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Page 19 of A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro 1)

“All that hate,” she said. “You know?”

“There’s a lot to hate out there,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “Believe me, I know. Seems there’s so much, you got to kind of pick and choose. Earn what you hate, I guess. Simone, now, she just hate everything. And sometimes...”

“What?”

“Sometimes, I think she hate cause she don’t know what else to do with herself. I mean, me, I got good reason to hate what I hate, believe me. But her, I’m not so sure she’s...”

“Earned it?”

She nodded. “Exactly.”

I thought about that. I couldn’t see much to argue with. I’ve learned more about the capacity to hate than anything else since I started doing this work.

She drank some more beer. “Seems to me, the world going to give you plenty to be angry about, either way. Getting a chip on your shoulder before you’ve even seen how bad it can be, what the world can do to you when it really sets its mind to it... seems to me, that’s just foolish thinking.”

“Damn straight,” I said and held up my can. She smiled, a small one, and glanced her can off mine, and I realized what part of me had known since I’d first seen her photograph: I liked her.

She finished her beer a minute or so later and went to bed with a small wave behind her as she entered the bedroom.

The night passed slowly and I shifted in my seat a lot, paced a bit back and forth, stared at my car. Angie was home now, taking another few steps in that grotesque dance of pain she called a marriage. A harsh word, a slap or two, a few screamed accusations, and on to bed until the next day. Love. I wondered again why she was with him, what possessed a person of her quality and judgment to put up with such shit, but before I slipped completely into the realms of the self-righteous, my palm rested on my abdomen, on the patch of scar tissue, which always reminded me of the price of love in its least idealized form.

Thank you, father.

Sitting in the quiet of the dark living room, I also remembered my own marriage, which had lasted about a minute and a half. Angie and Phil at least had a sense of dedication to the love between them, however twisted that love might be, which Renee and I never had. The only thing our marriage had taught me about love was that it ends. And looking out at the empty street from Simone Angeline’s window seat, it occurred to me that one of the reasons I’m successful at the work I do is that come three o’clock in the morning, when most of the world is asleep, I’m still up doing my job because I don’t have any place better to be

I played some solitaire and told my stomach it wasn’t hungry. I considered raiding Simone’s fridge but figured she might have booby-trapped it; I’d grab the mustard and trip a wire, take an arrow in the head.

Dawn came in a faded line of pale gold that pushed up the black cover of night, then an alarm clock went off in the next room, and soon I heard the shower running. I stretched until I heard the satisfactory crack of bones and muscles, then did my morning regimen of fifty sit-ups and fifty push-ups. By the time I’d finished, the second turn in the shower had been taken, and the two sisters were standing by the door, ready to go.

Simone said, “You take anything from my fridge?”

“No,” I said, “but I think I may have mistaken it for the toilet last night. I was really tired. Do you keep vegetables in the toilet?”

She brushed past me into the kitchen. Jenna looked at me and shook her head. She said, “Bet you were real popular in the second grade.”

“Good humor has no age limit,” I said, and she rolled her eyes.

Simone had a job, and I’d debated all night whether I should let her go to it. In the end I figured Simone hadn’t shown any homicidal tendencies toward her sister that I’d noticed, so I was pretty sure she’d keep her mouth shut.

As we stood on the porch watching her drive off, I said, “Does this Socia guy know about Simone?”

Jenna was working her way into a light cardigan even though the temperature was already on a steady cruise toward the seventies at eight in the morning. She said, “He met her. Long time ago. In Alabama.”

“How long since she moved up north?”

She shrugged. “Two months.”

“And Socia definitely doesn’t know she’s here?”

She looked at me like I was drugged. “We both be dead now, Socia knew that.”

We walked to my car and Jenna looked at it as I opened the door. “Never grew up totally, did you, Kenzie?”

And I’d once thought the car would impress people.

***

The drive back was as boring as the one up. I had Pearl Jam’s Ten playing, and if Jenna minded, she didn’t say anything. She didn’t talk much, period, just stared out at the road and kneaded the bottom of her cardigan with her thin fingers when they weren’t occupied with a cigarette.

As we neared the city, the Hancock and Prudential buildings rising up in pale blue to greet us, she said, “Kenzie.”

“Yeah.”

“You ever feel needed?”

I thought about it. “Sometimes,” I said.

“Who by?”

“My partner. Angie.”

“You need her?”

I nodded. “Sometimes, yeah. Hell, yeah.”

She looked out the window. “You best hold on to her then.”

***

Rush hour was in full swing by the time we got off 93 near Haymarket, and it took us close to half an hour to move the mile up onto Tremont Street.

Jenna’s safety-deposit box was in the Bank of Boston on Tremont, across from the Boston Common at the Park Street corner. The Common runs back in a mall of cement here, past two squat buildings that serve as the Park Street T-station entrances, past a gaggle of vendors and street musicians and newspaper hawkers and winos. Crowds of businessmen and women and politicians walk briskly up the walkways where the Common turns green again and rises in a slope to the steep steps that climb to Beacon Street, the State House towering overhead, its gold dome looking down on the minions.

It’s impossible to park on Tremont or even idle there for more than thirty seconds. A platoon of meter maids, imported from the female Hitler Youth shortly after the fall of Berlin, roam the street, at least two to a block, pit bull faces on top of fire hydrant bodies, just waiting for someone stupid enough to stall traffic on their street. Say, “Have a nice day,” to one of them and she’ll have your car towed for being a smart-ass. I turned onto Hamilton Place, behind the Orpheum Theater, and parked in a loading zone. We walked the two blocks to the bank. I started to walk in with her, but she stopped me. “An old black lady going into a bank with a big young white boy. What they going to think?”

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