The Amateur

Martha's pastor was being very efficient.

The police had released her body, and not knowing what to do, I had called him on Sunday. He was quite upset about the whole thing, and talked about police tape and not being allowed to hose down the lawn, and how awful this must be for me. He said he would handle everything, he knew a very respectful Christian funeral director that several of the parishioners had used before and liked very much, and if I wanted a closed casket it could all be handled very soon, and be very tasteful,

He said a lot more, all very quickly, sometimes several times. He seemed to want it all to go away quickly, and I told him to do whatever needed to be done. He looked at me like I had given him some great gift, and said he would not let me down.

I got several calls. The funeral director, and what seemed like half of Martha's church, some sobbing incoherently and calling me "poor dear". The pastor called a couple times, once asking about a list of Martha's friends and relatives. He had a list; they all went to his church.

Murphy the detective came over for another visit. He brought along another man, not a uniform, named O'Toole.

"Do you know a Ralph Petersen?" he asked, not waiting for any small talk.

I said I didn't.

"Do you remember where you were on May 23rd at 9 pm?"

"May 23rd?" I said. They watched as I got up and walked into the kitchen to look at the calendar. "That was a Friday." I said. "At nine o'clock Martha and I would be watching Sex and the City. That's her favorite show."

Was her favorite show.

"Just the two of you?" Yes.

"Could your wife have known a Ralph Petersen?" I didn't know.

"Mr. Bloch, we'd like to see any letters your wife may have received in the past few weeks. Does she use email?" She did. "Then we'd like to see the computer she used. Did she use any chat rooms or message boards?" I didn't know.

I showed them into Martha's bedroom, and told them they could have anything they needed. They searched the room for papers, and carried the computer out to a large car in the driveway.

"Who is this Petersen?" I asked. The other fellow grinned like he had just won a bet.

"He was killed on May 23rd, outside Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church, in West Babylon," the detective said. "The bullet was from the same gun that killed your wife."