"I should feel sorrier," Raymond Horgan says.
I wonder at first if he is talking about the eulogy he is going to deliver. He has just looked over his notes again and is returning two index cards to the breast pocket of his blue serge suit. But when I catch his expression I recognize that his remark was personal. From the rear seat of the county's Buick, he stares through the auto window toward the traffic thickening as we approach the South End. His look has taken on a meditative cast. As I watch him, it strikes me that this pose would have been effective as The Picture for this year's campaign: Raymond's thick features fixed in an aspect of solemnity, courage, and a trace of sorrow. He shows something of the stoic air of this sometimes sad metropolis, like the soiled bricks and tarpaper roofs of this part of town.
It is a commonplace among those working around Raymond to say he does not look well. Twenty months ago he split with Ann, his wife of thirty years. He has picked up weight and a perpetual grimness of expression which suggests he has finally reached that time of life when he now believes that many painful things will not improve. A year ago the wagering was that Raymond did not have the stamina or interest to run again, and he waited until four months before the primary to finally announce. Some say it was addictionto power and public life that made him proceed. I believe the chief impulse was Raymond's outright hatred of his primary opponent, Nico Della Guardia, who was until last year another deputy prosecuting attorney in our office. Whatever the motivation, it has proved a difficult campaign. While the money lasted, there were agencies involved and media consultants. Three young men of dubious sexuality dictated as to matters such as The Picture, and saw to it that this image of Raymond was applied to the backside of one in every four buses in the city. In the picture he has a coaxed smile, meant to show a toughened whimsy. I think the photograph makes him look like a kind of sap. It is one more sign that Raymond has fallen out of step. That is probably what he means when he says he should feel sorrier. He means that events seem to be slipping past him again.
Raymond goes on talking about Carolyn Polhemus's death three nights ago, on the first of April.
"It's as if I can't reach it. I have Nico on one side making out like I'm the one who murdered her. And every jackass in the world with press credentials wants to know when we're going to find the killer. And the secretaries are crying in the johns. And in the end, you know, there's this woman to think about. Christ, I knew her as a probation officer before she graduated law school. She worked for me, I hired her. A smart, sexy gal. A helluva lawyer. And you think about it eventually, you know, the actual event--I think I'm jaded, but Jesus. Some cretin breaks in there. And that's how she ends up, that's her au revoir? With some demented slug cracking her skull and giving her a jump. Jesus," Raymond says again. "You can't feel sorry enough."
"No one broke in," I finally say. My sudden declarative tone surprises even me. Raymond, who has momentarily resumed his consideration of a lapful of papers brought along from the office, rears his head and fixes me with an astute gray eye.
"Where do you get that from?"
I am slow to answer.
"We find the lady raped and bound," says Raymond. "Offhand, I wouldn't be starting off my investigation with her friends and admirers."
"No broken windows," I say, "no forced doors."
At this point Cody, the thirty-year copper who is living out his last days on the force by driving Raymond's county car, breaks into the conversation from the front seat. Cody has been unusually quiet today, sparing us the customary reverie about the bum deals and good pinches he has witnessed in gross on most city avenues. Unlike Raymond--or, for that matter, me--he has no difficulty bringing himself to sorrow. He appears to have been without sleep, which gives his face an edge of roughened grief. My comment about the condition of Carolyn's apartment has stirred him for some reason.
"Every door and window in the joint was unlocked," he says. "She liked it that way. The broad was living in wonderland."
"I think somebody was being clever," I tell them both. "I think that's misdirection."
"Come on, Rusty," Raymond says. "We're looking for a bum. We don't need fucking Sherlock Holmes. Don't try to get ahead of the murder dicks. Keep your head down and walk in a straight line. Okay? Catch me a perpetrator and save my worthless ass." He smiles at me then, a warm, savvy look. Raymond wants me to know he is bearing up. Besides, there is no need to further emphasize the implications of catching Carolyn's killer.
In his reported comments about Carolyn's death, Nico has been base and exploitative and relentless. 'The prosecuting attorney's lax approach to law enforcement for the last twelve years has made him the accomplice of the city's criminal elements. Even the members of his own staff are no longer safe, as this tragedy illustrates.' Nico has not explained how his own hiring by Raymond as a deputy P.A. more than a decade ago fit into Raymond's liaison with lawlessness. But it is not the politician's lot to explain. Besides, Nico has always been shameless in his public conduct. That is one thing that made him ripe for a political career.
Ripe or not, Nico is widely expected to lose the primary, now eighteen days away. Raymond Horgan has wowed Kindle County's one and a half million registered voters for better than a decade. This year he is yet to win the party endorsement, but that is largely due to an ancient factional dispute with the mayor. Raymond'spolitical people--a group that has never included me--believe that when the first of the public polls are published in the next week and a half, other party leaders will be able to force the mayor to reverse field, and that Raymond will be safe for another quadrennium. In this one-party town, victory in the primary is tantamount to election.
Cody turns back from the front seat and mentions that it is getting close to one. Raymond nods absently. Cody takes this for assent and reaches below the dash to let the siren go. He uses it in two brief spells, almost like punctuation in the traffic, but the cars and trucks part neatly and the dark Buick noses ahead. The neighborhood here is still marginal--older shingle-sided houses, splintering porches. Kids with a kind of potato-y pallor play with balls and ropes at the edge of the street. I grew up about three blocks from here, in an apartment over my father's bakery. I recall them as dark years. During the day my mother and I, when I was not in school, helped my father in the shop. At night we stayed in one locked room while my father drank. There were no other children. The neighborhood today is not much different, still full of people like my father: Serbians, as he was; Ukrainians, Italians, Poles--ethnic types who keep their peace and their own dim outlook.
We are stopped dead in the heavy traffic of Friday afternoon. Cody has driven up the back end of a city bus, which emits its noxious fumes with an intestinal rumble. A Horgan campaign poster is right there, too, and Raymond looks out overhead, six feet wide, with the hapless expression of a TV talk-show host or the spokesman for some canned cat food. And I cannot help myself. Raymond Horgan is my future and my past. I have been a dozen years with him, years full of authentic loyalty and admiration. I am his second-in-command, and his fall would be my own. But there is no silencing the voice of discontent; it has its own imperatives. And it speaks now to the image overhead in a sudden forthright way. You sap, it says. You are, it says, a sap.
As we turn down Third Street, I can see that the funeral has become an important event for the police department. Half theparked cars are black-and-whites, and there are cops in pairs and threes moving up and down the walks. Killing a prosecutor is only one step short of killing a cop, and whatever the institutional interests, Carolyn had many friends on the force--the sort of loyal lieges a good P.A. develops by appreciating skilled police work and making sure it is not squandered in court. Then, of course, there is the fact that she was a beautiful woman and one of modern temperament. Carolyn, we know, got around.
Nearer the chapel the traffic is hopelessly congested. We stutter only a few feet before waiting for the cars ahead to disgorge passengers. The vehicles of the very important--limousines with official plates, press people looking for spaces nearby--clog the way with bovine indifference. The broadcast reporters in particular obey neither local ordinance nor the rules of common civility. The Minicam van of one of the stations, complete with its rooftop radar dish, is parked on the sidewalk directly in front of the open oak doors of the chapel, and a number of reporters are working the crowd as if they were at a prizefight, thrusting microphones at arriving officials.
"Afterward," Raymond says, as he bulls through the press horde that encircles the car as soon as we finally reach the curb. He explains that he is going to make some remarks in eulogy which he will repeat again outside. He pauses long enough to pet Stanley Rosenberg from Channel 5. Stanley, as usual, will get the first interview.
Paul Dry, from the mayor's staff, is motioning to me. His Honor, it seems, would like a word with Raymond before the service begins. I relay the message just as Horgan is pulling free of the reporters. He makes a face--unwisely, for Dry can certainly see it--before he walks off with Paul, disappearing into the gothic dark of the church. The mayor, Augustine Bolcarro, has the character of a tyrant. Ten years ago, when Raymond Horgan was the hot face in town, he almost ran Bolcarro out of office. Almost. Since losing that primary, Raymond has made all the appropriate gestures of fealty. But Bolcarro still feels the ache of his old wounds. Now that it is, at last, Raymond's turn to endure a contested primary, the mayor has claimed that his party role demands neutrality and he has designed to withhold the party's endorsement as well. Clearlyhe is enjoying watching Raymond struggle on his own toward shore. When Horgan finally hits the beach, Augie will be the first to greet him, saying he knew Raymond was a winner all along.
Inside, the pews are already largely occupied. At the front, the bier is ringed with flowers--liles and white dahlias--and I imagine, notwithstanding all the bodies, a vague floral scent on the air. I make my way forward, nodding to various personages, and shaking hands. It is a heavyweight crowd: all the city and county pols. Most of the judges are here; most of the bright lights of the defense bar. A number of the leftish and feminist groups with whom Carolyn was sometimes aligned are also represented. The talk is appropriately low key, the expressions of shock and loss sincere.
I back into Della Guardia, who is also working the crowd.
"Nico!" I shake his hand. He has a flower in his lapel, a habit he has acquired since becoming a candidate. He asks after my wife and son, but he does not await my answer. Instead, he assumes a sudden look of tragical sobriety and begins to speak of Carolyn's death.
"She was just--" He circles his hand for the word. I realize that the dashing candidate for prosecuting attorney aspires to poetry and I cut him off.
"She was splendid," I say, and am momentarily amazed by my sudden rush of sentiment, and the force and speed with which it has wrenched itself from some hidden inner place.
"'Splendid.' That's it. Very good." Nico nods; then some mercurial shadow passes across his face. I know him well enough to recognize that he has found a thought which he believes is to his advantage. "I imagine Raymond's pressing pretty hard on that case.
"Raymond Horgan presses hard on every case. You know that."
"Oh ho. I always thought you were the one who was non-political, Rusty. You're picking up your lines now from Raymond's copywriters."
"Better than yours, Delay." Nico acquired that nickname while we were both new deputy P.A.'s working in the appellate section. Nico never could complete a brief on time. John White, the old chief deputy, called him Unavoidable Delay Guardia.
"Oh, no," he says. "You fellas aren't angry with me, are you, for what I've been saying? Because I believe that. I believe that effective law enforcement starts right at the top. I believe that's true. Raymond's soft. He's tired. He doesn't have it left to be tough."
I met Nico a dozen years ago, on my first day as a deputy P.A., when we were assigned to share an office. Eleven years later I was the chief deputy and he was head of the Homicide Section and I fired him. By then he had begun overtly attempting to run Raymond out of office. There was a black physician, an abortionist, whom Nico wanted to prosecute for murder. His position made no sense as a matter of law, but it excited the passions of various interest groups whose support he sought. Nico planted news stories about his disagreements with Raymond; he made jury arguments--for which abundant press coverage always was arranged--that were little more than campaign speeches. Raymond left the final act to me. One morning I went to K mart and bought the cheapest pair of running shoes they had. I centered them on Nico's desk with a note: 'Goodbye. Good luck. Rusty.'
I always knew campaigning was going to suit him. He looks good. Nico Della Guardia is about forty now, a man of medium height, fastidiously trim. He has been concerned about his weight, eating red meat, things like that, as long as I've known him. Although his skin is bad and his coloring peculiar--red hair and olive skin and light eyes--he has the sort of face whose imperfections are not detected by a camera or even across a courtroom and he is uniformly regarded as handsome. Certainly he has always dressed the part. Even in the days when it required half his paycheck, his suits were tailor-made.
But far beyond good looks, Nico's most arresting aspect has always been the brassy and indiscriminate sincerity he is displaying here, reciting the elements of his platform while conversing, in the midst of a funeral, with his opponent's chief assistant. After twelve years, including two in which we shared an office, I have learned that Delay can always summon up that kind of overeager and unreflective faith in himself. The morning that I fired him nine months ago, he strolled past my office on his way out, bright as a new penny, and said simply, I'll be back.
I try to let Nico down easy now.
"It's too late, Delay. I've promised my vote to Raymond Horgan."
He is slow to get the joke, and when he does, he will not give the subject up. We go on playing a sort of lawyer's Dozens, dwelling on weaknesses. Nico admits his campaign is short of money but claims that the archbishop's unspoken support lends him "moral capital."
"That's where we're strong," he says. "Really. That's where we'll pick up votes. People have forgotten why they ever wanted to vote for Civil Rights Raymond. He's just a blur to them. A blob. I have a strong, clear message." Nico's confidence is radiant, as ever, when he speaks about himself. "You know what worried me?" Nico asks. "You know who would have been hard to beat?" He has crept a foot closer and lowered his voice. "You."
I laugh out loud, but Nico goes on: "I was relieved. I'm telling you the truth. I was relieved when Raymond announced. I'd seen it coming: Horgan holds a big press conference, says he's hanging it up, but he's asked his top assistant to carry on. Media is going to love Rusty Sabich. A non-political guy. A professional prosecutor. Stable. Mature. Somebody everyone can depend on. The man who broke up the Night Saints. They play all that stuff and Raymond brings Bolcarro in behind you. You'd've been tough, very tough."
"Ridiculous," I say, manfully pretending that like scenarios have not described themselves to my imagination on a hundred occasions in the last year. "You're really something, Delay," I tell him. "Divide and conquer. You'll just never stop."
"Hey listen, my friend," he says, "I am one of your true admirers. I mean that. There are no hard feelings here." He touches his shirt above the vest. "That is one of the few things that's going to stay the same when I get there. You'll still be in the chief deputy's office."
I tell him, affably, that's a bunch of crap.
"You'll never be P.A.," I say, "and if you were, Tommy Molto would be your guy. Everybody knows you have Tommy in the woodshed now." Tommy Molto is Nico's best friend, his former second-in-command in the Homicide Section. Molto has been ano-show in the office for three days. He hasn't called in and his desk is clean. The common belief is that when the furor over Carolyn's death abates a bit next week, Nico will stage another media occasion and announce that Tommy has joined his campaign. It will provoke a few more headlines. DISAPPOINTED HORGAN DEPUTY BACKS NICO. Delay handles these things well. Raymond has a fit whenever he hears Tommy's name.
"Molto?" Nico asks me now. His look of innocence is entirely unconvincing, but I do not get the chance to respond. At the lectern, the reverend has asked the mourners to assume their seats. Instead, I smile at Della Guardia--smirk, in fact--as we are parting, and begin buffeting my way toward the front of the chapel, where Raymond and I are supposed to sit as office representatives. But as I go, making restrained gestures of acknowledgment to the people that I know, the heat of all of Nico's forceful confidence is still upon me. It is like having come in out of the blazing sun: the skin tingles and remains tender to the touch. And it strikes me then abruptly, as I gain my first clear view of the pewter-colored casket, that Nico Della Guardia actually may win. This prophecy is announced by a small voice somewhere in my interior reaches, only loud enough, like some whining conscience, to tell me what I do not want to hear. Undeserving as Nico is, unqualified, a pygmy in his soul, something may be propelling him toward triumph. Here, in this region of the dead, I cannot help but recognize the carnal appeal of his vitality and how far it is bound to take him.
In keeping with the character of this public occasion, two rows of folding chairs have been positioned next to Carolyn's coffin. They are occupied, for the most part, by the dignitaries you would expect. The only unfamiliar figure is a boy in his late teens who is seated beside the mayor, directly at the foot of the bier. This young man has a poorly barbered tangle of blondish hair and a necktie drawn too tight, so that the collar points on his rayon shirt are lifted in the air. A cousin, I decide, perhaps a nephew, but definitely--and surprisingly--family. Carolyn's people, as I understood it, were all back East, where she meant to leave them long ago. Beside him inthe front row, there are more of the mayor's people than there should be, and no room is left for me. As I pass in the row behind Horgan, Raymond leans back. He has apparently observed my talk with Della Guardia.
"What did Delay have to say for himself?"
"Nothing. Bullshit. He's running out of money."
"Who isn't?" Raymond asks.
I inquire about the meeting with the mayor, and Horgan rolls his eyes.
"He wanted to give me some advice, just in confidence, me and him, because he doesn't want to appear to be taking sides. He thinks it would help my chances a lot if we arrested Carolyn's murderer before Election Day. Can you believe that jagoff? And he said it with a straight face, too, so I couldn't walk out on him. He's having a great time." Raymond points. "Look at him up there. The chief mourner."
Raymond as usual cannot contain himself about Bolcarro. I look around, hoping we have not been overheard. I chuck my face toward the young man seated beside the mayor.
"Who is the kid?" I ask.
I do not think I have understood Horgan's answer, and I lean closer. Raymond brings his face right to my ear.
"Her son," he says again.
I stand up straight.
"Grew up with his father in New Jersey," Raymond says, "then came out here for college. He's over at the U."
Surprise seems to drive me backward. I murmur something to Raymond and push down the row toward my seat at the end, between two sizable floral arrangements on pedestals. For an instant I am certain that this lightheaded moment of shock has passed, but as an unexpectedly bold tone forges from the organ immediately behind me, and the reverend speaks his first words of address, my amazement deepens, ripples, and somehow takes on the infected hurt of real sorrow. I did not know. I feel a sort of shimmering incomprehension. It does not seem plausible that she could have kept a fact like this to herself. The husband I had long ago surmised,but she never made mention of a child, let alone one nearby, and I must stifle an immediate instinct to leave, to remove myself from this theater darkness for the sobering effect of strong light. As a matter of will, I urge myself, after a few moments, to attend to what is present.
Raymond has arrived at the podium; there has been no formal introduction. Others--the Reverend Mr. Hiller, Rita Worth from the Women's Bar Association--have spoken briefly, but now a sudden gravity and portentousness comes into the air, a current strong enough to wrest me from my sense of grievance. The hundreds here grow stiller. Raymond Horgan has his shortcomings as a politician, but he is a consummate public man, a speaker, a presence. Balding, growing stout, standing there in his fine blue suit, he broadcasts his anguish and his power like a beaconed emission.
His remarks are anecdotal. He recalls Carolyn's hiring over the objections of more hard-bitten prosecutors who regarded probation officers as social workers. He celebrates her toughness and her flint. He remembers cases that she won, judges she defied, archaic rules she took pleasure in seeing broken. From Raymond, these stories have a soulful wit, a sweet melancholy for Carolyn and all of her lost courage. He really has no equal in a setting like this, just talking to people about what he thinks and feels.
For me, though, there is no quick recovery from the disorder of the moments before. I find all of it--the hurt, the shock, the piercing force of Raymond's words, my deep, my unspeakable sorrow--welling up, pushing at the limits of tolerance and a composure I desperately need to maintain. I bargain with myself. I will not go to the interment. There is work to do, and the office will be represented. The secretaries and clerks, the older ladies who always criticized Carolyn's airs and are here now, crying in the front rows, will be pressed close at the graveside, weeping over one more of life's endless desolations. I will let them observe Carolyn's disappearance into open ground.
Raymond finishes. The impressive register of his performance, witnessed by so many who regard him as beleaguered, sets a palpable stir in the auditorium as he strides toward his seat. The reverendrecites the details of the burial, but I let that pass. I am resolved: I will go back to the office. As Raymond wishes, I will resume the search for Carolyn's killer. Nobody will mind--least of all, I think, Carolyn herself. I have already paid her my respects. Too much so, she might say. Too often. She knows, I know, that I have already done my grieving over Carolyn Polhemus.