Billy wasn’t certain he’d understood the instructions right, not until that moment. As he approached the seafood shack, he saw Sean Dignam wander out and head to the beach with an order of fried clam strips. For the first time in days, Billy was hungry. If he was eating in, he’d go for steamers or quahogs, but he was going to need something portable to follow the Sergeant. He got to the front of the line and ordered the lobster roll and a Moxie soda. It barely took five minutes before his order was called and he took it out to the benches along Wollaston Beach.
Just as he got to the stairway he’d seen Dignam go down, Dignam came running back up, knocked into Billy, and began a creative string of curses as the threw away the bag with his trash and began to run for the bus. Billy shouted something profane after him, as any good Southie boy would, and headed for a bench to eat his sandwich, surreptitiously checking to see if Dignam had planted anything on him. He hadn’t, so Billy had a lobster roll washed down with Moxie.
Once Billy finished eating, he grabbed his own trash and threw it in the same can Sean had used -- thankfully no one else had tossed anything afterward. He tossed it, started down the stairs and then ran back up them swearing like he’d thrown away his change along with the detritus of his meal. He pulled out Sean’s bag first, identical to his own, opened it and saw a circle with some marks which he figured was a clock face indicating 9 o’clock. 1 Shoreham Squantum was written on a dollar bill left with the napkin inside the bag of trash. Goddamn, but Dignam was good at this. He pulled the dollar out and tucked it in his jeans, just like this had been an ordinary mistake. Finally, he made it down the stairs and began walking along the beach toward North Quincy. He had just over an hour to get to the address burning a hole in his back pocket.
Squantum was its own small town on a peninsula jutting into the bay. If he turned around and walked about a mile straight back, he’d be on the tidal part of the Neponset river where Corrigan was burying his bodies. He got off the bus -- it had been empty when he got on and stayed empty through the ride -- and walked up to Shoreham drive. There was a small saltbox house, classic 50s New England, right on the corner with Dorchester Street facing the water. The city sparkled in the distance, the Old Customs House standing out against the modern skyscrapers, such as they were. The lantern on the old John Hancock building showed steady blue. Whatever else was wrong with his life, at least the weather would be good.
He glanced at his watch; it was precisely nine. Billy went up and rapped on the front door, to be greeted by a pretty Irish redhead with, “There you are, lover. I thought you’d stood me up.”
She kissed him, and he went along with it.
“Nah, baby, just admiring the scenery.” He stepped back and gave her an obvious once over as she shut the door.
She leaned in and whispered against his ear, “Sean’s in the spare bedroom, straight up the steps.”
Billy nodded to her and went up to an attic room that barely let him stand up without banging his head.
“What the fucking fuck do you think you’re doing, goddamn calling me, like I’m your lost piece of ass? You some frightened faggot?”
Sean’s words were harsh, but his eyes weren’t and he made a motion with his head indicating a slipper rocker for Billy to sit down.
“Who’s the very friendly woman?”
“My cousin, Maeve. Thank god she’s got the reputation for fucking every good looking street thug she meets. It came in handy when you started flinging your shit my way.” He saw Billy sitting like an old man staring at his hands. “You even bothering to pay attention you fairy rookie?”
“I got that you think I’m good looking,” Billy said.
Sean sat down at the end of the bed. “That’s better, kid. You might be a pussy, but you’re not a beaten down one.”
Billy began to laugh.
“‘M I funny, faggot?”
“Not at all. What’s funny is that I think that’s the nicest fucking thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Sean chuckled and said, “Take the compliments you get.”
“Why did you call me?”
Billy began to rock the chair. “Costigan. The mole’s gotten under his skin and he’s getting more paranoid, if you can believe it. I spent a good three minutes making an act of contrition in my head while my mouth was saying whatever it could think of to stop Frank Costigan shooting me and telling whatever numb nuts was hanging around not to forget to scrub my brains off the wall.”
“You gotta name?”
“Yeah, Christ Jesus.”
Sean said, “That better not be fucking blasphemy, or I’ll wash your mouth with soap.”
“It’s not blasphemy. Either he, his mother, Mary, or the Archangel Michael inspired me to say what Frank needed to hear. No one’s bleaching my blood off the floor, but I don’t know if I can wake up and do it again tomorrow.”
“I was right you are some kind of pussy wanting to quit when we’re finally close to getting that fucking scum clinging to Southie cleaned out.”
“If I don’t go back in the morning, Frank will know I’m the rat and he won’t rest until he’s scoured Boston to find me and my family to make us an example.”
“Not to mention it’s a fucking pain in the ass to start over getting someone on the inside.”
Billy just stared at him. “Yeah, not to mention.”
“If you want to be told not to go back, that it’s all right and you deserve a medal for your service to Boston, you came to the wrong place. The smart thing to do would've been to go to Queenan.”
“When was I ever smart?” Billy sounded like a heavy weight was dragging him under.
“That’s true. You had a fucking chance to say no, and you were too fucking stupid to take it. Queenan, he’d go soft on you, and you’d smile and agree to go back for a few more days and feel smug about yourself. I’ll just tell you that if you walk out, you’re done. There’s nothing Boston PD can do, because we know Frank Costigan has a fucking mole in our ranks, or maybe with the FBI, so witness protection won’t do you any fucking good. You’re in till it’s done, 'cause otherwise you’re dead before it’s done. You coulda said no. Shoulda when Queenan offered it, but the second you said yes, then you were already fucking relying on the Archangel Michael to lend you his goddamned sword.”
“I’ve got a department therapist who’s telling me I’m on the verge of a breakdown.”
“You’re Irish. We don’t break down. We drink ourselves to death.”
“Or fuck a warm body until we’re numb.”
“Yeah, or that,” Sean said quietly. “I’ve got no comfort to give you. As long as Costigan’s free, as long as his fucking rat in the department is still working for him, you gotta stay in.”
Sean reached out for the rocker’s seat to stop it, his hand brushing the top of Billy’s thigh. Billy took a ragged breath, clearly stressed to the point of tears.
“Just because you’re in, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to keep looking, too. We want to nail that fucking rodent's balls to the wall and then use 'em for a dartboard. If we catch him, we’ve got Costigan and only need you later. If you catch Costigan, we get the mole. Those are your two ways out.”
Another ragged breath from Billy made Sean lean closer. “Now, if I get much closer, I’m going to kiss you because, even though I’m not a fucking faggot, I am fucking human, and you’re fucking beautiful. So, if you don’t want me to kiss you, you got one minute to knock my hand away and forget this part of our little talk.”
Sean barely got the last word out before Billy took a fistful of his shirt and pulled him into a frantic kiss. By sliding his hand back to cradle Billy’s head, Sean took control of the kiss pulling Billy onto the bed and laying beside him, letting him soothe himself with warmth and touch.
After aching minutes of kissing, Billy pulled back and said, “What about Maeve?”
“She locked the door and headed to bed right after you came upstairs.”
Sean said, “She knows how to keep her mouth shut about my business because I keep mine shut about hers. She’s got a Korean girlfriend named Sun, and no one else in the family has a clue.”
“How many people you blackmailing, Sean?”
“Not enough. Never fucking enough in this fucking city.” He was pulled back into a lingering kiss. When it broke, he said, “I can offer you this, tonight, a chance to rest alone or with me, your choice, but come tomorrow the only thing I can offer you is the daily Mass I go to to pray for your soul. I’ve been bothering Michael, mostly, but I may throw in Saints Anthony and Jude for good measure.”
“Saint Jude is lost causes, right?”
Sean nodded. “This shouldn’t have lasted so long. No matter how smart the mole is or how fucking intimidating Frank is, this should’ve been over by now. That means there’s a wrinkle Queenan didn’t see, so I fucking offer prayers for your fucking soul to Saint Jude. I even light a candle.”
“Light one to Michael, too, tomorrow, for me.” Billy’s eyes seemed for a moment to be empty sockets.
Sean shivered and said, “You’ll pay me back for it at the end of the operation.”
“You can count on me, Sergeant Dignam.”
“I should let you get some rest.”
“I thought you said you’d stay, if I wanted you to.”
Billy nodded. “Yeah, I do.” He leaned in and took another kiss. “I want it all.”
“You got it.”
“For one night.”
Sean brushed his lips against Billy’s forehead. “For now, it’s one night. This thing ever ends, maybe we can make it more nights later.”
“When this is over and Costello’s not burying bodies on the Neponset River bank.”
“Too fucking right.”
The next morning, Billy could be seen from the back window having a hot breakfast with Maeve who kissed him goodbye at the door with a promise of “Later, lover.”
His public face was back on, and he’d be able to face Frank Costello’s lunacy. He felt Saint Michael at his back and Sean Dignam at his side as he walked alone to the bus stop. He wasn’t sure which protector was more comforting.