August 1976
Mary’s fondest dream is that her father and lover will be reconciled

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Life looks pretty nasty when you’re flat on your back on a barroom floor, especially if your daughter’s hot-tempered lover is the guy whose punch put you there. So when Johnny Ryan picked himself up, brushed the sawdust from his suspenders and glared at Jack Fenelli stalking out the door, he raised his fist to heaven and swore the next time he tangled with the testy newspaperman he’d float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and make mincemeat out of Jack!

If only he’d known a year ago when Fenelli first darkened the door of Ryan’s Bar. Now it was too late; his daughter was in love with the scoundrel.

Jack had come sniffing around when Frank Ryan was running for city councilman. He had a reputation as a muckraking reporter, and he suspected the Ryans were just too wholesome, too honest, and too damned upstanding not to have some deep black secret bubbling beneath all that emerald green. If Frank Ryan had a seedy past or a sordid present, Fenelli thought the voters ought to know.

Fiercely loyal to her big brother, Mary Ryan at first treated Jack’s investigation with barbed contempt. She pitied Jack for his cynicism, his blind inability to see good where good existed. But when Jack discovered that an adulterous affair with Jill Coleridge was the skeleton in Frank’s closet and threatened to report it, Mary’s contempt turned briskly to anger. But as love is the other side of hatred’s coin, Mary also found a tantalizing sensuality in her verbal skirmishes with Jack. The more she saw him, the more he annoyed her; yet he stirred something exciting in her girlish heart that she feared and could not explain. When he swaggered into the bar, Mary trembled with anticipation. Jack was forbidden; Jack was dangerous; Jack was powerfully attractive. She had never met a man who made her heart pound so.

Jack had had a hundred girls and each new affair was more short-lived than the last. Yet he was challenged by young Mary Ryan and her idealism and family loyalty, concepts that had no meaning for the jaded Jack. She got under his skin; he couldn’t sleep nights thinking of her.

One day in his apartment, in the midst of one of their quarrels, Jack suddenly kissed Mary and released the floodgate of passion that had been swelling between them. They made love that afternoon and the next day, until Mary, breathless with her awakened womanhood, announced she would move in with her lover.

.... Over Johnny Ryan’s dead body! Not only was her father confronted with the knowledge that his daughter was now in every sense a woman, but that she had given herself to a man he despised. And Fenelli’s barely concealed dislike for John Ryan surfaced every time they met. They circled each other like two ornery bulls, each determined to save Mary from the other.

The bad blood between Johnny and Jack boiled to the surface one night in the Ryan bar. Mary had forced Jack to attend a family viewing of her television news show debut, convinced that only misunderstanding barred the way to friendship for her father and lover. When Jack and Mary argued during the telecast Johnny stepped into the fray. The combustible combination for Jack and Johnny exploded, until Jack had leveled the Irishman with a quick punch.

With her beloved Da out cold on the floor and her lover storming out into the street, Mary’s temper finally exploded. Chasing after Jack, she confronted him in their apartment. Her opened hand slammed down on his jaw, and Jack was stunned but not cowed by her blow. In words that blistered, she told Jack they were finished. He claimed that she had forced herself into his life and had clearly chosen her father over him. While their combat continued, Mary furiously packed her bag.

Later, a remorseful Jack took his troubles to Sister Mary Joel who had raised him. Somehow she could always cut through his anger and find the lonely man underneath. Realizing that his fear of losing Mary to her family had prompted the battle with her father, Jack knew at last that he would have no peace till he married Mary.

When he finally found her, he gave her the ring, embarrassed by his emotion. Mary, tortured by her time away from him, fell into his arms and wept her acceptance of his proposal.

Timidly, Mary and Jack returned to the bar. Her mother Maeve accepted the news of their engagement with resignation, a tinge of sadness ringing her eyes. Stepping into the kitchen, Mary broke the news to her father. John Ryan steadied himself. He reached out his hand to his daughter and forced his mouth into a smile. Anything that made Mary happy made him happy. Congratulations to the groom, he said clasping Jack’s hand. They exchanged small talk of wedding plans, then Mary and Jack left, their faces beaming their joy.

But John Ryan’s face was a storm cloud. His pulse raced and his mood was black. In a corner of the kitchen hung a punching bag. He’d put it there after his fight with Fenelli; in case they came to blows again he’d be prepared. Now he stepped up to it. Across its worn leather seams he imagined he saw Jack grinning triumphantly. He raised his fist and smashed the face of his son-in-law to be.

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