"A gang or something?" Whitey said eventually.
"Or something," she said. "I don't know, Sergeant. I'm just going on your report. I can't for the life of me understand why this woman, who apparently was faster than her attacker, would elect not to just run right back out of the park unless she thought someone else was flanking her."
Whitey hung his head. "All due respect, ma'am, but there'd have been a hell of a lot more physical evidence on-scene in such a scenario."
"You yourself cite the rain in your report several times."
"Yes," Whitey said. "But if you got a gang of people? or hell, even two? chasing Katherine Marcus, we're going to see more than we did. At least a few more footprints. Something, ma'am."
Maggie Mason put her glasses back on and looked down at the report in her hand. Eventually, she said, "It's a theory, Sergeant. One that I think, on the basis of your own report, bears looking into."
Whitey kept his head down, though Sean could feel the contempt rising off his shoulders like sewer gas.
"What about it, Sergeant?" Friel said.
Whitey raised his head and gave them an exhausted smile. "I'll bear it in mind. I will. But gang activity in that neighborhood's at an all-time low. We pass on that, then we consider two guys as the perps, which brings us back to the possibility of a contract hit."
"But if that's the case? and we all agreed at the outset here today that it was a long shot? then the second shooter would have emptied his piece the moment Katherine Marcus hit his partner with the door. The only way this makes sense is if it's one shooter and a panicked, drunken woman maybe growing faint with blood loss, not thinking clearly, and having a lot of bad luck."
"But you'll bear my theory in mind, of course," Maggie Mason said with a bitter smile, her eyes on the table.
"I will," Whitey said. "I'll take anything right about now. Honest to God. She knew her killer. Okay. Anyone with a reasonably logical motive, thus far, has been all but discounted. Every minute more that we work this case, it seems all that more likely the attack was random. The rain destroyed two-thirds of our physical evidence, the Marcus girl didn't have enemy-goddamned-one, no financial secrets, no drug dependency, nor was she a witness to any crimes on record. Her murder, as far as we can tell, benefited no one."
"Except O'Donnell," Burke said, "who didn't want her leaving town."
"Except him," Whitey agreed. "But his alibi's tight and it doesn't look like a hit. So who's that leave for enemies? No one."
"And yet she's dead," Friel said.
"And yet she's dead," Whitey said. "Which is why I'm thinking it's random. You take away money or love and hate as possible motives, you're not left with much. You're left with some dumb fucking stalker type who might have a Web site devoted to the victim or something stupid like that."
Friel raised his eyebrows.
Shira Rosenthal chimed in: "We're already checking that, sir. So far, nada."
"So you don't know what you're looking for," Friel said eventually.
"Sure," Whitey said. "A guy with a gun. Oh, yeah, and a stick."
WORDS HE ONCE KNEW
AFTER HE'D LEFT DAVE on the porch, his face and eyes dry again, Jimmy took his second shower of the day. He could feel it in there with him, that need to weep. It welled up inside his chest like a balloon until he grew short of breath.
He'd gone into the shower because he wanted privacy in case it flooded out of him in gushes, as opposed to the few drops that had slid down his cheeks on the porch. He feared he might turn into a trembling puddle, end up weeping like he'd wept in the dark of his bedroom as a little boy, certain his being born had nearly killed his mother and that's why his father hated him.
In the shower, he felt it coming again? that old wave of sadness, the one that felt ancient and had been with him since he could remember, an awareness that tragedy loomed somewhere in his future, tragedy as heavy as limestone blocks. As if an angel had told him his future while he was still in the womb, and Jimmy had emerged from his mother with the angel's words planted somewhere in his mind, but faded from his lips.
Jimmy raised his eyes to the shower spray. He said without speaking: I know in my soul I contributed to my child's death. I can feel it. But I don't know how.
And the calm voice said, You will.
I wasn't finished.
The knowledge will come.
And damn me?
That's your choice.
Jimmy lowered his head and thought of Dave seeing Katie not long before she'd died. Katie alive and drunk and dancing. Dancing and happy.
It was this knowledge? that someone other than Jimmy possessed an image of Katie that postdated Jimmy's own? that had finally allowed him to weep in the first place.
The last time Jimmy had seen her, Katie had been walking out of the store at the end of her Saturday shift. It had been five past four, and Jimmy had been on the phone with his Frito-Lay vendor, placing orders and distracted, as Katie leaned in to kiss his cheek and said, "Later, Daddy."
"Later," he'd said, and watched her walk out of the back room.
But, no. That was bullshit. He hadn't watched her. He'd heard her walk out, but his eyes had been on the order sheet lying in front of him on the desk blotter.
So really, his final visual image of her had been of the side of her face as she'd pulled her lips from his cheek and said, "Later, Daddy."
Jimmy realized it was the "later"? the later part of the evening, the later minutes of her life? that would stab him. If he'd been there, if he'd been able to share a little more time a little later into the evening with his daughter, maybe he'd be able to hold on to a more recent image of her.
But he wouldn't. Dave would. And Eve and Diane. And her killer.
If you had to die, Jimmy thought, if such things really are preordained, then I wish that somehow you could have died looking into my face. It would have hurt me to watch you die, Katie, but at least I would know that you felt a little less alone looking into my eyes.
I love you. I love you so much. I love you, in truth, more than I loved your mother, more than I love your sisters, more than I love Annabeth, so help me God. And I love them deeply, but I love you most because when I came back from prison and sat with you in the kitchen, we were the last two people on earth. Forgotten and unwanted. And we were both so afraid and confused and so utterly fucking forlorn. But we rose from that, didn't we? We built our lives into something good enough so that one day we weren't afraid, we weren't forlorn. And I couldn't have done that without you. I couldn't have. I'm not that strong.