As Katherine Mahoney Brown walked her daughter away from St. Bernadette’s School for Girls, she didn’t stumble. Katie pushed past the throng of journalists without looking at them, and without changing the expression on her placid, unlined face. The mothers in the pickup line, who didn't know Katie well enough to say more than hello to her, pretended to look away. It was only polite. And whatever the gossip was about Katie — and there was a lot of gossip in this particular corner of Boston — everyone always said she was polite. The nannies stared openly. They didn’t have to suck up to Governor Mahoney’s daughter.
Flashes popped, blinding them. Katie’s three-year-old daughter, Orla, looked up at her mother with confused, bright-green eyes and started to cry. The girl pulled her hood down over her eyes while tears streamed down her chubby cheeks. Katie picked Orla up and hid the child’s face in her shoulder without missing a step. Her four-inch stilettos clacked evenly on the ground.
Reporters, staked out on the wide sidewalks surrounding St. Bernadette’s, screamed, “Katie! Katie! Are you going to stand by your man? Did you know about the kickbacks?” Katie Brown didn’t say a word. She flipped her perfectly blown-out chestnut hair over her back and maintained eye contact with the horizon.
The reporters trailed her down the street, all the way to a waiting black SUV, which gleamed with a fresh wax in the waning October sun. She turned her head only to look at the car door. She opened it and deposited Orla in her car seat. Then she climbed in behind the petrified child and shut the door in all their faces.
“Good afternoon, ma’am,” Sully said as he drove away. He tried meeting Katie’s eyes in the rearview mirror, but she was still comforting Orla, whose shrieks had tapered off into sniffles and caught breath. Katie had always been Sully’s favorite of the Mahoney kids, and she was certainly the best looking. She had penetrating blue-green eyes, and those light eyes and her gleaming, burnished hair made for a striking combination. Katie was tall, five-foot-nine, and broad, too, but somehow still remained lean and muscled. She resembled a very expensive racehorse in the best way possible.
The preschool receded behind them, and the Charles River appeared in the distance. “Where are you going?” Katie said sharply when she finally looked up from the child. She had never yelled at Sully, who had been driving various members of her family around since she was a kid. Sully, with his kind eyes that crinkled around the edges with age and the weathered cap he’d been wearing for as long as Katie could remember. The cold, impatient edge in Katie’s accentless voice was the closest she’d come to snapping since her family’s ordeal had begun earlier that day.
The Mahoney girls, Katie and her sister, Mary, had manners above all else, drilled into them by their mother, Rosemary. Especially with the help. Rosemary would say, If you can’t keep help, you can’t run a home. Katie remembered this whenever she directed her maid, Manuela, to use a different vase for the lilies, her favorite flower. No, Manuela, Katie would say brightly and slowly, the way you’d talk to a preschool class if you had no experience interacting with children. This vase is for roses.
The Mahoney boys, however, were allowed to treat the help with sneering indifference and outright abuse. Patrick and Jim Junior had driven out every single nanny they’d ever had. Patrick once convinced Nanny Marta that their rabbit’s poop was a Milk Dud and had made fun of Marta for eating Bunzo’s poo for the rest of her employ. Junior once locked Nanny Bridget on the balcony during a blizzard and let her back in only when she started to sob. Katie had overheard Rosemary say that one of them, a particularly fragile au pair from Belgium named Nanny Fleur, had had to seek mental help back in Antwerp.