“How’d they know you were going to be there this morning?”
I hadn’t given it much thought. “Blue Cap,” I said.
She shook her head. “We lost Blue Cap yesterday. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he was hanging around on the interstate this morning, waiting to spot you driving by in a car he doesn’t even know you own. Then he tailed you to the Common? Uh-uh. I don’t buy it.”
“Only two people knew where Jenna and I were going this morning.”
“Damn right,” she said. “And I’m one of them.”
Simone Angeline’s eyes were ringed with red on the other side of the chain, and fresh tears welled in her sockets. Her hair was matted to one side of her face and she looked like she’d skipped a few decades and turned seventy when no one was looking. Her teeth gritted when she saw us. “You get the fuck off my porch.”
I said, “OK,” and kicked the door in.
Angie came in behind me as Simone made a scramble for the small telephone desk in the alcove. She wasn’t going for the phone. She was going for the drawer underneath, and as she opened it, I put my hand behind the desk and brought the whole thing toppling down on top of her. The contents of the drawer a small red phone book, some pens, and a .22 target pistol bounced off her head on their way to the floor. I kicked the gun under the bookcase and grabbed Simone by the front of her shirt and dragged her over to the couch.
Angie closed the door behind her.
Simone spat in my face. “You killed my sister.”
I slammed her back against the couch and wiped the spittle off my chin. Very slowly I said, “I failed to protect your sister. There’s a difference. Someone else pulled the trigger, and you put the gun in his hand. Didn’t you?”
She bucked against my hand and clawed at my face. “No! You killed her.”
I pushed her back again and knelt on her hands. I whispered in her ear, “The bullets came through Jenna’s chest like it wasn’t there, Simone. Like it wasn’t fucking there. She had so much blood coming out of her body that just the small percentage that got on me was enough to make the cops think I’d been shot. She died screaming in the middle of the morning with her legs spread out in front of her while a crowd of people watched, and the motherfucker who pulled the trigger used a whole clip on her and didn’t so much as blink.”
She was trying to head-butt me now, rocking forward on the couch as much as she could manage with my 180 pounds on top of her. “You goddamned bastard.”
“That’s right,” I said, my mouth still a half inch from her ear. “That’s right. I’m a bastard, Simone. I held your sister in my lap while she died and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it, and I earned the right to be a bastard. But, you, you don’t have any excuse. You picked her execution spot and stayed out here, sixty miles away, while she screamed her final breath. You told them where she was going and you let them kill her. Didn’t you, Simone?”
I screamed, “Didn’t you?”
Her eyes rolled back in her head for a moment and then her head dropped, the sobs tearing out of her as if someone was reaching in there and pulling them out. I stepped back because there was nothing left of her now. The sobs grew louder, gasping wracks from her heaving chest. She balled into a fetal position and banged her fists against the arm of the couch, and every time the sobs seemed to have subsided they picked up again, only louder, as if each breath pierced her like something heavy and sharp.
Angie touched my elbow, but I shrugged it off. Patrick Kenzie, great detective, able to terrorize a near-catatonic woman into hysterics. What a guy. For an encore, maybe I’d go back home and mug a nun.
Simone turned on her side, her eyes closed, speaking with half her mouth still buried in the couch. “You were working for them. I told Jenna she was a fool, trusting you and those fat white politicians. Ain’t one of them ever gave a damn for a nigger, ain’t one of them ever will. I figured as...as soon as you got what you wanted from her, you’d...”
“Kill her,” I said.
Her head stretched out onto the arm and gagging sounds emanated from her throat. After a few minutes, she said, “I called him, because I figured no man could... “
“Who’d you call?” Angie said. “Socia? Was it Socia?”
She shook her head a few times, then nodded. “He... he said he’d take care of it, talk some sense into her fool head. That’s all. I figured no man could do... that to his wife.”
She looked at me. “She never could have won. Not against all them. Not her. She... couldn’t.”
I sat on the floor beside the couch and held up the photograph. “Is this Socia?”
She looked at it long enough to nod, then buried her head back in the couch.
Angie said, “Simone, where’s the rest of it? Is it in the safety-deposit box?”
Simone shook her head.
“Then where is it?” I said.
“She wouldn’t tell me. She just said, ‘In a safe place.’ She said she put just the one picture in the safety-deposit box to throw them off the scent, case they ever follow her there.”
I said, “What else is there, Simone? Do you know?”
She said, “Jenna said they were ‘bad things.’ That’s all she’d say. She’d get all tight lipped and antsy if I asked her about it. Whatever it was, it shook her up every time she talked about it.” She raised her head and looked past my shoulder as if someone stood behind me. She said, “Jenna?” and began sobbing again.
She was trembling violently and I didn’t think she had much left in her. I’d done my damage, and she’d do the rest to herself in the days and years ahead. So, I let my anger go, let it flush out of my heart and body until all I saw before me was a trembling heap of humanity on a sofa. I reached out and touched her shoulder.
She screamed. “Don’t you fucking touch me!”
I pulled the hand back.
“Get the hell off my floor and the hell out of my house, white man, and take your whore with you.”
Angie took a step toward her on the word “whore,” then stopped and closed her eyes for a second, then opened them. She looked at me and nodded.
There wasn’t anything else to say, so we left.
We were halfway back to Boston, avoiding any conversation about Simone Angeline or the scene in her apartment, when Angie sat up suddenly in her seat and said, “Aargghh,” or a reasonable facsimile. She stabbed her index finger into the eject button of my cassette player hard enough to send Exile on Main St. past me like a missile. It bounced off the back of the seat and fell to the floor. Right in the middle of “Shine a Light,” too. Sacrilege. I said, “Pick it up.”