VANISHED PART III
Harold Greevy slammed the door to the Cemetery office as he hurried inside and looked around for Jerrold. “Where’s the boss?” The maintenance supervisor was dressed in a golf shirt he’d apparently slept in and the same dark khaki pants and boots he wore every day.
Cherrie turned to him in her gray slacks and white blouse with little pink flowers dotted on it. Her youngest daughter learned her numbers by sitting on Cherrie’s lap and counting the blossoms on that blouse. “He’s still looking for Mitchie’s crew, I think. What in the world has happened?”
“Jerrold didn’t tell you?”
“He was so upset I didn’t want to ask.”
Harold scanned the small room as if anybody could be standing where he could not see them, and lowered his voice. “An urn box is missing from the columbarium. The door was standing open.”
A violent oven seemed to ignite in her chest. “But how can that be? It’s a mistake.” Her eyes welled up and tears ran down her cheeks so quickly she didn’t know it was happening till drops fell on the papers she was holding.
He walked around the desk and held her close. “We’ll find it. You’re right, this is a mistake. I’ll go check it again.”
Cherrie hadn’t been held like that since a complete stranger had done the same thing in his sympathy at their father’s funeral. She was surprised it meant so much and wanted to stand there wrapped in Harold’s arms for as long as possible. As it was, he appeared to not be anxious to turn loose of her either. They’d worked at the cemetery for four years together and had never touched. Now she didn’t understand how that could have happened, along with confusion about how an urn box could go missing. Her head spun and life as she knew it no longer made sense. Even her desk looked odd from Harold’s shoulder.
The last Cherrie had heard, Harold was seeing somebody. But that was how many months ago? Her professional side made her pull back from his arms. Her father, now buried outside in the green carpet of conventional plots, had been a lifer in the Marines. Cherrie understood protocol. And standing in the middle of her office in Harold’s arms was not protocol.
Harold’s face turned red right up including his ears. He asked Cherrie to let Jerrold know he would check all of the columbarium walls in person. In fact, he would test each door to see if any were open, though that had never happened in the years he’d been associated with the cemetery. He hurried back out to his four wheeler and started toward the southeastern columbarium.
Cherrie tried to watch him go, but the fog had settled into a wall of tin plastered against the office windows.
Jerrold had driven to the extreme southwestern end of the columbarium wall. His grandfather was buried in a laydown urn plot near that end. He stopped and read the headstone marker for the ten thousandth time as he passed it. Walter Lawrence Greevy, May 6, 1962 - November 17, 1952. He took the footpath that ran between the lawn graves and the wall, checking for anything odd, somehow hoping to find the missing urn box. But found only a couple of weeds that were not there yesterday. When he got to the end he walked west toward the sea, around the perimeter of the lawn graves. He rolled down hill remembering the feel of his legs on the lurching ships he’d been assigned to as an ensign in the navy. Flying was what he’d really wanted to do, but that didn’t happen. Now, at the bottom of the cemetery where the chain link fence separated wilderness growth from manicured lawn, Jerrold gazed over the three hundred foot cliff, tried to see the ocean. He heard it below him, the surf rolling in, softly pounding against the sand with a kind of breaker thunder. If he only had wings, he’d soar out to the beautiful expanse that he knew was there. Fifteen miles north, hang gliders peeled off the same type cliffs at UC San Diego’s
Port La Jolla.
He should have been born ten years later.
Or a hundred years later when men will be able to fly on their own. He'd almost bought a hang glider once. Now he was too old.
He still couldn’t see fifty feet in front of him but he’d been there so many times before he could walk it blindfolded, with or without the fog. He’d memorized the headstones nearest the ocean and silently nodded to Peter, to Jim, to Sancho, to Nathaniel and all the rest as he continued to walk. The tour of his “friends,” calmed him as he silently made a vow to find Michael Stanley Smith.
When he returned to the office, Cherrie began to hover. Did he want a drink? Did he want to go to breakfast, take a break, call home? One message on his desk was from Harold and one said he should call his wife. He picked up the receiver and dialed his home number, though there were strict instructions to make no personal calls. Janet had never called him at work before today. The message machine picked up. Could this day get any worse?
Janet MacDonald, the funeral director’s wife, was stopped at the gate at the land end of the Point Loma peninsula. The navy guard would not raise the cross bar for her to continue to the cemetery, though he would not explain why. Alarm rose in her breast. Was the base on alert? She frantically dialed through her Lexus’ radio stations for news of some disaster.
She hadn’t treated Jerrold very well lately. He’d become remote, she’d become petulant. He hadn’t noticed. So she started making emergency plans in case he was going to leave her. She was insulted he didn’t care enough about her to see she needed more attention. If he loved her, he’d notice, wouldn’t he? Of course he would. But why did Cherrie call from Jerrold’s office? Why had Jerrold called and left no message? Only out for an hour for her standard bi-monthly pedicure, what could have happened in one hour? Jerrold had decided there was no point in having a cell phone he couldn’t use. She hadn’t known she would not be permitted on the cemetery grounds when she drove over from their retirement home just three miles away. It may as well be a hundred miles.
She’d noticed the man reading the newspaper looked at her several times while she drank her latte at Starbucks on her way to her pedicure. He didn’t have as much hair as Jerrold, wasn’t as good looking. But he smiled at her.
The woman named Natalie Christophsen who’d arrived very early for the first funeral walked to the USS Bennington Memorial to get out of the way of the cemetery staff who were distributing the leather seat cushions for mourners to sit on during the funeral services today. She read about the 62 sailors who were killed in 1905 when their ship blew up, perused their names. Then she walked up hill toward the grave locator kiosk to find where her uncle was buried. As she walked with her new found resentment, she planned the steps she would take today.