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Page 50 of A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro 1)

I shuffled the photographs back into a pile and closed the file. Numbness was already settling in, clotting the flow of horror and bewilderment. I looked at Angie, saw the same process taking place in her. The shakes had stopped and she stood very still. It wasn’t a sweet feeling, possibly it was harmful in the long run, but at the moment, it was absolutely necessary.

Angie looked up, her eyes red but dry. She pointed at the file. “No matter what, we take them down.”

I nodded. “Going to have to take it to them.”

She shrugged and leaned back against the baptismal font. “Oh well.”

I took one photo from the folder one that showed the act the boy, Socia, and Paulson’s body but not his head. Socia was Devin’s, maybe, but Paulson was mine. I took the rest of the folder to one of the rear confessionals, stepped through the heavy burgundy partition, and bent by the floor. I used my penknife on a square of marble that’s been loose since I was an altar boy. I lifted it out and placed the folder down in the two-foot hole. Angie was behind me now, and I held out my hand. She placed her .38 in it and I added the nine millimeter, then closed the hole back up again. The square fit neatly, without any noticeable gaps, and I realized then that I’d co-opted one of the great Catholic traditions: concealment.

I stepped back out of the confessional and we walked down the center aisle. At the door, Angie dipped her fingers into the holy water and blessed herself. I thought about it, figuring I’d need all the help I could get on this one, but there’s one thing I hate more than a hypocrite: a pious one. We pushed open the heavy oak doors and stepped into the late afternoon sunlight.

Devin and Oscar were parked out front, leaning over the hood of Devin’s Camaro, a spread of McDonald’s food in front of them. They didn’t so much as look up at us before Devin said, around a mouthful of Big Mac, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Hand me those fries, partner. You have a right to an attorney....”

***

It was well into the next morning before they finished with us.

Devin and Oscar were obviously taking a lot of heat. Gangland shootouts in Roxbury or Mattapan are one thing, but when it rises from the ghettos and rears its ugly head in the heart of the city, when Joe and Suzy Citizen have to stumble over their Louis Vuitton luggage to duck out of the way of gunfire, then there’s a problem. We were cuffed. We were booked. Devin took the photo from me without a word before we got to the station, and they took everything else shortly after.

I stood in a lineup with four cops who didn’t look remotely like me, and stared into a white light. Beyond it, I heard a cop saying, “Take your time. Look closely,” followed by a woman’s voice: “I didn’t really get a good look. I only saw the big black guy.”

Lucky me. If there’s gunfire, people usually see the black

guy.

Angie and I met up again later when they sat us down on a bench beside a mangy wino named Terrance. Terrance smelled like a banana stew, but he didn’t seem to mind. He gladly explained to me, while brushing his teeth with his index finger, why the world was so out of control. Uranus. The good green folks who inhabit this planet don’t have the technology to build modern cities; Terrance told us they can build farmhouses that would make your mouth water, but skyscrapers are beyond them. “But they want ‘em bad, you see?” Now that we’d built all those skyscrapers, the Urani were ready to take over. They pissed through the rain, filling our water supply with a violence-inducing drug. Within ten years, Terrance confided in us, we’d have all killed each other off and the cities would be theirs. A big green party in the Sears Tower.

I asked Terrance where he’d be then, and Angie elbowed me in the ribs for encouraging him.

Terrance stopped brushing his teeth for a moment and looked at me. “Back on Uranus, of course.” He leaned in close and I almost passed out from the smell. “I’m one of them.”

I said, “Of course you are.”

They came and got Terrance a few minutes later, took him off to his spaceship or a secret meeting with the government. They left us where we were. Devin and Oscar walked by a few times without glancing our way. A lot of other cops did the same, not to mention some hookers, an army of bail bondsmen, a bunch of PDs with awkward briefcases and the lean faces of those who don’t have time to eat. As darkness fell, then deepened, a lot of hard-looking guys, built like Devin powerful and low to the ground headed toward the elevators, bulky Teflon vests under dark blue windbreakers, M-16s in their hands. The Anti-Gang Task Force. They held the elevators until Devin and Oscar joined them, then they all went down in two cars.

They never offered us a phone call. They’d do that just before or within the first few minutes of our interrogation. Someone would say, “What, nobody told you you could make a phone call? Jeeze. All our lines must have been busy.”

A kid in patrolman’s blues brought us some lukewarm coffee from a machine. The old cop who’d taken our prints stood across from us behind a desk. He stamped a stack of papers, answered the phone a lot, and if he remembered us at all, he was doing a good job of hiding it. At one point, when I stood up stretch, he half-glanced my way and out of the corner of my eye I saw a cop appear in the hallway on my left. I got a drink from the water fountain not an easy thing to manage with your hands cuffed and sat back down.

Angie said, “They won’t tell us about Bubba will they?”

I shook my head. “If we ask about him, it puts us at the crime scene. If they tell us before we ask, they lose everything, gain nothing.”

“Pretty much what I figured.”

She slept for a while, her head on my shoulder, her knees close to her chest. The weight of her body probably would have cramped a muscle after a while if there’d been any left to cramp; after nine or ten hours on this bench, a simple stretching exercise would have been orgasmic.

They’d taken my watch, but the darkest blue of night had already begun to give way to the first false light of early morning by the time Devin and Oscar returned. I guessed it was around five. Devin said, “Follow us, Kenzie,” as he passed.

We peeled ourselves off the bench and staggered down the hallway after them. My legs refused to straighten completely and my lower back felt like I’d swallowed a hammer. They led us into the same interrogation room where’d we’d met about twenty hours before, let the door swing back into my face as I approached. I pushed it open with my cuffed hands and we did our Quasimodo imitations through the doorway.

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