Jake, an ageing detective, takes on a murder case involving his old Little League second baseman; by Tom Sheehan.
Jake, it was well known in local police circles, could go over his cases the way he replayed old games, a whole game at a time, each pitch, each hit or play by one of his fielders, standout or routine, or an enemy strikeout, the ball coming back to the pitcher, the new look at the new parameters. Once in a while he could hear the bell that Bobo's mother rang at every game, like a charm at work, out of the mysterious southwest. He had brought that capacity of memory and imagination fully functional into police work. "They are," he once told a friend, "my inner movies." With astounding clarity he could run movies of cases nine or ten years in the past. He was a cop's museum.
He reran the Bobo film time and again long into the night as he sat on his porch on the side of a hill, sights and sounds coming to him as if by magic from a few words, sometimes fewer words than he wanted. Bobo was still brown-eyed but bright, an outlandishly handsome smile, complexion out of the southwest for sure, tanned, darker than friends and teammates, somewhat contagious in his outlook. Like the flow of a game should have been or could have been, Jake was able to fill in holes the way they ought to be from those few words. He could measure against perfection, a thesis on life, a thesis on people.
We were at the Topsfield Fair, Jake, Bobo had said. It was a harmless night out, the fairgrounds loaded with color and noise.
Young engineer and nouveau designer Roberto "Bobo" Carnes lost his wallet traipsing through the Topsfield Fairgrounds on an October evening, air bright and unrelenting with an edge of ax in it en route from the north country, smells rich and pungent throughout the tents and barns and outbuildings of the fair as if ripeness were a sense of measure and success. Steaming vendor wagons seemed heaped upon one another in the business fray, casting themselves invisibly through the crowded ways.
I had it and then I didn't have it.
Bobo thought his loss just a plain hundred-dollar loss, for that's all that he had tucked away in the wallet folds, plus a few loose dollars. Never spent much, never carried much. Lavish restaurants, sporty cars, spectacular women had no serious play for him. "Been there, done that," he'd say to himself halfheartedly. Yet for such a small loss, he had no idea what was coming at him. Full bore.
Things have been going good for me, Jake.
New patents of his were sound and firmly planted, and business going better than anticipated. One proposed design and patent in the back of his mind, a veritable leech sucking into his brain, was a now and forever gadget. Simple it was, like a paper clip or clothespin or mousetrap, and with it once perfected, he'd be set for life. The small mechanical spread was never far from his center of thought. From his genius Mexican mother, caught up in the rigors and throes of manual labor all the damn dusty and dry way from her sixth year on this harsh Earth, he'd received a gift of acute object adaptation; for a single object he could find many uses, spread its intent, apply it elsewhere; those novel uses bursting in him to be free. A genius at it he was, possibilities continually erupting at the back of his head like fireworks, strange gadgets and odd contraptions clutching, grasping, getting footholds in his brain matter. His head was a lab, a tool room, a closet, a fix-it shop, a stocked garage, an overflowing bench at the foot of the cellar stairs waiting for the overhead light to go on, hands to touch things.
What the hell is a hundred bucks?
The lost wallet had no serious grasp on his mind; inert it was, no moving and tactile parts, no intricacies or puzzlement, no concept at challenge, mere representative of other conditions, passive at the most. Initially, at discovery of the lost wallet, he shrugged his shoulders. "Had it, lost it," he muttered, a wave off.
Only a few pictures of Hannah, Jake.
At the fairgrounds, a mix of October color was resident in the trees along the Ipswich River and in one sentinel red maple in particular, a sweet breath in the air and a sense of exultant fall coming with it. Late afternoon sun had dropped its incendiaries into trees along the river and danced its ignition as far as the eye could see. Bobo, for a good hour caught between the tree blaze and the fair's smells, had carried a light jacket before donning it. That's when the wallet was first missed, no longer zipped into a jacket pocket. A couple of credit cards he could recount, along with his driver's license, a folded hundred dollar bill tucked under a leather separator, a few pictures of his sister Hannah, and little else. He could picture her, Hard Hannah! "Hannah was to be borne, to say the least," he admitted on a regular basis. "Life," he remembered his mother used to say, "is a road with many obstacles." Perhaps his tall sister Hannah was one of those bumps on the main highway. Attitude, in varied instances, had to be a bump.
You remember Hannah, Jake.
As he did quite often, Bobo thought of Hannah when the loss was discovered, the way she could unnerve him, test his Mexican calmness. To be borne, he thought. He'd bear her again. It was his way. He'd bug her for more pictures, it was his due and calling, and it would be a task, the way she held back small favors, putting up that wall he sometimes believed was resignation, then at times nothing more than sass or impudence. He worked at making blood thicker than water. It was not an easy task. Even at the odd roots, she was family. When he'd asked her a year earlier to go on a trip with him, a week free on the West Coast, she had said, "I'm not sharing in your spoils, Bobo. I told you that before! Get off my case!" Even before that he'd noticed a distinct drifting, what he assumed was a pittance of jealousy. There was a status less talked about the better.
Hannah, to most eyes he agreed, was somewhat plain, but she, like some of the women that Bobo had known or come in contact with, maintained a spectacular body hidden to most of those eyes. Often he wondered how many women were like that, like Hard Hannah, somehow lost to the casual eye, daily buried in their selection of clothes, making the wrong turn in life, turning a different page, at odds with notice, with attraction. Perhaps it was disdain or the way Hannah dressed; woolly, somber, somewhat Downeast in tone, as if ready for the weather or what might come of it in the next damn breath. Despite what he hoped for in her outlook, she did dress to match her personality. It was the obverse of his mother's southwestern dress, though that too was ready for the weather, the desert, the sudden and harsh calls of the land. It was the way he also knew his long-departed mother, careful and cautious, ready for anything, taking life head on yet predictable in her steady assurances. Nudity was for god or husband, she believed, and those two at times interchangeable.
One time we figured out you had been listening to us all the time, Jake, every damn word we ever said, and you sat at one end of the bench or the back of the bus and read lips! We had no secrets from you.
Reflection grabbed hold of Bobo, coming down long pastures of memories, green and unfenced and running to an old horizon. As young teenagers he and a few pals had often rated women, especially older women by at least a few years, on the merits of their bodies under the clutch of clothes. They played guessing games at breast and cup sizes, hip spreads, crotch hair colors and conditions, buttock spans. How thighs so elongated could be so elegant and so attractive against the span of a simple dark material of dress or skirt. The press of it! The shape behind it! Oh, all the world and glory and amen! Amazement and revelation, in turn, came upon them along with feelings that flooded their veins, promised happenings sooner than later, great hopeful breakouts in the offing, small realizations. The eternal wait, though, was delicious. "Where there's smoke, there's friggin' fire, friggin' fire!" his pal Paints Brown would say. They stared. They ogled. They snickered. And they delighted again and again in those small revelations.
Nicky Redding came back to him in a flash, as if he had never gone down to the sea in that stupid ship, crying into the back of his hand, his dark eyes of everlasting Mediterranean pain shut for the moment. "Oh, the bush, guys! The bush!" and he'd lick the back of his hand like a vanilla cone had melted all over it and they'd be in hysterics. And Nicky wasn't the clown of the group, he was the reader. He had come to them time and again talking about the Mound of Venus and the Seven Cities of Cibola, the moving support, the bastion of all mankind, "where the rich get richer and the poor make up for all the difference." He could qualify anything: "The bush grows on a hill, guys, the top of the friggin' world. Like Rome was on a hill." They laughed and they waited and made pictures in their minds, sitting on cement with their backs against the fieldhouse brick wall, and out in front of them the endless parade of girls passing from game to game, tush and bush afield.
You knew we had crushes on a few teachers, the young ones, and you knew why.
Teachers though were their favorites, snatched up in the gathering of attention, caught in well-lighted doorways, against a May or June window silhouetted by a superior sunlight, retrieving something from a bottom desk drawer or reaching across a desktop. Naked, he and his buddies constantly thought, was best, was illustrious, was the end-all. For their efforts they had perfected a pretty good eye for hidden women. Hannah fit that eye to a T. Hidden Hannah, oh, Hard Hannah. Now a new friend to Bobo and her, Jack Kilrain, had taken her on a couple of dates. Bobo had been hopeful for Hannah and the timing seemed good. Perhaps he'd get her to smile more often, as if she'd ever smile when her brother was about. He had borne her best he could, and mouthed that acceptance under his breath too often.
I met this guy fishing, on the Ipswich, Jake, near Bradley Palmer State Park, and he knew some hidden spots, and shared them easily. He ended up dating Hannah.
Fair noises loomed all around, and the chatter and the impersonal interplay of strangers. Sausage and pepper and onion smells crowded the air, as well as donut and cider aromas. With the tasty smells came the sense of newly strewn hay, fresh manure droppings, a full mix of animal and vegetable airs from the barns and showrooms. He and his new pal, Hannah's recent date, Jack Kilrain, went back over known ground looking for the wallet or a finder's commotion, without any luck.
A few months earlier he had met Jack on the Ipswich River as their canoes passed each other and they shared insider information on a few good fishing spots. Jack had volunteered first, his bright face all smiles, his eyes full of river light, one of those Pepsodent faces out of a magazine ad. "Go back upstream from the bridge at Bradley Palmer State Park, a few hundred yards or so," he said with a shoulder shrug and a full smile, "around one main turn and one old blow-down that's bleached near white and been there for years, and you'll find where Pye Brook empties into the Ipswich, coming down through a sea of grass. Get your canoe up in there, up in the high grass and reeds you can't see over, though there's not much turn-around room. You might shake a hundred birds loose of their nests. I hit a good half dozen healthy brookies there last week, a couple of rainbows, and left some for the next trip. Maybe next weekend. Haven't seen anybody up in there for years." His own age, likable, a fisherman alone in a canoe, Bobo immediately thought him pleasant and warm, always having room for new friends.
You know how fishermen are.
Bobo in turn leaked information on a few spots of his own, especially the one just below the fairgrounds they were now on, the first turn above the old Iron Bridge. Hell, he had kept his word to an older friend for close to ten years. Time was ripe for new hands, new conquests. The water lapping against the side of his canoe, a stillness settling down on the end of day, he wondered if he had seen Jack before, in surroundings just as pleasant, there being something familiar and warm about him.
At the barn where the horse-pulling contests were about to start, Jack said, "Why don't you call the cops or fair officials? Perhaps someone will turn it in." His hand was on Bobo's shoulder, sort of urging him.
"I don't think there's much chance of that," Bobo countered. "Not with a single hundred folded away. I'll cancel my credit cards. There's just two of them from what I remember. No problem. Might be a Lost and Found around here, though, and we'll let them know."
The night of extreme odors and sights pressed on and the two forgot the wallet and had a go at the rich spill of sausages and cider and later a heavy share of chicken chop suey in a roll. Jack Kilrain paid with ease and laughter. Already he had taken Hannah out on a couple of expensive dates and there was promise of more. An affinity was warming strongly between the two men, Bobo thinking Jack was exactly what Hannah needed in this life, always smiling, light on his face, a dimple on his chin, teeth so perfect they could have been made. During the evening he admitted he had some kind of feelings for Hannah. Would he be just what the doctor ordered for Hannah?
The next morning Bobo canceled all his credit cards.
Then I looked up the street as I'm going off to work and the cops are there.
Three mornings later, as he was about to drive to his office and shop in Danvers, a police car pulled in behind him and two policemen stepped out. Immediately Bobo recognized Jake Adamo, now in plainclothes after a burden of years on the street. Jake had aged, was heavier, looked slower but wiser.
"Hi, Jake," Bobo yelled. "You guys on business or social?" The look on Jake's face he read almost too quickly. "What's the matter, Jake? You have that old three-and-two-bases-loaded look." At the back of his neck an odd sensation, almost electrical, told Bobo that nothing was going to be funny.
With a quick frown, Jake's face agreed, eyes clouded, large teeth biting into the cigar, one hand waving hapless. "I have a problem, Bobo," he said, neither apologetic nor condescending, dark eyes fuller now of shadow and honest concern. "There's been a crime committed, pretty serious. One of your credit cards found at the scene. You got any explanations that might fit that?"
Jake's voice was hard and gruff, an all-work voice with years of cigars riding in it, and thousands of night hours of patrol. Who, where, what was not offered up. An unlit cigar hung like a comma from his mouth. His hair was thin, his neck heavy in a button-down collar, the paunch more rotund than ever. Jake had been a hard-line coach, no bullshit about him when it came to parents, going straight at them right to the core of a problem. Bobo suddenly remembered Billy Cantella's mother coming to the bench in a game years earlier, embarrassing the hell out of Billy after inept Billy had not started in rightfield for six straight games. Jake had spoken loud and clear, "Lady, you stay away from my goddamn bench and I'll guarantee you I'll stay out of your goddamn kitchen!"
Bobo wanted to laugh his answer to Jake's question but didn't, the odd sensation, still electric, still on him. "I lost my wallet at the fairgrounds the other night. Had a couple of my credit cards in it. Some old pictures of Hannah (almost sounding apologetic, he thought), a hundred bucks. Did it show up someplace?" Then, accepting the odd feeling telling him something else, he said, "What happened with this crime? Someone hurt?" The electricity was like a special circuit had been rigged just for him.
Jake ignored part of Bobo's reply. "What kind of credit cards, Bobo? You remember?" As if that was important, and Bobo thinking Jake was just being "official." Jake put the old unlit cigar in his mouth. "Know what brand they were?" Bobo thought for sure the bases were loaded and Jake had no idea of who to use as a pinch hitter. That look of Jake's would never change. He could call it perplexity, but wasn't sure it would fit.
"I don't know. I figure I had two of them in my wallet, but canceled four cards, just to be sure." Bobo knew it didn't sound too good. "I don't remember which two were there. I'm not sure of the issue or the cut-off dates. I have thrown new ones away by mistake. I don't use them very much. Only on trips. I really don't know what they were. You know me, Jake, Frugal Freddie. Always been that way. I'm not much for the hot stuff." Somehow his voice sounded empty, unsure of its own source, hollow all the way from where it came.
Jake's answer was quick and out of character. "This is hot stuff, Bobo. Extremely hot stuff." Bobo thought Jake looked as if one of his kids had been thrown out at the plate, when he said, "I'm afraid you'll have to come down to the station. There are some questions." All the old days had diminished in value; the game winning double in the last of the seventh off there in Connecticut in a championship game long gone down the tube; times had changed.
Bobo heard the details: A man in the next town had been strangled with a twist of wire tied to a strange spring arrangement. Death was immediate. The coroner said he had never seen such a contraption. "Dropped over his head, probably when he got out of his car in the garage. Bango! Snapped into his neck like a shot. Didn't even need to be held. No marks on his body, not grabbed by the arms. This man was not subdued and then strangled. He was killed quicker than you can imagine." Then the coroner shook his head. "Never seen the likes of it. It's new-fangled. It's impressive." The victim was not rich, not well known, was in fact somewhat reclusive. Few people, it was assessed, would miss him. But he was dead!
Death was fixed at just after midnight. Bobo said he was in his small shop, alone. It was where he probably spent five nights a week, working on his new pieces; a new design for a wheelbarrow, a new toaster with a vastly different set-up, a carburetor he believed would start a revolution. Nobody could vouch he was there on the night of the murder. Later, when police searched his shop one of the things they took away with them was a spring. It proved to be the same type as employed in the murder weapon.
Jake, visibly uncomfortable, later sat with Bobo at the station. "No ideas, Bobo? Not a one?"
"Jeez, Jake, how could I have any ideas. I didn't even know the guy. Don't think I ever saw him."
"Well, it's small comfort for you, I guess, Bobo, but I don't think you did it. You got too much on your platter. You've always had that. The mystery is I think someone's trying to set you up, if you ask me. But we have to cover all this ground. Like the spring we found in your shop. Has to be explained. Somebody knows something about you, that's plain to see."
"Jake," Bobo said, "I bought two dozen of those springs at that shop in Salem, the one burned down last year. Where the two firemen got hurt. I can account for all but one. I don't know what happened to it, but I sure as hell didn't use it to kill somebody."
"Anybody strange been in your shop?" The cigar at Jake's lips hung limp as a flower in October's mouth, and his eyes filled with distance.
Perhaps, Bobo thought, he's really tired of the job, looking closer at retirement, might be Naples, Florida I see in there or Marco Island. "Only a couple of vendor reps a few weeks ago," he offered, "from out of state. Nobody else. Not a soul." He shook his head. "I don't want anybody in there when I'm not there. It's always been that way. My sister doesn't even get in there if I'm not around."
Jake filed that qualification, and then said, "How's it going?"
"I'm sitting on a keg of dynamite, Jake. One of my rigs is going to take off like a rocket. I've got some solid queries on it."
"Who benefits besides you, Bobo?"
"My sister Hannah gets everything if anything happens to me, if that's what you mean. Like if I die or get incarcerated for a long spell. You getting into that drift?"
You know what Hannah's like, Jake.
Jake had a way of turning things aside, relegating them to unimportant status. "What kind of relationship is she in?"
"She's dated a few guys, but not many. Doesn't like to mix too much. Been out with a pal of mine a couple of times. Jack Kilrain. He was with me the night I lost my wallet."
Jake didn't turn this one aside. "He ever been in your shop?" Jake had a way of trying to be bland and unexcited, but the manipulation of the cigar gave him away; it bobbed like a nerve ending.
"Nope, not once. Casual doesn't get anybody in there, Jake. It's the way I play it."
Jake looked off to a corner of the room. "All we have, Bobo, is your sister and your new buddy. So far as we know there's nobody else in the mix. Can't think of anybody who doesn't like your ass for some godforsaken reason?"
Bobo thought Jake could get unbland too, in a hurry. "Not a one, Jake."
"I've learned a lot on this job, Bobo. One of the things I've learned is that someplace, somewhere, for whatever reason, there's someone who doesn't like your ass. It can be old as the hills, the reason for such hatred. You never know where it's coming from. But it's there like the handle on a piss pot."
"You mean someone, for years, could have been waiting to set me up, to settle an old score? Simple as that?"
"Or waiting for you to get prime." Jake looked off into the corner again, the shadow in his eyes yet, the cigar clinched in his lips but moving like a heart's wave chart.
Been out with a pal of mine a couple of times. Jack Kilrain. He was with me the night I lost my wallet.
Jake, shortly thereafter and unknown to Bobo, bird-dogged Jack Kilrain on a few odd occasions. On one such trip Jake came across a steely-eyed acquaintance of Kilrain's that spooked him. The pair didn't match up, not in age or clothes or manners. A profile artist, he knew, would never put the two together in a hundred years, yet here they were, swinging their feet over the sea wall at Kings Beach down in Lynn as if they were long lost pals, sharing a bag of French fries, an October breeze, a hunk of sunshine. Jake took his jacket and tie off, dropped them onto the front seat of his car, put on an old sweater found in the trunk and rolled up the sleeves. Sauntering by the pair as if on his own stroll for salt air, his ears were cocked wide, the tide music humming in his ears, the spill of waves, the monotone of traffic.
"So your buddy's going to be a millionaire, huh? Looks kind of dark as far as I can see, one of them Wetbacks I'll bet, come up here to rape the land. Now don't go getting pissed off at me, but I saw you guys at the fair. I was tossing hay for a few drinks and a place for my head for the night. Got a meal out of it too. They don't give a sucker a break even in those places, claim they're getting back to the land. More crap for fodder, if you ask me."
"I get the idea you've been watching closer than I thought. That's way out of line. You tell anybody about him? Somebody got on his case."
Jake had gotten that much! He wanted to slow down dramatically, but feared doing so. Bobo was a good kid. Always had been. Some of his teammates and other kids he had coached had turned out real shitty, but he had stopped worrying about that a long time ago. If he stopped to retie his shoelaces, play a hesitating game, it would be a giveaway. He kept walking, reached the end of the sea wall and sat down. All the way out to the dim gray horizon he looked, watching a tanker or some large ship almost disappear over that demarcation. The double Bobo had hit in one championship game had almost given them the title. All these years later he could still feel the thrill at the back of his head. Sometimes it made him breathe heavy; it was as close as he'd ever come, him and his endless dreams about the World Series. When he turned to look back at the two men, he saw Kilrain place an envelope on the rim of the sea wall, spin around on his butt and walk off down the wide sea walk. In a red Corvette, practically noiseless for being so red, he spun away from the beach.
Jake watched Jack Kilrain's seedy looking companion open the envelope and count a goodly sum of money. Jake could feel all the options being narrowed. He was suddenly sure that the connecting link would be Bobo's sister Hannah. This nondescript acceptor of funds was tied to Bobo's sister and her share of any forthcoming will, and any forthcoming incarceration of her brother. So that meant her new boyfriend, and Bobo's new pal, Jack Kilrain. Jake wondered how many ways he could put the screws to a devious plan. The options, he believed, were limitless.
Jake began a tail on Kilrain's seedy pal. Later in the day, after noting little, finding nothing, he put Ashton Croft on the tail. Ashton was good, cool, inventive.
Later in the night, Ashton called Jake. "I got this jamoke inside Bobo's shop. Walks up to the door, takes out a key, opens the door and walks in. You'd think he owned the place. Shall I grab him when he comes out or keep the tail going?"
"Hell, we can't get him for breaking and entering. He had a damn key. But we can get him for unlawful entry I'd guess. He doesn't have permission to be in there. Keep on the track. See what he does, where he goes, what he carries off with him. If he brings something to Kilrain, we want to know how and what it is. How it's going to be used in an another crime, if that's his purpose for this entry. He's apparently the guy who took the spring out of there, did the other guy in."
You know what Hannah's like, Jake.
Then Jake had one of those surprise decisions that had been ground into his life since the very first baseball game he had ever managed; whatever came and went in this it had to go through or by or around Hannah. Paying her a call would be a choice option. And not letting Bobo know what he was up to was just as good. She answered his knock.
"This is a real surprise, Jake. Don't think I've talked to you in twenty years or so, though I've seen you plying your trade, reading about you every so often. Is this about the mess around Bobo? Something is real shitty there." Her face was bland, mushroomy, eyes holding back light. He bet she could be a real bitch. So damn different from Bobo.
Jake suddenly remembered how plain Hannah had been in those early years. And she was still carrying that same look on her face, like oatmeal a day old. Yet something about the way her housecoat rode on her more than ample hips threw that line of thought out the window in a hurry. Her breasts, easy to see, had prospered greatly, were willing antagonists in the clutch of white flannel. She was, he thought, probably an animal in the sack, but you'd have to bag her to get her there.
"Murder's never easy, Hannah. This one's as messy as it can get, being Bobo's one of my old team. He's quite something, that brother of yours. No way he did what happened. Bobo's clean as a whistle, as they say." He watched for any reaction. The reaction was his; Jeezus, he thought, her jugs are almost out and she doesn't give a shit, is unconscious about it, or she's using them. No two ways about is, she may be an animal in bed but still a bitch. The last conclusion let him get past her.
"I heard the weapon was a piece from his shop," she said. "Is that true? How can that really be connected to Bobo?" No lines moved on her face, no expression rode with her words.
Her legs were so long he bet she could do the high hurdles for the track team. He could almost see where they ended up. "There's some speculation that it was taken out of his place to put Bobo on the spot." He might as well get right to it. Her hands were in the pockets of the housecoat and she might have been ready to stretch, so visible was she, a cat stretching, a thing of the jungle. The eyes looking at him were coming out of a long darkness, another night. Jake swore there was an odor of sex in the air, biting, near saline.
"That doesn't sound too pleasant. Are you implying something? You saying something about me, Jake?" The D cups were loose, the legs long, her eyes suddenly full of that old mystery that had long passed him by. The thought came to him that she was plying for a trade-off, making a move.
I met this guy fishing, on the Ipswich, and he knew some hidden spots, and shared them easily. He ended up dating Hannah.
"Tell me about your new friend Jack Kilrain and his pal I've seen with him down the beach on a couple of occasions. You know the other guy, kinda seedy looking, maybe looking for a place to sleep tonight, might be begging for his next meal. Know him?" He was thinking that there was more to Bobo than he thought, that he sure must have had a lot of patience to put up with such a sister. If Bobo could have killed anybody it probably would be this sister of his.
"How would I know him, Jake? I've only known Jack for a short time. Is there a connection here? You saying something I'm just guessing at?"
"Look, Hannah," he said, "as far as I'm concerned, the only connections we have are you and your new friend, Jack Kilrain. Nothing else's in the mix, not yet. How did you meet him? He ever been here?"
You know what Hannah's like, Jake.
"I don't get too many guys looking my way, Jake. Out there I know I'm different. I can relax here, be myself. Out there I can't. You must know people like that." Her honesty struck him. Her hands came out of her pockets, the housecoat was drawn closed, Jake thinking all offers were now off the table. "I'm out shopping one day, half a dozen stores and half a dozen times this good looking guy is around. Not messing around, but there. Most times not looking at me, his back to me in a few places, but present in a positive sense, if you know what I mean. Sometimes it gets kind of electric, real. It got to me, it got to me real good, so I keep looking for him, extending my shopping, feeling a little heat, to be honest with you. It'd been a while for me; we all have inordinate hungers at times. Suddenly we're bumping into each other and he's looking in my eyes and looking me over and we're talking and warm feelings in the air and we're having a coffee and this guy is burning a hole right through me. I hadn't felt like that in a long while, Jake, and he says to me out of the blue, 'Hannah, you like oral sex?' Just like that, straight out, no bullshitting around. His eyes are wide and his smile is so fucking beautiful and I'm so far past hungry for it he must have read my soul. Before you know it we had a few drinks and then we're in his car in the parking garage, off in a corner, one of those sun shades over the windshield and we're swapping favors in the back seat, just like we were kids again."
One time we figured out you had been listening to us all the time, Jake, every damn word we ever said, and you sat at one end of the bench or the back of the bus and read lips! We had no secrets from you.
Now plain Hannah, oatmeal-face Hannah, was a livewire right in the room. Jake smelled raw sex. This girl was a hidden woman. He remembered Bobo and the other kids talking about it years ago. He'd always known there were such types and never met one, not like this. The curve of her neck showed elegance he had missed. He wondered how much else he had missed. Not the breasts or the hips or the legs. There was always the promise of so much more. "He ever been here Hannah?"
"Oh, sure," she smiled. "Even that first day. I'd dropped my pocketbook in the car, spilled some stuff, he picks it up and drives me home and drops me in front. I get to my door and I have no keys. The Super let me in. An hour later Jack's knocking at my door. He's got my keys, waving them in his hand. Jeezus, but he looks good and we go right back at it. Spent the day catching up on lost times I did. It was marvelous. He mentioned marriage but in a passing way, but like an opener, like future. I don't get many chances like that, Jake. Said he found the keys in the car when he got to his place, lives in Belmont, came right back with them."
"You have a key to Bobo's shop on your keychain?" Jake had stopped looking for surprises, his mind seeing this creature in the back seat of a car, swapping favors. Her face had lost some of that oatmeal quality, her eyes were dark and full of hope, a whole sea of hope that must have had endless tides, her lips promising to part, to be moist, and her complete life suddenly exposed to him.
"Yes, I do."
One full scenario of crime, not only how it was done but why it was done, all the parts of the script, came to Jake Adamo as Hannah started to unfold, first with slight trembling and hand-shaking, then a spill of tears falling across her cheeks. He wanted to reach out for her, even as he heard himself telling Bobo there was a reason behind everything that had gone on, from his meeting Jack on the river, their instant friendship, the move on Hannah, the keys Jack had probably made copies of in a hurry, the future.
Her eyes, wet as they were, were wider than before, suddenly much wider. "You saying he used me, Jake? The loving we did was just to get at Bobo? It wasn't quick and real like he said?" The tall, usually passive woman, the bland creature he had known since she was a kid, almost collapsed in his arms.
You know what Hannah's like, Jake. Oh, god, yes!
He held her, felt her against him all down his body, knew the hidden woman she was, knew now that it was too late for him. In that frozen second, her breasts heavy on him, the animal length of her, and then a core of memory. Bobo's bases-clearing double way down in Connecticut came back to him; how he cornered so lightly and effortlessly at first base on the inside of the bag, taking that quick turn to a double, the slide into second and his triumphant leap, the high throw in from the cut-off man, the bright sunshine on Bobo's face as he triggered a finger at the bench, the sound of the rally cries in his ears. It was all there for the playing, playing out just as quick as this murder on hand, just as clear, just like a bell was ringing behind him, somewhere in the stands.