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“Hell of a Fourth,” I agreed.

She said, “I came home and I was not in good shape.”

“I know.”

“I mean, I just killed someone for God’s sake.” Her land trembled so badly the ash dropped off the cigarette onto the couch. She brushed it into the tray. “So, I came in ana there he is, bitching at me about the car still being parked down at South Station, about me not coming home last night, asking me no, telling me that I was fucking you. And I think to myself, I just got in the door, damn lucky to be alive, blood all over my face, and he can’t think of anything more original to say than ‘You’re fucking Pat Kenzie’? Christ.” She ran a hand up her forehead, pulled the hair back off her face, held it there. “So, I said, ‘Get a life, Phillip,’ or something to that effect and I start walking by him and he goes, ‘Only thing you’ll be able to fuck once I get finished with you, babe, is yourself.’“She took a drag on the cigarette. “Nice, huh? So, he grabs my arm and I get my free hand in my purse and I shoot him with the stun gun. He hits the floor, then he half gets up and I kick him. He’s off balance, goes tumbling back out the door onto the porch. And I hit him with the stun gun again. And I’m staring down at him, and it all went away. I mean everything every feeling I ever had for him just sort of flushed out of my system and all I saw was this piece of shit who had abused me for twelve years, and I... went a little hoopy.”

I doubted that part about the feelings. They’d come back. They always did, usually when you were least prepared for them. I knew she’d probably never love him again, but the emotion would never leave, the reds, the blues, the blacks of all the different things she had felt during that marriage, they’d reverberate time and again. You could leave a bedroom, but the bed stayed with you. I didn’t tell her this, though; she’d learn it soon enough on her own.

I said, “Judging by what I saw, you went a lot hoopy.”

She smiled slightly, let her hair fall back in front of her eyes. “Yeah. I suppose so. Long time coming though.”

“No argument,” I said.

“Pat?” She’s the only person who can call me that without setting my teeth on edge. On those rare times she does, it sounds OK, it feels kinda warm.

“Yeah?”

“When I was looking down at him, afterward, I kept thinking about the two of us in that alley with the car heading around the block toward us. And I was terrified then, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t half as terrified as I could have been, because I was with you. And we always seem to make it through things if we’re together. I don’t doubt things as much when I’m with you. You know?”

“I know exactly,” I said.

She smiled. Her bangs covered her eyes and she kept her head down for a moment. She started to say something.

Then the phone rang. I damn near shot it.

I got up, grabbed it. “Hello.”

“Kenzie, it’s Socia.”

“Congratulations,” I said.

“Kenzie, you have to meet me.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Jesus, Kenzie, I’m a dead man you don’t help me.”

“Listen to what you just said, Marion, and think.”

Angie looked up and I nodded. The softness in her face receded like surf from a reef.

“All right, Kenzie, I know what you’re thinking, sitting there all safe, saying, ‘Socia done now.’ But I ain’t done. Not yet. And I have to, I’ll come looking for you and make sure I take you with me on the way to the grave. You got what I need to stay alive and you gone give it to me.”

I thought about it. “Try and take me out, Socia.”

“I’m a half mile from your house.”

That stopped me, but I said, “Come on over. We’ll have a beer together before I shoot you.”

“Kenzie,” he said, suddenly sounding weary, “I can get to you and I can get to your partner, that one you look at like she hold all the mysteries to life. You ain’t got that psycho with the hardware to protect you no more. Don’t make me come for you.”

Anyone can get to anyone. If Socia made it his sole objective to make sure my funeral preceded his by a few days or a few hours, he could do it. I said, “What do you want?”

“The fucking pictures, man. Save both our lives. I’ll tell Roland if he kill me or you, those pictures definitely see the light. That’s exactly what he don’t want, people saying Roland take it up the bunghole.”

What a prince. Father of the Year.

I said, “Where and when?”

“Know the expressway on-ramp, beside Columbia Station?”

It was two blocks away. “Yeah.”

“Half an hour. Underneath.”

“And this’ll get you both off my back?”

“Fucking right. Keep me and you breathing for some time.”

“Half an hour.”

***

We got the photographs and guns from the confessional. We xeroxed the photos on the machine Pastor Drummond uses for his Bingo sheets in the basement, put the originals back in their place, and went back to my apartment.

Angie drank a tall cup of black coffee and I checked our weapons supply. We had the .357 with two bullets left, the .38 Colin had given us and the .38 Bubba had acquired for us, the nine millimeter, and the .45 I’d taken off Lollipop, silencer attached. We also had four grenades in the fridge, and the Ithaca twelve-gauge.

I put on my trench coat and Angie put on her leather jacket and we took everything but the grenades. Can’t be too safe with people like Socia. I said, “Hell of a Fourth,” and we left the apartment.

Part of I-93 stretches over the neighborhood. Underneath it, the city leaves three deposits sand, salt, and gravel for emergencies. These three cones rise up twenty feet, the bases about fifteen feet wide. It was summer, so they weren’t in all that much use. In Boston though, you have to be prepared. Sometimes Mother Nature plays a joke or two on us, drops a snowstorm on us in early October just to show what a card she is.

You can enter the area from the avenue or from the back entrance of the Columbia/JFK subway station or from Mosley Street if you don’t mind climbing over some shrubs and walking down an incline.

We climbed some shrubs and walked down the incline, kicking clouds of brown dirt in front of us until we reached bottom. We stepped around a green support beam and came out between the three cones.

Socia was standing in the middle, where the bottoms converged into a ragged triangle. A small kid stood beside him. Unformed cheekbones and baby fat betrayed his age, even if he thought the wraparounds and the hat on his head made him look old enough to buy a pint of scotch. If he was any older than fourteen, he aged well.

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