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'I intend to take the side of the city,' Ness said. He checked his watch. 'If you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I have a meeting with the mayor.'

Curry and Chamberlin nodded and took seats at one of the conference tables; but Matowitz trailed along after Ness, saying, 'It's going to be very dangerous, when night falls. You have to let me arm my boys.'

'No,' Ness said. Their footsteps echoed off the marble floor of the open hallway beyond the railing of which rose the City Hall atrium. Standing at attention, just outside the mayor's office, were eight uniformed, armed police officers. Ness glanced at Matowitz, looking for an explanation.

'I've appointed these men the Mayor's Guard. In a situation this dangerous, I thought it wise to-'

'They're not needed, Chief.' Ness turned to the cops and said, 'Go downstairs. You can keep an eye on the entrances, if you like, but don't go out on the street. You'd just incite a riot.'

'What in hell do you call what's going on out there now?' Matowitz said huffily, gesturing toward the outside.

'I call it a peaceful assemblage, but we could turn it into a riot if we wanted to. Do you want to, Chief?'

'Well… of course not.'

Ness put his hand on Matowitz's shoulder. 'I know it's hard to have your own in the hospital. But don't forget: that's largely what those people out there are upset about, themselves.'

Matowitz sighed and stayed out in the hall, going to the railing to watch his Mayor's Guard disperse below, while Ness moved through the outer office, getting a nod from the mayor's male secretary to go on in.

Harold Burton was an unpretentious sort of man to be working out of an office called, aptly, the Tapestry Room. Five huge tapestries depicting the Indian days of the Western Reserve draped the finely detailed, oak- paneled walls; the ceiling was high and ornately-sculptured plaster; a massive wood-and-stone fireplace provided a mantel for a multitude of framed family photos. Burton was, after all, a homey sort, devoted to his wife and children, a man who looked more like a farmer than a big-city mayor.

A powerfully built, wedge-shaped man of fifty years and medium height, Burton's broad brow and regular features were made memorable only by dark-circled eyes; he looked almost haunted today, and, typically, borderline disheveled: his brown suit rumpled his dark tie food-stained.

He stood behind his desk, gesturing for his safety director to sit in one of four chairs opposite him; then the mayor sat as well, saying, 'We're going to be joined in about five minutes by representatives of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. Any objection?'

'None,' Ness said. He sat slightly slumped in the chair, legs crossed, ankle on knee.

'You've held the violence to a minimum thus far,' said Burton, 'and you're to be commended. But I'm afraid if we can't get these fellas to listen to reason, we're in for some bloodshed.'

'There doesn't have to be.'

'There already has been. Eight people in the hospital.'

'And they may have company, before the days out. But there's not going to be any snooting.'

Burton nodded slowly. 'No guns. You think your people can control the situation that way?'

'Yes.'

'I know someone who disagrees.'

'And who would that be?'

'Girdler.'

Ness laughed mirthlessly. 'Republic's chairman. When did Mr. Girdler make this observation?'

'Not five minutes ago.' Burton gestured to one of several phones on his desk. 'He didn't come calling, he called… he declined to go wading through the thousand or two folks expressing their discontent out on our sidewalk.'

'What was Girdler's complaint, exactly?'

'That we're too soft. That you are too soft.'

'Oh really. Excuse me if I bust out crying.'

Burton grinned as he withdrew a big black Havana from a plain wooden box on his desk; he lit up the cigar, puffing, enjoying it like a hungry man would a banquet, and said, 'He thinks it's insane for your men to go into battle unarmed.'

'Maybe I don't particularly crave a battle.'

His grin settling into a vaguely sarcastic smile, Burton gestured with his cigar and said, 'He wants to bring in the National Guard. He's been talking to Governor Davey.'

'Really. I would think that would be your prerogative.'

'I would think the same.'

'And are you?'

'Going to call in the militia? No. Not as long as things stay under control.'

Ness straightened in the chair. 'There are people on both sides who would like to see this escalate into a war, you know.'

The intercom on Burton's desk buzzed, and his secretary informed him of the arrival of the SWOC representatives.

'Send them in,' Burton said, reluctantly putting out his cigar.

Three men entered. One of them, a stocky, world-weary man of perhaps forty, wore a suit and tie; the other two wore work shirts and slacks, one of them lean, hawk-faced, dark, the other burly, square-headed, fair. The latter two, the working men, glanced dourly about the high-ceilinged, ostentatious chamber as if wondering whether to feel intimidation or mistrust. All three planted themselves just behind the chairs opposite Burton's desk, putting a wall between them and Burton and Ness, who stood to greet them.

'I'm George Owens,' the stocky man said, gesturing to a hand-painted tie with a sunset on it. His voice was rough and so were his features, gray eyes squinting skeptically out of pouches of flesh. 'I'm from the national office of the SWOC. John L. Lewis himself sent me in to advise and counsel these men.'

Republic Steel would characterize Owens as an 'outside agitator,' Ness knew; and perhaps he was.

Burton said, 'Pleased to meet you, Mr. Owens,' and extended his hand.

Owens swallowed carefully, like the food-taster for an unpopular king, then stepped forward, past the barricade of the chairs, and shook Burton's hand.

'This is Eliot Ness,' Burton said, 'the Director of Public Safety.'

'Mr. Owens,' Ness said, and nodded, and offered his hand.

Owens shook it, firmly, looking at Ness with open suspicion. The hand was rough from manual labor, Ness noted; this meant Owens was not an attorney, which was a relief.

'These gentlemen represent the local strike committee,' Owens said. 'Alex Ballin and Harold Selby.'

The two men stepped around the chairs, awkwardly, to shake hands with Ness and Burton, and then Burton asked them to sit down. Ballin, the hawk-faced one seemed ill at ease and said little, though he was obviously bubbling with anger. Selby was less stoic, but just as angry.

'We want to know,' Owens said, 'whether your administration is on the side of Republic Steel, or intends to be fair to its citizens who are trying to protect their rights to their jobs.'

'The latter, of course,' Burton said.

Owens paid no attention to that, pressing on. 'We demand an immediate investigation of Republic Steel for importing strike breakers. We demand that the police department shut down Corrigan-McKinney because Republic Steel has violated the law.'

'No,' Burton said flatly. 'I have no right to do that.'

Selby, sitting forward, biting off words, said, 'Republic is importing scabs from Pennsylvania, Canada, and God-knows-where. Is that fair?'

'Certainly not,' Burton said. 'But I'm powerless to prevent that. Personally, I think the work should go to Clevelanders… but I doubt you feel much brotherly love toward our local 'scabs,' either.'

Selby was almost shouting now. 'Your cops destroyed our picket tent this morning, smashed a radio-'

Burton held two fingers in the air and said, 'I have two police officers in the hospital.' Then he raised three fingers on either hand. 'You have six strikers similarly indisposed. What do you propose we do to keep the casualties at this level?'

'You attacked us!' Selby said.

Owens patted the air hard, a gesture at once calming and impatient, and Selby's lips tightened into a line;

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