~ excerpt ~
VOICE FROM THE ASHES
by Cindy Davis

 

When Barney and Ian stepped into the darkened funeral parlor, all conversation ceased. Words of sorrow and regret were uttered. Barney's hand hung limply at his side. The townsfolk gripped and shook it often. He said nothing, met no one's eyes. Lee moved toward them. He put a steadying arm around Barney's right shoulder and guided him into the front row of chairs. Ian sat on Barney's other side, his shoulder buoying up the skinny young man.

Murmured voices. Stifled sobs. Low organ music. All were intended to present a calming, somber aura, but Ian was in a turmoil. Glad to be seated in the front row, happy he couldn't see the faces of his townsfolk, suddenly realizing that, from this day forward, Cassell Springs would be forever changed. Ian would never see these people in the same way. One of them had a terrible secret.

Ian caught Lee's eye. Lee gave the merest nod.

Lee understood. From now on, would he too gaze through the same beclouded eyes?

The organ's tone increased, signaling the beginning of the service. The assemblage sat. The sounds of rustling and music moved into the back of Ian's head, into another realm. As the minister spoke, Ian envisioned himself hovering above the congregation, peering down on them with his new eyes. One of these people murdered Clement Baker. Their townsman, their protector, and their friend.

The fact that one of them was somehow able to shove that fact behind them, and put in an appearance here, astounded Ian. How can he shed counterfeit tears, pretend he's mourning the same as the rest of us? Ian turned in his chair and let his new eyes rove the crowd, not seeing, but seeing nonetheless.