Chapter 25


    By ten o'clock they had everything in the new house. What had seemed like a reasonable amount of goods in the Lexington Park house now filled up every room, every corner, every cabinet. If they put the sofa and two of the dining-room chairs on the roof, they could just about make everything fit.

    Byrne stood across the street from the row house. A pair of older teenage girls walked by, reminding him of Lucy Doucette.

    When he had first met Lucy at the group regression-therapy sessions she had seemed so lost. He did not know much about her life, but she had told him enough for him to know that she was troubled by a traumatic event in her childhood. He recalled her efforts at the regression-therapy group, her inability to recall anything about the incident. He didn't know if she had been molested or not. Running into her accidentally in the city reminded him how he had promised to look in on her from time to time. He had not.


    It was a tiny voice. Byrne turned around and saw that it was Jessica's daughter Sophie, bundled up, standing on the sidewalk in front of the porch. The front door was open, and through it Byrne could see Peter Giovanni inside, leaning against the handrail, keeping one eye on his granddaughter. Once a father, always a cop.

    Byrne crossed the street. For a long time Jessica had insisted that

    Sophie should call him Mr. Byrne. It had taken a while for Byrne to change that, and it looked like it had finally taken hold. Byrne got down to Sophie's level, noticing that she wasn't as small as she had been even last year at this time. 'Hey, sweetie.'

    'Thanks for helping out.'

    'Oh, you're welcome,' Byrne said. 'Do you like your new house?'

    'It's small.'

    Byrne looked over her shoulder. 'It's not that small. I think it's pretty cool.'

    Sophie shrugged. 'It's all right, I guess.'

    'Plus your school is only a block away. You can sleep late.'

    Sophie giggled. 'You don't know my mom.'

    The truth was, he did. He soon realized the folly of his statement.

    Sophie glanced up the street. The looming structure of Sacred Heart Parochial School was silhouetted against the carbon-blue night sky. She looked back at Byrne. 'Did you go to Catholic school?'

    'Oh yeah,' Byrne said. He wanted to tell her that he still had ruler marks on his knuckles to prove it, but decided against it.

    'Did you like it?'

    How to answer this? 'Well, do you have a kid in your school who is always goofing off, always getting into trouble?'

    'Yeah,' Sophie said. 'In my school it's Bobby Tomasello.'

    'Well, in my school that kid was me.'

    'You got into trouble?'

    'All the time,' Byrne said.

    'Did they make you sit in the corner?'

    Byrne smiled at the memory. 'Let me put it this way. Sister Mary Alice ended up putting my desk in the corner. It saved everyone a trip. In fact, I had a corner office in every one of my classrooms.'

    Sophie's face softened into an expression that Byrne had seen a thousand times on Jessica's face, a look of compassion and understanding. 'It's all right, Kevin,' she said. 'You turned out okay.'

    The jury was still out on that one, Byrne thought. Still, it was nice to hear, even if it was coming from a seven-year-old. Maybe especially from a seven-year-old. 'Thanks.'

    They fell silent for a moment, listening to the sounds of the party coming from inside the house.

    'I like Colleen,' Sophie said.

    'Yeah,' Byrne said. 'She's pretty special.'

    'She taught me something.'

    'Oh yeah?'

    Sophie nodded. She thought for a moment, wrinkling her brow, then balled her fists, extended a finger, stopped, thought a bit more, started over. This time she extended her hands, rubbed one palm across the other, lifted the index finger on each hand, bumped fists, and pointed at Byrne.

    It was American Sign Language for 'Nice to meet you.'

    'Very good,' Byrne said. 'Did you just learn that?'

    Sophie nodded. 'It took me a few times.'

    Byrne smiled. 'It took me -way more than a few times.'

    A few minutes later he kissed Sophie on top of her head, watched her walk back inside. After she was inside, Byrne stood and observed Jessica's family through the window for a while. It had been a long time since he'd been part of something like this.

    He thought about Sophie's sign language, how determined she was, how she stayed with it until she got it right. He considered how the oldest sayings were the truest, like that one about the apple not falling far from the tree.


    Byrne walked down Third Street, got into the van. He had grown up not far from here. He remembered a variety store on the corner. He used to get his water pistols and comic books there, cadging the occasional Baby Ruth and Butterfinger. He remembered a kid who got beat up once in the alley behind the store, a kid who was thought to have molested a little girl from the neighborhood. Byrne had been sitting on the corner with his cousin Patrick when it happened. He remembered the kid screaming. It was the first time he had ever encountered violence like that, the first time he had ever heard someone in so much pain. He believed that all those sounds, all the dark echoes of violence, in many ways remained.

    Byrne sat there for a long time, not moving, just rolling the fifty- cent piece over his fingers, the memories of his old neighborhood misting across his mind.

    Someone emerged from the shadows just outside the driver's side window of the van. Byrne sat upright. It was Jessica. He rolled down the window.

    'What's up?' he asked. 'Ready to move back already?'

    'You know the paper that was wrapped around the victims' heads?'

    'What about it?'

    'We have a make.'

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