By Steve Burns
Continued from Chapter 33.
Colin Fahey embraced Theresa Castillo. She no longer wept. She was out of tears. As they parted, Colin looked into her tired, sad eyes. Around her neck hung a small silver dove perched on a ring of silver.
“Thank you for all your help, Colin. Papa liked you very much. He talked about your escapades together so many times.” She turned to Claire, who stood by in silence. “I think he was a little upset when Colin found you, Claire. He secretly wanted Colin as a son-in-law. But, he’s too old for me.”
“If you need anything at all, Theresa, please call us,” said Claire, as she hugged Theresa.
“First of all, you take care of your man here. Those are the best black eyes I’ve ever seen. I know Papa would have teased you without mercy,” said Theresa, managing a smile.
Colin checked to make sure the bandage across his nose was in place, then stifled a yawn. “I’m sorry, Terry, it’s been a long day.”
It had been indeed.
At Theresa’s request, Colin had served as a pall bearer for Peter Ernesto Castillo earlier in the day. He was joined in his duty by Scott Raines, Shelley Trudeau, Terry Bates, and Pete’s two brothers. The police funeral had drawn a motorcade three miles long with police officers from over fifty local, state and federal agencies. The graveside services were held at the memorial park where other fallen officers had been laid to rest. Beside a clear blue pool, Pete was eulogized by his parish priest and the Chief. As Colin and the other pall bearers carefully folded the American flag which draped Pete’s casket, “Taps” was played, followed by a twenty one gun salute from the United States Marine Corp honor guard. As the Chief carried the flag to Theresa, a lone piper played “The Flowers of the Forest” on the hill a short distance away. The irony of sending off a Latino officer with a Scottish tune was lost on only a few.
Carl Jessop sat next to Theresa and held her hand through the service. Still in exceptional pain, he rose from his wheelchair and gave Pete one final salute as the Chief presented Theresa with the flag.
Two hours later across town, Colin and Claire attended a less formal service for Joseph Amadiana. He was interred next to his son Joey at the mausoleum situated next to the Barrio. Only a handful showed, a few old friends and officers, as the Department Chaplin muddled through a final goodbye for Joe. Colin was sure Joe would have wanted it that way. He felt no remorse for not having pushed harder for a funeral with full honors. Joe had been so tired at the end. Colin knew Joe had welcomed death as a release.
Colin and Claire said their goodbyes to Theresa and Pete’s other family members and left the reception.
“I’m pretty bushed. Would you mind driving?” said Colin, holding out his keys to Claire, who had slipped her arm through his.
“Not at all, good lookin’,” she said, kissing him on the cheek.
“Good looking?” he remarked. “It’s time you made an appointment with the optometrist.”
Claire squeezed his arm.
As they drove back to Mission Beach, Claire asked, “So you don’t think they’ll be able to prosecute that woman?”
Colin sighed. When he, Scott Raines and Shelley had tried to interview Sheila Masters the day after her arrest, she had been strapped to a bed at County Mental Health. She was in a catatonic state, humming some unfamiliar song over and over.
“Well, unless they get her to come around, she won’t be competent to stand trial. The court can institutionalize her indefinitely. If she ever does get better, then she can be tried. That might not be for a long, long time. Either way, she’s off the street.”
“Five murders and all they do is put her in a mental hospital. It just doesn’t seem fair,” remarked Claire.
“We really only have her on one murder. The witnesses in Pete’s murder and the two in the shop are dead. The Feds are still scratching their collective heads on Jefferson’s murder. And the guy in San Clemente Park, well, it could have been her partner and he’s dead too.”
“So you think she didn’t kill all the others?”
Colin smiled, “She did. She killed all five. Now she has to deal with all the demons inside her scrambled little head.”
As they drove south on Mission Boulevard, they passed the last liquor store, which billed itself as having “The Coldest Beer in the Beach.”
“Pull over here,” said Colin.
“Here?” said Claire.
“Yeah, something I got to do. Something I promised Pete.”
Claire pulled into a spot in front of the liquor store and Colin got out. He entered the store and walked to the cooler. He selected a single bottle of Budweiser and a bottle of O’Doul’s from the cooler and walked to the cash register.
“Evening, Habib,” said Colin to the cashier.
“Good evening, Colin,” replied the cashier, his accent heavy with Mid-East influence. “I have not seen you for a while.”
Colin smiled, paid for the two beverages and returned to the car.
Claire was anxious. “Colin, if you think you need to drink, I understand. But don’t you think you should call…”
Colin held up his hand for her to be quiet. “Not to worry, my dear.” He pulled the nonalcoholic O’Doul’s from the bag first, “This one’s for me… ” then pulling out the Budweiser, “…and this one’s for Pete.”
Claire looked confused.
“I’ll explain someday,” said Colin, reassuringly. “Now let’s go home.”
Less than satisfied, Claire pulled from the curb and drove the three blocks to their apartment.
Back at home, Colin changed into his sweatpants and old sweater. He picked up the two beers.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said, kissing Claire before he left the apartment.
On the beach, a few yards from the apartment, Colin found a fire pit with a small fire still burning, left earlier by a group of revelers. He sat down in the cool sand next to the fire and watched the waves break on the beach.
Colin’s reverie was interrupted by a snore on the opposite side of the fire pit. He walked to the source of the snore and found a young man dressed in a suit curled up next to the concrete pit. Colin nudged the man with his barefoot and he woke with a start.
“You can’t sleep here,” said Colin.
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to cause any trouble. I’ve had a rough couple of days.” replied the man.
The man looked vaguely familiar, but Colin could not put a name with the disheveled man and unshaven face.
“What’s your name?” Colin asked.
“Clarence.” the man answered timidly.
Colin still could not recollect from where he knew the man. He did, however, want some privacy.
“Well, like I said, you can’t sleep here. Don’t make me call the police, OK?”
“Don’t do that. I’m gone,” the man said, suddenly on his feet.
Clarence Edward Taylor III pulled his filthy Pierre Cardin jacket around him and shuffled off down the beach.
The disturbance gone, Colin resumed his seat. He took the Budweiser from the sack, twisted off the top and placed the bottle in the fire. As the fire boiled the liquid and it foamed out of the opening, Colin opened the O’Doul’s.
“Here’s to you, Pete” said Colin, raising his drink and taking a sip. Then as an afterthought, “Here’s to you, Joe. Good luck in your next life. You’ve earned it.”
Colin sat quietly and finished his drink, watching as the remaining beer boiled out of the bottle in the fire. The waves broke on the beach with a quiet rumble a few yards away. He rose and walked back to the apartment, where he found Claire waiting. They held each other for the remainder of the night.