The thing bobbed in and out of the lukewarm coffee as Blow held it by one of its thin copper wires, dunking it as he would a piece of donut, something he hadn't done since he was a child imitating his grandfather. Doing this summoned memories of the old man. Samuel Stone, patriarch of the Leicester County Stones, a popular, respected magistrate whose robust surface friendliness extended easily but who showed a quietly contemplative side, marked by droll, gentle humor, to only those who'd earned his trust. Blow was drifting now among these remnants from the past when his cellphone chirped its Beat Me, Daddy ringtone alerting him to the call from a frantic Joan.
“Joey! Where are you?”
“Hi, Joanie. I'm fine. Here at my desk, thinking about Grampa.”
“Oh, you must mean my text message.”
“Damn right I do! What the fuck, Joey?”
“I sent that about...oh, three hours ago?”
“Well I just got it. Right this minute...um...oops, you're right. Says it was sent at nine-oh-seven. Sorry. So I guess everything's alright then?”
“Nobody's dead yet, except Himmler, and that happened before I sent the text--”
His sister interrupted. “Himmler?” She paused. Blow heard papers rustling and her voice. She seemed to be speaking to herself, or to someone nearby. “Are you...are you sure you're alright? You haven't dropped acid or anything, have you, Joey?”
“Is there someone with you?”
“I'm watching a poodle. Ruth's sister. Ruth's allergic but didn't have the heart to tell her. She's...the sister...is going to Israel for a week, with some peace group. Anyway, I'm stuck with the dog. He's actually kind of sweet. Name is Itzak. So what's up, Joey? Remember, this phone's not secure.”
“Neither are the others. You'll need to get new numbers for them.”
So Blow explained, brought his sister up to speed. He left out certain things, information he believed shouldn't be overheard by an eavesdropper—he was thinking in particular of his client—or even the FBI, should they happen to be listening in, as well. He tried to beat around the bush about the break-in, but her persistence wore down his dodging until he knew he had to tell her who it was. When he did, he could tell in an instant their loving relationship had shifted to a different plane. He knew they would never again see each other quite the same.
“Jeezuz, Joey!” This came after a long silence, broken when Blow told her Moriarty had asked him to represent her, and that he had accepted her as a client.
“She killed an FBI agent. She tried to kill you. And me.” The sadness in her voice had overrun her initial disbelief. He feared she might weep. He was close to tears himself.
“I'm a lawyer, Joanie.” He heard the sorrow in his own voice, but the act of identifying himself, his profession, with its importance in the fabric of their family history, allowed him to touch bottom with his toes, the water scant inches from engulfing him.
“I know, Little Bro. I guess I should start calling you Big Bro, now, but...”
“Nah, you're Big Sis. One Big is enough. You know I love you, Joanie.” Her answering murmur reaffirmed their sibling bond, yet Blow heard in the familiar exchange a new timbre. More mature. It had a liturgical feel.
Blow's announcement he was Moriarty's attorney put a crimp in his sister's questioning. She knew anything his client had told him that might have a bearing legally in the event of a trial, was confidential. Her brother had mentioned the disposable cellphones in her room, so she felt entitled to pursue this.
“So you think she...my cellphones might have...” She hesitated long enough for Blow to break in.
“I don't know. Better not to take that risk, don't you think? I am having the house swept for possible bugs, and my truck. Just to be sure.”
“I can ask Richard--”
“I'd rather you didn't. I--”
“That's OK. I understand.”
The rest of the conversation was familial—when would Dad be home, when would she, Joan, be down for a visit, that sort of thing, as usual.
What was unusual was the timid ache from the incursion of distance into their voices. It lodged there, intractable, as if some enemy had planted a bug in their hearts.