"What's your name?"
"Emma Gould," she said. "What's yours?"
"By all the girls or just the law?"
He couldn't keep up with her and cover the room at the same time so he turned her to him and pulled the gag out of his pocket. The gags were men's socks that Paulo Bartolo had stolen from the Woolworth's where he worked.
"You're going to put a sock in my mouth."
"A sock. In my mouth."
"Never been used before," Joe said. "I promise."
She cocked one eyebrow. It was the same tarnished-brass color as her hair and soft and shiny as ermine.
"I wouldn't lie to you," Joe said and felt, in that moment, as if he were telling the truth.
"That's usually what liars say." She opened her mouth like a child resigned to a spoonful of medicine, and he thought of saying some-thing else to her but he couldn't think of what. He thought of asking her something, just so he could hear her voice again.
Her eyes pulsed a bit when he pushed the sock into her mouth and then she tried to spit it outthey usually didshaking her head as she saw the length of tape in his hand, but he was ready for her. He clamped his hand over her mouth and smoothed the ends of the tape against her cheeks. She looked at him as if, until this point, the whole transaction had been perfectly honorablea kick, evenbut now he'd gone and sullied it.
"It's half silk," he said.
Another arch of her eyebrow.
"The sock," he said. "Go join your friends."
She knelt by Brendan Loomis, who'd never taken his eyes off Joe, not once the whole time.
Joe looked at the door to the counting room, looked at the padlock on the door. He let Loomis follow his gaze and then he looked Loomis in the eyes. Loomis's eyes went dull as he waited to see what the next move would be.
Joe held his gaze and said, "Let's go, boys. We're done."
Loomis blinked once, slowly, and Joe decided to take that as a peace offeringor the possibility of oneand got the hell out of there.
When they left, they drove along the waterfront. The sky was a hard blue streaked with hard yellow. The gulls rose and fell, cawing. The bucket of a ship crane swung in hard over the wharf road, then swung back with a scream as Paulo drove over its shadow. Longshore¬men, stevedores, and teamsters stood at their pilings, smoking in the bright cold. A group of them threw rocks at the gulls.
Joe rolled down his window, took the cold air on his face, against his eyes. It smelled like salt, fish blood, and gasoline
Dion Bartolo looked back at him from the front seat. "You asked the doll her name?"
Joe said, "Making conversation."
"You cuff her hands like you're putting a pin on her, asking her to the dance?"
Joe leaned his head out the open window for a minute, sucked the dirty air in as deep as he could. Paulo drove off the docks and up toward Broadway, the Nash Roadster doing thirty miles an hour easy.
"I seen her before," Paulo said.
Joe pulled his head back in the car. "Where?"
"I don't know. But I did. I know it." He bounced the Nash onto Broadway and they all bounced with it. "You should write her a poem maybe."
"Write her a fucking poem," Joe said. "Why don't you slow down and stop driving like we did something?"
Dion turned toward Joe, placed his arm on the seat back. "He actu-ally wrote a poem to a girl once, my brother."
Paulo met his eyes in the rearview mirror and gave him a solemn nod.
"Nothing," Dion said. "She couldn't read."
They headed south toward Dorchester and got stuck in traffic by a horse that dropped dead just outside Andrew Square. Traffic had to be routed around it and its overturned ice cart. Shards of ice glistened in the cobblestone cracks like metal shavings, and the iceman stood beside the carcass, kicking the horse in the ribs. Joe thought about her the whole way. Her hands had been dry and soft. They were very small and pink at the base of the palms. The veins in her wrist were violet. She had a black freckle on the back of her right ear but not on her left.
Excerpted from Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. Copyright © 2012 by Dennis Lehane. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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