Page 80 of Mystic River


"I dropped off the dress at Reed's."


"Hours ago," Dave said.

"And then I just felt like I needed to sit somewhere and think. You know?"

"Think," Dave said. "Sure." He got up off the couch and walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge. "You want one?"

She didn't, really, but she said, "Yeah, okay."

Dave came back into the room and handed her the beer. She could often tell what kind of mood he was in by whether he'd opened the can for her. The can had been opened, but she wasn't sure if this was good or bad. She was having trouble gauging him.

"So, what'd you think about?" He popped the tab on his own can and it was an even louder sound than the screeching tires on the TV as the pickup truck flipped over.

"Oh, you know."

"Not really, Celeste, no."

"Things," she said, and took a sip of the beer. "The day, Katie being dead, poor Jimmy and Annabeth, those things."

"Those things," Dave said. "You know what I was thinking about as I was walking back home with Michael, Celeste? I was thinking how embarrassing it must have been for him to hear his mother just drove off and didn't tell anyone where she was going or when she was coming back. I was thinking about that a lot."

"I just told you, Dave."

"Told me what?" He looked up at her and smiled again, but it wasn't boyish this time. "Told me what, Celeste?"

"I just felt like thinking. I'm sorry I didn't call. But it's been a tough couple of days. I'm not myself."

"Nobody's themselves."

"What?"

"Like this movie?" he said. "They don't know who the real people are and who the vampires are. I've seen parts of this before, right, and that Baldwin brother there? He's going to fall in love with that blond girl, even though he knows she's been bitten. So she's going to turn into a vampire, but he don't care, right? Because he loves her. Yet she's a bloodsucker. She's going to suck his blood and turn him into the walking dead. I mean, that's the whole thing about vampirism, Celeste? there's something attractive about it. Even if you know it'll kill you and damn your soul for an eternity and you'll have to spend all your time biting people in the neck, and hiding out from the sun and, you know, Vatican hit squads. Maybe one day you wake up and forget what it was to be human. Maybe that happens, and then it's okay. You've been poisoned, but the poison ain't all that bad once you learn how to live with it." He propped his feet up on the coffee table, took a long drink from the can. "That's my opinion anyway."

Celeste remained very still, sitting up on the arm of the couch and looking down at her husband. "Dave, what the fuck are you talking about?"

"Vampires, sweetie. Werewolves."

"Werewolves? You're not making any sense."

"I'm not? You think I killed Katie, Celeste. That's the kinda sense we're making these days."

"I don't?Where did you come up with that?"

He picked at the beer tab with his fingernail. "You could barely look at me in Jimmy's kitchen before you left. You're holding her dress up like she's still inside of it, and you couldn't even look at me. I start thinking about it. I think, why would my own wife seem repulsed by me? And then it hits me? Sean. He said something to you, didn't he? Him and that creepy fucking partner of his asked you questions."

"No."

"No? Bullshit."

She didn't like how calm he was. She could chalk some of that up to the beer, Dave having always been something of a mellow drunk, but there was an ugly air to his calm now, a sense of something coiled too tightly.

"David? "

"Oh, it's 'David.'"

"? I don't think anything. I'm just confused."

He tilted his head and looked back up at her. "Well, let's talk it out then, honey. That's the key to any good relationship? solid communication."

She had $147 in her checking account and a five-hundred-dollar limit on her Visa, with about two-fifty already spent. Even if she could get Michael out of here, they wouldn't get far. Two or three nights in a motel somewhere, and Dave would find them. He'd never been a stupid man. He could track them, she was sure.

The bag. She could hand over the trash bag to Sean Devine and he could find blood in the fabric of Dave's clothes, she was sure. She'd heard all about the advances they'd been making in DNA technology. They'd find Katie's blood on the clothes and arrest Dave.

"Come on," Dave said. "Let's talk, honey. Let's hash this out. I'm serious. I want to, what's it, allay your fears."

"I'm not afraid."

"You look it."

"I'm not."

"Okay." He brought his heels off the coffee table. "So tell me what's, uh, bothering you, honey?"

"You're drunk."

He nodded. "I am. Don't mean I can't have a conversation, though."

On the TV, the vampire was decapitating someone again, a priest this time.

Celeste said, "Sean didn't ask me any questions. I overheard them talking when you went to get Annabeth's cigarettes. I don't know what you told them earlier, Dave, but they don't believe your story. They know you were at the Last Drop around last call."

"What else?"

"Someone saw our car in the parking lot around the time Katie left. And they don't believe your story about how you bruised your hand."

Dave held the hand out in front of him, flexed it. "That it?"

"That's all I heard."

"And that made you think what?"

She almost touched him again. For a moment, the threat seemed to have left his body and been replaced by defeat. She could see it in his shoulders and in his back and she wanted to reach out and touch him, but she held back.

"Dave, just tell them about the mugger."

"The mugger."

"Yeah. So maybe you'd have to go to court. What's the big deal? It's a lot better than having a murder pinned on you."

Now's the time, she thought. Say you didn't do it. Say you never saw Katie leave the Last Drop. Say it, Dave.

Instead he said, "I see how your mind's working. I do. I come home with blood on me the same time Katie's murdered. I must have killed her."

It popped out of Celeste: "Well?"

Dave put down his beer then and started laughing. His feet came back up off the floor and he fell into the couch cushions and he laughed and laughed. He laughed like he was having a seizure of them, every gasp for breath turning into another giggling peal. He laughed so hard that tears sprang from his eyes, and his entire upper body shook. "I?I?I?I?" He couldn't get it out. The laughter was too strong. It rolled over him and out of him again and the tears came hard now, pouring down his cheeks and into his open mouth, bubbling on his lips.

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