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Ken Mitchum, on Channel Seven, said it was possibly the biggest scandal since the Curly years.

Channel Six was doing the Charles Stuart comparison by the time I caught up with them, paralleling the racial overtones that had tinged both cases. Ward was smiling as he reported this, but Ward always smiles. Laura, on the other hand, looked pissed off. Laura is black; I didn’t blame her.

Angie came back out of the shower, newly dressed in a pair of my gray shorts and a white Polo sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was mine too, but damn if she didn’t look better than me in it. She said, “Where’s my coffee?”

“Same place as the bell. Let me know when you find the both of them.”

She frowned, brushing out her hair, head tilted to one side.

The photograph of Socia’s corpse flashed on the screen. She stopped brushing for a moment. I said, “How do you feel?”

She nodded toward the TV. “Fine, as long as I don’t think about it. Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“And go where?”

“Well, I don’t know about you, babe, but I want to spend some of that bonus money. And,” she said, straightening up, tossing her long hair behind her, “we have to visit Bubba.”

“Have you considered that he may be angry with us?”

She shrugged. “You got to die some time, right?”

I picked up a Nintendo Gameboy for Bubba, bought a bunch of Kill-the-Commie-Terrorist games to go with it. Angie bought him a Freddy Krueger doll and five issues of Jugs magazine.

There was a police guard at his door, but after making a few phone calls, he allowed us to go in. Bubba was reading a worn copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook when we entered, learning all sorts of new and nifty ways to build a hydrogen bomb in his backyard. He looked up at us, and for the single longest second of my life, I couldn’t tell if he was angry or not.

He said, “’Bout time someone I liked showed up.”

I learned how to breathe again.

He was paler than I’d ever seen him and the whole left side of his chest and arm was in a cast, but take away the cast and I’ve seen people with a bad cold who looked less healthy. Angie bent over and kissed his forehead, then suddenly pulled his head to her chest and held it there for a moment, her eyes closed. “I was worried about you, you maniac.”

“What don’t kill me only makes me bloody.”

Bubba. Deep as always.

He said, “A Freddie Krueger doll! Hot shit!” He looked at me. “What’d you bring me, homeboy?”

***

We left after a half hour or so. The doctors had initially thought he’d be in ICU for at least a week, but now they were saying he could be released in another two days. He’d face an indictment, of course, but he assured us, “What’s a witness? Really. I never met one. They those people who always seem to get amnesia just before I’m supposed to go to trial?”

We walked down Charles Street into the Back Bay, Angie’s credit card burning a hole in her pocket. Bonwit Teller never stood a chance. She hit the place like a cyclone and by the time we left, we were carrying half the first floor in paper bags.

I did a half hour’s shopping at Eddie Bauer, another twenty minutes at the Banana Republic in Copley Place, my stomach beginning to churn in the atmosphere of four-story marble waterfalls and solid gold window frames and Neiman-Marcus displays of eighty-five-dollar argyle socks. If Donald Trump puked, Copley Place is probably what would hit the toilet.

We took the back entrance out of there, the best place to find a cab in the city in midafternoon. We were trying to figure out where we were going to eat lunch, when I saw Roland standing at the bottom of the escalator, his huge frame spread lazily across the exit way, one arm in a cast, one eye closed shut, the other looking steadily at us.

I reached under my untucked shirt, got a firm grip on the nine millimeter, cold against my stomach but warm in my hand.

Roland stepped back. “I want to talk.”

I kept my hand on my gun.

Angie said, “So talk.”

“Take a walk with me.” He turned and walked out through the revolving door.

I’m not quite sure why we followed him, but we did. The sun was strong, the air warm but not too humid as we walked up Dartmouth, away from the staid hotels and the quaint shops, the yuppies sipping cappucino amidst the illusion of civilization. We crossed Columbus Avenue and went down through the South End, the restored brown-stones eventually giving way to the sorrier-looking ones, those that hadn’t been touched by the frontier mentality of the fern-and-Perrier crowd yet. We kept going, none of us saying a word, farther down into Roxbury. As soon as we crossed over the border, Roland said, “Just want to speak to you a minute.”

I looked around me, saw nothing that gave me comfort, but somehow, I trusted him. Having checked inside the hollows of the sling that supported his arm and seeing no gun there, I had one concrete reason to feel this way. But that wasn’t all of it. What I knew of Roland, he wasn’t like his father. He didn’t lull you into death with a few words and a hypnotist’s inflection. He just came straight at you and sent you to your coffin.

Another thing I was realizing, for sure the kid was huge. I’d never been this close to him when he’d been on his feet, and it was damn near awe-inspiring. He was closing in on six foot four or so and every inch of skin that covered his body was bunched tight with coiled muscle. I’m six feet even and I felt like a dwarf.

He stopped in a worn-out field, a construction site waiting to happen, the next place big business would go to encroach and keep encroaching, pushing Roxbury west or east until it became another South End, another place to have a good drink and hear underground music. And its people would roll east or west too, while politicians cut ribbons and shook the hands of entrepreneurs and talked of progress, pointed to declining crime statistics in the area with pride, while ignoring the rising crime statistics in the areas where the displaced had settled. Roxbury would become a nice word again, Dedham or Randolph a bad one. And another neighborhood would dissolve.

Roland said, “You two killed Marion.”

We didn’t say anything.

“You think it would...please me? That it? Keep me from your door?”

I said, “No. Didn’t have much to do with you at the time, Roland. He pissed us off. Simple as that.”

He looked at me, then off beyond the lot. We weren’t too far from the decrepit tenements where he’d chased us the night before. All around us were worn buildings and sparse fields of city growth. Not much more than a stone’s throw from Beacon Hill.

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