Poor In Spirit
Organ music echoed in the background of the church as the pastor stood up to begin the service. Sunlight poured through the mosaic window behind him, shining like a halo around his black-clad form as he intoned a familiar prayer. Nora Rain sat in the second pew on the right side of the small church; the last person in a row filled with solemn, square men in crisp dress blues and their teary-eyed spouses. Eyes shining, she stared beyond the altar at the stained-glass depiction of the cross; a tissue crumpled between her hands as they rested on the pressed navy skirt of her own uniform. A small sniffle escaped her and she took a shaky breath, the events of the past week parading through her mind as the pastor began his sermon.
Pete had been standing beside her, his crooked grin stretching through the field of a graying beard when the shots rang out. They both dropped flat at the sound. Nora caught sight of a purple sedan screeching across the parking lot – the barrel of a rifle hanging out the rear window – before she covered her head and a few more bullets struck the ground around them, the perp emptying his magazine before pulling away.
Her eyes settled on the three women huddled together in the first pew – Mrs. Krakofsky clinging to her daughters as Pastor Wyatt spun a sermon out of her husband's life and God's word. Nora had been unscathed by the drive-by, getting shakily to her feet and preparing to call for backup when she noticed Pete's unmoving form.
"The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart…"
The tissue in her hands tore as Nora refocused on Wyatt's sermon. No one ponders, my ass, she thought bitterly as she recalled Pete's ghost-white face staring up at her. He'd died before he hit the ground, but that hadn't stopped her from flipping him over and pumping her hands on his chest the way she'd learned back in nursing school. By the time the paramedics had arrived she'd performed hundreds of compressions, her voice cracking as she begged Pete to come back. They had to pry her, soaked in his blood, off him so they could declare the DOA.
"Rain…" Her partner whispered harshly.
She shook herself out of her reverie and met Reid's eyes briefly as the congregation clambered to their feet, women and men alike taking a moment to wipe their eyes and noses before joining their voices in the singing of a familiar hymn. Reid bumped shoulders with her, the teensiest hint of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth before he added his voice to the mix. The chorus of 'How Great Thou Art' grated against Nora's nerves and she pursed her lips as they moved onto the second verse.
"If I die, kiddo, I want them to sing 'Happy Birthday' and eat cake," Pete had once joked with them. It was Nora's first assignment in Duncanville and Pete had been trying to ease the tension as they climbed into the inflatable raft, the damned thing bobbing and rocking viscously on the turbulent Colorado as she tried to convince herself to take that first step onto the rubber deathtrap.
Pastor Wyatt offered a final prayer over the congregation and the organist started a haunting rendition of 'Amazing Grace' as he came down from the pulpit to guide Lena and the kids out of the church. Sammy stepped forward to lead the officers in one final salute before the casket was carried out. With her own salute shadowing her face from view, Nora mouthed the words to 'Happy Birthday'.
It had taken her six months before she found an opportunity to ask Pete why he wanted that particular song played at his funeral.
"I guess I've always thought that going to Heaven was something to be celebrated – a true second birth, you know?"
She didn't know then and she was even less certain now. As the pallbearers – all CSP officers who worked with Pete regularly – lifted the casket from its perch at the front of the church and followed Wyatt down the aisle, Nora plopped back onto her seat, her eyes resting once again on the cross behind the pulpit. Did Pete make it to heaven? She wondered mutely if there was even such a thing or if it was just a story made up to give widows hope. Widows like Lena, widows like Nora's mom.
The familiar feeling of tears tickled her eyelids as Nora thought about her father. Grant Rain had been a decorated police office in Denver before a heart attack took his life. Nora had to drop out of nursing school to help her Mom cope – she wondered briefly if one or both of the Krakofsky girls would do the same. Probably, she knew their family didn't have a lot of relatives in this part of the state.
Nora jumped, surprised to find herself sitting in a nearly empty church. Denny plopped down next to her, his head tilting as he followed her gaze to the stained-glass.
"Everyone's heading over to the graveyard," he said.
She nodded. "We probably should get going."
Neither of them moved. Denny plucked a cloth kerchief out of his pocket and offered it to her without even glancing in her direction. Nora wiped her eyes, her torn tissue forgotten as she blinked away the memories and took a deep breath.
"Pete was a believer," The older officer said out of the blue.
"Yes," she agreed. "I suppose he was."
Denny reached over, his hand patting her knee gently as he turned his age-wizened eyes onto her. "I don't put stock in much, Kid, you know that."
She smiled slightly, recalling the first time she'd met Denny. 'Cynical geezer,' Reid had whispered in her ear after the former Sergeant left the room in a tizzy over his successor letting a girl onto the force. She nodded again, uncertain where Denny was heading with his line of thought.
"But when you've been in this business as long as I have been, as long as Pete and your Daddy were, you come to acknowledge that there must be a God."
Nora bit her tongue. Sure, she'd been raised in the Church and knew about God, but after what happened to Pete it was hard to see how a being so supposedly loving could let cold-blooded murder happen. She stood, offering her hand to Denny as she sniffed one last time.
"We really should catch up, Sarge," she deflected.
He joined her, his height towering over her as he laid a hand on her shoulder, forcing her to look at him. Nora did, her lips set in a firm line – she did not want to have this conversation. Denny grinned at her, pinching her chin in a grandfatherly way before leading her out of the pew.
They stopped just short of the entrance to the Church, Nora almost bumping into Denny as he turned abruptly. "Don't let the actions of men like Ray Dice reflect poorly on the Lord, Kid. Pete didn't die because God wanted him to; he died because Dice lets sin rule his life. He died because Dice wanted him, and you, dead."
Nora opened her mouth, her retort halted by Denny's look.
"It's her faith that'll get Lena through Pete's passing," he said, tilting his chin down in a way that was reminiscent of a teacher looking over their glasses at a student. "The same way it got your mama through Grant's. Faith and good people like you."
Nora shook her head, suddenly feeling as out of place as she had when she'd first moved to the small town. "I don't know how you can believe that, Sarge, not after everything you've seen."
He smiled, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and leading her out of the church and toward his jeep. "You will someday, Kid. God's not in any hurry."
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Well, this is my first story on Fictionpress. I've been writing Fanfiction for an old police show for years now, and finally have decided to try my hand at some original fiction. Thanks so very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this first peek into my 'Duncanville' universe.