So I secretly love Jack, so it was really interesting to hear so many of you like him too. Writing his interactions with Mary is fun.

Hope you like the chapter! Happy belated Fourth!


The sound of flesh striking flesh was so resounding that the busy bar fell into an anxious hush. The clamor of beer glasses, happy laughter, and friendly chatter fell silent, and all those in the now silent bar turned their heads to find the source of the sound.

Patrons suddenly questioned their own level of sobriety as they saw the small girl with the Auburn hair pull her hand back and land a second vicious hit to the cheek of the significantly larger Michael Flynn. Nick Flynn's youngest brother, and violent enforcer, stood still as a board, hands still in his pockets as the second blow landed. His jaw jutted out to the side and his eyes stared off toward the floor. He remained still. Thought was visible in his dark eyes as he tried to make sense of what was happening.

The third blow met its mark. The fourth was intercepted by Micky Flynn's large hand wrapping around her slender wrist and holding her off to the side. Those watching would later remark at the commendable restraint the young man showed. Any other self-respecting man would have deposited a resounding clap with the back of his hand across her face and put her on the floor.

When the girl raised her left hand to land another blow, he caught that one, swinging her arms down in front of her and holding her steady. What was said between them could not be overheard by anyone other than those who sat by the bar.

This seated close enough heard Micky Flynn, with his deep, grating voice, lilted by his hybrid accent, say, "you don't want to do this to me, here, Mary."

"How could you," the girl said, grimacing at the tightening grip he had on her wrists. "How could you!"

"You don't know what you're talking about," he told her.

"Then how do you?" she responded venomously. Micky's face flushed and his eyes flashed.

"Ruth, get her out of here," he called. A beautiful young woman with long legs and hair so blond it was nearly white appeared at her side. She spoke in a pleasant, sing song voice. She pulled the auburn-haired girl back, but the girl shook her head, tears in her big brown eyes.

"How could you," she said, suddenly very weak. She let the gorgeous woman often found on the arm of pock marked Tom Flynn gently guide her out of the room.

"Out back," Micky Flynn directed, but Tom Flynn's paramour refused.

"I'll bring her home," she said.

"Out back," Micky Flynn repeated.

"Micky - "

He picked up a nearby glass and slammed it down at their feet. Beer erupted from the shattering glass and all that were watching lowered their gazes, fearful of earning the terrible wrath of Micky Flynn.

The dark headed girl dragged the auburn haired girl into the room reserved for the Flynn's and their closest friends. Micky Flynn turned to look at the crowd, raking his dark eyes over everyone in the bar, daring someone to say a word.

No one dare meet his gaze. One heard stories about Micky Flynn. Those who were in his good graces worshiped him. He was friendly, generous, always ready to give a helping hand. Those who crossed him were found beaten and bloody in alleyways or sometimes, they weren't found at all.

He gave one last predatory glare around the room before he turned his tall, imposing frame and marched toward the room the two women had disappeared in. He flung the door open violently. It slammed into the far wall. He grabbed back onto the door and yanked it shut behind him. The clamor it made had the building shaking. A picture hung by the door of the founder, standing proudly in his suit in 1898, posing for the camera, fell to the ground and the glass shattered For a long time, those bore witness to the event, sat in silence, their gazes in their drinks, far too frightened to speak, lest Micky Flynn hear them, and decide it was their turn to take a swim in the dirty Charles River.

"Mary, Mary, you must calm yourself," Ruth begged her as she ushered her into the back office.

Mary was overcome with emotion. Unable to control herself, she grabbed the nearest item to her and flung it across the room. Later she would learn it was a clock of little value, but at the time, she felt immense satisfaction in destroying something valuable owned by a Flynn.

"Mary you don't understand. He's been very restrained with you so far. He –"

"Ruth, get out." Ruth's head snapped up to look at Micky as he entered the room. His face was flushed. Mary has hit him quite hard. The left side of his face was bright red.

"Micky, there has to be a reason she –"

"I know the reason," he said, voice elevated, but not really a shout. His eyes were fixed squarely on Mary. "Get out."

"No," Ruth declared, though Mary had begun to yell over her.

"You unbelievable monster!" Mary yelled. She demanded again, "How could you!"

Ruth worked on hushing her. "Not until I know you won't hurt her."

"Get out or I'll put you out," Micky seethed.

Ruth lifted her chin and challenged, "And tell Tom you put your hands me?"

Micky blinked. He'd never lay a finger on her and they both knew it.

"I'm not going to hit her," Micky said. "If that's what you're worried about. Wouldn't ever hit a woman and you know that."

His voice was taut, like his vocal cords were stretched tightly over hot coals. Mary has settled herself in the corner, though she was not cowering. She had her hands on her hips, her rage so great, she felt no fear at all. She paced in a small circle as she waited for Ruth to leave.

"Go on, Ruth," she demanded. "I want to know what he has to say for himself."

The look Micky pinned her with was frightening. Ruth did not want to leave, and as she stood there, mind racing, trying to figure out what to do, she lamented that Tom had not come with her from the garage like she had asked him to.

"Look, Micky, I don't know what's going on, but –"

"That's right, you don't, so instead of getting involved in a fight between a man and his woman, you get the fuck out of this room."

His words came out in that warped hybrid of an accent he had been so cruelly teased for during his first prolonged stay in Ireland.

What kind of bastardized tongue is that? No Irishman I ever heard talk like that, they would muse with chuckles he had been too young and too insecure to realize was affectionate teasing.

"Micky –"

"Get out, Ruth," Mary commanded. Ruth had never seen Mary so sure of herself, so confident. It frightened her for what was to come if she left that room.

"Mary," she pleaded.

"I want to know what this coward has to say for himself."

Micky's eyes flashed, his jaw became tighter, back stiffer. Ruth began to move toward the door, though it took everything in her to do so.

"You put your hands on her and it's all over," she murmured to Micky. "You'll never have what you want after that."

"Ruth. Get. Out."

She hung her head and obeyed, leaving them alone in the office.

"Well?" Micky demanded. "You have something to say. Say it."

"You're a monster," she spat. "You drove him away. We would be married by now. I'd be with the man I love. Instead I'm... I'm stuck with you."

"Stuck with me?" he replied. "And the bank would have your house, your cokehead brother would be dead, and your da and mum would be on the fucking street! But you'd be happy, eh?"

He pointed a finger at her. "You stick to your own kind, Mary. That's the way it is and it's the way it always'll be."

"You don't deny it then?" she demanded. "You did what Jack said you did."

Micky grabbed the chair and flung it across the room. Mary hardly flinched. The chair hadn't come close enough to scare her.

"Jack? You sure seem awful fucking fond of Jack!"

"Don't turn this around on me. I have no interest in Jack McNally. He's as bad as you! I have no interest in any of this! I wanted my house with the picket fence and the honest husband and my babies! And you stole it from me!"

Her voice cracked under the strain of her emotions and tears threatened to spill.

"You stick to your own," he said again. "I can give you more than that fucking wop ever could. And you know what Mary, he gave up on you. One beating and he turned you over to me like a mongrel dog, tail between his legs. And he didn't take long to replace you huh? Less than a year."

He stalked toward. She stood still, face stone. He said only what she knew was true.

"Did he look happy when you saw him? Happy with his beautiful Italian wife?"

Mary screwed her eyes shut and looked off to the side. Micky towered over her, so close, a centimeter closer and they would be touching. His head was hunched, he murmured cruelly, close to her ear.

"I did you a favor. You stick to your own. He knew that and I know that."

"You should have let me be. You wouldn't take no for an answer," she accused, turning a hateful gaze up towards him. He stared back, eyes black.

"And I won't," he answered. "See, in the end, I was always going to get what I wanted, and what I wanted was you. That's what a real man does, Mary, they don't take no for an answer. You think, if roles were reversed, I'd have walked away from you? Married someone else. In less than a year?"

She tried to turn her face away, but he grabbed her by the chin and kept her face lifted up towards his.

"You know I wouldn't have. So you know I'm not going to walk away now."

He reached up to cup her cheek. She smacked his hand away and she marched for the door.

"I won't kill him myself, you know."

His words were soft and she only just heard it over the buzz in her ears.

"I won't because I care about you," he said. "But I'll let him die."

She turned, trembling in rage.

"Your brothers worth to Doherty, is his ability to get to me," Micky said. "As long as Danny's alive, I'm a liability, because as long as I have you, I'll do what I have to do to keep him alive. For you."

He raked his eyes over her, jaw jutted out to the side ever so slightly.

"I will never love you," she told him vehemently. His jaw clenched.

"I don't need you to love me. I just want to fuck you whenever I want."

She said nothing. Her eyes were directed at the wall, but she really wasn't looking at it. She was looking at some far away place, where she and Samuel were married and happy. He stepped closer again and titled her face upward. She blinked rapidly to keep from crying.

"What're you gonna do, Mary?" he asked, gently. His hand traced along her jaw tenderly.

"What other choice do I have?" she asked softly. "You said it this morning. You own me."

His hand caresses her face. "You'll see eventually it was all for the best. He moved on Mary. That's not the type of man that stands by your side. I am. You humiliated me out there, but I'll still stand by. I'll still do everything I can to make sure you're protected. You might not see that right, but you will."

He put a knuckle beneath her chin and leaned down to kiss her. He kissed her a few times and then pulled back when she was unresponsive.

"I don't get you," he breathed. "After all I've done for you and your family. I even promised to marry you, and you still won't give me what I want."

He sounded desperate, confused, even hurt. He murmured to her, eyes suddenly flashing with a very rare vulnerability. One she had not yet seen from him. "Am I truly that repugnant to you?"

She fixed him with a hard, unfeeling gaze, and said, voice strong and unwavering. "Yes. You repulse me."

He dropped his hand and lowered his gaze down to her lips. He nodded, but only just. They were small jerky movements. "Well," he murmured, "like I said. It doesn't matter to me."

But as she watched him retreat, she felt great satisfaction at the very real pain she found glimmering in his downturned eyes.

"We have dinner at my brother's tonight so, put on a happy face," he said. He reached in, lit a cigarette, and leaned up against the table. "And uh... tell your parents you'll be staying over with Ruth again."

She nodded silently. She was almost at the door when he said, "not a word of this, Mary." His voice was cold. "I find out you're telling people the truth, I'll kill your brother myself, and I won't lose an ounce of sleep over it."

She paused to look over her shoulder at him. He was staring pensively at the floor, cigarette burning between his fingers. She said nothing as she left, but she made sure to slam the door shut behind her.

She came out, face flushed but otherwise calm, and asked Freddy where Ruth went. She met Ruth and Tom coming back up from the garage. Tom looked concerned, and she noted the way he looked her over, looking for any sign of an injury.

"Mary! Are you hurt," Ruth asked breathlessly.

"No, he didn't touch me," she answered. She looked at Tom. "We've sorted it out amongst ourselves."

"Don't ever do that again," Tom scolded. He must have noted her skin flush and lips pinch together into a wrinkled white line, for he added. "I'm not saying he didn't earn it Mary, but the boy's not right. We can all put that out in the open, yeah? We all know it. I've seen him snap at a moment and beat someone over the head with a beer bottle and punch him bloody. Things trigger him. You're lucky you didn't end up with a broken bottle in your throat."

"He's never been violent towards me," Mary was not defending him. She was defending her own judgment.

"Caution, Mary. You really don't understand who he is."

The gravity of his tone gave her pause. Perhaps she didn't, but she was starting to. Tom moved on toward the bar, but Ruth stayed with Mary.

"What happened?" she asked earnestly.

"Will you come to my house? I need you to tell my parents I will be staying with you a day or so and to collect some clothing."

"Yeah," Ruth said softly. "Course."

They walked on in silence. Ruth did not press and when they entered Mary's home and she was introduced to Mrs. Mahoney, she was as pleasant as could be. She took some of the attention away from Mary and it allowed her to regain her composure. Mary has scarcely been so fond of Ruth before.

"Well, I came to beg you to let Mary stay with me a few days. Tom is going out of town and I just hate being by myself. It's all very frightening. Would you please?"

Ruth's dramatics were always presented in such a way no one could possibly be annoyed with her. In fact, the very genuine nature in which she expressed herself inspired affection in many, and Mary's mother was no different.

"Oh of course," Mrs. Mahoney said. "As long as no men are staying at the apartment."

"Oh never," Ruth lied valiantly. "Cross my heart."

They collected some of Mary's belongings and set off for the garage where Ruth had her car waiting. Nothing was said in the car and Ruth did not ask. Even as Mary sat down on the couch and Ruth went to make them a drink, she did not ask. The phone rang while Ruth was in the kitchen and Mary overheard the mumbled, "yeah, we're both here. Not sure that's a good idea. Well we will meet you both at Nick's then. Yeah, ok. Fine. I love you too. Bye."

She came back into the room and handed Mary the gin drink. Mary took one sip and the entire truth came tumbling from her lips. She started at the beginning, the moment she first saw Micky Flynn after he returned from Ireland. How he followed her, how she rejected him, the end of her engagement to Samuel, the coerced dates with Micky, the proposition of Mr. Doherty, Nick's scheme to provide false information, Jack's recounting of the beating explained to him by Jim Casey, and then finally, Micky confession.

Ruth let out a dramatic "oh darling" and threw her arms around Mary in comfort. Mary enjoyed the embrace. It brought her comfort, knowing someone finally knew all of it. Every detail. She'd told Ruth some, but never in such honest detail.

"I wish there was something I could do but - if Micky wants you..."

"I know," she murmured. "There's nothing I can do."

"Tom is talking him down some. We'll meet them at Nick's at six." She hesitated and then added, "it's really important you don't embarrass him in front of Nick's family. I'm amazed he let you leave as he did as it is."

Mary buried her face in her hands. Ruth gently rubbed her back.

"Mary, Micky would do right by you. I know what he did. But... Mary, I'm not Irish. But... my last name is Hale. You know, the English, Scottish, we're all on those islands and, well, we're more like the same people, but Italians are different, and it's easier, when you stick to your own kind. And I told Tom a bit ago I'd convert so we could do it the Catholic way, marriage I mean, but - that's not the point. I mean, we have a way, and I think it would have been hard for you, marrying into an Italian family, and maybe they wouldn't have been kind, and maybe it would have been too much, but Micky is like you and your family. He'll be more likely to understand the way you like things. I mean - would you give up all your traditions?"

Ruth stroked her hair. "I just mean - try and look of the good that comes from being Micky's. I don't know where I'd be without Tom. And - and - Mary have I ever told you? How it all happened with Tom?"

Mary didn't answer, she just kept her face pressed into Ruth. Ruth told her in detail. By the end, Mary was crying. Why could Ruth feel that way and not Mary. Was Ruth some whore? Mary didn't think so. But Ruth hadn't been in love before. Ruth hadn't been. The man she loved hadn't tossed her aside because Tom beat him to a pulp, and held her brother's life over her head.

She sat up and looked at Ruth. "And if Tom had threatened to kill Dickie if you didn't give him what he wanted? If he drove away the man you truly loved? We were in love. We were going to have a life."

She broke down and wept again. Ruth allowed her to weep freely. It was only when time was running out and Ruth lifted her head from her lap and told her it was time to get ready.

Mary collected herself admirably. She retreated into the bathroom for nearly an hour, scrubbing her face with ice cold water, and then re-emerged fresh faced and calm.

"Micky likes you in red," Ruth offered lamely. She motioned to the red dress. Mary observed the dress a moment and then picked up the green.

She was ready on time, and although she was quiet she felt no sudden urge to break down into tears. That is not to say she was not a bundle of nerves. Her insides quivered and she was struck with such a severe pain in her chest that she wondered if she was having a heart attack.

Ruth gave her an extra shot of gin before they left. She said it would help ease her nerves. Ruth parked the car outside of a tall brownstone on Beacon Hill and Mary looked up at it in admiration. It was a beautiful building. More than she ever thought someone born into a family like hers could ever possess.

"I really am sorry, Mary," Ruth offered softly. Mary reached out and placed her hand on Ruth's. The two hands clutched at the other, and Mary squeezed firmly. Though she did not trust herself to speak, she wanted Ruth to her how deeply her affection for her truly went. They got out of the car and moved up the steps with very slow movements. Mary was not at all excited to get to her destination.

When they did enter Nicholas Flynn's home, she was pleased to see Tom and Micky had not yet arrived. It gave her some time to settle in, and Nick was as warm and friendly as he ever had been to her. She accepted the drink he put into her hand and went to the kitchen to ask Cara if she needed any help.

Cara was a kind woman with a motherly smile. She was probably mid thirties, with the beginning of wrinkles around her eyes. She was very beautiful, with blond hair and shining blue eyes. Straight from the old country, she had one of the most beautifully accented voices Mary had ever had the privilege of hearing. Mary instantly liked her and when the night ended, and her hatred for Nicholas Flynn was very firmly rooted in her heart, she still liked the kind Irish woman.

The children were quite sweet. Well behaved, mild mannered, and they absolutely worshiped their father. Colin and Erin spent most of the evening playing quietly by the unlit fireplace and when ordered to bed shortly after dinner had finished, they did so without protest.

Before Micky and Tom arrived, and while Ruth and Mary were helping Cara in the kitchen, Mary slipped away under the guise of locating the bathroom. Instead, she wandered into the living room where Nick was watching his children play. She sat down beside him on the couch and asked to speak to him in a hushed voice.

His response was a thoughtful look. She explained it all to him, leaving no detail out, so that he would understand completely what she was suffering. His face appeared sympathetic, and she was hopeful, but when Nick murmured at the end of her story, very, very quietly, "what do you expect me to do about it, Mary?" she felt her heart shatter.

"Well- well -"

"Did he force you?" Nick asked her. "It sounds as though you consented."

"W-well, yes, but only because he said he would stop paying -"

Nick's eyes hardened slightly and she realized with a turn of her stomach that he thought she was taking advantage of him.

"And you think he should pay of these bills and let you on your way?" Nick asked.

"It's not… that's not what I'm saying -"

"If he hasn't forced you into doing anything, there really isn't anything I can do. If I am going to be very frank with you, Mary, I have advised Micky that this is all folly. I did try to intervene on your behalf, but this has all gotten far too out of hand. If it were not for Micky, I would have had Danny killed myself."

Her lips parted and she blinked rapidly.

"He's a liability. He's disrespected me personally and he's compromised my brother through you. Micky won't do it, and he won't hear of it. For you. You want him to keep your brother alive and to pay all this money and leave you alone? I am sorry, Mary, but that simply isn't how it works. You can walk away at any time. You said that to me yourself. So tell me, what do you expect me to do?"

She blinked, face contorting.

"I am sympathetic. Do not think I'm not, but unless he threatened you, or used force, there isn't anything I can do to help you. Understand this, Micky cares about you, I don't think you're being fair to him and all he's done for you. If I had it my way, Micky would have set his sights on a girl a bit more grateful, but it's you he wants and you're taking the money. Remember that Mary. You're taking it. So, once you refuse all his help, and then he won't take no for any answer, then come to me for help, but until then, why don't we just keep this conversation between us."

She felt like she was going to burst into tears but she kept herself together. She sucked in a deep breath through quivering lips. The door opened and Tom stepped in. A smile spread across Nick's face and he rose to meet his brothers.

Mary remained on the couch. She did not think she had the strength to stand. Micky sat down beside her. He had a tight smile on his face and he accepted the whiskey from Cara with a grunt. He put his arm around Mary and jostled her closer to him. As he placed a kiss to her cheek, she could smell the glass he had just received from Cara had not been the first sip of whiskey he had consumed that night. She flinched but caught a sobering look from Nick and put a smile on her face. She turned her face and offered her mouth to Micky. Please, he placed a tender kiss to her lips.

A loneliness unlike any she had ever felt before came over her. Nick and Cara seemed oblivious to her discomfort, and Tom, though he might not support his brother's course of action, did not appear willing to come to her aid. Ruth, perhaps her only true ally, was always ready with advice on how to make Micky happy and to make the best of her situation.

Accept your fate. Look how lucky you are. Micky can give you so much.

She felt foolish. The other night, after Samuel's marriage became known to her, she had felt so close to Micky. She was so grateful that, despite her lost love, there was a man who loved her, who would protect her, who she could rely on. That had all been a cruel illusion. She did not really listen to the conversation. She smiled along and nodded. Once or twice she would add a comment or a question, and it seemed to keep everyone under the illusion that she was pleased to be there.

Cara made a delicious dinner, but Mary struggled to keep the food down. For his part, Micky did not taunt her. He offered no cruel words and did not so much as reach over to touch her. She was glad for it. She didn't think she could stomach the feel of his hand on her. It was why, when the night was over and goodnights were made, she lingered in the doorway, talking to Cara about the barbecue she wanted to plan.

Micky stood inside, head hunched. Nick had his hands on both of Micky's shoulders and was speaking to him in hushed tones. His brow was serious and Micky nodded slowly, eyes to the floor. When he straightened up, his black eyes locked on hers. She looked away quickly.

"Meal was great, ma," Micky told Cara. That was what he called her. He gave her a kiss on the cheek. She patted his cheek reverently.

"You behave, now," Cara said affectionally.

"Don't I always?" he asked. He looked to Mary, shoving his hands in his pockets and asked, "ready?"

She answered in the affirmative and they excited the building.

"Ruth is just getting my bag," she explained. Micky nodded and met Tom halfway with her things. He heaved it up into the back of his car and shut the door with a heavy thud. It was dark, but hot, and the air was thick.

"Mick," Tom said, and drew him to the side for one last private discussion.

"It will get better," Ruth promised her, tenderly tucking an auburn curl behind her ear. "I promise."

Mary took a deep breath. She wasn't so convinced. She dreaded getting back into that car with him.

"Ready, Mary?" he asked. One would never know the argument they'd had earlier in the day. One would never know the true nature of their relationship.

"Ready," she answered. She parted from Ruth. Micky opened the door for her, but he did not touch her as she got into the passenger side door. He started up the car and then got into the driver's seat. The engine rumbled, and slowly, they pulled away from the sidewalk.

She rolled down the window with some effort and leaned her head on the side of the door. Eyes closed, she enjoyed the breeze.

They got to Micky's building in about a half hour. She did not wait for Micky to open her door and he seemed annoyed by this. He held out a hand to her as she stepped out of the car, but she did not take it. She could put on a show when they were in public, but she wouldn't pretend while they were together. He collected her bag from the back of the car and met her by the front door.

He unlocked the door and they walked up the stairs before Mrs. Mullen could meet them. She sat on the couch once inside. Micky poured himself a glass of whiskey.

"Want something?" He rumbled.

"Gin," she answered. He made her a stiff drink. Once she had it in her hand, he sat down on the chair to her right. He took a sip of whiskey, balanced the glass on his chair, and lit a cigarette. He retrieved the whiskey glass and then leaned forward, elbow to knee, and stared off into space. He finished the whiskey and smoked the cigarette down to the nub. He stamped it out on the ashtray to his side and stood.

She raised no protest as he led her into his bedroom, where she had very willingly given him her virginity the night before. He closed the bedroom door, as if to give them privacy, and without a word, slowly and tenderly, pulled her into his arms.

If he had been rough or cruel she would have liked him better for it. It certainly would have made it easier to make sense of what she was feeling through all of this. His lips kissed hers softly, his hands massaged her curves with reverent gentleness. Even when he took his mouth from hers and placed his lips to her neck, his kisses remained gentle.

Her dress fell to the floor, followed by her delicates. He held her close to him. Her body pressed tightly to the rough wool of his not yet discarded vest. He mashed her against him and his mouth found herself again, this time, a bit firmer, with a bit more need. He turned her around them around and pushed her into the bed. It was not a firm or aggressive push. Had she wanted to, she would have stayed on her feet.

He tossed his vest to the side, unsnapped his suspenders, and removed his shirt. He kicked off his shoes as he crawled over her.

She got through it. That was the best way she could describe it. She wasn't even sure he enjoyed it himself, though he did grunt quite enthusiastically in her ear. His movements were jerky and fast, though not violent. She kept her eyes shut and she bared it.

Once finished, he got up, smoked a cigarette and disappeared into the main part of the apartment. She woke up to him pulling the covers down and then over her, and he crawled in beside her. As she fell back asleep, she was vaguely aware of him laying there, wide awake, eyes fixed on a spot in the ceiling, unblinking.

He was gone when she woke up. He had left a note on the counter telling her to help herself to the food in the house and to be at work by nine. There was no other message.

She was angry for a second, believing he was angry at her for not being more receptive. Well that only infuriated her more. He had no right, none at all, to be cross with her. She made herself a small breakfast, tidied up, and readied herself. She was at work by eight o'clock.

It was an uneventful day. That is, until about 3:30, when she looked away from David French, to whom she had explained four times that he'd already exceeded his monthly tab, and he had to either pay for the drink or make a tab payment, to the profile of the Scotsman, who was leaning up against the bar and surveying the room.

"Get me a whiskey, sweetheart," Jack said. He slapped down a bill and then turned to look at her. "I'm going to need one."

He turned his body and pressed his elbows to the counter. He grinned at her. "I'd come here more often if I knew you were the bartender."

"I'm not," she snapped. He looked around with an elevated brow.

"Well you're the only one here... tending the bar."

She poured him a whiskey and took his bill. He waited for the change, but she only smiled stiffly back at him. She glanced over his shoulder and shouted, "Andrew put him down!"

The older boy dropped the lanky teen with a thud. Mary shook her head and continued to wipe at the smudge on the table.

"Micky in?" Jack asked.

"Why are you here. I told him it was you that told me. He won't want you here," Mary told him honestly.

"Be a doll and tell him I'm here," Jack said. Taking a sip. He was looking down the bar at Virginia Davies, who, although currently at the bar with another man, was smiling at Jack coyly.

"Or you could leave," Mary said simply. Jack looked back at her.

"I wanted to check on you. You were pretty upset last I saw you."

"Don't pretend you care," Mary snapped. "I'm not stupid."

"No, you aren't," he agreed appreciatively. "Well, give this to Micky for me?"

He reached into his pocket. "Tell him Mr. Doherty would like to be paid no later than the fifteenth."

Mary swallowed thickly and the Scotsman laid the envelope down on the table.

"I brought you the numbers," Mary mumbled softly. He pushed the envelope toward her.

"Mr. Doherty is going to need much more than that to make it worth his while," Jack answered. He kept his voice low, but did not draw attention by whispering. "The fifteenth," Jack said. He finished his whiskey with a big swing and plopped the glass back down. As he left, he did so with a long gaze at Virginia. She turned to watch him leave with a smile.

Mary opened the envelope at the bar. She didn't care. She removed the paper, Doherty's own signature at the bottom. The numbers she saw staring back at her sent little back dots erupting in her eyes. She leaned against the bar, muscles trembling, and she tried to regain her composure. She thought she was going to be sick all over the floor.

"It's a lot of money," Micky agreed as he plucked the paper from her hand and collected her around the waist. She allowed him to hold her up. "Do you need to go lay down?"

She shook her head.

"He shouldn't have given this to you. I didn't want you to see it." He sounded sad. He took a deep sigh. "Why don't you go home. You can lay down."

She liked that idea. She was very dizzy.

"John will drive you," Micky offered.

"It's just there," she countered.

"To my place, Mary, you're staying at my place."

She swallowed. Her throat ached. She nodded. John kept the conversation light as they drove through the unusually quiet streets, but when it became clear she was not interested in conversation, he fell silent. As he stopped the truck and jumped out, she wondered how she was supposed to get into the apartment. At the front door, John dug a key out of his pocket and handed it to her.

"Yours to keep," John said. "Micky said you should clip it onto your keychain."

She nodded and stared at the little key in the palm of her hand. John saw her inside, but not up the stairs. Once he saw her step inside, he went back to his car.

She listened by the window for a long while. The truck rumbled on. Fifteen minutes passed, and she wondered if he was going to stay until Micky got home. But then she heard the engine groan, and the truck rattled off down the road.

She rose, smoothed out her dress, checked her makeup on the mirror, and retrieved her purse. She knew the way only vaguely. If she got to O'Toole's Tools, then she would only have to walk up to the post office, and she'd walk straight up Dorchester Ave until she got there.

She stepped inside, the bell jangling loudly over her head. The woman at the front was beautiful and asked her if she could help her with a kind smile. Mary walked past her without a glance. She was being called to, and the woman made a cry to someone named Parker. She got into the back corridor, marched down the hall, and opened the door.

Mr. Doherty's eyes lifted to the door. Jack turned in the chair before the desk, brow lifted.

"I give you what you want, and those numbers go away," she said, pinning Mr. Doherty with a searing stare.

"You have my word," he vowed solemnly, face turned downward into a look of grave importance. She stared, swallowed again, and then nodded.

"OK," she said.

"Ok?" Mr. Doherty asked.

"OK," she said with equal conviction. Mr. Doherty smiled softly.

"Well then," he said. Jack got up from the chair. Someone appeared behind Mary but Jack waved him off with a jerk of the head. "Miss Mahoney. Please. Have a seat."

She did and Jack softly clicked the door shut behind her.