With the national cop killings leaving police officers across the nation feeling like targets, the unrefined but proud-looking bikers silently made their point. A group of young men in high school football jerseys stepped up to the line and filled in the holes between the bikers, imitating their stance, their chins held high.
Mason’s knees threatened to betray him. Ava gripped his hand, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. Inside they managed to get seats near the front, an amazing feat, as it appeared nearly a thousand people expected to sit indoors.
Now he stared at the cross, half listening as Denny’s brother told a funny story from their childhood. He focused on the beautifully carved wood to keep from dissolving into a puddle. If he gave his full attention to Denny’s service, he’d never be able to walk out on his own. On his left, Ray’s wife gripped her husband’s hand as he used a handkerchief with his other. Mason had spotted Duff, Steve, Nora, and Henry in the crowd. Anyone who’d ever worked with Denny had shown up.
His mind drifted to the burial. Denny’s sons had requested a private service, keeping the details from the public and Denny’s coworkers. Mason respected their wishes. He knew that after the publicity died down, Denny’s sons would eventually reveal his resting place to those who’d been close to him. Mason imagined Denny with a hillside site.
Most people buy a resting spot for two when their spouse dies. Denny had been alone for a long time. Would his sons buy plots close by for themselves and their spouses? Did children in their twenties think about that sort of thing? Mason didn’t believe so. That meant Denny was alone, not waiting for anyone to eventually join him.
A year ago that would have been Mason.
Christ, I’m pathetic today.
He focused on Ava’s hand in his, moving his fingers to touch the ring on her fourth finger. The promises it held.
I’m a fucking lucky man.
He’d had no idea the service would affect him this way. But Ava had known. She’d shown it in her insistence on the town car when he’d tried to talk her out of it. She knew him better than he knew himself, after only ten short months.
He tightened his grip on her hand and she glanced his way, concern in her eyes.
Micah had stood along the walkway with his back to the cops. Later, strangers had patted him on the shoulder, slapped him on the back in solidarity, and thanked him for his respect. It’d felt good. He’d liked the spotlight for that moment, but he was happy to blend back in and become invisible again. A few of the other volunteers had given him odd looks, not recognizing him, but he’d known that if he played the part no one would call him out. Something he’d learned from the people who lived on the street. Show no fear. Act as though you belong.
He’d heard about the email asking for volunteers and it’d been easy to get the right clothing.
The man he worshiped had walked right behind him, his attention on the police officers. He’d felt proud to be providing protection, and the public’s acknowledgment made his chest swell. Then he’d seen the television cameras. He’d tugged his cap low over his eyes, fear swamping him. He hadn’t minded the people with the cell phone cameras, but when the television logos started showing up, he’d fought the panic.
What if he later watched and spotted Micah?
He would question why he’d been there, dressed in clothing that didn’t belong to him.
Chances are slim that he would spot me.
He’d stood his ground, but kept his eyes averted from the cameras, hoping none of them got a good shot of his face. He could probably explain away his behavior to the man, but he wasn’t ready for his spy games to end.
He couldn’t get inside the church, so he settled for watching the ceremony on a large outdoor screen. Hundreds of people had crowded around to watch, but he found it boring. He turned his attention to people watching, his favorite pastime. Many cried. The men were the most interesting: their expressions were stoic, but he saw tears form. They rapidly, almost angrily, brushed their cheeks, while the women didn’t care who noticed their tears.
It was a powerful display of what one person could do to a community. One man’s actions had rocked the city to its core and drawn the attention of national media.
Micah was proud.
The scrutiny was getting tighter. According to the media, the police believed the same person had killed the captain and the trooper from the day before. No mention had been made of the FBI agent and he wondered how long it would be before the media linked them. Have the police not put it together?
That was a good thing. It meant there was still time for him to keep moving in the shadows.
But there’d come a point when he might have to step forward. A small part of him yearned for the attention it’d bring.
He needed to see what happened next.
“Two more pitchers?” Ray asked. A chorus of agreement sent him to the bar.
Ava relaxed back in the booth and tried not to think about the investigation. The task force had paused for a few hours, knowing it needed to say good-bye. A small group of Mason’s closest coworkers had picked the dim bar as a good place to reminisce about Denny Schefte. Duff Morales had set the tone by telling a story about the time he’d hidden an open can of tuna fish in one of Denny’s desk drawers. For three days their boss hadn’t noticed, although every person who’d stepped in his office had been assaulted by the odor. One of the custodians had finally taken it upon himself to hunt down the source of the smell. They’d later learned Denny had lost most of his sense of smell in his teens. He’d laughed long and hard when the fish had been exposed, considering the joke to have been on everyone but him.