I went to the cemetery for the first time a week after everything happened. I'm not sure why I went there. I knew it was just Dad's body in the ground, but somehow it felt right to be here to tell him what happened. Maybe he knew already. Maybe I just wanted to unburden myself. I don't know for certain, but I knew I wanted some kind of closure on what I'd allowed to happen.
When I heard the gunshot, I had no idea what to do. Knight wiped off the gun, and dropped it by the body. Just another random shooting in LA. He looked back at us, and smiled most charmingly. "This was just family business," he said simply, looking at me directly. "But I don't think you mind, do you Miss Harris?" I wasn't sure how he knew me, but he obviously did.
"Except he knew who was the actual gunman who killed my father," I replied coldly, standing up. Justin rose with me, not sure what to do. But Knight was a businessman in all things. In that instant, he knew how to buy my silence.
"Information like that is easy to obtain," he replied calmly. "It's simply a matter of what to do with it."
"I want them to curse taking that contract every day for the rest of their lives being spent behind bars," I said without hesitating. He smiled. It was answer enough. His eyes fell on Justin.
"And you?" he asked.
"Who am I to interfere with family matters," Justin said with a little shrug. He looked at me. "Ready?" I nodded, and we left Knight to deal with the police and the press.
The next day I went to see Dr. Lee. Bradshaw made the first page as a gang shooting. I showed him the picture, and he sighed with relief. "I prayed that justice would come," he said softly. "And I was sent you. Thank you. If you ever are in need of my services, I am forever in your debt."
I was about to leave when I thought of something. There was a little something Dad could get for me at the hospital, but I was going to need a new supplier now. "Doctor," I asked, "do you ever get the amino acid Tryptophan in here?"
So now a week later, things were supposed to be trying to get back to a new kind of normal. It wasn't easy, but we were learning to adjust in little ways. Seeing Dad's empty chair at dinner still hurt like hell. I don't think all of the pain will ever go away completely, but I know things will ease in time. I have my mother and my sister, and we're family. No matter what, we're there for each other. Somehow, that makes me not being with my X-5 brothers and sisters a little more bearable.
I sat on a bench next to the grave, and told dad everything that happened. I finished by telling him that Dr. Lee was going to be able to get me Tryptophan whenever I needed it, and that Darryl Knight ended up taking Brian to Europe. The papers said that Brian was devastated by his cousin's death and ended up collapsing, falling down some stairs. That's why he was on crutches at the funeral. Knight took his son away; hoping the change of scenery would help him recover from such a terrible loss. I hoped Brian would recover from all of his demons, I really did.
A hand touched my shoulder, and I looked up quickly. Justin. I wasn't sure if I wanted to talk to him or not. I knew how angry he was at me for letting Knight get away with murder. He wanted to protect people from guys like Knight who thought they were above the law. Then I went and made a deal with the devil. He was an honorable devil though. Two days after we made our deal, two gang members were arrested and ended up confessing to the shooting. Eyewitnesses identified them and that was that. But Justin hadn't called or talked to me once since then.
"Hey," he said.
He sat down next to me, and I noticed he was holding some flowers. I wasn't sure if they were for me or for the grave. Neither of us said anything else for a while.
It took me a week to think things over. There were a few times I decided to never see her again. She'd sold out. I'd heard everyone has a price, and Knight had found hers without the slightest problem. I thought Jhondie would be different. Stronger. I thought she'd be better than that, but I was wrong. There was no way I would ever be able to prove Knight killed his nephew without Jhondie's help. She knew it too, and she sold out.
So, you might ask, what was I doing at the cemetery with flowers in hand? Like I said, I thought about plenty in the past week. I heard someone say that when two lives are meant to be intertwined, their lives will be marked by many coincidences to bring them together. I knew Jhondie had changed me in a lot of ways. Then, the day before, there was another one of those coincidences. I found something while I was digging through my closet. I sat on my bed for two hours staring at it, and finally I understood what I needed to do.
I had tried to call Jhondie that morning, but her mom said she went to the cemetery. So there I was, sitting next to her, trying to find the right words. I was the great writer, and unable to string together a coherent sentence. What a comedy. I finally stood, and held out my hand to her. I knew how to explain.
"Come on," I urged.
She looked a little doubtful, but she took my hand. I led her through the cemetery, wandering through the various paths and around the different graves. I hadn't been back here in years, but it was funny how some things were etched into your brain. We finally stopped at a single slim tombstone. Constanza Maria Carter. Beloved Wife and Mother. It was one of those coincidences that my mother was buried in the same place as her father.
I'd found a picture of her and me together in my closet. It was taken two weeks before she died. She was from Mexico, and we'd been there visiting her parents. I had sat on my bed for two hours trying to remember why we were laughing so hard in that picture. She was standing behind me in the picture, with her arms around my shoulders, and we were both grinning like lunatics. Oh yeah, we were trying to break a piñata, and Uncle Hector was drunk, and while I was blindfolded, lumbered over to me to get the stick to show it was done, and I'd whapped him a good one. He'd tried to chase me, but I outran him, and he ended up face first in the pigsty.
Closure is hard to come by. Without it, you're lost. I know people that never found it when they lost someone, and they never found themselves again. How could I judge Jhondie when letting Knight go was the only way she would ever be able to come out of the shadows? I loved my mother. My price for her would have been no different than Jhondie's.
I put the flowers on her grave. "The guy that killed her died in the crash," I said softly. "I never had to think about what was going to happen to him." Neither of us said anything for a minute.
"Was there any other way?" Jhondie asked finally. I knew what she meant.
"No," I replied. "Nothing that would have worked at any rate."
Our eyes met, and we both could see the understanding in each other. I could accept what she'd done. I would have done no differently.
"I wish you could have met my mom," I said. "She would have liked you." She smiled.
"I think I would have liked her," she said.
"Why is that?"
"She managed to raise a pretty spectacular son." And we were both smiling at each other.
That night I watched the stars from my perch outside my bedroom window while I petted Cody. The last time Dad and I had talked, I asked him why he'd become a doctor. He told me that healing was the greatest gift you could give someone. When you made someone better, you became better yourself. In some ways it was like repaying your mother for giving you the gift of life.
He could tell that last thought depressed me a little. A bunch of scientists gave me life. He took my hand and said that's why he could never hate the doctors at Manticore. They'd given him the most precious gift he'd ever received: a daughter he never knew he had until she was nine.
Healing was a gift. There would always be scar from a wound, but given time, the wound would heal. I was healing from everything that life had hit me with. I knew that now. I had my family, and I had an ally to help me along the way. I watched the stars and hoped my brothers and sisters out there were starting to heal as well. Dad, if you're really up there, watch over them too, OK? We all need it. A shooting star streaked across the night sky. It really was all good.