The parking lot was empty. I found a space near the front door and went inside. Churches make me uncomfortable. I haven’t entered one in twenty-five years without feeling like a trespasser, and King of Kings was no exception. I had gone there with Mr. Mosley on a few occasions over the decades because he had insisted, and although the spirituals and gospel music were astounding, I found the free-flowing emotions of the parishioners embarrassing. And the spectacle of the normally reticent Mr. Mosley giving voice to his faith unnerved me. Perhaps it would have been different if my own relationship with God hadn’t been so strained. Since my mother died, I’ve seen only glimpses of him.
Funny how tragedy brings some people closer to God while pushing others away. I figure it’s because one group doesn’t expect as much from him as the other.
King of Kings was built like an amphitheater. The sanctuary seated eighteen hundred, with all of the pews sloping gently down toward the pulpit and a thirty-seat choir. I found Reverend Winfield in the pulpit, reading silently to himself. He looked up when he heard me and quickly removed his glasses, concealing them in a pocket.
“McKenzie,” he said. Reverend Winfield spoke in a musical baritone, and his voice wafted gently up to me.
“Reverend,” I replied.
“I can’t tell you how deeply sorry I am. Violence—so many black men die today of violence.”
I sat in a middle pew. He descended from the pulpit and crossed to the railing in front of the first pew. His hands were at his side, his fingers tapping a rhythm against his thighs, a nervous habit, perhaps, that I hadn’t noticed in our previous meetings.
“I’ve been trying to remember the last time I saw you in church,” he told me.
“So have I.”
“How can I help you?”
I asked about funeral arrangements.
“Since he was a Korean War veteran, Mr. Mosley will be interred at Fort Snelling with military honors.”
Fort Snelling National Cemetery, I thought. They would add his bleached-white headstone to its 430 acres of monuments, all laid out in tidy military columns, some dating back to the Civil War. I had been there with my father, watched him salute long-ago comrades. Many fell in battle. Others from accident, disease, or just old age. How many were murdered? I wondered. And did it matter? Fort Snelling was very strict about the uniform dimensions and composition of the headstones. Most were marble or granite; a few were made of bronze. Yet after all was said and done, wasn’t one stone as cold as any other? Wasn’t death just as final?
“Mr. Mosley had no immediate family,” Reverend Winfield said.
“I know. He was property of the state.”
“Mr. Mosley was no one’s property.”
I couldn’t argue with that.
“The church was his family,” the reverend said.
“He left all of his worldly possessions to the church.”
“I know that, too. That’s what I came to talk about. I’m concerned about his business, about Mosley Honey Farms. Are you going to sell it?”
“Do you want to buy it?”
“You don’t strike me as a beekeeper.”
I had to laugh. “I’m not. Far from it.”
“Why, then, are you interested?”
“A man should leave more behind than just the joyful memories of the people who knew him.”
“I personally believe that’s the best a man can leave behind. But no matter. The church is going to keep Mosley Honey Farms, McKenzie. We’ll continue to operate it under Mr. Mosley’s name, with the profits going to the church. Lorenzo Hernandez, Mr. Mosley’s employee, has volunteered to run the business for us.”
That didn’t exactly fill me with confidence, remembering what Mr. Mosley had to say about Hernandez, but I let it slide.
“Obviously you cared for Mr. Mosley,” Reverend Winfield said.
“I loved that old man. He helped raise me.”
“You should speak of him at the memorial. The funeral can’t take place until the county medical examiner releases the body. We don’t know when that will be. But the church is holding a memorial service for Mr. Mosley tonight.”
“I don’t like funerals.”
“Who does? I expect to see you, McKenzie. At 7:00 P.M. sharp.”
“I’ll be there if I can.”
“What could possibly keep you away?”
I didn’t answer.
The reverend seemed to read my mind.
“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.”
I headed for the doors. Reverend Winfield called my name. I answered with a wave.
I didn’t tell him, but as far as I was concerned, the Lord could get in line.
Norwood Young America had two downtown areas, separated by Highway 212, and I searched them both. It didn’t take long. Norwood and Young America had originally been two independent cities, but the single community that was created following their 1997 merger could still fit inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with room left over for a few nonincorporated townships.