The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 91
It was a gray bitter windy day. The trees surrounding the graveyard were skeletal. The limbs cracked like old bones from the wind and there was a deep howl like the sound of a bow drawn across a double bass.
Rich parked his jeep far from the awaiting grave.
A procession of three state highway patrol cars rolled slowing into the graveyard with a black out-dated hearse behind the first police car. Uniformed officers removed Mrs. Gaffe’s casket and placed it over the grave.
Rich walked quietly to the grave and showed an officer his press pass. Mr. Gaffe was there. He was shackled wearing a brown suit and stood next to the casket. Two prison guards stood on each side of him.
The prison chaplain stood at the head of the grave and said coldly, “Here lies Mary Gaffe, child of god. From ashes to ashes. From dust to dust. May her soul rest in peace.”
The chaplain walked back to the lead car and got in. The pallbearers did also. Mr. Gaffe stood with the two guards. One of them said, “Take your time.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Gaffe said.
Rich walked to where the chaplain had stood. “I’m sorry, sir.”
Mr. Gaffe stared and nodded his head so very slightly.
“Ya know they’re burying the President now,” Mr. Gaffe said. “Shouldn’t you be watching that.”
“I didn’t know the President, sir,” Rich said. “I got to know your wife. She was a fine lady.”
Mr. Gaffe breathed deep through his nostrils and looked at his wife’s coffin. “Let’s go,” he said the guards. They walked away. After a few steps Mr. Gaffe stopped and turned to Rich. “Thanks for coming.”
They led him back to the car behind the hearse and the motorcade drove away.
As if from nowhere two graveyard workers appeared and lowed the casket.
Rich drove back to the newsroom and finished up a story about the Rockland PTA’s proposal to buy two additional televisions and new mimeograph machine.
Rich was the only one remaining in the newsroom when Sam left. He took a step inside the newsroom.
“Where you at the Gaffe burial?” Sam said.
“Yeah,” Rich said, “it was small .”
“Are you okay?” Sam said.
“I wonder if I’m cut out for this?” Rich said. “I can’t figure out why this is getting to me. I mean the President is dead and it’s news, but this little old lady who was mean and cantankerous.” Rich paused. “She prepared meals for the children’s home. She visited strangers at nursing homes. She volunteered at the hospital. She was a corrupt village treasurer. She was involved in insurance fraud. I mean, who was she?”
“I think you are cut out for this,” Sam said. “Sometimes we have the privilege of trying to make sense out of things that people pass by without notice. Perhaps you can spend a few day getting to know Mrs. Gaffe before you write her obit.”
After leaving the newsroom Rich drove to the hospital, the county home, and the children’s home. People who had contact with Mrs. Gaffe were interviewed.
Rich was up until 2:00 AM writing a feature about a modern day Robin Hood who redistributed public funds and rich insurance companies’ settlement money to people in need.
The next morning the story was laid on Sam’s desk before he arrived. Later that morning he called Rich into his office.
“I’ll run this in a couple of days,” Sam said. “There’s so much going on now this will hardly get noticed. Are you okay with that?”
“Yeah,” Rich said. “There’s so much more to this story. I can’t put my finger on it.”
“Talk to Smithson,” Sam said. “Go see the people that prosecuted the case, they will likely have things we missed. Go talk to their lawyers.”
“There’s something else,” Rich said. “She trusted me with something.”
“What!” Sam said. “Why haven’t you said anything till now?”
“I don’t think she died from a heart attack,” Rich said. “She said she had secrets.”
“What kind of secrets,” Sam said.
“I don’t know,” Rich said. “But she told me if she should die in prison, go to their home. In their garage above the garage door would be a key. It is stamped 245. It is to a safety deposit box at a bank in Augusta.”
“Do you have the key?” Sam said.
“Yes,” Rich said. “As soon as I heard her death I went to their house and found it. I didn’t want to take a chance that she might have told somebody else.”
“Do you know what’s in the box?” Sam said.
“No,” Rich said. “I never asked or pressed for details.”
“What are you going to do with the key?” Sam said.
“Someday you and I will drive to Augusta and take a look at what’s in that box,” Rich said. “But I’d like to let things settle for a while. Wait until Mrs. Gaffe is a distant memory.”
“The key,” Sam said. “What are you going to do with it?”
“What do you think?” I said.
“Drive a nail into the side of the steps of the companionway of The Odyssey and hang it there,” Sam said.
Rich drove to The Odyssey and did as Sam said. When he dropped the key onto the nail he thought, “I should sail into the middle of the bay and toss the key overboard.”