He turned and saw about a half-dozen people standing by an open grave, staring at himlike a groom who’d shown up drunk to his own wedding. One by one, he recognized most of them as either being from the DA’s office or the medical examiner’s office. Behind them, the backhoe kept working, digging a hole near the headstone: ALLISON WALLIS, 1955- 1983. Asteel claw reached into a shallow hole and emerged with a mouthful of dirt. It pivoted anddisgorged its load out onto the plywood boards laid out to protect the grass, the smell of topsoilhitting wood setting off a writhing of worms in his gut.“Hey, hey, Scottie, word up.” Francis put on a game face as he went over to greet the videotech setting up a tripod over the trench.“Not the same old same old, eh, Francis?” said Scott Ferguson, a big bluff ponytailed guyfrom the Visual Evidence Unit who was always handing out business cards, trying to get weekendwork filming weddings, bar mitzvahs, and christenings. “Usually when you put ’em down, theystay down.”“Absa-fucking-lutely.” Normally he ran into Scottie only at crime scenes, when there was literally still blood onthe walls. “So whassup?” said Scottie. “I tried to ask Paul, but he said this is your clambake.”“Did he now?”Francis looked across the grave where Paul Raedo, his erstwhile friend, the prosecutor, washaving an animated discussion with a lady from the ME’s office, pointing his way every fewseconds, trying to reassign the blame, no doubt. Four members of the gravediggers’ union stood by in their green uniforms, leaning on picks and shovels, waiting to do the more exacting work of digging around the coffin.“Well, he told me one thing,” Scottie admitted. “He said it’s the fucking weirdest case heever heard of.”“Don’t believe the hype.”“Well, I don’t know what the hell else you’d call it. Girl’s dead twenty years and her bloodshows up on another body last week.”“Sounds like fucking Paul told you plenty.” Francis glared into the mid-distance. The backhoe grunted and rocked on its stabilizers as little brown plumes wafted from the gouge,drizzling dust on the people nearby. Francis took some small measure of satisfaction in seeingPaul cough and try to brush the grit off his lapels.“So, what’s up with that?” asked Scottie. “You got the wrong girl buried?”“That’s what her mother thinks,” said Francis, remembering how he’d stood on this veryspot with Eileen Wallis, a hand on her arm to keep her from jumping in back in ’83. “I’m tryingto keep an open mind.”“And what about the guy you locked up for it? Paul said he was in the can twenty years.”“He’s not the happiest horse in the race, but what are you gonna do? I still got one eye onhim. Everybody did something.”The machine kept digging. Each
of metal into soil another dig to his solar plexus,another reminder that something had gone wrong on his watch. The doctor brings you into theworld, the undertaker signs you out, and if something goes wrong in between, you call a cop. Hemight have had his lapses, but if you needed someone to get you from crime scene to the grave,he always figured he was the man for the job. Not necessarily to comfort the bereaved the way a priest or a funeral director would—just to keep the game honest. But now he felt like he’d letdown his people. He was supposed to be their representative, their public servant, their envoy: aPolitician for the Dead. Who else was going to make sure their needs got met? Who else wasgoing to twist arms, make phone calls, knock on doors, and filibuster on their behalf? Who elsewas supposed to speak up and fight for these constituents?