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I said, “You ever hear of the ACLU?”

Devin tossed a walkie-talkie down on the table in front of him. He followed with a huge ring of keys, then sat back in a chair and watched us. His eyes were ragged and red, but darkly vibrant, an amphetamine vibrancy. Oscar’s looked the same. They’d probably been up forty-eight hours straight. Someday, when all this was over and they were both spending Sundays in their La-Z-Boys watching football games, their hearts would finally play catch up, do what no bullet had ever managed. Knowing them, they’d probably go the same day too.

I held out my hands. “You going to take these things off?”

Devin looked at my wrists, then at my face. He shook his head.

Angie sat down. “You’re an asshole.”

“I am,” Devin said.

I took a seat.

Oscar said, “Case you two are interested, they upped the ante in the war tonight. Someone fired a grenade through the window of a Saints’ crack house. Took out damn near everyone inside, including two babies, couldn’t have been more than nine months, the oldest. We’re not positive yet, but we think two of the dead might have been white college kids, there on a buy. Probably the best thing could have happened. Maybe somebody’ll care now.”

I said, “What’d you do with that photograph?”

“Filed it,” Devin said. “Soda’s already wanted for questioning on seven deaths in the last two nights. If he ever comes to ground, that photo will be one more thing to nail him with. The white guy in the photo, the one on top of the little kid somebody tells me who he is, maybe we can do something about it.”

“Maybe if I was allowed back out on the street, I could do something in ways you couldn’t.”

Devin said, “Like shoot up another train station?”

Oscar said, “You wouldn’t last five minutes on the street anymore, Kenzie.”

Angie said, “Why’s that?”

“Because Socia knows you have incriminating evidence on him. Hard evidence. Because your main protection, Patrick, ain’t in the game anymore and everyone knows it. Because your life ain’t worth a nickel bag as long as Socia’s still walking around.”

“So what’s the charge?” I asked.

“Charge?”

“What’re you charging us with, Devin?”

Oscar said, “Charging?” Couple of parrots, these two.

“Devin.”

“Mr. Kenzie, I have nothing to hold you on. My partner and I were under the impression that you might have been involved in some nasty business down at South Station early yesterday afternoon. But, since no witnesses can place you there, what can I say? We fucked up. And we’re too sorry about it, believe me.”

Angie said, “Take the cuffs off.”

“Would that we could find the key,” Devin said.

“Take the fucking cuffs off, Devin,” she said again.

“Oscar?”

Oscar pulled out all his pockets.

“Oscar doesn’t have them either. We’ll have to call around.”

Oscar stood up. “Maybe I take a look around, see if I can scare them up.”

He left and we sat there, Devin watching us. We watched him back. He said, “Think about protective custody.”

I shook my head.

“Patrick,” he said in a tone my mother used to use, “it’s a rolling battleground out there. You won’t make it until sunrise. Angie, neither will you if you’re with him.”

She tilted her chair back, turned her beautiful, weary face toward me. She said, “‘Nobody hands me my guns and says run. Nobody’“Just like James Coburn in The Magnificent Seven. Her full mouth burst wide, the smile that blew into my chest was devastating. At that moment, I think I knew what love was.

We looked at Devin.

He sighed. “I saw the movie too. Coburn died in the end.”

“There’s always reruns,” I said.

“Not out there, there isn’t.”

Oscar came back through the door. He said, “Well, lookee here,” and held up a small key ring.

“Where’d you find ‘em?” Devin asked.

Oscar tossed them onto the table in front of me. “Right where I left them. Funny how that works sometimes, huh.”

Devin pointed at us. “They think they’re cowboys.”

Oscar pulled back his chair and settled heavily into it. “Then we’ll bury them with their boots on.”

TWENTY-SIX

We couldn’t go home. Devin was right. I had no more cards to play, and Socia had nothing to gain as long as I continued breathing.

We sat around for another two hours while they finished up some paperwork and then they took us out a side door and drove us a few blocks away to the Lenox Hotel.

As we got out of the car, Oscar looked over at Devin. “Have a heart. Tell ‘em.”

We stood on the curb, waited.

Devin said, “Rogowski’s got a broken collarbone and he lost a shitload of blood, but he’s stable.”

Angie sagged against me for a moment.

Devin said, “Been swell knowing you,” and drove off.

The folks at the Lenox didn’t seem too pleased we’d chosen their hotel at eight in the morning, sans luggage. Our clothes, appropriately, looked as if we’d sat on a bench all night, and my hair was still speckled with chips of marble from the shoot-out at South Station. I gave them my Visa Gold Card and they asked for more ID. While the concierge copied the numbers of my driver’s license onto a pad of paper, the reservations clerk called in my Visa number for authorization. Some people you can never please.   

After they ascertained that I was who I said I was and that we probably wouldn’t make off with much more than a bath towel and some sheets, they gave us a room key. I signed my name and looked up at the reservations clerk. “Is the TV in our room bolted to the wall or could it just roll on out of there?”

She gave me a very tight smile but didn’t answer.

The room was on the ninth floor, overlooking Boylston Street. Not a bad view. Directly below us wasn’t much a Store 24, a Dunkin’ Donuts but beyond, a nice stretch of brownstones, some with mint-green roof gardens, and beyond them, the dark, rolling Charles striped against a pale, gray sky.

The sun was rising steadily. I was dead tired, but more than sleep, I needed a shower. Too bad Angie’s quicker than I am. I sat in a chair and flicked on the TV. Bolted to the wall, of course. The early news was running a commentary about yesterday’s gang violence in South Station. The commentator, broad-shouldered with bangs that looked as if they’d been sharpened to points with a razor, was damn near quivering with righteous anger. Gang violence, he said, had finally reached our front doors and something had to be done about it, no matter what.

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