Rose, Wolf, and Sonia got out of the Decoupage Coupe together and made their way across the field of tombstones. They were in Colma, just a few minutes south of San Francisco, where hillsides full of graves stretch for miles across the peninsula.
There were access roads where they could have driven, but Wolf felt that driving cars other than the hearse itself in a graveyard just wasn’t right. It was disrespectful somehow. When Rose and Sonia were with him, they felt the same way. So Rose parked the car, and they walked a mile or so to where Mike and Joe Clelland were buried. It was a sunny day, and the wind was blowing a fresh sea breeze over the hills in the middle of the peninsula. The scent of redwoods and grass was in Wolf’s nose, along with car exhaust from Highway 101. Rose and Sonia were walking through the echos of a thousand funerals, feeling all those people reaching for peace and closure. Some had found it and some hadn’t. None of the three said anything.
Sonia had gotten a plain, small tombstone for Mike, and Rose had gotten a matching one for Joe. The epitaphs read simply, “Have Mercy For the Lost”. Wolf glanced at them when he read it – it was different. But somehow, for Joe and Mike and what had happened to them, it seemed right. They left flowers on the stones and stood in silence for a few moments. Sonia got back up searching for something to say, feeling stupid because she couldn’t find the words to say for people she’d never really been able to know that well. Finally Rose laid a hand on her arm. “It’s all right, Sonia. We never really needed words to understand.”
Wolf took a hip flask out of his coat, poured out a little wine on the ground and took a swig, then handed the bottle to Sonia, who followed suit and handed the bottle to Rose. Rose completed the odd ritual, taking only the tiniest swallow, and handed the bottle back to Wolf, who tucked it back inside his coat. She didn’t know where that custom was from, but it was part of the rich context Wolf lived in, and for the moment so were the two of them.
They said their goodbyes to Joe and Mike and walked another mile to where Maria was buried. Wolf knelt beside the grave and laid his right hand on the stone. “Well sweetie, it’s over now,” he said quietly. “All the debts are paid and you can rest.” He paused a long moment, then pulled out his hip flask again. He poured the rest out on the ground and tucked it back into his coat. “I still love you, Maria,” he said, “and I always will.” Rose placed a hand gently on his shoulder, and he laid his left hand upon it. “This is Rose, sweetie,” he said. “You’d like her.”
They walked another mile to the place where the Hook was buried. Sonia hadn’t wanted to, and Wolf had his doubts, but it was important to Rose, and she was important to both of them. She’d bought him a tombstone, but there had been no epitaph that seemed right. It simply said, “Connor Ames, 1949-2004.” She opened a long thin box, took out two roses, and laid them side by side on the stone. One was soft and fresh and red and fragrant. The other was dead, withered and black. Sonia stood back, wanting no part of this goodbye. “I’ll never forgive you, Hook,” Rose said. “I’ll never forgive you for what you did to all those people, for what you did to Sonia, and Mike, and Joe, and for what you did to my mom, and even to me. You were evil, and the world is better with you gone. But — but father, I hope anyway that somehow, someday, in death you can find some peace. Goodbye forever.”
Slowly, they made their way back to the car. None of them spoke as they drove north on Highway 101, then took the 380 across the peninsula and came up the Great Highway next to the sea. Finally, they turned in at a parking lot next to the ocean, where the Cliff House restaurant and the giant camera loomed above them. They got out of the car, walked down concrete stairs and across the sand until finally they stood on Ocean Beach, next to the sea.
“The Ocean’s been here a hundred million years,” began Wolf. “It remembers everything.”
“The Ocean’ll be here another hundred million years,” said Rose. “It’s going to see everything.”
“But iron rusts away,” said Sonia. “I give this hateful thing to the sight and memory of the sea.” And she threw the ring with her own picture beneath its cheap glass stone as far out into the surf as she could.
Wolf took the chain from his neck and slowly unfastened it. He held the seven rings in his right hand and drew the chain away from them with his left, then cast them all, widely scattered, far out into the water.
The three stood in silence for a while, gazing at the rolling gray-green eternity of the Pacific ocean. Then they turned together and left the past behind.
This is the final chapter of The Hook, a novel which has been published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.