When I was 12, I went to stay with my aunt Mabel, my old man's sister. I lived there
7 and a half months. I ran away 6 times.
When the cops brought me back the last time, Mabel said through the screen, "I changed
my mind. I don't want him anymore." Officer Anderson cursed a couple times. Officer
Beckmann put his hand on my shoulder. "Ma'am-"
She tossed a box with my stuff in it out on the porch, and shut the door. That was the
last time I saw her.
So when I got a notice from a law firm informing me of her funeral, I was kinda surprised.
I'd never supposed there would be any reason to connect the two of us.
I went to Mabel's funeral. Not many people there, not many flowers, kind of a short
ceremony. It was vaguely satisfying to see her in her coffin; but she didn't look like
the bitch from hell that I remembered. She just looked old and tired and sick. And dead.
I hadn't gone to the old man's funeral, I guess I'm not sure there was one. I went to
the morgue a coupla days after he got there. I knew he was dead, I shot him, but I needed
to see the corpse laid out on the table. I was surprised at how much I still hated him.
Yeah, he was cold and stiff, but it didn't matter. I wanted to spit on the corpse. I
wanted to dump him off on the floor and kick his dead body. I wanted to kill him again.
I didn't do any of those things; but I sure wanted to.
I guess I didn't hate Mabel as much as that.
Lynn asked if I wanted her to come with me to the funeral. Last time I went back to L.A.,
I laid down the law and told her she was staying home, and so of course she followed me
there. I decided not to make that mistake again.
"I'm just going to a funeral, sweetheart. No police stations, no shoot-outs, nothing like
that. I don't even have any relatives to give me a hard time. And I know you're busy at
the shop right now."
She looked doubtful. "Ok….if you're sure."
I took her to Roberta's Cafe for supper the night before I left. Roberta was one of Lynn's
best customers, so when we went out to eat, that's where we went, even though you had to be
careful what you ordered there. The roast beef was usually safe.
I'm a fuckin' coward. I had the box from the jewelers in my pocket, I had it set pretty
well in my mind what I wanted to say, I kinda meant to drive out into the desert, you know,
alone under the stars when I asked her----and we ended up going to the movies to see that
Cornell Wilde picture that was playing. Then we went home.
And I coulda asked her any time that night after we went to bed; in fact there was a moment
that woulda been perfect. I gathered her up in my arms ('cause she likes to sleep close,
with her head on my shoulder) and pulled the covers over us, kissed her…..and then let her
go to sleep without saying a thing. I thought about it the rest of the night.
The next morning she drove me to the station, kissed me good-bye, and I got on the train
with the damn little box still in my pocket.
Mabel's lawyer didn't look too much better than she did, except of course he was still
walking around. I met him at his office after the funeral. He had another surprise for
The old bag left everything she had to me.
I had to sit down when he told me that.
"That includes house, grounds, and personal possessions. And it's very straightforward.
It'll have to go through the process, of course, but that shouldn't take too long, unless
Ronnie challenges the will."
Surprise #3. You know, I don't like surprises much.
Murchison seemed surprised, too, when I asked who "Ronnie" was.
"He's Miss White's nephew….your cousin….you've never met him?"
"I've been out of touch with the family for a while. Why don't you fill me in?"
"I see. Well, Ronnie's Monroe's son by his first marriage……" He squinted at me through
his glasses. "You're not familiar with him either?"
I shook my head.
It took him about 20 minutes to lay out for me the family I never knew anything about.
My old man had 3 brothers besides the sister I knew about. Samuel died before I was born.
Murchison almost told me how he died, and then changed his mind. Randall went to prison
when he was 25 for raping and strangling 3 or 4 women and was still there. I knew what
happened to my old man, and Mabel. Monroe was the youngest; he was in a hospital in Utah
dying of lung cancer. He'd had 8 kids, some of them were dead, some were in prison, one
was missing. His three wives were all dead. Ronnie, however, was alive, and living just
north of L.A. He owned a used car lot.
"How do you know all this?"
"I've known your aunt for many years. She and I….went to school together." He looked
at me over the top of his glasses. "I remember when you came to stay with her. She was
"Mabel? Distraught? Are we talking about the same woman?"
"Your aunt was very concerned about her ability to care for you."
"She was quite proud of you, you know."
I had to laugh. "Sure she was."
We're talking about the woman who made me get on my knees every Sunday morning with a
Bible and stay there the whole goddamn day. The first Sunday, after about 4 or 5 hours
of that, I told her I had to piss, and she knocked me halfway across the room. Oh, yeah,
she and I were real close.
"Well, Mabel was somewhat…eccentric…you know she never married and had children of her
"-but she seemed very pleased when you became a policeman." He seemed uncomfortable all
of a sudden. "I believe she said something about you….breaking the family mold, or….."
He cleared his throat. "Well, at any rate, here are the keys. As I said this will have
to go through the courts before you officially gain possession, but you certainly may go
to the house and look around. And since I don't foresee Ronnie wanting anything of Mabel's,
there shouldn't be a problem if you see something you'd like to carry back to your home
with you….family photos, that sort of thing."
I suppose if I'd had a normal childhood, that would be a reasonable thing for me to want
to do. As it was, I wasn't sure I even wanted to see the damn place. I thought about
grabbing a bus and going back to Bisbee tonight, not waiting. I wanted to go home.
Then I put my hand in my pocket and there was that box, with the ring in it.