The relatives met at Bob’s house before proceeding to the cemetery. The sister-in-law and his children adamantly refused to have a church service in order to honor Bob’s non-belief. Crowded with family there was no room for me in the limousine, but my daughter, gifted with mercy, sat next to Bob’s wife, holding her hand, caressing her arm. John sat in the front with the driver, and I took the family car.
Hurrying to take my place in the reserved seating, I slowed my steps for a moment to observe a man leaning against the outside wall, evidently distancing himself from the entrance. One hand supported him while he sobbed uncontrollably. His light gray suit did not hide his thin body contorting with pain. One knee lopped over the other in a decidedly effeminate pose, I thought. He daintily shook out his handkerchief and continued to mop his tears. Who was this person so obviously bereft over Bob’s death?
The nephews signaled me to hurry, as they were about to begin. Plopping down on my bench chair I scanned the scene to bring myself up to speed, and was surprised to see an orange-robed, bald man conducting the service. He bowed to the crowd. According to the detective in charge of the case, and also a Cursillo buddy, he told John that Bob had plenty of time to call on Jesus before he was shot, and I firmly believe he did. I whispered to the Lord, “What is going on here has nothing to do with Your reality, Lord, thank You for saving Bob. I fully expect to see him in heaven.”
Timmy Theisen gave the eulogy. He had us laughing over the time he helped Bob move. He said, “We strapped two mattresses on the roof of Bob’s car, and I wanted to tie them down a little more securely, but Bob looked at me and said, ‘I’m not goin’ to China!’, left after he did, and when I pulled onto the Great Highway, there was Bob, his mattresses blowing down the beach. Two weeks ago Bob tied a sign on my boat that said, ‘Happy 80th Birthday Ida’ as I was going to drive the boat past her party. He wanted to make it really secure, and I said, ‘I’m not goin’ to China!’”
As I listened, I wondered why Bob always had young men like Timmy hanging around him. I looked over the funeral crowd and noted the number of good-looking young men attending. They seemed to far outnumber the women.
After the orange-robed gentleman made a few platitudes, the service ended, taking perhaps fifteen minutes. John’s sister-in-law issued an invitation for everyone to go back to the house, and we all dispersed. Jo got into the limousine and John rode with me. We could not believe our eyes when we arrived. Hired valets were parking cars, a five-piece band stood on the balcony in the courtyard of Bob’s San Francisco home, a popular catering company had food piled everywhere and several portable bars were scattered about. That funeral “afterglow” put New Orleans to shame!
Frenchy latched onto me as I came in the door. “You just don’t know what it was like to walk in that kitchen and find those two bodies.”
I looked into his eyes and saw he was about to burst into tears. “It must have been awful,” I took his arm with compassion. “Come on, Frenchy, sit over here and tell me about it.”
A waiter came by with wine, and Frenchy took a glass, swilling it down in one gulp. “Thank you for being willing to listen. I can’t get it out of my mind.” He did cry as he told his story, exactly as the police had told it to John, except that he ventured an obscene guess as to who killed Bob. He mentioned something about someone’s favorite glass sitting on the worktable, wiped of prints, but left almost as a signature. He fluttered his eyelids at me as if I knew whom he was talking about. But I hadn’t a clue. After four glasses of wine and finishing his story, Frenchy thought it prudent to head for the buffet table.
I stood up, but before I could make headway, one of John’s cousins cornered me, his eyebrows lifted in astonishment. “Do you think Bob was involved in selling drugs?”
“Why do you ask?” I avoided answering.
“Because that girl over there,” he indicated Katrina, a part-time waitress in one of the restaurants, “said the killers threw sugar and flour all over the floor looking for cocaine.”
“Well, anything was possible with Bob, you know,” I answered conspiratorially, “but did she consider that the killers might have thrown that stuff around as a ruse?” Pointing toward Frenchy I said, “He has an interesting theory also, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Something about a favorite glass. Why don’t you see if you can decipher it?” The cousin sauntered off like Colombo staging the hunt.
Warding off any further conversation, I roamed the courtyard and the house, uneasy, looking for someone, not knowing who exactly, searching every face, until I stood still and said in a low voice, “Where’s Bernie?”
“He’s not here,” a voice said behind me. I turned to find the Security Guard from the commissary.
“Hello Chico. Why isn’t he here?”
“He couldn’t come to this.”
Baffled I asked, “Why not?”
“Don’t you know?”
“Chico, this has been a shock to all of us. We’re walking around frightened by our own shadows. No, I don’t know why Bernie isn’t here. I don’t know why Bernie and Bob split up. I’ve heard they haven’t even spoken since that day, but I thought the funeral would bring Bernie back. Funerals usually do that kind of thing.”
“Not this funeral.”
Considering his innuendo, I asked, “What do you know that I don’t know?”
“There was more to Bernie and Bob’s friendship than met the eye.”
When he didn’t continue, I asked, “Like what?”
“It was my job to know things. I saw them together when they didn’t know anyone was watching.” He gave the faintest of nods, pursed his lips and said, “Excuse me.” Chico ambled out of the room leaving me to surmise just exactly what he meant.
Towards the end of the party one of our ex-employees, somewhat tipsy, came and sat down next to me. “I know who killed Bob.”
“Oh, yeah? You and everyone else sleuthing around this place have been speculating on that subject all afternoon. So who do you think it was?”
“Remember Ron? The delivery guy? Several weeks ago I ran into him on the sidewalk. You remember that he got sacked just before I did? Anyway, he started spouting off about Bob, and how Bob had fired him. He said he was going to get Bob and get him good!”
“I remember Ron,” I said. “He’s the guy who carried the gun. He scared the other employees out of their wits. He was always telling stories about being a professional hit man and waving his gun around. Bob had no choice. He had to get rid of him.”
The tipsy fellow stood up and sneered, “But I told him, forget Bob, it’s John who decides who will be fired. If you get anybody, get John.
I reeled to my feet. John should have been working that night, not the substitute cook. What if the killer was after John, too? My worst fears surfaced as if definitively confirmed. As soon as we decently could, I collected Jo, and we three went home. We arrived after dark. Terrorized by what the young man said, we turned on all the lights and gathered around the kitchen island to read the mail accumulated over the last three traumatizing days. I shut every drape and curtain to keep anyone from taking a potshot through our plate glass windows.
My choir director at church had sent a card. Inside, handwritten, were three short lines.
“No evil will befall you.
“With long life will He satisfy you.
“And show you His salvation.”
I read those lines several times until they sunk in, and then I whooped for joy! I had nothing to fear. John had nothing to fear. Our kids had nothing to fear. Covered by the Blood of the Lamb, no weapon formed against us would ever prosper! Anything our enemy intends for evil, God will turn to our good. I rushed around opening drapes and shouting out all the Bible verses I knew about our safety. Fear left that house!
To this day they have not apprehended the murderer. The police don’t know who did it, but God does. He forewarned me it would happen, and He told me when and where. He sent a message to me through a sister in the Lord that He would protect me and mine. No evil befell us, no weapon formed against us ever prospered. But another death did follow that of Bob’s. Bernie committed suicide. No one could figure out why.