The Amateur

The funeral came around much too soon.

Martha's pastor seemed much less agitated, surrounded by his familiar flock. I recognized many of Martha's friends. I had thought about inviting some people from work, but I really didn't want to see any of them. Some of the guys from the gun club were there, talking to one another. They had come to shake hands and say the usual things, but they could see I was not up for socializing.

The detective was there. I had expected that. There were two people with him -- the guy O'Toole, and another guy who was trying to be discrete while taking pictures of everyone.

Another guy was taking pictures also. He was with a fellow talking into a small recorder. I assumed they were the press.

The funeral seemed to go on forever. The pastor had a long rambling sermon about Jesus and heaven, and then it seemed like everyone in the church had to get up and say something about Martha. Some were incoherently blubbering, which set off others in the crowd.

People from Martha's various volunteer projects got up and said how much they'd miss her, or what a great human being she had been. The day was hot, and all the guys in suits were sweating uncomfortably, wishing there was somewhere to sit down.

The sun was still far from setting when it was all over, and everyone had to hold my hand or shake it as the left. The detective held back to be the last.

"You didn't mention your wife volunteered at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center," he said.

"She volunteered a lot." I said. I waited for him to explain.

"Ralph Petersen was a patient there," he said.

I became interested. This seemed to perk up O'Toole.

"Did she know him?" I asked. I thought for a while, then said, "I think she would have mentioned if someone she knew had been shot."

Murphy thought about that. "I'll check that out," he said.