It’s the third day they’ve been out here, dredging the river. The air is so cold and damp, Eve thinks she may never feel warm all the way through again — but if she thinks so, how much worse off must her poor brother be?
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
When the horror of the situation becomes too much to stand, when she thinks too hard about her brother’s suffering, Eve makes herself go back to her prayers. They steady her, keep her mind clear, stop her from panicking. She’s trying to be patient, trying not to lose hope. Mr. Gandor told them where he had dumped the barrels into the river, so they knew where to start, but — Don Runorata explained — that still left a lot of ground to cover, with the way currents shift and the amount of time that has passed.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
She feels the presence behind her before she hears Benjamin speak. “It’s late, Miss Eve,” he says. “We should go home.”
Eve shakes her head. “Soon,” she says. When the sun goes down the construction company will stop work, and she’ll go home then, but not before. If they find Dallas today, she wants to be here for him.
The big crane pulls up another load of black river mud, and drops it on the dock. The workmen step up with their shovels to start sifting through the mud, and Eve prays. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners –
They still find nothing. The giant claw of the crane sinks back under the slate-dark water for one more try. Someone is shouting from the warehouse behind her, but Eve doesn’t turn around; she’s not here to get caught up in the Runorata family’s dealings, only for her brother’s sake. But then there are footsteps, hurried and loud, and she catches a few words — slaughterhouse and crazy and reinforcements.
The leader of the Runorata soldiers uses some extremely bad language, and then calls the foreman over. “Time to close up shop for the night,” he says. “We got someplace to be. Stow the gear, report back on Monday morning.”
“Sir,” the foreman says, and Eve’s heart sinks. Two more days Dallas will have to spend in the river, suffering — she’s scarcely been able to sleep since she learned the awful truth, too horrified and grieving.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” the foreman says to her when the mafia men have piled into their car and sped off. “Don’t worry. It’s going to work out.” He raises his voice. “All right, boys, time to haul her in and lock up.”
The crane creaks and shudders, pulling up out of the water, and when it rises all the way clear the claws are clutched loosely around — around –
– full of grace, the Lord is with thee –
The oil drum lands on the dock with a heavy thunk, and it could still be something else, could be just trash or could be one of the others who were with Dallas, but Eve can’t believe that — blessed art thou among women and — the barrel tips over, spills water across the wood plans, and the body slides halfway free.
For a moment Eve feels faint. It’s Dallas, they’ve found him, and he’s dead, gray and lifeless, worse than Jeffrey at the funeral, even. Only then after a few seconds, as the workmen shout and run to fetch tools, he starts to cough, huge heaving shudders as all the water is pushed out of his lungs and his fingers claw at the dock and Eve doesn’t care that there’s still work to be done — she runs over there, sinks down on the wet planks in front of him so she can take his hands.
“Dallas,” she says, and her throat is tight like she’s going to cry — she hasn’t cried since the funerals — “Dallas, it’s going to be okay now.”
He coughs and spits and blinks a few times before he can look up, his eyes focusing on her slowly. “Eve?” he says, and his voice is thick and muddy but he’s alive and he recognizes her and he holds on tight to her hands. His fingers are freezing cold. “Oh God, Eve, sweetie.”
“Here, step back for just a minute, sweetheart,” one of the workmen says, and Eve doesn’t want to let go but she lets the man pull her back, so the others can take a huge set of shears to pry open the barrel. Dallas’s clothes are in tatters, and there’s cement caked around his feet. Eve pulls free of the workman’s grip and goes to kneel beside her brother again. He’s shivering, so she takes off her coat, drapes it over his shoulders.
She stays there with him, holding his hand, stroking his hair, while the workmen break up the cement enough for him to move. It looks like it must hurt, from the way he flinches, but he smiles at her whenever he’s not wincing, and doesn’t let go of her hand. And when the workmen get the cement off, the first thing Dallas does is sit up and hug her so tight her ribs ache.
“My sweet little Eve,” he says, and he’s still shivering. “You’re an angel, sweetie.” He sounds like he’s going to cry, too. “Did you come to take me home?”
Oh, she wants to say yes. So very much. How is she going to tell him about the Runoratas and their research facility? “I — I had to –”
Someone coughs, behind her. Eve looks up to see the foreman watching them, the other workmen standing a little way further off. “Time for us to be shutting things down here,” he says. “You should get going, the both of you.”
Eve’s eyes widen. “You mean –” she says, and it’s no good, she has to say something — “you’ll just let us go?” Dallas stiffens, and she holds on tighter to him.
“You’re enough to break a man’s heart,” the foreman says. “And whatever those guys wanted with him would probably just make you want to cry again, wouldn’t it?” He shakes his head. “Go home. Come back on Monday and act like you’re still waiting for news.”
Even in the cold and the fog from the river, even with her coat draped over Dallas instead of her own shoulders, Eve feels warm. “Thank you,” she says. It’s her miracle, the one she’s been praying for. “Thank you so much.”
Dallas stumbles a little when they get to their feet — it’s been an awfully long time since he walked anywhere, the poor thing — but if he doesn’t want to let go of her while they walk back to the car, Eve won’t complain.
Benjamin bows gravely when he opens the car door for them, and says, “Welcome back, Master Dallas,” as calmly as if it’s just been a long vacation, and Dallas laughs as if he can’t believe it.
“Thanks,” he says. “Home, please.”
Eve can’t bring herself to let go of his hand the whole way home, but he never tries to pull away, either. He keeps looking around like he’s lost and trying to find his way — except when they cross the bridge to get back out of Manhattan, and then he squeezes his eyes shut and holds on tight until they’re back on dry land. The back of the car smells like the river now, from the stale water in his clothes, but that barely matters. He’s coming home. Her brother is finally coming home.
When they get there, Samantha makes all the fuss that Benjamin didn’t, exclaiming over what a mess Dallas is and how badly he needs to wash up and get some clean clothes and a hot meal, the poor boy, oh, Eve’s been so worried for so long, thank goodness he’s finally back. Dallas still looks like he can’t believe this is really happening, but he lets himself be shepherded upstairs to clean up — while supper finishes cooking, Samantha says. Eve doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry with relief.
It looks like Dallas can’t choose, either, when he comes down to supper in clean clothes and smelling of soap, and the table’s already laid out for the two of them, with roast beef and Yorkshire puddings.
“God,” he says, and Eve doesn’t mention that, but he says, “Sorry,” anyway. He sits down at the table, and reaches out like he wants to take some of the food, then stops. “You’re not going to make me wait so you can say grace?”
Eve’s eyes sting. “Thank you, Lord, for this meal, and for — for — for bringing Dallas home so we could share it together,” she says.
“Looked to me like you did that yourself,” Dallas says, but gently, not like he’s mad. Eve doesn’t argue, not now. This is the first meal her brother has had in more than a year, and she’s grateful just to be able to watch him eat.
It’s not until he’s cleaned his plate — twice — that Dallas stops to make conversation at all. That’s fine. Eve can wait, now that he’s here. “So,” he says at least, pushing his plate away. “Dad and Jeff working late again?”
Oh. Of course he wouldn’t — how would he know? “They –” She doesn’t know how to say it, even, hesitates over the news. “They were — they were killed in September. Shot.”
Dallas never got along with Jeffrey, always thought that Father liked him better, so it’s almost a surprise, the look that crosses his face. “Shit,” he says. “Sorry.” He swallows hard. “Was it the God damn Gandors?”
Eve shakes her head. “It was someone who worked for the Runoratas,” she says. “But he –” That was a horrible day, and she still feels queasy when she thinks about it, how loud gunshots are, the sharp smell of gunpowder and the way the blood splattered everywhere.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Dallas says. “You poor little thing, left all alone like that.”
Eve knots her fingers in her napkin. “I missed you so much,” she says. Her voice is going thick again.
Dallas gets up from the table. “Oh, sweetie. I’d have been home ages ago if it were up to me.”
“That’s not –” Eve gets up, too, because he’s coming around to her side, and when he wraps his arms around her she thinks it’s the best feeling she can remember, ever. “Dallas,” she says instead. “Welcome home.”
They sit up for a little while, talking, and Dallas has some of the brandy from the locked cabinet in Father’s study, and Eve tries to think of pleasant topics for conversation, things that doesn’t involve the mafia or the river or anybody getting shot. She talks herself hoarse — it’s been so long since she had company, someone to really talk to — and Dallas listens like he cares about everything she has to say, listens until Eve has worn herself right out.
He even walks her up to her room, when it’s definitely past her bedtime, and kisses her forehead when he says goodnight. For the first time in ages, he’s going to be there, across the hall from her when she goes to bed.
She gets into her nightgown, says her prayers — she has so much to be thankful for today — and crawls under the covers. And she’s mostly asleep, drifting, comfortable, when her door creaks open. “Eve?” Dallas says, quietly. “Are you asleep?”
“No,” she says, sitting up. “Is something wrong?”
Dallas laughs nervously. “I don’t want to go to sleep,” he says. “I keep thinking — you know, I’ll wake up back in the river and it’ll turn out this didn’t really happen. I really don’t want this to be the dream.”
Eve sits up, and turns her bedside light back on. “Do you want to stay with me for a while?” Dallas blinks at her, at the light, and smiles the way he only ever did for her. She shouldn’t, but Eve pulls back the covers anyway.
“You serious?” he says, and then comes over when she doesn’t take it back. “You’re so sweet to me, little Eve.” He climbs into bed beside her, and he seems hesitant, enough that she scoots over to rest her hand on his chest. He’s warm now, finally. “What did I ever do to deserve a little sister like you?”
He still makes her blush. “We never deserve our blessings,” she says softly. “We’re all wicked.”
“Not –” Dallas starts to say, and Eve puts her fingertips over his lips to stop him.
“Even me,” she says, and he shakes his head but doesn’t try to argue any more. “We don’t deserve to be blessed. But through the grace of God, we’re blessed anyway.” It’s never seemed more true than it does tonight, with her brother finally home, warm and solid and the look in his eyes — “That’s what makes it a miracle.”
Dallas smiles, crookedly, like he doesn’t believe her, and kisses her fingertips. “So you’re my miracle, huh?” His arm slides around her shoulders, and he holds her close, enough that she can feel him relaxing when she lays her head on his shoulder. “That…sounds about right.”