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Snow Over Hartford

Dan Pope

Peering through the glass door into the ICU, Mulvaney recognized the kid instantly. He was twenty-two, according to the incident report, two arrests for possession, a couple of misdemeanors, breaking and entering. A thief, like all junkies, but still that same face, the sleepy brown eyes, the splash of freckles across the cheeks—a child’s face. Mulvaney had never forgotten him, one of the cases that he still pondered sometimes at night, even now, ten years later, though it hardly seemed that long ago. 

The kid looked up from the bed when Mulvaney entered the room; his eyes flared in recognition, and he smiled, just a flash, but that same gentle smile. 

“They sent you,” he said, his voice raspy. 

Mulvaney turned on the recorder and placed it on the table by the bed. “I gotta read you this, Ronny. Is that okay?” 

The kid cleared his throat, twice. “Go ahead.” 

Mulvaney pulled the laminated card from his pocket and read the form. “Do you understand? Are you able to make a mark on the paper? I can see your hands are wrapped—”  

“I can’t move them. I have no feeling.” 

“But you understand your rights? And you wish to speak with me?” 

“They just took the tube out. I need—” 

“Water. Yeah, you sound hoarse. This will help.” 

The kid leaned forward and Mulvaney put the plastic cup to his mouth, angling the straw so he could sip.   

“I want to talk to you about what happened on Friday. Today is Sunday. You’ve been in the hospital for a couple days. You’ve had a couple surgeries, right? You remember that?” 

“I guess.” 

“You had that breathing tube in your mouth. You know that, right? You know why you’re in the hospital? You’re shaking your head no, but you gotta say it for the recorder.” 

“I don’t remember.” 

“You don’t remember? Okay. Were you shot by the police?” 

“I’m gonna go with yeah.” 

“How many times were you shot?” 

“I don’t know. Nobody’s told me anything. You’re the first.” 

“Do you remember being in Hartford? In your grandma’s car?” 

“Yes.” 

“Okay. What I want to know is what led up to that. I want to know how you ended up in your grandma’s car in Hartford.” 

The kid blinked a few times with those hooded eyes of his, bloodshot. His arms and chest were wrapped in gauze, two IV lines attached to veins in his wrist, a larger blue tube leading under the blanket toward his stomach; his neck and upper torso were stained with a yellow-brown disinfectant, the skin pale. Under the sheet, his abdomen was wide open, the nurse had told Mulvaney, a midline incision packed with gauze and plastic wrapping to keep his intestines from spilling out.  

Mulvaney refilled the water glass. “You’ve been staying with your grandma and grandpa. So on Friday morning, what happens? Walk me through your day.” 

The kid took a long, raspy breath. “I was lying in bed most of the day. Then my girlfriend came upstairs and said, ‘Grandma said we can use the car.’” 

“What time was this?” 

“Afternoon, around four. And I said, ‘I’ll go warm it up for you,’ cause you have to warm it up before. I go warm it up. That was it. She came out and we left for Hartford.” 

“Why’d you go to Hartford?” 

“To cop drugs.” 

“Do you remember where?” 

“Evergreen Street.” 

“You remember who you copped from? I see you’re shaking your head. Listen, Ron, I’m not here worrying about that, I promise you that. I can’t do anything about drug dealers in 

Hartford. I work in Manchester. You know that. I just want to get all this straight in my mind.” 

“A guy named Juan.” 

“Okay. What happened after that?” 

“We went to Stop & Shop. Then the cops rolled up.”

“Where were you?”  

“Sitting in the car. I went to pull out and the lights went on. I didn’t know what was going on. So I hit the gas and I remember hearing, Pop pop pop. Pop pop pop.” 

“What happened after that?” 

The door opened and a nurse came in. Mulvaney frowned. He had a rhythm, and he needed to keep it going, like a drum beat. He waited while the nurse checked the kid’s blood pressure. Pretty girl, Eastern European accent, Polish probably. She noticed the audio recorder on the table. “You’re not recording, are you? We’ve just taken out the breathing tube.” 

  “Yeah,” Mulvaney said, offering a weak smile. “We’re recording.” 

“His chest is packed—” 

“Yeah, I know.” 

“He’s on heavy painkillers—” 

“I know. Your supervisor gave me—” 

She frowned, shaking her head. She took her time checking the kid’s vitals and meds. She went through some questions for him. Ever been in a car accident? Any metal in your body? Allergies to iodine?  

Finally, she took her kit, giving Mulvaney a long look, shaming him. Sure, the kid was on painkillers, he probably wouldn’t even remember this conversation. But that was for the lawyers to work out later, that was their job; he was a cop, his job was to investigate. Hartford wanted answers, they wanted to get the kid on the record, and they’d called him at 5 a.m. on a Sunday. 

When she left, Mulvaney took a deep breath, starting over. “You remember the last time we spoke, Ronny? Almost ten years ago now, wasn’t it? In your mom’s apartment? We talked about some pretty heavy stuff back then, right? I’m talking to you today because you’ve been about as honest with me as a person can be. Well, I need you to be that honest again. Okay? Let’s go back to the beginning. You’ve been staying with your Grandma. Why?”

“My mom kicked me out a couple of years ago. I stayed with Dylan for a while. But there wasn’t enough room after I met my girl. So we moved in with Grandma.”

“Okay. Tell me about your day on Friday.” 

“I just did.” 

“I know. But let’s start over. Try not to leave anything out.” 

“I was lying in bed and my girlfriend says, ‘Grandma said you can—” 

“Grandma doesn’t usually let you use the car, right?” 

“No, she does. I’ve been using it for months. Ever since I moved in.” 

“Okay. So your girlfriend—Elena, right?” 

“Yeah.  She told me to warm up the car. So I walked downstairs. I said, ‘Thanks, Grandma.’” 

“Was Grandpa home?” 

“Nah. He goes to work at three.” 

“What time’s he come home?” 

“Midnight. He works second shift.” 

“Okay. You warm up the car. Elena comes out. Who’s driving?” 

“Me.” 

“Where do you go?” 

“Hartford, like I told you.” 

“Straight to Hartford? You sure?” 

“Yeah. We go to Evergreen Street, like I said.” 

“And you meet a guy named Juan.” 

“Yeah.” 

“You called him on your phone?  So, there will be a record of you calling Juan, right?” 

“Yeah, it’s under something else, but that’s his name.” 

“How much did you pick up from him?” 

“About a gram.” 

“You had rigs with you?” 

“Yeah. We wanted—we were trying to kill ourselves.” 

“Trying to kill yourself? Why?” 

“I’m a fucking junkie.” 

“I’ve known you for a long time, Ronny. You and I go way back. You were only a kid then, but you got that creep off the street. He was hurting a lot of kids. And you were the one who stood up.  That took a lot of guts. Now you want to kill yourself? That doesn’t make sense to me. Why?

“Let’s talk about this when you’re not recording.”

“Well, it’s pretty serious. Why don’t we talk now? We talked about that other stuff on a recording. That was tough as it gets, right?” 

“Yeah. And I still feel—I still feel fucked on that deal.”

“Fucked, how? He’s serving time. And if he gets out, he’s gonna have a suspended sentence for the rest of his life hanging over his head. And he’s gonna be registered. And it was your work that put him there.”

 “Yeah, I did what you asked and then everybody disappeared. I didn’t get no help. Nobody did a thing for me. Not a single thing. I’m just sick of living like this. And I want to die.”

The kid cleared his throat with a dry, hollow cough, like nails rattling around in his neck.  Mulvaney passed him the water cup, directed the straw toward his lips. From the hallway he heard the yelp of a police radio—the Hartford cops, pacing the floor, waiting on him, drinking hospital coffee. 

Mulvaney asked, “Did you tell anybody you wanted to die?” 

“Just my girlfriend. We wanted to do it together.” 

“Did you tell Dylan?” 

“Can’t trust him.” 

“He’s a good friend. He cares about you. I already talked to him.” 

“You know, any other cop, I wouldn’t say shit.” 

“I appreciate that.” Mulvaney let a few moments pass. “How long have you wanted to kill yourself?” 

“A while now.” 

“How were you gonna do it?” 

“Gonna OD.” 

“You were gonna OD.? You went to Evergreen, you got dope. After you got the dope, where’d you go?” 

“We shot up in the park.” 

“Is that where you wrote the note?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Do you remember what you wrote?” 

“No.” 

“Did you write it before you used or after?” 

“After.” 

“After? It’s risky, though, right? What if you OD’d right away?” 

“Yeah, well, I didn’t really care. Obviously.” 

“Then what? Where did you go?” 

“Stop & Shop.  For cigarettes.”  

“You bought cigarettes at Stop & Shop. Then what happened?” 

“We were sitting in the car in the parking lot. The cop rolled up. At first I didn’t think nothing of it. But I go to pull out and all of a sudden another cruiser comes out of nowhere, lights on. I panicked. I figured fuck it. I wanted to die anyway….” 

The kid drifted off for a moment, his mouth falling open. Mulvaney touched his shoulder. 

“Stay with me, Ronny. This is important. You took off. Where’d you go?” 

“It was snowing. I took a turn and slid into a bank. And then that’s when they opened up on me.” 

“Did you get out of the car?” 

“No, I was in the driver’s seat. Like, literally, I hadn’t moved.” 

“Were you thinking they were gonna fire?” 

“No. I thought you guys had procedures.” 

“And then?” 

Pop pop pop. Pop pop pop. That’s all I remember.” 

Mulvaney refilled the water glass and held it out for Ronny, who shook his head. Okay, he thought. The nurse had thrown him off, spoiled his rhythm. And the kid was drowsy. They’d operated on him twice in the past two days. Five gunshot wounds. The girl had come away clean, not a scratch. They’d emptied fifteen bullets into the car. Three cops approaching the vehicle from the rear, one on the left, the other two on the right. And then they’d pulled the Keystone Cops routine, Hartford policemen, fifty years active duty between the three of them. The one on the left slipped in the snow and fell on his ass with his finger on the trigger, spraying bullets into the air. The other two, hearing the shots, opened up. How they didn’t kill him and the girl both, Mulvaney didn’t know. A total shit-show. Internal Affairs wanted to interview the kid, but Hartford had put them off until Mulvaney could get him on the record. 5 a.m., his day off, face-down in bed, hungover and drooling, and his beeper goes off. Ronald Leclerc, they tell him. The name ringing in his head, like he’d been expecting to hear it. What’d he do? he asked. He hit the jackpot, they say. 

“Okay, Ronny. Take me back to Friday. What time do you usually wake up?” 

“Lunchtime.” 

“Okay. You’re up late and you sleep late. You’re stuck on that cycle with the dope. Were you able to get any on Thursday? We had that big blizzard on Thursday.” 

“I had some from the day before.” 

“So, when you wake up on Friday, how long has it been since you’ve dosed?” 

“Late Thursday night, two in the morning.” 

“Elena, too?” 

“Her too.” 

“How long do you usually go between doses?” 

“Sometimes a couple of days.” 

“You can make it that long? And you don’t get sick?” 

“We do, but we can tolerate it.” 

“So, you wake up in the afternoon. Who’s home? Was Grandpa home Friday?” 

“No. He was already gone.” 

“Okay. Where was Grandma?” 

“On the couch. Where she always is.” 

“She’s sick, right? Is she on medication? What’s she take?  Fentanyl, right?” 

“Yeah.” 

“What else?” 

“Blood pressure pills, stuff like that. She’s always on the couch, watching TV.” 

“Did you text anybody during the day?” 

“Dylan. I talk to him every day.” 

“What were you texting him about? Did you ask him for a ride to Hartford?” 

“Honestly, I don’t remember.” 

“So you may have? You wake up, you talk to Dylan, you maybe ask Dylan for a ride. Where did you need a ride to?” 

“Wells Fargo.” 

“Why there?” 

“’Cause I had a check for there. My girl did.” 

“Elena had a check? Okay. You needed a ride to cash her check. All right. Let’s go over it again. You’re home, Grandma’s home. Was Grandpa home?”  

“Yeah. I remember now.  Grandpa was home.  Cause I remember him yelling.” 

“He was yelling? At who?” 

“Grandma.” 

“What were they yelling about?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Where were you when this is happening?” 

“In my bedroom upstairs. Where I always am.” 

“Okay. You’re upstairs in the bedroom, Grandpa’s yelling downstairs. Walk me through it. What happens next? Don’t leave anything out, even stuff you don’t think’s important.” 

“I had a rinse.” 

“Just a rinse?” 

“Yeah.” 

“So, walk me through it, talk me through it like you’re explaining a TV show and I don’t know what’s coming.”  

“We’re lying in bed, me and Elena. I’m talking to Dylan. Grandma and Grandpa are arguing downstairs. I’m like, ‘What else is new.’ They’re always arguing.” 

“What happens next?” 

“Elena says, ‘I’m gonna go down and use the bathroom.’ I just lay there. She goes down. She comes up. She says, ‘Grandma says we can use the car.’ And I say, ‘Really? How did you manage that?’ And she’s like, ‘I sweet-talked her.’ I say, ‘All right. Cool.’ So I take the key. I get dressed. I run downstairs. I go outside. I warm up the car.” 

“Now, who’s in the house?” 

“Elena and Grandma.  Grandpa’s gone to work.” 

“This is after three o’clock?” 

“Yeah. So then Elena comes out and we go.” 

“And you go right to Hartford?” 

“Right to Hartford.” 

Mulvaney blinked a few times. His eyes felt heavy, the right eyelid drooping like it always did when he was tired. He’d shared a bottle of wine with his ex-wife last night after dropping off his fifteen-year-old. The last of the brood. The four Mulvaney boys. He and Megan had brought them up right, despite their own problems. They’d ferried them back and forth to a thousand ball games, all four of them triple-lettermen, like their dad. Sure, the boys had had their moments, the eldest especially, like the time he’d totaled the Taurus wagon. Aidan calling from the side of the road at 2 a.m., Dad, don’t be upset okay, Dad, I know I fucked up. Mulvaney knew it was OK, because the call had come from his son, not Manchester or State Police. Mulvaney had counted twenty-four dead soldiers in the back seat, Corona Extra. Aidan had come away with a few bruises from the airbag, his best buddy with a broken arm in the passenger seat. Four boys, some sleepless nights, waiting for the cars to come home after curfew, but that was the worst of it, one totaled Taurus. Aside from that, a few broken bones on playing fields. Now the three were on their own—two working, one in college studying criminal justice. Never any real problems, only joy watching them and cheering from the sidelines. Never anything close to the heartache he’d felt that day with Ronny, the kid sobbing, hugging him, a boy who’d never known his own father. Christ. That same child’s expression looked at him now, a bit sheepish, because they both knew he was holding back.  

Mulvaney sighed. Might as well get it over with, he figured. 

“You’ve always been honest with me, Ronny. So I’m gonna ask you to be honest with me again. I know you might think that leaving stuff out is gonna help you or someone else, but it won’t. It’s Sunday. They’ve had two days to collect all the information as to where you and Elena were and what happened. Me coming here is not trying to add to your difficulties. Me coming here is trying to give you a chance to get out in front of this thing. You know that, right?” 

“We went straight to Hartford.” 

“You never went to Wells Fargo? Because I know you did.” 

“Oh, yes, I did. I’m sorry, I forgot about that.” 

“Why?” 

“To cash the check.” 

“Whose check?” 

“My grandmother’s check.” 

“Not Elena’s. Okay. Did Grandma give you the check?” 

“I took it.” 

“You tried to cash the check at Wells Fargo, but what happened?” 

“They said the signature didn’t match.” 

“What happened to the check?” 

“They kept it.” 

“And where did you go after that?” 

“Hartford. That’s when we went to Hartford.” 

“Okay. Keep in mind, I’ve already talked to pretty much everybody. I talked to Elena. And now I want to hear it from you. So you tried to cash one of your grandmother’s checks. Do you remember how much the check was for?” 

“450.” 

“Okay. And where was the checkbook?” 

“In her room.” 

“In her room? The checkbook wasn’t with you?” 

“No, that’s right. I had her checkbook.” 

“But you took it from her room.” 

“Yeah. The day before.” 

“How did you get in her room?” 

“She has these inflammatory pills that I was taking for my hand. And I went in there and I was like, ‘Grandma, can I have some?’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ So I snatched the checkbook from the desk. There’s a pile of papers where she does the bills. It was right there on top.”

“So you took the checkbook on Thursday?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Let’s go back to Friday. You wake up, you text Dylan, trying to get a ride to cash the check. Elena goes downstairs and gets permission to use the car. Listen, I can tell you that nobody else in the family says you had permission to use that car. Grandma doesn’t want you to use the car.” 

“We’ve been using the car for months. We just do.” 

“Okay. Elena comes back upstairs and tells you she got permission. When you go downstairs, where’s Grandma?” 

“On the couch as usual.” 

“On the couch. And how do you know that?” 

“I glanced over.” 

“You glanced over and saw her?” 

“I didn’t really look. I just kind of went down the stairs and headed toward the car.” 

“When Elena came out to the car, did she lock the door?” 

“I don’t know. I was on the phone trying to call Dylan.” 

“What were you trying to call him about?” 

“To see what he was doing. See if he wanted to come for a ride.” 

“Did he want to go for a ride?” 

“He didn’t answer. I called him, like, five times.” 

The kid started coughing, straining to breathe. Mulvaney reached over. “You just gotta 

move the nasal tube.” He loosened the device on the kid’s face.  

“I wish it was laced with enough candy to kill me.” 

“Listen, Ronny, stay with me. Let’s get through this. You left the house. You went to 

Wells Fargo and tried to cash one of your grandmother’s checks. Then where did you go?” 

“Evergreen Street, like I told you.” 

“Did you pawn any jewelry on Friday night?”

The kid stared back at him with those droopy eyes.

“You see how this is working, Ronny? I’ve done all the legwork on this already. I know it all. I was kind of hoping that by seeing me, you’d just tell me everything on your own.” 

“Yeah, I did tell you.” 

Mulvaney gave the kid a look, the disappointed dad look, play-acting. He was letting him down, he was disappointed, he was sad. He felt like a shit doing it, a liar like all actors. You know the kid, Hartford had said at 5 a.m. You got the prior relationship. He trusts you. He’ll talk to you. All true. But was that any reason for him to do it? Mulvaney could hear them out in the hall: Hartford and I.A., their phones ringing and radios squeaking, their voices, their shoes on the floor. They were itching to get in here. Mulvaney, looking at his hands, figured maybe he’d let them take it, hand it over, let them try. 

He felt himself frowning for real now, a true disappointment sinking over him. Disgusted with himself. At leaning over the kid’s hospital bed with a sippy cup in his hand. What the fuck was he doing? He didn’t need that pretty Polish nurse to shame him; he had shamed himself. Like he used to tell his boys: shame is you telling yourself that you did something wrong. Christ, he was tired. He put his head in his hands, lulled by the heat in the ICU.  Let the boys in the hall sort it out, he figured. 

Then came the kid’s raspy voice, startling him: “Is she alive?” 

Mulvaney looked up. “Is who alive, Ron?” 

“Grandma.” 

“Why do you ask that, Ron?” 

“I just wish I had some candy.” The kid tugged again at the nose tube. “I couldn’t take it anymore.” 

“What couldn’t you take anymore?” 

“The way she treated us. I couldn’t take it.” 

“Explain that to me. How she treated you.” 

“I was constantly being yelled at for stuff. Like, my grandfather would get drunk and then we’d get yelled at for him being drunk.” 

“She’d yell at you and Elena for your grandfather?” 

“Somebody would leave a drip of water in the sink and we’d get screamed at. Pretty much anything you could think of, we’d get screamed at.” 

“Why would she scream at you so much?” 

“’Cause she was miserable.” 

“Why was she miserable?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“So Grandpa went to work…” 

“Grandpa went to work. We went downstairs. Grandma was on the couch.” 

“Was she awake?” 

“I don’t think she really cared.” 

“She didn’t care?” 

“I don’t think so. I took a pillow from the couch and put it over her face. We strangled her. Then I got a bag and I put it over her head just to be safe.” 

“Where’d you get the bag?” 

“From the closet.” 

“In the hallway?” 

“Yeah.” 

“What kind of bag was it?” 

“A trash bag.” 

“What color bag was it?” 

“White.” 

“Did it have a drawstring?” 

“Yes.” 

“What color was that?” 

“Blue.” 

“And you put it over her head? Did you tie the bag?” 

“Yes.” 

“Was Elena in the room with you when you did it?” 

“Yes.” 

“Did she help you with the bag? She did? When you had the pillow over your grandmother’s face, did Elena help you with the pillow? She did? What happened after you put the trash bag over your grandmother and tied it?” 

“I cleaned out the safe.” 

“What was in the safe?” 

“Jewelry. And coins.  Silver dollars. The big ones.” 

“Was Elena in the room with you at this time?” 

“No. I don’t know where she was.” 

“Did you do anything else while you were in that room?” 

“No.” 

“Before that, when you put the pillow on your grandmother’s face, I’m assuming your grandmother pushed against it and tried to get the pillow off?” 

“No.” 

“No?” 

“No. We just wanted to be safe.” 

“Was she awake when you put the pillow on her face?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Her eyes were open?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Did she talk to you at all?” 

“I said something to her. And then she said something to me.” 

“Do you remember what you said to her?” 

“Something about the weather.” 

“You were talking to her about the weather? And what did she say back to you?” 

“She said, ‘More fucking snow.’” 

“What was that, Ronny?” 

“‘More fucking snow.’” 

“Is she making any noises or anything, do you remember?” 

The kid shook his head, signaling no, or maybe he didn’t want to remember what Grandma looked like or sounded like at that point in time. Mulvaney refilled the water glass and held the straw for him. Just a couple of details to iron out, and he would be done for the day. “Ronny, when you left, did you lock the door?” 

“Yes.” 

“Did you leave by a window or did you leave by the door?” 

“The window.” 

“Why did you leave by a window?” 

“’Cause I can’t lock the door.” 

“You had to lock it from the inside? Okay. So, after you smothered your grandmother, you got in the car. Did you call Dylan?” 

“Yeah, to see if he wanted to go.” 

“Did you ask him if he knew of any pawn shops that were still open?” 

“Yeah. It was like a gas station.” 

“Did you tell him what happened?” 

“Course not.” 

“Going back to your grandmother on the couch, did you take rings off her fingers, or did 

Elena?” 

“I did.” 

“How many rings?” 

“Three or four.” 

“Where was Elena when you were taking the rings off her fingers?” 

“Upstairs already.” 

“She was already upstairs? But she was definitely in that room with you and helped you hold that pillow over her head?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Describe the pillow to me.” 

“It’s a black pillow, a black cover on it.” 

“After you put the bag on her head, did you put another pillow on top of her?” 

“Yeah, I just threw it there.” 

“Were you worried about somebody coming home and finding her like that?” 

“No. Grandpa usually doesn’t get home till midnight.” 

“Were you thinking about getting away?” 

“No. I was thinking about dying.” 

“About dying? So, your plan would have ended with the overdose?” 

“Yeah. But it wasn’t good enough. The dope I copped. Either that or it wasn’t enough, I don’t know. And now I’m gonna go to jail for all those things.” 

Mulvaney sighed. That pretty much summed it up. One more question. 

“Ron, why did you kill your grandmother?” 

“I got sick of her putting me down.” 

“Why did Elena help you?” 

“She didn’t help me.” 

“Was she with you when it happened?” 

“No, she was upstairs.” 

“She was upstairs when it happened? Which one’s the truth, Ron?” 

“I did it. Elena had nothing to do with it. Turn that off now, please.” 

Mulvaney clicked off the audio recorder and tucked it in his pocket.  

He went to the door. It was a mistake to look back, but he did it anyway, and there was the kid, watching him, his eyes half-expecting something more, some sort of help, a word of encouragement, anything. But Mulvaney simply went out into the hallway and signaled to Hartford, he was all theirs.  

A couple of detectives rushed up to him. Did he talk? Did you get it? Mulvaney nodded. 

“I got it.” 

Big smiles all around, a few slaps on the back. The lead investigator called to him as he headed to the elevator: “We sent the right guy.” 

Mulvaney got into the elevator and pressed the ground floor button.  

I didn’t get no help. 

Mulvaney had tried. He really had. After the trial, he’d stopped by a couple of times to check in on the kid, driving out to that brick apartment building on his day off, ringing the bell.  Once he brought him a vanilla sundae. He recalled Ronny sitting at the kitchen table, spooning up the ice cream, saying he couldn’t sleep at night, he kept having bad dreams. He kept seeing the janitor’s closet, the bare lightbulb hanging down from the ceiling on a string, the janitor closing the door behind him, the sound of that heavy bolt locking them in. The room smelled like ammonia, like cleaning supplies. The floor was hard tile. Mulvaney heard him out. Then he assured him that was all over now, he never had to worry again. We got him. You got him.  You did it, Ronny. He’ll never hurt anyone again. Not you. Not any of the other kids from the neighborhood. No one. The twelve-year-old looking up at him with those brown eyes: But how can you be sure?  Mulvaney told him he’d been sentenced to thirty years and the kid jumped up and hugged him, held him tightly and cried onto his uniform, and Mulvaney had patted him gently on the back and tried not to rush him, had told him everything was okay now, it would never happen again, he was clear of all that forever, it was over. He gave him his home number, told him to call any time. He gave the mother his card too. What else could he do? The professionals had his info, the social service people, they were going to follow up, they had the kid’s file, they had the resources, the skills, they would do the rest. Mulvaney was a patrol cop back then, that was his job, answering calls. 

His job.  

The job took everything, sooner or later. It had ruined everything, his marriage, his peace of mind, his sobriety. It left nothing but scars. The thing he’d done for this kid—the one good thing he’d done on the job, the one pure act—he’d just erased it.

He came out of the hospital into the late afternoon gray. The skies were opening again, the wind kicking up. His windshield was frosted white. Snow.  

More fucking snow.