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Chapter 41 continues

The story so far: Milo’s death sets off nationwide solidarity.

Katka listened until Scarlett’s words had become background noise. Her mind drifted to other things. She remembered the little mouse that had lived in her cottage back in Slovenia. Did it starve to death when she left? Scarlett was a good man, but he didn’t know Milo. He didn’t know that Milo saw poetry in the woods or that he wrote songs in his head as means of coping with a job he hated. She thought about how Milo had taught her to shoot and how he had almost been her beau. She knew Milo hadn’t come to this country to change the world. He had hoped that men would follow him when he walked out of the mine that day, but he didn’t plan on being a revolutionary, not really. He had not considered that his actions would directly change the lives of twenty thousand men. She wondered how he would feel about becoming a martyr.

After the service, thousands of people joined the procession to Calvary Cemetery. Anna and Leo Zalar, who had been like parents to him when he first arrived, led the procession on foot. Behind him, Sam Scarlett carried the American Flag. Two men carried a black banner with large, white lettering: MURDERED BY OLIVER GUNMEN. Behind the banner, Anton, Katka, Lily and baby Gregor walked with the boarders. Two beautiful stallions pulled the hearse with Milo’s body. The Wob organizers and strike leaders blended in with the masses and walked behind the hearse. It was a noisy, clamorous parade of mourning.

At the cemetery, Carlo Tresca asked all present to take a solemn oath. “I ask you to swear before God and everyone here today that if any Oliver guards shoot or wound any miner, we will take a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, a life for a life.” Katka looked around. Everyone, as far as she could see, had raised their hand. Everyone was repeating the words. Except for her. Except for Lily. Except for Anton.

Her eyes scanned the crowd. Moose Jackson was there, rifle slung across his shoulder, standing watch with the other company guards. She wanted to kill him. If she had seen him a moment earlier, she too might have raised her hand and taken the oath.

She kept scanning the crowd. She saw a woman, dressed in black, whom she had never seen before. The woman was silent, nearly motionless except for her fingers, which traveled slowly up and down her rosary beads. “Who is that, Teta?”

Lily turned and stared at the woman. “Her name is Brina. She’s a sporting girl at Vince Torelli’s.”

“So that’s Brina,” Katka thought. Brina, the name Milo had whispered into her ear only moments before he had died. Brina, who saved Milo’s life when he was left for dead after the pummeling by Moose Jackson. Katka had something to give her.

Later that night, Katka went up to the boarders’ room. She found the wad of cash that Milo had told her about, wrapped in parchment and stuffed in a book under his mattress. The next day, she asked Samo, one of the boarders, to take the money to Vince Torelli’s saloon and buy out Brina’s contract with Milo’s savings.

Two hours later, Brina was on a train to Minneapolis to start a new life.

Tomorrow: Chapter 42 begins.