Rocky isn’t a tough guy. He’s a skinny little kid with crooked glasses, and he shouldn’t be homeless in Portland, Maine. When McMorrow and Roxanne pluck him from under the stomping feet of a gang of street kids, Rocky latches onto McMorrow–and drags him into a world of murder, both old and new. Why is McMorrow protecting Rocky? The cops want to know. Why is Rocky on the run? McMorrow wants to know. Why does death follow in Rocky’s wake? Jack and Roxanne need to find out before they’re added to the list.
This was the cantina in “Star Wars” and kids were the aliens. They clumped around the machines, peering into the glowing screens. One kid saw me and elbowed the kid next to him.
Was I a cop? A social worker with a bad attitude? Somebody’s father, ready to yank his kid out of the place by the scruff of the neck? An old guy looking to buy drugs or companionship?
I made a quick circle of the room but didn’t see Rocky. I considered asking but didn’t think any of these kids would answer, even if they could hear me in the din. The guy doling out change behind the counter was a possibility but when he saw me looking at him, he scowled and busied himself behind the glass cases of cheap baubles.
He didn’t know who I was but he knew I was trouble.
So I moved to the back, stood behind a kid playing “Battle in the Bronx.” Bare-chested thugs hit each other with clubs against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
“Die,” the kid muttered.
I shook my head and left, and as I came out of the door, the girls looked up”
“Hi, daddy,” one of them said. “Looking for somebody?”
The rest turned toward me and giggled.
There were five of them, all fourteen or fifteen, made up like exotic birds. Peering at me from behind black eye liner, they put cigarettes to their red-lipped mouths and blew smoke into the cold air.
“How you doing?” I said.
“Freezin’ our asses off,” one girl said. “You got a car with heat?”
“Tammy,” another girl protested.
“I’m friggin’ cold,” Tammy said. “I don’t care.”
I moved closer. She looked at me defiantly. She was pretty, in a big-boned sort of way, with large brown eyes and a ring in her eyebrow. Her denim jacket was open and her shirt was short so her pale white midriff was bared to the winter air.
“I don’t have a car, but I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” I said.
One of the girls said, “Nice line.”
“No, it’s nothing like that,” I said. “I’m from the newspaper.”
There was a moment’s pause and then they started gabbling like geese.
“Hey, you want to interview me? . . . I’ll give you my life story . . . Is this really gonna be in the newspaper? . . . Where’s your camera? . . . I was in the newspaper. This douche bag, like, spells my name wrong.”
Tammy, the alpha female, sucked her cigarette until they subsided.
“What’s the story about?” she said. “How us kids got no place to live?”
“Not exactly. Its more that I want to find a specific kid.”
“What kid’s that?” Tammy said.
“His name’s Rocky.”
They looked at each other, then back at me, suddenly stone-faced.
“What do you want to talk to him for?” Tammy said.