."
"Maybe I let him near my bathtub," Madame says. "You mind your business on the docks, or this time you don't get fished out of the water."
"I'm delivering my cargo and heading east," Deuce tells Madame. "I've got a job with a dry goods man waiting in Denver, if I'm back by June." And a teacher with raven hair waiting in Michigan, Deuce thinks. If I'm back before....
"Dry goods," says Madame, "Nice for you."
Deuce walks down Rincon Hill toward the piers along the Embarcadero. He thinks about how he took the same path nearly every day growing up. Back then, Deuce didn't spend as much time looking over his shoulder as he walked. It won't take long for Mr. Bartoli to hear of his return.
The sooner he meets up with his Uncle Joe, the quicker Deuce can get out of San Francisco. He knows his uncle's got something crazy planned. Joe McCready's telegram provided only an arrival date. Deuce assumes he'll arrive by ship, and only one passenger ship makes port today.
Deuce finds a newspaper and pretends to read it as he watches the comings and goings along the Embarcadero. The paper snaps in the breeze. A half-hour later Deuce is thinking of moving to a spot out of the wind when he hears a voice say, "Laffingstock." He doesn't see anyone.
"What kinda name's that?" Deuce looks around but still can't locate the questioner. "McCready -- now, that's a name," the voice continues. Deuce sees a head pop up between two large barrels in the back of a wagon parked in the road.
"What might your name be?", Deuce asks him.
"Messenger, how's that for a name?", the man replies. "Here's my message: Your freedom awaits at St. Patrick's." Deuce stands stock still. "Well, along you go," the man adds as he drops out of sight. "If you hurry, you'll catch him while he's still sober." The voice fades away.
Deuce beats back the urge to tear up Rincon Hill to the church on Mission St. He strolls casually, deliberately, along the Embarcadero. Deuce makes sure to steer clear of the Bartoli's store on Second St. He turns left on Folsom and is suddenly face-to-face with Mr. Bartoli.
"Where is he?", Mr. Bartoli asks Deuce.
"Have you checked the confessional at St. Patrick's?", Deuce replies. "He's a reformed man, I hear."
"Come with me," Mr. Bartoli tells Deuce.
"I don't work for you anymore," Deuce says, "nor am I so easy to throw in the Bay. Step aside." Mr. Bartoli doesn't budge. "Step aside," Deuce repeats.
"Wasting my time," Mr. Bartoli says and reaches for him. Deuce slugs him in the jaw. He's ready to pop Mr. Bartoli with a left hook, but the old man is flat on his back. Deuce thinks, Great, now I've killed Mary's father.
Deuce sits Mr. Bartoli against the side of a building and is relieved to hear the old man wheeze. I should just leave him here, he thinks. Instead, Deuce grabs Mr. Bartoli's lapels and shakes. "Mr. Bartoli, wake up," he says. He's shocked when the old man does so, with a groan.
"I'll walk you halfway home, then you're on your own," Deuce tells Mr. Bartoli as he helps him to his feet. "Stop looking. He'll find you."
Mr. Bartoli is speaking to Deuce in Italian. He sounds groggy and unhappy. Deuce realizes the old man has mistaken him for someone else. Deuce leads Mr. Bartoli unsteadily up and down Rincon Hill. When they are a block from Bartoli's market, Deuce stops. Far enough, he thinks.
"There you go, Mr. Bartoli," Deuce says and points him down the street. The old man wobbles in place. Deuce cusses and grabs him by the arm. Into the lion's den, thinks Deuce as he leads Mr. Bartoli into the market. Two young men in aprons stand behind the counter, looking stern.
Deuce hears a familiar laugh coming from the market's back room. He pulls back the curtain door and sees his Uncle Joe sitting at a table.
"Never a doubt!", Joe McCready greets his nephew. Then he glimpses a wobbly Mr. Bartoli standing in the doorway. "What happened?", he asks.
"I punched him," Deuce replies sheepishly.
"What'd you do that for?", Joe asks.
"He was looking for you," Deuce says.
"So you punched him?"
Deuce stands in stunned silence. He hasn't seen his Uncle Joe since he watched him run down Howard St. toward the bay nine years earlier. Deuce has traveled thousands of miles over the past nine months, helped a woman and her child leave her husband-cousin and winemaker uncle. Repeatedly rescued a Canadian teamster with multiple families and names, and sold the same whiskey three times after stealing it back twice.
All because of a telegram from his presumed-dead uncle: "Fetch Mary. In SF by Easter." And now here's his uncle, having a grand old time. Joking with the people who shanghaied him and exiled the woman he loves to Nowhere, Ontario, carrying the son he doesn't even know exists. Giving him grief for punching the man Deuce believed would kill his uncle on sight. There he is, drinking a bottle of Bartoli's chianti.
Joe stands up and faces his nephew. "You're huge," he says and puts an arm around Deuce's shoulder. "That's good." They walk to the table.
"Sit," Joe tells Deuce as he pours him a glass of wine. "We're just working out your travel plans." Deuce takes a seat but ignores the wine. He looks around the room quickly. Mr. Bartoli is nowhere in sight.
"I'm heading for Denver to work mercantile," Deuce says to his uncle. Across the table from Deuce sits Mrs. Bartoli, her arms folded, her face a block. "Why concern yourself with my travel plans?", Deuce asks.
"First," Joe McCready tells his nephew, "you'll be escorting Mary back home to Ontario." His mind has slipped, thinks Deuce.
"We just got here," says Deuce. Joe pushes the untouched glass of wine closer to Him. "Why do you want me to take her back? You sent me to get her."
"Unfortunate misunderstanding," says Joe. "Water under the bridge, right, Mrs. Bartoli?" The woman looks at Joe blankly. "All sorted now."
"Well, we best get started," Joe says to Deuce. He turns to Mrs. Bartoli. "Our apologies to Mr. Bartoli. Mary will be here straight away." Joe jumps up from the table, grabs his nephew by the shoulder, and leads him out Bartoli's back door. Once in the alley, they start to run.
By the time Joe and Deuce reach Howard St., they're laughing as they run. "We have to move fast, nephew," Joe says. "They're on our heels."
They've slowed by the time they reach the Laffingstock residence near the top of Rincon Hill. Joe stops at the bottom of the front stairs. "I have to retrieve Cy from Madame's," Deuce tells Joe. "Mary's inside with Anthony Jr."
"Anthony Jr.?", Joe asks. Deuce nods and walks off. "Maybe I'll just tag along with you for now," Joe says as he rejoins Deuce on the sidewalk.
"Don't you want to meet your son?", Deuce asks.
"Of course I want to meet him," Joe replies. "Just not sure I want my sister to be present for my reunion with Mary." They resume walking. "I need a strategy," Joe says. "Maybe the old Frenchwoman has some thoughts. That's where you said you were heading, right?", he asks Deuce.
"Speaking of strategies," Deuce says, "what's your plan for getting us all out of San Francisco before the Bartolis find us a third time?"
"Leaving?", Joe answers with a laugh. "I just got back. I'm not going anywhere, and neither is Mary. Neither are you, if my guess is right."
Deuce recoils at the thought of staying in San Francisco. "I told you, Uncle Joe, I got a merchant in Denver holding a job for me," he says. Deuce thinks, I spend 23 years stuck in this town and one year free as a bird on the road. Why wait for the Bartoli's to catch up with me?
Deuce and Joe turn down an alley that leads to Creve Coeur's dark courtyard. The broad, three-story structure sits among trees in the back corner of a quarter-acre lot. A broken heart is carved into the woodwork above the front porch that runs the width of the house. There is no sign of life. Deuce and Joe follow a path to the back.
A smaller courtyard behind the house is bustling with life -- some of it human. Deuce notices Cy's boots sticking out from beneath a wagon. Joe follows Deuce to the wagon, where Deuce squats and peers underneath. "Cy, what are you doing?", he asks.
Cy's reply is unintelligible. Joe grabs Cy's boots and pulls him from under the wagon. "Kinda skinny for a Canuck," Joe says to Deuce. Cy blinks and squints back at them.
"Hey, I almost had that axle unstuck," Cy says as he gets to his feet. "Madame says it's mine if I get it fixed and work some for her here."
Cy leans against the dilapidated wagon like he owns it already. Joe laughs and says, "If you get that wagon rolling again, you deserve it."
"I druv worse, believe you me," says Cy. "Back awhile I took a rig from Point Pelee to St. Thomas on naught but a busted wheel and a skid."
"Let me guess: whiskey?", Deuce asks Cy.
"Ducks," Cy replies. "My cousin Yvgeny was blind back then but he's feeling better now, so I hear. Them ducks come by Pelee spring and fall," Cy explains to Joe and Deuce. "Sticks into Erie so them birds rest up there 'fore and after."
"'Fore and after what?", Joe asks Cy.
"Flying over that big lake is what," says Cy. "So Yvgeny traps himself some, hires me to freight 'em."
Deuce waves his Uncle Joe off. "It doesn't end," he warns him as Cy drones on. They walk toward the house's back porch. A man sits there.
"You are McCready?", the man asks as Joe and Deuce reach the bottom step. Without waiting for a reply, he stands and holds out a letter.
"Six o'clock, it says," Joe mumbles as he reads the letter.
"Who says?", Deuce asks as he strains to get a look over his uncle's shoulder.
"St. Pat's," Joe says as he gives the letter to Deuce. "Figures. Fr. Laurent's hand is out."
"He wants to hear our confession," Deuce reads.
Deuce and Joe sit on the back porch steps. The man who gave them the letter opens the back door. Mary steps out. Neither of them notice her. "I was certain you would want to see Mary right away," Deuce says to his uncle. Joe looks up at the overcast sky. "I can't wait," he says.
"Well, you sure could've fooled me," Mary says. She tries to sound miffed, but she can't help laughing when she sees Joe nearly fall over.
Joe jumps off the porch step and stands in front of Mary. "Beautiful," he says to her. He takes her in his arms. "I'm home," he says.
Mary says in Joe's ear, "What took you so long?"
"Spot of trouble up north," Joe whispers back. "All settled now," he lies. "How's our boy?"
At the mention of their son Mary gives Joe a playful push. "Looks just like you, if you're interested," she says.
"Poor kid," Joe laughs.
Deuce watches Mary and Joe embrace on the porch. I have fetched Mary, he thinks, as instructed. Now what? Mae waits in St. Louis, Michigan. A job in mercantile awaits in Colorado. Deuce recalls his Uncle Joe telling him to stick around San Francisco. Can't end well, he thinks.
Deuce looks around Madame Bouchet's dusty back yard. This is no place to ponder my future, he thinks. "I'll meet you at church," he says.
Joe and Mary pay no attention to Deuce. He shrugs and walks out to the street. A bath, he thinks, and heads north and west toward Japantown.
Bathed, boots cleaned, coat brushed, Deuce walks up the familiar front steps of St. Patrick's Church. Phrases of Latin run through his head. "Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine...." Deuce hums to himself as he opens the church door."...Deum verum de Deo vero...." Nice beat, he thinks.
Deuce stops humming when he spots Fr. Laurent standing next to the confessional. His father was right, he thinks. Priests never go hungry.
"While we're waiting for the others," Fr. Laurent says as Deuce approaches, "I'll hear your confession, Alphonsus."
"Um, now?", Deuce asks.
Fr. Laurent holds the confessional door open for Deuce, who enters and kneels in the dark booth. He faces a semi-transparent lace curtain. Moments later the priest's silhouette appears behind the curtain. Deuce decides to adopt a narrative approach. Fr. Laurent listens silently.
"I haven't been doing much in the way of sinning, Father," Deuce begins. "There's a matter of some whiskey that exchanged hands in Ontario."
"Since your last confession," Fr. Laurent instructs Deuce.
"Well, there might have been a sin or two I excluded in that one," Deuce offers. He forges ahead: "I wasn't forthcoming about my plans when I headed east last year, but neither did I misrepresent, so I never lied... to my parents or Mr. Bartoli, though I knew they wouldn't approve." Deuce regards the priest's silhouette on the confessional curtain.
He's waiting for Fr. Laurent to object to his reasoning, but there's no reply. "I also neglected to mention my uncle was alive," Deuce adds. "Which was a fact likely to be of great interest to them. Especially Mr. Bartoli, to Uncle Joe's detriment, of course."
Still no response from Fr. Laurent's side of the confessional, so Deuce continues: "If it's for a good cause, how can it be seen as a sin? Not to get theological," Deuce explains. "I was seeing to my family's needs, so if I was less than honest it was in doing God's bidding."
"God's bidding," Fr. Laurent bellows. "You know God's mind, do you, Alphonsus? You are blessed to be privy to the will of the Almighty?"
Deuce rethinks his confessional strategy. "I went to church nearly every Sunday," he lies. "I was charitable to several strangers in need."
Fr. Laurent growls, "You absconded with another man's wife and child."
"Not really, Father," Deuce replies. "They weren't living together. And Anthony Jr. isn't his son," Deuce continues, then adds,"begging your pardon."
"We both witnessed the sacrament," Fr. Laurent answers. "In this very church," the priest adds.
"I meant no harm," Deuce says. "I was only following my Uncle Joe's instructions." Oops, he thinks. Probably not a good idea to mention his uncle.
"Neither of us will leave this church until you confess sincerely," the priest whispers. Deuce knows the magic words that will release him from the confessional, but he's tired of playing the priest's game. He tries being honest.
"It seems to me, a sin is hurting somebody on purpose," Deuce confesses, "or not helping them when you can."
"Continue," says Fr. Laurent.
"Well, I always help and don't mean anybody harm," says Deuce. "If I don't make it to mass some Sundays or feast days, it's a mortal sin?"
"That's correct," says Fr. Laurent. "Go on."
This isn't working, thinks Deuce. He reverts to his old confessional style: he makes stuff up.
Deuce receives his penance, is appropriately contrite, and is excused from the confessional after being absolved resignedly by Fr. Laurent. As he exits the small booth, Deuce notices dark figures standing just inside the church's front door. Madame Bouchet he recognizes at once. Deuce walks toward the group. Mr. and Mrs. Bartoli turn around to face him as he approaches. Next to them stands a large man in a dark coat. In his hands the man holds a derby hat and a silver-handled walking stick that Deuce recognizes right away. Mary's Uncle Teo glares at him.
That priest should've given me last rites, thinks Deuce. He tries not to let his terror show as he smiles and greets the Bartoli family.
Teo Bartoli was every opposite. His world was comprised of family and enemies. To his family he was warm, to his enemies he was ice cold. To Teo, Deuce Laffingstock and Joseph McCready were the worst kind of enemy: they threatened his control over his family. It just won't do.
Deuce stops three paces from the Bartoli's. To Deuce's right stands Madame Bouchet. The five stare around each other. No one says a word.
They won't come, thinks Deuce. They're probably halfway to somewhere else by now. Mary and my Uncle Joe leave me here to face the Bartoli's.
"You didn't think I'd show up, did you?" His uncle's voice just behind him startles Deuce nearly out of his boots.
"Never a doubt," he says. When he turns to greet his Uncle Joe, Deuce notices his mother talking with Fr. Laurent at the side of the altar. One missing, Deuce thinks.
"Mary won't be joining us," Joe whispers as he walks Deuce toward Madame Bouchet and away from the Bartoli's. "All taken care of," he says.
"You said that before, and you were wrong then too," Deuce replies.
"This time's different," Joe says and gestures toward Deuce's mother.
Deuce nods hello to Madame Bouchet. "Grief," she says and looks away. "You bring your mother, your family." She pokes his uncle in the gut. "You listen to him!", Madame Bouchet says and pokes Joe again. "You do his bidding, he brings you trouble, you get what?" Joe feigns shock.
"I missed Mary too," Deuce says in his uncle's defense. "Didn't you?"
"I did," Madame replies.
"So did I," Joe adds, "for nine long years."
The tense party of six watch Alice McCready Laffingstock approach down St. Patrick's center aisle. "Come with me," she says to her brother. Joe follows his sister back down the aisle toward Fr. Laurent, who stands beside the communion rail.
"That is that," says Madame Bouchet.
"What is what?", Deuce asks her.
"The figure is reached," Madame replies. "The money. The price," she explains when Deuce looks befuddled.
"It's like he's buying her," says Deuce after it sinks in.
"Business," says Madame, more to herself.
Deuce notices Teo Bartoli eyeing him. "I don't think I'll be staying in town long," Deuce says.
"I don't think so too," Madame Bouchet says as she eyes Teo Bartoli eyeing them.
Alice and her brother Joe walk back down the aisle and join Madame and Deuce. "I paid extra to get out of the confession," Joe says smiling. Alice gives her brother a dirty look. They watch the Bartoli's walk up the aisle toward the priest at the altar. "Can we go now?", Joe asks.
"That was malarkey, what you told the priest," Alice says to Joe. "You and Mary and the boy aren't sailing out. You're not going anywhere."
"I've been traveling for nigh on 10 years," Joe says to his sister. "Involuntarily to begin with, then I guess I didn't know how to stop. Well, I just stopped," Joe says as he reaches for the brass handle of the church's front door. "And Mary and the boy are stopping with me."
Alice, Madame Bouchet, and Deuce follow Joe out the door and down the church's front steps. Joe helps the women into a horse-drawn carriage. Deuce stands in the cobblestone street. "Meet us at Madame's," Joe says as he takes the reins. "We'll settle up so you can head back east, if you really want to."
Deuce watches Joe and the wagon disappear around a corner. Joe stopped traveling, Deuce thinks. Mary stopped. Even Cy stopped. I keep going.
Into Deuce's head pops an image of Mae Hanrahan in the midday light -- her smile so bright the sun must get jealous. He thinks, time to go.
Deuce walks into Madame Bouchet's courtyard and sees Cy doing his best to true a wagon wheel. The Canuck found himself a home, thinks Deuce. Joe exits the large house's backdoor and waves for Deuce to join him on the porch. As Deuce walks up the steps, he sees Mary in the doorway.
"You know Teo won't stand for it," Deuce says to his uncle.
Joe tosses a leather pouch to Deuce. "Teo? He's a big pussycat," Joe tells him.
"You both know that's not true," Deuce says to Mary.
She walks out the door and gives Deuce a slow hug. "Thank you, Alphonsus," she says. "Give Miss Mae my best regards," Mary whispers in Deuce's ear. "And look in on young Agnes at Mother Blackwell's." Mary moves to Joe's side.
Joe puts his arm around Mary's shoulder. "Skip Denver," he says to Deuce. "There's no future in mercantile. It's nearly the 20th century. This is the Age of the Machine," Joe continues. "The Age of Miracles. What's miraculous about retail? There's magic in the world, Deuce!"
"I'm no magician," Deuce replies, looking at his boots. "I'm just a teamster."
"You're whatever you want to be, young man," Mary tells him.
"Whatever you want." Mary's words echo in Deuce's head as he navigates the back alleys of Rincon Hill to his family's Bryant Street flat. As he turns onto Bryant, Deuce sees two men standing in front of a house two doors down from the Laffingstock manse. He curses his uncle.
Just as easy to cut through the backyard, thinks Deuce. He turns to loop around and nearly bumps into Teo Bartoli, who asks, "Where you go?" Deuce tries not to let his jaw drop. "You work for me again, I think," Teo says. Someone standing behind Deuce locks a hand on his shoulder.
"Get your uncle," Teo tells Deuce. "Bring him back here. Leave Mary and the boy at the Creole's." The hand nearly breaks Deuce's clavicle.
"How?", Deuce asks as the hand lets go. "Uncle Joe doesn't do as I say. He doesn't do as anybody says."
"Smart boy," Teo replies."Get him. One hour, or your house burns."
Deuce knows Joe will never fall for it. He also knows Teo will torch the house just for spite. "What about the deal?", Deuce asks Teo.
"No deal for family," Teo replies. "Mary and the boy go back home. You stay. Joe...." Teo smiles.
Deuce reluctantly retraces his steps back toward Madame Bouchet's, still uncertain how he will convince his uncle to meet with Teo Bartoli. Two blocks from Madame's, Deuce feels another hand grasp his shoulder. He's spun around and finds himself face to face with Officer Coles.
"Back in town, eh?", Officer Coles asks Deuce. "And back to working for the Eye-talians, I hear. Don't you know the races shouldn't mix?"
"Teo Bartoli's gonna burn our house down if I don't deliver my Uncle Joe to him in one hour," Deuce blurts out.
Officer Coles laughs loudly. “I’ll alert the Fire Chief immediately,” he says. “I’m sure he’ll nominate you for a Civilian Medal of Valor.” He laughs again.
The policeman grabs Deuce by the collar and blows his whistle. A police wagon rolls down the cobblestone street. Another officer opens the back. “In with you,” Officer Coles says and tosses Deuce into the wagon.
Sitting on one bench is his Uncle Joe. “I’ll take care of this,” he says.
“Like you took care of Mary?”, Deuce asks him. “Like you took care of Anthony Jr.?”
Joe says calmly, “Like getting shanghaied was my idea? I said I’ll take care of this,” Joe repeats. “It might take awhile, so just sit tight and play dumb. You don’t know anything about Mary.”
“Coles knows I brought Mary back from Ontario,” Deuce says. “That must’ve broke some law.”
“Coles doesn’t know any such thing,” Joe replies. “The cops hate the Italians worse than they hate us,” Joe continues. “I got the goods on old Teo, so you just clam up and leave it to me.”
Just clam up, thinks Deuce. Leave it to Uncle Joe. I’m doomed, but I don’t have a better plan. “Two days, tops,” says Joe. “Mark my words.”
Three days later, Deuce exits the San Francisco County Jail to find his mother standing on the sidewalk. She turns away when she spots him. “The judge told me I have 24 hours to get out of San Francisco,” Deuce says to his mother as she walks to catch the Ocean Avenue streetcar.
Alice Laffingstock stops, turns around, and asks her son, “Did your uncle leave you any money at least?”
Deuce nods. “Cops took most of it.”
Deuce catches up with his mother. “Where’s Mary?”, he asks her.
“Home,” she replies.
“Whose home?”, Deuce asks.
“Ours. Hers now,” she says.
“What about Uncle Joe?”, Deuce asks his mother as she waits for the approaching streetcar.
“He’s heading north,” she replies. “In chains. Seems there’s a judge in Vancouver claims Joe roughed up two of his relatives over a dog,” Alice keeps her eyes on the streetcar.
“A dog in Vancouver?”, Deuce asks in alarm.
Alice sighs. “The dog was in a lumber camp. The judge is in Vancouver.” She shakes her head. “I hope his boy takes after his mother,” Alice adds. As she prepares to board the car, she says, “You’re both better of elsewhere, for now.”
Deuce joins his mother on the streetcar bench. “Won’t Teo come for Mary?”, he asks.
Alice shakes her head. “She’s a McCready now,” she says. “It’s time Jay got some proper schooling,” she adds. Deuce doesn’t hear her. He’s trying to imagine his Uncle Joe in a Canadian prison.
It’s a bit easier for Deuce to imagine Mary and Anthony Jr. living with his family. “What about Papa,” Deuce asks.
His mother just smiles. “My nephew’s mother will not live as a slave,” Alice says. “No Italian smuggler and no crooked parish priest are going to tell me otherwise.”
Deuce follows his mother off the streetcar at a stop on the edge of Rincon Hill. "Get cleaned up," she tells him, "then come for dinner. Bring the Canadian with you." Alice adds over her shoulder, "Madame seems to have adopted him. Even found him a new suit of clothes. Can you imagine that?"
Cy in San Francisco, thinks Deuce. He's come a long way from that mud hole outside Waterloo. "I'll be on the morning train," he tells Alice.
Alice gives her oldest surviving son a long look. "To St. Louis," she tells Deuce. "The one in Michigan."
Deuce nods. "I guess so," he says.
January 1974, continued
Copyright 2014-2018 - Dennis Richard O'Reilly - all rights reserved