Page 112 of Mystic River


Lauren leaned back into him, her head beneath his chin, and Sean could feel her doubt, but also her resolve, her need to rebuild her faith in him. She said, "How scared were you when that kid pointed the gun in your face?"

"The truth?"

"Please."

"Close to losing bladder control."

She craned her head out from underneath his chin and looked at him. "Seriously."

"Yeah," he said.

"Did you think of me?"

"I did," he said. "I thought of both of you."

"What'd you think?"

"I thought of this," he said. "I thought of now."

"The parade, everything?"

He nodded.

She kissed his neck. "You're full of shit, honey, but it's sweet of you to say."

"I'm not lying," he said. "I'm not."

She looked down at Nora. "She's got your eyes."

"And your nose."

She was staring at their baby when she said, "I hope this works."

"Me, too." He kissed her.

They leaned back against the wall together, a steady stream of people passing by along the sidewalk in front of them, and then Celeste suddenly stood before them. Her skin was pale and her hair was speckled with dandruff and she kept pulling on her fingers as if trying to pop them from the sockets.

She blinked at Sean. She said, "Hey, Trooper Devine."

Sean held out his hand because she looked like she needed contact or she'd float away. "Hi, Celeste. Call me Sean. It's okay."

She shook his hand. Her palm was clammy, her fingers hot, and she let go almost as soon as they'd touched.

Sean said, "This is Lauren, my wife."

"Hello," Lauren said.

"Hi."

For a moment, no one knew what to say. They stood there, stilted and untethered, and then Celeste looked across the street and Sean followed her gaze to Jimmy, standing there with his arm around Annabeth, the two of them shining as bright as the day, surrounded by friends and family. They looked like they'd never lose anything again.

Jimmy's eyes swept past Celeste and met Sean's. He nodded in recognition and Sean nodded back.

Celeste said, "He killed my husband."

Sean felt Lauren freeze up against him.

"I know," he said. "I can't prove it yet, but I know."

"Will you?"

"What?"

"Prove it?" she said.

"I'll try, Celeste. I swear to God."

Celeste looked out on the avenue and scratched her head with a lazy ferocity, as if digging for lice. "I can't seem to put a finger on my mind lately." She laughed. "That didn't sound right. But I can't. I just can't."

Sean reached out and touched her wrist. She looked at him, her brown eyes wild and aged. She seemed sure he was going to slap her.

He said, "I can give you the name of a doctor, Celeste, someone who specializes in those who've lost loved ones to violent crime."

She nodded, though his words didn't seem to provide any consolation. Her wrist fell away from his hand, and she tugged at her fingers again. She noticed Lauren watching her, and she looked down at her fingers. She dropped her hands, then raised them again and crossed her arms over her chest and tucked her hands under her elbows as if trying to keep them from flying away. Sean noticed Lauren giving her a small, hesitant smile, one of abject empathy, and he was surprised to see Celeste respond with a tiny smile of her own and an acknowledgment of gratitude in the blink of her eyes.

He loved his wife then as deeply as he ever had, and he felt humbled by her ability to convey instant kinship with lost souls. He was sure then that it was he who had wronged their marriage with the emergence of his cop's ego, his gradual contempt for the flaws and frailty of people.

He reached out and touched Lauren's cheek, and the gesture caused Celeste to look away.

She looked out onto the avenue as a float in the shape of a baseball glove drifted by, ringed on all sides with Little Leaguers and T-ball teams, the kids beaming and waving and going crazy with the adoration.

Something about the float chilled Sean, the way the baseball glove, maybe, seemed less to be cradling the kids and more on the verge of enveloping them, the kids oblivious, smiling like mad.

Except for one. He was subdued and he looked at his cleats, and Sean recognized him immediately. Dave's son.

"Michael!" Celeste waved to him, but the kid didn't look back. He kept his eyes down even though she called his name again. "Michael, honey! Sweetie, look! Michael!"

The float kept drifting along, and Celeste kept calling, and her son refused to look her way. Sean could see a young Dave in the kid's shoulders and the droop of his chin, his almost delicate good looks.

"Michael!" Celeste called. She pulled her fingers again and stepped off the curb.

The float passed them, but Celeste kept following it, moving through the crowds, waving, calling her son's name.

Sean felt Lauren idly caress his arm, and he looked across the street at Jimmy. If it took him the rest of his life, he was going to bring him down. You see me, Jimmy? Come on. Look over again.

And Jimmy's head swiveled. He smiled at Sean.

Sean raised his hand, the index finger pointing out, the thumb cocked like the hammer of a gun, and then he dropped the thumb and fired.

Jimmy's smile broadened.

"Who was that woman?" Lauren said.

Sean watched Celeste as she trotted along the line of parade watchers, growing smaller as the float continued up the avenue, her coat flapping behind her.

"Somebody who lost her husband," Sean said.

And he thought of Dave Boyle, and he wished he'd bought him that beer like he'd promised on the second day of the investigation. He wished he'd been nicer to him when they were kids, and that Dave's father hadn't left him, and his mother hadn't been nuts, and that so many bad things hadn't happened to him. Standing along the parade route with his wife and child, he wished a lot of things for Dave Boyle. But peace mostly. More than anything, he hoped Dave, wherever he was, got a little of that.

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