Chapter Five, Part Two

I had already decided that I wasn't going to go to the graveside. I felt too awkward and had no love for the misery of standing outside in the cold. Nevertheless, when Cade asked after the service if I was going, I hesitated.

"You can ride with me, if you don't mind my truck's a little messy and smells like fish."

It was at that moment Father Cash walked up to us. Betraying nothing in face or manner of our earlier falling out, he took my hands in his. "I'm so glad you came, Judith."

"You knew I would be here."

He gave a tight little smile and turned to my companion.

"This is Cade Dermott," I said. "One of the fishermen at the pier that day."

Father Cash shook Cade's hand.

"I'm sorry for the way all this came about," Cade said, "But I feel privileged to finally meet you. You've done good work in my neighborhood."

"I'm just the hands and feet; the Lord does the work," Father Cash said. "Thank you for all that you've done. I know that can't have been an easy day for you."

"That's for sure."

Father Cash turned to me. "The cemetery is too far to walk, but I think there is room in Father Martinez's car for one more."

Before I could answer, Cade spoke up.

"I told her she can ride with me, if she likes. My pickup isn't much, but it does the job."

While I held my breath, Father Cash looked from Cade to me and back again. Then with that same polite smile and a glare of accusation in his eyes, he said to me, "Whatever you like, Judith. You have the directions?"

I told him that I did, and he turned away. I stared at his back as he headed toward the rear of the church and a little cluster of church people who were waiting for him.

"You ready go?"

I looked up into Cade's ice-blue eyes and saw only warmth. "I think so."


The cemetery was a new one outside of town, at the end of a bleak road off the main highway in and out of town. Cade's truck wasn't as messy as he had warned, nor did it smell too offensive, although there was a distinctly stale and fishy cast to the air. The heater worked, though, and I was grateful to settle in and relax in the luxury of Cade's inconsequential talk punctuated by silences that felt as comfortable as a pair of old slippers at the end of a long day.

As I watched the landscape go by, I found my thoughts drifting toward home. Like Sella, I had left a green and sunny place, trading it for this brown tundra, and just like her, I was letting it kill me. Yes, I was physically safe, but did that really count for much when I wasn't truly free? Poverty could confine as much as any coffin or jail cell, perhaps even more.

"Where are you from, originally, Judith?"

Had Cade been reading my mind again? "South," I said. Then, in the hope of distracting him from further inquiries, I added, "You?"


"You're a long way from home, and not much warmer."

Cade grinned. "That's for sure. I used to work in lobster. Tried to make a go of being independent, but I had a few setbacks."

"So you came here instead?"

"It's not as crazy as you think. I could've stayed in the northeast and worked for one of the big fishing corporations, but this place is wide open; only a couple big guys, and lots of ways to make a name for yourself."

I nodded slowly. "Make your fortune, then go back home?"

"That's the plan, unless it changes."

"I can't imagine wanting to stay here any longer than necessary."

Cade gave a little shrug. "I've seen prettier places, but life is what you make it." He waved a hand in the direction of the dun-colored landscape. "Even this has its uses, and in the right hands, I bet it could be made pretty nice, too."

This made me smile. "You're an optimist."

"No point living any other way. Seeing the gloom in everything is just a fast track to dying."

I had nothing to say to this, and returned to gazing out the window.

Chapter Five, Part One

Whether he raised the funds somehow, or simply cajoled the right people, I'll never know, but Father Cash managed to get a full Catholic service at St. Ignatius. I had heard from some of the locals that the little church near the center of town wasn't named after the Ignatius who founded the Jesuits, but after the one who was fed by the Romans to wild beasts. This felt appropriate to me as I walked up the jagged stone walk in my badly-fitting, borrowed dress, unsure of my welcome but well aware of Father Cash's resentment.

I stepped inside and paused a moment in the gloom to examine the row of votives in red and green glass holders. Although I wasn't Catholic, the intimacy of the close room and flickering lights calmed me. I removed my hat, shoved it in the pocket of my jacket, and headed into the nave.

I saw no one I knew, not even Father Cash, and for a moment I wondered if I was at the wrong funeral. I had forgotten to look for a program on my way in, but there was a sign with a photograph and flowers by the closed coffin at the front of the church, so I made my way forward, as self-conscious as though this were my own funeral and I was sneaking in, hoping to go unnoticed.

The enlarged photo of Sella showed a pretty girl of about nine or ten, wearing a pink dress and beaming at the camera. Father Cash must not have had a more recent picture, and Sella probably hadn't brought any photos with her in her flight from home. I gazed into the brown eyes of the honey-skinned little girl and wondered how such a cheerful-looking child became in just a few short years the sullen, nearly catatonic teenager who could barely stir herself from Father Cash's sofa.

"Life is full of strange turns."

I looked around and was met by the same arresting blue gaze I had seen on the dock when they brought Sella's body to shore. "You read my thoughts."

The fisherman shrugged his heavy shoulders in their boxy jacket. "It's the obvious conclusion in a situation like this." He stuck out his hand. "Cade Dermott. Sorry I didn't properly introduce myself the first time."

"I think we were both a little preoccupied." I shook his hand. "Judith McGillum. I'm Father Cash's neighbor."

Cade nodded. "I wondered what the relationship was."

I wasn't sure how to answer this, and just then the music started. I glanced around for any clues that there were special seating arrangements.

"I think we can sit anywhere," Cade said.

Of course. With no friends or family of the deceased, other than Father Cash, why not let people sit where they wanted? Lacking any better ideas, I followed Cade to a pew a few rows from the front, empty except for a couple of thin gray women at the far end, who looked to be recipients of Father Cash's charitable efforts. We took our seats, and Cade removed a spindled program from his pocket. I glanced over his shoulder and saw that it would be a fairly simple ceremony. As simple as the Catholics could make it, that is, what with the full Mass and all.

I was searching my memory, trying to remember a few of the responses to the Mass from the couple of times I had been to a Catholic service back home, when a movement at the front of the church caught my eye. Father Cash, solemn in a black suit but not daring to wear his renegade priest's collar, had emerged from a room behind the altar and was taking his seat on the front pew. I wondered if he had seen me, then let the thought pass. No doubt he was worrying about his sister and wishing he had the authority to perform today's ceremony himself. I was the farthest thing from his mind, and that was for the best.

Beside me, Cade leaned in and whispered in my ear. "That's the uncle, right?"

I nodded.

"I've seen him around my neighborhood. Nice guy. Brings food to people who are old and can't get out."

I nodded again, but although my gaze was fixed firmly on Father Cash, it was Cade that I was thinking of. He was warm and solid, his muscles tight underneath the cheap suit. I had been with so many men for money since arriving in Cold Haven that I had thought myself immune to them, but there was something about Cade's presence that calmed and comforted me, as if I were one of those flickering votives in the vestibule; a weak light with only a little warmth, but still real, still alive. Had the moment continued even a second longer, I might've slipped my hand into his like a child thirsting for comfort and connection. Instead, Father Cash turned his head and locked eyes with mine. I sucked in my breath, grabbed the nearest hymnal, and cast my eyes on the first page I opened it to.

How great are the works of the Lord.


Chapter Four, Part Two

I used to have nice clothes; things that would've been appropriate for a funeral. But most of what I didn't leave behind, I had long since sold, leaving me in a quandary over what to wear to Sella's funeral.

The service would be small, and limited to Father Cash and the neighborhood rabble, so it wasn't as if a high standard of dress would be required. Nevertheless, for the first time in a year, I found myself peering into a mirror and actually giving a damn what I looked like. I told myself it was just because it wasn't proper to go to a funeral looking like the whore and drug mule that I had become, but the issue ran deeper than that. Although Father Cash had informed me of the time and place for the service, he hadn't exactly invited me, either. He had merely left a note of the date and time, stuck to my door with a piece of tape.

I couldn't not go to this thing, but I couldn't show up in boots, faded leggings, and a jacket. I needed to look like I cared enough to wear my best, and my best sucked.

I had just gotten my heat turned back on, otherwise I would've probably bought something appropriately solemn at the thrift shop. Lacking that option, I called Arlo. It took him a few rings to answer, and when he did, he sounded hung over, so I got straight to the point.

"I've got a funeral I've got to go to today," I said. "I got nothing to wear."

Arlo muttered something that sounded like, "Not my problem."

"Yeah, well, I was wondering if you could float me some cash. Just enough to buy, you know, a dress or something."

"I don't do loans. You know that."

"Well..." I thought fast. "I meant like, if you've got something I could do for you tonight, you can maybe pay me now, more like an advance..."

"Don't do advances, either."

I sighed in frustration and tried to think if I had any other arguments I could bring to bear. Before I could give up and tell him thanks for nothing, Arlo spoke again.

"Come over. We'll figure something out."

This sudden shift was in some ways more disconcerting than his earlier refusal. Arlo never fucked his subordinates, so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about that, but did he have some even more unpleasant task for me? Lacking other options, I told him I'd be right over.

By the time I got to Arlo's little walk-up over a liquor store, I had allowed so many crazy scenarios to populate my mind that I almost turned around and went home, clothes be damned. But I hadn't walked all this way in the cold just to leave empty-handed, so I knocked. After a moment, there was a shadow at the peephole, and then a scrabbling at the lock.

The door opened and instead of Arlo, I saw his skinny girlfriend, Donna. She was tousle-haired and bare-faced, with only a smudge of gooey lip gloss on her fleshy lips to indicate she had made any effort at her appearance. She let me into the room and motioned toward an item on the sofa. "Arlo says you need a dress."

She said it with such piercing contempt that I considered telling her to keep her dress and go fuck herself, but that would've pissed off Arlo, who had obviously leaned on Donna for this favor. I couldn't afford to get on the bad side of anyone who could get me some work, no matter how degrading, so I picked up the black dress and held it out in front of me to see if it would fit.

"It's all I got for a funeral," Donna said. "I want it back by tonight, and if you mess it up, you buy me a new one."


She opened the door again. "See you later."

I folded the dress and forced a smile as I left, but once the door had slammed behind me, I wadded it up and shoved it into my satchel. The apartment had been too dark for me to assess it properly, but I could tell by touch that the fabric was thin and cheap, hardly worth Donna's protective attitude.

When I got home and could examine it more closely, I was even more annoyed. The dress was clean but faded, with pilling around the underarms and back of the skirt. It also needed ironing, and of course I had no iron. I did have gas again, though, so I heated a clean skillet on the stove, spread the dress on a table with a towel for padding, and did the best I could to get out the wrinkles.

Once on, the dress's other shortcoming was revealed. Although it seemed to fit well enough, it had been constructed badly and with every movement, the seams moved and the bodice twisted, so that I had to periodically grab the skirt and jerk the dress back into place. In the mirror, though, this defect wasn't immediately obvious, and with some black tights and boots, my hair neatly combed and a dab of lipstick, I figured I looked fairly presentable, as long as the lights were dim. It was the best I could do, anyway, so why worry? I grabbed a hat, scarf and jacket, and headed to the church.


Chapter Four, Part One

"I'm sure it was an accident," I told Father Cash, as he sat at the end of the narrow sofa that just this morning had been Sella's bed. "She was enjoying the waves and the seagulls, and her foot slipped."

He rubbed his eyes but refused to look at me. "It's very thoughtful of you to reassure me, but lying is a sin. Either Sella was killed or she wanted to die."

"Wanting to die and committing suicide aren't the same thing. Maybe it was an impulsive act, or she simply made a situation and let it happen."

"She had stones in her pockets and her ankles were tied together. That's hardly 'letting it happen'."

I had nothing to say to this.

"If someone murdered that sweet girl...."

"Why would anyone around here want to murder her? She knew no one but us. And besides, if someone wanted to drown her, they would've tied her arms and her legs, but only her legs were tied. She could've done that herself."

"But that would mean she took her own life." Father Cash shook his head. "That's a very grave sin."

My first instinct was to point out that no one, not even the pillars of his useless religion, had ever held back from doing what they wanted just because it was a sin. The pain on his face was so genuine, though, that I edged closer and reached for his hand, struggling to find words that were both honest and kind. "Even if she sinned, it was because she wasn't in her right mind. I'm sure Jesus understands."

Father Cash pulled away. "You know nothing about Jesus."

So much for honesty and kindness. "Look, we can wonder all day long, but without any evidence one way or the other—"

"Exactly." He turned on me, his eyes welling with angry tears. "She left no note. She didn't put her things in order. She went out expecting to be right back. Something bad is going on."

"Perhaps so," I said, more to quiet him than because I agreed.

"We have to find out who did this, and why."

Clearly he was out of his mind. Even if Sella had been murdered, which I doubted, playing detective was a dangerous game. "That's what the cops are for, you know."

He waved a dismissive hand. "Those incompetents say it's a suicide."

"Maybe you should hire a detective, then."

"Don't mock me, Judith. You know I have no money. I don't even know how I'm going to pay for the funeral."

He had gone to the window by now, where he pulled back a corner of the industrial brown curtain to gaze out at the darkness. I stared at his back, wondering if I should ask the obvious question. He solved the problem for me.

"I tried to reach Lena..."

"Still no luck."

Father Cash shook his head and let the drape fall back into place. "I know you think I'm imagining things, but how can I not think something is very wrong when my sister falls off the earth and her daughter turns up in this forsaken place, only to end up dead a few weeks later?"

"I can see how that would worry you," I admitted.

"Worry?" He came over and took my hand with haunted earnestness. "Judith, my sister is a kind, gentle woman, who wouldn't just disappear for no reason. And Sella was a good kid, who would never run away from home unless something terrible had happened."

I held my breath, knowing whatever I said, it would be the wrong thing.

"Please help me."

Our eyes locked, and it was I who looked away first. "I'm sorry, but if I knew how to unravel someone else's life, I'd fix my own, first."

Father Cash dropped my hand. "Of course."

His cool tone chilled me like a Cold Haven wind. "I'm flattered that you asked. Really. It's just that—"

"You can't. I understand." He started toward the door. "It's probably time for you to go. I'm tired, and there's a lot for me to do."

I took a few tentative steps toward the door, which he was now holding open for me. Clearly he didn't intend for me to linger. "If you want, I can come back tomorrow and help you go through her things."

Father Cash forced a smile that didn't extend to his eyes. "Thank you, dear, but I know you're busy, and it's something I should do myself."

He closed the door behind me, and after a confused moment standing on his battered welcome mat, I headed up the stairs. I was almost to my own flat when I realized just how angry he really was.

He hadn't offered me his usual priestly blessing.