"To take him home. I lied. I said I lived here. Dave said he lived in the Flats, and they--"
"What are you talking about? Sean, what'd the cops look like?"
"Were they wearing uniforms?"
"No. No, they--"
"Then how'd you know they were cops?"
I didn't. They.
"He had a badge," Jimmy said. "On his belt."
"What kind of badge?"
"Okay. But what'd it say on it?"
" Say? "
"The words. Were there words you could read?"
"No. I don't know."
They all looked up at Sean's mother standing on the porch, her face tight and curious.
"Hey, honey? Call the police station, all right? See if any detectives would have picked up a kid for fighting on this street."
"Oh, Jesus. His mother."
"Let's hold off on that. Okay? Let's just see what the police say. Right?"
Sean's mother went back inside. Sean looked at his father. He didn't seem to know where to put his hands. He put them in his pockets, then he pulled them out, wiped them on his pants. He said, "I'll be damned," very softly, and he looked down to the end of the street as if Dave hovered at the corner, a dancing mirage just beyond Sean's field of vision.
"It was brown," Jimmy said.
"The car. It was dark brown. Like a Plymouth, I think."
Sean tried to picture it, but he couldn't. He could see it only as something that had blocked his vision, not entered it. It had obscured Mrs. Ryan's orange Pinto and the lower half of her hedges, but Sean couldn't see the car itself.
"It smelled like apples," he said.
"Like apples. The car smelled like apples."
"It smelled like apples," his father said.
AN HOUR LATER, in Sean's kitchen, two other cops asked Sean and Jimmy a bunch of questions and then a third guy showed up and drew sketches of the men in the brown car based on what Jimmy and Sean told them. The big blond cop looked meaner on the sketchpad, his face even bigger, but otherwise it was him. The second guy, the one who'd kept his eyes on the side-view, didn't look much like anything at all, a blur with black hair really, because Sean and Jimmy couldn't remember him too well.
Jimmy's father showed up and stood in the corner of the kitchen looking mad and distracted, his eyes watery, weaving a bit as if the wall kept moving behind him. He didn't speak to Sean's father, and no one spoke to him. With his usual capacity for sudden movement muted, he seemed smaller to Sean, less real somehow, like if Sean looked away he'd look back to find him dissolved into the wallpaper.
After they'd gone over it four or five times, everyone left the cops, the guy who'd drawn on the pad, Jimmy and his father. Sean's mother went into her bedroom and shut the door and Sean could hear muffled crying a few minutes later.
He sat out on the porch and his father told him he hadn't done anything wrong, that he and Jimmy were smart not to have gotten in that car. His father patted his knee and said things would turn out fine. Dave will be home tonight. You'll see.
His father shut up then. He sipped his beer and sat with Sean, but Sean could feel he'd drifted away on him, was maybe in the back bedroom with Sean's mother, or down in the cellar building his birdhouses.
Sean looked up the street at the rows of cars, the shiny glint of them. He told himself that this--all of this-was part of some plan that made sense. He just couldn't see it yet. He would someday, though. The adrenaline that had been rushing through his body since Dave had been driven away and be and Jimmy had rolled on the street fighting finally flushed out through his pores like waste.
Mystic River. Copyright (c) 2001 by Dennis LaHane. Reprinted with permission from Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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