VANISHED PART IV
Alejandro finally found Mitchie’s crew over the bayside hill on the lighthouse end of the cemetery. They had just finished trying to mow, but the fog had saturated the grass to the point that it clung to the hardware in clumps and clogged the blades in low areas. They spent the allocated time moving rocks out of the way for new grass to be rolled along the fenceline while they waited for the fog to burn off as the sun rose higher in the sky. The four men stood with their mouths open while he explained about the missing urn box. “No, no, no, no,” one of them said. Another whispered, “This cannot be.”
For his part, Mitchie, who was parallel crew chief with Alejandro, in charge of four men, felt anger burn words inside his brain. He knew better than to explode them into the atmosphere, because his men expected more from him. If he did not have their respect, then he would make a very poor crew chief. He’d been taught this by his father, who had been a crew chief before Mitchie. It was a prestigious job to walk among the dead every day, to care for their eternal resting place. This resting place after all, was a place of honor in the country that had dedicated itself to freedom. Mitchie’s family was not of
. He’d been born Miguelito Antonio Lucas, the
son of a Mexican family that could not survive in its own country. His father had made his way into the America before Mitchie was born. Mitchie was a citizen, of which he was very
proud. He felt as if the missing urn box
belonged to his family alone. Anger was
the best substitute for tears. United
So Mitchie tamped down his anger. “We will find this urn box. We will stop working our job and search every inch of this peninsula until we find it,” he said between his clenched teeth.
Alejandro was relieved to hear this edict. It gave him faith that all would be restored. His crew, too, vowed to begin the search for the vanished box.
The men divided up the peninsula into equal search areas and began to comb every inch of grass and shrubs and rocks in different directions. They began the search to empty trash cans, look at the fronts and backs of every single tombstone, monument and marker. They would search the lighthouse and the gatehouse.
Jerrold MacDonald got the message that his wife was down at the gate, not being permitted to pass the guard. He didn’t want to tell Janet that he’d failed the Veteran’s Administration, his position as director. She’d already lost her respect for him somewhere along the way of their marriage, and now he’d lost it for himself. Michael Stanley Smith could easily have been Jerrold’s father, or even his son. He could be a decorated hero in a battle to save the
from a war played out right here at home.
The loss of his ashes was more than Jerrold could bear. He would have to deal with Janet later. United States
If they did not find Michael Stanley Smith’s box soon, he would have to tell the VA in
it was missing. Worse yet, the family would have to be told. In just over an hour the gate would have to be
opened for the mourners to arrive for the first funeral. There had been no precedent set for delaying
funerals at a national cemetery. Even if
he called every one of the mortuaries bringing deceased military veterans here
today, the logistics of delaying eighteen funerals was an impossible task. And he would be at first humiliated and
ultimately fired because it happened under his watch. He understood perfectly how the military
worked. In his dreams he’d been able to
fly and knew just how it would feel... quiet, wind rushing through his
hair. Thrilling. Washington
Harold Greevy could see a little bit of blue sky through the fog now as the desert air coming over the moutaintops overpowered its moisture. Soon the fog would be relegated to stand like a fortress over the edge of the
beach, and the sun would have control of the land for another day. He took in a big breath of air as he walked
along the columbarium walls and pushed on each of the doors. He felt so bad for Cherrie, whose husband was
buried right there on the grounds. The
missing urn may just as well have been her husband’s. He’d always admired her for taking on the
world alone with four children as she had done, but never thought she would
notice him. It was good to be
emotionally helpful to her. California
Janet MacDonald, still stuck at the gate was frantic for news of Jerrold. The guard told her it wouldn’t be much longer of a wait, even though he didn’t know what the problem was. There would be a funeral in just over an hour, with seventeen more to follow. Whatever it was would have to be rectified soon. Janet drove back into town and picked up some food and flowers for Jerrold. He loved flowers. And food always helped in a trying circumstance, whatever it was. Jerrold was such a little child in some ways. It’s what she’d found attractive about him twenty years ago. She didn’t know when he’d stopped needing her to take care of him. On her way back to the gate, she thought about how he looked when he was sleeping. Like an angel with his eyelashes soft against his cheek.
Natalie Christophson checked her purse again to make sure she'd brought everything. She glanced at her watch. Not long now.