Page 98 of Mystic River

Whitey nodded, looking down at his shoes. "You're going to take another run at the Harris kid?"

"Keeps coming back around to his father's gun."

"Maybe get a picture of the father? Have someone do an age-progression, float that around. See if someone's seen him."

Souza came around and opened the passenger door. "I'm with you, Sean?"

Sean nodded, turned back to Whitey. "It's a little thing."

"What's that?"

"Whatever we're missing. It's a minor detail. I figure it out, I'll close this."

Whitey smiled. "What's the last open homicide you got on your plate, kid?"

The name popped off Sean's tongue. "Eileen Fields, eight months cold."

"They can't all be dunkers," Whitey said, and started walking back toward the Cadillac. "Know what I mean?"

* * *

BRENDAN'S TIME in the holding cell hadn't been kind to him. He looked smaller and younger, but meaner, too, as if he'd seen things in there that he'd never wished to know existed. But Sean had been careful to have him tossed in an empty cell, away from the dregs and junkies, so he had no idea what could have been so horrible for him, unless he really couldn't handle isolation.

"Where's your father?" Sean said.

Brendan chewed a nail and shrugged. "New York."

"Haven't seen him?"

Brendan went to work on another nail. "Not since I was six."

"Did you kill Katherine Marcus?"

Brendan dropped the finger from his mouth and stared at Sean.

"Answer me."


"Where's your father's gun?"

"I don't know anything about my father having a gun."

There was no blinking this time. He didn't avert his eyes from Sean's. He stared into Sean's face with a kind of cruel and beaten fatigue that allowed Sean to sense a potential for violence in the kid for the first time since he'd met him.

What the hell had happened in that holding cell?

Sean said, "Why would your father want to kill Katie Marcus?"

"My father," Brendan said, "didn't kill anyone."

"You know something, Brendan. And you're not telling me. Tell you what, let's see if the polygraph's free right now. We'll ask you a few more questions."

Brendan said, "Let me talk to a lawyer."

"In a minute. Let's? "

Brendan repeated it. "Let me talk to a lawyer. Now."

Sean kept his voice level. "Sure. You got anyone in mind?"

"My mom knows one. Let me make my phone call."

Sean said, "Look, Brendan? "

"Now," Brendan said.

Sean sighed and pushed his phone across the desk. "Dial nine first."

* * *

BRENDAN'S LAWYER was an old Irish blowhard who'd been chasing ambulances since the days they'd been drawn by horses, but he'd been around enough to know Sean didn't have the right to hold his client on lack of alibi and nothing else.

Sean said, "Hold him?"

"You put my client in a cell," the lawyer said.

"We didn't lock it or nothing," Sean said. "Kid wanted a look."

The lawyer made a face like Sean had disappointed him and then he and Brendan walked out of the squad room, not looking back once. Sean read through some case files, the words making no impact. He closed the files and leaned back in his chair, shut his eyes, saw his dream Lauren and his dream child in his head. He could smell them, he really could.

He opened his wallet, pulled out a slip of paper with Lauren's cell phone number on it, placed it on his desk, and flattened the creases with his hand. He'd never wanted kids. Outside of priority boarding on an airline, he couldn't see the upside to them. They took over your life and filled you with terror and weariness and people acted like having one was a blessed event and talked about them in the reverent tones they once reserved for gods. When it came down to it, though, you had to remember that all those assholes cutting you off in traffic and walking the streets and shouting in bars and turning their music up too loud and mugging you and raping you and selling you lemon cars? all those assholes were just children who'd aged. No miracle. Nothing sacred in that.

Besides, he wasn't even sure she was his. He'd never taken the paternity test, because his pride said, Fuck that. Take a test to prove I'm a father? Could it get any more undignified? Uh, excuse me, I need to get some blood drawn because my wife was fucking another guy and got pregnant.

Fuck it. Yeah, he missed her. Yeah, he loved her. And yeah, he'd dreamed of holding his child. So what? Lauren had betrayed him and then she'd abandoned him and she'd had a baby while she was gone, and still, she'd never apologized. Still, she'd never said, Sean, I was wrong. I'm sorry I hurt you.

And had Sean hurt her? Well, yeah, of course. When he first found out about the affair, he'd come damn close to hitting her, pulling back his fist at the last moment and putting it in his pocket, Lauren seeing the urge in his face, though. And all those things he'd called her. Jesus.

But still, his anger, his pushing her away was reactive. He had been wronged. Not her.

Right? He gave it another few seconds of thought: Right.

He put the number back in his wallet and closed his eyes again, drifted off in his chair. He was woken by steps in the hallway and opened his eyes as Whitey rolled into the squad room. Sean could see the booze in his eyes before he smelled it on his breath. Whitey dropped into his chair and threw his feet up on the desk, kicked aside the box of miscellaneous evidence Connolly had dropped off early this afternoon.

"Long fucking day," he said.

"You find him?"

"Boyle?" Whitey shook his head. "No. Landlord said he heard him go out about three, never came back. Said the wife and kid ain't been around in a while either. We called his work. He works a Wednesday-through-Sunday rotation, so they ain't seen him." He belched. "He'll turn up."

"What about the bullet?"

"We found one at the Last Drop. Problem is, it hit a metal post behind where the guy was shot. Ballistics said maybe they can ID it, maybe not." He shrugged. "The Harris kid?"

"Lawyered up."

"Did he now?"

Sean came over to Whitey's desk, started sifting through the box. "No footprints," he said. "Fingerprints don't match anyone on file. Gun was last used in a robbery eighteen years ago. I mean, what the fuck?" He dropped the ballistics report back into the box. "The only guy without an alibi is the only guy I don't suspect."

"Go home," Whitey said. "Really."