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Page 46 of A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro 1)

We entered the office and I said, “Hey.”

They nodded. If they became more similar they’d be joined at the hip.

Oscar said, “Have a seat, folks.”

There was a scarred card table in the middle of the room with a telephone and a tape recorder on it. We took seats on the side closest to the wall, and Devin sat down on my right, beside the phone, while Oscar sat to Angie’s left, beside the tape recorder. Devin lit a cigarette and Oscar turned on the tape recorder. A voice said: “Recording copied August the sixth, nineteen ninety-three. Listed under bar code number 5756798. Evidence room, Boston police headquarters, precinct nine, 154 Berkeley Street.”

Devin said, “Turn it up a bit.”

Oscar did, and there were fifteen or twenty seconds of dead air, then the sound of a low rumble and lots of metal on metal sounds, as if a dinner party of ten were all rubbing their knives and forks together. Water dripped somewhere in there too. A voice said, “Cut him again.”

Devin looked at me.

The voice sounded like Socia’s.

Another voice: “Where?”

Socia: “Fuck do I care? Be inventive. That knee looks sensitive.”

There was a moment when the only sound was the dripping water, then someone screamed, long and loud and shrill.

Socia laughed. “I’m doing one of your eyes next, so why don’t you tell me, get it over with.”

The other voice: “Get it over with. He ain’t fucking with you, Anton.”

“I ain’t fucking with you, Anton. You know that.”

A low, wheezing sound. Weeping.

Socia: “Too many tears coming out of that eye. Take it out.”

I sat up in my chair.

The other voice said, “What?”

Socia: “I stutter? Take it out.”

There was a soft, unpleasant sound, the sound a shoe makes when it steps into slush.

And then the scream. Impossibly high-pitched, a mixture of excruciating pain and horrified disbelief.

Socia: “It’s on the floor in front of you, Anton. Give me the name, fuck. Who turned you?”

The screaming hadn’t subsided yet. It rang clear and hard and steady.

“Who turned you? Stop screaming.” A harsh flesh-on-flesh sound. The screaming blew up to a louder pitch.

“Who fucking turned you?”

The screaming was defiant now, an angry howl.

“Who fu Fuck it. Pup out the other one. No, not with that. Get a fucking spoon, man.”

There was a sound of soft footsteps, squeaking a bit as they walked away from wherever the microphone was.

The screaming turned into a whimper.

Socia, in a soft whisper: “Who turned you, Anton? It’ll be over quick, soon as you tell me.”

The whimper screeched something unintelligible.

Socia said, “I promise. It’ll all be over, soon as you tell me. You’ll die quick and painless.”

A torn sob, ragged breathing, gasping for air, a steady weeping that lasted for over a minute.

“Come on now. Tell me.”

From the sob came: “Na. Na I ”

“Hand me that fucking spoon.”

“Devin. The cop! Devin!” It sounded like the words had been pushed out of the body through a torn hole.

Devin reached over and shut off the tape recorder. I realized I was sitting rigid in my chair, half out of it, my spine bowed. I looked at Angie. Her skin was white, her fists tight against the arms of the chair.

Oscar looked bored, staring up at the ceiling. He said, “Anton Meriweather. Sixteen years old. Devin and me turned him in December and he informed on Socia. He was a soldier with the Saints. Oh yeah, he’s dead.”

I said, “You have this tape. Why’s Socia still walking around?”

Devin said, “You ever see a jury try to make a decision on a voice ID? You ever seen how many people a defense attorney will find who sound just like the guy on that tape? Did you hear anyone call Socia by name on that tape?”

I shook my head.

“I just want you to know who you’re dealing with here, kids. After Anton gave my name up, they worked on him for another ninety minutes. Ninety minutes. Long time to be alive with your eye ripped out. When we found him, three days later, I didn’t recognize him. Neither did his mother. We had to do a dental just to be sure it was Anton.”

Angie cleared her throat. “How’d you get that recording?”

Oscar said, “Anton was wearing it. Between his legs. He knew he had the whole thing on tape, all he had to do was say Socia’s name, and his brain froze up and he forgot. Pain’ll do that.” He looked at Devin, then back at me. “Mr. Kenzie, I ain’t going to try and turn this into good cop/bad cop, but Devin’s a friend of yours, and I’m not. I liked Anton a whole hell of a lot though. So I want to know what you know about the shit going on and I want to know now. You figure a way to do that without compromising your clients, that’s OK with me. But if you can’t figure a way, you’re going to tell me anyway. ‘Cause we’re tired of picking bodies up off the street.”

I believed him. “Ask the questions.”

Devin said, “What’d you and Socia talk about yesterday?”

“He thinks I have incriminating evidence on him, things Jenna Angeline gave me. He wants to trade me my life for the evidence. I told him if I died, so did he.”

“Compliments of Bubba Rogowski,” Oscar said.

I raised my eyebrows slightly, then nodded.

Devin said, “What kind of evidence do you have against Socia?”

“Nothing ”

“Bullshit,” Oscar said.

“True shit. I don’t have anything that could get Socia convicted of so much as jaywalking.”

Angie said, “Jenna Angeline promised us there were things that she had access to, but she died before she could tell us what or where they were.”

“Word on the street is Jenna gave you something right before Curtis Moore popped her,” Oscar said.

I looked at Angie and she nodded. I reached into my pocket, pulled out another Xerox of the photo. I passed it to Devin. “That’s what she gave me.”

Devin looked at it, looked hard at Paulson, flipped it to Oscar. “Where’s the rest of it?”

“That’s all there is.”

Oscar looked at it, looked at Devin. He nodded, looked at me. “You’re fucking with the wrong people,” he said. “We will throw your tight ass in jail.”

“That’s all I got.”

He slammed a bear’s hand down on the table. “Where’s the original? Where are the others?”

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