One disgraced, one dead. One breathing, one dead. One white, one dead.
I ran my hands through my hair, felt the grit and oil from the last day, smelled the trash and waste on my fingers. At that moment, I truly hated the world and everything in it.
L.A. burns, and so many other cities smolder, waiting for the hose that will flood gasoline over the coals, and we listen to politicians who fuel our hate and our narrow views and tell us it’s simply a matter of getting back to basics while they sit in their beachfront properties and listen to the surf so they won’t have to hear the screams of the drowning.
They tell us it’s about race, and we believe them. And they call it a “democracy,” and we nod our heads, so pleased with ourselves. We blame the Socias, we occasionally sneer at the Paulsons, but we always vote for the Sterling Mulkerns. And in occasional moments of quasi-lucidity, we wonder why the Mulkerns of this world don’t respect us.
They don’t respect us because we are their molested children. They fuck us morning, noon, and night, but as long as they tuck us in with a kiss, as long as they whisper into our ears, “Daddy loves you, Daddy will take care of you,” we close our eyes and go to sleep, trading our bodies, our souls, for the comforting veneers of “civilization” and “security,” the false idols of our twentieth-century wet dream.
And it’s our reliance on that dream that the Mulkerns, the Paulsons, the Socias, the Phils, the Heroes of this world depend upon. That’s their dark knowledge. That’s how they win.
I gave Angie a weak smile. “I’m tired,” I said.
“Me too.” She gave me her own weak smile. “Exhausted.” She walked to the couch, spread the sheet I’d left across it. She said, “We’ll figure it out someday. Right?”
“Yeah. Someday,” I said, walking toward my bedroom.
The photograph we’d given Richie showed Senator Paulson in all his glory. It showed very specifically what he got his sense of glory from. Roland’s body took up a third of the frame and you got a good sense of his age, of the youth in the body under Paulson. No doubt about his sex. But unlike most of the other photographs, you couldn’t see Roland’s face, just his small ears and head. Socia was standing in the bedroom, watching with a bored expression on his face, smoking a cigarette.
The Trib ran the photo with appropriate softening and black bars over the places you’d imagine. Beside the photograph was another one of Socia lying on his back in the gravel, his body looking like an inflatable doll someone had forgotten to inflate. His head was thrown back, the small pipe still in his hand. Over the photo it said: MAN IN PAULSON PIC KILLED GANG-LAND-STYLE.
In addition to his column, Richie’s byline ran over the Socia murder story too. He said the police had no suspects as of yet, that any fingerprints could have been obscured if the killer had had the sense to rub his hands in the gravel before he touched anything. The killer had. He mentioned that the Xerox of the Paulson photo had been discovered in Socia’s bloody linen jacket. He mentioned Socia’s common-law marriage to Jenna Angeline, the same Jenna Angeline who’d been a cleaning woman for, among others, Senators Paulson and Mulkern. They reran her death photograph too, the State House looming up behind her.
It was the biggest local scandal since the DA bungled the Charles Stuart case. Maybe bigger. We’d have to wait until it all came out in the wash.
One thing that wouldn’t come out in the wash was Roland. I doubt Paulson knew the identity of the child he’d been with that day; over the ensuing years, I’m sure there were so many more. And if he did know, I doubted he’d be shouting it from the rooftops. Socia wasn’t up to much public speaking these days, and Angie and I were unequivocally not involved.
Richie was one hell of a reporter. He tied Paulson to Socia and Socia to Jenna by the third paragraph, then noted that Paulson had gone on record in Friday’s legislative session motioning for an extra day off, the precise day the street terrorism bill was scheduled to come to the floor. Richie never insinuated, he never accused. He just laid fact after fact down on everyone’s breakfast table and let them draw their own conclusions.
I had my doubts about how many of them would get it, but I figured enough would figure it out.
Paulson was reportedly on vacation at the family home in Marblehead, but by the time I caught the morning news on TV, there were Devin and Oscar in front of the cameras in Marblehead. Oscar said, “Senator Paulson has one hour to turn himself in to the Marblehead Police Department or we’re going in after him.”
Devin didn’t say anything. He stood beside his partner, beaming, a cigar the size of a Boeing in his mouth.
The reporter said to Oscar, “Sergeant Lee, your partner looks rather pleased about this.”
Oscar said, “He’s so happy he don’t know whether to shit or ” and they cut to a commercial.
I flipped around, saw Sterling Mulkern on Channel Seven. He was coming up the State House steps, an army of people trotting beside him, Jim Vurnan trying to keep pace a few steps back. He sliced through the mass of microphones like an oar through a dead sea, a chant of “No comment,” coming from his lips all the way through the front doors. I was kind of hoping he’d keep things lively, throw in a few “I don’t recalls” to break up the monotony, but I guess pleasing me wasn’t at the top of his “to do” list this morning.
Angie had been awake for a few minutes by this time, her face propped up on the arm of the couch where she’d slept, her eyes puffed with sleep, but alert. She said, “Sometimes, Skid, this job ain’t half bad.”
I was sitting on the floor at the foot of the couch. I looked at her. “Does your hair always stand on end first thing in the morning?”
Not a smart thing to say when you’re sitting near someone’s foot. The next thing I said was, “Ouch.”
She got up, tossed the sheet over my head, and said, “Coffee?”
“I’d love some.” I pulled the sheet off my face.
“Make enough for the both of us then, would you?” She stumbled into the bathroom and turned the shower on.
On Channel Five, the two anchors were in early, promising to stay with me until all the facts were in. I wanted to tell them they’d be having pizzas delivered to the station for the next ten years if that’s what they were waiting for, but I let it slide. They’d figure it out.