“The dirty cop will inevitably reveal himself,” Del Rio said. “He’ll always give off a sign, an indication.”
Del Rio buffed a crisp, red apple on the chest of his jacket, regarded the apple, then bit into it.
“Why do I say this?” Del Rio asked. He sat back in the passenger seat of a black Jeep Cherokee and stared at Detective Jack Devlin, positioned behind the wheel. “Why do I say that the dirty cop will inevitably reveal himself? With Moloney here,” he went on, motioning vaguely toward the street as cars rode by, headlights shining, “with Moloney, there’s just always been something about him. He’s shrewd, it’s true. Clever guy, by no means stupid. But he’s a pig. He could have been a player within the department. But he’s one of those who gave in to the anger and bitterness. It’s a fucking way of life in Boston, isn’t it, Jack?”
Devlin nodded slowly as he stretched his head back, his arms to the sides. “It was ever thus,” he said, preferring not to delve into a topic where the shoals and eddies held more danger than one might imagine.
“Anyway, he’s a fat asshole,” Del Rio said, a look of disgust crossing his face. He waved dismissively, as though banishing thoughts of Moloney from his mind.
Devlin looked at Del Rio with a half smile. “You hide it well,” Devlin said.
Del Rio appeared puzzled. “What?”
“Your dislike for Moloney,” Devlin said. “You camouflage it nicely.”
Del Rio laughed. “Fuck him,” he said. “My point is simple: The dirty cop will always show himself. Eventually. There’ll be a sign. Know why?”
“Tell me,” Devlin said.
“Because the dirty cop is arrogant, by definition. Otherwise he is not capable of doing what he’s doing. He’s incapable. To go bad, a cop has to believe he’s higher than the law, or not so much higher as exempt from it. He has to believe it doesn’t so much apply to him.”
Del Rio, the deputy superintendent of the Boston Police Department, chief of all detectives, munched on the apple as he thought about this topic. He glanced out the window, then looked at Devlin.
“You know what the character flaw is with these guys?” Del Rio asked.
Devlin shook his head.
“Hubris,” Del Rio said. “They’re all guilty of it. Hubris.” He paused. “You familiar with this concept?” Del Rio asked.
Devlin nodded. “Arrogant pride,” he said. “It’s—”
“Exactly,” Del Rio interrupted. “Arrogant pride. Overreaching. Most of those who go bad have something in their record, some achievement, sometimes amazing things. They think, you know, they’re above it all. Not accountable. Derived from the Greeks. Aristides the Just was the classic case. He ruled, what was it, Athens? A city-state. Ruled with such a level of purity, self-conscious purity always on display, that they drove him from office. But it wasn’t long before corruption had taken root in the city and they were clamoring for his return.”
Suddenly, Del Rio caught himself. “You know this,” he said. “You’re familiar with this. Not new territory to you.” He paused. “Somebody said you’re the only Harvard man on the force. That true?”
“Evans went to the Kennedy School,” Devlin said.
Del Rio squinted and shook his head. “Some mid- career bullshit,” he said derisively. “Doesn’t count. You’re the only one was an undergrad. Plus law school.”
Del Rio took a breath and was about to speak again but then caught himself, as though he wanted to avoid saying something impolitic. But he appeared to change his mind just as quickly and he cocked his head and regarded Devlin.
“Sometimes, the well-schooled aren’t particularly well-educated,” Del Rio said. “I’m an autodidact. I take a certain pride in that.”
Del Rio had rough edges, but though he lacked a certain polish, Devlin could see he was very smart.
“I was diagnosed as dyslexic when I was fifteen,” Del Rio said. He shrugged. “Attention deficit, too.” He grimaced. “Charles Schwab, the investment guy. He’s dyslexic.” Del Rio nodded. “It was a struggle. They always said in school I was stupid. They told my parents. I never believed it. I was the only one. I would hang back, quiet—”
Devlin reacted with surprise, and Del Rio saw the look.
“Well, quiet for me,” Del Rio said. “I’d hang back, sullen. I was a sullen kid. I’m thinking the whole time, ‘Fuck them, they don’t know shit about me, about what’s inside my head. I’m smarter than all of them.’ And I was. Shrewder. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you what it was like.
“So I stumble along, dogshit grades all the way, and then I learn about the dyslexia and attention deficit and I get a tutor and three years later I’m in community college. Straight A’s. Then Northeastern. It’s not Harvard, but—”
“Great criminal justice,” Devlin said.
“And I went straight through nights. By this time I’m in the academy days and school nights and I’m acing every fucking course and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I loved it. I fuckin’ loved school. You?”
Devlin nodded. “I did,” he said. He unscrewed the thermos of decaf and offered some to Del Rio, who declined.
Devlin poured more into his plastic travel cup and screwed the top back onto the thermos. He nodded, still thinking about Del Rio’s question. He had loved the solitary nature of study, loved the exploration as an undergraduate, the feeling that there was this massive amount of knowledge sitting there waiting to be absorbed. Perhaps most of all he had loved law school and the remarkable clarity and order of the law. In a world where there were too many shadows and shades of gray, the law laid it out clearly and definitively for anyone who cared to read and understand. The weighty codes of criminal and civil laws defined what the society was; defined what man’s responsibilities were; defined the boundaries.
“I thought about going to law school,” Del Rio said. “I actually applied to Northeastern and got in. But by then I was on the force and moving up. I think I’d just made lieutenant, and the two kids and OT and . . . Jesus, it just seemed like too much. Four years, nights. A backbreaking workload. And for what? I knew I’d never practice. And I was already moving up the ranks as quickly as could be expected. It wasn’t as though it was going to give me any real edge. So I said fuck it, and I didn’t go. Every now and then I regret not having done it. You know?”
“I’m the only person I know who actually enjoyed law school,” Devlin said. “It was so well-ordered and what was required was so plain and direct. It wasn’t as though you had to be some sort of analytical genius. It’s not like math or the sciences, where breakthroughs are what matter. There really isn’t anything new to learn. It’s all there, collected in one place, all the rules are there. I like the tidiness of it. The clarity.”
“You like I.A.?” Del Rio asked abruptly.
Devlin considered this. “I’m not in I.A.,” he replied.
“For all practical purposes,” Del Rio said. “I mean—”
“I’m not technically in I.A.,” Devlin said.
The assignment had come to Devlin during a private meeting with the police commissioner. He’d received a call from the commissioner one night, at home, asking whether he could stop by to discuss a confidential matter. Twenty minutes later Commissioner Nicholas Sullivan had knocked on his back door.
“We need to talk,” Sullivan had said. And talk they had, for more than two hours. Jack Devlin had listened carefully as the commissioner expressed his frustration with corruption and his apparent inability to do anything about it. He was embarrassed, Sullivan had said, that the United States Justice Department in Washington was beginning to focus on Boston as a dirty department.
“Going through the normal channels hasn’t worked,” he told Devlin. “So I want to try something different.”
The something different was Devlin. He would be detached from his regular duties and given free rein to investigate corruption within the ranks. He would report directly to the commissioner. It was the surest way to become the least popular member of the Boston Police Department, but that was all right. They agreed that the nature of Devlin’s assignment would be conveyed to very few people. Over time, they believed that as Jack became more active, word would get out about his activities.
Devlin did not believe most Boston cops were on the take. He did believe, however, that there was a stubborn, deeply rooted culture of corruption, a virulent strain that would be difficult to defeat.
Del Rio shrugged. “If it walks like a duck . . .”
“It’s okay,” Devlin said as he turned away and looked into the street. The Cherokee was tucked behind a small commercial building at the corner of Centre and Arbor- way, an ideal position from which to monitor activity in front of 322 Arborway. At that location, Luis Espado Alvarez, a native of Puerto Rico and convicted drug dealer, waited, bait in a trap.
“Let’s get some air,” Del Rio said. He opened the passenger door of the Cherokee and got out. Devlin followed suit, and the two men stretched and stood by the Jeep, windows down so they could hear their bug and radio.
Del Rio was a compactly built man, five-nine, 160 pounds. He was trim and fit from regular workouts and bounced on his feet with nervous energy. He wore black jeans, a brown leather jacket, and construction boots.
Jack Devlin was a much bigger man, six feet two inches tall, an even 190 pounds. Devlin had the physique of an athlete, a build he had assiduously maintained since his days as a college hockey player. In blue jeans, Nikes, and a black wool sweater, Devlin was ruggedly good looking. His jaw was firm and prominent, his longish black hair thick and wavy, down over his shirt collar. His deep-set eyes at times gave him a look of menace in marked contrast to the warmth of his smile, which showed off his (mostly) straight white teeth, all of which he’d managed to keep, even through years of hockey. But there were two reminders of his hockey days on his face. One scar ran from his right eyebrow about an inch toward his temple. Devlin had been cut by the blade of an opposing player’s stick during a summer league in Canada. The other was on the upper left side of his mouth, a scar no more than a quarter inch long. It had come when an opposing player, in the same summer league, had cross-checked him in the mouth with his stick. The force of the upward blow had been so great that it drove one of Devlin’s teeth through the skin of his lip, opening a deep gash. He’d bled all over his uniform jersey and the ice. Seven stitches had closed the wound, and eventually, the soreness had gone away, but the scar and a slight puffiness had remained. From a cer- tain angle, he appeared to have a permanent fat lip on the left side.
“I heard the new fitness instructor ask someone about you,” Del Rio said. He glanced at Devlin out of the corner of his eye. “You’ve seen her. Runs the gym at headquarters. Aerobics, weights, whatnot. The black spandex.” Del Rio raised his eyes.
“Oh,” Devlin said. “I’ve seen . . .”
“Yeah. You’ve seen, I’ve seen, we’ve all seen. Are you kidding me, or what. Jesus.”
“What?” Del Rio demanded. “You mean to tell me you don’t get a woody in that gym with her snappin’ that bottom around?”
“She seems a little young,” Devlin said.
“Twenty-six. Conboy filled me in. She’s a paramedic, wants to get on the job, figures working the gym will help her get to know people.”
“She’s something,” Devlin said.
“Something?” Del Rio repeated with mock indignance. “Something? She’s one of the greatest physiques anyone’s ever been blessed with. I see her, I want to weep. Why weep? Because she’ll always go for the young bucks. She wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
Devlin smiled. “Some young women prefer a distinguished older man,” he said.
“I told you she asked Conboy about you,” Del Rio said. “You were in there one day working out and she asked him, ‘Who’s the tall guy?’ ”
Devlin frowned. “You’re bullshitting me.”
“I shit you not!” Del Rio said, his voice going up several octaves in pitch. “I’m serious. No shit. She did. I think you’ve got some potential there. In fact, if I was you, let me tell you what I’d do . . .”
The crisp November air was a relief after sitting in the car for over two hours of a stakeout. Devlin turned and studied Del Rio, who was now gazing off down the Arbor- way. He’d known Del Rio only in passing prior to this assignment, had been aware of Del Rio’s rapid and steady rise through the ranks, but had little contact with him. Devlin knew from his reputation that Del Rio was as savvy as they came. Blustery, coarse, a cowboy, contemptuous of authority, mocking of bureaucracy, constantly bending the rules. Yet effective. The uniformed officers loved him and believed in him. Where they generally disliked and were suspicious of the civilian-appointed department brass, they liked Del Rio’s grit and straightforward nature. He did not mince words, did not speak in the language of the politically correct. He was outrageous in his comments and sometimes in his approach, but he was as hard a worker as there was on the force, and he was more connected with the rank and file than anyone else on the command staff. Del Rio understood his populist appeal and he played it to the hilt. At every opportunity he sought to tweak the department brass.
Del Rio reached into the Jeep and pulled out a bag of popcorn. He offered some to Devlin, who declined.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it?” he said as he chewed the popcorn. Devlin had his arms folded across his chest as he leaned back against the Cherokee and gazed down the Arborway to the entrance at 322.
“About you and your current gig,” Del Rio said.
Devlin looked at Del Rio coolly and said nothing.
“You have to admit, it is ironic, no disrespect intended, I hope you know that,” he said, a look of plaintive concern suddenly crossing his face.
“I understand,” Devlin said.
“Please don’t take offense,” Del Rio said, leaning forward, eyes wide, brow knitted in an earnest look.
“I don’t,” Devlin said quickly.
Del Rio nodded. “I mean, you know . . .” He shrugged again. “It is, yeah,” Devlin said. And surely it was. The son of the infamous Jock Devlin taking on the assignment to clean up the department.
“You ever been married?” Del Rio asked, anxious now to change the subject.From the Paperback edition.
Excerpted from The Son of John Devlin by Charles Kenney. Copyright © 2001 by Charles Kenney. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.