Read Richard Montanari Online

Authors: The Echo Man

Richard Montanari (65 page)

    'The
doctors say it looks good.'

    Lucy
dropped the pendant, smoothed it against her uniform. 'He's got some offers on
his movie, you know.'

    'I
heard that,' Byrne said. 'So, are you guys an item?'

    Lucy
blushed. 'Oh
please.
We're just friends. We just
met.''

    'Okay,
okay,' Byrne said.

    '
Gosh
.'

    Two
young women walked by, no more than eighteen or nineteen, smartly dressed in
their crisp new Le Jardin uniforms. They eyed Lucy with something akin to awe.

    When
they passed, Lucy looked at Byrne. 'Rookies.'

    They
sat in thoughtful silence. The autumn sun warmed their faces.

    'What
are you going to do, Lucy?'

    'I
don't know,' she said. 'Maybe go home for the holidays. Maybe go home for
good.'

    'Where's
home?'

    Lucy
Doucette looked up at the hotel, down Sansom Street, then over at Byrne. In
that moment, for the first time since he'd met her, she looked a lot more like
a woman than a little girl.

    She
said: 'A long way from here.'

 

    

Chapter 105

    

    Friday,
November 12

    

    The
women sat around the small table, a game of gin rummy in progress in front of
them. Between the ashtrays, Styrofoam cups, cans of Diet Pepsi and Diet
Mountain Dew, the bags of pork rinds and barbecued chips, there was hardly room
for the cards.

    When
the petite young woman in the oversized blue parka walked into the room, Dottie
Doucette stood up. Dottie was terribly thin. She looked older than her forty
years, but a light had come back to her eyes, her friends all said. It was
faint, they averred, but it was there.

    When
Lucy hugged her mother, Dottie felt as if she might break.

    Lucy
wanted to ask her mother about George Archer. She had talked to some of the
women who had known her mother when they were younger, and she'd learned that
Dorothy Doucette had gone out with George Archer a few times. That was probably
when the man had put his eye on Lucy. Lucy knew that her mother felt guilty for
so many things. Dottie Doucette did not need this burden now.

    Dottie
let go, wiped her eyes, reached into her pocket. She showed Lucy her chip. Six
months sober.

    'I'm
proud of you, Mama.'

    Dottie
turned toward the women at the table.

    'This
is Lucy, my baby girl.'

    The
women all fussed over Lucy for a while, and Lucy let them. She'd stay on for a
month or so, taking a room at a boarding house in town, in exchange for
housekeeping duties. From the moment she got off the bus, she knew that she
would not be staying forever, just as she knew that in many ways she had never
left. Not really.

    Her
mother slipped on the pilled sweater that was draped over the back of the
folding chair. Lucy recognized it as one she had stolen from the JC Penney's a
long time ago. The sweater was getting on in years. Her mother needed a new
one. Lucy promised herself she would buy it this time.

    'Take
me for a walk?' Dottie asked.

    'Sure,
Mama.'

    Out
in the lobby, Lucy helped her mother on with her boots. As Lucy was tying the
laces, she glanced up. Her mother was smiling.

    'What?'
Lucy asked.

    'I used
to do the same thing for you when you were small. Funny how life comes full
circle.'

    
Yeah,
Lucy thought. Life's hilarious
.

    They
walked, arm in arm, down the path that led to the town park. The temperature
was falling. Lucy bunched the sweater around her mother's neck.

    Winter
was coming, but that was all right. In the end, Lucy Doucette thought, the
sunshine was inside. And now that she remembered everything, she could begin to
forget.

 

    

Chapter 106

    

    Thursday,
November 25

    

    She
had cooked for twenty. like many Italian thanksgiving gatherings, the meal
began with a full pasta course. This time, Jessica and her father made
Jessica's grandmother's fresh ravioli, the filling a delicate and savory
balance of beef, pork, and veal.

    For
the first time, Sophie helped serve.

    By
six o'clock the men were sprawled around the living room, snoring away.
Tradition called for them to be awake by six-thirty and ready to take part in
Round Two.

    At
ten after six, Jessica opened the front door. South Philly was alive with the
holiday. She looked left and right, didn't see Byrne's car. She wanted to call
him, but she stopped herself. He had a standing invitation every year, and this
year he'd said maybe. With Kevin Byrne, when it concerned events like this,
'maybe' usually meant no. But still.

    Jessica
was just about to close the door when she looked down. There, on the front
steps, was a small white package. She picked it up, closed the door, walked over
to the kitchen. She slit open the Scotch tape with a knife. Inside was a ball
of yarn. Green yarn. When Jessica brought it into the light she saw that the
yarn was the same shade as the oddly constructed cable knit sweater that Kevin
Byrne had been wearing around the Roundhouse of late, a sweater, he told her,
that had been knitted for him by Lina Laskaris's grandmother, Anna.

    Jessica
checked on her family. The men were still in a turkey-and- Chianti-induced
coma; the women were doing the dishes and sneaking cigarettes out back. Then
Jessica walked upstairs into the bedroom, closed the door behind her.

    She
unspooled the yarn, brushed back her hair, gathered it. She took the yarn, tied
her hair into a ponytail, checked herself in the dresser mirror. The autumn had
long since taken back the highlights bestowed by summer. She turned to the
side, and for a moment had a memory of her mother tying back her hair with
green yarn on her first day of school. How much youthfulness the world had
then, how full of energy it had been.

    She
could use some of each.

    As
the new mother to a rocketing little two-year-old-boy, Jessica was going to
need all the vitality and vigor she could muster. The papers had come through a
week earlier, and Carlos Balzano was at that moment downstairs charming the
entire family.

    Jessica
looked one final time at the yarn in her hair. In some ways, it was just as
good as the original.

    
No,
she thought as she turned out the light and descended the steps. In some ways
it was even better.

 

    

Epilogue

    

    For
every light there is shadow. For every sound, silence. In this massive room the
silence was complete. Considering that there were nearly twenty-five hundred
people in the Verizon Center, it was all the more profound.

    The
last note of
Sinfonia Concertante
sifted through the hall, and the
applause began.

    As
the conductor turned to the audience, Byrne saw people noticing Christa-Marie,
heard their whispers. The story had broken wide a few weeks earlier, the
account of Christa-Marie's innocence in the murder of Gabriel Thorne. Byrne
could not imagine the courage it had taken for Christa-Marie to come to this
place on this night.

    Soon
the applause turned from the stage and was offered to the woman in the tenth
row. A soft spotlight found them. The conductor walked to the footlights and
bowed. The orchestra rose to its feet.

    Byrne
didn't know how much time together they had left, but he knew that he would be
with Christa-Marie until the end. More than that, he wondered how it sounded to
her. He wondered if it sounded the same, if it meant what it had meant twenty
years ago when she had been the brightest star in the heavens.

    Kevin
Byrne took Christa-Marie's hand and held it as the applause grew, the sound
echoing across the deep chasms of memory, the vast and merciful landscape of
time.

 

    

Acknowledgments

    

    Special
thanks to:

    Meg
Ruley, Peggy Gordijn, Jane Berkey, Christina Hogrebe, Don Cleary, Mike
McCormack, Kristen Pini, and the great team at the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

    Kate
Elton, Susan Sandon, Georgina Hawtrey-Woore, Jason Arthur, Rob Waddington, Emma
Finnigan, Claire Round, Glenn O'Neill, and everyone at Random House UK.

    Darin
Brannon, Tara Klein, Francis Gross, Jane Sembric, Ray Villani, Douglas Bunker,
Diana Richardson, Sandra Brancaleone, and Tacy Dooley.

    Jennifer
Kallend at the Curtis Institute of Music; Evan Evans at Le Meridien
Philadelphia; Emily McCarthy at Ritz Carlton Philadelphia; Frank Thompson at
Sheraton Society Hill.

    Gino
Rafaelli for his kindness and time, and the librarians at the CH-UH libraries
for putting up with my many requests.

    Detective
Eddie Rocks, Sgt. Joe Rosowski, Lt. Edward Monaghan, and the brave men and
women of the Philadelphia Police Department.

    Mike
Driscoll and the staff at Finnigan's Wake; Patrick Ghegan, Dom Aspite, Joe
Sickman, Bob Mulgrew, A1 Kurtz, John Dougherty, Vita and Adjani DeBellis, and
the rest of the Philly crew.

    My
father, Dominic Montanari. Nine and change, Pop.

    The
city of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for letting me create
hotels, institutions, and townships, and for letting me move streets,
buildings, and neighborhoods. I promise to put everything back where I found
it.

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