It was a beautiful, bright, sunshine-filled day, with very little breeze and no clouds in the sky.
The crowds of uniformed police officers could be seen from blocks away as the unmarked tan sedan approached the Cathedral Hill neighbourhood in downtown San Francisco. Groups of patrolmen and officers parted as the car drew closer to the light grey, cross-shaped, saddle-roofed St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Norm Haseejian scanned the masses around them, trying to locate the familiar face he knew would be there. Finally he saw him – Dan Healey was standing in a vacant parking spot near the church’s side entrance. Healey spotted the car and waved, then guided Haseejian into the parking space.
Haseejian glanced across the front seat. He knew how much Mike hated special treatment but the lieutenant, who hadn’t moved since they left the Union Street apartment, didn’t seem to notice. Haseejian glanced into the rearview mirror and met Steve’s eyes; the young inspector gave him a brief smile and a nod.
Healey opened the passenger side door. “Good morning, sir,” he said to Mike, as Steve exited the back of the car.
Mike turned stiffly in the seat so he could put both feet on the ground before standing. “’Morning, Dan,” he said quietly, not meeting the sergeant’s eyes.
Healey glanced at Steve, who nodded an ‘It’s okay.’ Healey returned the nod and backed away. Steve grabbed Mike’s right forearm and helped him stand.
As Mike faced straight ahead, expressionless, Steve did up the top button of his dark blue shirt then tightened the tie into place. He reached into the back of the sedan and pulled out a jacket. Right arm in the sleeve, Steve eased Mike’s left hand out of his pocket and gently slid the jacket up and over his shoulders, then buttoned it. He pulled two white gloves out of the right pocket of Mike’s jacket.
Mike took the gloves from his partner with an acknowledging nod, and carefully put them on. Finished, Steve handed him his service hat, then reached back into the sedan for his own jacket and hat.
By this time, the other members of the homicide unit had gathered around, all of them in their dress blues, all of them quiet and sober. Healey moved closer to Mike. “Ah, sir,” he said formally, “they have two seats reserved for you and Steve inside the Cathedral. You’ll enter after the coffins arrive.”
“I’m not going in,” Mike said flatly.
Healey was taken aback, but quickly collected himself. “Sir, they have an area reserved for you and the other –“ he was going to say ‘victims’ but stopped himself, “uh, the others. Everyone is here except Bob and Roy, who are still in the hospital.”
“I understand that, Sergeant, but I don’t wish to join them. I prefer to stay out here.”
Steve, who was standing behind Mike and within Healey’s field of vision, shook his head at his colleague, with eyebrows raised. Healey opened his mouth to protest once again but thought better of it. He nodded. “Very well, sir.”
Haseejian stepped forward. “Lieutenant, there is a great concern today for security. As we still have no leads on who is responsible for this, and no-one’s taken credit for it, it’s possible that members of the force are still targets.” He motioned towards the nearby rooftops, where sharpshooters could be seen. “Sir, for your protection, we request, then, that you remain with us,” he gestured at the Homicide detectives gathered around them, “throughout the day.”
Mike looked at Haseejian evenly. Then with a nod, he said, “Thank you, Sergeant.”
Steve stepped in front of his partner, slipping something out of his pocket. He had thought that his partner might want to remain outside the cathedral, so he had come prepared. “Ah, Mike,” he said quietly, “I got you these…you know, in case…” He held out a pair of very dark glasses.
Mike looked down at the dark glasses then up at his young friend and, to Steve’s relief, a small smile appeared. “Thank you,” he said quietly as he took the glasses and put them on.
Healey glanced at his watch. “The hearses should be arriving any minute. We’d better get into position.”
As a group, with Mike in their midst, the homicide detectives took their places to one side of the front walkway of the cathedral. By Tanner’s estimate, there were over 3,000 police officers present, from departments across northern California, as well as from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle, and other jurisdictions from nearly states. There were hundreds of motorcycles and a few dozen mounted police officers.
SFPD personnel who recognized Mike and wished to convey their respect or best wishes were quietly and politely intercepted by his colleagues and turned away.
A hush fell over the huge throng as three black limousines pulled up, and from out of the crowd, the Mayor and Chief of Police appeared on the sidewalk. The back doors of the three limos were opened simultaneously, and the three families emerged.
Steve, who was standing beside his partner, glanced over. Mike was staring at Maureen Bidwell and her two grown children, Karen and Scott, as they joined the other families, the Mayor and the Chief.
The three limos pulled away and were replaced by black hearses. When the pallbearers had removed the three coffins, the drone of a bagpipe’s chanter could be heard, and everyone snapped to attention, saluting as, following the piper and honour guard, the three coffins were carried with heartbreaking solemnity into the cathedral.
Mike stiffened even more as Charlie Bidwell’s coffin passed in front of their position, and from the corner of his eye, Steve could see his partner’s right hand, saluting, begin to shake slightly. Slowly, inconspicuously, Steve put his left hand lightly on Mike’s back, offering support.
Cordons of uniformed officers followed the coffins into the cathedral. A series of loudspeakers had been placed in strategic locations around the exterior of the church, to broadcast the service to those outside. Standing at ease, the hundreds of officers, and the civilians present, listened in rapt silence to the many eulogizers - departmental, civic and family – who spoke of the bravery, loyalty and strength of character of the three deceased officers.
Mike never wavered. Steve and the others kept a watchful, concerned eye on him throughout, but he continued to stare straight ahead, showing no sign of discomfort or fatigue. Steve knew the pain he was in and could only marvel at the strength, both physical and emotional, that his partner continued to show.
Almost ninety minutes later, the doors of the cathedral reopened. The crowd once again snapped to attention as the bagpiper led the sombre procession out of the church. To the harrowing strains of “Amazing Grace”, the three coffins were borne out of the cathedral towards the hearses.
Steve glanced quickly at his partner and froze slightly. Though he could only see Mike in profile, and though Mike’s blank expression had not changed, silent tears were coursing down his cheeks and dripping from his chin. Steve put his left hand once again on the small of Mike’s back, this time a little firmer.
With the coffins back in the hearses and the families in the limos, the final journey of the fallen officers began. As the hearses and limos pulled away from the cathedral, hundreds of police motorcycles fell into place behind them, followed by dozens of police cars representing the various departments present.
The ceremony over, the huge crowd at the cathedral began to disperse. Haseejian turned to Mike and Steve. He began to ask them what they wished to do next when Mike cut him off. “Sergeant, would you be able to drive us to the cemetery?”
“Mike,” Steve stepped in, “I think we should go home. You’re not supposed –“
Mike turned as quickly as he could to face his young partner. Steve stopped in mid-sentence and waited while Mike took off the dark glasses. “I’m going to the cemetery.” His tone was unwavering and his voice strong. Mike turned to Haseejian. “I would appreciate it very much, Sergeant, if you would drive me there.”
“Um, yes sir.” Haseejian glanced at Healey and the others, who had backed off.
With a frustrated sign, Steve reluctantly followed Mike and Haseejian to the sedan. Their journey to Holy Cross was made in silence, as they caught up and followed the long line of police cars, lights on and sirens blaring, that trailed the hearses.
One of the hearses and several cars turned off at a certain point. Haseejian glanced across the front seat and into the rearview mirror. “Captain Collins was a war veteran. He’s being buried at the National,” he said by way of explanation.
Haseejian parked as close to the cemetery as he could; with the number of people it was impossible to get very near and he hated having to make Mike walk so far. But the lieutenant couldn’t be dissuaded and Steve and he stayed as close as possible as the tall lieutenant strode across the cemetery grounds towards the burial plots.
Bidwell and Donner would be buried near each other, so both internments were to be held simultaneously. The three homicide officers positioned themselves closer to the Bidwell plot, again standing at ease as the ceremony proceeded.
Everyone flinched slightly at the three-volley salute. The honour guard surrounded the caskets and, as the melancholy chords of ‘Taps’ drifted over the silent crowd, the American flags were folded with military precision before being presented to the widows.
Charlie Bidwell’s flag had been handed over to Jack Elliott, whose emotionless expression was partially hidden behind his dark glasses. Stiffly, almost robotically, Elliott approached Maureen Bidwell with the folded flag, leaned forward, and put it into her hands. As the grief-stricken widow hugged the flag to her chest, Elliott turned to look into the crowd.
Steve took an involuntary half step backward as Elliott looked straight at him. And though Elliott’s expression didn’t change, Steve felt a chill wash over him that he knew was irrational. As Elliott turned away, Steve took a quick look around; no one else, and certainly not Mike, had seemed to notice the little disturbing exchange.
To the haunting bagpipe tribute “Going Home”, the ceremony ended and the mourners began to disperse. Mike turned stiffly to Steve and Haseejian. “Let’s go,” he said quietly.
Steve nodded towards Maureen Bidwell. “Don’t you want to –?“
Mike shook his head. “No, let’s just go,” he said sadly.
# # # # #
They climbed the stairs to the second floor slowly. It had been a long and exhausting day.
“I’ll be in in a minute,” Mike said tiredly as he walked into the bathroom.
Steve continued into the bedroom, turned the covers down and laid out Mike’s pajamas. He was worried that the exertions had taken their toll on the older man.
When Mike walked into the bedroom, Steve could see he had washed his face, removing any evidence of his tears. Mike smiled affectionately at his young companion. “I’m ready for bed,” he said, and Steve smiled back.
“I bet you are. Sit down; I’ll do most of the work.” Steve started to undo Mike’s tie and shirt, the jacket, hat and gloves having been removed in the car. “I think you’ll sleep easier if we strap up your arm again; what do you think?”
Mike nodded slowly. As Steve anchored Mike’s left arm across his chest and helped him into pajamas, the older man got quieter and his stare turned inward, unfocused. By the time Steve helped him lie back against the pillows and get settled, he seemed almost comatose.
Steve said on the edge of the bed. “You want something to eat?”
Mike stared straight ahead, but he shook his head slowly.
“You sure? You haven’t had anything since breakfast and it’s dinnertime.”
Again Mike shook his head then closed his eyes.
Steve watched him for several long beats then got up slowly. He closed the curtains against the summer sun, then went to the closet and got some things out and did the same at the dresser. Leaving the door open and turning the hall light on, he retreated down to the living room.
A half hour later, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, barefoot, and with a coffee cup in hand, he returned to the bedroom. Mike eyes were closed, his breaths regular and relaxed, his right hand resting on his stomach, but Steve couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep.
Steve pulled the armchair close to the right side of the bed and curled himself into it. He sipped the coffee, thinking back over the day. He thought he knew why Mike had refused to go into the cathedral, and it worried him.
And he thought of Jack Elliott. He’d still not found the time to talk to Rudy Olsen and promised himself he would try to do so tomorrow, so he would know how to proceed. He tried to put himself in Elliott’s shoes once more; how he would have felt and behaved today, if, as Elliott had said, he had buried Mike.
Steve shuddered and looked down. He rested the warm cup against his forehead and tried to force the disturbing thoughts from his mind.
He raised his head slowly and looked at his partner. Though he was still facing the ceiling, Mike’s eyes were open. Slowly, his right hand slid off his stomach and across the covers towards his young companion.
With a warm smile, Steve reached out and slipped his hand into Mike’s. He felt the older man’s fingers close around his hand and squeeze. And in that touch, the reassurance of each other’s continuing existence was the only thing that mattered.