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Deacon King Kong (9. Dirt)

The two uniformed cops walked into the Five Ends Baptist Church choir rehearsal five minutes after the fight between the Cousins broke out. The fight had actually started twenty-three years before. That’s how long Nanette and her cousin Sweet Corn had been arguing.

Sister Gee, a tall, handsome woman of forty-eight, sat in the choir pew fiddling with her house keys and staring down in her lap as the Cousins railed. “Lord,” she murmured as the Cousins hissed at each other, “please rein in them mules.”

As if in answer, the back door of the church opened and two white cops stepped through the tiny vestibule and into the sanctuary, the light of the bare bulb glinting off their shiny badges and brass buttons. The tinkling of their keys clanking against each other sounded like tiny bells as they made their way up the sawdust-covered aisle to the front, their leather gun holsters slapping against their hips. They stopped when they reached the pulpit, facing the choir of five women and two men, who stared back at them, with the exception of Pudgy Fingers, Sportcoat’s son, who sat at the end of the choir pew, his sightless eyes covered by shades.

“Who’s in charge here?” one of the cops asked.

Sister Gee, sitting in the first row, took him in. He was young, nervous, and thin. Behind him stood an older cop, a thick man with wide shoulders and crow’s-feet around blue eyes. She watched the older cop’s eyes quickly scan the room. She had the impression she had seen him before. He removed his cap and spoke softly to the younger cop in a voice with a slight Irish lilt. “Mitch, take your cap off.”

The younger cop obliged, then asked again, “Who’s in charge?”

Sister Gee felt every eyeball in the choir swing toward her.

“In this church,” she said, “we says hello to a person before we states our business.”

The cop held up a blue folded sheet of paper in his hand. “I’m Officer Dunne. We got a warrant here for Thelonius Ellis.”

“Who?”

“Thelonius Ellis.”

“Ain’t nobody here by that name,” Sister Gee said.

The young cop looked at the choir behind Sister Gee and asked, “Anybody know him? We got a warrant here.”

“They don’t know nothing about no warrant,” Sister Gee said.

“I’m not talking to you, miss. I’m talking to them.”

“Seems to me you ain’t made up your mind about who you come to talk to, Officer. First you come in and ask who’s in charge, so I told it. Then instead of talking to me, you turns around and talks to them. Who you come to talk to? Me or them? Or is you just come by to make a bunch of announcements?”

Behind him, the older cop spoke. “Mitch, check the outside, would ya?”

“We already did that, Potts.”

“Check it again.”

The young cop turned, smartly snapped the blue warrant into Potts’s waiting hand, and vanished out the vestibule door.

Potts waited until the church door closed, then turned to Sister Gee apologetically. “Young people,” he said.

“I know it.”

“I’m Sergeant Mullen from the Seven-Six. They call me Sergeant Potts.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, what kind of name is Potts, Officer?”

“It’s better than pans.”

Sister Gee chuckled. There was something about him that glistened, something warm that churned and billowed about, like a smoke cloud filled with sparklers. “I’m Sister Gee. You got a real first name, sir?”

“Not worth using. Potts is it.”

“Was somebody bald-headed, or looking on the bright side, or wanting to steal or tell the world something when you was born, on account of your people giving you that kind of name?”

“I made a complete haymes of some potatoes once, back when I was a wee lad, so my grammy gave me that nickname.”

“What’s haymes?”

“A mess.”

“Well, that’s a mess of a name.”

“That’d make your name fair play, wouldn’t it? Gee, you said? I’ll leg it out the door if you say your first name’s Golly.”

Sister Gee heard one of the choir chuckle behind her, and felt herself stifling a smile. She couldn’t help it. Something about this man made her insides lift. “I seen you someplace before, Officer Potts,” she said.

“Just Potts. You mighta seen me around. I grew up four blocks from here. A long time ago. I was a detective in the Cause.”

“Well now . . . maybe that’s where I seen you.”

“But that was twenty years ago.”

“I was here twenty years ago,” she said thoughtfully. She rubbed her cheek, staring at Potts for what seemed a long time, then her eyes sparkled as her face unfolded into a sly smile. Her smile displayed a raw, natural beauty that caught Potts off guard. The woman, he thought, was all good handwriting.

“I know,” she said. “On Ninth Street near the park. At that old bar there. The Irish place. Rattigan’s. That’s where I seen you.”

Potts reddened. Several choir members smiled. Even the Cousins grinned.

“I’ve been known to have a business meeting there from time to time,” he said wryly, recovering. “If you don’t mind my asking, were you having one there too? At the same time? When you saw me?”

“Ohlord!” came a hushed laugh from someone in the choir. The two words mashed together like two coins: ohlord! This thing had gotten delicious. The choir laughed. Now it was Sister Gee’s turn to blush.

“I don’t go to no bars,” Sister Gee said hurriedly. “I does day’s work straight across the street from Rattigan’s.”

“Day’s work?”

“Housework. I clean that big brownstone house there. Been cleaning for that family fourteen years. If I had a nickel for every bottle I pick up on the curb from Rattigan’s on Mondays, I’d have me something.”

“I keep my bottles inside the bar,” Potts said in an offhand way.

“It ain’t a bother to me where your bottles goes,” Sister Gee said. “My job is to clean. It don’t matter what I clean. Dirt’s the same wherever it goes.”

Potts nodded. “Some kind of dirt’s harder to clean than others.”

“Well, that do depend,” she said.

The lightness in the room seemed to be leaving, and Potts felt some resistance coming. They both did. Potts glanced at the choir. “Can I have a private word?”

“Surely.”

“Maybe in the basement?”

“It’s too cold down there,” Sister Gee said. “They can rehearse down there. There’s a piano.”

The choir, relieved, quickly got up and filed out toward the back door of the sanctuary. As Nanette passed, Sister Gee grabbed her wrist and said softly, “Take Pudgy Fingers.”

The remark was casual, but Potts saw the glance between the two women. There was something about it.

When the door closed, she turned to him and said, “We was talking about something before, now?”

“Dirt,” Potts said.

“Oh yes,” she said, sitting down again. He saw now she was not just handsome, but rather had a quiet, cumulative beauty. She was a tall woman, middle-aged, whose face was not etched with the stern lines of church folks who’ve seen too much and done little about it other than pray. Her face was firm and decisive, with smooth milky brown skin; the thick hair with a bit of gray, neatly parted; her slender, proud frame clad in a modest flower-print dress. She sat erect in the pew; her poise was that of a straight-backed ballet dancer, yet with her slim elbows dangling on the rail in front of her, jingling her keys lazily in one hand, eyeing the white cop, she had an ease and confidence he found slightly unsettling. After a moment, she leaned back and placed a slender brown arm on the top edge of the pew, the small movement graceful and supple. She moved, Potts thought, like a gazelle. He suddenly found himself struggling to think clearly.

“You said some kind of dirt’s harder to clean than others,” she said. “Well, that’s my job, Officer. I’m a house cleaner, see. I work in dirt. I chase dirt all day. Dirt don’t like me. It don’t set there and say, ‘I’m hiding. Come get me.’ I got to go out and find it to clean it out. But I don’t hate dirt for being dirt. You can’t hate a thing for being what it is. Dirt makes me who I am. Wherever I try to rid the world of it, I’m making things a little better for somebody. Same with you. The fellers you seek, crooks and all, they ain’t saying ‘Here I am. Come get me.’ Most of ’em, you got to seek out, scoop up in some form or fashion. You brings justice to things, which makes the world a little nicer for somebody. Me and you has got the same job, in a way. We clean dirt. We clean up after people. We collects other people’s mess, though I reckon it’s not fair to call someone living a wrong life a problem, or a mess . . . or dirt.”

Potts found himself smiling. “You oughta be a lawyer,” he said.

Sister Gee crinkled her brow, looking suspicious. “You funning me?”

“No.” He laughed.

“You can tell by the way I talk I’m not a book-learned person. I’m a country woman. I wanted to go to school for something,” she said wistfully. “But that was long ago. Back when I was a child in North Carolina. Ever been to the South?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Where you from?”

“I told you. Here. The Cause District. Silver Street.”

She nodded. “Well how ’bout that.”

“But my folks were from Ireland.”

“Is that an island?”

“It’s a place where folks can stop and think. The ones with brains, anyway.”

She laughed, and as she did, Potts felt as if he were watching a dark, silent mountain suddenly blink to life, illuminated by a hundred lights from a small, quaint village that had lived on the mountainside for a hundred years, the village appearing out of nowhere, all the lights aglow at once. Every feature of her face glowed. He found himself wanting to tell her every sorrow he ever knew, including the knowledge that the Ireland of the vacation folders wasn’t Ireland, that the memory of his ancient grandmother from the old country walking down Silver Street holding his hand when he was eight, clasping her last nickel in her palm, biting her lip as she hummed a sad song from her childhood of poverty and privation, wandering the Irish countryside looking for home and food, would kick through his arteries and bust into his heart until he was a grown man:

The grass waves green above them; soft sleep is theirs for aye;

The hunt is over, and the cold; the hunger passed away . . .

Instead, he said simply, “It wasn’t so nice.”

She chuckled uneasily, surprised by his response, and watched him blush. Suddenly she felt her heart flutter. A charged silence descended on the room. They both felt it, felt themselves suddenly being propelled along a large chasm, feeling the irresistible urge to reach out, to reach across, to stretch their hands from opposite sides of a large, cavernous valley that was nearly impossible to cross. It was way too large, too far, just unreasonable, ridiculous. Yet . . .

“This fella,” Potts said, breaking the silence, “this fella I’m looking for, he’s uh . . . if his name’s not Thelonius Ellis, what is it?”

She was silent now, the smile gone, looking away, the spell broken.

“It’s all right,” he said. “We know what happened with the shooting, more or less.” He meant to say it lightly, as a comfort, but it sounded official and he didn’t want that. The lack of sincerity in his own voice surprised him. There was an ease, a gentle filter in this long, chocolate woman that opened up a part of him that normally stayed closed. He had only four months to retirement. It was four months too long. He wished it were yesterday. He felt a sudden urge to take off his uniform, throw it to the floor, and walk downstairs with the choir and sing.

He found himself blurting: “I’m retiring soon. A hundred twenty days. Going fishing. Maybe I’ll sing in a choir too.”

“That ain’t no way to spend the rest of your life.”

“Singing in a choir?”

“No. Fishing.”

“I can think of nothing better.”

“Well, if that floats your boat, go ahead on. I reckon that’s better than the funerals and going to large drinking gatherings.”

“Like Rattigan’s?”

She waved her hand. “That place don’t bother me. They fight and squabble in every drinking hole from one to the next all over this world. It’s the God-fearing places that’s the worst. God is the last thing in some of these churches out here. Seems like they do more fighting than praying in the church today than they do on the street. Ain’t nowhere safe. It didn’t used to be that way.”

Her words brought Potts around. With effort he returned to business. “Can I ask you about this fella, Thelonius Ellis?”

Sister Gee raised her hand. “Hand before God, ain’t nobody ’round this church by that name that I know of.”

“That’s the name we got. Got it from an eyewitness.”

“Must’ve been Ray Charles who told it. Or maybe it’s somebody from another church.”

Potts smiled. “You and I know he went to this church.”

“Who?”

“The old man. The shooter. Drinks a lot. Knows everybody.”

Sister Gee smiled grimly. “Why ask me? Your man knew him.”

“What man?”

Sister Gee tilted her head at him. The tilt of that lovely face rendered him momentarily helpless. He felt as if a bird’s wing had suddenly brushed his face and pushed a cool puff of misted air into it, the mist fluttering down onto his shoulders. His eyebrows lifted as he blinked at her, then his gaze shifted to the floor. He felt the emotional door he’d managed to close moments before swing open again. Staring at the floor, he found himself wondering how old she was.

“The cop who worked for Hot Sausage,” she said.

“Hot who?”

“The cop,” Sister Gee said patiently, “who worked for Hot Sausage. In the basement boiler room. Hot Sausage is the head janitor and boiler man. The janitor under him. The young guy. He was your guy.”

“What’s Hot Sausage’s real name?”

She chuckled. “Why you trying to confuse me? We talking about your man. Hot Sausage is the janitor at Building Seventeen. The colored boy that was janitoring under him . . . he saved Deems’s life, not nobody else. Folks ’round here don’t know whether to thank him or throw a bucket of water on him.”

Potts was silent. Sister Gee smiled.

“Everybody in the Cause knowed he was a cop. Don’t you know your own people?”

Potts found himself resisting an urge to sprint out of the room, run back to the precinct, and beat the captain silly. He felt stupid. This was cleaning up garbage for the captain. Jet, Mr. First Black Everything. The kid didn’t have the stuff to be a detective. Too young. No experience. No savvy. No allies, no mentors, except maybe him. The captain had insisted, “We need Negroes down in the Cause Houses.” The guy had a soundproof head. How stupid can the captain be?

“That kid’s transferred out to Queens,” he said. “I’m glad. He’s a good kid. I trained him.”

“Is that why you’re here?” Sister Gee asked.

“No. They asked me to step in because I know the area. They’re . . . trying to make a move on these new drug dealers.”

He saw her expression change slightly. “Can I ask you a personal question?” she asked.

“Surely.”

“How does a detective go back to putting on a uniform?”

“That’s a long story,” he said. “I grew up here, as I said. I like the hours. I like the people. If the cops want to make a move on these drug lords, I’ll be a Holy Joe about it.”

Sister Gee could not completely keep a smirk from climbing across her face. “If this is the move they’re making, it’s sideways,” she said. “Sportcoat’s seventy-one. He ain’t no drug dealer.”

Potts continued, “We’d like to talk to him.”

“You won’t have no trouble finding him. He’s a deacon in this here church. Some call him Deacon Cuffy. But most call him Sportcoat on account of him liking to wear them things. You can get his name easily enough from that. That’s the most I can offer you. I got to live here.”

“You know him well?”

“Twenty years. Since I was twenty-eight.”

Potts quickly did the math in his head. She was ten years younger than me, he thought. He found himself straightening his jacket to cover his slight paunch. “What’s his job?” he asked.

“Odd jobs mostly. Does a bit of everything. Works over at Itkin’s Liquors some days. Cleans our basement other days. Takes out the trash. Gardens for a few white folks around these parts. He’s got a real green thumb. Can do just about anything with plants. He’s known for that. And for drinking. And baseball.”

Potts thought a moment. “Is this the umpire from the baseball games between you and the Watch Houses? The one that yells and runs around all the bases?”

“One and the same.”

Potts laughed. “Funny fella. I saw those games when I was on patrol sometimes. There was a hell of a ballplayer down there. Some kid . . . he was about fourteen or so. He could pitch like the dickens.”

“That’s Deems. The one he shot.”

“You’re kidding.”

She sighed and was silent a moment. “Deems sat right where you is every Sunday till he was twelve or thirteen. Sportcoat—Deacon Cuffy—he was Deems’s Sunday school teacher. And his coach. And everything else to him. Till Hettie died. That’s his wife.”

This is why, Potts thought bitterly, I got to get out of the business. “What happened to her?”

“She fell in the harbor and drowned. Two years ago. Nobody ever did figure that out.”

“You think your man had anything to do with that?”

“Sportcoat ain’t my man. I been low in my life, but not that low. I’m married. To the minister here.”

Potts felt his heart fall. “I see,” he said.

“He ain’t had nothing to do with Hettie dying—Sportcoat, I’m talking about. It’s just how things work around here. Fact is, he was one of the few around here who really loved his wife.”

She sat very still as she spoke, but her lovely olive eyes bore a softness and a hurt so deep that when he looked in them he saw the swirls of pools beneath; he felt as if he were looking at a piece of ice cream left on a picnic table in the hot sun too long. Regret poured out of her eyes like water. She seemed to be breaking apart in front of him.

He felt himself reddening and looked away. He was about to blurt an apology when he heard her say, “You looks a lot better in street clothes than you do wearing that fancy uniform. I guess that’s why I remember you.”

Later, much later, it occurred to him that maybe she remembered him because she had been watching him, sitting outside the bar with his friends listening to the bitter soldiers of the IRA swear at the British and complain about the neighborhood going down because the Negro and the Spanish had arrived with their civil rights nonsense, taking the subway jobs, the janitor jobs, the doorman jobs, fighting for the scraps and chicken bones the Rockefellers and all the rest tossed to them all. He found himself stammering, “So I needn’t look into her death?”

“Look all you want. Hettie was a hard woman. She was a hard woman because she lived a hard life out here. But she was good through and through. She wore the pants in that house. Sportcoat did everything she told him. Except,” she chuckled, “when it came to that cheese.”

“Cheese?”

“They give out free cheese in one of the buildings every first Saturday of the month. Hettie hated that. The two of them fought about it all the time. But other than that, they were good together.”

“What do you think happened to her?”

“She walked into the harbor and drowned herself. Things ain’t been right around this church since.”

“Why’d she do it?”

“She was tired, I reckon.”

Potts sighed. “Should I write that in my report?”

“Write whatever you want. The truth is, I hope Sportcoat’s run off. Deems ain’t worth going to jail for. Not no more.”

“I understand. But your guy’s armed. Maybe unstable. That creates instability in a community.”

Sister Gee snorted. “Things got unstable ’round here four years ago when that new drug come in. This new stuff—I don’t know what they call it—you smoke it, you put it in your veins with needles . . . however you do it, once you do it a few times you is stuck with it. Never seen nothing like it around here before, and I seen a lot. This projects was safe till this new drug come in. Now the old folks is getting clubbed coming home from work every night, getting robbed outta their little payday money so these junkies can buy more of Deems’s poison. He ought to be ashamed of hisself. His grandfather would kill him if he was living.”

“I understand. But your man can’t take the law into his own hands. That’s what this is for,” he said, holding up the warrant.

Now her face hardened, and a space opened up between them again. “Warrant on. And while y’all is throwing them warrants around, maybe y’all can throw a warrant at the person who stole our Christmas Club money. There’s a couple thousand in there, I expect.”

“What’s that about?”

“Christmas Club. We gathered that money every year for us to buy our kids toys at Christmas. Hettie was the one who collected the money and kept it in a little box. She was good about it. Never told a soul where she put it, and every Christmas she handed you your money. Problem is, she’s gone now and Sportcoat don’t know where it is.”

“Why not ask him?”

Sister Gee laughed. “If he knew, he’da gived it back. Sportcoat wouldn’t steal from the church. Not for drink even.”

“For drink, I seen people do worse.”

Sister Gee frowned at him, frustration etched across her clear, pretty face. “You’s a kind person, I can tell. But we is poor folks here in this church. We saves our little dimes for Christmas presents for our children. We pray for each other and to a God that redeems, and that does us well. Our Christmas money’s missing and likely gone for good, and that’s God’s will, I reckon. To y’all police, that don’t mean nothing other than maybe old Sportcoat mighta took it. But you’re wrong there. Sportcoat would throw hisself in the harbor before he’d take a penny from any soul in this world. What happened was, he got drunk out of his mind and tried to clean this place up in one big swoop. And because of it, you ain’t never seen so many cops turning up rocks trying to get hold of him. What’s that say to us?”

“We want to protect him. Clemens works for a pretty rough bunch. That’s who we’re really going after.”

“Then arrest Deems. And the rest of ’em who’s selling whatever the devil wants.”

Potts sighed. “Twenty years ago I could’ve done it. Not now.”

He felt the space between them close up, and he wasn’t imagining it. Sister Gee felt it as well. She felt his kindness, his honesty and sense of duty. And she felt something else. Something big. It was as if there were a magnet somewhere inside him pulling her spiritually toward him. It was odd, exciting, thrilling even. She watched as he rose and moved toward the door. She quickly stood and walked down the aisle with him, Potts humming nervously, picking his way past the woodstove and down the sawdust-covered aisle to the door as she watched him out the corner of her eye. She hadn’t felt that way about a man since her father showed up at school one afternoon to walk her home after a boy in her class got beat up by some white kids, the feeling of comfort and safety that radiated from someone who cared about her so deeply. And a white man, no less. It was an odd, wonderful gush to feel that coming from a man, any man, especially a stranger. She felt like she was dreaming.

They stopped at the vestibule door. “If the deacon turns up, tell him he’s safer with us,” Potts said.

Sister Gee was about to respond when she heard a voice from the vestibule say, “Where’s my daddy?”

It was Pudgy Fingers. He’d wandered upstairs and was seated in a folding chair in the dark next to the church front door, his eyes covered with their customary shades, rocking back and forth as he always did. In the basement, the choir sang, obviously no one bothering to fetch him, since Pudgy Fingers knew his way around the church as good as anyone and often liked to wander about the tiny building on his own.

Sister Gee placed a hand on his elbow to stand him up. “Pudgy, g’wan back to rehearsal,” she said. “I’ll be right there.”

Pudgy Fingers reluctantly stood. She carefully spun him around and placed his hand on the stair railing. They watched him work his way downstairs and disappear into the basement.

When he was out of sight Potts said, “I expect that’s his son.”

Sister Gee was silent.

“You never told me what building your man lives in,” he said.

“You never asked it,” she said. She turned to the window, her back to him, and rubbed her hands nervously as she gazed out the window.

“Should I go down and ask his son?”

“Why would you do that? You see the boy’s not all the way there.”

“He knows where he lives, I’m sure.”

She sighed and continued to stare out the window. “Lemme ask you, what good does it do to squeeze the one person around here who done the little bit of good that’s been done?”

“That’s not my call.”

“I already told you. Sportcoat is easy to find. He’s around these parts.”

“Should I write that down as a lie? We haven’t seen him.”

Her expression darkened. “Write it down however you like. However the cut comes or goes, once y’all take Sportcoat to jail, social services will have Pudgy Fingers. They’ll ship him up to the Bronx or Queens someplace and we won’t see him no more. That’s Hettie’s boy there. Hettie was in her forties when she had him. For a woman, that’s old to have a child. And for someone who lived a hard life like she did, that’s very old indeed.”

“I’m sorry. But that’s not my department either.”

“Course not. But I’m the type of person that goes to sleep if something comes along that don’t interest me,” Sister Gee said.

Potts laughed bitterly. “Remind me to eat some knockout pills next time I go to work,” he said.

Now it was her turn to laugh. “I didn’t mean it that way,” she said. “Hettie done a lot for this church. She was here at the very beginning of it. She never took a penny of the Christmas money for herself, even when she lost her job. Do what you will or may, but once you arrest Sportcoat, they’ll roll Pudgy Fingers up in, too, and that’s a different pack of crackers altogether. I reckon we’d make a fight of it ’round him.”

Potts, exasperated, held out his hands. “You want I should pass out free jawbreakers to every kid in the projects with a gun? The law’s the law. Your guy is a triggerman. He shot somebody. In front of witnesses! The guy he shot ain’t a choirboy—”

“He was a choirboy.”

“You know how it works.”

Sister Gee didn’t move from the vestibule window. Potts watched her, straight-backed, tall, staring outside, breathing slowly, her breasts moving like two nodding headlights. Her face turned in profile as her olive eyes searched the streets, the fragility and gentleness gone, the cheekbones, the strong jaw, the wide nose that flared at the tip, angry again. He thought of his own wife, back home in Staten Island in her bathrobe, cutting coupons from the Staten Island Advance, the local paper, her eyes moist from boredom, complaining about getting her nails done on Thursday, her hair done Friday, missing bingo night on Saturday, her waist growing wider, her patience growing thinner. He saw Sister Gee rub her neck and found himself pondering the notion of placing his fingers there, then down her long arched back. He thought he saw her mouth move, but he was distracted and couldn’t hear. She was saying something and he caught just the end of it, and only then did he realize it was he who was talking, not her, him saying something about how he had always loved the neighborhood and came back to the Cause District because he’d had some trouble at another precinct trying to be an honest cop, and the Cause was the only place he felt free because he’d grown up just a few blocks away and the neighborhood still felt like home. That’s why he was back, to finish his career here, to be home at the end. And this case, he said, was “just a doozy, in every way. If this was any other part of Brooklyn, it might disappear. But your choirboy Deems is part of a big outfit. They got interests all over the city, with the mob, politicians, even the cops—and you didn’t hear that last part from me. They’ll hurt anyone who bothers their interests. That’s got to be dealt with. That’s just how it is.”

She listened in silence as he spoke, staring out the window at the darkened projects, at the Elephant’s old boxcar on the next block, the worn, battered streets with newspapers blowing about, the hulks of old cars that sat at the curbs like dead beetles. She could see Potts’s reflection in the window as he talked behind her, the white man in a cop’s uniform. But there was something inside the blue eyes, in the drift of his broad shoulders, in the way he stood and moved, that made him different. She watched his reflection in the window as he talked, his face downcast, fiddling with his hands. There was something large inside him, she concluded—a pond, a pool, a lake maybe. The lovely Irish brogue in his voice gave him an air of elegance, despite his wide shoulders and thick hands. A man of reason and kindness. He was, she realized, as trapped as she was.

“Let it roll as it will then,” she said softly to her reflection.

“You can’t leave it there.”

She looked at him sideways, tenderly. Her dark eyes glistened in the vestibule.

“Come ’round and see me again,” she said. With that, she opened the church door for him.

Potts, without a word, placed his NYPD cap on his head and stepped out into the dark evening, the smell of the dirty wharf drifting into his nose and consciousness with the ease of lilacs and moonbeams, fluttering around his awakened heart like butterflies.

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