Page 102 of Mystic River

Dave could see an ink-blue slice of river? lit by the bridge lights and shining? reflected in Jimmy's pupils. He said, "Why you telling me this, Jimmy?"

Jimmy pointed over Dave's left shoulder. "I made Ray kneel down right over there and I shot him twice. Once in the chest, once in the throat."

Val came off the wall by the door and walked over to Dave's left, taking his time, the weeds rising up behind him. Dave's throat closed up and his insides went dry.

Dave said, "Hey, Jimmy, I don't know what? "

Jimmy said, "Ray begged. He said we were friends. He said he had a son. He said he had a wife. He said his wife was pregnant. He said he'd move away. He said he'd never bother me again. He begged me to let him live so he could see his child being born. He said he knew me and he knew I was a good man and he knew I didn't want to do this." Jimmy looked up at the bridge. "I wanted to say something back to him. I wanted to say I loved my wife and she died and I hold you responsible and, besides, on general principle, you never rat out your friends if you want to live a long life. But I didn't say anything, Dave. I was crying too hard. That's how pathetic it was. He was blubbering, I was blubbering. I could barely see him."

"So why'd you kill him?" Dave said, and there was a desperate keen in his voice.

"I just told you," Jimmy said, like he was explaining himself to a four-year-old. "Principle. I was a twenty-two-year-old widower with a five-year-old daughter. I'd missed the last two years of my wife's life. And fucking Ray, he damn well knew rule number one of our business? you don't rat out your friends."

Dave said, "What is it you think I did, Jimmy? Tell me."

"When I killed Ray," Jimmy said, "I felt, I dunno, I felt the complete lack of myself. I felt like God was staring down at me as I weighted him down and rolled him into that water. And God was just shaking his head. Not mad, really. He was just disgusted but not all that surprised, I guess, the way you'd get when a puppy shits on your rug. I stood right there behind where you're standing now, and I watched Ray sink, you know? His head going under last, and I remember thinking how when I was a kid I used to think that if you swam to the bottom of any body of water, you'd push through the floor and your head would pop out into space. I mean, that's how I pictured the globe, you know? So there I'd be, my head sticking out of the globe, and all that space and stars and black sky around me, and I'd just fall. I'd drop into space and float away, keep floating for a million years, out in all that cold. And when Ray went under, that's what I thought of. That he'd just keep sinking till he popped out through a hole in the planet and sank through a million years of space."

Dave said, "I know you're thinking something here, Jimmy, but you're wrong. You think I killed Katie, don't you? Is that it?"

Jimmy said, "Don't talk, Dave."

"No, no, no," Dave said, noticing the gun in Val's hand suddenly. "I didn't have anything to do with Katie's death."

They're going to kill me, Dave realized. Oh, Jesus, no. This is something you have to be able to prepare for. You don't just step outside a bar to throw up and turn around to realize it's the end of your life. No. I'm supposed to go home. I'm supposed to make things right with Celeste. I'm supposed to eat that meal.

Jimmy reached into his jacked and came back out with a knife in his hand. His hand was trembling a bit as he pulled the blade open. So was his upper lip and part of his chin, Dave realized. There was hope. Don't let the brain freeze up. There's hope.

"You came home the night Katie died with blood all over your clothes, Dave. You told two different stories about how you fucked up your hand, and your car was seen outside the Last Drop around the time Katie left. You lied to the cops and you've been lying to everyone else."

"Look, Jimmy. Please look at me."

Jimmy kept his eyes on the ground.

"Jimmy, I had blood on me, yeah. I beat someone, Jimmy. Beat him bad."

"Oh, is this the mugger story?" Jimmy said.

"No. He was a child molester. He was having sex with a kid in his car. He was a vampire, Jim. He was poisoning that kid."

"So it wasn't a mugger. It was some guy who, I get it, was molesting a kid. Of course, Dave. Sure. You killed this guy?"

"Yeah. Well, me?me and the Boy."

Dave had no idea why he'd said that. He'd never spoken of the Boy. You didn't do that. People didn't understand. Maybe it was the fear. Maybe it was a need for Jimmy to see into his head, to understand that, yes, it was a mess in there, but see me, Jimmy. Realize I'm not the kind of man who'd kill an innocent.

"So, you and the molested kid went and? "

"No," Dave said.

"No what? You said that you and the boy? "

"No, no. Forget that. My head gets fucked up sometimes. I say? "

"No shit," Jimmy said. "So you killed a child molester. You're telling me this, but you don't tell your wife? I would think she'd be the first person you'd tell. Particularly last night, when she told you she didn't believe the mugger story. I mean, why not tell her? Most people don't really mind when a child molester dies, Dave. Your wife was thinking you killed my daughter. And you'd have me believe that you'd have preferred she thought that than think you killed a pedophile. Explain that to me, Dave."

Dave wanted to say, I killed him because I was afraid I was turning into him. If I ate his heart I would subsume and submerge his spirit. But I can't say that aloud. I can't speak that truth. I know I swore today that there'd be no more secrets. But, come on, that secret has to stay one? no matter how many lies I have to tell to keep it buried.

"Come on, Dave. Just tell me why. Why couldn't you tell your own wife the, ah, truth?"

And the best Dave could come up with was "I don't know."

"You don't know. Okay, so in this fairy tale, you and the kid? what's he supposed to be, you when you were a kid?? you and him go and? "

"It was just me," Dave said. "I killed the faceless creature."

"The fucking what?" Val said.

"The guy. The molester. I killed him. Me. Just me. In the parking lot of the Last Drop."

Jimmy said, "I didn't hear of any dead guys found near the Last Drop," and looked over at Val.

Val said, "Letting this bag of shit explain, Jim? What're you kidding me?"

"No, it's the truth," Dave said. "I swear on my son. I put the guy in the trunk of his car. I don't know what happened to the car, but I did, I swear to God. I want to see my wife, Jimmy. I want to live my life." Dave looked up at the dark underside of the bridge, heard the tires slapping away up there, the yellow lights streaming home. "Jimmy? Please, don't take that from me."