Page 47 of Mystic River


Sean said, "What?"


"Marcus said you guys almost got in some car when you were kids."

"We?" Sean reached up by the dashboard and adjusted the side-view mirror until he could see the stream of headlights glowing behind them, fuzzy yellow dots bouncing slightly in the night, shimmying. "We, shit, well, there was this car. Me and Jimmy and a kid named Dave Boyle were playing out in front of my house. We were, like, eleven. And anyway, this car came up the street and took Dave away."

"An abduction?"

Sean nodded, keeping his eyes on those shimmying yellow lights. "Guys pretended to be cops. They convinced Dave to get in the car. Jimmy and me didn't. They had Dave four days. He managed to escape. Lives in the Flats now."

"They catch the guys?"

"One died, the other got busted about a year later, went the noose route in his cell."

"Man," Whitey said, "I wish there was an island, you know? Like in that old Steve McQueen movie where he was supposed to be French and everyone had an accent but him? He's just Steve McQueen with a French name. Jumps off the cliff at the end with the raft made of coconuts? You ever see that?"

"No."

"Good movie. But, like, if they had an island just for baby-rapers and chicken hawks? Just airlift food in a few times a week, fill the water with mines. No one gets off. First-time offenders, fuck you, you get life on the island. Sorry, fellas, just can't risk you getting out and poisoning someone else. 'Cause it's a transmittable disease, you know? You get it 'cause someone did it to you. And you go and pass it on. Like leprosy. I figure we put 'em all on this island, less chance they can pass it on. Each generation, we have fewer and fewer of them. A few hundred years, we turn the island into Club Med or something. Kids hear about these freaks the way they hear about ghosts now, as something we've, I dunno, evolved beyond."

Sean said, "Shit, Sarge, what're you, deep all of a sudden?"

Whitey grinned and turned onto the expressway ramp.

"Your buddy Marcus," he said. "Moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he'd done time. They never lose that tension, you know? In their shoulders mostly. Spend two years watching your own back, every second of every day, the tension's gotta settle somewhere."

"He just lost his daughter, man. Maybe that's what settled in his shoulders."

Whitey shook his head. "No. That's in his stomach right now. You see how he kept grimacing? That's the loss sitting in his stomach, turning it to acid. Seen it a million times. The shoulders, though, that's prison."

Sean turned from the rearview, watched the lights on the other side of the highway for a bit. They came in their direction like bullet eyes, streaked past them like hazy ribbons, blurring into one another. He felt the city girded all around them, with its high-rises and tenements and office towers and parking garages, arenas and nightclubs and churches, and he knew that if one of those lights went out, it wouldn't make any difference. And if a new light came on, no one would notice. And yet, they pulsed and glowed and shimmied and flared and stared at you, just like now? staring in at his and Whitey's own lights as they blipped past on the expressway, just one more set of red and yellow lights streaking along amid a current of red and yellow lights that blipped, blipped, blipped through an unremarkable Sunday dusk.

Toward where?

Toward the extinguished lights, dummy. Toward the shattered glass.

* * *

AFTER MIDNIGHT, once Annabeth and the girls had finally gone to sleep and Annabeth's cousin Celeste, who'd come by as soon as she'd heard, had started dozing on the couch, Jimmy went downstairs and sat on the front porch of the three-decker he shared with the Savage brothers.

He brought Sean's glove with him and he slipped it over his hand even though he couldn't get his thumb in there and the heel of the glove stopped in the middle of his palm. He sat looking out at the four lanes of Buckingham Avenue and tossed a ball into the webbing, the soft thwack of leather against leather calming something in him.

Jimmy had always liked sitting out here at night. The storefronts across the avenue were closed and mostly dark. At night, a hush fell over an area where commercial business was conducted during the day, and it was a hush unlike any other. The noise that normally ruled the daytime wasn't gone, it was merely sucked up, as if into a pair of lungs, and then held, waiting to be expelled. He trusted that hush, warmed to it, because it promised the return of the noise, even as it held it captive. Jimmy couldn't imagine living somewhere rural, where the hush was the noise, where silence was delicate and shattered upon touch.

But he did like this hush, this rumbling stillness. Up until now, the evening had seemed so noisy, so violent with voices and the weeping of his wife and daughters. Sean Devine had sent over two detectives, Brackett and Rosenthal, to search Katie's room with embarrassed eyes cast downward, whispering to Jimmy their apologies as they searched drawers and under the bed and mattress, Jimmy wishing they'd just speed it up, stop fucking talking to him. In the end, they didn't find anything unusual outside of seven hundred dollars in new bills in Katie's sock drawer. They'd shown it to Jimmy along with her bank book? stamped "Closed"? the final withdrawal having been made Friday afternoon.

Jimmy had no answer for them. It was a surprise to him. But given all the other surprises of the day, it had very little effect. It just added to the general numbness.

"We can kill him."

Val stepped out onto the porch and handed Jimmy a beer. He sat down beside him, his feet bare on the steps.

"O'Donnell?"

Val nodded. "I'd like to. You know, Jim?"

"You think he killed Katie."

Val nodded. "Or had someone else do it. Don't you? Her girlfriends sure thought so. They say Roman rolled up on them in a bar, threatened Katie."

"Threatened?"

"Well, gave her some shit anyway, like she was still O'Donnell's girl. Come on, Jimmy, it had to be Bobby."

Jimmy said, "I don't know that for sure yet."

"What'll you do when you do know?"

Jimmy put the baseball glove on the step below him and opened his beer. He took a long, slow drink from it. "I don't know that, either."

14

AIN'T EVER GOING TO FEEL THAT AGAIN

THEY WENT at it all night and into the morning? Sean, Whitey Powers, Souza and Connolly, two other members of the State Homicide Unit, Brackett and Rosenthal, plus a legion of troopers and CSS techs, photographers and medical examiners? everyone banging at the case like a steel box. They'd scraped every leaf in the park for evidence. They'd filled notebooks with diagrams and field reports. The troopers had conducted the house-to-house Q & A's of every house within walking distance of the park, filled a van with vagrants from the park and the burned-out shells on Sydney. They searched through the backpack they'd found in Katie Marcus's car and come up with the usual shit before finding a brochure for Las Vegas and a list of Vegas hotels on lined yellow paper.

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