Since Lauren had left, Sean's mother would only refer to her absence as "taking some sorting-out time," and all the clippings were now for her, not him, as if one day they'd overflow in a drawer to the point that he and Lauren would have to get back together if only so they could close the drawer again.
"You talk to her recently?" Sean's father asked from the kitchen, his face hidden behind the mint-green wall between them.
"Well, who else?" his mother said brightly as she rummaged through a drawer in the sideboard.
"She calls. She doesn't say anything."
"Maybe she's just making small talk because she? "
"No. I mean, Dad, she doesn't speak. At all."
"Then how do you know it's her?"
"I just know."
"Jesus," Sean said. "I can hear her breathing. Okay?"
"How odd," his mother said. "Do you talk though, Sean?"
"Sometimes. Less and less."
"Well, at least you're communicating somehow," his mother said, and placed the latest clipping down in front of him. "You tell her I thought she'd find this interesting." She sat down and smoothed a wrinkle in the tablecloth with the outer edges of both palms. "When she comes home again," she said, peering at the wrinkle as it dissolved under her hands.
"When she comes home," she repeated, her voice a light wisp, like the voice of a nun, certain of the essential order in all things.
* * *
"DAVE BOYLE," Sean said to his father an hour later as they sat at one of the tall bar tables in the Ground Round. "That time he disappeared from in front of our house."
His father frowned and then concentrated on pouring the rest of a Killian's into his frosted mug. As the foam neared the top of the mug and the beer slowed to a trickle of fat drops, his father said, "What? you couldn't look it up in old newspapers?"
"Why ask me? Shit. It was on TV."
"Not when his kidnapper was found," Sean said, hoping that would suffice, that his father wouldn't press him on why Sean had come to him because Sean didn't have a complete answer yet.
It had something to do with needing his father to place him in the context of the event, maybe help him see himself back there in a way newspapers or old case files couldn't. And maybe it was about hoping to talk to his father about something more than just the daily news, the Red Sox's need for a lefty in the bullpen.
It seemed to Sean? sometimes? that he and his father may have once talked about more than just incidental things (just as it seemed that he and Lauren had), but for the life of him, Sean couldn't remember what those things may have been. In the fog that was his remembrance of being young, he feared he'd invented intimacies and moments of clear communication between his father and him that, while they'd achieved a mythic stature over the years, had never happened.
His father was a man of silences and half-sentences that trailed off into nothing, and Sean had spent most of his life interpreting those silences, filling in the blanks left in the wake of those ellipses, creating a concept of what his father meant to say. And lately Sean wondered if he, himself, ever finished sentences as he thought he did, or if he, too, was a creature of silences, silences he'd seen in Lauren, too, and had never done enough about until her silence was the only piece of her he had left. That, and the air hiss on the phone when she called.
"Why you want to go back there?" his father said eventually.
"You know that Jimmy Marcus's daughter was murdered?"
His father looked at him. "That girl in Pen Park?"
"I saw the name," his father said, "figured it might be a relative, but his daughter?"
"He's your age. He has a nineteen-year-old daughter?"
"Jimmy had her when he was, I dunno, seventeen or so, a couple years before he got sent up to Deer Island."
"Aww Jesus," his father said. "That poor son of a bitch. His old man still in prison?"
Sean said, "He died, Dad."
Sean could see that the answer hurt his father, rocked him back to the kitchen on Gannon Street, he and Jimmy's father working on those soft Saturday afternoon beer buzzes as their sons played in the backyard, the thunder of their laughter exploding into the air.
"Shit," his father said. "He die on the outside at least?"
Sean considered lying, but he was already shaking his head. "Inside. Walpole. Cirrhosis."
"Not long after you moved. Six years ago, maybe seven."
His father's mouth widened around a silent "seven." He sipped his beer and the liver spots on the back of his hands seemed more pronounced in the yellow light hanging above them. "It's so easy to lose track. To lose time."
"I'm sorry, Dad."
His father grimaced. It was his only response to sympathy or compliments. "Why? You didn't do it. Hell, Tim did himself in when he killed Sonny Todd."
"Over a pool game. Right?"
His father shrugged. "They were both drunk. Who knows anymore? They were drunk and they both had big mouths and bad tempers. Tim's temper was just a lot worse than Sonny Todd's." His father sipped some more beer. "So, what's Dave Boyle's disappearance have to do with? what was her name, was it Katherine? Katherine Marcus?"
"So what does the one have to do with the other?"
"I'm not saying they do."
"You're not saying they don't."
Sean smiled in spite of himself. Give him a hardened gangbanger in the box any day, some guy trying to lawyer up who knew the system better than most judges, because Sean would crack him. But take one of these old-timers, these hard-as-nails, mistrustful bastards from his father's generation? working stiffs with a lot of pride and no respect for any state or municipal office? and you could bang at them all night, and if they didn't want to tell you anything, you'd still be there in the morning with nothing but the same unanswered questions.
"Hey, Dad, let's not worry about any connections just yet."
Sean held up a hand. "Okay? Just humor me."
"Oh, sure, it's what's keeping me alive, the chance I might get to humor my own son."
Sean felt his hand tighten around the handle of his glass mug. "I looked up the case file on Dave's abduction. The investigating officer is dead. No one else remembers the case, and it's still listed as unsolved."