It was very hot and very cold inside the Cherokee, and nothing seemed to make sense. Mr. Mosley. Frank Crosetti. Lieutenant Dyke. Especially me. What I had done to Danny. I had never hurt anyone like that before, yet I managed it without even a hint of pity or remorse. I had killed several men—once on the job, a few afterward. They were righteous shoots, meaning the grand jury refused to indict me. And each time I told myself, Here’s this guy trying to kill you, trying to kill someone else, don’t go shedding any tears over him. Just be glad you’re alive and move on. Only it never worked that way. I always felt nauseous afterward, sometimes for days. I always felt ashamed. Only not with Danny.
As I drove, snippets of song lyrics inexplicably entered my head and departed with startling speed. There’s nothing you can know that can’t be known, why do the birds go on singing, you can help yourself but don’t take too much, I went out for a ride and never went back, the things that you’re liable to hear in the Bible it ain’t necessarily so, and the colored girls go doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo … Maybe my subconscious wanted to tell me something, only it was like trying to find a coherent message in a bowl of alphabet soup.
Eventually I found myself outside the King of Kings Baptist Church of Golden Valley without having made a decision to drive there. I stopped the Cherokee in the middle of the street and lowered the window. Another song lyric reached out to me. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I wasn’t any good at funerals and hadn’t been since my mother died when I was twelve. The fight-or-flee instinct kicked in, but I suppressed it. The lot was full, and I ended up parking on a side street a block away from the church. I entered through the rear door. Faces turned toward me, most of them African American. Some wore expressions of curiosity, others admonishment. You’re late. How could you be late? I didn’t tell them that I didn’t want to be there at all, that I had tried to make myself too busy to be there and failed, as I had in so many other things. I didn’t tell them that I was afraid to say good-bye to Mr. Mosley.
I was impressed by the number of people who had come to memorialize him, especially by the number of Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians. Among the white mourners were Shelby and Bobby Dunston. I would have liked to sit in the back with them, but Reverend Winfield saw me enter and waved me toward the front. He found a seat close enough that he could stop me if I attempted to escape. Maybe I would have run off, too, if only I had someplace to go.
Most of the men and women who rose to eulogize Mr. Mosley were strangers to me, although I knew of some of the events they spoke of. Cornelius Jackson was there, and he told how Mr. Mosley had saved his life at the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children. Another man rose to say how Mr. Mosley had saved his life during the Korean War. Lorenzo Hernandez testified that Mr. Mosley had saved his life, too, by giving him a job tending honeybees, a job that helped him escape the suffocating poverty of Guatemala, that allowed him to remain in the United States.
The speeches were all sweetened with choruses of amens and alleluias and easy laughter, for many of the stories were both funny and joyous, and there was raucous music that made a white boy from Minnesota think of Memphis and New Orleans. Although I had promised myself that I was done weeping, tears rolled down both cheeks.
Reverend Winfield gestured at me several times during the service, urging me to stand. I refused. He persisted, gesturing again, mouthing words that I refused to acknowledge. Finally he called my name loud enough for everyone to hear and pointed at me and said I wished to speak. There was nothing I could do but stand and turn and face the congregation, which suddenly seemed to be much quieter than it had been. This was not something I had planned to do—speak of my relationship with Mr. Mosley, a man whom I had known my entire life. Where would I begin? I was surprised when the words came out.
“I had two fathers …”
Someone in the back shouted, “Alleluia!”
Afterward, I shook the hands of a great many people that I didn’t know. Many others hugged me. Two old women even kissed my cheek. They were the only ones who used Mr. Mosley’s first name, and I wondered if after all these years there were a few things that he hadn’t told me.
I noticed Lorenzo Hernandez waiting. When the crowd thinned he came up and said, “Ju look for killer of Mr. Mosley, Reverend say,” in a thick accent.
“Sí,” I said.
“Ju find ’im, ju tell me.”
I didn’t reply.
“Por favor,” he added.
“Mr. Mosley, ‘e good to me. I make ’im proud.”
“Sí,” I said.
A moment later, Reverend Winfield was hugging me. He hugged me several times.
“It went very well,” he told me.
“It was almost enough to restore your faith in the Almighty.”
He raised an eyebrow when I said that. Maybe he knew that during the service I had managed to say a prayer for Mr. Mosley. And Susan Tillman. And, God help me, for Danny. Maybe he could see it in my face. But I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
“Almost,” I added.
“You’ll be back,” he said.
Shelby and Bobby had waited for me. Shelby hugged me, too. Bobby looked as if he might also give me a squeeze.