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            Something about the way the bird was singing, raw-throated, like it'd been doing it for hours, like it was screaming out the tune. But still high-pitched and clear. Anyway, it cut through this Neal's blubbering. Neal, which was ironic, because I'd told him to kneel down, which he'd done. He had a boy, I don’t know how old, a boy, a little kid, standing in the corner of the living room with these dead bug eyes. A slack-jawed little twerp. Mentally was the kid all there? I don’t know.

            Neal said, “Turn around, Liam. Daddy said turn around.”

            This bird was whooping and whooping.

            I said, “Shut the window, Neal.”

            He got up and shut it and I made him kneel again. All I hoped to hear was ker-blam and the little tinkle when the shell hits the floor. Then my footsteps. Then traffic, dirty jokes, laughter, Rachel's little snores.

            “Get your fucking hands back up, Neal.” Up they went.

            "Can't we talk?" he said.

            "That's the problem. Neal. You already did your talking to the police."

            "I swear I did not."

            "I'm not the talking type anyway."

            He busted out crying all over again. The little boy, Liam, took a little step out of the corner. "Dad?" he said, "Dad."

            Neal choked on his spit and hacked and wiped his face and said, "What, Liam?"

            "Hands back up, motherfucker." Up they went. Again.

            "Can you make me a paper airplane?"

            The bird started going batshit, squawking now, no more melody. The sound broke through the window and spun around that living room. The boy and his father stared at each other.

            "Oh fuck you, you fucking sonofabitch." And I smashed him in the jaw with my pistol. Down he went and up he came, back to his knees, with a stream of blood down his chin and the boy screaming. I spit on the floor and turned for the door.

            "Thank you," Neal said, "Thank you."

            I walked out and looked up into the tree. I couldn't see shit. Too many leaves, you lucky-ass bird.