Page 104 of Mystic River


Jimmy lowered the gun.

Thank you, Dave said. Thank you, thank you.

Dave lay back and saw the shafts of light streaming across the bridge, cutting through the black of night, glowing. Thank you, Jimmy. I'm going to be a good man now. You've taught me something. You have. And I'll tell you what that something is as soon as I've caught my breath. I'm going to be a good father. I'm going to be a good husband. I promise. I swear?

Val said, "So, okay. It's done."

Jimmy looked down at Dave's body, the canyon he'd cut in his abdomen, the bullet hole he'd fired through his forehead. He kicked off his shoes and took off his jacket. Next, he removed the turtleneck and khakis he'd stained with Dave's blood. He shed the nylon running suit he'd worn underneath and added it to the pile beside Dave's body. He heard Val place the cinder blocks and length of chain in Huey's boat, and then Val came back with a large green trash bag. Underneath the running suit, Jimmy wore a T-shirt and jeans, and Val pulled a pair of shoes from the trash bag and tossed them to him. Jimmy slid them on and checked the T-shirt and jeans for any blood that might have leaked through. But there was none. Even the jogging suit was barely stained.

He knelt by Val and stuffed his clothes into the bag. Then he took the knife and the gun to the edge of the wharf and threw them one at a time out into the center of the Mystic River. He could have placed them in the bag with his clothes, tossed them off the boat later along with Dave's body, but for some reason he needed to do it now, to experience the motion of his arm as it shot out into the air and the weapons spiraled, arced, plummeted, and sank with soft splashes.

He knelt over the water. Dave's vomit had long since floated away, and Jimmy plunged his hands into the river, oily and polluted as it was, and washed his hands of Dave's blood. Sometimes, in his dreams, he was doing this very thing? washing himself in the Mystic? when Just Ray Harris's head would pop back up, stare at him.

Just Ray always said the same thing. "You can't outrun a train."

And Jimmy, confused, said, "No one can, Ray."

Just Ray, starting to sink again, smiled. "You in particular, though."

Thirteen years of those dreams, thirteen years of Ray's head bobbing on the water, and Jimmy still didn't know what the hell he meant by that.

27

WHO DO YOU LOVE?

BRENDAN'S MOTHER had gone out to Bingo by the time he got home. She left a note: "Chicken in fridge. Glad you're okay. Don't make a habit of it."

Brendan checked his and Ray's room, but Ray was out, too, and Brendan took a chair from the kitchen and placed it down in front of the butler's pantry. He stepped up on the chair and it sagged to the left where one of the legs was missing a bolt. He looked at the ceiling slat and saw the smudge marks of fingers in the dust, and the air directly in front of his eyes began to swim with tiny dark specks. He pressed his right palm against the slat, lifted it slightly. He brought his hand down, wiped it on his pants, and took several breaths.

There were some things you didn't want to know the answers to. Brendan had never wanted to run into his father once he was grown because he didn't want to look in his father's face and see how easy it had been to leave him. He'd never asked Katie about old boyfriends, even Bobby O'Donnell, because he didn't want to picture her lying on top of someone else, kissing him the way she kissed Brendan.

Brendan knew about the truth. In most cases, it was just a matter of deciding whether you wanted to look it in the face or live with the comfort of ignorance or lies. And ignorance and lies were often underrated. Most people Brendan knew couldn't make it through the day without a saucerful of ignorance and a side of lies.

But this, this truth had to be faced. Because he'd already faced it in the holding cell, and it had sliced through him like a bullet and lodged in his stomach. And it wasn't coming out, which meant he couldn't hide from it, couldn't tell himself it wasn't there. Ignorance was not a possibility. Lying was no longer an accessible part of the equation.

"Shit," Brendan said, and pushed the ceiling slat aside and reached back into the darkness, his fingers touching dust and chips of wood and more dust, but no gun. He felt around up there for another full minute, even though he knew it was gone. His father's gun, and it wasn't where it was supposed to be. It was out in the world, and it had killed Katie.

He put the slat back in place. He got a dustpan and swept up the dust that had fallen to the floor. He took the chair back to the kitchen. He felt a need to be precise in his movements. He felt it was important that he remain calm. He poured himself a glass of orange juice and placed it on the table. He sat down in the chair with the sagging leg and turned so that he was looking at the door in the center of the apartment. He took a sip of his orange juice and waited for Ray.

* * *

"LOOK AT THIS," Sean said, pulling the latent prints file from the box and opening it in front of Whitey. "That's the cleanest one they pulled off the door. It's small because it's a kid's."

Whitey said, "Old Lady Prior heard two kids playing on the street just before Katie banged her car up. Playing with hockey sticks, she said."

"She said she heard Katie say 'Hi.' Maybe it wasn't Katie. A little kid's voice could sound like a woman's. And no footprints? Of course not. What do they weigh? a hundred pounds?"

"You recognize that kid's voice?"

"Sounded a lot like Johnny O'Shea's."

Whitey nodded. "The other kid not saying anything at all."

"Because he can't fucking speak," Sean said.

* * *

"HEY, RAY," Brendan said as the two boys entered the apartment.

Ray nodded. Johnny O'Shea waved. They started heading back toward the bedroom.

"Come on in here a sec, Ray."

Ray looked at Johnny.

"Just a second, Ray. I got something I want to ask you."

Ray turned and Johnny O'Shea dropped the gym bag he'd been carrying and sat on the edge of Mrs. Harris's bed. Ray came down the short hall into the kitchen and held out his hands, looked at his brother like "What?"

Brendan hooked a chair with his foot and pulled it out from under the table, nodded at it.

Ray's head tilted up as if he smelled something in the air, a scent he wasn't fond of. He looked at the chair. He looked at Brendan.

He signed, "What did I do?"

"You tell me," Brendan said.

"I didn't do anything."

"So sit down."

"I don't want to."

"Why not?"

Ray shrugged.

Brendan said, "Who do you hate, Ray?"

Ray looked at him like he was nuts.

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