scowled. When Blaney scowled, clouds darkened.

“Such a lovely place, even in the rain,” said the priest, changing subjects.

“Tis that,” Fallon agreed.

The Maloney family plot was in a secluded corner of an old Catholic cemetery up in Dutchess County. This section of the graveyard, a grouping of low hills overlooking a stream and woods beyond, was reserved for the families of the local movers and shakers. My late father-in-law had certainly been one of those. Back when our paths first crossed in the winter of’78, Francis Maloney Sr. was a big time politico, a major fundraiser for the state Democratic party. Francis was an old school power broker in that he kept a low profile but wielded influence from the Bronx to Buffalo. A valedictorian at the Jimmy Hoffa Charm School, Francis Maloney Sr. traded in nepotism, patronage, kickbacks, and threats as easily as most men breathed. He’d have rather paid for your vote than make his candidate earn it. “Cleaner that way, less risk involved,” he would have said.

Blaney, who’d baptized all the Maloney children and had performed Katy’s first wedding ceremony, took inventory. “A shame,” he said.

Fallon took the bait. “A shame?”

“Such a big plot of land and it will never hold the family but for Francis Sr. and Angela. With Francis Jr. in Arlington and Katy… Well, never mind about Katy.” He crossed himself again.

“What about Patrick?” I asked.

“The boy, please God, will never rest for his sins. His spirit is destined to roam.”

“Resurrection, Father?”

“Don’t be an ass, Fallon. Pushed out like a splinter more likely. His kind are a blight on holy ground.”

I was far away from laughing now and stepped out from under his umbrella to stand in the rain with the young deputy. At that point the rain was preferable to inhaling the fumes that malicious old bastard breathed out. It was more a matter of principle than kinship with Patrick. The truth was that Patrick and I spoke only once, very briefly. That was on February 15, 1978. I stood on one side of his boyfriend’s bedroom door and Patrick on the other.

“Do I have your word?” I asked.


That was it, the entire conversation, and for twenty years I thought his one word was a lie. The irony is that his lie became my lie and my lie became my secret. He had promised to turn himself in that coming Saturday, to stop hiding, and to finally face his family. God, I was so full of myself that day. I found Patrick. I found him! Not the NYPD, not the daily busloads of volunteers, not the newspapers, not the fortune hunters, not the passels of PIs his family had hired before me, but me. That day I proved I was worthy of the gold detective’s shield I was never to get. Whether I deserved it or not was moot. I’d already been off the job for months by then.

But that Saturday came and went. Nearly twenty years of Saturdays came and went without word of Patrick. Oh, there were a thousand false leads and sightings that amounted to nothing. Offer a reward for anything and the roaches will crawl out from under the floorboards, the hyenas will come out of the bush. Only once, in 1989, when I was looking into the suicide of my old pal and NYPD Chief of Detectives Larry “Mac” McDonald, did I ever truly believe I was close to getting a handle on what had become of Patrick. But that lead was crushed beneath the wheels of a city bus when the Queens District Attorney Robert Fishbein was run down on a Forest Hills street. None of it mattered now, not any of it.

The rain was letting up some. Katy had just gotten out of her car. She seemed composed, but it was hard to disguise the distress deepening the lines around her eyes. There was a time when I believed it could never hurt me to look at her. Even after the miscarriage, when she took her guilt, fury, and indignation out on me, it was grace to look upon her. And when we hit that inevitable dead spot in our marriage, when the sameness of our days made me feel light years away from her, the sight of her face was always reassuring. Now it stung. What we had was gone. I broke it. Francis broke it. There was far more breakage out here than a headstone and a coffin.

I looked away.

Over Katy’s right shoulder, I could see a Janus Village sheriff’s car pulling into the cemetery followed by a dark blue and yellow State Police SUV. My cell phone buzzed in my pocket.

“Excuse me,” I said to no one in particular, pulling the phone out of my soaked jacket. I ducked under the tape and hurried along the path toward the stream below the Maloney family plot. “Hello.”

“Mr. Prager?” It was an older woman’s voice, but a familiar one somehow.

“Yes, this is Moe Prager.”

“I don’t know if you’ll remember me, it’s been a few years. I’m Mary White, Jack’s-”

“-sister. Of course. How are you, Mary?”

There was silence at the other end of the phone, an unsettling silence.

Jack White had been an actor, a painter, and a bartender at Pooty’s in Tribeca. Pooty’s was the bar Patrick Maloney disappeared from in December of ’77. Beside Jack’s other interests, he was Patrick’s lover. It was behind Jack’s bedroom door that Patrick stood and uttered the only word he ever spoke to me. Jack was the man who sat across from me, hand clamped around my wrist, promising me Patrick would return to his family. When Patrick broke that promise and vanished again, Jack went back home to Ohio. He taught drama to troubled teens until he died of AIDS in 1986. After we discovered the truth about Patrick, I’d flown Mary in for Patrick’s funeral.

“Mary, what is it? What’s the matter?”

“It’s Jack’s grave.”

My heart stopped.

“What about Jack’s grave?”

“I’ve visited him there every Sunday since the week I buried him. No one but me and a few of his old students has ever left flowers at the grave. Then last Sunday…” She trailed off. I could hear her fighting back tears.

“What about last Sunday?”



“Almost six dozen red roses were laid on Jack’s grave.”

“Maybe one of his students hit the lottery,” I said without an ounce of conviction.

“No, I checked. We keep in touch. They are very loyal to Jack even after all these years.”

“Wait, Mary, let’s back up a second. What did you mean there were almost six dozen roses?”

“There were seventy-one roses. Five bouquets of twelve were propped up against his headstone,” she said. “But on his grave itself, there were eleven individual roses-”

“-arranged in a circle, the tips of the stems meeting in the middle.”

There was that ominous silence again.

“There’s more, isn’t there?” I asked.

“My God, Mr. Prager, how did you know?”

“In a minute, Mary. First tell me the rest.”

“This afternoon, when I went to his grave…” Now she could no longer fight back the tears. I waited. “I’m sorry.”

“No, that’s fine. I know this is hard for you.”

“On the back of Jack’s headstone someone had painted that Chinese symbol with the rose, the one Jack had tattooed on his forearm. Do you remember it?”

“I do.” I’d seen something just like it on my welcome mat a few hours ago.

“And at the corner of the painting were the block letters PMM. Why would somebody be so cruel, Mr. Prager? Jack never hurt anyone in his life.”

Now the silence belonged to me.

“Mr. Prager…”

“Sorry. I’m here. It’s just that someone’s disturbed Patrick’s grave as well.”

“Oh, my God!”

“Mary, would it be all right if I called you later? It’s too complicated to talk about now.”

“That’s fine. You have my number. Please know that my prayers are with you and your family.”

“Thank you, Mary.”

When I wheeled around, Katy was coming down the path toward me. The sight of her stung a little less this time. Maybe it was repeated exposure. Or maybe it was that the thickest clouds moved east and what was left of

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