"The two of you make me sick." He went over to the table, slammed the cork back into the whiskey bottle, and left the room with it under his arm.

His mouth still tasted of soap and his ass still smarted from the calm, emotionless whipping his father had given it after he'd returned from his study half an hour later, when Joe climbed out his bedroom window with some clothes in a pillowcase and walked off into the South Boston night. It was warm, and he could smell the ocean at the end of the street, and the streetlamps glowed yellow. He'd never been out on the streets this late by himself. It was so quiet he could hear his footsteps and he imagined their echoes as a living thing, slipping away from the family home, the last thing anyone remembered hearing before they became part of a legend.

What do you mean, he's gone?" Danny said. "Since when?" "Last night," his father said. "He took off . . . I don't know what time."

His father had been waiting on his stoop when Danny returned home, and the first thing Danny noticed was that he'd lost weight, and the second was that his hair was gray.

"You don't report into your precinct anymore, boy?"

"I don't really have a precinct these days, Dad. Curtis shitcanned me to every cold-piss strike detail he could find. I spent my day in Malden."

"Cobblers?"

Danny nodded.

His father gave that a rueful smile. "Is there one man who isn't on strike these days?"

"You have no reason to think he was snatched or something," Danny said.

"No, no."

"So there was a reason he ran."

His father shrugged. "In his head, I'm sure."

Danny placed a foot on the stoop and unbuttoned his coat. He'd been frying in it all day. "Let me guess, you didn't spare the rod."

His father looked up at him, squinting into the setting sun. "I didn't spare it with you and you turned out none the worse for wear." Danny waited.

His father threw up his hand. "I admit I was a little more impassioned than usual."

"What'd the kid do?"

"He said fuck."

"In front of Ma?"

His father shook his head. "In front of me."

Danny shook his head. "It's a word, Dad."

"It's the word, Aiden. The word of the streets, of the common poor. A man builds his home to be a sanctuary, and you damn well don't drag the streets into a sanctuary."

Danny sighed. "What did you do?"

Now it was his father's turn to shake his head. "Your brother's out on these streets somewhere. I've put men on it, good men, men who work runaways and truants, but it's harder in the summer, so many boys on the streets, so many working jobs at all hours, you can't tell one from the other."

"Why come to me?"

"You damn well know why," his father said. "The boy worships you. I suspect he may have come here."

Danny shook his head. "If he did, I haven't been around. I've been working a seventy-two on. You're looking at my first hour off."

"What about . . . ?" His father tilted his head and looked up at the building.

"Who?"

"You know who."

"Say her name."

"Don't be a child."

"Say her name."

His father rolled his eyes. "Nora. Happy? Has Nora seen him?" "Let's go ask her."

His father stiffened and didn't move as Danny came up the steps past him and went to the front door. He turned his key in the lock and looked back at the old man.

"We going to find Joe, or not?"

His father rose from the steps and brushed off the seat of his pants and straightened the creases of his trousers. He turned with his captain's hat under his arm.

"This changes nothing between us," he said.

"Perish the thought." Danny fluttered a hand over his heart, which brought a grimace to his father's face, then he pushed open the door into the front hall. The stairs were sticky with heat and they climbed them slowly, Danny feeling like he could easily lie down on one of the landings and take a nap after three straight days of strike patrol.

"You ever hear from Finch anymore?" he asked.

"I get the occasional call," his father said. "He's back in Washington." "You tell him I saw Tessa?"

"I mentioned it. He didn't seem terribly interested. It's Galleani he wants and that old dago is smart enough to train 'em here, but he sends them out of state to do most of their mischief."

Danny felt the bitterness in his own grin. "She's a terrorist. She's making bombs in our city. Who knows what else. But they've got bigger fish to fry?"

His father shrugged. "It's the way of things, boy. If they hadn't bet the house on terrorists being responsible for that molasses tank explosion, things would probably be different. But they did bet the house, and it blew that molasses all over their faces. Boston's an embarrassment now, and you and your BSC boys aren't making it better."

"Oh, right. It's us."

"Don't play the martyr. I didn't say it was all you. I just said there's a taint to our beloved department in certain corridors of federal law enforcement. And some of that's because of the half- cocked hysteria surrounding the tank explosion, and some of it's due to the fear that you'll embarrass the nation by going on strike."

"No one's talking strike yet, Dad."

"Yet." His father paused at the third-floor landing. "Jesus, it's hotter than the arse of a swamp rat." He looked at the hall window, its thick glass covered in soot and a greasy residue. "I'm three stories up, but I can't even see my city."

"Your city." Danny chuckled.

His father gave him a soft smile. "It is my city, Aiden. It was men like me and Eddie who built this department. Not the commissioners, not O'Meara much as I respected him, and certainly not Curtis. Me. And as goes the police, so goes the city." He wiped his brow with a handkerchief. "Oh, your old man might be back on his heels temporarily, but I'm getting my second wind, boy. Don't you doubt it."

They climbed the last two flights in silence. At Danny's room, his father took a series of breaths as Danny inserted his key in the lock.

Nora opened the door before he could turn the key. She smiled. Then she saw who stood beside him, and her pale eyes turned to ash.

"And what's this?" she said.

"I'm looking for Joe," his father said.

She kept her eyes on Danny, as if she hadn't heard him. "You bring him here?"

"He showed up," Danny said.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com