They pull her out of the Industrial Canal, her eyes swollen out and all over me. I get a chill like the Mississippi water was pouring out of my throat rather than hers. I can’t say anything. There’s nothing to be said to her now.
“Fucking horrible,” says one of the patrolmen.
The winch sets her on the concrete dock and she leaks brown water. The puddle joins others trickling out of the three little bodies beside her.
“Narco here on holiday, Detective Jurgis?” Homicide Detective Ferraris isn’t smiling. For once. “Or are you thinking that if a mother suicide-dives into the Canal with her daughter and two sons, she must be on something?”
I keep staring at the kids. T-shirts stuck transparent like placenta. Pockets bulging with stones. I can only imagine what their eyes look like.
“Marcia Toomey, right?”
“You know her?”
“Not as well as I know her ex-husband, Randall.” My fingers make fists, the first I’ve moved since the winch broke water hauling out its first tiny corpse.
“Let me guess. He’s a problem child with a history of domestic abuse.”
“And every legal right to custody of his children.”
“Guess Marcia figured they were better off without him.”
“We all would be.” I say. Nothing more to say for Marcia Toomey and her kids.
But something must be done.
* * *
He comes home real late. I’ve waited weeks for the press to die down. It turned the chill eating at me into an anxious heat.
The things I find in Randall Toomey’s baby-blue shotgun house make heat into flame: The ripped-up Restraining Order. The stolen letters from Marcia’s mailbox. The bag of rufies by the bottle of Brut.
Worse are the things I don’t find: No condoms. No child support notices. No pictures of his kids.
Randall stumbles in at 1 a.m. He’s trousers-down in front of the toilet when I sprint out of the linen closet.
No reason to pull my swing when I bring the brick down.
* * *
Randall is duct-taped down and my pliers are out when I realize I don’t know what to do to him. His eyes swell with fear against the tape, but not nearly as much as in Marcia’s. He’s only inspired that kind of fear. He doesn’t know it.
He doesn’t even know why this is happening. I don’t know how to right what happened.
“What’s up with this?” He’s been talking since he woke. “I ain’t done anything.”
“You killed your kids.” And I know that—like I know looking into those angry eyes that he never will.
“The fuck I did. Crazy bitch did that.”
“You did.” I tap the steel of the pliers to the sponge of his palms. “And because you didn’t use your hands, we let you.”
“Bitch made her own decisions. She should’ve listened to me.”
“I’m listening.” And I’m so sick with anger that I know I’m about do something wrong. It just has to be the right wrong.
“I told her. I told her that if she kept running off, I’d get those kids.”
“She had to stay and let you beat and rob and fuck around. Is that right?”
“Never laid a hand on that bitch.”
“Didn’t need to.”
“A thinking man gets the courts on his side.”
“You smooth talker, you.” And then I know. And he’s stupid enough to smile. And I put the steel of the pliers through his skin to make him scream and then I dig inside his howling.
* * *
I’m not at the scene by the Canal when Ferraris finds Randall’s car.
I hear from him later that it was a damn shame. Randall had done good by that red Nissan Z. It had flame detailing, chrome grill, gold rims.
And now all that blood ruining it.
Splashes on Randall’s arms duct-taped to the wheel. Spatters on the transmission set in neutral. Flows passing the front wheel, braced by a brick from rolling down into the water.
“I knew a tongue stump could bleed like that,” Ferraris tells me, “but I’m surprised he was still alive. Loss of a great conversationalist, though.”
I just nod.
There’s nothing more to say. We’re all better off that way.