THE SUN CARESSED Shelia Savell’s face. She didn’t feel it. The American flag-draped oak casket in front of her held her attention. Flanked by Danny and her husband, Jackson, she sat on a plastic folding chair in the front of several rows of mourners under a green awning. She pulled her bloodshot eyes away from the speaker and let them drift past Danny to Chrissie. Sitting next to her son, she held a crimson rose her one hand, and dabbed at the tears on her cheek with a tissue in the other. Shelia turned her thoughts back to the speaker.
“I’ll conclude by saying,” Mayor Sudan said, “that Dirk Nyte was my friend, sometimes my conscience, sometimes my confidant, sometimes a thorn in my flesh, but always my friend, and foremost an honorable man. Not many in the public eye can make that claim—not that he would—but he was one of the few.
“Anyone who knew him knew a man without pretense or vice. He was a master at showing his cards and then winning anyway—not because he was a strong competitor, but because he was right. And not that he was a perfect man. No one passes from womb to tomb without wearing a few scars, and no one slips the veil of this existence without leaving a few in the passing. But it’s not these wounds that live on after a man. It’s his choices. Did he choose to ignore the pain he caused, blame someone else for it, or accept his own failure? This will be his legacy.”
He continued while he pulled a sheet of paper from his inside coat pocket. “Just a few weeks ago before Dirk entered the hospital for the last time, he stood where no one should ever stand, over the casket of a child—his child. On that day, he said these words.”
He unfolded the paper and laid it on the podium. His reading glasses were in the breast pocket of his charcoal suit jacket. With a purposed reach, he retrieved them and mounted them on the bridge of his nose. He read:
“’After what Collins did to people I knew, cared about and loved profoundly, I can’t hate him. His acts, yes—but not the man. Hatred is the coward’s way out of the hard work, a device we manipulate to explain and blame, to medicate terrible, unthinkable loss. But its bitterness robs us of something vital. To replace our heartache with animosity is to trivialize those we lost. We must celebrate their lives, we must mourn our sudden separation … but we must also search deep into our hearts to understand Collins’ pain. To do less is to allow it to happen again.
“’No one knows what circumstance would drive us to similar acts. He was a soldier, a man under orders to commit unspeakable brutality on the innocent people who were conscripted to perform the same unspeakable atrocities on him. His life in that context alone had changed forever. But then, already out of his control, through graver circumstance, the unimaginable happened. His heart still beat and yearned to be home, even while life for others went on as if he no longer existed. He was forgotten by those who should have fought for him, should have sought for him, and should have loved him.
“‘He had choices.’” The mayor paused and looked to the gathering. “’Or did he? What would you choose if your life was stolen from you? Can we sit here today and say with absolute assurance that we could never express ourselves through acts of violence? I suggest that until you understand the depths of his anguish, the cage to which he was confined from that day in 1968 until last Friday night, you don’t know, and neither do I.
“‘So, no, despite what has happened in your lives and mine, I cannot give an inch to hatred. I must rather seek to forgive, for when I forgive it holds me captive no longer. Only then can I truly mourn my loss, and you can, too.’”
The mayor looked up from the page and concluded, “Pity we can’t all ascend to such an ideal as Dirk posits for us.”
In his dress blues, Nathanial Ballesteros, the new Chief of Police, walked the freshly folded flag to where Shelia and her family sat.
“With the department’s deepest sympathies and gratitude, Counselor,” he said, and took her hand. “That we had such integrity.”
He released her hand, turned, and stepped to where, with the other pallbearers, Kel stood like a sentry near the casket. She turned to Scott, squeezed his shoulder, and then took a few steps back to separate from the others.
“Detective,” Ballesteros said, and extended his hand. “The words your father spoke at your brother Roger’s memorial leaves me convicted. If mankind was filled with the kind of grace he demonstrated every day, we cops would be out of business.”
“Now that’s something to pray for.”
He lifted his twin black eyebrows, and his eyes widened. “I’m glad to see you’ve recovered enough from your wounds to be here this afternoon.”
“Nothing but a matching casket could have kept me away, sir,” she said, and glanced toward the crowd as they formed a single line to file by Dirk for the last time. “But the doctor released me just yesterday. I am going to take a few days, but I’ll be back next week.”
“Has Captain Silva assigned you a partner?”
“No, but he wants to add me to Willie’s taskforce. Fresh perspective and all.”
“Right where you wanted,” he said, and his face sketched a look of disquiet that faded quickly.
“If Collins was correct, Jake was a dirty cop. But he said something to me just before he died: ‘polluted waters run deep.’ I’ve had a lot of time to muse over his final riddle. I believe it has a double meaning. First, I’m sure we’ll never find Jake’s remains. With Seattle being surrounded by deep bodies of water, there are limitless places to make his body disappear forever.”
“He was telling me that Jake didn’t act alone. He wouldn’t give me anything else, ’cause at the time he thought he was about to kill me, but I think there’s more to it. Silva agrees. Truth is, I’d go after it on my own time even if Silva didn’t agree.”
“Of course you would. You’re a Nyte. Wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Chrissie came to Kel’s side and slipped her arm into her mother’s. Ballesteros smiled at her and nodded.
“My condolences, again.”
His uniformed driver waited off to the side, and as he walked away, Kel looked toward the crowd. The procession was near the end, and most had begun to make their way back to vehicles parked along the paved roads crisscrossing the cemetery. She wasn’t surprised to see that Lieutenant Martinez was not among the attendees. While still in the hospital recovering from surgery, she read in The Globe that he had been placed on administrative leave for his part in the DK murders. Her daddy may have been a gracious man, but Dirk’s limits were the abuse of power. Martinez had been the leak revealing Roger and Dirk’s relationship.
“I love you, Chrissie.”
“I love you more, Mom.”
Kel remembered the last time they had played their game—the night Jared had summoned her with his manifesto. They hadn’t been able to finish their ritual since.
“I love you most,” Kel said, and wrapped her arm tight around her daughter’s waist.
“I’m going to miss Pops so much.”
“We all will. You ready?”
Chrissie held out a second rose she had picked up and handed it to her mom. Kel took it while, arm in arm, they walked over to Shelia and her family. They all stood facing the casket. Each one in turn laid their rose on the lid and said goodbye in their own way—some with a tear, some with a word, and some with a hand resting on the polished wood.
After everyone finished, Kel placed her rose on the floral casket spray and said, “Go now, Daddy. Mom’s waiting for you.”
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