26. The Idea

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"Clayton!" Frank shouted. "Stand down!" He shined the flashlight into the foremen's ice-blue eyes.

Clayton squinted, dropped the shovel, and held out a hand to block out the bright light.

Hans and Karl released Maurice and he backed away from the three white men. The two immigrants assumed at-ease stances, and Frank wondered what branch of the military they had served in.

Clayton held out his palms. "We got another Negro here taking a dive and trying to blame it on the white man." Then he fired a cold glare at Maurice. "Is that all you people know how to do?"

Frank marched up to Clayton and leveled a serious gaze at him.

"There are enough problems between whites and blacks," Frank kept his voice low and private. He didn't want to embarrass the man in front of his workers. "I don't need you, the foreman who happens to oversee all the night shift workers, creating even more issues."

Clayton plastered on a look of innocence. "He insulted us white folk. Said blacks are better than us."

Frank raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I don't care if he said blacks are better than Woodrow Wilson. Besides, I witnessed enough to know what happened. As long as you're getting a paycheck here, I don't want you harassing the workers, you hear me?"

Frank had heard the entire exchange. He should have stepped in sooner, but he knew Clayton carried a lot of influence among the workers at the mill. It had been rumored Clayton had been the one to initiate the petition to strike. And a strike was the one thing Union Steel couldn't afford to have happen.

Clayton shook his head. "Mr. Bell, you can't be serious?"

"I am serious!" Frank snapped back.

Clayton's expression darkened with anger, but he nodded.

"All right, then," Frank said with a heavy sigh. "Now get back to work."

Clayton turned to the Germans, gesturing with his chin before leading Hans and Karl into the pit. Maurice blew out a sigh of relief and started to follow them.

"Hold on, son," Frank said, walking up to Maurice. He recognized him – the ex-Rook.

Frank's expression eased. "The next time Clayton gives you trouble, you let me know. Can you do that?"

"Yes sir," Maurice said. "And thanks for helping me out there."

"Sure thing." Frank felt his eyes go wide as he noticed Maurice's injury. "That's a nasty bump you got on the side of your head. You ought to have that checked out at the infirmary."

"It's nothing," Maurice said matter-of-fact. "I've played through worse in ball games against white teams." He paused, looking a bit worried. "No offense, sir."

"None taken." Frank allowed a close-lipped smile before realization dawned on his face. "You played with Henry Louis, didn't you?"

"Sure did," Maurice said, his brown eyes lighting up.

"He was one heck of a player."

"Henry's the type of player that only comes around once in a lifetime."

There was something completely honest in Maurice's statement and you could see that honesty shine in his face. For a few heartbeats, the two men stood silent amid the busy buzz of themill.

Finally Maurice said, "Well, I suppose I should get back to work."

"I supposed you should," Frank said, cracking a smile.

And that brought a grin to Maurice's face before he turned and climb into the pit. He disappeared past a bright pile of molten steel. It looked like a pitcher's mound with a glowing ball beside it.

Images and thoughts flashed in Frank's head like they sometimes did when he watched a flicker.

Henry Louis, the shortstop.

The exhibition game and that amazing catch!

The type of player that only comes around once in a lifetime.

Frank drew in a breath, the spark of an idea kindling in the back of his thoughts.

A way to bring peace between whites and blacks at the mill.

Frank's jaw dropped, a massive revelation taking over. He felt his entire body shiver with anticipation ... his heart rate rising in excitement.

The answer. He knew it! But it would be one crazy plan for the ages. He was sure his father would disapprove. Still, there was a slim chance he could get the old man to agree ... if he played his cards right.

Frank lifted his chin, confidence mounting, and proceeded to march towards the executive offices ... to his father's office.

Ready for a fight.


Author's Note

Here's another special mid-week update. I appreciate your feedback so much, it honestly motivates me to deliver this story as fast as I can ... but of course, without sacrificing quality.

The next three chapters are huge! In Chapter 27, we'll learn Frank's crazy idea and his father will oppose it. In Chapters 28 and 29, Frank will ... (Well, you'll just have to stay tuned. Chapter 29 will contain the next big surprise of the story!)

You guys absolutely rock! Thanks again for all your feedback, votes, and comments!

Thanks,

Tom

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