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I said, “What’re you going to do, right?” and pulled to the curb in front of her house.

She looked at the front page of the paper, at Jenna’s body. She said, “I can tell Phil we’re working late.”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“No, you’re not.”

I half laughed. “No, I’m not. But you can’t come into my dreams with me, protect me there. So, otherwise, I can handle it.”

She was out of the car now, and she leaned back in and kissed my cheek. “Be well, Skid.”

I watched her climb the stairs to her porch, fumble with her keys, then open the door. Before she got inside, a light went on in the living room and the curtain parted slightly. I waved at Phil, and the curtain fluttered closed again.

Angie entered her home and shut off the light in the hallway and I drove off.

***

The light was on in the belfry. I pulled to the curb in front of the church and walked around to the side door, acutely aware of the fact that my gun was sitting in the police-station evidence room. There was a note on the floor as I entered: “Don’t shoot. Two black men in one day will give you a bad rep.”

Richie.

He was sitting behind my desk when I entered. He had his feet up and a Peter Gabriel tape going on my boom box, a bottle of Glenlivet on the desk and a glass in his hand. I said, “Is that my bottle?”

He looked at it. “I believe so, son.”

“Well, help yourself,” I said.

“Thank you,” he said and poured another shot into his glass. “You need ice.”

I found a glass in my drawer, made a double. I held up the paper. “Seen it?”

“I don’t read that rag,” he said. Then, “Yeah, I saw it.”

Richie is not one of those Hollywood blacks with skin like coffee regular and Billy Dee Williams eyes. He’s black, black as an oil slick, and he’s not what one would call handsome. He’s overweight, always has a five o’clock shadow, and his wife buys his clothes. A lot of times, his ensemble looks like she’s experimenting again. Tonight he was wearing beige cotton trousers, a light blue shirt, and a pastel tie that looked like a poppy field had exploded on it and someone had doused the flame with rum punch. I said, “Sherilynn went shopping again?”

He looked at the tie and sighed. “Sherilynn went shopping again.”

I said. “Where? Miami?”

He lifted the tie for closer inspection. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” He sipped his scotch. “Where’s your partner?” “With her husband.”

He nodded, and simultaneously, we said, “The Asshole.” “When’s she going to pump a round into that boy?” he asked.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

“Well, you call me when she does. I got a bottle of Moët sitting at home for the occasion.”

“To that day.” I held up my glass. He met it. “Cheers.” I said, “Tell me about Curtis Moore.”

“Gimpy?” he said. “That’s what we’re calling ol’ Curtis these days. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?” He stretched back in the chair.

“Tragic,” I said.

“It’s too bad,” he said. “Don’t take it too lightly, though. Curtis’s friends might come looking for you and they are particularly heinous motherfuckers.”

“How big are the Raven Saints?”

“Not big by L.A. standards,” he said, “but this ain’t L.A. I’d say they got seventy-five hardcore and another sixty or so peripheral.”

“So what you’re saying is I got a hundred thirty-five black guys to be wary of.”

He put his glass down on the desk. “Don’t turn this into a ‘black thing,’ Kenzie.”

“My friends call me Patrick.”

“I’m not your friend when I hear shit like that come out of your mouth.”

I was angry and damned tired, and I wanted someone to blame. My emotions were running hard along open nerve endings that stopped just short of breaking my skin, and I was feeling stubborn. I said, “Tell me about a white gang that runs around with Uzis and I’ll be afraid of white people too, Richie. But until then ”

Richie banged his fist down on the desk. “The fuck you call the Mafia? Huh?” He stood up and the veins in his neck were thick, poking out as hard as I figured mine were. “The Westies in New York,” he said, “those nice boys, Irish like yourself, who specialized in murder and torture and cowboy bullshit. What color were they? You going to sit there and tell me the brothers invented murder too? You going to try and pass that shit off on me, Kenzie?”

Our voices were loud in the tiny room, hoarse, slipping under the cheap walls and reverberating. I tried to talk calmly, but my voice didn’t come out that way; it sounded harsh and slightly alien. I said, “Richie, one kid gets hit by a car because a bunch of retard Hitler Youth chase him into the road in Howard Beach ”

“Don’t you even bring up Howard Beach.”

“ and it gets treated like a national tragedy. Which it is. But,” I said, “a white kid in Fenway gets stabbed eighteen times by black kids, and no one says a goddamn thing. ‘Racial’ never comes into it. It’s off the front page the next day, and it’s filed as homicide. No racial incident. You tell me, Richie, what the fuck is that?”

He was staring at me, holding his hand a foot in front of him, then moving it to his head where it massaged his neck, then down onto the desk, where he looked at it, not sure what to do with it. He started to speak a couple of times. Stopped. Eventually, he said quietly, but almost in a hiss, “Those three black kids killed the white boy, you think they’ll do hard time?”

He had me there.

“Huh?” he said. “Come on. Tell the truth.”

I said, “Of course. Unless they get a good lawyer, get ”

“No. No lawyers. No technicality bullshit. If they go to trial and it reaches jury, will they be convicted? Will they end up doing twenty to life, maybe worse?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, they will.”

“And if some white guys killed a black guy and it wasn’t, let’s pretend, called a racial incident, if it wasn’t considered a tragedy, what then?”

I nodded.

“What then?”

“There’s a better chance they’d get off.”

“Damn right,” he said and dropped back into the chair.

Suggessted Novels
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