Because I like you kids (but still, get off my lawn!)...here's an early Christmas present to the followers of my Twelve Days of Riddler series. The third and final part!
Oh boy, let's see if I can do this quickly. Here's a list of the following reviewers whom I wish to thank who have reviewed my last story Week of the Cat after I had a chance to do so publicly: Esmeralda Smith, TanithSeh1011, S.F. Sienna, Metal Avenged, thewolfinthelookingglass, ThievingUndeadOutlaw, Dante'sRaven1993, The Lord of War and Pinkqueen. I am grateful you took the time to read and review my previous work. You are all very cool people. (I don't think I did, but if I missed anyone, I apologize!)
Robot521 and Violeta27, you are loyal as all hell and I very much love and respect you both. If real life were like Fallout, you'd both be Boone and I'd be some random dead sucker already strung up around Vault 3.
Also, I just want to say here and now that I'm in love with Sweden and if she'll have me, I'll treat her right and have her home by midnight. For reals. I won't even cop a feel or nothin'!
Chapter One: Claw & Scythe
A mysterious rash of break-in's in the Gotham area has GCPD baffled. The break-in's - ten in total since the late spring - occur at random -
She flipped the television off, heading out the door to her apartment, keys in hand.
Gotham hadn't changed at all since Eddie's death. It just went on. New villains, new threats, same old shitpile.
Outside the late spring had birthed a warm, temperate summer and she hurried through the streets, heading for the lower East side of Gotham.
The underworld had been rocked by the return of the Joker. People either stayed out of his way or just simply went into hiding, not even the villains dared make any move with the Clown Prince of Crime back in town.
Harley had left Crane the instant she heard the news and the Scarecrow wisely made himself scarce. No one had heard anything of Jonathan Crane and some even suspected he was already sunk in the bay with a none-to-happy grin on his face.
Even Ozzie knew nothing about anything, it seemed. The Penguin decided to just keep quiet for a while, mind his own business and leave the underworld to the Joker.
Ivy, busy with her son, couldn't care either way about anything and so Selina had found herself even more alone than ever.
She had never realized how little friends she had until Eddie died. No one bothered with her anymore and while that had at one time been ideal for her, it now seemed to add up to a bleak future for the Catwoman.
Fingering the keys in her pocket, she halted near an alleyway at the sound of a raucous scuffle.
"You uncouth troglodytes have no clue who you're dealing with!"
Speak of the devil. She thought with a wicked smirk.
There was no mistaking that pretentious, well educated tone.
"What's in the bag, asshole?" Someone demanded.
Peering around the corner, she found the dark alley made it hard to really make out anything. There were a group of beings, but that was about it.
"Touch me and I'll feed you to the crows, you little brats!"
Cupping her hands to her mouth, she pulled away from the corner and yelled in her manliest voice, "freeze, this is the police!"
The gang scrambled and ran, fleeing deeper into the alley, leaving it empty when she rounded the corner.
Crane, a career criminal, knew better than to join the running crowd, opting instead to hide in the shadows of a doorway for the police to chase the runners and miss him in the excitement. He emerged when he saw it was her. Kneeling to collect the remains of his paper bag in his arms.
"You know, I was just thinking of you, Jon." She greeted.
He glared up at her. "You never saw me." Stuffing what he could into the pockets of his raggedy coat, he marched off in the same direction the kids had fled.
Selina kept pace with him stubbornly. "Rumour has it that the Joker killed you."
"I'm down but not out, child." He growled. "And I'd like it to stay that way."
The meaning was very clear to her. "I'm a vault." Touching a hand to the sleeve of his coat, she pulled him in to a stop.
In the backlight of a restaurant door, she found him gaunt and sickly looking. A couple of days worth of stubble shadowed his frail looking jaw, making him look much older than he was. Bruises and cuts from his altercation with the gang left him looking absolutely rotten.
Crane was always raggedy, but his personal hygiene was always very top notch, he was never this wretched looking.
"You're bleeding." She said, touching a finger to a cut on his bottom lip.
He leaned out of her reach. "I'll be fine. Let me go."
"Don't be such an ass," she growled. "Come on, my apartment is a few blocks away. I can patch that in five seconds."
He shook his head. "I won't die."
"No, but you might attract sharks." She teased.
"Oh, is Warren out on parole?"
"Don't be stubborn, Jon."
Crane blinked and changed the subject. He was infamous for his ability to twist the subject of a conversation. "Do you miss him?"
There was no question who he was talking about. Selina stuck her hands in the pockets of her jeans.
"Who? The Great White Shark?" She asked.
Tilting his head, studying her like one would study a foreign object, Crane tucked more of his belongings into his pockets. "Don't play dumb with me, Selina, we're both too intelligent for that. You may have fooled everyone else, but I was trained to analyze people." He fell silent for a moment, before speaking again. "You must find his loss devastating. I'd imagine a woman like you who finds it hard to allow someone close to her, would find a death disheartening and earth shattering."
She wasn't sure just what to say to that.
Grasping hold of her upper arm, Crane sighed. "Come on. I would be remiss as his friend to neglect you now. But only because of my loyalty to Edward."
She wasn't sure why she allowed him to lead her to the wharf, where he took her out on a shaky skiff towards a handful of old rusting boats that were docked in the middle of the bay, but she did and when they landed on an old ship called The Lady Elliott, she thought perhaps she had lost her mind. After all, wasn't she the one who had originally tried to take care of him? How had the tables turned so rapidly?
Deep in the rotting guts of the ship, she found he had made himself a fairly liveable little home. How he lugged the wing-back chair and bookcases in the hull was a whole other topic of conversation she stowed away for later.
Eyeing a table full of bubbling concoctions, she smiled to herself. Trust Crane to always be perfecting his craft.
Across the room from her, he splayed out the items from his pockets on another table and went through them.
"I'm sorry to hear about Harley." She said.
Removing his raggedy suit jacket, Crane tossed it onto the wing-back chair carelessly, still studying the items before him. "Harleen was a warm body in a cold bed." He replied simply, unbuttoning his shirt at the cuffs.
Selina approached him. "You don't mean that."
At her side he was silent for a moment, before speaking. "My feelings for her never went beyond sexual, Selina. I miss her about as much as I would miss a masturbatory aid."
"I find that hard to believe."
He began unbuttoning his yellowed shirt.
It was then that she noticed a patch of rusty dried blood on the front of it.
"Why?" He demanded. "Because affectionate love has become something of a fad? It's merely a natural imperative that we seek out sexual companionship, I was with her because she was available and willing."
Helping him with his shirt, Selina frowned. "I think you're in self preservation mode, Crane." She replied. "Harley burned you and you've drawn back your scorched hand to your chest in response. You're a wounded animal trying to hide it from the world."
As he removed his shirt, she found the wound to his stomach was nasty and infected looking.
"Or maybe not. Jesus!" She said. "Where'd you get that?"
"Piece of scrap metal down in the hold."
"It looks infected."
"It is." He motioned to the items on the table. "I managed to find an all night chemists for the purpose of aiding my plight."
Angling her head to hide her smile, she made a small sound in her throat. "I bet it was open to all comers."
"As long as they didn't mind breaking a few laws," he replied. "Don't mind my state of undress, child."
She held up her hands. "Not at all. I may even toss you a few bills."
"Your remark isn't without it's charm, however I find you're avoiding the reason we're here in my home."
"Because you're trying to seduce me?" She teased.
"I may have several mental health problems, my child, but even I know it's a low brow move to seduce a dead friend's lover." He hopped up to perch on the table, sorting through his medical supplies.
She moved over to stand before him. "Need a hand?"
"Actually yes, I need you to stick me." He handed her over a syringe and a small bottle of something. "I'm going to clean the wound and then you need to inject me."
"I think I can handle that."
"Good," he said. "Don't pass out. I'm not going to catch you."
Saluting him rigidly, she flicked the safety cap off the needle expertly. It wasn't her first time with a needle, in her line of work injuries happened frequently. "How much?"
"Five hundred milligrams." He muttered, dabbing gently at his wound with a piece of gauze and some anti-septic.
Jabbing the point into the rubber top of the bottle, she carefully drew the needed amount.
"You handle that like a pro." He remarked. "Something the Cat keeps hidden from the rest of us?"
"Yeah, I'm a serious heroin addict." She replied. "It's why I never sleep."
"I can tell you're lying right there." He said. "Users on heroin actually get sluggish, you're thinking of crack cocaine."
"You know entirely too much about recreational drugs, Doc."
Noticing a fine sheen of sweat on his brow, Selina angled her head to the right. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Infection." He explained. "I'm running a fever. It's the entire reason why I was forced out onto the streets of Gotham in search of medical supplies. If it gets any worse I'll pass out, my brains will literally boil inside my skull and I'll die."
"Ever the life of the party." She muttered, sticking the needle into him gently.
Crane studied her as she administered her care, pale blue eyes on her every move. "You seem lacking this evening."
She withdrew the needle and recapped it, pushing a hand through her hair, before tossing the dead syringe onto the tabletop near his hip.
"I had no idea you cared that much for Edward. My assumptions were merely that he was a form to keep your bed warm at night as well and that while you may have held some form of affection for him, it was superficial at best." He went on, bandaging his wound with the clinical precision of a trained first year med student. Which given his doctorate in Psychology, he had probably been at one point in time. "Of course even the most trained professional can sometimes be misled by the masks we wear. Yours, of course, has always been cold indifference."
His words stung, wounded her a little inside. Just because she guarded herself, people assumed she didn't care for anything beyond her cats. It was the same kind of hurt that she felt when Edward accused her of staying at his apartment for a week because she was hiding from someone. Selina wasn't heartless, she wasn't cold.
"Then again I'm bordering on a death fever, I could just be talking out of my ass." Crane mumbled, slipping down off the table.
Selina watched as he moved across the rusted grating towards his chair.
Curling up, Crane drew his long legs to his chest and draped his coat over his form.
"Get the lights on your way out." He ordered. "There's an old rowboat on the starboard side you can use to get back to shore, leave it under the docks."
Nodding as though she expected this sort of dismissal from the Scarecrow, she turned and headed back the way she came.
The Iceberg was dead the next afternoon when Selina eased up to the bar and ordered a martini.
She wanted it that way. Less people to have to deal with, forcing polite niceties and idle chit-chat.
Behind the bar Ozzie popped up almost from out of thin air, smiling at her.
"My dear, your grace and beauty alone give this hellhole atmosphere." He greeted. "Do you think I could hire you to just sit there day and night?"
"Do you think you afford me, Ozzie?" She inquired.
Leaning against the bar, the short man puffed on his cigarette. "You have no idea the vast distances my wealth stretches, pussycat."
"So, no, then?"
Removing his cigarette, the Penguin held it in a gloved hand. "How are you, my lovely?"
"Why do you ask?"
"I always ask."
"No you don't."
Sighing, the man eyed the club around them. "It's been awful quiet around here these days. Everyone's laying low because of the Joker. There's no point pissing off the Bat when he's already distracted. It's eerie, in creating chaos, that madman actually brings peace to Gotham."
Playing with her skewered olive, Selina nodded. The soft jazz the band onstage was playing somehow grated her nerves, suddenly a headache began to flare up behind her eyes. A migraine was on it's way.
Downing her martini, she slid off the stool and walked off.
On her way home she stopped at a thrift store on the corner, bought a blanket and an old suit, before pausing at the grocers for some fresh vegetables and a small roast, some men's toiletries and canned goods.
These things kept her mind occupied, kept her from feeling aimless.
Standing at the check out counter, she waited for the yellow smocked girl to finish with the man in front of her. A cute, little old man who chatted amiably with the girl.
It was the sort of chatting a lonely old person would do, someone whose wife had perhaps passed on a few years back and who had no children to listen.
Behind the girl the radio played a breaking news story.
With this newest pharmacy break in, GCPD Commissioner James Gordon has issued the following statement, 'the Gotham City Police Department is certain that while the suspect has never physically injured a proprietor of these pharmacies, we still urge the people of Gotham to be cautious when approaching anyone caught loitering suspiciously outside of a store, to call the police hotline with any suspicious information regarding the street sale of the following drugs'-
Selina broke her concentration on the radio, to step forward in line with her purchases.
Later, with a hearty stew simmering away on the stove top in her apartment, she wandered to the window to look out over the city.
The words that had come from Crane's mouth the night before were still stuck in her, piercing her deep inside. She didn't think she was indifferent, but what if she was? What if everything good was taken from her time and time again because she didn't try hard enough or care deeply enough? What if she brought everything on herself?
She couldn't be indifferent. She could not be indifferent. There was too much empty space inside her now in Eddie's wake. There was no way an indifferent woman would miss someone so badly.
And she did. She missed Eddie.
Years ago the thought would never cross her mind. But since his presence had dominated her life, since his smiles and his voice and that boyish bounce in his walk, since all of it, she had felt it's absence. It was like she was just waiting for him to walk in the door, to sit on the edge of her bed and wake her up after picking her lock. There were so many things she wanted to tell him, things that she would have only told him, that she had to keep inside because no one other than him would care or understand.
She had gone from being a woman who shared nothing with no one, to a woman who had a tall, red headed Riddler pick the lock that revealed all those things. And he capered jovially amongst those secrets, before locking up behind him, keeping things between them and only them.
"Am I indifferent, Ed?" She asked the city before her, eyes searching the sky for an answer. "Was I cold to you? Apathetic?"
Naturally nothing came back to her. No answer. Nothing to put her mind at ease. Just the wailing of a GCPD cruiser as it lazily zipped under her window, heading for the west side of town.
Stepping into the large room inside the rusted out old tub of a ship, she looked around expecting Crane to be on edge, prepared to fend off an intruder.
Instead she found him hunched over his bubbling concoctions, scratching in that little notebook of his, back to her.
"I take it I'm not a threat?" She asked.
He didn't even look up. "I saw you paddling your little heart out through the porthole. And no, you're absolutely no threat."
"So you think." She replied, setting down the bag with his goodies at her feet and moving towards him with the hot plastic container of stew.
Looking up and over at her, he adjusted his silver framed glasses.
"How's the wound?" She inquired.
"My fever is breaking." He replied bitterly.
Setting the stew down, she smirked. "I meant the one in your heart."
"Let's not be disgusting now." He objected, poking the container inquisitively.
She handed him a bag of plastic spoons. "Go ahead. I thought you looked gaunt last night, this should fatten you up."
"Did you cook this?" He asked, prying open the container and inhaling deeply.
Crane set it down quickly. "I choose life."
Hopping up onto the table beside his work, she preened. "I'm insulted. Are you implying that I can't cook?"
"I'm inferring that you can't cook. Beautiful women are usually terrible cooks."
"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard you say." She remarked, before adding, "but thank you for the compliment."
"How is it dumb? In my experience I've found that beautiful people tend to have no real talents, they don't feel the need to prove themselves, whereas average looking people tend to seek out things for which they will gain compliments on. If they can't be complimented on their beauty, they'd rather be good at dancing or cooking or god forbid racing cars." He motioned to the container.
"No, it's all yours."
Dipping his spoon into the stew, he shovelled a healthy amount into his mouth after sniffing it tentatively. He sighed almost happily. "I stand corrected. You're beautiful and talented."
"Never forget it."
Taking another spoonful, he chewed it blissfully, before swallowing and pointing a long, thin finger at her. "You're also over compensating."
"I said you wore a 'mask of indifference' last night and here you've brought me stew in an effort to prove you are a caring person. However, you failed to read into the structure of that sentence. I said 'mask' not you yourself came off as indifferent. You see, a person can be kind, warm-hearted, love a good joke, but still wear a stoic's mask. Masks are just crusts over our being. They protect us from hurt. They project onto the world the person you want to appear to be. But they can never alter the person inside the mask."
"How do you not have an entire entourage of pupils learning at your feet?" She teased.
"Easy. There is a file at Arkham that reads 'CRIMINALLY INSANE' in bright red letters across my face, across my doctorate and across my reputation." He eyed an orange tabby cat who leapt up onto his workbench with a delicate furrow to his brow.
The cat had jumped onto the rowboat as she was setting off and despite the fact cat's hated water, the little beast just seemed to enjoy the ride, coming with her onto the ship.
"Those bastards." She gasped, gently removing the cat from the table.
"Just because they said my methods weren't clinical."
"Well…dressing in burlap and wielding a giant scythe isn't really something I'd want to see my psychologist do."
"Kinsey wore a bowtie and had a plethora of wild, sexy times, yet they didn't give him the red letter treatment."
"I think there's a pretty big difference there, Jon. Kinsey was making love, you're making war."
"Poppycock. There is no real difference between the two."
"Oh? Enlighten me."
"When two forces meet, they clash in a passionate struggle that ends with death. This is also true of war."
"Death? Since when does love end in death?"
"When it doesn't end in la petit mort, then it usually just dies a cold, lonely death from neglect." He stated.
Selina frowned ever so. "Your logic is a little screwy, Jon. I think if you really look, you'd find everything ends in death eventually."
She was draped in his wingback chair, watching his back as he continued his work. Selina wondered if he was even aware that she was still there. They hadn't spoken in nearly two hours, and while she dozed lightly in his chair before the makeshift fireplace in the ship's boiler, he worked furiously.
She wondered if he worked his much when he was with Harley. Did they have great, rambling conversations like she had with Eddie? Did they break the monotony by making love in strange and unusual places? Did they find themselves enjoying the silence as one or the other or both read on a lazy afternoon? Did he miss Harley like she missed Eddie? Was his face merely a mask of indifference as well?
On her lap the orange tabby purred loudly, breaking the silence as she scratched him under his chin.
"Mustard." Crane muttered suddenly.
"Cat's love mustard."
Turning in his seat, Crane eyed her over the frames of his glasses. "Cat's love mustard." When she continued to gaze blankly at him, he elaborated. "This is small talk."
Turning back to his work, he growled. "You were glaring a hole into the back of my head, I thought it appropriate to distract you."
The cat jumped down from her lap - on the trail of a rat perhaps - and scuttled off into the bowels of the ship.
Selina pushed to her feet. "B-black olives."
"What?" He snapped.
"Cat's also love black olives." She said, rounding the table to peer at him through the maze of the chemical tubes and vials.
His hand stopped scratching in his notebook and he looked up. "Do you enjoy black olives?"
"On my pizza." She replied.
"What do normal people talk about anyways?" He muttered.
Leaning carefully against the table, she sighed. "Um…the last episode of their favourite reality show?"
She scrunched her face up in thought. "Musical preferences?"
"I enjoy The Cure. You?"
Quirking a brow, she angled her head. "You continue to mystify and impress me, Jon."
"One would think a man like you would like opera or classical music."
"You're well educated."
"Which is the reason I enjoy The Cure, all smart people do. I can't speak for anyone else, but it's harder to say 'I enjoy Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme', than to say I enjoy The Cure."
"So you do listen to opera?"
"I listen to whatever station this tub gets in the radio office. Which is to say static and some weird Russian station…don't ask me how. Currently my new favourite song is, Tyepyerʲ dlya myetyeorologichyeskogo byollyetyenya*."
"It's followed by three dramatic bongs and then a cheerful bing, very short song. It must be big over there, they play it every three hours on the hour."
Crane frowned ever so. "It's the weather bulletin. I was making a joke."
"Swing and a miss." She replied.
Her alarm went off, the radio blaring a song that ruffled something in the back of her sandy mind.
"Huh," she muttered once she awoke fully, on her way into the bathroom to get ready for the day, "The Cure."
Before showering, she dressed in her well worn track suit. Since taking it easy on the Catwoman prowling she had taken to jogging to keep limber and fit for a time when things would get heated in Gotham again.
Heading out the door, she pointedly ignored the green and purple striped scarf that hung in her front hall. Since that day in the puddles of springtime, she had taken it home absently and hung it there where it remained.
As soon as her feet hit the pavement outside her apartment, she headed west.
She knew she had been pushing herself too hard lately, but with nothing else to do to pass the time between eating and sleeping, she found jogging was good at accomplishing that.
In the park, she paused at a vendor to buy a bottle of water, eyeing a small group of children near the clearing to her right.
Two of them were wearing capes, one made out of an old bath towel and the other out of a Halloween vampire costume. They were racing around, chasing a young blond haired boy with a painted clown face who laughed at them.
"I touched you!" The boy in the black cape shouted.
The clown faced boy stopped running. "No!"
As the three boys argued, Selina spied a fourth child, a little girl with a dark bob wearing an old St. Patrick's Day bowler, sitting on the bench, swinging her legs idly. Tilted on the bench at her side was a branch with a slightly curved handle.
Taking her bottle of water, Selina moved off from the children, she wondered if there was a skinny boy with messy brown hair somewhere, heading out to join his friends in the park with a spider clasped in his hands to scare them with.
A little girl with long red hair raced towards her, whiskers painted on her face, a black string dangling from the back of her pants as she skipped past Selina, heading for the children already playing.
Following the girl with her eyes, she smiled softly as the other girl in the bowler leapt up at the sight of the cat-girl.
She was probably relieved to have another girl there.
The cat-girl pulled something out of her pocket to show her friend and the girl in the bowler smiled, before pulling the hat off carelessly and leaving it on the bench, heading towards the playground hand in hand with her friend.
Selina eyed the forsaken bowler and branch for a moment, before turning away once more from the children.
She opted out of going into the Iceberg that evening, heading for the nearest bar to her apartment, a strange little cowboy jukebox bar in the middle of Gotham.
Sitting in the darkest corner of the place, she ordered something she was sure the bartender knew, a whiskey sour, and sipped it slowly. The barflies were still, buzzing quietly in their perches. She had a feeling that they had been there for centuries, buzzing quietly, decaying in their seats.
The twangy singer on the retro jukebox (which wasn't installed in the bar out of an ironic desire to be hip), was singing about what mattered most out of life. Of men and what they wanted, what they needed.
The whiskey sour was like sand, grinding down her throat as she struggled to swallow.
"Was there ever a time when you wanted what normal men want, Ed?"
It was their fourth time sleeping together and as she lay on her side wrapped in his arms, she found she couldn't sleep. His pale, spidery hand lying on the pillow by her cheek distracted her as she traced the veins and sinews that rippled down the back of it. It was Christmas, and while the outside world celebrated like 'normal' people, her and Eddie were curled up in his bed with no festive decorations surrounding them or a multitude of gifts waiting under a tree. It was just her and him, naked, sharing warmth on a cold December night.
It almost felt like they were the only ones left alive on the planet.
The truth was, she had always felt that strange sort of feeling on Christmas night. It wasn't out of a religious state of mind, or a warm, familial sense of togetherness. But Christmas night always seemed sacred. Like the air was filled with a tender, gentle vibration and the snow that fell always seemed to be touched with liquid gold, so that it shimmered in a softer light.
Eddie's laugh ruffled her hair as he absorbed her question.
"What? You mean the nine to five, go nowhere, middle management job? Or the house in the suburbs that looks like all the others?"
"That," she purred, running a finger over his knuckles. The most curious thing about them was that they were slightly knobby, like he had one too many fistfights in his days on earth. She wondered if he was good in a fistfight. She had seen him fight, but it was always with a weapon of some sort. Never just him and another being, with nothing but their hands. "But also the whole package. The wife, the children, the dog named Sparky." She added.
He flipped his hand over so that she could trace the lines of his palm. "Well, I'm not sure…I suppose a moment after puberty there was an instance when I pondered it. After all, it's evolutionary imperative that we seek to continue the bloodline. Of course I'd never own a dog, they're just too demanding of my affection and attention."
"Can I get you another?" The bartender asked, breaking her thoughts.
She shook her head. "No, thank you." Paying, she left the bar, stepping out into the warm summer evening.
The scent of rain clung to the air around Gotham, swathing it in a thick, sweet scent, obliterating the usual stink of the city.
Ducking into the small Italian restaurant down the street, she picked up her order and paid. She didn't feel much like cooking that night, and there was at least one person in Gotham who could use a hot meal.
He was dressed in his full Scarecrow costume when she arrived, bringing with her another hot meal and another cat.
Crane's horrible burlap mask angled towards her and he stood there for a full minute before tugging the mask off.
"Again?" He asked.
She set the food on the table. "I have nothing better to do."
Eyeing the food as she opened take out boxes and set them out, Crane set his scythe on his lap as he took a seat in his wing backed chair. He fixed the handle quietly, before speaking. "You don't prowl much anymore, do you?"
"I don't do a lot of things anymore." She replied. Handing him a carton of food and a plastic fork, she settled on the rickety wooden chair across from him and dug into her own portion. "What's with the costume? Going out?"
"Preparing for war." He said.
Crane looked up at her from under mussed bangs, watching her steadily for a moment.
"So tell me," she said, swallowing a bite of food politely before speaking. "Did you ever have a moment with Harley where you thought you'd never have to be alone again?"
"I don't know, did you ever have a moment of regret when you watched them lower the small bits of Eddie that they found into the ground?" He snapped.
She glared at him.
Ignoring her look, Crane set the food she had given him aside, untouched and went back to repairing his scythe. "I was across his grave from you in another tree at his funeral, watching you, watching them bury my friend."
With her appetite waning, she too set her carton of food aside. "I didn't think it was right for them to bury Eddie without anyone there."
Crane nodded. "It's a tragedy to have no one but a priest standing over you as you're lowered in the ground. It's far sadder to be placed in a grave marked by a number, because no one's laid claim to your body."
"What did you expect?" She growled. "You could have claimed his body."
"I'm a wanted criminal."
She tightened her fist around the plastic fork. "So am I."
"But you're also the woman who loved him, weren't you?" He inquired.
The truth stung an already festering wound. She had regretted not doing something when Eddie's remains were sitting at the morgue, waiting to be claimed. But she was still in denial over his death. Claiming those remains believed to have belonged to him would be admitting he was really gone.
Quietly she set the fork down by her forgotten food and stood up.
Crane's eyed were burning holes into her back as she left him.
*Now for the weather report.