My husband has goodness in his heart.
He may do terrible things from time to time, but they are for the benefit of the poor, the dispossessed, and the needy.
If courage is defined as overcoming fear, then breaking the law that keeps people poor and hungry is what I call an act of true bravery.
That is what goodness is, and that is my husband, Dinny Meehan.
I know what people say about him, the newspapers and all the others that want what he has earned.
And I don’t care, I’m the one that knows his heart and knows his hands are gentle.
It’s a broken system that forces good men to do bad things in order to provide for his loved ones.
Oh, but life is filled with contradiction and treachery.
And even I am guilty of being angry with Dinny Meehan at times.
As the wife of a gang leader, I’ve had my share of scares.
But lately, things have gotten so much worse.
I didn’t cry when Dinny was arrested recently.
But I did cry when I found out he’d organized the robbery of Hanan & Sons shoe factory after the poor Lonergan child died because he was playing barefoot in the rubble of a fallen tenement.
I cried because I was so proud of my husband.
And for the goodness in his heart.
Dinny and I will never be invited to the Waterfront Assembly dinners on Wall Street.
But even we know that the blessed are the poor and the hungry because those who cry need our compassion most.
Wolcott and those immoral landowners of the Waterfront Assembly would rather see the poor enslaved.
Or butchered by the machines they want to replace them with.
But since Dinny’s been in jail, his enemies have harassed and threw rocks at me and L’il Dinny, my son.
Liam Garrity, one of the young men I helped raise, sent us away with plenty of money along with the one-legged war veteran Happy Maloney to protect us.
It was too dangerous, Liam said, I had to leave Brooklyn and now I’m in hiding in a hotel in Rockville Centre, a beautiful little rural town on Long Island a taxi-ride away from the pier on Long Beach.
I love it here. I want to move here and buy a house for our family.
But Dinny is a driven man.
And now, terrible news comes from Brooklyn.
Heart-rending news, Mickey Kane, Dinny’s cousin and heir to the gang, is missing.
Dead, most assuredly, as rumors has it Wild Bill Lovett is back in Brooklyn.
And I’ve only made things worse!
Way worse, by giving money to my cousin Darby to help get Pickles out of Sing Sing.
Oh God, when Dinny finds out he’ll be so upset.
But I was only helping the needy. Helping my family, just as he is known to do.
Dinny owns the saloon under the Manhattan Bridge called the Dock Loaders’ Club.
That’s the gang’s headquarters.
And guess what? Now the law, which never helps our like, is after us again.
They’ve ratified an amendment that will be enforced next year, a prohibition on the sale and distribution of alcohol.
From all angles, do they come after us.
When your aim is to help the poor, the rich target you and your family.
You’d be smart to remember that.
Now our time is running out.
But if I know my husband, he’ll run headlong right into it.
Because Dinny Meehan’s greatest enemies are time, and change.
But I haven’t even told you the worst of it.
I don’t know if I can. Don’t know if I can admit it to what I’ve done.
I miss Father Larkin, the priest of Irishtown.
In Confession, I told him everything.
L’il Dinny, my son, is innocent of it all.
But I don’t know if even I’ll be able to explain what I’ve done when he grows up.
I’ll try to tell you, but I can’t make any promises.
After I was born in East London, 1895, my mother Rose went to Brooklyn with two of my cousins, Pickles and Darby.
The plan was to send for me as soon as they could, but she came back to London a year later without them.
I didn’t know the full story for many years, but apparently she abandoned them in Brooklyn. The poor boys.
When I was fifteen in the year 1910, they paid for me and my mother’s passage to New York.
It was then I found out she abandoned them, but apparently they never held it against her.
Like many young men in our time, Pickles and Darby were desperate for a mother figure.
Sad, if you think about it.
I didn’t know it, but my cousins were right in the middle of a violent takeover in Brooklyn. And they were both coveted in the insurgence against Christie Maroney.
I was courted by both Harry Reynolds and Dinny Meehan, who were close friends.
I was struck by how similar they looked, Harry and Dinny, both very handsome and attentive.
When Maroney was murdered in 1912, Dinny and Pickles were arrested, along with McGowan and young Vincent Maher.
I was left alone with Harry Reynolds, who told me he was in love with me.
I . . . I was only seventeen, turning eighteen back then.
I didn’t know what to do as my mother and I were facing eviction and Harry promised to help.
Dinny was going to be sent to Sing Sing and. . .
You can’t blame me!
Harry took me to the sensational trial, and from what I heard, The Swede had intimidated the jurors.
The court was overflowing and people filled the streets in anticipation of the verdict.
Hundreds of cops were there, and even the Marines were sent in.
To everyone’s surprise, Dinny and McGowan and Vincent were set free.
Harry’s plans for us changed, in the snap of a finger.
But my cousin Pickles was charged for murder and sentenced to life in Sing Sing.
Now, I understand that Pickles is psychotic, everyone knows that.
But the rumor was that Dinny had set Pickles up through Dead Reilly, his lawyer.
I confronted Dinny about it, angrily.
And he promised to help get Pickles out, since he was the only one powerful enough to do anything about it.
Then he asked me to marry him.
Harry Reynolds was crushed, but I had to let him go.
My son came in April of 1914 and Vincent Maher, who was a homeless orphan, moved in with us on Warren Street.
The gang quickly expanded, but instead of banishing Harry, Dinny made him dockboss of the Atlantic Terminal and told him he had to prove his loyalty.
Everyone was surprised Dinny didn’t kill Harry for trying to marry me while he was in custody.
But I think Dinny has big plans for Harry, I just don’t know what those plans are.
I’ve tried to find out, but Dinny lives by the codes he enforces in Irishtown, like the Code of Silence.
And his plans are often so complex that people never think that far ahead, like he does.
And they’re always successful. Just look at all of his accomplishments through the years.
I told you, Dinny Meehan is a driven man.
On Christmas Eve of 1915, Dinny brought home Liam Garrity, who was right off the
boat from County Clare, Ireland.
The cutest child little Liam was, but starved and with the eyes of a beaten puppy.
Another orphan Dinny brought to us, the third in fact: Harry, Vincent and Liam.
All three have made great contributions to feeding the needy in Irishtown and the waterfront neighborhoods, and I’m proud to have helped nurture and raise them.
But as I’ve said, helping the poor never goes unpunished.
Everyone seems to be turning against the gang for doing right by the dispossessed.
And many are those that want Dinny taken down:
The law and that stupid tunic, William Brosnan.
Wolcott’s Waterfront Assembly and the Anglo-ascendency of New York, who want to take over labor in Brooklyn.
The International Longshoreman’s Association, whose top Brooklyn recruiter Thos Carmody was recently promoted to treasurer.
The Black Hand Italians in the south, led by Frankie Yale and the upstart, Sixto Stabile.
Although thinly veiled, even Father Larkin’s latest homily was against Dinny.
But the scariest of them all is that creepy Wild Bill Lovett.
We all thought he was dead; the military showed up at his parents’ tenement, hats in hands, and Father Larkin even gave a service for him at St. Ann’s.
My stomach turns every time I think of that sick man, Lovett.
The old-timers in Irishtown say he’s been resurrected for a reason.
And the Italians, who are even more superstitious than us Irish, call him Pulcinella, which is some sort of vicious clown-like character in their lore.
Now, he has killed Dinny’s cousin, Lovett has.
Guaranteeing a war.
And that little wench Anna Lonergan showed up at our Warren Street brownstone
and threw rocks through our window.
And she was with, of all people, my own cousin Darby Leighton!
My own family!
I even heard Darby used the money I gave him to hire Dead Reilly, Dinny’s lawyer who set up Pickles in the first place.
L’il Dinny and I are safest out here, on Long Island.
We go dress shopping for me, little soldier outfits for him.
And we take long, quiet walks along the ocean when it’s not so cold.
But it snowed heavily on Brooklyn recently, and I know Mickey Kane is dead.
I can feel it.
I just hope Lovett doesn’t attack while Dinny and his enforcers are in jail.
Can you imagine? Arrested for putting shoes on children’s feet and while you’re in
jail, your cousin is murdered, your wife is driven from your home and then your headquarters attacked by a rival?
But if I know Dinny, he’ll war with Lovett.
He’ll never give up. It’s not in his nature.
He’ll recruit every “Soldier of the Dawn” under his command.
He’s a driven man.
By what, I am unsure, even after all these years of being married to him.
But driven, is he.
By some sort of spirit of the past, so say the old-timers in Irishtown.
When anyone in Brooklyn is asked by the police who he is, the answer is always the same: “Who? Who is Dinny Meehan? Never heard of him.”
I get the chills when I think of it, but sometimes I’m not even sure if I know who he is.
I only know that his hands are gentle on me.
And I know his heart, which is filled with goodness.
Beyond his hands and his heart, I don’t really know him at all.
But my son.
I don’t know what will happen when Dinny rallies his soldiers and seek those that killed his cousin.
Killed Mickey Kane, his hope and heir.
I’m scared to think of Dinny without hope, because without hope a soldier becomes a martyr.
The greatest of Irish traditions.
For the only Irish hero is a dead one.
So, I will ask that my son and I stay here on Long Island so I can protect him.
Protect him, my hope in life, from the war that is coming to Brooklyn.