He shook his head several times. “I can’t give those fucking things away.”
I held out my good hand. “Take care, Yefim.”
He clapped both my shoulders hard and kissed me on both cheeks. He still smelled of ham and vinegar. He hugged me and pounded his fists on my back. Only then did he shake my hand.
“You, too, my good friend, you hump.”
All in all, it was an interesting Christmas Eve.
We were delayed getting out of the trailer park, because both Helene and Tadeo soiled themselves when Yefim and Pavel shot four people to death in the time it took to light a cigarette. Then Tadeo fainted. It happened just after Yefim and I discussed Blu-Rays and Kindles. We exchanged our Russian man-hug and heard a thump and looked over to see Tadeo lying on the floor of the trailer, breathing like a fish that had ridden a wave into shore but forgot to ride it back out.
“You ask me,” Yefim said, “I’m not sure this little man can handle the insurance business.”
We stood by the Suburban for a minute—Amanda, the baby, Sophie, and me. Sophie shivered and smoked and looked at me apologetically, either for the smoking or the shaking, I couldn’t tell. Pavel had told us to stay put and then he’d gone back inside the trailer. When he returned, he carried two Blu-Ray players.
Inside, someone fired up a chain saw.
Pavel handed me the Blu-Ray players. “You enjoy. Do svidanya.”
I went to the back of the Suburban and then called to Pavel as he reached for the door of the trailer. “We don’t have the car keys.”
He looked back at me.
“Kenny had them. They’re still in one of his pockets.”
“Give me minute.”
He looked back, one hand on the door.
“You have any ice in there?” I held up my scorched palm.
“I take a look.” He went back into the trailer.
I put the Blu-Ray players on the ground at the back of the Suburban, and my phone rang. I read the caller ID: ANGIE CELL. I flipped the phone open as fast as I could and walked away from the Suburban toward the river.
“Hi,” she said. “How’s Boston?”
“It’s nice here right now. The weather.” I reached the river-bank, stood watching the brown Charles slosh along, ice chips surfing along the top every now and then. “Thirty-eight, maybe thirty-nine degrees. Blue sky. Feels more like Thanksgiving. How’s it there?”
“It’s about fifty-five. Gabby loves it, man. All the squares, the horse-drawn carriages, the trees. She can’t get enough.”
“So you’re going to stay?”
“Hell, no. It’s Christmas Eve. We’re at the airport. We board in an hour.”
“I never gave you an all-clear.”
“Yeah, but Bubba did.”
“He said it was just as easy to shoot Russians in Boston.”
“A solid point. All right, then, come home.”
“I am done. Hold on.”
“Hang on a sec.” I crooked the phone into the space between my ear and my shoulder, never as easy to do on a cell as it is on a home phone. I pulled my .45 Colt Commander out of the holster at my back. “You still there?”
I ejected the clip, then jacked the round out of the chamber. I pulled back on the slide and disengaged it from the grip. I tossed the slide in the water.
“What’re you doing?” Angie asked.
“I’m throwing my gun in the Charles.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I am.” I tossed the clip in, watched it sink beneath the sluggish current. I flicked my wrist and the grip followed. I was left with one bullet and the frame. I considered both.
“You just threw your gun away. The .45?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I tossed the frame up and out in an arc and got a respectable splash when it hit.
“Honey, you’re going to need that for work.”
“No,” I said. “I’m not doing this shit anymore. Mike Colette offered me a job in his freight company and I’m going to take him up on it.”
“Know what it is, babe?” I looked back at the trailer. “When you start out doing this, you think it’s just the truly horrible shit that’s going to get you—that poor little boy in that bathtub back in ’98, what happened in Gerry Glynn’s bar, Christ, that bunker in Plymouth . . .” I took a breath, let it out slowly. “But it’s not those moments. It’s all the little ones. It’s not that people fuck each other over for a million dollars that depresses me, it’s that they do it for ten. I don’t give a shit anymore whether so-and-so’s wife is cheating on him, because he probably deserved it. And all those insurance companies? I help them prove a guy’s faking his neck injury, they turn around and drop coverage on half the neighborhood when the recession hits. The last three years, every time I sit on the corner of the mattress to put my shoes on in the morning, I want to crawl back into bed. I don’t want to go out there and do what I do.”
“But you’ve done a lot of good. You do know that, don’t you?”
“You have,” she said. “Everyone I know lies, breaks their word, and has perfectly legitimate excuses for why they do. Except you. Haven’t you ever noticed that? Two times in twelve years, you said you’d find this girl no matter what. And you did. Why? Because you gave your word, babe. And that might not mean shit to the rest of the world, but it means everything to you. Whatever else happened today, you found her twice, Patrick. When no one else would even try.”
I looked at the river and wanted to pull it over me.
“So I understand why you can’t do it anymore,” my wife said, “but I won’t hear you say it didn’t matter.”
I kept looking at the river for a bit. “Some of it mattered.”
“Some of it did,” she said.
I looked at the bare trees and the slate sky that stretched behind them. “But I’m all the way out. You okay with that?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
“Mike Colette’s having a good year. His distribution warehouse is thriving. He’s opening a new warehouse off Freeport next month.”