She got in the car and we drove for quite a while without a word. I’d purposely put a Screaming Jay Hawkins tape in the player, but she didn’t so much as flinch. Angie likes Screaming Jay about as much as she likes being called a chick. She smoked a cigarette and stared out at the landscape of Dorchester as if she’d just emigrated here.
The tape ended as we entered Mattapan, and I said, “That Screaming Jay, he’s good enough to play twice. Heck, I might just rip out the eject button, play him for eternity.”
She chewed a hangnail.
I ejected Screaming Jay and replaced him with U2. The tape usually rocks Angie in her seat, but today it might as well have been Steve and Edie; she sat there like she’d had lithium with her morning coffee.
We were on the Jamaica Plain Parkway and the Dublin boys were into “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” when Angie said, “I’m working some things out. Give me time.”
“I can deal with that.”
She turned on the seat, tucking her hair behind her ear in the wind. “Just lay off the ‘gorgeous’ stuff for a little while, the invitations to your shower, things like that.”
“Old habits die hard,” I said.
“I’m not a habit,” she said.
I nodded. “Touché. You want to take some time off maybe?”
“No way.” She tucked her left leg under her right. “I love the job. I just need to work through things and I need your support, Patrick, not your flirtations.”
I held out my right hand. “You got it.” I almost tacked a “gorgeous” to the end of that, but thankfully, I didn’t. Mama Kenzie may have raised a fool, but she didn’t raise no suicide.
She took my hand, shook it. “Bubba catch up with you?”
“Uh-huh. He brought you a present.” I reached into my pocket, handed her the .38.
She hefted it. “He’s so sentimental sometimes.”
“He offered us the use of a couple of stingers, in case there’s a country we want to overthrow anytime soon.”
“I hear the beaches in Costa Rica are nice.”
“Costa Rica it is then. You speak Spanish?”
“I thought you did.”
“I failed it,” I said. “Twice. Not the same thing.”
“You speak Latin.”
“OK, we’ll overthrow Ancient Rome.”
The cemetery was coming up on our left and Angie said, “Jesus Christ.”
I looked as I made the turn onto the main road. We’d expected the sort of funeral cleaning ladies usually get one rung higher than a pauper’s but there were cars everywhere. A bunch of beat-up street sleds, a black BMW, a silver Mercedes, a Maserati, a couple of RX-7s, then a full squadron of police cruisers, the patrolmen standing out of their units watching the grave site.
Angie said, “You sure this is the right place?”
I shrugged and pulled over onto the lawn, completely confused. We left the Porsche and crossed the lawn, pausing a couple of times when Angie’s heel caught the soft soil.
The minister’s baritone was calling upon the Lord our God to welcome his child, Jenna Angeline, into the Kingdom of Heaven with the love of a father for a true daughter of the spirit. His head was down as he spoke, peering at the coffin that sat on brass runners over the deep black rectangle. He was the only one looking at it, though. Everyone else was too busy looking at each other.
The group on the southern side of the coffin was headed by Marion Socia. He was taller than he’d appeared in the photograph, his hair shorter, tight curls hugging an oversize head. He was thinner, too, the thin of adrenaline burn. His slim hands twitched constantly by his sides, as if grasping for the trigger of a gun. He was wearing a simple black suit with white shirt and black tie, but it was expensive material silk, I guessed.
The boys behind him were dressed exactly the same, their suits of varying quality, deteriorating steadily the farther back they stood from Socia and the grave. There were at least forty of them, the whole group in a taut, structured formation behind its leader. A conspicuous air of Spartan devotion. None of them, except Socia, looked much over seventeen, and some didn’t look old enough to have had an erection yet. They all started beyond the grave in the same direction as Socia, their eyes devoid of youth or movement or emotion, flat and clear and focused.
The object of their attention was on the other side of the grave, directly across from Socia. A black kid, as tall as Socia, but more solid, his body the healthy hard that a male achieves only before the age of twenty-five. He wore a black trench coat over a midnight blue shirt, buttoned at the top, no tie. His pants were pleated charcoal with light blue specks woven into the fabric. He had a single gold earring hanging from his left ear and his hair was cut in a sloping high-top fade, the sides of his head cropped extremely close, matching stripes cut into what little hair remained there. The back of his head was shorn just as close and something had been carved there too. From my vantage point, I couldn’t be positive, but it looked like the shape of Africa. He held a black umbrella in his hand, pointed at the ground, even though the sky was about as cloudy as freshly blown glass. Behind him was another army: thirty of them, all young, all dressed semiformal, but not a tie among them.
The first white person we noticed was Devin Amronklin. He was standing a good fifteen yards behind the second group, chatting with three other detectives, all four of them flashing their eyes back and forth between the two gangs and the cops on the road.
Beyond all of this, facing the foot of the coffin, I noticed a few older women, two men dressed in the clothes of State House sanitary personnel, and Simone. Simone was staring at us when we noticed her and she held the look for a solid minute before looking off at the firm elms that surrounded the cemetery. Nothing about her look suggested she’d come past me on the way out, invite me over for tea and a healing racial debate.
Angie took my hand and we walked over to Devin. He gave us each a curt nod, but didn’t say anything.
The minister finished his eulogy and hung his head one last time. No one else followed suit. There was something alien about the stillness, something dangerously false and ponderous. A pigeon, gray and fat, swooped over the silence, small wings flapping fast. Then the crisp morning air cracked open with the mechanical whir of the coffin descending into the black rectangle.
The two groups moved as one, fading forward ever so slightly like slim trees in the first gust of a storm. Devin put his hand on his hip, a quarter inch from his gun, and the other three cops did the same. The air in the cemetery seemed to suck into itself and disappear in its own vortex. A current of electricity streamed into its place, and my teeth felt like they were gritted into tin foil. A gear ground somewhere in the dark hole, but the coffin continued on down. In those few moments of some of the most severe quiet I’ve ever felt, I think if someone had sneezed they’d have spent the rest of the day shoveling bodies off the lawn.