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I was on a rug. That much I knew. There was a guy dressed in white kneeling over me. I’d either been committed or he was a paramedic. He had a bag beside him and a stethoscope around his neck. A paramedic. Or a very authentic impersonator. He said, “You gonna be sick?”

I shook my head and threw up on the rug.

Someone started screaming at me in high-pitched gibberish-speak. Then I recognized it. Gaelic. She remembered what country she was in and switched to English with a heavy brogue. It didn’t make much difference, but at least I knew where I was now.

The rectory. The screaming banshee was Delia, Pastor Drummond’s housekeeper. In a moment, she’d begin hitting me with something. The paramedic said, “Father?” and I could hear the pastor hustling Delia out of the room. The paramedic said, “You finished?” He sounded like he had things to do. A real angel of mercy. I nodded and rolled over onto my back. I sat up. Sort of. I hooked my arms around my knees and sat there, holding on, my head swimming. The walls were doing a psychedelic dance in front of me and my mouth felt like it was full of bloody pennies. I said, “Ouch.”

“You got a way with words,” the paramedic said. “You also got a mild concussion, some loose teeth, a busted lip, and a hell of a shiner growing by your left eye.”

Great. Angie and I would have something to talk about in the morning. The Ray-Ban twins. “That it?”

“That’s it,” he said, dropping the stethoscope into the bag. “I’d tell you to come down to the hospital with me, but you’re from Dorchester, so I figure you’re into all that macho bullshit and won’t come.”

“Mmm,” I said. “How’d I get here?”

Pastor Drummond, behind me, said, “I found you.” He stepped in front of me, holding my shotgun and the magnum. He placed them gently on the couch across from me.

“Sorry about the rug,” I said.

He pointed at the vomit. “Father Gabriel, when he was in his cups, used to do that quite often. If I remember right, that’s why we picked that color pattern.” He smiled. “Delia’s making up a bed for you now.”

“Thanks, Father,” I said, “but I think if I can walk to the bedroom, I can walk across the street to my own place.”

“That mugger might still be out there.”

The paramedic picked up his bag from beside me and said, “Have a good one.”

“It’s been swell for me too,” I managed.

The paramedic grimaced and gave us a little wave before letting himself out the side door.

I reached out my hand and Pastor Drummond took it, pulling me up. I said, “I wasn’t mugged, Father.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Angry husband?”

I looked at him. “Father,” I said. “Please. You have to stop getting illicit thrills from my lifestyle. It has to do with a case I’m on. I think.” I wasn’t even sure. “It was a warning.”

He supported me as far as the couch. The room was still about as stable as quarters on the Titanic. He said, “This is some warning.”

I nodded. Bad move. The Titanic overturned and the room slid sideways. Pastor Drummond’s hand pushed me back against the couch. I said, “Yes. Some warning. Did you call the police?”

He looked surprised. “You know, I didn’t think of it.”

“Good. I don’t want to spend all night filling out reports.”

“Angela might have, though.”

“You called Angie?”

“Of course he called me.” She was standing in the doorway. Her hair was a wreck, messy strands hanging over her forehead; it made her look sexier, like she’d just woken up. She was wearing a black leather jacket over a burgundy polo shirt that hung untucked over gray sweatpants and white aerobic sneakers. She had a purse you could hide Peru in, which she dropped on the floor as she crossed to the couch.

She sat beside me. “Don’t we look beautiful,” she said, her hand under my chin, tilting it upward. “Jesus, Patrick, who’d you run into an angry husband?”

Father Drummond giggled. A sixty-year-old priest, giggling into his fist. Not my day.

“I think it was a relative of Mike Tyson,” I said.

She looked at me. “What, you don’t have hands?”

I pushed her hand away. “He had an Uzi, Ange. Probably what he hit me with.”

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m a little anxious. I didn’t mean to snap.” She looked at my lips. “This wasn’t done with the Uzi. Your temple, maybe. But not the lips. Looks like a speed glove to me, the way it tore the skin.”

Angie, the expert on physical abrasions.

She leaned in close, whispered. “You know the guy?”

I whispered back. “No.”

“Never saw him before?”

“Nope.”

“You’re sure?”

“Angie, I wanted this, I would’ve called the cops.” She leaned back, hands up. “OK. OK.” She looked at Drummond. “OK if I take him back to his place, Father?” “It would make Delia’s day,” Drummond said.

“Thanks, Father,” I said.

He folded his arms. “Some security you are,” he said, and winked.

He’s a priest, but I could’ve kicked him.

Angie picked up the guns and then lifted me to my feet with her free hand.

I looked at Father Drummond. “G’night,” I managed.

“God bless,” he said at the door.

As we went down the steps into the schoolyard, Angie said, “You know why this happened, don’t you.”

“No, why?”

“You don’t go to church anymore.”

“Ha,” I said.

***

She got me across the street and up the stairs, the queasiness steadily evaporating as the warmth of her skin and the feel of the blood rushing through her body reawakened my senses.

We sat down in the kitchen. I kicked Harold the Panda out of my chair, and Angie poured us each a glass of orange juice. She sniffed hers before she drank. “What’d you tell the Asshole?” I asked.

“After I told him what happened, he seemed so pleased someone finally kicked your ass, he would’ve let me fly to Atlantic City with the savings account.”

“Glad to know some good came out of this.”

She put her hand on mine. “What happened?”

I gave her the rundown from the time she left the office to ten minutes ago.

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