City of Roses

The Promise by the Headstone

In which Jack tries to fill Storm's shoes

Riverview Cemetery, Portland, OR
March 1st, 2012

A breeze passed through her hair as she walked along the path, gently playing with her brown locks. Her heels faintly clicked along the wet pavement, one foot in front of the other. Her coat was pulled tight around her body, as her gloved hands held onto the bouquet of white lilies.

Samantha always loved those flowers.

Jack watched her from a distance, hiding a borrowed face under his grey fedora, blue eyes squinting in the light. Even though the sky was overcast and grey, it was still too bright for him. He always preferred the night.

The woman walked down the path, then turned right at the third plot. Three rows up, five headstones in. There she was.

Jack’s face shifted, rippling like mercury. He took on a face full of wrinkles, dark hair streaked with silver, and grey eyes that had seen too much. Richard Storm extinguished the cigarette under his foot and walked down the path. Third plot, third row, fifth headstone.

Sophie was already kneeling, clearing away some moss that had tried to stake claim to the gravestone.

“Samantha Gwenevere Taylor
1956-2007
Beloved mother.”

“Hey mom,” said Sophie, placing the lilies in a small vase. Jack hanged back for moment, letting her speak. “I brought you these. Picked them up this morning down on the corner. Tina held them just for you, you know, just like every year. Lucy tried to get me to go to that new place on 7th. They have a lot of amazing arrangements. But Tina has been with us since I was six. Still have that little gardening kit you got from her.” Sophie laughed. “Lucy’s been helping me grow some herbs outside our window. Well, she’s been doing the growing. I just end up spilling a bunch of dirt over the edge and attracting a bunch of weeds. Never had your green thumb.”

Jack walked up behind her, his shoes matting the damp grass underneath. Sophie stood up and wiped her eyes. “Got one?”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “You sure?”

“Once a year isn’t going to kill me, dad.”

“What makes you think I’m holding?”

Sophie laughed again, rolling her eyes. “What? And ruin the whole image you got for yourself? Besides, you just had one. I still smell it.”

Jack smirked and took out a pack of cigarettes, removing two and passing one. As Jack was lighting his, Sophie spoke again to the grave.

“Oh don’t give me that, mom,” she said. “I just said that once a year won’t kill me.”

“Lucy might, though,” said Jack, taking a drag. “She still carries around a can of freshener whenever I show up.”

“What Lucy doesn’t know, won’t hurt her.”

“How is she?”

“FIne,” said Sophie, taking another drag. “Still worrying though. Thinks every Russian she sees is looking to kidnap her, hold her for ransom, so I’ll back of the Grekov case.”

“Well they do have a habit of making people they don’t like disappear.”

“Yeah, I know. Most people got told fairy tales when they were kids. I got stories about how Mikhael Grekov’s father used to twist his enemies’ heads off with a pipe wrench. Oh, and how my dad knocked him out with that same wrench before bringing him in.”

“Made for some interesting parent-teacher conferences. Also made the boys scared of me.”

“Not that that ever was something I needed.”

“True.”

They stood there for a while, listening to the river and the breeze.

“She’s right though,” said Jack. “Grekov probably has a few people in Salem feeding him info. He’ll know everything you and your team will try to pin him for. He’ll make excuses for most of it, pay off the right people.”

“Not this time,” said Sophie. “I’m going to see that bastard rotting in a cell until his brain turns into mush.”

“Then you know he’ll be dangerous. Only a matter of time before he tries to do something drastic. Or until he finds out who you’re related to.” Jack turned to her. “I don’t want to see you hurt because of what I did to his old man.”

Sophie took another drag. “If he does anything,” she said, “It’ll be because of what I am going to do to him.”

“I’m just worried-”

“Oh now you worry,” she scoffed. “Not when I was coming out or when mom was drinking-”

“Sophie, I worry because I’m your father. It’s my job.”

“And your job always comes first.”

Rain started to fall, making everything around the pair glisten. Sophie reached into her bag and pulled out a small umbrella while Jack turned his collar up.

The wind had died down.

Sophie took a last drag and put her cigarette out under her shoe.

“I was a shit father,” said Jack. Sophie looked up at him. He had knelt down at the gravestone, reached into his coat and took out a single red rose, laying it gently at the base of the grave. “And a worse husband. I got so tied up in work, trying to do the right thing, that I never had enough time to take care of what was really important to me.” Jack lowered his head, remembering what Storm wrote in his journals. “No I did have the time. I was just too scared and too stupid to do anything.”

He stood up, ignoring the chill in the air and the dampness on his pants. “It’s too late to make it all up to her,” he said, before looking into Sophie’s eyes. "And I won’t try asking for forgiveness. I don’t deserve it.

“All I can do is say this: I know I wasn’t always there when you needed me. And I’ll take that to my grave. But I’ll do my best for you now. It may not be much, but I promise on what’s left of my name that I’ll do right by you. You need anything, even just an ear to listen, I’ll be there. And if Grekov or his apes try anything, well…” Jack gave her a sad smile. “I’ll show them that his old dog still has his teeth.”

Sophie mirrored his smile and held out her hand. Jack offered his arm and the two leaned into each other. The rain fell in the field, gently pattering on the black umbrella, sending tiny waterfalls around them.

“I’ll hold you to that, Detective Storm,” said Sophie.

“I keep my promises, Ms. Taylor,” said Jack. “I’m a professional.”

Sophie smiled, taking comfort in the warm feeling that passed between them. She knew that promise was one that her father had made in earnest.

Sophie took one last look at her mother’s gravestone. “Bye, mom,” she said. “We’ll see you next year.”

When they reached the top of the hill, the rain stopped.

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