“What do we do now?” Gregson asked.
“Wait for the coroner—she’s the undertaker and embalmer.”
“She’s already taken, Gregson. She likes dead guys a bit too much. They don’t leave a mess, they don’t cheat, and they stay right where she leaves them.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Just look. Here she comes…” The lady coroner wore long black nylons that hooked underneath her skirt. She had straight black hair, dark eye-shadow, and maroon lipstick.
Maybe dead guys like her look, Gregson thought. They’re always stiff.
“Miss Dexter, I presume?”
“Why do you always act like you don’t know me, Father?”
“Maybe because you tried to horn-in on my job, and perform the last rights.”
“You don’t have a monopoly on the spirit world, you know. And it’s not my fault I went to medical school. I just happen to like the dead more than the living. Who’s your friend?”
“The name’s Gregson.”
“My name’s Tara.” She extended her hand. Gregson noticed the pentagram etched on it.
“I think I’ll pass. I have reservations about shaking hands with the devil.”
“How did he die?” The Father asked.
“Acute blood loss,” Tara said.
“I could have told you that,” Gregson complained. “I’m hungry. Will you make me a sandwich, Father?”
“What are you, in third grade?”
Gregson shrugged his shoulders.
“Follow me, my son.”
The walk back to the church reminded Gregson of being a boy. “Father, do you ever get lonely?”
“No time for loneliness. You know the people here. They all have problems—usually newlyweds. I marry them and the judge in town, divorces them. I thought about going to law school, but realized it would be a conflict of interest. Getting paid to marry and divorce is too much power!
“I hear that. What about your personal life though? It must be tough—never to marry.”
“Not really. I’m married to God, and God doesn’t nag. Every day I am becoming more like him because I spend more time with him. Men who are married spend more time with their wives, and become more like them. I prefer to be like God, if you know what I mean?”
“I understand that,” Gregson said. “Around the age of 30, things changed.”
“Well, my friends got married, and pretty soon, the only male friends I had were ineligible bachelors. They all had problems.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Oh, you know… Brad worked one day a week. When I asked him about it, he told me that he didn’t want to marry a gold digger. His defense was not to work.”
“Sounds like a thoughtful fellow. But what about you, Gregson? Why didn’t you get married?”
“Some men want security. I need to chase.”
“You know, you shouldn’t chase women.”
“I know that, but what good is a woman if she isn’t a mystery? What good is a woman, if she isn’t dangerous? What good is a life, if you know when and where you are going to die?”
“You are different, Gregson. You always were. I guess you had the courage to keep running. Speaking of running, can you run a few books back to your dad? I confess, I’ve been searching for your family jewels.”