June bugs and fireflies were flitting around in the walled-in garden behind our townhouse on Beacon Hill. Overhead, an almost-full moon and a skyful of stars lit up the Boston evening. Now and then a myopic moth would alight on the screen of our little portable TV, which was sitting on our picnic table.
Evie and I were slouching side by side in our comfortable wooden Adirondack chairs with sweaty bottles of Sam Adams in our hands, as we often did on a pleasant June evening when the Red Sox were playing. Henry David Thoreau sprawled on the bricks beside us, his legs occasionally twitching with dog dreams. Baseball put Henry to sleep. From our backyard we imagined that we’d heard the roar of the Fenway crowd all the way from Kenmore Square when David Ortiz hit one over the bullpen in the third inning.
At the end of the sixth inning, Evie yawned, stood up, stretched, and said she was exhausted. She kissed the back of my neck and stumbled into the house and up to bed. Evie enjoyed baseball. She liked the geometric symmetry of it and the occasional remarkable feat of athleticism, but she wasn’t really a fan. She didn’t care enough about who won, and she didn’t understand the passionate neuroses of lifelong Red Sox addicts such as I, who had seen the home team squander so many late-inning leads over the years that we were never comfortable until after the final out. We knew there was always a Bucky Dent or a Bill Buckner lurking around the corner, waiting to break our hearts. The aberration of 2004 would never ease our apprehensions.
“It’s only a game,” Evie would point out while I clenched my fists on every pitch. “And besides, they play about two billion of them a year.”
“It’s not only a game,” I would say. “It’s life in a nutshell.”
One inning and half a bottle of beer later the Sox were clinging to an uncomfortable 9–6 lead. The Orioles had runners on first and third with only one out when the phone rang.
We’d brought the portable kitchen phone outside with us, so I was able to grab it on the first ring, before the one beside our bed disturbed Evie, I hoped.
When I answered, a voice I didn’t recognize said, “Mr. Coyne?”
“Yes,” I said, “this is Brady Coyne, and it’s almost eleven o’clock on a Tuesday night. You better not be trying to sell me something.”
Henry, hearing the tone of my voice, sat up, yawned, and arched his eyebrows at me. I reached over and scratched his forehead.
“This is Robert Lancaster,” said the guy on the phone. “I don’t know if you remember me. I’m here with my father. Dalton Lancaster.”
“We met once,” I said. “You were about eight. Your parents were in the middle of a divorce. You and your dad and I had lunch together.”
“That’s right,” he said. “That was about twelve years ago.”
I waited, and when he didn’t continue, I said, “So where’s ‘here’?”
“You said you were there with him.”
“Oh. The emergency room at the New England Medical Center.”
“Who’s hurt?” I said. “You or Dalt?”
“Him. My father.”
“Is he okay?” I said.
“They say he’s going to be all right. He wants to talk to you.”
“So what happened?”
“He got beat up.”
“I don’t know. Three guys. He says he doesn’t know who they were.”
“Well, okay,” I said, “put him on.”
“He’s wondering if you’d be able to meet with him.”
“Sure. We can set something up.”
“No,” he said. “He means now.”
“Listen,” I said. “Whatever happened to your father, client or no client, it’s late and I’m tired and I intend to watch the rest of the ball game and then crawl into bed with my girlfriend, who’s waiting upstairs for me. Just put him on the phone and we’ll set up an appointment.”
“Thing is,” said Robert Lancaster, “they jumped him in the parking lot, kicked him in the face, loosened a couple teeth, cut his tongue, banged up some ribs, and he can’t talk very well. He’s pretty scared, and he says he needs your help.”
“They kicked him?”
“That’s what he says.”
“A mugging, huh? They robbed him?”
“I don’t know. He says they didn’t take anything.”
“Just kicked him.”
“I guess so,” said Robert Lancaster.
“Did he call the police?”
“Tell him to report it to the police,” I said. “That’s what he needs to do.”
He blew a quick breath into the phone. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? He called me. I said, ‘Why are you calling me? You never call me.’ He said, ‘I got a problem, and I need you to come over here.’ I said, ‘What about all those times I had a problem? Did you come over?’” He paused. “Anyway, he called, I went. Now I’m here and I’m calling you.”
“You’re the one he called,” I said. “You being his only son.”
“Me being convenient,” said Robert. “I live in Brighton. I go to BU. I took the T over. Look. He’s hurt pretty bad, Mr. Coyne.”
“So I should come right away, too,” I said. “Since I’m his lawyer as well as his friend.”
“That’s the message. If you can’t do it, I’ll tell him.”
I blew out a breath. “Yes. Okay. He’s my client. That’s what I do. When are they releasing him?”
“In a few minutes, I’d say. They’ve patched him up, given him a prescription. He’s finishing up some paperwork.”
I thought for a minute. “There’s a little bar-and-grill on Tremont Street, place called Vic’s, stays open late for the after-theater folks, five minutes from where you are. Know where it is?”
“We’ll find it,” he said.
“Just around the corner from Boylston,” I said. “I’ll meet you guys there in fifteen or twenty minutes. You get there first, grab a booth and order me a cup of coffee.”
“You got it,” said Robert Lancaster.
I clicked off the phone, verified that the Sox had not blown their lead, turned off the TV, and took the phone and the TV into the house. Henry followed behind me.
I went up to our bedroom and opened the door. In the dim light from the hallway I saw Evie mounded under the covers. She was lying on her side facing away from the doorway. The curve of her hip made me smile.
I went in, sat on the bed beside her, and touched her shoulder. “Hey,” I said softly.
She didn’t respond.
I leaned over, lifted the hair away from her neck, and kissed her on the magic spot where her neck joined her shoulder.
She md we win?” she mumbled.
“It’s not over,” I said. “We’re ahead. Sorry to wake you up. I—”
“I wasn’t really asleep,” she said.
“You feel all right?”
“What’s the matter, honey?”
“Little headache, that’s all.”
“Why don’t I get you some aspirin.”
“Sure,” she said. “That’s a good idea.”
I went into the bathroom, shook a couple of aspirin tablets into my palm, filled a glass with water, and took them back to the bedroom. I sat beside Evie and propped her up with my arm so she could take the pills.
“Thanks,” she said. She sighed, lay back on her pillow, and closed her eyes.
“You going to be all right?”
“Oh, I’ll be fine,” she said. “Overtired, I guess. You coming to bed?”
“Not yet. I’ve gotta go meet a client.”
“Huh?” Her eyes popped open, and she frowned at me. “What’s up?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m meeting him at Vic’s on Tremont Street. I’ll be back soon. You go to sleep.”
“Anybody I know?”
“Just a client, honey.”
“This time of night?”
“A lawyer’s work is never done,” I said. I touched her cheek. “Feel better, okay?”
“Yes, sir.” She closed her eyes and smiled. “Kiss me.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I bent over and kissed her mouth.
Her hand touched my face. “Come right back, please.”
“Always,” I said.
Copyright © 2007 by William G. Tapply. All rights reserved.