Killing Floor

Page 132


We sat around talking, miserable, until dawn. I asked her to do one last thing for me. I asked her to arrange a funeral for Joe. I told her I wanted Finlay to be there, and the Hubbles, and the two old barbers, and her. I told her to ask the old guy’s sister to be there and sing a sad song for Joe. I told her to ask the old lady where the meadow was where she’d sung along with Blind Blake’s guitar, sixty-two years ago. I asked her to scatter Joe’s ashes on the grass there.

ROSCOE DROVE ME DOWN TO MACON IN THE BENTLEY. Seven in the morning. We hadn’t slept at all. The trip took us an hour. I sat in the back, behind the new black glass. I didn’t want anybody to see me. We drove up the rise from her place and threaded through traffic. The whole town was getting packed. Even before we got up to Main Street, I could see the place was swarming. There were dozens of cars parked up everywhere. There were television trucks from the networks and CNN. I hunched down in the back of the car. People were crowding everywhere, even at seven in the morning. There were ranks of dark blue government sedans all over. We turned at the corner where the coffee shop was. People were lining up on the sidewalk, waiting to get in for breakfast.

We drove through the sunny town. Main Street was parked solid. There were vehicles up on the sidewalks. I saw fire chiefs’ cars and state police cruisers. I glanced into the barbershop as we crawled past, but the old guys weren’t there. I would miss them. I would miss old Finlay. I would always wonder how things turned out for him. Good luck, Harvard guy, I thought. Good luck, too, to the Hubbles. This morning was the start of a long road for them. They were going to need a lot of luck. Good luck, too, to Roscoe. I sat there, silently wishing her the best of everything. She deserved it. She really did.

She drove me all the way south to Macon. She found the bus depot. Parked up. Handed me a small envelope. Told me not to open it right away. I put it in my pocket. Kissed her good-bye. Got out of the car. Didn’t look back. I heard the sound of the big tires on the pavement and I knew she was gone. I walked into the depot. Bought a ticket. Then I crossed the street to a cheap store and bought new clothes. Changed in their cubicle, left the filthy old fatigues in their garbage can. Then I strolled back and got on a bus for California.

I had tears in my eyes for more than a hundred miles. Then the old bus rattled over the state line. I looked out at the southeast corner of Alabama. Opened Roscoe’s envelope. It was the photograph of Joe. She’d taken it from Molly Beth’s valise. Taken it out of the frame. Trimmed it with scissors to fit my pocket. On the back she had written her telephone number. But I didn’t need that. I had already committed it to memory.


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