Adults crying in his presence ordinarily disturbed Blow deeply. Too much devastation—theirs from life and his by empathy. He often had to fight to keep from crying with them. Jay Mundaign’s tears had this effect at first, but soon Blow felt an ebbing of the nervous tension that had been building in him, and he had to fight to keep from smiling.
The tears had surprised him, although in retrospect they came in a natural sequence. Blow had turned to Moriarty after Mundaign mentioned the risk to both of them were he to take his own life, or, by implication, were he to die by any means. Moriarty’s face looked strange. Blow saw a tightness there that had seemed to appear once she’d made the introduction. She’d gone silent, seemingly relaxed on the bed, but the muscles in her face hardened, becoming more noticeable as the two men talked. Blow was studying her rigid expression when he saw the change: Her eyes widened. There was a quick intake of breath. The rest of her appeared the same, poised but relaxed, fixed on Mundaign, and when Blow followed her gaze he saw the tears, glistening on the man’s flushed cheeks.
Mundaign was holding a sheet of paper he’d apparently taken from the file folder on the little desk, suggesting to Blow this had caused the emotional outbreak. He was about to say something when Mundaign looked up, eyes wet and reddened. It was clear in his voice he’d regained control. “This country is fucked up—my apologies, Jamie, but it’s true. Somebody out there is ordering innocent people killed because he or she, or some committee or, for all I know, the whole damned government wants to find some damned laboratory and refuses to believe I haven’t the remotest idea where it is. Jeezuz, I’d tell them if I knew. If only to stop the senseless killing, and the torture and whatever the hell else is being done. I’d tell them if it would stop all this and because I don’t care if they find the damned place. I don’t care one fucking bit. It’s not my fight. All I care about right now is this!”
He’d delivered all but the last word dispassionately, almost morosely. The last word burst out a hiss. He waved the paper as if presenting evidence to a jury, and then tossed it on the floor. It landed near Blow’s feet. “Don’t bother,” Mundaign said as Blow bent to pick it up. “It has nothing to do with why you are here.”
Blow looked up, feeling the toxic anxiety seeping back into his nerves. “So why am I here?”
“To defend me. Soon as the ballistics come back from that boy’s gun they’ll turn to me. I’m on deck, so to speak.”
“You have a gun?”
“There was one in the house. It’s not mine.”
“Whoever planted it there.”
“Have you touched it?”
“I’m not a fool, Mr. Stone.”
“How long has it been there?”
“Was. It’s gone now. Deputy Teach took it with him Friday night. I found it about a week ago. It was in a small burlap bag, a Whitley’s Peanuts bag, under my couch. I knew it was planted there because I didn’t own a gun. I told Teach about it a couple days before, before the shootings. He told me not to touch it, that he’d have a detective come out. No one did.”
“You know Teach?”
“He’s a descendant of Blackbeard. The so-called pirate? I’ve been interviewing him. Teach, that is.” Mundaign laughed, modestly, the first sign of mirth Blow had seen in him since they’d met, but it didn’t help his anxiety. He looked at Moriarty. She caught his glance and winked. That helped, some.