On Jerrold’s return from walking Janet to her car, he opened the office door into Natalie, bumping her with the knob. “Oh, sorry. I thought you’d gone. We’ll follow through on your request...”
“Well, I came back to give you this box I found in my car.” Natalie reopened the closed door as she pointed at Cherrie standing behind the urn with a huge teary smile on her face.
“Is that what I hope it is?” He said, and hurried over to the counter. “Oh, thank God, it is.” His mind turned liquid with relief. He looked back at Natalie, standing with a question mark on her face. “You have no idea how important this is.” He knew he should capture the box for fingerprints, call the FBI to question Natalie about the possibility of her taking the box. He quickly weighed that against the publicity the cemetery didn’t need, that VA couldn’t sustain. It seemed like there was no way to make some people happy. The exhumation in progress today at the northwest columbarium was at the request of a woman who had moved her departed husband three times already to improve his “view.” The media had seen fit to deplore the VA’s tactics for mistreating the deceased’s ashes on the third move.
If he called in the authorities, the jobs of all the employees would be at stake, along with an investigation that may run for years. If he did not call them and the issue came up again, the jobs of all the employees would be at stake. “Would you please give me your phone number and let me verify your address with your driver’s license?” he said to Natalie. “I am quite sure we will be able to rectify the issue with your mother’s burial site. Do the papers you have left us include where she is buried at this time?” Natalie's questions and curiosity vanished.
When Harold came by with a donut he’d brought for Cherrie, she shared the news of the found Michael Leonard Smith urn, which Jerrold had returned to its proper place in the columbarium wall. He asked Cherrie if he could take her and her children to
park on next Saturday
afternoon. He had some toy sailboats the
children might enjoy sailing around the bay.
If Michael Leonard Smith had not gone missing, he would never have had
the opportunity to ask Cherrie this question. His reticence around Cherrie seemed to have vanished. Mission
Jerrold went home for lunch. He hadn’t done that in forty five years. He wanted to share the returned urn news with Janet. When they talked about it, she thought how fortunate that Michael Leonard Smith had gone missing long enough for her to realize what a fine man she’d married. Her disrespect for him had somehow vanished. “Sometimes you just have to do what’s practical instead of the letter of the law,” she told him. She recalled a magazine she’d read with an advertisement for hang gliding lessons and rides. Jerrold’s birthday was next month.
Vincent had looked under every shrub along the northwest fenceline from the kiosk to the wilderness area which was inaccessible by car. He saw Harold approach by foot across the grass between the headstones. Suspicion, on a low setting inside him raised to medium heat.
“Vince, they’ve found the missing urn box inside a woman’s car.”
“Why’d she take it?” he snarled.
Harold didn’t seem to notice Mitch’s reaction. “Nobody knows. The woman said she found it on her front seat and took it to the office. I wanted to catch you before you turned over every leaf on the peninsula. I know how thorough you are.”
Could this be a compliment? “Where were you when it showed up?”
On the other side of the columbarium complex with the other crew, looking for it. I didn’t want to interfere with the funeral.
“When are the authorities going to show up?” So we can all get fired.
“Well, that’s the thing. Jerrold and I don’t want to lose our jobs, and don’t want you to lose yours either. You’re too valuable to this place.”
Suddenly glad he hadn’t raised his speculation about Harold taking the ashes, Vince didn’t remember the last time gratitude had been in his mind. His suspicious feelings about Harold vanished. Vince wondered if he’d feel this way about Harold if Michael Leonard Smith hadn’t gone missing. Or been found. Maybe he wouldn’t have to start job hunting again after all. Maybe he wouldn’t have to endure being under suspicion of taking the ashes out of the wall.
Jose finally understood what Vince had told them. The urn had been found so his job was safe. He still had peace in his life to look forward to. His fears quietly vanished. While he was looking for the box, he’d decided to take his relatives with him and go to the night school where they could all learn to speak English. His relatives would be able to find jobs if they could speak this language. His own English was not very good. But they all could not continue to live together in this country. They needed peace. The loss of the urn and possibly his job helped him make up his mind about this.
Mitchie was Alejandro’s hero. He wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
He would do anything Mitchie told him to. So when Mitchie told him the urn had been found and it was all because of such a thorough search, Alejandro was proud of himself.
He hadn’t felt proud of anything in a long long time. If Mitchie hadn’t told them to search hard for the urn, it never would have been found, even if none of them had actually found it. Mitchie said that sometimes the harder you work the luckier you get. And the luck could come from a direction you never considered. Perhaps from the vanished urn of Michael Leonard Smith.