You would have grown into a beautiful woman. A beautiful wife, maybe. A miracle of a mother. You were my friend, Katie. You saw my fear, and you didn't run. I love you more than life. And missing you will be my cancer. It will kill me.
And just for a moment, standing in the shower, Jimmy felt her palm on his back. That's what he'd forgotten of his final moment with her. She'd placed her hand on his back as she'd leaned in to kiss his cheek. She'd placed it flat against the spine, between the shoulder blades, and it had felt warm.
He stood in the shower with the touch of her hand lingering on his beaded flesh, and he felt the need to weep pass. He felt strong in his grief again. He felt loved by his daughter.
* * *
WHITEY AND SEAN found a parking space around the corner from Jimmy's place and walked back up onto Buckingham Avenue. The late afternoon was turning cool around them, the sky darkening toward navy, and Sean found himself wondering what Lauren was doing right now, if she was near a window, could see the same sky he saw at the same moment, feel a chill advancing.
Just before they reached the three-decker where Jimmy and his wife lived sandwiched between various Savage lunatics and their wives or girlfriends, they saw Dave Boyle leaning into the open passenger side of a Honda parked out front. Dave reached into the glove compartment and then snapped it shut, leaned back out of the car with a wallet in his hand. He noticed Sean and Whitey as he locked the car door, and he smiled at them.
"You two again."
"We're like flu," Whitey said. "Always popping up."
Sean said, "How's it going, Dave?"
"Not much has changed in four hours. You dropping in on Jimmy?"
"Did you have some kind of, what, break in the case?"
Sean shook his head. "Just dropping in to pay our respects, see how they're doing."
"They're okay right now. I think they're worn out, you know? Far as I can tell, Jimmy hasn't gone to bed since yesterday. Annabeth got a craving for cigarettes, so I offered to pick some up, forgot I'd left my wallet in the car." He held it up in his swollen hand, then slipped it into his pocket.
Whitey put his own hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels, a tight smile on his face.
Sean said, "That looks painful."
"This?" Dave raised his hand again, considered it. "Ain't too bad, really."
Sean nodded, added his own tight smile to Whitey's, the two of them standing there, looking in at Dave.
"I was playing pool the other night?" Dave said. "You know the table they got at McGills, Sean. A good half of it is against the wall, you got to keep using that shitty short stick."
Sean said, "Sure."
"So the cue ball's lying just a hair off the rail, and the target ball's the other end of the table. I pull back my hand to shoot, like really hard, forgetting I'm against the wall? And bam! My hand goes through the fucking wall almost."
"Ouch," Sean said.
"You make it?" Whitey said.
Dave frowned. "Scratched. 'Course I was no good for the rest of the game."
"'Course not," Whitey said.
"Yeah," Dave said. "Sucked, 'cause I was in the zone until that happened."
Whitey nodded, looked over at Dave's car. "Hey, you have the same problem I had with mine?"
Dave looked back at his car. "Never had a problem with mine, no."
"Shit. The timing chain on my Accord went at sixty-five thousand on the nose. I find out the same thing happened to another buddy of mine. What it costs to fix ain't much less than the Blue Book, damn near totals the car. You know?"
Dave said, "Nope. Mine's been a dream." He looked over his shoulder, then back at them. "I'm going to go get those smokes. See you guys inside?"
"See you there," Sean said, and gave Dave a small wave before Dave stepped off the curb and crossed the avenue.
Whitey looked at the Honda. "Nice dent over the front quarter panel there."
Sean said, "Gee, Sarge, wasn't sure you'd noticed."
"And the pool stick story?" Whitey whistled. "What? he's holding the butt of the stick against his palm?"
"Got a problem, though," Sean said as they watched Dave enter Eagle Liquors.
"Yeah, what's that, Supercop?"
"If you make Dave for the guy Souza's witness saw in the parking lot of the Last Drop, then he was kicking someone else's head in when Katie Marcus was killed."
Whitey gave him a disappointed grimace. "You think so? I make him for a guy sitting in a parking lot when a girl who would die half an hour later left the bar. I make him for someone who wasn't home at one-fifteen like he said."
Through the glass storefront, they could see Dave at the counter, talking to the clerk.
Whitey said, "The blood CSS scraped off the ground in the parking lot could have been there for days. We got no proof anything ever happened there but a bar fight. Guys in the bar say it didn't happen that night? It could have happened the day before. It could have happened that afternoon. There's no causal connection between the blood in that parking lot and Dave Boyle sitting in his car at one-thirty. But there is one helluva causal connection between him in that car when Katie Marcus left the bar." He clapped Sean's shoulder. "Come on, let's go up."
Sean took a last look across the avenue as Dave handed cash to the clerk in the liquor store. He felt sorry for Dave. No matter what he may have done, Dave just elicited that in a person? pity, unrefined and a little bit ugly, sharp as shale.
* * *
CELESTE, sitting on Katie's bed, heard the policemen coming up the stairs, their heavy shoes tramping up the old risers just on the other side of the wall. Annabeth had sent her in here a few minutes ago to get a dress of Katie's that Jimmy could bring over to the funeral home, Annabeth apologizing for not being strong enough to go in the room herself. It was a blue dress with an off-the-shoulder cut to it, and Celeste remembered when Katie had worn it to Carla Eigen's wedding, a blue-and-yellow flower pinned to the side of her upswept hair just over the ear. She'd literally caused a few gasps that day, Celeste knowing she herself had never looked that good in her life, and Katie so completely unaware of just how dazzling her beauty was. The moment Annabeth had mentioned a blue dress, Celeste knew exactly which one she wanted.
So she'd come in here, where last night she'd seen Jimmy holding Katie's pillow to his face, breathing her in, and she'd opened the windows to clear the room of the musty scent of loss. She'd found the dress zipped up in a garment bag in the back of the closet, and she'd taken it out and sat on the bed for a moment. She could hear the sounds of the avenue below? the snap of car doors shutting, the stray, fading chatter of people walking along the sidewalks, the hiss of a bus as it opened its doors at the corner of Crescent? and she looked at a photograph of Katie and her father on Katie's nightstand. It had been taken a few years ago, Katie's smile tight around her braces as she sat on her father's shoulders. Jimmy held her ankles in his hands and looked into the camera with that wonderfully open smile he had, the one that could surprise you if only because so little about Jimmy seemed open, and the smile was one place where his reserve failed to reach.