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Brooklyn Pass

What the hell am I doing?

Letting his long hair fall around his face, Mickey looked down at the woman lying on her back in front of him. He was standing at the foot of the bed, holding her legs straight up and apart, and was pumping himself into her as hard as he could.

Pattyís huge cans were bobbing with his every thrust and she was moaning like a banshee. Her cries of pleasure were lustful, she was young and good-looking and the sex was vigorous.

He figured he should be enjoying himself a hell of a lot more than he was.

They were in her big house, fancy as all hell. Her husband was his dad's boss and Mickey knew that his dad would beat the stuffing out of him if anyone found out what he was doing.

But Mickey couldnít help it. What eighteen year old would refuse the twenty-two year old sexpot, second wife of the richest man in the neighborhood?

Patty had grown up alongside Mickey, but she was four years older, so she hadnít been on his radar when she went away for a year. But when she came home at age nineteen she was the talk of the neighborhood. Hot pink miniskirts and thigh high boots. Before she went away Pattyís mother had kept her in black like a good girl, but she had come back home hot to trot.

And trot she did. First thing she did was target the richest man in their church, Jack Zbaszyn. He owned Basyn Hats, the factory that kept most of the guys in the neighborhood working. He was almost fifty with a wife and three boys. The newly redone Patty aimed her D cups at him and let him get a taste of her wares. Within a year he had bought her the house and then started to work on ridding himself of his old wife.

His money helped get an annulment. His wife and kids moved to Jersey in shame and Patty became the second Mrs. Zbaszyn. Money also got his new wife installed as the leader of the parishís Ladies Auxiliary.

And just two months ago, on one of her regular visits to the church, she had asked his kid brother Nick to get Mickey from the basketball court to help her carry some boxes to her car.

He did it and she offered him cab fare home if heíd ride to her house and unpack the boxes there. Mickey said yes, pocketing the fifty bucks she had grinned and passed to him. All profit, he thought, since he would take the bus home.

But once he got there, Mrs. Zbaszyn invited him into her big house and one of her extra bedrooms. By the time he had come up for air, hours had gone by and her husband was pulling up in the driveway.

Escaping in the nick of time, it had been the best and most exuberant experiences of his life. Sex, adventure and danger made his whole being come alive.

But now, as he stood there banging her once again, hearing her yowl and knowing that when they finished heíd have to listen the her bellyache about her old husbandís lack of staying power and how her life was so hard, he wondered why he was there at all. She had passed him the usual fifty for cab fare as soon as he had arrived, but taking the money this time, had bothered him for some reason.

Standing there pumping his dick into her, watching her fleshy jugs bouncing around, he half noticed the clock and that her husband was due home soon. He had taken to keeping his sneakers on while with her and so he wasnít that surprised, or disappointed, to hear the sound of a car drive up to the house.

He shot his load while she was still groaning and pinching her nipples. Her eyes opened wide in surprise as he slipped out of her.

"Wha??"

"Gotta go, youíre husband's home!"

He used the sheet to take a quick swipe at clean-up, grabbed for his clothing and ran for the open window two rooms over, using the escape route he had worked out a while before. He slipped his bellbottoms on as he climbed over the windowsill and stopped for a second to zip them. Then he leapt to the top of the garage, stepped to the roof of the shed next to it and jumped the six feet to the middle of the garden at the rear of the house. He ran to the back fence, hopped over it and, as he slid his shirt on, he jogged to the avenue and continued on along the bus route past the small stores for a couple of blocks. Then he stood smoothing his long hair back, as innocent as any other teen waiting for the bus home.

What the hell was he doing?

Life was hard enough. Why was he angling for more trouble by screwing with a woman who was married to his fatherís boss? His mother dying last year had already been a hell of a blow to the family. If Jack Zbaszyn found out he was humping his wife, his dad would be out of a job and theyíd all be up shit's creek.

It wasnít like he didnít have other girls whoíd be willing to have a fun time with him, but he still went for the thrill and danger of almost getting caught and having to escape. But even so, Patty was beginning to get possessive, hinting that heíd better not have any other girlfriends or maybe something bad might happen to his dadís job.

The bus came, he climbed into it, walked to the back and sat down next to the window.

The summertime sunlight permitted him to feel like heíd be home before his dad got there, but his watch said he was too late already. Pop was going to be pissed off that he had skipped dinner again and left all the chores for Nick to do. Oh hell! He tried not to think of anything for the rest of the ride.

The bus left him at his stop and he was walking along, trying to figure out something to tell his dad when Officer Johnson and his partner Officer Fine called him over to their patrol car.

Officer Johnsonís coal black skin was shinning with the heat still coming off the concrete. The windows on the car were down, because these two cops always kept their eye on the street and let everyone know about it.

"Címere, Mickey," Johnson said as he opened the door to let his two hundred fifty pound, six foot three frame out of the car.

Mickey liked him and trusted him, but he could tell Johnson was angry from the narrowing of his eyes. And Officer Johnson was too scary a guy to want mad at you.

A heavy ham hand attached itself to his shoulder. "I saw your little brother Nicky down by the Warsaw Grocery. His bike basket was filled with day-old bread that he had talked Mr. Klein into donating to the church soup kitchen."

Johnson squeezed his shoulder, forcing Mickey to look up at him. "Itís dangerous for your brother to run these errands alone."

Mickey blanched. Yet another reason to feel disgusted with himself. He was letting Nick down by not going with him on his collection runs for the church.

"My partner and I tried to talk him into going right home, but Nicky said he had one more pickup tonight down by the bakery on the avenue and he had to wait until they closed." Officer Johnsonís eyes were deep brown and sad. "Look Mickey, I know things have been tough on you since you mom passed. Your dadís been drinking a little more too, Iíve seen him at the bar a few times. I know youíve been hanging out with some troublemakers lately. Youíve been a little down about stuff, I can see that, but donít do anything to screw up your life."

Mickey suddenly felt like he wanted to melt into the cement and disappear. Everything seemed impossible.

Officer Johnson patted his shoulder. "I donít think you ought to let Nick make those deliveries on his own anymore. Heís got a heart of gold that one, but heís too puny to take care of himself if anything gets rough, and the neighborhood isnít as safe as it used to be anymore, no mater how much me and Fine work it." He stared at Mickey face. "Got it kid?"

Mickey nodded. "Iíll do my best, I promise."

Johnson smiled, flashed white teeth at him and let go of his shoulder. "I know that, Mickey. I just donít want you to make any mistakes thatíll screw up your future. I know itís been rough."

Mickey tried to smile and nodded his head as he walked away. By the time he got to his apartment, he felt lower than a slug.

The place was quiet as he made a point to enter the house without making any noise. He went to the kitchen and saw a note on the table in Nickís round handwriting. "Hi Mickey, Dinnerís in the fridge. Nick."

Shame washed over him again. It was his night to cook Ė and to shop Ė and he had forgotten it all to go visit a woman he didnít even like. He took out the plate with his dinner, sat down and wolfed it up cold.

Mickey had begun to resent his brother lately. Nick was a good kid, he just got on his nerves. He never complained when his dad drank, never balked at chores or homework, never bitched when Mickey left everything for him to do and always made time for his charity work. So much piousness grated on a regular guyís nerves sometimes.

He was about to put the dirty dish in the sink when his dad came from the dark living room. He looked like he had been napping, his white hair was standing up on end and his face was red and puffy. Before Mickey could say anything, his fatherís hand shot out and whacked him hard across the face. The pain rocked him.

"Whatíd you do that for?" Mickey gasped.

"You . . you . . BUM!" his father shouted at him, his eyes bulging in anger. "You go to a whore and leave your brother to do your work while you make yourself into a . . I donít know what!" He took another swing, but Mickey managed to duck it.

Stomach rolling, Mickey shouted, "Whatíre you talking about, Pop?"

"That whore called here! That whore whoís married to my boss called here! She say to tell you that you leave too fast today and didnít finish your work!" He sneered, "She say to come back to see her tomorrow if you know whatís good for you Ė and your family!"

Mickey saw that his father was almost out of control, his red face and swollen eyes were frightening.

"Now I know where you get the money to buy your music and stereotapes and fancy clothing for yourself. You think I donít see? If you had decent job you would pay into house fund like you always do when you work and get wages, but this money you have been spending is tainted money and you keep it hidden. Now I see why. Shame! Shame!"

He raised his hand to strike Mickey again and kept his fist high above his head. "That whore pay for you to visit her in her big house. Like, like. . ."

Mickey watched the fist remain in the air, waiting to duck out of the way as soon as he saw which direction it would go. "Pop, donít!" Mickey begged.

After a moment his father's hand slumped down at his side. A look of pure sadness filled his face. "If your mama was alive, this would kill her. She had so much hope for you, to see what you have becomeó"

Mickey felt worse than if he had been physically struck. It was true.

"Please, Pop, donít."

"And your poor brother, good little Nicky, working so hard, trying to do everything in the house like your mama would have wanted, and you let him work himself to death while I go to my job everyday, doing what I hate because we need the money and you Ė you do worse than nothing. You go to a whore that can make me lose my position." He turned and started to move to the door. "You make yourself into garbage and take money for that. I wash my hands with you, with that long hair, I am sick to look at you." And he walked out the door of the apartment.

Mickey felt his knees give way as a bleak sadness washed over him. He slumped to sit on the floor, right in the hallway by the darkened living room.

What the hell am I doing?

He just barely graduated high school and instead of finding a job to help out, he was running around with wise guys, screwing a married woman who gave him money for sex and who told him where to go and what to do. He was also letting his family down, his brother, his dad Ė and his mom. It made his stomach hurt to imagine what his mom would think about how heíd been acting.

He sat there for God knows how long, trying to make his mind work on how he could fix his life.

In the quiet he heard the front door open, but he was on the floor by the living room and he couldnít see who it was. He sat still as he heard a bicycle rolling into the house. It was Nick coming home. Thatís when Mickey realized it was awful late.

Nick was very quiet, Mickey heard unusually muffled sounds as he closed and locked the door. Nickís bike didnít even hit the wall like it always did as he made the little turn into the kitchen. Nick was so intent on being silent that he didnít see Mickey sitting on the floor.

Thatís when he got a full view of his brother. Nickís face was bruised and bleeding, his hair matted with dirt and his t-shirt torn and stained with blood. Fear coursed through Mickey and he jumped up.

"Nick, what happened?"

Nick jumped back, his face white, a gasp escaping loud in the quiet apartment. He let his bicycle drop to fall against the wall.

"Mickey," Nick said, his voice weak, "you scared me." Then his eyes rolled up into his head and he started to slump forward.

Emotions reeling at the sight, Mickey zoomed forward, caught Nick by the arms and managed to get a kitchen chair under him.

"Nicky, Nicky," Mickey said as he patted his brotherís face. He didnít know what else to do.

Water. He remembered that in movies they give water to people who faint. He pulled him on the chair closer to the sink and got a glass of water. By then Nick was waking up.

Never a kid with much color to him, his brother looked ghastly. Light blond hair was stuck to his skull and his white skin looked pasty, which made his bloody mouth, nose and bruised eye look even worse in the florescent light of the kitchen. He placed the dripping glass to his brotherís lips but Nick didnít drink.

"Take a sip," Mickey urged.

Nickís wide eyes looked up at his brother and tears overflowed and fell.

Mickey felt a panic growing. "What happened? You got to tell me. What happened?"

"Nothing. Whereís Pop?" Nicky whispered.

"At the bar. Now Goddamn it, tell me what happened?"

Nick took a deep breath and sat up straighter on the chair. "Nothin. Itís okay Mickey, nothing happened. I fell off my bike, okay?"

Mickey took a quick scan of his brother. "Nope you didnít. Thereís no cuts or bruises on you hands or on the knees of your jeans, like thereíd be if you lost your balance and tried to stop the fall. Your face got the worst of it and you look like you were rolled in the dirt. Who beat on you?"

"Nobody, Mickey."

"God damn it!" Mickey screamed, he felt frustration growing in him to an unbearable level.

"Donít use the name of the lord in vain. Donít curse."

That was the last straw. He grabbed Nick by his shirt collar. "Shut up with that! Who the fuck beat on you! Tell me!" He tightened his grip on the shirt.

"No, I wonít!" Nickís face showed the Kostmayer stubbornness.

"Goddamn it! Tell me!" Mickey lost it and started to shake Nick hard. "Youíd better tell me who beat on you and then Iíll take it from there!" Nick's head was bobbing around violently.

"No please, please stop," Nick was crying, his face contorted, "Ow, Please Mickey youíre hurting me."

The words cut through Mickeyís rage. He immediately let Nick go and couldnít help but stare at his own hands. Hands which had just hurt his brother.

What the hell am I doing?

He looked at Nickyís pitiful face and saw his slight body trembling. His eye was beginning to swell shut and his nose had started bleeding again. Someone had done a hell of a job on his little brother.

HIS little brother!

Anger swept through him once again. "Tell me who beat on you, Nick, cause if you donít Iíll. . . Iíll tell dad all about it and heíll never let you go to collect things for the church alone. And if youíre going to wait for me to go with you, youíll never collect anything ever again!"

Nick looked horrified at the idea. Eyes on Mickey, he swallowed hard. "He was hungry Mickey, I was carrying boxes from The Bialystok Bakery and he stopped me and wanted it. He was hungry."

Disgust at his brotherís try at a lie soured Mickey. "Right," he sneered. Mickey surprised himself with the acid in his voice. "And you refused to hand it over and fought him for it?"

Nick looked flustered, "Well. . . "

"Tell me what Goddamn happened, you little fuckface."

Nicky cringed and Mickey knew that his language was hurting him.

Good.

"He stopped you and took the food and beat you up for the goddamn fun of it. Now tell me who it was."

"Iíve forgiven him Mickey," Nick was suddenly calm. "I have forgiven and thatís all there is to say."

"Then say goodbye to ever getting over to the church during weekdays after school," Mickey spat. "Pop will talk to the Fathers and they wonít allow it either. You wonít be able to be such a goddamn do-gooder, all because you wonít tell me the truth!"

More tears fell from his brotherís eyes. "Please Mickey, forget this."

Disgust swept through him once again. "You really think the guy who worked you over and took your stuff isnít going to be blabbing and laughing about it all over the neighborhood? He beat up Mickey Kostmayerís kid brother and heíll be boasting about it! You think that I wonít find out who it is?"

"Itís not about you." Nickís eyes took on a hard shine. "Iím not going to tell you because I know what youíd do."

"Right," Mickey felt his bile shoot up in his gut. "You little liar!" Nickís head snapped back as if he had been struck. Mickey knew that no one had ever called his saintly brother a liar.

"Thatís right, Nick, youíre a liar! You reek from the sin of pride! This is all about your martyrdom, that you took a beating and kept quiet. You think youíre a fucking martyr! Right?" He jabbed Nick in the ribs. "Thatís why you wonít say anything. Well, what happens, Martyr, when that bum attacks some lady in the neighborhood? Heíll do it because he thinks he can get away with anything, and that's because you made certain that he didnít pay for this crime."

He glared at Nick, his mind racing to think of a way to make him talk. "Youíre making it okay for him to attack again. Would it be okay if he attacked Mom?"

The horrified look on Nickís face told him he hit home. "Youíre making it possible for that animal to attack a woman like Mom because of your pride!"

What the hell was he doing? Using his motherís memory to manipulate his poor little brother to give up information?

What the hell was he doing?

Tears slid down Nickís face. "I didnít think of it that way."

"Who was it?" Mickey pushed, knowing that he couldnít give Nick time to think things out.

It looked like Nick had to force himself to speak. "WalterP, the guy whoís at the basket ball court all the time, dealing to the kids," he said, shaking.

For a moment Mickeyís rage broke and he actually saw his brother and the fragile state he was in. Nick needed someone to comfort him, to help him. But alongside the thought Mickey knew that he wasnít the one who would help his brother get over any emotional problem. Right at that moment Mickey knew that his role was as protector and avenger for his brother's beating. Thatís what he was there for, what he wanted to do.

Leaving Nick weeping, Mickey turned his back and strode out the door of the apartment.

"Mickey? Mickey! Where are you going?" he heard Nickís weak voice call after him as he went down the staircase.

"Please Mickey, donít go, donít do anything! Mickey!" Nickís scream trailed away as he slammed the front door of the building shut.

It felt like he was on a sacred calling, that fate was moving him to this event. He would find WalterP and wipe him out, making it safe for his brother and others. Making it safe for all the decent people in the world to go about their business. He knew he wasnít decent like the other people in the neighborhood anymore. What he was doing with Patty, how he just treated his own little brother proved that. But now the truth was clear. He was meant to be violent so others didnít have to be.

The basketball court was three blocks away and Mickey felt an urgent need to get there. He started to jog down the street and then, as the lust to get his hands on WalterP became more painful, he began to run all out. The people on the street became a blur and Mickey found himself darting through traffic as if nothing was around except him.

His vision seemed to narrow as he passed the church, turned the corner and ran down the block to the basketball court. He scanned the boys playing and his eyes caught the figure of WalterP. He was sitting alongside the streetlights that had begun to flicker on around the playground.

WalterP was twenty and big: over six foot tall and strong, hardened by a lifetime of street fights and Juvie Hall brawls.

Mickey felt as if he was a missile aimed at the enemy. The only thing on his mind was first strike and defeating the wrongs in his world. Without a word, Mickey dashed at WalterP and flung his body on top of him.

They wrestled on the ground as both threw wild punches. Mickey felt more than a few of his strikes hit home, and although he felt his gut and face being pummeled, he didnít feel any pain.

At one point a few guys separated them, and Mickey spat a mouth of blood out before he screamed, his voice that of a madman, "Bastard beat up my little brother. Punk stole food from the church and beat up my kid brother!"

He did his best to get himself freed of the arms holding him back.

WalterP, who was also being held back, started to laugh and throw words at him, but Mickey didnít understand much of it, his head was filled with thunder. When he saw the expression of smug exhilaration on Walterís face, Mickey was filled with the lust to wipe that look off his filthy mug.

WalterP managed to point to the place he had been sitting and screamed, "Them cakes your bro gave me was so good and sweet, just like his little pink cheeks." And he jeered a laugh, letting Mickey see all his delight in what he had done.

A surge of fury electrified his limbs. In a red rage, Mickey fought away from the people who held him back. He threw himself on WalterP once again.

Mickey didnít know where his strength came from, he was on a high made of wrath and righteousness. He found himself punching and punching a face that was bloody and mashed.

Suddenly Mickeyís balance gave way. He felt himself fall, and tumbled head over heals to land on his back.

About to jump up, he saw Walterís arm come from around his back, his hand held a gun in it, the muzzle pointed straight at Mickeyís gut. Mickey rolled to the side to try and escape the bullet he knew was coming. His mind became a black hole. He realized he was a dead man with just a few breaths left to go.

Suddenly, from the side of his sight he saw dark arms pointing a gun at WalterP. The thunder in his head subsided as he began to hear voices around him.

"Put the gun down!" Officer Johnsonís voice bellowed.

"Down on the ground," Mickey heard Officer Fineís crisp order fill the area inside his head.

Mickey felt wrapped in cotton, he couldnít move, couldnít think. Throbbing filled his body but it wasnít pain that he felt, but a vibration of energy. A warmth slid down his face and he had trouble seeing.

In a fog he watched as Officer Fine moved closer to WalterP, pointing the gun at his head. WalterP looked like a bloody, broken ragdoll and he set the gun down on the ground then fell back. Fine picked it up and thatís when Officer Johnsonís body moved into Mickeyís side view.

A hand began to press on his shoulder and Mickey decided that it felt real nice and reassuring, just before Ė

Pain. He was a bundle of pain. Everything hurt him. His hair hurt him. His gut hurt him, his head.

"Mickey?" He heard Officer Johnsonís voice before he noticed that his face was also within sight. "Mickey, can you walk?"

The pain was all blending together. He couldnít tell if his mouth hurt more than his belly, or his knuckles.

"Can you walk kid?"

Mickey felt himself being lifted onto his feet. He was a little surprised that he could stand on his own. His legs didnít hurt that much.

"Yeah, I can." His lips stung and the taste of blood nauseated him, but he could breath now and hear. "No problem." He lifted a hand to wipe away some stuff that kept getting in his eyes. He looked at his fingertips and saw blood.

Big surprise.

Sirens getting closer pierced the air and Mickey noticed another squad car stop and cops he knew came rolling out. Officer Johnson had his hands on Mickeyís shoulders and was leading him to a patrol car. Johnson pushed a large handkerchief into Mickeyís palm. He let himself be helped into the car and waited there in silence.

He guessed he was being arrested. He guessed that he had just screwed up real bad and the next thing he had to look forward to was jail.

The cop car was relatively quiet and after a while the pain in his body and head settled down to a sour throbbing. Not enough to make him miserable, but enough to remind him that he went through a hell of a beating. He held the white handkerchief on his knee. For some reason he didnít want to get it dirty, didnít want to sully its nice whiteness with the crap coming from his body.

As the daylight dimmed, Mickey sat there for what seemed like a lifetime. The windows were open but he couldnít make out what anyone was saying. He watched as another patrol car came. Then an ambulance roared on the scene and its medics ran to WalterP and worked on him for what seemed like a long while. Finally they loaded him on a gurney and sped away. That's when Mickey realized he wasnít cuffed. Johnson must still trust him a little.

Officers Fine and Johnson got into the front of the car but kept their doors open. They were doing stuff, writing on papers, calling in something over the radio. They paid no attention to him, almost like he wasnít there.

Mickey waited patiently. He figured he had no other options.

An unmarked sedan pulled up and two men in suits got out. They nodded and Johnson and Fine looked back at Mickey for a second before they both got out of the car.

Mickey could see them talking, each man saying his piece then there was more talking on the sedanís radio. That went on for a long time. Finally the four men shook hands, the two detectives got back into their car and Johnson and Fine headed back towards him.

"Howíre you doing, Mickey?" In the drivers seat, Officer Fine had turned to look through the chicken wire that separated the front of the patrol car from the back.

When he started to speak, the pain from his mouth cranked up several notches, but Mickey dismissed it. "Iím feeling okay, thank you sir." Somehow he felt that sentences should be formal when his life was coming to an end.

"If you think youíre gonna barf, let us know and weíll open the door, okay?" Officer Johnson said. "Kid, use that handkerchief to clean yourself up, your foreheadís still bleeding some. Weíll be at the church in a second."

Church? Mickey was confused. Did he say church? Did cops call the stationhouse, church?

As the car started to move, Mickey used the large white handkerchief to wipe some of the blood off his face. It still smelled clean and of starch. It reminded him of how his mom had always ironed his shirts, making sure he looked "spiffy" Ė her favorite English word. He felt a sob rise in his chest at the memory but he stopped it. Thatís no way for a prison con to act and thatís what he was. Everything was lost now. Everything.

The car made a wide turn and stopped. Mickey looked out the window and was amazed to see that they were in front of the church. Fine and Johnson got out of the car and he saw them walk to greet Father Kolonowske. They all talked for a few moments and Officer Fine went onto the entrance to the church basement while Officer Johnson and Father Kolonowske walked towards the car.

Mickey was surprised, but fear made his gut roll. Father Kolonowske was a hard man. He had spent his youth in the Navy and dealt with trouble in his flock head-on and with a vengeance.

The door opened and Officer Johnson was there with his big hand on Mickeyís arm.

"Come on. Itís time to pay the piper. Letís go."

Mickey felt Johnsonís firm hold on his shoulder as they walked to the church. Father Kolonowske gave him one disapproving look but then led the way down the steps. Although his mouth still hurt and his gut throbbed, the fear of what was ahead made his knees weak.

What the hell was he doing here?

Down the sidesteps they went and made the turn into the cafeteria. Mickey was surprised to see his father and Nick there. Mickey had forgotten how bad his brother had looked, his face was puffy and scabbed and black and blue marks seemed to be forming as he looked.

"Oh God, Mickey!" Nick ran up and threw his arms around him. Mickey made an effort not to feel the pain that accompanied the hug. "I was so worried, I had to call Officer Johnson and Fine, I had to."

Mickey hugged Nick back. The kid was trembling hard and his small frame felt even frailer than he remembered. He tried to speak, but it was hard. He had to clear his throat. "Thatís okay, Nick. Calm down. Please."

"Time to get to business," Father Kolonowske said and he took a chair near his dad at one of the long tables. His Popís face was flushed and he looked miserable.

Officer Johnson lead Mickey to the table and set him down. Fine sat on one side of him and Johnson on the other. Nick sat across from them, his eyes never off Mickeyís face. Mickey felt himself redden. Heíd never been the a center of such attention before.

Father Kolonowskeís voice filled the large room. "Michael, listen very carefully. Because our good friends, these policemen, know you and your father, brother and your dearly departed mother, they have made it so that you will not go to jail because of your violent behavior in the playground," he glowered at him, "even though the man you beat has been hospitalized."

What? Mickey didnít think he heard it right. He wasnít going to jail?

Fine cleared his throat. "And we were able to do that because you had a clean record and WalterP was in violation of his parole. Weíve also got some prelim info that the gun he drew on you was used recently in a robbery."

At that, his father gasped and held onto his chest. "Gun? He was going to shoot my boy?"

Were those tears Mickey saw in his eyes?

Father Kolonowske put his arm on his dad's shoulder. "God protected Michael today. Remember that and hold on."

His father looked down, shook his head and fished a handkerchief from his back pocket. That his father cared about him that much nearly knocked Mickey for a loop. He thought his dad only suffered his presence because his mother would have wanted the family together.

"But Michael, you will not be spared from dealing with what happened today!" Father Kolonowske shouted at him. "You are out of control. Your papa, the policemen who are your friends, and I, will not let you fall any further from grace."

Mickey couldnít guess at what the men wanted him to do to make it better. But he would do it Ė do anything to stop the madness that had overpowered him lately.

Father Kolonowske stared at Mickey. "I was in the Navy in my youth. It made me who I am today. Fighting for my country in WW2 strengthened my resolve to be a good man. It taught me lessons to live by."

What was he saying? The Navy? But there was a war going on in Vietnam now!

Officer Johnson nodded. "Theyíll take you Mickey. Youíre the right age, you have your high school diploma and volunteers are treated well." He took a deep breath. "Thatís another reason we were able to get what you did today forgotten. Me and Fine and Father Kolonowske told the Detectives that you were a good kid and had volunteered to go into the military. We told him WalterP had beat up your kid brother and you snapped, but we gave our word that you wouldnít a be a problem around here ever again."

Mickey kept his mouth shut. The Navy? Heíd never even considered it.

"Give one son to the army, one son to the Church and try to keep the rest alive," his father muttered to himself. He looked up at Mickey. "You will make the right choice my Michael, my eldest son, I know. You are smart boy and have good in you, you got that from your mama."

Mickey felt his throat tighten. He couldnít remember the last time his dad had said something that nice to him.

The Navy. What the hell, why not? What did he have to lose? What was the alternative? More of the same as he was doing Ė or prison? Sure there was a war on, but he didnít necessarily have to end up in Vietnam. In the Navy he could see the world, have adventures and get away from everything. Including Patty.

And he heard that sailors always did well with women.

He shoved that idea aside.

"When would I leave?" he asked, looking around the room at the men who cared about him so much.

"Soon," Father Kolonowske said. He smiled at Mickey. "I know in my heart that God helped you to this decision. I can feel it. This decision is the right one."

And somehow, in his gut, Mickey knew that it was too.

For a change, he felt like he had an idea of what he was doing.

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