it's a myth. Don't forget, ten years ago we had Frank Sargent, a Republican, in the statehouse. It's been done; it can be done again. People are sick of the way the state's being run. I ask you, all of you: what issue or event could occur tomorrow; that would unite them? For example, if the Sacco and Vanzetti case were tried today, would the law-abiding citizens of the North End support those two radicals? I say no, and furthermore-'

'Just a minute!' came a clear voice. It cut through the room like a tungsten ice pick. Now who would have the nerve to interrupt Joe Critchfield in the middle of his talk? Critchfield was staring at me, his mouth halfway open. No. He wasn't staring at me, he was staring at the person who'd stood up next to me. He was staring at Mary.

'Are you implying that Sacco and Vanzetti were common criminals? And if so, that they were guilty?' she demanded.

There was another murmur that rippled through the room. But this one was confused, chaotic, disgruntled.

'I, uh… no, that's not what I meant- or implied- I was speaking of their radical connections, that's all. But as to their guilt or innocence, surely you cannot deny that the evidence was overwhelming in favor of their having been connected-'

'If everyone will excuse me,' cried another female voice, 'I really think it will be most constructive, considering all we have to accomplish here, to confine the discussion to the issues at hand rather than to history.'

There was applause. Loud, steady applause, directed at Anne, the lady with the flower-print dress in the back, who'd gotten Joe C. III nicely off the hook. Mary sat down, folded her arms across her chest, and glared.

After the talk was over she didn't clap. People looking at us saw that she didn't clap. 1 clapped a little, and she glared at me. People avoided us afterward. All except Brady, who winked at Mary and said, 'Way to go, Mare!' But we both had the feeling he didn't really mean it. I thought we'd better thank Hunter and Kathleen before we left, but they seemed to be nowhere near us. Ever.

'I think it's time to fade, Toots,' I said under my breath.

'Yeah. Sorry, Charlie. It was just a reaction. A conditioned reflex. I guess it reflects my childhood more than anything. Hell, I don't know if they were guilty or not-'

We filed out of the house, smiling bravely. A few people returned the smiles, but mostly everyone looked away. We passed the small table where people were writing checks and stuffing them into envelopes. Nobody even seemed surprised when we walked right past it.

'I'm still voting for him,' I said as we walked back down Mt. Vernon Street. 'I think he'll do a good job.'

'I think so too. But his attitude. I just- 0h, forget it.'

As we turned the corner I saw a gigantic Cadillac limo sweep along the street at a whisper. It swung to a slow stop in front of Louisburg Square. It was probably the original Joseph Carlton Critchfield, the candidate's granddaddy. Purportedly, he was backing young Joe financially. If this was true, then Joe would run out of gold pieces about when the rocks would melt into the sea and the lion would lie down with the lamb. It made me a little less regretful I hadn't written a check.

So we walked back to our Joe's. He greeted us at the door and asked Mary if she'd lost her glass slipper.


Next day I was just sitting out there in our sunporch sipping on a silver bullet when I saw Joe's unmarked cruiser slide into our driveway. Here to get a free Saturday dinner. He got out of the cruiser and made a beeline for the porch steps. He moved fast and gracefully for a big man. I had been listening to James P. Johnson riffle the ivories in a stride number called 'Old-Fashioned Love.' The sidemen were good too: Cootie Williams on cornet and Eddie Dougherty on drums. I took another sip of ice-cold gin.

'Hi, Doc,' he said as he came in. 'What's for supper?'

I set the martini down on the coffee table and looked up at his dirty mask of beard stubble. He hated to shave on Saturdays. Maybe because shaving was such a big job for him- like a farmer cutting a field of wheat. On a normal person a day's growth is a faint shadow; on a Calabrian it's a death mask. I slid the glass along on the rattan, watching the trail of condensed water it left in its wake.

'Spaghettios,' I said.

His face fell slack.

'Say it ain't so!'

He grabbed a cane chair and spun it around in front of him. He straddled it backward, laying his head on his big beefy hands, which rested on the top of the chair back. He tapped a Benson 8c Hedges out of a long pack and lit it. He studied my drink carefully, the way Itzhak Perlman would study a Strad.

'It might interest you to know, Joe, that I've been on the phone all afternoon trying to locate someone you introduced me to last year: Johnny Robinson.'

'Well, Johnny's usually not too hard to track down, Doc… you know where to look. If you're using him professionally, then what, may I ask, is Dependable Messenger Service carrying for you?'

'Remember Tom Costello? The stockbroker? Well, I've completed an anterior fixed bridge for him. That's a whole set of uppers all the way back to the canines, plus all the interior joinery. In materials alone the piece is worth maybe a grand. In terms of labor, add another grand. So I've been using Robinson and Dependable to carry these expensive pieces from the lab. Lately a lot of the mails from there have been ripped off-'

'Don't I know it. Post-office junkies looking for the gold.'

'So now I've got Tom all over my back. Don't blame him, either. How can a broker peddle stocks with no mouth? The piece was due yesterday, but so far I can't raise Johnny.'

'Did you call Sam at Dependable's office?'

'Yeah. Closed. Saturday.'

'Of course. Well, we could go up to Lowell and hunt Johnny up if you need the thing right away. I know his hangouts pretty well. Hey, were you serious about Spaghettios for supper?'

'Could be.'

His eyes returned to my frosty glass. He eyed the silver bullet wistfully.

B 'Nice-looking booze you got there.'

'Yes, isn't it though? Mmmmmmm. Dee-lish.'

He drummed his big fingers on the cane back irritably. He glared in my direction. Joe was about as subtle as his sister. After ten seconds the glare became pronounced. Oh, all right.

'Would you uh, care for a drink, Joe?'

'You bring it and I'll care for it.'

'Don't steal mine while I'm gone. I'll get Mary and we can, uh, plan supper. To pass the time you might telephone Robinson again. Want the number?'

'Naw. Every good detective in Boston knows Johnny's number. But if he's not home I know where he is. Leave it to me.'

I headed for the sideboard to make him a gin and tonic, and on my way thought about the unique career of john Robinson. He was a black man about sixty years old. In his younger days he was a lighter, although he never made it to the big time. But he was tough and he was straight. These two qualities comprised a natural foundation for what was to become his career. john Robinson was a foot courier. With his partner, Sam Bowman, he had founded Dependable Messenger Service in Cambridge. He walked around the city carrying important papers, cash, stock certificates, jewelry, and prize lottery tickets. Much of his business centered around the wholesale jewelry houses down on Washington Street, for whom he toted pocketfuls of ice and bars of silver and gold.

With his Smith and Wessons, his rearview mirrors, his stun gas canister, and his two German shepherds he was a human Brinks van. Only he could go through the twisty little Boston alleyways, up and down dark stairs, and in elevators and such, where a van could not go. He was routinely seen working in places and with people that most security companies want no part of.

Mostly Robinson kept his mouth shut, discretion being essential in his work. But every now and then he'd

Вы читаете The Penny Ferry
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату