I sipped my beer. “How well did you know my father?”
“I knew your father well, lad, now get on with it.” He looked at his watch.
“You knew he beat his wife, abused his children.”
Mulkern shrugged. “Not my concern.”
“Patrick,” Jim said, “your personal life is irrelevant here.”
“Somebody has to have a concern here,” I said. I looked at Mulkern. “If you knew about my father, Senator, as a public servant, why didn’t you do something about it?”
“I just told you, lad not my concern.”
“What is your concern, Senator?”
“The documents, Pat.”
“What is your concern, Senator?” I asked again.
“The Commonwealth of course.” He chuckled. “I’d love to sit here and explain the utilitarian concept to you, Pat, but I haven’t the time. A few cuffs on the side of the head from your old man is not a call for action, boy.”
A few cuffs. Two hospital stays in the first twelve years of my life.
I said, “Did you know about Paulson? I mean, everything?”
“Come now, boy. Complete your contract and let’s go about our separate ways.” His upper lip was slick with perspiration.
“How much did you know? Did you know he was fucking little boys?”
“There’s no need for that sort of language here,” Mulkern said and smiled, looking around the room.
Angie said, “Tell us what sort of language fits your sense of propriety and we’ll see if it applies to child molestation and prostitution and extortion and murder.”
“What’re you talking about now?” Mulkern said. “Crazy talk is what I’m hearing. Crazy talk. Give me the documents, Pat.”
“Don’t call me ‘Pat.’ It’s something you do to a dog, not something you call a person.”
Mulkern sat back and rolled his eyes. I obviously had no grip on this edge of the planet. He said, “Lad, you ”
“How much did you know, Senator? How much? Your aide-de-camp is doing little kids and people end up dying all over the place because he and Socia took a couple of home movies for themselves and things got out of hand. Didn’t they? What’d Socia blackmail Paulson so he’d change the nature of his pressure on the street terrorism bill? And Paulson, what’d he have a few too many drinks mourning his lost innocence, and Jenna found them? Found photos of her son being molested by the man she worked for? Maybe even voted for? How much did you know, Senator?”
He stared at me.
“And I was the magnet,” I said. “Wasn’t I?” I looked at Jim and he stared back, blank-faced. “I was supposed to lead Socia and Paulson to Jenna, help them clean up the mess. Is that it, Senator?”
He met my anger and indignation, and he smiled. He knew I had nothing on him, just questions and suppositions. He knew that’s all anyone ever had, and his eyes hardened in victory. The more I asked, the less I’d get. The way of things.
He said, “Give me the documents, Pat.”
I said, “Let me see the check, Sterl.”
He held out his hand and Jim put a check in it. Jim was looking at me as if we’d been playing the same game together for years, yet only now was he realizing that I had no grasp of the rules. He shook his head slowly, a den mother’s motion. Jim would’ve made some fine convent a good nun.
Mulkern filled in the “pay to the order of” part of the check but left the amount blank. He said, “The documents, Pat.”
I reached down to the seat and handed him the manila envelope. He opened it, took the photos out, held them on his lap. He said, “No copies this time? I’m proud of you, Pat.”
I said, “Sign the check, Senator.”
He leafed through the rest of the photos, smiled sadly at one, put them back in the envelope. He picked up the pen again, tapped it against the tabletop lightly. He said, “Pat, I think you need an attitude adjustment. Yes. So I’m going to cut your bonus in half. How about that?”
“I made copies.”
“Copies don’t mean a thing in court.”
“They can make a hell of a stink though.”
He looked at me, sized me up in a second, and shook his head. He bent toward the check.
I said, “Call Paulson. Ask him which one’s missing.”
The pen stopped. He said, “Missing?”
Jim said, “Missing?”
Angie said, “Missing?” just to be a smart-ass.
I nodded. “Missing. Paulson can tell you there were twenty-two in all. You got twenty-one in that envelope.”
“And where would it be?” Mulkern asked.
“Sign the check and find out, dickhead.”
I don’t think Mulkern had ever been called a “dickhead” in his life. He didn’t seem too fond of it either, but maybe it would grow on him. He said, “Give it to me.”
I said, “Sign that check, no ‘attitude adjustments,’ and I’ll tell you where it is.”
Jim said, “Don’t sign it, Senator.”
Mulkern said, “Shut up, Jim.”
I said, “Yeah, shut up, Jim. Go fetch the Senator a bone or something.”
Mulkern stared at me. It seemed to be his main method of intimidation and it was lost on someone who’d just spent the past few days getting shot at. It took him a few minutes, but I think he got it. He said, “Whatever happens, I’ll ruin you.” He signed the check with the proper amount and handed it over.
“Shucks,” I said.
“Hand over the photograph.”
“I told you I’d tell you where it was, Senator. I never said I’d hand it over to you.”
Mulkern closed his eyes for a moment and breathed heavily through his nostrils. “Fine. Where is it?”
“Right over there,” Angie said and pointed across the
Richie Colgan stuck his head out from behind a fern. He waved to us, then looked at Mulkern and smiled. A big smile. The corners of his mouth damn near reached his eyelids.
Mulkern said, “No.”
Angie said, “Yes,” and patted his arm.
I said, “Look on the bright side, Sterl you didn’t have to write Richie a check. He fucked you over for free.” We stood up from the table.
Mulkern said, “You’re done in this town. You won’t even be able to get welfare.”
I said, “No kidding? Hell then, I might as well just go over to Richie and tell him you gave me this check for my help in covering up your involvement in this whole affair.”