Page 106 of Mystic River

He focused on the empty face before him. He said, "You see that guy to your left, Johnny? The one in the doorway?"

Johnny's eyes darted fast to his left. "Yeah."

"He doesn't want to shoot you. He doesn't."

"Don't care if he does," Johnny said, but Sean could see it got to the kid, his eyes getting rabbity now, jerking up and down.

"But if you shoot me, he has no choice."

"Ain't afraid of dying."

"I know that. Thing is, though? He won't shoot you in the head or nothing. We don't kill kids, man. But if he shoots you from where he's standing, you know where that bullet's going to go?"

Sean kept his eyes on Johnny, even though his head seemed to be magnetized to the gun in the kid's hand, wanting to look down on it, see where the trigger was, if the kid was pulling on it at all, Sean thinking, I don't want to get shot, and I definitely don't want to get shot by a kid. He couldn't think of a more pathetic way to go. He could feel Brendan, ten feet to his left and frozen, probably thinking the same thing.

Johnny licked his lips.

"It's going to go through your armpit and into your spine, man. It's going to paralyze you. You'll be like those kids on those Jimmy Fund commercials. You know the ones. Sitting in the wheelchair, all frozen up on one side, head hanging off the chair. You'll be a drooler, Johnny. People will have to hold the cup up beside your head so you can suck from the straw."

Johnny made up his mind. Sean could see it, as if a light had clicked off in the kid's dark brain, and Sean felt the fear seize him now, knew this kid was going to pull the trigger if only to hear the sound.

"My fucking nose, man," Johnny said, and turned toward Brendan.

Sean heard his own breath pop out of his mouth in surprise, and he looked down to see that gun sweeping away from his body, as if revolving on top of a tripod. He reached out so fast it was as if someone else was controlling his arms, and closed his hand over the gun as Whitey stepped into the room, Glock pointed at the kid's chest. A sound came out of the kid's mouth? a gasp of defeated surprise as if he'd opened a Christmas present to find a soiled gym sock inside? and Sean pushed the kid's forehead back against the wall and stripped the gun from him.

Sean said, "Motherfucker," and blinked at Whitey through the sweat in his eyes.

Johnny started to cry the way only a thirteen-year-old could, as if the whole world was sitting on his face.

Sean turned him to the wall and pulled his hands behind his back, saw Brendan finally take a deep breath, his lips and arms trembling, Ray Harris standing behind him in a kitchen that looked like it had been hit by a cyclone.

Whitey stepped up behind Sean, put a hand on his shoulder. "How you doing?"

"Kid was going to do it," Sean said, feeling the sweat that drenched every inch of his clothes, even his socks.

"No, I wasn't," Johnny wailed. "I was just kidding."

"Fuck you," Whitey said, and leaned his face into the kid's. "Nobody cares about your tears but your mommy, little bitch. Get used to it."

Sean snapped the cuffs on Johnny O'Shea and took him by the shirt, led him into the kitchen, and dropped him in a chair.

Whitey said, "Ray, you look like someone threw you from the back of a truck."

Ray looked at his brother.

Brendan leaned against the oven and his body was sagging so bad, Sean figured he'd fall over in a light breeze.

"We know," Sean said.

"What do you know?" Brendan whispered.

Sean looked at the kid sniffling in the chair and the other kid, mute, looking up at them like he hoped they'd leave soon so he could get back to playing Doom in the back bedroom. Sean was pretty sure once he got a sign language interpreter and a social worker and questioned them that they'd say they did it "because." Because they had the gun. Because they were there on the street when she drove up it. Maybe because Ray had never really liked her. Because it seemed like a cool idea. Because they'd never killed anyone before. Because when you had your finger curled around a trigger, you just had to pull it or otherwise that finger would itch for weeks.

"What do you know?" Brendan repeated, his voice gone hoarse and wet.

Sean shrugged. He wished he had an answer for Brendan, but looking at these two kids, nothing came to mind. Nothing at all.

* * *

JIMMY TOOK A BOTTLE with him to Gannon Street. There was an assisted-living home for the elderly at the end of the street, a chunk of 1960s limestone and granite that was two stories tall and ran half a block down Heller Court, the street that began where Gannon ended. Jimmy sat on the white front steps and looked back down Gannon. He'd heard they were kicking the old people out of here, actually, the Point having grown so popular that the owner of the building was going to sell to a guy who specialized in starter condos for young couples. The Point was gone, really. It had always been the snobby sister of the Flats, but now it was like it wasn't even in the same family. Pretty soon, they'd probably draw up a charter, get the name changed, carve it off the Buckingham map.

Jimmy took the pint from his jacket and sipped some bourbon, looked at the spot where they'd last seen Dave Boyle that day the men had taken him, his head looking back through the rear window, covered in shadow, gone soft with distance.

I wish it hadn't been you, Dave. I really do.

He raised the pint to Katie. Daddy got him, honey. Daddy put him down.

"Talking to yourself?"

Jimmy looked over and saw Sean climbing out of his car. Sean had a roadie beer in his hand and he smiled at Jimmy's pint. "What's your excuse?"

"Tough night," Jimmy said.

Sean nodded. "Me, too. Saw a bullet with my name on it."

Jimmy slid to the side, and Sean sat down beside him. "How'd you know to look for me here?"

"Your wife said you might be here."

"My wife?" Jimmy had never told her about his trips here. Christ, she was a real piece of work.

"Yeah. Jimmy, we made a bust today."

Jimmy took a long pull from the bottle, his chest fluttering. "A bust."

"Yeah. We got your daughter's killers. Got 'em cold."

"Killers?" Jimmy said. "Plural?"

Sean nodded. "Kids, actually. Thirteen years old. Ray Harris's son, Ray junior, and a kid named Johnny O'Shea. They confessed half an hour ago."

Jimmy felt a knife enter his brain through the ear and push toward the other side. A hot knife, slicing away through his skull.

"No question?" he said.

"None," Sean said.