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Page 30 of A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro 1)

I wanted to ask how anyone could be a “strong, silent voice,” but I figured it might reveal my lack of political savvy. I said, “What’s Socia’s first name?”

Jim said, “Marion,” and Mulkern glanced at him.

“Marion,” I repeated. “And how did Jenna come into play in this? How did she get a hold of these pictures?”

Jim looked at Mulkern before answering. The telepathic pols. He said, “The best we can figure it, Socia sent the photographs as an extortion attempt of some sort. Brian got very drunk that night, as you might imagine. He passed out in his chair with the photos on his desk. Then Jenna came to clean, and we assume...”

Angie said, “Wait a sec’. You’re saying Jenna got so morally repulsed by photographs of Paulson with a hooker that she took them? Knowing her life wouldn’t be worth a dollar if she did?” She sounded like she believed it less than I did.

Jim shrugged.

Mulkern said, “Who can tell with these people?”

I said, “So, why would Socia have her killed? Doesn’t seem to me that he had all that much to lose by pictures of Paulson and some hooker going public.”

Before he spoke, I knew Mulkern’s answer, and I wondered why I even bothered asking in the first place.

“Who can tell with these people?” he said again.

SIXTEEN

The rest of the day was a wash.

We returned to the office and I flirted with Angie and she told me to get a life and the phone didn’t ring and nobody just happened by our belfry. We ordered a pizza and drank a few beers and I kept thinking about how she’d looked in the back of the taxi, squirming in that skirt. She looked at me a couple of times, guessed what I was thinking, and called me a perv. One of those times I was actually having a purely innocent thought about my long-distance phone service, but there’ve been so many other times it sort of made up for it.

Angie’s always had this thing about the window behind her desk. She spends half her time staring out it, chewing on her lower lip or tapping a pencil against her teeth, off in her own world. But today it was as if there was a movie out there only she could see. A lot of her responses to my comments began with a “Huh?” and I got the feeling she wasn’t even in the same hemisphere. I figured it had to do with the Asshole, so I let her be.

My gun was still down at police headquarters, and I had no intention of going about town holding only my dick and an optimistic attitude with the Raven Saints looking for me. I needed one that was completely virgin, because the Commonwealth has very definite laws about unregistered handguns. Angie would need one too in case we got into something together, so I tracked down Bubba Rogowski and ordered two traceless pieces from him. He said no problem, I’d have them by five. Just like ordering the pizza.

I called Devin Amronklin next. Devin’s assigned to the mayor’s new Anti-Gang Task Force. He’s short and powerful and people who try to cause him harm only make him angry. He has scars long enough to qualify as mile markers, but he’s a pretty swell guy to have around if you’re not at a cocktail party in Beacon Hill.

He said, “Love to talk, but I got shit to do. Meet me at the funeral tomorrow. You earned some points for Curtis the Gimp, no matter what that asshole Ferry told you.”

I hung up and felt a slight swell of warmth in my chest, like hard liquor on a cold night before the bitter kicks in. With Bubba and Devin around, I felt safer than a condom at a eunuchs’ convention. But then I realized, as I always do, that when someone wants to kill you, really kill you, nothing but caprice will save you. Not God, not an army, certainly not yourself. I had to hope my enemies were stupid, untimely, or had extremely short attention spans when it came to vengeance. Those would be the only things keeping me from the grave.

I looked over at Angie. “What’s up, gorgeous?”

She said, “Huh?”

“I said, ‘What’s up, gorgeous.’“

The pencil went tap-tap-tap. She crossed her ankles on the windowsill, swiveled the chair partway in my direction. She said, “Hey.”

I said, “What?” “Don’t do that anymore. OK?” “Do what?”

She turned her head, met my eyes. “The gorgeous stuff. Don’t do that anymore. Not now.”

I said, “Well gee, Mom...”

She swiveled the chair all the way around to face me, her legs coming off the windowsill. “And don’t do that shit either. That ‘Well gee, Mom...’ like you’re being innocent. You’re not being innocent.” She looked out the window for a moment, then back at me. “You can be some kind of asshole sometimes, Patrick. You know that?”

I put my beer down on the corner of the desk. “Where is this coming from?”

“It’s just coming,” she said. “OK? It’s not easy...It’s not... I come here every day from my fucking... home, and I just want... Jesus. And I, I have to deal with you calling me ‘gorgeous’ and hitting on me like it’s a goddamned reflex action and looking at me the way you do and I.. .just... want it to stop.” She rubbed her face harshly with her hands and ran them back through her hair, groaning.

I said, “Ange ”

“Don’t Ange me, Patrick. Don’t.” She kicked a lower drawer of her desk. “You know, between men like Sterling Mulkern the fat fuck, and Phil, and you, I just don’t know.”

It felt like there was a poodle lodged in my throat, but I managed to say, “Don’t know what?”

“Anything!” She dropped her face into her hands, then looked up again. “I just don’t know anymore.” She stood up hard enough to spin her chair a full revolution and walked toward the door. “And I’m sick of being asked the fucking questions.” She walked out.

The sound of her heels echoed off the steps like bullets, cracking upward and through the doorway. I felt a heavy ache behind my eyes, the steel spikes of a grate that had its back to a dam.

The sound of her heels stopped. I looked out the window, but she wasn’t outside. The scraped beige paint of her car roof shone dully under the streetlight.

I took the stairs three at a time in the dark, the steep narrow space curving and dropping in a black rush before me. She was standing a few feet past the bottom step, leaning against a confessional. A lit cigarette stood straight out between her lips and she was placing the lighter back in her purse when I rounded the bend.

I stopped dead and waited.

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