“Yeah, Socia,” I said, “this is all of it.” I raised the gun and shot him in the chest.
He dropped the photocopies and raised a hand to the hole, stumbling back but staying on his feet. He looked at the hole, at the blood on his hand. He seemed surprised, and for a brief moment, terribly afraid. “The fuck you do that for?” He coughed.
I pulled back on the hammer again.
He stared at me, and the fear left his eyes. The irises peppered over with a cold satisfaction, a dark knowledge. He smiled.
I shot him in the head and Angie’s gun went off at the same time. The bullets hammered him back into the salt pile, and he rolled onto his back and slid to the cement.
Angie’s body was shaking a bit, but her voice was steady. “Guess Devin was right.”
I looked down at Socia. “How’s that?”
“Some people, you either kill them or leave them be, because you’ll never change their minds.”
I bent down and began picking up the photocopies. Angie knelt by Eugene and cleaned his nose and face with a handkerchief. He didn’t seem surprised or elated or disturbed by what had happened. His eyes were glazed, somewhat off-center. Angie said, “Can you walk?”
“Yes.” He stood up unsteadily, closed his eyes for a few seconds, then exhaled slowly.
I found the photocopy I was looking for, wiped it off with some gravel, and placed it in Socia’s jacket. Eugene stood firmly now. I looked at him. “Go home,” I said.
He nodded and walked off without a word. He climbed the incline and disappeared on the other side of the shrubs.
Angie and I took the same route a minute later, and as we walked toward my apartment, I slipped my arm around her waist and tried not to think about it.
His last week alive, my father's six-foot two-inch frame weighed 112 pounds.
In his hospital room at three in the morning, I listened to his chest rattle like shards of broken glass boiling in a pot. His exhalations sounded as if they were forcing their way out through layers of gauze. Dried spittle whitened the corners of his mouth.
When he opened his eyes, the green irises seemed to swim, anchorless amid the white. He turned his head in my direction. “Patrick?
I leaned in toward the bed, the child in me still cautious, still watching his hands, ready to bolt if they moved too suddenly. He smiled. “Your mother loves me.”
“That’s something to ” He coughed and the force of it bowed his chest, brought his head off the pillow. He grimaced, swallowed. “That’s something to take with me. Over there,” he said and rolled his eyes back into his head as if they could catch a glimpse of where he was going.
I said, “That’s nice, Edgar.”
His feeble hand slapped my arm. “You still hate me, do you?”
I looked in those unhinged irises and nodded.
“What about all that shit the nuns taught you? What about forgiveness?” He raised a tired, amused eyebrow.
“You used it all up, Edgar. A long time ago.”
The feeble hand reached out again, grazed my abdomen. “Still mad about that little scar?”
I stared at him, giving him nothing, telling him there was nothing left to take anymore, even if he were strong enough.
He waved the hand in a dismissive gesture. “Fuck ya, then.” He closed his eyes. “What’d you come for?”
I sat back, looked at the wasted body, waiting for it to stop having an effect on me, for that poisonous sludge of love and hate to quit sluicing through my body. “To watch you die,” I said.
He smiled, eyes still closed. “Ah,” he said, “a vulture. So you are your father’s son, after all.”
He slept for a while after that, and I watched him, listening to the broken glass rattling through his chest. I knew then that whatever explanation Yd been waiting for my whole life was sealed in that wasted frame, in that rotted brain, and it was never coming out. It was going to ride with my father on his black journey to that place he saw when he rolled his eyes back into his skull. All that dark knowledge was his alone, and he was taking it with him so he’d have something to chuckle about during the trip.
At five-thirty, my father opened his eyes and pointed at me. He said, “Something’s burning. Something’s burning!” His eyes widened and his mouth opened as if he were about to howl.
And he died.
And I watched him, still waiting.
It was one-thirty in the morning on the fifth of July when we met Sterling Mulkern and Jim Vurnan at the Hyatt Regency bar in Cambridge. The bar is one of those revolving lounges, and as we flowed around in a slow circle, the city glittered and the red stone footbridges on the Charles seemed old and good and even the ivy-covered brick of Harvard didn’t annoy me.
Mulkern was wearing a gray suit over a white shirt, no tie. Jim was wearing an angora crew-neck sweater and tan cotton pants. Neither of them looked pleased.
Angie and I wore the usual and neither of us cared.
Mulkern said, “I hope you have a good reason for calling us out at this hour, lad.”
I said, “Of course. If you wouldn’t mind, please tell me what our deal was.”
Mulkern said, “Come now. What’s this?”
I said, “Repeat the terms of the contract we made.”
Mulkern looked at Jim and shrugged. Jim said, “Patrick, you know damn well we agreed to your daily fee plus expenses.”
“Plus a seven thousand dollar bonus if you produced the documents that Jenna Angeline stole.” Jim was irritable; maybe his blond Vassar wife with the Dorothy Hamill do was making him sleep on the couch again. Or maybe I’d interrupted their bimonthly tryst.
I said, “You advanced me two thousand dollars. I’ve worked on this for seven days. Actually, if I wanted to be technical, this is the morning of the eighth, but I’ll give you a break. Here’s the bill.” I handed it to Mulkern.
He barely glanced at it. “Ludicrously exorbitant, but we hired you because you allegedly justify your fees.”
I sat back. “Who put Curtis Moore on to me? You or Paulson?”
Jim said, “What in the hell are you talking about? Curtis Moore worked for Socia.”
“But he managed to begin tailing me about five minutes after our first meeting.” I looked at Mulkern. “How convenient.”
Mulkern’s eyes showed nothing, a man who could withstand a thousand suppositions, no matter how logical, as long as there was no proof to back them up. And if there was proof, he could just say, “I don’t recall.”