My City by the Bay (Chapter 4, Part 3 of 4)

Chestnut Grove

“Do you see her?” Benelli slowly rolled the SLS down a side road bordering the graveyard. Evening was making its way toward the bay, and the two of them wouldn’t have much time to screw around. The somewhat honest people of the neighborhood started to wrap up their day and lock down their possessions. Few were up for the hilarity and hijinks the slum provided in the night time. There were enough hassles in broad daylight.

“Nothing yet. Let’s park the car and search on foot.” Sig indulged his nervous habit of smoothing out the wave in his hair. He was getting nervous. It may have been the coffee though. “She can’t be too far.”

The vehicle slid into a parallel spot, and they stepped out into the misting rain. The whether there wasn’t the most predictable, but Sig always thought weathermen didn’t know rain from shine regardless. What exactly did they do all day in meteorology school anyway? Who knew? It was best to just roll with the punches and deal with the consequences.

“We’ll need to work quickly, if we want to find her. I don’t know too many cart vendors that will work in a darkened downpour.” Sig stared up at the sky.

Walking the perimeter didn’t reveal much. Light, while giving a valiant effort, was on its way to a retreat. There wouldn’t be enough time to accommodate to a search of the interior.

“Dammit! She must be gone.” He slammed his palm on the wrought iron gate.

“There’s always tomorrow.” Benelli knew it wasn’t much of a consolation prize.

“No! We need this now! Nownownownow!” Each command was summoning a blow to the gate. Rust from the neglected iron covered his hand.

“Come on now, Sig, I know you were close to Sal but we haven’t seen her anywhere. She’s probably gone for the day.” That would be the only logical explanation for it. How else would an old lady be able to evade them?

“God damn it, Benelli! I want her now!” His brittle side surfaced after several days of stress.

“Calm down!” She was starting to lose her patience as well.

“Calm down?! I’m perfectly fi…” Sig stopped in mid-sentence and completely forgot his frustrations at the moment. “Do you hear that?” He scanned the horizon.

“Hear what?” Benelli was less than impressed with the non-sequitur.

“It sounds like some sort of… cowbell.” It certainly wasn’t a sound fit for the city.

“No, I don’t. Wait, yeah, it sounds like a cowbell. It’s coming from inside the cemetery.”

No sooner did she say that then a small figure with a catering cart appear at the mouth of the graveyard. She was aged and petite, with grey hair wrapped up in a scarf and in a black dress. She stopped her plodding to look at the two officers with annoyance. “You shouldn’t be carrying on like that, young man. There are still dead here to be respected.” She was quiet but got her point across.

Wasting little time on debate, Sig spoke up. “I apologize for getting out of line, ma’am, but you see I’m the doghouse with my girlfriend and a vendor recommended you. It sounded like he was your husband. The other florists around here didn’t have anything I wanted, and he told me to give you a try.”

“I would imagine so, on all accounts.” She was a judicial person; there was no doubt about that. “He always enjoys making money. You wouldn’t happen to be this gentleman’s attachment, would you miss?”

Benelli took a moment to register the question and with a few awkward, jerky movements answered, “What? Oh, no. I’m his par… friend.” She always came down hard on herself for not being as fluid an actress as she could be. Like most people, she was her worst critic.

With a suspicious tone, the elderly lady turned to Sig. “Well, I can see why you’re in such trouble with your romantic life. Brazen men like you always do first and ask for forgiveness later. If you don’t take care of it now, it’ll catch up with you.”

Even though Sig reddened out of injury, he thought it provided a more convincing act. Knowing when to bite one’s tongue is important in this line of work. “Err, well, yeah. I’ll make it up to her, starting with this.” The nervous smile was ambiguous enough, but the whole act was starting to require effort. He really didn’t want it to unravel on him so soon, but the needling was getting under his skin. “What do you recommend for sweeting up a significant other?”

The old woman stood back and surveyed her inventory. After a moment of moving flowers back and forth, she pulled together a mix of blue delphinium, white roses, and yellow aster. “I think this should do nicely. If it works for that one man, then I’m sure it’ll work for you. That will be seven dollars, dear.”

“One man?” Sig almost fell over himself to pull out information.

“Oh, yes, there’s another man who’s frequently in trouble with his woman. You two seem to have something in common, but he’s much larger than you. Sweet little boy, though. He visits me all the time. Most people buy my flowers for graves. It’s nice to have the recipient see them every now and then. Here, take the bouquet, and you get your life together. Do you understand me, sonny?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he shot a tired look at his partner. This routine had worn out its welcome. “If I ever need you again, where can I find you?”

“Oh, my dear, I walk this area all the time. You heard the bell before I showed up, correct? Just follow the ring and I’ll be around.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

The matriarch laid her bony hands on the cart and moved it down the sidewalk. Since it was getting dark, she was more than likely going back to her house for the evening. Tiny would have to wait to buy flowers either tomorrow or the next day.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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