Five thirty is entirely too early for any decent person to get up. She rolled over and hit the snooze bar. The red numbers said five-twenty. Way too early. She settled back into the pillows. The radio clicked on again, five-twenty-five. This time she listened. He’d make sure that she got out of bed on time. He was considerate that way.
Slowly her eyes focused on the heavy bed curtains tied neatly to the bed posts. She saw the shadows of the pre-dawn hour lying in the corners of the room. She listened to the roar of the air conditioner blowing and the surf washing up to the beach. Then she smelled the coffee. His noises were imperceptible. She could sense him more than hear him. The stereo took over the sounds from her small clock/radio. He knew she was awake. He never turned on the stereo until he knew she was awake. He was considerate that way.
She would be happier when the long nights of winter came and she didn’t have to get up so early. The endless hours of summer sunshine robbed them of so many precious hours together. Getting up at five-thirty meant they had an extra hour before sunrise to spend with each other.
She hadn’t moved when he opened the door to the bedroom. The night light in the hall illuminated his long thin form. He’s too skinny. He closed the door quickly. His movements flowed with the doo-wop he liked to listen to as he unbuttoned his jacket. She liked that jacket. It was the long black one with no collar that buttoned up to the neck. He sat down to take off his boots. She smiled as he bent over. The paleness of his bald head almost glowed in the darkness of the room.
“It’s time you got up.”
“I lost a button on my jacket.”
“Leave it on the chair. I’ll fix it when I get home.” He hated asking, she loved helping. It’s those little, considerate things that count in a relationship.
“Didn’t find the button.”
He stood up swaying to the beat. He unbuttoned his shirt slowly. In the darkness it was hard to tell the difference between the whiteness of his shirt and the whiteness of his torso. She liked to watch him. He liked to watch her watching him. He held out his hand to her. She smiled and got out of bed. If there was a love song, there was a dance, and when Elvis sang of love they danced in their dreams. They pressed against each other. He sang the words in her ear. She kissed his face. He kissed her neck. Dip.
The first rays of sun snuck in through the storm blinds. They stepped away from each other. He stretched out on the bed. She drew the window curtains close then dressed. She dressed slowly. He liked to watch her dress. She liked to watch him watching her. Soon he was asleep.
She slipped out of the room. The morning sun was already filling the living room. She closed the blinds and the heavy curtains. She wanted him to sleep well. She closed the bathroom door before turning on the light to put on her makeup. He appreciated the little things she did.
He had made the coffee for her. He even stopped by the bakery she liked down on Broadway and picked up a fresh kolache. He was always so considerate to remember what she liked.
It didn’t take more than five minutes to reach her office. She pulled up to the receiving door as she always did to her reserved parking spot, unlocked the door, and turned off the alarm. She turned on lights and made coffee. She fired up the crematorium. Then she returned to her car to remove the body.
It wasn’t a very big body, not much larger than herself. The large ones he cut up and bagged for her – easier for her to lift out of the trunk. He was considerate that way. Stretched out on the gurney, it wasn’t much to look at – an ordinary street urchin.
In the right hand she found the missing button. Now I can mend his jacket.
Mostly futile, she knew, but she searched the pockets for identification. Cigarettes. Matches. Hair comb. Condoms. She recognized the brand – the ones handed out at the run-away shelter. Time to visit the shelter with her usual donations. She never brought hand-me-downs or leftovers from clients. She bought clothes and blankets at thrift stores and leftover cupcakes and rolls from the bakery. They loved to see her at the shelter. Mr. Fenny, the manager, would make a fresh pitcher of iced tea. They would sit and talk about the boys and girls who went through the shelter. She might mention Mr. Fenny’s greatest sadness – those who leave the shelter without hope. She could find out the boy’s name. Mr. Fenny’s the only one who will miss this one. She felt a tear run down her cheek.
Carefully, she washed the body, combed its hair, dusted off its clothes, and dressed it as well as she could. At least the sex stains we no longer obvious. She lay a small wooden cross in its hands, just in case. It was the considerate thing to do. The doorbell rang. She was expecting it. She pushed the body into the hot vault and pushed the button to start the flames.
She passed the mirror on the way to the door. Jacket buttoned. Hair neat – with that one strand falling out of place. Sigh. Sadness on the face.
“I so hate meeting like this.” She was sincere. The police chief was a good man. He enjoyed laughing. He cared for his city. He could explain away any event on the island as the work of reckless kids, bikers, and idiots who didn’t understand the power of the tide. He believed in all he said, and the community believed in him.
“Thank you for doing this so quickly. His parents are on their way down now. Should be in some time after lunch.” His hand continually brushed the edge of his hat. “There is a great deal to do,” he began.
And to hide, she thought.
“This may be a bit tricky.”
She opened the body bag. Her quick eye examined the body and knew all she needed to know. “His parents will only see the son they loved. He’s handsome in that rough sort of way. You have his dress uniform?”
“In the bag, here.” Sheriff Murphy pointed to the garment bag hanging at the end of gurney. He was obviously upset, but not in the death of his deputy. “Son of a Bitch! His daddy’s one of the finest policemen I ever had the pleasure to work with. And if that’s not bad enough, he’s chief of the largest city in Texas. There’ll be hell to pay if I can’t wrap this up quick. The media’s already on it.”
Unzipping the bag revealed the torn and bloody torso: Open belt, crumpled trousers, torn briefs, sex on the exposed thighs. The bruising on the face and neck of the urchin she was cremating suddenly made sense. Her eyes watered as she imaged the scene – the hungry urchin, the homophobic policeman getting a quick blow-job; the anger, the fear, and that’s how her man had found them. No one prayed on the defenseless in this town. Her eyes watered with disgust, anger, and a little pride.
“I’m so sorry.” Tears now filled the chief’s eyes. “If it were anybody else, I’d toss this trash into the Gulf. But with his daddy and mama on their way… Well, I know it’s going to be hard…”
She gave him that small, sensible, contagious smile and wiped the tears away. “Good men sometimes to bad things, Ben. You comfort his parents the best you can. They’ll only see their beautiful baby boy here.”
“Thank you.” He put his hat on and started for the door. Before he opened it, he looked back at her. “I’ll see to the justice. But you, you take care of all the broken pieces. God bless.” He smiled at her before placing his hat on his head and his best sherif’s expression on his face. He opened the door. The press were gathering.
She pushed the body into the workroom. Lawrence and Jake were drinking their morning coffee and looking over the day’s schedule. “Change in plans, gentlemen. One of the city’s finest needs our attention. Clean him up as best you can. Uniform is in the bag. I’ll take care of the make up. By the way, Jake, how was Amee’s birthday party? Parties are so much fun at that age.” She kept up with everyone’s families. It’s one of those considerate things that made her respected and loved by her employees.
When the deputy’s parents arrived, all was ready. Her best host was at the door, the Chief made sure guards were at the hall’s entrance to prevent the unwanted from entering, and the deputy was beautiful. She stood in the far shadows of the room. The mother’s outpouring of woe turned her stomach. Only a mother could love such a pervert. If anyone noticed her, they saw all the condolence and pity that only a woman can show.
She tied off the thread and held up his jacket. Done. The sun was setting and the ocean breeze tickled the back of her neck. Cargo ships lined the distant horizon waiting to load and unload their cargos. The porch afforded her views of the Gulf, but didn’t drown out the sound of sirens, music, and people. She liked it here.
The Four Seasons started playing in the living room. He was awake. Before she could move, he was behind her. His cold hands held her shoulders. His lips kissed her neck. “You’re too good to me,” he said as she handed him the jacket.
“I know,” she replied.
Together they danced as the stars danced in the blackness of the night, as they always danced when songs of love filled the air.