Skip to content

Chapter 25

Daria’s friends Gabriella and Rolfe were pregnant—they were also pissed that they couldn’t drink infused vodka and uncomfortable in their favorite chair from West Elm. What they wanted to talk about was Buy Buy Baby and the benefits of breastfeeding toddlers. They were not the people to give advice on contract killers.

Thus Daria held off on unpacking her distress until Saturday morning, when she met Quentin at a diner close to his apartment in Harvard Square. “Someone killed The Whiskey Priest,” she told him as he approached her table, “and they want to kill Hap.”

The enormous smile he’d come bearing got lost as he sat down. “What the ef? Daria, don’t go back there.”

She held up the tabloid that had been lying on the table. “It’s in the Post. Francis X. Sullivan. The guy who killed him was a driver for the Lucky Star bus.”

He was stunned. “How?”

“He smothered Frank with a pillow when he was passed out.” She paused. “Granted, Frank had to have been dead drunk a lot to get a name like Whiskey Priest.”

“How do they know the killer’s a bus driver?”

“Because they got him. He fell down stairs and broke both legs.”

“Well that’s good then.”

She shook her head. “He was just a paid killer—or maybe just a blackmailed killer.”

“Why did someone pay him to kill a drunken priest?”

“They don’t say,” she said, glancing at the paper, “but I know it has something to do with Hap and his wife.”

“Wife?” He made a face. “Well so much for membership in the Society of Jesus.”

She shook her head. “Never even pledged.”

“How do you know they want to kill Hap?”

“Because his wife’s boyfriend, Panda, is the bad guy.”

“Dar,” he said, looking helplessly around the granola and oat bran establishment, “like, I need a drink this is so weird.”

“And his wife is dying in a hospice in the South End.”

He nodded. “A big drink.”

“Now I’m afraid someone’s going to kill Hap. I really like him, Quentin. He’s from here—somewhere around Boston. He’s in touch with his feminine side and he’s my only real friend in New York.”

He made her stand and give him a hug. “Oh, honey.”

She looked sad when she fell back in her chair. “If he gets killed I’ll never again work for someone who wears Hedi Slimane suits.”

He made a face. “And how is that in any way important to life?”

She waved her hand. “I don’t know what’s important to life.”

“Don’t you have college friends down there?”

Now she made the face. “I don’t like being friends with white girls.”

“Why? I’m friends with white girls.”

“Because they’re bitches to other girls. And besides that, I’m not a girl anymore.”

He tilted his head. “You need to be able to talk to someone local.”

She looked away. “Hap’s worried about me acquiring the personality of The Family.” She paused. “You know, his Hapster showpeople. It’s really touching, his concern. And I’m not even worth worrying about.”

“Don’t say that!”

“It’s true, Quentin. His showpeople—they’ve really had a hard time. But me—all I had to deal with is growing up with a mother living way beyond her means. Half the country has a mother like that.”

He nodded. “But you’re fighting it.”

“I don’t know what I’m fighting. But it doesn’t seem important compared to what Hap’s been through.”

Quentin looked skeptical. “You can’t start treating him like he’s Jesus.”

“His previous family left him when he was dying of cancer. His teeth fell out and he didn’t have anyone to help him.”

“How did he get to be dying and not dead?”

She shrugged. “I was at the hospice place yesterday, where his wife is. Watching him talk to his daughter seemed like the bad ending of It’s a Wonderful Life—the one nobody wants to see.”

“How old’s his daughter?”

“That’s the weirdest thing—I know who she is! Meredith. I can’t remember her last name being Hapgood, but she was always drunk at parties and hitting on people’s boyfriends when the girls were right there.”

He gave her a sympathetic nod. “Jonathan.”

“Christ, no! It was the hot guys.”

He smiled. “Well thank God for him being a big fat slob.”

“Meredith broke her grandmother’s heart by not going with her to a Melissa Etheridge concert.”

It was his turn again with the face. “Ah, Dar. I’d probably break my grandmother’s heart on that one too.”

“But it’s payback time. She’s got an autistic son named Delano.”

“Who names their kid Delano?”

“Don’t even ask.”

He sighed. “I guess Hap’s had some hard times.”

“Now it all makes sense to me—the way he thinks about the world. The way he connected with those three.” She paused. “Did I tell you Mariette killed her mother when she was twelve?”

He shrieked. “Why? How?”

“Her mother was a junkie trying to set a baby on fire.”

“That’s horrible!”

She nodded. “Mariette had to push her out the window with a crutch.”

He nodded. “Well that’ll do it.”

“And Jude. I told you who his father is. The guy was a total shit. He hated Jude’s mother, divorced her and did the bare minimum for Jude until he was done with Harvard. Then he cut him off—and not like a Compton cutoff but total cutoff. Then Jude’s mother was killed in this awful motorcycle crash with her boyfriend. So basically he was alone in the world. No sibs.

“And then Ted doesn’t know who is father is. His mother was a C-list model and didn’t care about him. He was raised by cold grandparents. No sibs in his case either. He had this bad identity theft incident happen to him in college, and I think his mother sexually abused him.”

He stared at her. “But didn’t they make any friends along the way? I mean, they are the happy people.”

She shook her head. “None of them is a serious friend-maker. That’s why they’re The Family.” She paused. “And I’m like that now, Quentin. I mean, I used to be part of all these big groups—friends with the partying world. Everyone to me was cute and nice and super-friendly. I had this huge tolerance and affinity for stupid people.” She looked at him. “I don’t know what happened. It’s just like none of that is even interesting anymore. I’d rather be completely alone than hanging with stupid people.”

He looked skeptical. “Yeah, but so much of the thinking that people are ‘stupid’ comes from Compton, the arrogant prick.”

She shook her head again. “I was already headed to where I am now when I met Compton. He was a catalyst, for sure, but that’s why I liked him in the first place.” She looked at him. “You’re the first smart friend with integrity that I’ve ever had.”

“I love you too, honey, but”—here he leaned forward with his concern—“I’m afraid the showpeople are gonna drag you down with all their problems. Like when Jonathan’s mother tried to drown you.”

She suddenly nodded at his phone on the table. “Look up in your database where on Craigie Ted Brand’s mother lives. Lillian Tomlinson.”

“Daria, I’m not supposed to use Advance for that.”

“Go on. Just get the street number.”


“We’re going over there and see if she calls security.”


“I don’t know. Solidarity?”

“Do you really need to be Lech Walesa?”

“I don’t need to be anyone right now. But I keep telling you: I’m trying to be good.”

Half an hour later, on Craigie Street, Quentin and Daria stood on the sidewalk in front of a certain foursquare house on a sunny day, doing not much of anything. There was an impressive magnolia front and center. The paint colors selected for the siding and trim said: Interesting people live here. Quentin and Daria didn’t see any interesting people come or go, just someone moving the curtain in a window to peer out.

Daria was feeling philosophical when she said, “Those people who stay inside their houses and move curtains. They have to be the saddest people in the world.”

Quentin squinted even with his sunglasses. “Did you wear sunscreen, honey?”

Counting the time between when the curtain moved made her feel like she and Quentin were a couple counting for contractions. Finally he spied a cruiser turn onto Craigie. “Can’t see, but it looks like . . . Yes! Lesley University to the rescue!”

The vehicle stopped a house-length away. The driver took his time getting out, just like troopers who’ve stopped people on the Thruway. The uniformed man who approached them was stocky, chewed gum, and wore aviator glasses. “Look what the cat dragged in,” he said.

Daria’s jaw dropped. “Kevin?”

“Hey there, stranger.” He gave her an awkward relative-style hug like she was a paper doll.

“Quentin,” she said upon release, still dazed, “this is my stepdad, Kevin Flaherty.”

Quentin’s face lit up. “It’s so great to meet you! I haven’t met any of Daria’s family.”

She looked at her stepfather. “Quentin’s my friend form Harvard.”

Kevin reached to shake Quentin’s outstretched hand. “Always glad to meet Daria’s buddies.”

She looked at her stepfather, squinting. “I thought you were in security like computer security. You were always in IT.”

He shook it off. “Ah, I’m just moonlighting here.” He paused and laughed. “Or I guess it’s day-lighting.”

Daria wouldn’t let go of the worried frown, however wrinkle-inducing.

“So what are you two doing here to annoy Mrs. T?” asked Kevin, using both hands to tug at where the uniform’s belt cut into his bulge.

“You call her Mrs. T?” she asked.

He made a cluck. “It’s a shame. That lady in there was once a real hottie. Now she’s some kind of recluse.”

Quentin nodded. “She’d take any football that flew in her yard.” Almost immediately he realized what he’d said. “Not that I myself have ever been within three feet of pigskin. Even on a pig.”

The sound of a heavy front door creaking open drew their eyes to the porch. A woman came out, accompanied by a lot of freckles. She of course was tall and thin; her blondish-gray hair was pulled back in a bun. “Everything OK here, officer?”

Kevin walked closer to where she stood. “Sure, ma’am. These kids are working on a video for the Ed School.”

“That was clever,” Quentin whispered to Daria.

Daria stared harshly at the woman. “Why did you treat Ted so badly?” she shouted.

The woman in her long gray cardigan and folded arms glared at Daria.

“I know what you did to him,” Daria said. “There’s a videotape circulating on YouTube.”

The woman turned, went back inside, and slammed the door.

Between the gum chewing Kevin asked, “What kind of tape do you have?”

“I just made that up.”

Quentin smiled. “And now Mrs. T. is going viral.”

“I didn’t know you were staying with us,” said Kevin, turning toward her. “You wanna lift home? I can duck out for a few. Treat you to Starbucks.”

“Not right now,” she said. “Though thanks for the Starbucks offer. I’m surprising mom for Mother’s Day. She doesn’t know.”

“Well, you better surprise her tonight because tomorrow bright and squirrelly she’s takin’ a harbor cruise to the Vineyard with some girlfriends and the girls.”

“Since when does she have girlfriends?”

“Eh, it’s her yoga friends. They shop for yoga clothes.”

“So it’s a shopping trip?”

He laughed. “Whaddya think?” He took off his glasses and rubbed his forehead with the back of his palm. “Luckily I gotta work.”

Daria’s worried frown returned. “I’m sorry you have to work weekends.”

He made a gesture of blowing through his lips as if to say that this wasn’t the worst of it. “There was a dust-up last night. Deirdre went and got her navel pierced.”

“Oh my God,” said Daria. “She’s just a girl.”

“Eh,” he said, shaking his head, “they’re grown up when they’re ten these days.”

“So mom was mad at least?”

“Eh”—again with the head shaking. “She was mad that it didn’t look good—that D. has the wrong kind of belly button.”

“You’re kidding,” she said with a blank stare. “You mean she’s mad that D. doesn’t look hot enough?”

He found this very funny.

“Kevin, you’re her dad,” said Daria. “Didn’t you say anything?”

“When the two of them go at it, I just stay out.”

Daria felt so sorry for him. “Will I see you tonight then?”

“Ah, maybe late. I’m tending bar at the Provident in Ashmont.”

Now she felt very, very sorry for him. “I hope you find a super-fantastic job soon.”

“Hey, don’t worry ’bout me. But you guys gotta move along or that one up there’ll have Cambridge Police up my ass.”

When Kevin pulled away in the cruiser, they both stared after it. “Why do all men in law enforcement refer to gay men as people’s buddies?” Quentin asked. When she didn’t answer, he turned to her and added, “He seems like a nice guy.”

“Yeah, but when he drinks he gets bad. And he drinks a lot.”

“So you’re going to see your mom?”

“I have no choice.” She paused. “I can’t believe he’s a Lesley security guard. What will Ted say?”

Quentin became annoyed. “They’re snobs, Daria. Who cares what they think?”

She shook her head.

“Do you have to go back there?”

“Back where?”

“To Hap.”

She thought for a minute. “Hap told me to see my mother, and he was right. I mean, this is my family, right? For richer, for poorer.”

He nodded. “In sickness and in health.”

“Sucks, doesn’t it?” she said, turning around to look back to the window with the curtain. “Always having to be the one who plays by the rules.”

Next chapter →

%d bloggers like this: