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Page 48 of A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro 1)

I nodded. “Still, be nice if he fired a flare every now and then, if only for my peace of mind.”

“He is your peace of mind, Skid.”

Hard to argue with the truth.

***

We led the Mustang back with us through Somerville and up onto 93, heading into the city. We got off at South Station and parked on Summer Street. The Mustang cruised past, following the traffic past the post office. He turned right, and we got out and walked up to the main entrance.

South Station used to look like a great location for a gangster movie. It’s huge, with enormous cathedral ceilings and parquet marble floors that seem to run on into infinity. Used to be all this space was interrupted only by a wooden newsstand, a shoeshine booth, and a few dark mahogany circular benches, expansive and double-tiered like human water fountains. It was the perfect place to wear powder-blue wool suits and matching fedoras, sit and watch people from behind a newspaper. Then came hard times, forgotten times, and the marble grew brown and scuffed, the newsstand needed a paint job or a wrecking ball, and the shoeshine stand disappeared entirely. Then, a few years ago, refurbishment. Now there’s a hot dog/pizza place with a yellow neon sign, an Au Bon Pain with Cinzano umbrellas over black wrought-iron tables, and a new newsstand that looks like a cross between a fern bar and a bookstore. The whole place looks smaller, the moody dark hues that pooled in shadows around shafts of faded sunlight have been replaced with glaring bright lights and an ambience of faked happiness. Spend all the money you want on ambience, it still won’t change the fact that a train station is a place where people wait, usually without much glee, for a train to come take them away.

The lockers are in the back near the rest rooms. As we headed toward them, an old guy with stiff white hair and a PA system for vocal cords announced: “The Ambassador bound for Providence, Hartford, New Haven, and New York City, now boarding on track thirty-two.” If the little dink had had a megaphone I would have lost an ear.

We walked down a dark corridor and stepped into yesterday. No glaring fluorescents, no ferns, just marble and dim yellow lamps that were one step removed from candles. We searched the rows of lockers in the semidarkness, trying to make out the faded, stenciled brass numbers, until Angie said, “Here.”

I patted my pockets. “You got the key, right?”

She looked at me. “Patrick.”

“Where’s the last place we used it?”

“Patrick,” she said again, only this time her teeth were gritted.

I held it up. “God, you can’t take a joke anymore.”

She snatched the key from my hand, slipped it into the lock, and turned it.

I think she was more surprised than I was.

The bag inside was blue plastic. The word “Gap” was stenciled in white letters across the middle. Angie handed it to me. Light. We looked back in, felt around. Nothing more. Angie let the door clang behind us and I carried the bag in my left hand as we walked back down the corridor. A veritable spring to our steps. Payday.

Or Payback Day, depending on your perspective.

The bald kid who’d been driving the Mustang was coming across the terminal toward us fast. He saw us, surprised, and started to turn away. Then he noticed the bag. Real bright fucking move on my part, not putting it under my coat. Baldie raised his right hand over his head and his left dug under his warm-up jacket.

Two kids disengaged themselves from the corner of the Au Bon Pain counter, and another one a guy, older than the three of them sauntered toward us from the left, near the entrance.

Baldie had his gun clear now, holding it down by his leg, walking casually, his eyes never leaving us. The terminal was packed, the oblivious crowd between us and Baldie scooping up their coffee cups and newspapers and luggage and heading out toward the track. Baldie was starting to smile, the crowd and twenty yards all that remained between us. My gun was in my hand now, the bag in front of it. Angie had her hand stuffed in her pocket, both of us taking tender steps forward as the crowd streamed past us, jostling us every now and then. Baldie was moving just as slowly, but with confidence, as if all his movements had been choreographed. His smile was huge, an adrenaline junkie’s smile, sucking its fuel from the tension. Fifteen yards between us now, and Baldie starting to rock forward just a bit as he walked, getting high off it.

Then Bubba stepped out of the crowd and blew off the back of his head with a shotgun.

The kid vaulted up in the air, arms spread wide, chest out in a swan dive, and hit the ground on his face. The crowd erupted, scattering across the marble, crashing into one another, no real sense of direction except to get as far away from the corpse as possible, like pigeons without wings, tripping and sliding, trying to scramble back up off the marble before they got trampled. The guy on our left aimed an Uzi, one-handed, straight across the terminal at us and we dropped to our knees as it let loose, the ricochets chucking out pieces of the wall behind us. Bubba’s shotgun went off again, and the guy jerked up in the air like he’d just pulled the rip cord on a parachute. He flew back through a window but only half the glass shattered. He hung there, half in, half out, in a glass web.

I took aim at the other two kids as Bubba jacked the shells out of the shotgun and slammed two more home. I squeezed off three shots and the kids dove into a fray of black iron tables. It was impossible to get a clear shot with the crowd in the way, so Angie and I fired at the tables, the bullets popping off the black iron legs. One of the kids rolled onto his back as Bubba turned in his direction. He fired a .357 and the round hit Bubba high in the chest. The shotgun shattered the glass six feet above their heads, and Bubba went down.

A police unit came off Atlantic, bounced straight up onto the curb, and stopped just short of the glass doors. What remained of the crowd seemed to have all come to its senses at once; everyone lay flat on their bellies on the marble, hands protecting heads, luggage providing extra cover like leather retaining walls. The two kids stumbled over the tables and headed toward the tracks, firing in at us from the other side of the windows.

I started toward the middle of the terminal, toward Bubba, but a second police unit jumped the curb, skidding to a stop. The first two cops were already inside, pumping rounds at the two kids near the tracks. Angie grabbed my arm and we ran toward the corridor. The window to my left shattered, dropping out of the pane in a white cascade. The cops were coming closer, firing with accuracy now as the two kids stumbled into each other, trying to get a clear shot at us. Just before we made the corridor, one of them suddenly spun around like a top and sat down. He looked confused, glass falling around him like snow.

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