One for the Home Team
by
Kim Harrington


...... "Stay away from those feckers in Weston," my mother said.

...... Her face burned crimson, but her Irish brogue came through loud and clear, even after twenty-five years in the states. "Mark my words, Shawna -- they'll bring you nothing but grief. All those eejits with too much money and too much time on their hands. Stay with our people. Don’t help those feckers."

...... Most of my jobs were in Quincy. Townies usually kept to townie P.I.s but this time I was headed to Weston, the richest town in Massachusetts with the highest asshole ratio per capita. It’s where Mom first worked when she came to the states. The nanny agency in Dublin placed her with a rich family in a sprawling mansion, but once she determined the asshole quotient, she didn’t last long.

...... Our Dad was American, a skinny Southie kid who died in a car crash before we were born, and our mom, Mary O’Malley, gave birth to my twin brother and I in Boston when she was still an illegal. But Seamus and I were born Americans. Mom was proud of that at the time. She figured we’d have lives sprinkled in glitter and opportunity. Every dream fulfilled. There was a time when I thought that, too. Before Seamus got sick weeks ago and my world crumbled.

...... My current case was one that Harry Fisher didn’t want and tossed to me like scraps in a dog bowl. But I didn’t mind being second choice. Fisher was sixty, and once he retired I’d be the only game in town.

...... This one looked to be a cakewalk. Watch the husband of a suspicious wife. Nine out of ten wives had a right to be suspicious, and it never took long to get the proof. I glanced at the slim digital camera in my passenger seat, locked and loaded.

...... I was parked down the street from the Devane house, under a large pine in a wooded area of Gilded Drive, a winding road dotted with turn of the century estates and contemporary McMansions.

...... My subject was Floyd, husband, father, and possible dirtbag. Mrs. Devane left the house an hour earlier in her silver Mercedes convertible, giving me a knowing nod as she drove by. If Floyd was going to sneak around, I figured he'd do it with wifey out abusing the credit card. But his white Land Rover hadn't moved.

...... My thoughts returned to family. It had been a rough few weeks. Seamus was pricked with more needles than a junkie until tests showed he had something called Alport’s syndrome. Kidney disease was part of it, and he needed a transplant to survive. Mom insisted on being tested first, but she wasn’t a match. We were waiting on my tests, but I knew I'd be a slam dunk. Twins, after all.

...... A sleek burgundy BMW rounded the curve. The driver, a dark-haired man about my age wearing a shirt and tie, glanced at me as he slowed to idle. My black Accord is usually an inconspicuous car, but on this road, it screamed outsider of average income. I pulled a street map out of my glove compartment and pretended to be lost, turning the map every which way until the BMW moved on. Interestingly enough, the BMW turned into the circular driveway of the Devane house. The driver glared at me again as he got out of the car. A good time to break for dinner.

...... Thirty minutes later, I pulled into the driveway of our two-family Victorian. My mom lived on the first floor and Seamus and I split the second floor. One bedroom for me, one for him, and one for all his easels and paint and shit. The screen door banged behind me as I trudged into the kitchen, the smell of freshly mashed potatoes hanging in the air like a fog.

...... The rest of the week, we go about our lives separately, but Sunday nights are for family. We eat, bicker, debate religion and politics, kiss and make up, and head to bed. I lovingly punched Seamus in the arm as I settled into the dark wooden chair beside him. I piled my plate with meatloaf and mashed potatoes, knowing the rest of the week I’d survive on Diet Coke and Fritos, the bags and cans littering the floor of my car.

...... Seamus whined about his latest painting and how he wasn't feeling it. I wondered if he was really as concerned about it as he pretended to be or if he faked being tortured because no one wants a well-adjusted artist. Ten minutes later, he excused himself--he’d only eaten two bites--and trudged into the living room. The blue light of the television leaked into the kitchen as Mom and I stared at each other.

...... "Did the doctor call?" I asked. "I want to get going with the transplant."

...... "It’s Sunday."

...... "The lab doesn’t work on Sunday?"

...... "Of course not. It’s the Lord’s day," she snapped, as if I asked if she’d like a tab of acid.

...... "I worked today."

...... She rolled her eyes. "Please tell me you’re done with those Weston feckers."

...... "Nah."

...... "I told you I didn’t want you messing with those people."

...... "This is easy money. Follow Floyd a few days, snap a few pics. Then read about the big Devane split in the papers."

...... Mom's face went as pale as the potatoes. "Floyd Devane? He’s a senator!"

...... "State senator. What’s he going to do, re-assess our property value?"

...... "He comes from a wealthy family with deep roots and influence. You should pass the case to someone else."

...... "I've dealt with murderers, rapists, drug dealers. I'm not afraid of some sixty-five year old hopped up on Viagra."

...... I cleared the table and went to watch TV with Seamus, but he was asleep on the couch, his face an awful shade of green. I wish it were a tangible thing, this kidney disease, something I could punch and kick and scare away.

...... I was slight as a girl, smallest in my class, with freckles, braces, and stick legs. Seamus always had my back. Even if the bullies were twice his size, Seamus would scrap and fight to protect me. I watched him sleep on the couch, his thin arm draped over his chest as it rose and fell slowly with each breath. He needed me this time. I wished the doctor would call. I’d rip out my own kidney right now and do the surgery myself if I knew how.

*****

...... Monday morning, Floyd Devane ambled down his driveway to pick up The Boston Globe. He was dressed in khaki Dockers and a button-down shirt, casual for him, but then I remembered the state house was on break this week. Nothing to do, a good day to meet the mistress if there is one. Mrs. Devane had left already, anxious for proof of her husband's infidelity.

...... Floyd patted his pockets and pulled out a cell phone. Answering, he stiffened, listened for a few minutes, and mumbled a curt reply. Then he abandoned the Globe, and got into his Land Rover.

...... I followed him out of Weston into Waltham, staying several car lengths behind. He wasn't hard to trace in his giant white gas guzzler. He pulled into the parking lot of The Grand, an expensive business travelers' hotel overlooking Route 128. The sun reflected off windows rising ten floors, giving the building a strange purple hue.

...... He hurried into the lobby. I followed at a distance, digital camera in the pocket of my cargo pants. Two elevators opened. He took the left and I took the right, quickly lighting up every number on the pad. He got out on Three, and I slid out, staying close to the wall, camera ready.

...... A woman was waiting by a room at the end of the hall, her back to me. The only detail I could see clearly was a black headscarf with red roses. Her hair was tucked underneath and as she turned for one split-second, I saw that large black sunglasses covered most of her face.

...... She didn’t want to be recognized. Probably also married.

...... They talked in the hallway for a moment. He was very animated, hands flying around like a child swatting at bubbles. I zoomed in and snapped six shots before they slipped into the room. The door shut behind them, and someone tackled me, fingers digging into my arm.

...... I lifted my elbow and connected, I didn't know with which body part. I ran for the stairs and took them down two by two. At the second floor landing, I was hit again, pushed up against the wall.

...... "I don’t want to hurt you," a man said. "I just want the camera."

...... The concrete wall was cool against my cheek and jolted me enough to push back and draw my elbow down on the sweet spot. Now that I knew it was a guy, I knew exactly where to hit.

...... He staggered back with an, "Oomph."

...... I used the opening to swivel and kick him in the balls. He dropped like a drunk, rolling and moaning on the floor. I got a good look at him. About my age, maybe a couple years older, oddly familiar. I raised my foot again and he put up a hand.

...... "Please! I wasn’t going to hurt you. I just want the camera. You were taking pictures of my dad."

...... "Floyd is your father?"

...... "Yeah."

...... "Well, your father’s having an affair. Your mom had her suspicions, hired me, and now I have the proof."

...... "Please, don’t give her those pictures. It will be splashed in all the papers. It will ruin my family."

...... "Your mother’s paying me to get these pictures. She’s my client. I’m not going to lie to her."

...... "She’s not my mother," he said, wincing with pain and hate. "Cancer killed my mother five years ago. This bitch new wife of his married him for his money and now she wants to ruin him. She wants a big, loud divorce."

...... I felt slightly sorry for him. He was just protecting family, something I’d do in a heartbeat for mine. But, a client was a client. "Sorry, pal. Just doing my job."

...... "He’s probably not even having sex with that woman. The family has two suites here that we use for business meetings. I was on my way to one when I saw you."

...... "Yeah, lots of business going on in there right now, I’m sure." I started down the stairs.

...... "I’ll double what she’s paying if you tell her nothing!"

...... "No sale," I said and kept walking.

...... I have loyalties. First to the home team, Mom and Seamus. Second, to my clients. This guy was neither.

...... Back in my car with my camera safely in its bag, I started the engine and popped in Snow Patrol. I’d have to tell Mom I bought their CD. Yeah, they’re from Belfast, not Dublin, but they’re Irish. Supporting the home team, she’d say. Maybe it would make up for my last boyfriend, who was Italian, born and raised on the North End, eyes as black as his hair. That went over well.

...... By dinnertime, Seamus was asleep on the couch, blue and green paint on the tips of his fingers. I was gazing into the freezer for something to nuke when our phone rang.

...... "You busy?" Mom asked.

...... "You too lazy to walk up the flight of stairs?" When she didn't play along with the joke, I asked, "What’s up?"

...... "Just come downstairs. I’m making shepherd’s pie. Your legs are too skinny."

...... I placed the phone back in its cradle, worry settling into my chest. In the kitchen, Mom was bent over, pushing a white Corningware dish into the oven.

...... "Smells good," I said, sinking into a chair.

...... "We have to talk," she said, straightening. Her hair was a brassy red with streaks of gray. She looked a good ten years younger than she was, despite the five pounds or so she’d gained since Seamus got sick.

...... I fiddled with the placemat before me, a picture of a wicker basket full with ripe, red apples.

...... Mom rested her trembling hands on the front of her apron and took a deep breath. "The doctor called. You’re not a match."

...... "We’re twins, how can I not match?"

...... "You’re not identical twins."

...... "I know that, but I just--" I couldn't hold back tears. I assumed I’d be a match, I’d save Seamus, and all would be well. "What did the doctor suggest?"

...... "He said a male in the family might be a better candidate for a match."

...... "We don’t have any males in the family!" I wanted to kick a hole in the wall, throw the blender through the television.

...... Mom was quiet.

...... "We do have a male in the family. That’s what you’re thinking, right Mom?"

...... "It’s complicated."

...... "I don’t care. If it’s some cousin in Ireland, I’ll go. I’ll go get him and drag him back here. I don’t care if he’s never heard of us. I’ll get that kidney."

...... "It’s not a cousin."

...... "Who is it?"

...... "Your father."

...... "He’s alive?"

...... "That person I told you about doesn’t exist. Never did. I made him up."

...... "Where is our father? In Ireland?"

...... She gazed out the window, refusing to look me in the eye. "Weston," she said. "I was young, just off the boat. He told me he loved me, that he’d leave his wife. Then I got pregnant and he was so mad. He wanted me to get an abortion. I reminded him I was Catholic, and he just fired me. Told his wife he caught me stealing her good silverware. I couldn’t get another nanny job anywhere. That’s when I started cleaning houses."

...... "And you just let him get away with it?"

...... "Not quite. You don’t get a four-bedroom Victorian on a housecleaner’s salary."

...... "He bought this house." I was dumbstruck, letting all the facts settle over the lies I’ve believed like cold snow over grass.

...... "Who is he?" I asked. "Maybe he's a match."

...... "I asked him today to get tested. He refused. He wants nothing to do with us, doesn’t even care if his own son dies."

...... "Who is he?!"

...... "Floyd Devane."

*****

...... I sped back to Gilded Drive. Mrs. Devane’s car was gone, but the Land Rover was there and so was the Beemer. I slipped my Accord into the driveway and headed to the front door.

...... My father answered, gave me the once-over, and frowned. I knew what he was thinking, eyeing my red hair in ringlets and black mini-skirt. Little Orphan Annie on crack.

...... "Hi," I said. "Is Evan here? He’s expecting me." I flashed a bright smile, one hand on my hip.

...... "Um, sure." Floyd retreated, and a minute later Evan filled the doorway.

...... "What are you doing here?"

...... I winked. "Let’s make a deal."

...... We slipped into his BMW, the stench of new leather burning my nostrils. "How badly do you want to save Daddy's reputation?"

...... "Keep talking."

...... "I’ll tell the wife he’s perfectly faithful, and the pictures will disappear."

...... "What do you want in exchange?"

...... "I want you to take a test."

*****

...... Spirits were high at the next Sunday dinner. Mom smiled proudly as I retold the story to Seamus for the tenth time in the past four days. He laughed like he hadn’t done in weeks and I knew it wasn’t just the humor I was interjecting, it was knowing he was going to live.

...... At first, Evan scoffed at the idea of donating a kidney to his newly-found lower-middle-class brother. Then I threatened not only to give Mrs. Devane the pictures from the hotel but also let her and the press know that Seamus and I were the products of an affair Floyd had with Evan’s nanny. The Boston Herald would lick that up. That news, combined with photographic evidence of a current affair would ruin his father’s political career. And since Evan was practically guaranteed Floyd’s senate seat when he retired, it would snuff out his political life before it even began.

...... Turned out Evan was a match, and we scheduled the transplant.

...... I took a last bite of warm apple pie and smiled at my brother. Feeling nostalgic, Mom asked me to get the baby albums from under her bed. I strutted into her bedroom, thinking it wasn't possible to feel happier.

...... Then I saw something colorful sticking out of Mom’s jewelry box. I lifted the lid and pulled out a thin headscarf, black with red roses.

...... There was no current mistress. Mom was the one I saw Floyd with at the hotel. She was begging him to get tested, to save their son’s life.

...... I should have felt bad for using false evidence for kidney blackmail, but I didn’t. I was only guilty of assuming the worst in a man, which in this line of work was as natural as breathing. And at that moment, I couldn’t feel anything other than high on a win for the home team.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Kim Harrington.


More of Kim Harrington's short fiction has appeared in Hardluck Stories, Shred of Evidence, Demolition Magazine, and Crime Scene Scotland, and is upcoming in CrimeSpree Magazine and The Best New Noir Anthology from Point BlankPress. Visit her on the web.

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