"My father was a great..."
she took a deep breath to hold back her tears. Her brother embraced her then
held her hand. She'd prepared a eulogy of what she would say rehearsed it line
for line. She didn't think that it would be this difficult. The reality of
losing her father had not set in until now. The finality of death had not
confronted her until this very moment. The coffin the flowers the hymns everybody
dressed in all-black. He was gone. Her father was gone. She crumpled the little
piece of paper that she'd written the eulogy on and stuck it in her brother's
"Are you sure about this?" he whispered to her. The church was dead-silent.
She wiped her tears with a tissue and nodded to her brother before proceeding with her eulogy "I'd written and rehearsed a speech about what I was going to say about my father. Most of it was what I thought everyone here would expect me to say. I even googled some of it. I was going to tell you what a great man my dad was and how much we are all going to miss him. But looking at this coffin right now it reminded me that I don't have to lie anymore because he can't do anything to me. Truth is I barely knew my dad because he spent more time at the office than he did with us. I remember when I was young I'd tell mom that when I meet my dad I want him to be like the cool man in a suit who always came to our house. As it turned out that cool man in a suit was my dad. She'd tell me this and I'd be confused because even at that young age I knew that dads were supposed to spend time with their kids and I didn't understand why mine didn't. When I asked why he didn't spend time with us..." she took a deep breath again took a nervous glance at her mom Katherine she was leaning on her fiancé's shoulder "Lamar was not a great dad. He was not supportive he was not loving he was not present in our lives and even now I don't know why I'm crying because I barely knew him. I don't even think he knew when my birthday was. That's the type of father he was. Grandpa Richard was more of a father to us than he could ever be. But with all his faults he was still a human being and he didn't deserve to be murdered like a dog. He didn't deserve to have his life cut short. He might not have been a good father but he deserved to live because there are worse human beings than him out there. Rest in peace Lamar." She leaned on her brother and he ushered her off the stage without a word for he too had not lost a father but a stranger whose face he recognized. The Reverend took to the pulpit and continued with the rest of the session.
Benjamin Leno couldn't bear to entertain his guilt at the sight of Katherine consoling her daughter. Her son maintained a cold and stoic demeanor as if he was going out of his way to prove that he was unaffected by the occasion. Benjamin was uncomfortable enough at the fact that he'd seen McCarthy walk into the church earlier. He could see Katherine was moved by her daughter's words and he was hoping that for everyone's sakes she'd be able to hold her nerve and stick to their story. He took a glance at the other Knight family members. Richard Knight who was flanked by his two girlfriends looked like he was at a boring board meeting showing less emotion than a mannequin. He was completely unmoved by the occasion and was making no attempt to act like he was. Maxwell Knight the most carefree of them all looked as high as he was the day before and the day before that. He too like his father was flanked by two girls. Except unlike his father his girls had gold digger slash stripper slash wannabe model written all over them. They looked more out of place than a priest at a brothel. The only Knight who looked like she was at a funeral of a family member apart from Katherine and her kids was Miracle. She played the role of the caring aunt and sister to perfection with the occasional I'm-watching-you glance at Benjamin. He'd accepted by now that there was no love lost between them and had made peace with the fact that Miracle would never like him. After all she had every reason to feel the way she felt a pity no one believed her. He never liked funerals they always reminded him of his father's an occasion that scarred him to this day. He rose from his seat and headed outside to get some fresh air. A nod at Katherine was enough to excuse himself.
The breeze outside the church was just what he was looking for. It was fresh and gentle perfect for reflection. The previous year had been full of ups and downs and he had no intentions of going with that same energy into 2020. He considered it symbolic that he was starting off the year with the burial of his biggest threat. It meant he had a chance to start the new year on a clean slate. The church was built on high ground giving a perfect view of Loneville. The streets he once ran and roamed like a lion in his prime. Now he answered to Richard Knight. He had a boss like his father he was a nail waiting to get hammered. But unlike his father he'd make sure that...
"It's a beautiful day wouldn't you say?"
He turned to his left to see McCarthy. Ever since that day when she betrayed him he hadn't seen her so close so calm and confident. He'd almost forgotten how beautiful she was. She'd cut her hair short and styled it into shiny curls bringing out her eggshell complexion. Her matte burgundy lipstick brought out her full lips and also complimented her fair complexion. She was beautiful alright but her suit and gun quickly reminded Benjamin who he was dealing with. "Couldn't agree more" he replied.
"I don't think we've been formally introduced" she extended her hand "I'm Lieutenant Ntombi McCarthy Loneville Special Crimes Division."
"Nice to meet you lieutenant." He shook her hand "I'm Leno Benjamin Leno." He could feel the electricity between them the minute he shook her hand. Ironically she still wore the same perfume he'd brought for her when they were still together. Was it possible that she still felt something for him? Reminisced about him when no one noticed? The thought alone felt disarming and he quickly dismissed it.
"Sad isn't it? A man murdered in his own home in cold blood."
That felt more like a probing question than a statement Benjamin thought "It's a tragedy. I didn't know him that well but like his daughter said no one deserves to die like that. I hope you'll do everything in your power to catch the culprit."
"Hmm trust me when I tell you Mr...?"
"Leno. Please call me Benjamin."
"Trust me when I tell you Benjamin that I will not rest until I find who's responsible for this" McCarthy declared.
"You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. The thought of those kids not knowing what happened to their father? No child deserves to go through that. Even I sleep in fear wondering am I next? Could it be me who's found dead the next day?"
"What makes you think that?" McCarthy probed directly this time "What makes you think that you could possibly be next? Do you have anyone around you that you suspect? A family member perhaps?"
Benjamin shook his head and shrugged his shoulders "No not at all and that's what makes it so scary. I feel like Lamar was a sheep surrounded by wolves. The manner in which he died gave me the impression that he messed with the wrong person played with wolves. There's no room for sheep in the game of wolves."
McCarthy face changed immediately she felt like she had all the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle but was missing one "That last part. Where did you hear that?"
Benjamin realized why her face had changed he had stumbled "What?"
"The saying about sheep and wolves. I once knew a man who always made metaphors about sheep and wolves. I've never heard anyone mention them until now" said McCarthy. First it was the results from the lab showing Thomas Reeves' DNA at the crime scene of someone connected to the Knights. Now here was another person connected to the Knights mentioning metaphors that reminded her of him. What was the link? What was she missing? Why was Thomas Reeves everywhere but nowhere to be seen?
Benjamin laughed it off "Come on Lieutenant anybody who's been to English class can use that metaphor. What was his name?"
"Thomas Reeves know him?"
"Nope. Never heard of him."
"Really? That's funny. As far as I know everyone in Lone.. Scratch that everyone with a TV in South Africa knows who Thomas Reeves is. How come you don't know him?" she didn't know what but she was now certain that Benjamin was hiding something.
"My business has been taking me all over the world in the past five years. I can't even tell you what was happening in politics. I've never heard of this... Thomas Reece."
McCarthy smiled to herself "You know this might sound weird but whenever I see you I feel like I know you from somewhere. It's almost like that feeling where if I knew where I know you from I'd remember you" McCarthy said.
"Really? I'm sorry but I don't think we've met before. I travel a lot maybe we bumped into each other at a tourist destination."
"Hm maybe. So why are you out here? What's your excuse?" she changed the subject not because she was giving up but because she'd have this conversation with Benjamin again and she knew that if he was lying he'd miss a little detail his story would be a little different. It would be then that she would pounce on him like a predator and find out what he was hiding.
"Funerals are not my thing too depressing. What's your excuse?" She was fishing for something and he knew it. He had two options return into the church and not find out what it was or risk a conversation with her and play mind games.
"Me too the sombre mood tends to be overwhelming. So
"Are you asking me that out of curiosity or as a lieutenant?"
"Does it matter? I mean it's a pretty straightforward question."
"It does I need to know if anything I say to you will be used against me in a court of law so that I can exercise my right to remain silent" Benjamin pointed out. The mind games had begun.
"People who have nothing to hide have no problem answering questions from the police curious or otherwise. Which makes me wonder Mr Leno do you have something to hide?"
"Again are you asking me that out of curiosity or as a lieutenant?"
McCarthy smiled revealing her perfect set of white teeth "Okay let's play it your way. I'm asking you out of curiosity."
"Then in that case my answer to your first question is I didn't know the man very well."
"Yet here you are with his wife crying at your shoulder."
Benjamin shrugged his shoulders.
"You haven't answered my second question. Are you hiding something?"
"That's a very broad question."
"It's either you're hiding something or you're not Mr Leno."
"It's not that black and white lieutenant. It depends what you mean by something. Am I hiding my HIV status from you? Yes. Am I hiding my browsing history from you? Yes. Am I hiding my bank balance from you? Definitely. I'm hiding a lot of things from you right now. So you see? Unless you tell me exactly what it is that you're looking for I can't exactly answer your question unequivocally" Benjamin said calmly this was the calmest he'd ever been around McCarthy since she betrayed him. This was the point in a chess game where he'd look at her and say check. It was her turn to make her move.
"Are you hiding anything that might help me solve this case?"
"Ah now you see that's more specific" Benjamin pointed out. "But I have to ask again are you asking that out of curiosity or as a lieutenant?"
McCarthy moved closer to him "Do you think I'm playing games here?"
Benjamin took off his thick-framed designer spectacles "Not at all I think you possess the shameless temerity to interrogate me at a funeral and I'm trying my best to accommodate you to the best of my ability."
"I don't know what's going with you or this family but I have a feeling that one of you knows who killed that man. I'm going to turn every stone. I'm going to work day and night if I have to but I will get to the bottom of this and I will find the truth. And when I do the questions I'll be asking you will not be out of curiosity" McCarthy warned.
"Is everything okay here?" Katherine said as she joined them.
"Hey honey. Oh everything is fine. The lieutenant was just extending her condolences and telling me how far she is with the case."
"Oh really? So how far are you?" Katherine asked. Her voice soft from weeping.
"We are following every lead that we have. As soon as something comes up your family will be the first to know."
"We'd appreciate that" Katherine said "Now if you don't mind I'd like to steal this one away."
McCarthy nodded "My condolences for your loss. I want you to know that my team and I will do everything in our power to find the person responsible for the murder of your husband." She turned to walk away but then turned back around "Oh and another thing here's my card. Please if you think of anything no matter how insignificant you think it may be even if you just want to talk call me. That number is available day and night."
"Thank you" Katherine said as she took the card. She turned to Benjamin as McCarthy walked to her car. "We need to talk Benjamin."
"Okay like now or?" Benjamin replied skeptically noticing the seriousness on his fiancé's face.
"I can't do this..." she said.
Benjamin was immediately alert "What do you mean you can't do this? Katherine what are you talking about?"
"When I saw the kids standing there how broken they were. They are confused and in pain and it suddenly dawned on me that this is all my fault..." She looked at him straight in the eyes "I can't just sit back and watch them suffer while I know what happened to their father. I have to tell them the truth. This secret is eating me up inside like a toxic chemical it's weighing me down. I need to..."
She did not just say that not after the chat he'd just had with McCarthy "Katherine listen to me" Benjamin couldn't believe what he was hearing. If he knew that the funeral would trigger Katherine like this he would have found a way to counter it. She was in a state her breathing was heavy her hands were shaking and her face was bright pink. "If you want to talk to anyone you can talk to me. I'm always here for you Kat. We're in this together" he brushed her shoulders.
"I'm not doing this for me the kids need to know the truth about what happened to their father."
"If you tell anyone anything we will both end up in prison."
"I don't care!" Katherine snapped then looked around to see if she hadn't attracted any attention. She whispered "I don't care. I would rather go to prison than go crazy."
"You'd rather go to prison? And what do you know about prison Katherine? Have you ever slept with one eye open constantly worrying about who might strangle you in your sleep? Have you ever been in a kill or be killed situation? Have you ever slept in a cold cell that reeks of urine and faeces while you're surrounded by murderers and killers who are infected by all kinds of contagious diseases? If you'd rather go to prison than go crazy that is what you'll deal with and you'll still go crazy."
Katherine paused. Benjamin had a point. There was no way that she could survive prison. She was not built or equipped to survive in that environment "Okay maybe I'm being melodramatic. But I need to talk to someone even if it's a therapist. This thing is going to drive me crazy Benjamin."
"Of course. I'll find a professional that you can talk to okay? Just don't tell the kids or anyone in the family this needs to stay between us. Listen I'm not saying I'm going to replace Lamar but I will do everything in my power to be a father figure to your kids our kids. Your boy will have everything he needs."
"He's a teenager are you sure you're ready for that?"
"I'm ready to make you the happiest woman in the world. If that means dealing with your teenage son then so be it. If you want to talk to someone we can go for couples therapy or you can see someone on your own if you like" said Benjamin.
"Thank you and please no more surprises no more secrets and lies" Katherine embraced him tightly finding comfort in his arms. She might have lost the father of her children but she felt like she had found her soulmate. "Benj?"
"Yes my love?" Benjamin said relieved that he had managed to calm down her nerves.
"Can I ask you something?"
She broke free from his embrace so that she could look at him in his eyes "How do you know so much about prison life?" Katherine asked not once breaking eye contact with him