“The roof, Marion. Look at the roof.”

All he could see was a target scope and the muzzle of Bubba’s rifle. Big target scope, though. The only way to miss with a scope that big would be in the event of an instant solar eclipse. Even then, you’d have to be lucky.

I said, “We’re all in this together, Marion. If I nod, you go first.”

Socia said, “I’ll take your girlfriend with me. Believe it.”

I shrugged. “She ain’t my girlfriend.”

Socia said, “Like you don’t care, Kenzie. Try that shit on someone who ”

I said, “Look, Marion, you’re probably not used to this, but what you got here is a no-win situation and not much time to think about it.” I looked at Lollipop. I couldn’t see his eyes, but drops of sweat were doing relay races down his forehead. Not easy holding a gun steady all this time. I looked back at Socia. “The guy on the roof, he might just get ideas of his own real soon. Figure he can pull the trigger fast, twice” I glanced at Lollipop ”and take the two of you out before you get a shot off. He might decide to do that on his own, before I nod. Before I do anything. He’s been known to... act on his own inner voice before. He’s not real stable. You listening, Marion?”

Socia was in his Place wherever it is people like him go to hide their fear and emotion. He looked around slowly, up and down Washington Street, but never once at the roof. He took his time about it, then looked back at me. “What’s my guarantee I put my gun back in my pocket?”

“Nothing,” I said. “You want guarantees, go to Sears. I can guarantee you’ll be dead if you don’t.” I looked at Lollipop. “Hell, I’m fixing to use this kid’s gun on him as it is.”

Lollipop said, “Sure you are, man,” but his voice sounded hoarse, an untaken breath sitting atop his esophagus.

Socia looked up and down the street again, then shrugged. His hand came out from behind Angie’s back. He held the gun where I could see it a Bren nine millimeter  then stepped from behind Angie and put it inside his jacket. He said, “Lollipop, put it away.”

The kid’s name was actually “Lollipop.” Patrick Kenzie, Psychic Detective. Lollipop’s lip was curled upward toward his nose and his breathing was hard, showing me how tough he was, the gun still in my side, but the hammer down. Stupid. He looked ready to prove his manhood, not because he wasn’t terrified, but because he was. Usually the way it works. But he was too busy watching my face, proving how much of a man he was. I pivoted slightly with my hip, no big movement, and the gun was suddenly pointed at air. I took the gun hand in mine, snapped my forehead off the bridge of his nose, cracking the Vuarnets in half, and shoved the gun into his stomach with his own hand. I pulled back the hammer. “You want to die?”

Socia said, “Kenzie, let the boy go.”

Lollipop said, “I die if I have to,” and bucked against my hand, a line of blood running thickly down his nose. He didn’t look pleased at the prospect, but he didn’t look unwilling.

I said, “Good. Because next time you pull a gun on me, Lollipop, that’s exactly what’ll happen.” I eased the hammer back down and flicked the safety forward, then ripped the gun from his sweaty hand and put it in my pocket. I raised my hand and Bubba’s rifle disappeared.

Lollipop was breathing hard and his eyes never left mine. I’d taken a lot more than his gun. I’d taken his pride, the only commodity worth a damn in his world, and he’d definitely kill me if there was a next time. I was getting real popular these days.

Socia said, “Lollipop, disappear. Tell everyone else to pull back too. I catch up with you later.”

Lollipop gave me one last look and entered the stream of people heading down the street toward Jordan Marsh. He wasn’t going anywhere. I knew that much. He and the rest of them, whoever and wherever they were, would stay in the crowd, keeping watch on their king. Socia was way too smart to leave himself unprotected. He said, “Come on, let’s go sit ”

I said, “Let’s sit down right over there.”

He said, “I got a better place in mind.”

Angie tilted her head in the direction of Barnes and Noble. “You don’t have any choice, Socia.”

We walked past Filene’s and sat on a stone bench in the small cement plaza next door. The scope appeared on the roof again, tilted in our direction. Socia saw it too.

I said, “So, Marion, tell me why I shouldn’t do you right here, right now.”

He smiled. “Shit. You already in enough trouble with my people as it is. I’m like a god to these boys. You want to fuck with that, be the target of a holy war, go on ahead.”

I hate when people are right.

I said, “OK. Why don’t you tell me why you’re allowing me to live?”

“I’m swell that way sometimes.”


“No matter what, though,” he said, “I might just kill you for calling me ‘Marion’ all the time.” He sat back on the bench, one leg up there with him, his hands clasped around the knee. A man out for some fresh air.

Angie said, “Well, what do you want from us, Socia?”

“Hell, little girl, you ain’t even a part of this. We might let you go on about your life after this is done.” He pointed a finger at me. “Him, though, he stick his nose in where it don’t belong, shoot one of my best men, fuck with all this shit that ain’t his to fuck with.”

Angie said, “A common complaint among the married men in our neighborhood.” That Angie, what a hoot.

Socia said, “Joke all you want.” He looked at me. “But you know this ain’t a joke, don’t you? This is the end of your life, Kenzie, and it’s happening.”

I wanted to say something funny, but nothing came to mind. Nothing came even close. It was definitely happening.

Socia smiled. “Uh-huh. You know it. Only reason you’re alive right now is because Jenna gave you something, and she told you something else. Now, where’s it at?”

I said, “In a safe place.”

“In a safe place,” he repeated, rolling it off his tongue, slightly nasal inflection. His imitation of Whitespeak. “Yeah, well, whyn’t you tell me where this safe place is,” he said.

“Don’t know it,” I said. “Jenna never told me.”

“Bullshit,” he said and leaned toward me.

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