Chapter 51

The story so far: The prisoners await their fate.

 

‘Look at this one,” Old Joe said. He was holding the baby upright on his lap. “Three months old and he can already bear weight on his skinny little legs. I remember when my boy was this little. Sure do miss that little fella.”

Katka leaned over and kissed baby Gregor. She couldn’t believe how much he had changed in three months.

They sat with the boy for an hour. Then several men whom Katka had never seen before, and some she recognized as lawyers for the prosecution, came out of the negotiation room and into the foyer. They were smoking and talking about going to get a sandwich. Katka studied their faces for signs, but all she saw was fatigue.

Elizabeth entered the foyer. She motioned them inside. “You can come now,” she said. “I told them you were family. Now that the details have been hashed out and the deal’s on the table, they say you can come in. The lawyers have given them some time to make up their minds.”

Old Joe picked up baby Gregor, who had been lying on his tummy on the floor. They walked into the room.

No one was shackled anymore. There were two guards at the door, looking bored. These prisoners were too engrossed in conversation to think about escaping.

Lily and Anton sat together. She held both of his hands. “Do not do it, Anton. Do not do this,” she pleaded.

Samo and Dusca sat nearby. They were talking to defense attorney Arthur Le Sueur. “You are sure, one year?” Samo asked.

“If you trust what they say,” Le Sueur said. “It is a leap of faith.”

“It is not,” Elizabeth said. “I would trust them. Attorney Greene gave me his word. You will not serve more than one year.”

Carlo Tresca and Sam Scarlett were the only ones who looked calm. They were joking with one another. Tresca passed Scarlett a flask of whiskey that Mr. Le Sueur had given them. “Ah, I missed that,” Tresca said.

Katka went directly to Paul. She hugged him. When he squeezed her with his strong arms, she felt safe for the first time in months.

“Paul,” Katka asked, “Are they going to let you go?”

“Most likely. Monday at the earliest.”

Katka kissed his lips. “That’s positively grand!” she whispered.

Paul’s face was troubled. “It’s a fair deal for me, for Scarlett, for Tresca. I don’t think it is for the others. I tried to tell them. Anton will not be persuaded. For the first time in his life, he won’t listen to a lick of logic.”

“What do you mean?”

“The prosecution said if they don’t take the deal, they will seek the death penalty. I think they are bluffing. But I don’t know. We hear so little about the outside. But once they brought up Lily, Anton made up his mind.”

“To do what?”

The lawyers for the prosecution entered. “We are ready for your decision,” Greene said.

“We are ready to give it, I tell you,” Anton said. He waited for the lawyers to take their seats. Then he proceeded in a calm, metered voice. “We agree to your terms, absurd as they are. Tresca, Scarlett and Schmidt will be set free, as they should be. Charges will be dropped on Monday, as you say, and they will be freed. But my wife, and my son, both innocent as babes, will be let go at once. Not Monday. Today. Never again will she wear your chains of shame. My son will spend all of his remaining days in the sun. They get to go home with Katka and Old Joe. If not, there will be no deal.”

The prosecuting attorneys looked at each other. They exchanged words Katka could not hear. “Go on,” Greene said to Anton.

“In exchange, Samo, Dusca and I will plead guilty to murder in the first degree.”

Katka and Old Joe gasped. Lily sobbed openly.

“With the agreement,” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn stated emphatically, looking at Lily, “that none of the three men will serve more than a year in jail. Correct, Attorney Greene?”

“That is our agreement, yes, Mrs. Flynn.”

Defense Attorney Le Sueur spoke up. “Samo, Dusca. You are sure? Anton speaks for all three of you? I have told you my opinion. I think you should bring it to a jury. There’s a good chance you will win. And any imprisonment for a crime you did not commit is unjust.”

“A year in prison is better than a lynching,” Samo said.

“Anton speaks for all of us,” Dusca said. “Teta Lily, she been through enough.”

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 51 ­continues.