"What's that?" The cop cupped a hand behind his ear.
"A pack of punks, huh? That what you are?" He jerked his big thumb back at the man in the passenger seat. "Me and my partner, we've had our fill of you East Bucky punks scaring decent people off the street. You know?"
Sean and Jimmy didn't say anything.
"We're sorry," Dave Boyle said, and looked like he was about to cry.
"You kids from this street?" the big cop asked. His eyes scanned the homes on the left side of the street like he knew every occupant, would bag them if they lied.
"Yup," Jimmy said, and looked back over his shoulder at Sean's house.
"Yes, sir," Sean said.
Dave didn't say anything.
The cop looked down at him. "Huh? You say something, kid?"
"What?" Dave looked at Jimmy.
"Don't look at him. Look at me." The big cop breathed loudly through his nostrils. "You live here, kid?"
"No?" The cop bent over Dave. "Where you live, son?"
"Rester Street." Still looking at Jimmy.
"Flats trash in the Point?" The cop's cherry-red lips swiveled as if he were sucking a lollipop. "That can't be good for business, can it?"
"Your mother home?"
"Yes, sir." A tear fell down Dave's cheek and Sean and Jimmy looked away.
"Well, we're going to have a talk with her, tell her what her punk kid's been up to."
"I don't?I don't?" Dave blubbered.
"Get in." The cop opened up the back door and Sean caught a whiff of apples, a sharp, October scent.
Dave looked at Jimmy.
"Get in," the cop said. "Or you want I should throw the cuffs on you?"
"What?" The cop sounded pissed now. He slapped the top of the open door. "Get the fuck inside."
Dave climbed into the backseat, bawling.
The cop pointed a stubby finger at Jimmy and Sean. "Go tell your mothers what you been up to. And don't let me catch you shits fighting on my streets again."
Jimmy and Sean stepped back, and the cop hopped in his car and drove off. They watched it reach the corner and then turn right, Dave's head, darkened by distance and shadows, looking back at them. And then the street was empty again, seemed to have gone mute with the slam of the car door. Jimmy and Sean stood where the car had been, looked at their feet, up and down the street, anywhere but at each other.
Sean got that lurching sensation again, this time accompanied by the taste of dirty pennies in his mouth. His stomach felt as if a spoon had hollowed it out.
Then Jimmy said it:
"You started it."
"He started it."
"You did. Now he's screwed. His mother's soft in the head. No telling what she'll do two cops bring him home."
"I didn't start it."
Jimmy pushed him, and Sean pushed back this time, and then they were on the ground, rolling around, punching each other.
Sean rolled off Jimmy and they both stood up, expecting to see the two cops again but seeing Mr. Devine instead, coming down the front steps toward them.
"The hell you two doing?"
"Nothing." Sean's father frowned as he reached the sidewalk. "Get out of the middle of the street."
They reached the sidewalk beside him.
"Weren't there three of you?" Mr. Devine looked up the street. "Where's Dave?"
"Dave." Sean's father looked at Sean and Jimmy. "Wasn't Dave with you?"
"We were fighting in the street."
"We were fighting in the street and the cops came."
"When was this?"
"Like five minutes ago."
"Okay. So, the cops came."
"And they picked Dave up."
Sean's father looked up and down the street again. "They what? They picked him up?"
"To take him home. I lied. I said I lived here. Dave said he lived in the Flats, and they? "
"What are you talking about? Sean, what'd the cops look like?"
"Were they wearing uniforms?"
"No. No, they? "
"Then how'd you know they were cops?"
"I didn't. They?"
"He had a badge," Jimmy said. "On his belt."
"What kind of badge?"
"Okay. But what'd it say on it?"
"The words. Were there words you could read?"
"No. I don't know."
They all looked up at Sean's mother standing on the porch, her face tight and curious.
"Hey, honey? Call the police station, all right? See if any detectives would have picked up a kid for fighting on this street."
"Oh, Jesus. His mother."
"Let's hold off on that. Okay? Let's just see what the police say. Right?"
Sean's mother went back inside. Sean looked at his father. He didn't seem to know where to put his hands. He put them in his pockets, then he pulled them out, wiped them on his pants. He said, "I'll be damned," very softly, and he looked down to the end of the street as if Dave hovered at the corner, a dancing mirage just beyond Sean's field of vision.
"It was brown," Jimmy said.
"The car. It was dark brown. Like a Plymouth, I think."
Sean tried to picture it, but he couldn't. He could see it only as something that had blocked his vision, not entered it. It had obscured Mrs. Ryan's orange Pinto and the lower half of her hedges, but Sean couldn't see the car itself.
"It smelled like apples," he said.
"Like apples. The car smelled like apples."
"It smelled like apples," his father said.
* * *
AN HOUR LATER, in Sean's kitchen, two other cops asked Sean and Jimmy a bunch of questions, and then a third guy showed up and drew sketches of the men in the brown car based on what Jimmy and Sean told them. The big blond cop looked meaner on the sketch pad, his face even bigger, but otherwise it was him. The second guy, the one who'd kept his eyes on the side-view, didn't look much like anything at all, a blur with black hair really, because Sean and Jimmy couldn't remember him too well.