In Death 05 - Ceremony in Death
Death surrounded her. She faced it daily, dreamed of it nightly. Lived with it always. She knew its sounds, its scents, even its texture. She could look it in its dark and clever eye without a flinch. Death was a tricky foe, she knew. One flinch, one blink, and it could shift, it could change. It could win.
Ten years as a cop hadn't hardened her toward it. A decade on the force hadn't made her accept it. When she looked death in the eye, it was with the cold steel of the warrior.
Eve Dallas looked at death now. And she looked at one of her own.
Frank Wojinski had been a good cop, solid. Some would have said plodding. He'd been affable, she remembered. A man who hadn't complained about the bilge disguised as food at the NYPSD Eatery, or the eye-searing paperwork the job generated. Or, Eve thought, about the fact that he'd been sixty-two and had never made it past the rank of detective sergeant.
He'd been on the pudgy side and had let his hair gray and thin naturally. It was a rare thing in 2058 for a man to bypass body sculpting and enhancements. Now, in his clear-sided view casket with its single spray of mournful lilies, he resembled a peacefully sleeping monk from an earlier time.
He'd been born in an earlier time, Eve mused, coming into the world at the end of one millennium and living his life in the next. He'd been through the Urban Wars, but hadn't talked of them as so many of the older cops did. Frank hadn't been one for war stories, she recalled. He was more likely to pass around the latest snapshot or hologram of his children and grandchildren.
He liked to tell bad jokes, talk sports, and had a weakness for soydogs with spiced pickle relish.
A family man, she thought, one who left behind great grief. Indeed, she could think of no one who had known Frank Wojinski who hadn't loved him.
He had died with half his life still ahead of him, died alone, when the heart everyone had thought so huge and so strong had just stopped.
Eve turned, laid a hand on the arm of the man who stepped up beside her. "I'm sorry, Feeney."
He shook his head, his droopy camel's eyes filled with misery. With one hand he raked through his wiry red hair. "On the job would have been easier. I could handle line of duty. But to just stop. To just check out in his easy chair watching arena ball on the screen. It's not right, Dallas. A man's not supposed to stop living at his age."
"I know." Not knowing what else to do, Eve draped an arm over his shoulder and steered him away.
"He trained me. Looked after me when I was a rookie. Never let me down." Pain radiated through him and glinted dully in his eyes, wavered in his voice. "Frank never let anyone down in his life."
"I know," she said again, because there was nothing else that could be said. She was accustomed to Feeney being tough and strong. The delicacy of his grief worried her.
She led him through the mourners. The viewing room was packed with cops as well as family. And where there were cops and death, there was coffee. Or what passed for it at such places. She poured a cup, handed it to him.
"I can't get around it. I can't get a hold of it." He let out a long, uneven breath. He was a sturdy, compact man who wore his grief as openly as he wore his rumpled coat. "I haven't talked to Sally yet. My wife's with her. I just can't do it."
"It's all right. I haven't talked to her, either." Since she had nothing to do with her hands, Eve poured a cup for herself that she didn't intend to drink. "Everybody's shook up by this. I didn't know he had a heart problem."
"Nobody did," Feeney said quietly. "Nobody knew."
She kept a hand on his shoulder as she scanned the overcrowded, overwarm room. When a fellow officer went down in the line of duty, cops could be angry, they could be focused, fix their target. But when death snuck in and crooked a capricious finger, there was no one to blame. And no one to punish.
It was helplessness she felt in the room and that she felt in herself. You couldn't raise your weapon to fate, or your fist.
The funeral director, spiffy in his traditional black suit and as waxy-faced as one of his own clients, worked the room with patting hands and sober eyes. Eve thought she'd rather have a corpse sit up and grin at her than listen to his platitudes.
"Why don't we go talk to the family together?"
It was hard for him, but Feeney nodded, set the untouched coffee aside. "He liked you, Dallas. 'That kid's got balls of steel and
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