"One of those stupid things," Dave said. "The ways you can manage to hurt yourself, right?"
Jimmy was looking into his face now, the hand forgotten, and Jimmy's features softening. He said, "It's good to see you, man."
Dave almost said, Really?
In the twenty-five years he'd known Jimmy, Dave could never remember a time he'd felt Jimmy was happy to see him. Sometimes, he'd felt Jimmy didn't mind seeing him, but that wasn't the same thing. Even after they'd rotated back into each other's lives when they'd married women who were first cousins, Jimmy had never once given an indication he could remember when he and Dave had been anything but the most casual of acquaintances. After a while, Dave had begun to accept Jimmy's version of their relationship as fact.
They had never been friends. They had never played stickball and kick-the-can and 76 on Rester Street. They had never spent a year of Saturdays hanging with Sean Devine, playing war in the gravel pits off Harvest, jumping roof to roof from the industrial garages near Pope Park, watching Jaws together at the Charles, huddled down in their seats and screaming. They had never practiced skids on their bikes together or argued over who would be Starsky, who would be Hutch, and who would get stuck being Kolchak from The Night Stalker. They had never cracked up their sleds during the same kamikaze run down Somerset Hill in the first days after the '75 blizzard. That car had never driven up Gannon Street, smelling of apples.
Yet here was Jimmy Marcus, the day after his daughter was found dead, saying it was good to see you, Dave, and Dave? as he had two hours before with Sean? could feel that it was.
"Good to see you, too, Jim."
"How are our girls holding up?" Jimmy said, and the playful smile almost reached his eyes.
"They're okay, I guess. Where are Nadine and Sara?"
"With Theo. Hey, man, thank Celeste for me, would you? She's been a godsend today."
"Jimmy, you don't have to thank anyone, man. Whatever we can do, me and Celeste are happy to."
"I know that." Jimmy reached across and squeezed Dave's forearm. "Thank you."
At that moment, Dave would have lifted a house for Jimmy, held it up to his chest until Jimmy told him where to put it down.
And he almost forgot why he'd come out here on the porch in the first place: He needed to tell Jimmy he'd seen Katie on Saturday night at McGills. He needed to get that information out or else he'd keep putting it off and by the time he finally did say something, Jimmy would wonder why he hadn't told him sooner. He needed to speak before Jimmy heard about it from someone else.
"Know who I saw today?"
"Who?" Jimmy said.
"Sean Devine," Dave said. "Member him?"
"Sure," Jimmy said. "I still got his glove."
Jimmy waved it off with a shake of his hand. "He's a cop now. He's actually investigating Katie's?Well, he's working the case, I guess they call it."
"Yeah," Dave said. "He dropped by my place."
"He did?" Jimmy said. "Huh. What was he doing at your place, Dave?"
Dave tried to make it sound offhand, casual. "I was in McGills Saturday night. Katie was there. I showed up on a list of people who were in the place."
"Katie was there," Jimmy said, his eyes staring off the porch and growing small. "You saw Katie Saturday night, Dave? My Katie?"
"I mean, yeah, Jim, I was in the place and so was she. And then she left with her two friends and? "
"Diane and Eve?"
"Yeah, those girls she was always hanging with. They left and that was it."
"That was it," Jimmy said, staring far away.
"Well, I mean, as far as I saw of her. But, you know, I was on a list."
"You were on a list, right." Jimmy smiled, but not at Dave, at something he must have seen in that far-off gaze of his. "You talk to her at all that night?"
"Katie? No, Jim. I was watching the game with Stanley the Giant. I just nodded hello, you know. Next time I looked up, she was gone."
Jimmy sat silently for a bit, sucking up air through his nostrils and nodding to himself a few times. Eventually, he looked at Dave and smiled a broken smile.
"What?" Dave said.
"Sitting out here. Just sitting. It's nice."
"Just to sit and look out at the neighborhood," Jimmy said. "You're on the go your whole life with work and kids and, shit, except when you're sleeping, you hardly have any time to slow down. Today, right? An out-of-the-ordinary day if ever there was one, but still I have to deal with details. I gotta call Pete and Sal and make sure they cover the store. I gotta make sure the girls are clean and dressed when they wake up. I gotta watch out for my wife, see she's holding up, you know?" He gave Dave a loopy smile and leaned forward, rocking a bit, his hands clenched into one big fist. "I gotta shake hands and accept condolences and find room in the fridge for all the food and beer and put up with my father-in-law, and then I got to call the medical examiner's office, find out when they'll be releasing my child's body because I need to make arrangements with Reed's Funeral Home and Father Vera at Saint Cecilia's, find a caterer for the wake and a hall for after the funeral and? "
"Jimmy," Dave said, "we can do some of that."
But Jimmy just kept going like Dave wasn't there.
"? I can't screw any of this up, can't screw up one fucking detail, or she dies all over again and all anyone remembers of her life ten years from now is that her funeral was fucked up, and I can't let that be what people remember? you know?? because Katie, man, one thing you could say about her since the time she was, like, six is that the girl was neat, she took care of her clothes, and so it's okay, it's almost nice, right, to come out here and just sit, just sit and look at the neighborhood and try and think of something about Katie that'll make me cry, because, Dave, I swear, it's starting to piss me off I haven't cried yet for her, my own daughter, and I can't fucking cry."
"You're crying now."
"Feel your face, man."
Jimmy reached up and touched the tears on his cheekbones. He took his hand away and looked at the wet fingers for a bit.
"Damn," he said.
"You want me to leave you alone?"
"No, Dave. No. Sit here for a bit if that's cool."
"That's cool, Jim. That's cool."