Leah had planned the funeral completely, with Dana’s input from her mother’s will. The wake took place in Fort Myers, Florida, in a small funeral home near the police department where Dana’s mother worked. Everything was exactly to Leah and Dana’s specifications, save for a single difference: Dana’s mother, Corey Hollett, was a police officer, and a decorated one at that. The chief of police for her precinct demanded that the wake be an open-casket one, with Corey in full uniform. The latter part wasn’t a huge concern for Dana, but the former was.
The light emitted from the overcast sky was unnatural. Dana Gear stood in the funeral home courtyard, far away from the door to the building itself. She made no attempt to go in.
Dana stood with Adam Greyloch, who made the trip from Pinnacle City after Dana told him the plans.
“You’ll need to come in eventually.” Adam said to Dana, who was smoking a cigarette.
“I’ll go in when I’m ready.” Dana said.
“You need to do this.”
“I didn’t want it to be open casket, Adam.”
“It gives you closure.”
“The only thing it will give me is a goddamn nightmare. I don’t want that to be my last memory of her.”
“I’m going to go back in. Come in when you are able.”
Adam left Dana in the courtyard and walked into the building. Dana threw her spent cigarette to the ground and lit another with her back to the funeral home.
Dana continued to stand there. Every so often, she would try to get to the door, but her body prevented her from doing so. A cold chill ran through her spine.
Dana was so distressed she didn’t seem to notice the man standing behind her.
“What brand do you smoke?” the man asked.
Dana nearly jumped. She turned around to look at the man addressing her. He was in his mid-40s, wearing a navy blue dress shirt and black dress pants. A pair of red sunglasses stuck out from his shirt pocket. His hair should have been graying, but it was jet black.
“Sapphire 99s.” she said.
“Unfiltered. Impressive.” The man said. “My dad used to smoke like that. He was up to three packs a day before he died.”
“Jesus. That man must have loved his cigarettes.”
“If he had redeemed his Marlboro miles, they probably would have built a statue in his honor.”
“How is everything going inside?” Dana asked.
“Haven’t gone in yet. The two-dozen cop cars outside are kind of intimidating.”
“The chief practically demanded that she be dressed in uniform.”
“I could imagine. It’s hard to refuse something like that.”
“I wish I did. They’re acting like they’ve supported me and my mom forever. The police chief fired her after she got cancer. Fuck him. I‘ll kick him in the head if I can.”
“I have nothing now. She was it. I never knew my father. No family, no future…”
“Oh, come on. That can’t be true.”
“Oh, it is. Trust me.”
“You know, I think this conversation would go a little better if you told me your name.”
Dana cleared her throat.
“My name is Dana. I’m Corey’s daughter.”
“Dana Hollett. It’s a lovely name.”
“It’s ‘Gear’, actually. Dana Gear. My mother gave me my father’s last name. I don’t really know why.”
“What about you?”
“I met Corey at a Nada Surf concert in 1997.”
“That’s… Well, that’s interesting.”
Dana finished her cigarette and lit another.
“You should probably head in soon.” The man said.
“I… I can’t.” Dana said.
“Because it’s an open-casket. The cops demanded that, too. I can’t stand to see my mother like that.”
“You won’t get another chance to see her at all.”
“I can’t have that be my last memory of her. I want to remember her alive.”
“You still do.”
“If I go in there, that image will haunt me.”
“Only if you let it.”
Dana took a drag of her cigarette.
“I want to remember the woman who taught me how to defend myself in a fight. Or the woman who nearly threw my high school principal across his office for threatening to suspend me for wearing a leather jacket to school.” Dana said.
“A leather jacket? Really” The man asked.
“They had this idea that people who wore leather jackets were in a gang, or something. My mom changed that.” Dana said.
“Seems like your mother was a hell of a woman.”
“I’ve got a hypothetical question to ask you, Dana.”
“If you were in that casket, where would your mother be?”
Dana stood in silence for about 15 seconds. She began to tear up.
“Right next to it.” Dana said.
“Seems like she wouldn’t have minded if she saw you like that.”
“Nothing really fazed her, so, no. Probably not.”
“You don’t have to go in there. But I’m sure you’ll miss out on a lot if you don’t.”
“It’s not a tomb in there or anything like that.”
“I know that.”
“Judging by the half mile line of cars along the sidewalk and the cops redirecting traffic at the light, I’d say there are a lot of people here to see your mom one last time.”
Dana took another drag.
“I’d bet a bunch of those people are here to get a glimpse of Leah Arcast, too.” Dana said.
“Wait, Leah Arcast is here?” The man asked.
“We are talking about the woman from Repeat Defender, right?”
“Yeah. She actually helped me put this together. I live with her daughter, Edith.”
“That definitely explains the bouncer at the front door.”
“Yeah. Leah’s been running her father’s company for the better part of 15 years, now. Seems like the USA network keeps re-running her show, though.”
The man took a look at Dana, who was a little more relaxed than before.
“I’m sure you have people to see in there.” The man said.
“Yeah, I guess I do.” Dana said.
“Just give it a shot. What can happen?”
“You’d need to do a lot more than pay your respects at a funeral before that’ll happen.”
“Plus, there are probably a hundred people in there. If you aren’t confortable, they’ll be there to talk with, too.”
“I didn’t think of it that way.”
Adam Greyloch came out from the funeral home building. He made his way to the courtyard where Dana and the man were talking. Dana put out her cigarette as Adam approached.
“How’s it going?” Adam asked.
“I… I think I’m ready to go in.” Dana said.
“That’s good to hear.” Adam said.
As Dana began to walk to the door of the funeral home, she stopped and turned around.
“Thanks for talking to me. I feel a lot better now. A whole lot better.” Dana went to the unknown man and gave him a hug.
The man reached into his front shirt pocket to retrieve the sunglasses that had been placed there.
“Make sure your mother gets these.” The man said as he passed the sunglasses to Dana.
“Are they hers?” Dana asked.
“She left them at my apartment. I never got the chance to give them back.” The man said.
“I’ll make sure she has them.” Dana said.
“Good.” The man said.
“Aren’t you going to go in?” Dana asked.
The man looked at Adam and looked around the courtyard.
“I’ll be inside in a minute.” The man said.
Dana made her way into the funeral home, passing through two large double doors into a crowd of dozens of people.
Adam stood in the courtyard with the unknown man. He smiled, proceeded to shake the man’s hand.
“God dammit, Colin. You could have called.” Adam said.