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RECOMMENDED DAILY REQUIREMENT

DATELINE: 28 APRIL, 2000

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RDR logo.QUIET WORLDS, A Harry Trotter Mystery, Chapter 7 (Excerpt) - Harry, whose life was so tied up with death, which he chose to reduce to his euphemism of "numbers"----no one knew if it was from "your number being up" or from every case he had worked as a cop and an insurance death claims investigator having a number---had not actually had to attend that many funerals. Harry thought that Casey's funeral had come at an inopportune time; as if any funeral did not.

Harry had known Casey a long time, since the days back on the force. He had been in the cafeteria at St. Mary's with Casey the day he had first seen Mara and mistaken her for a nurse because she was wearing white. Casey had noticed the bandages around Mara's forearms and pointed them out to Harry Trotter. Casey had been the one who had called in the D.O.A. Harry was checking. Casey was fifth generation Rockford, fourth generation Irish cop. He had once worked Harry's friend, Jay Natty's, beat. Casey did not think much of Jay because Casey did not take to blacks. Fact was, Casey did not take much to blacks, Puerto Ricans, or Dominicans, either. He thought every one of them was a perp waiting to be busted. Other than those prejudices, he was an all right guy, a good cop.

Casey had been killed in the line of duty. He had run into a 7-11 convenience store for a couple fresh doughnuts for him and his partner and right up on a 211 in progress. Some Irish punk just out of the joint shaking down the Korean kid behind the counter with an Uzi. Casey got the bad end of the Uzi instead of the doughnuts. Patrick Casey bought it right there on the floor of the 7-11 after fifteen years on the force, at the advanced age of thirty-nine years. His partner, Santorelli, blew the punk away as he was rushing from the store. End of story.

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As happens when a beat cop buys it, all the brass turned out for Casey's funeral, even the politicians were there. The Mayor was there wearing a black armband, the Commissioner was in full mourning. It was hard to tell which one of them had been more successful at getting in front of the most news cameras on their way up the steps of the church. The Mayor did this circuit through the milling crowd that made him zig-zag back down the steps so that, in effect, he made two entrances. Only a politician is oily enough to make that kind of slick maneuver.

It was a big shindig at St. Boniface's, the same place Harry and Mara had gotten married. Casey had been divorced, but even his ex- showed up and tried to look like she had not hated his guts while he was still alive, like she had not been hounding him every damned month for the alimony payments. Her only regret, most of the cops in attendance were thinking, was that she had not hung in another four years and gotten his pension dough, too. Becky Casey was a wirey, little bottle blonde with a mouth that turned down at the corners from looking on everything in Rockford with disgust. All of her disgust and hatred of life had eaten away at her body until it had become fashionably petite.

What with all the people in black, or wearing black armbands, the flags, the dress uniforms and shiny buttons, you would imagine you were swaying in a dark sea among sailors gone before. Harry felt that way. He was swaying in about the fifth row of Saint Boniface, on the left side, near the statue of St. Peter hanging upside down on a cross. He noticed the statue over Mara's head while they were singing some hymn and gave a shudder.

Sure, he was a Catholic, he had gone the long route of the old catecism, but he still got the heebie-jeebies with the way his brethren reveled in the tortures and trials of the saints. His whole childhood seemed peopled with images of men and women pierced by multiple arrows, mauled by lions, hanging from crosses, gouged by spears and brands, rent asunder by heathens. The history of Western art. Catholic art.

Harry could not figure what glory God got out of guys being disembowelled and beheaded, but there it was all around you in beautiful stained glass, in garish color, and statues and statuettes with bodies that had been too perfect to be mortal before the deed was done. All of the corpses Harry had ever seen, down in the M.E.'s rooms at Central, had been over- or underweight from drug and alcohol abuse, or food abuse, marred by stretch marks, tattoos from the joint or the Navy, bubble headed, bloated from drowning, as emaciated from crack as any Somali peasant from starvation.

None of his numbers had ever had the pristine bodies of saints.

Sure, some of the dames were lookers, a few, but Quang always spoiled the effect when he talked into his microphone about the conditions of their livers, or the scars left-over, almost imperceptible, from tucks, lifts, breast implants or lyposuctions. Catholic art made the life before the death look pretty, and it never was, in Harry Trotter's experience.

Eulogies were given by Casey's surviving brother, Michael, a longshoreman, who was simple and to the point and mostly told the truth about Pat Casey; by the Mayor, who mostly talked about his own dedication to the department; by the Commissioner, who mostly talked like he planned to be the next Mayor; by Casey's partner, who told a story about what a loyal guy Casey could be, but did not mention what a racist drunk he was; and by Quinn Meredith, who had known Casey longer and more personally than any of those guys except his brother, Mike.

Quinn told a story about how Casey had been back in the days at the Academy, and a year or two after, before all the hate had started to come out in the guy, before he had gotten married to Rebecca Conover, before the street had started to make him mean.

It was a true story, and included all the carousing that Quinn, Harry, Pat, Bill Breen and Sal Lucassi had done together back in those days. It was the kind of story that got all the so-called tough guys balling and thirsty for the wake they had had the night before all over again.

It had been some wake, too. You had to give the Irish that, Harry had always admitted, they knew how to put out a spread, pour the long high-ball, and make you really wannah cry for a guy no matter how much of a jerk he had been while alive. That was what was good about Irish wakes, you could call that bastard a bastard if need be and trade a few blows with them who felt sentimental enough to kick your ass in his place. Harry remembered one of those wakes where the fight had overturned the coffin and the dead guy had rolled out in the midst of the unconcerned and oblivious combatants. That had been back in the old days, when guys could get away with free-for-alls like that without becoming social pariahs.


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