wetly around him. Life mingled with death. It was nearly dark, and at first he thought he had turned for nothing, for some ghost in his own brain.
But then his peripheral vision made out a shadow approaching the grave. As Girard watched it move into the open, it became more distinct. A man, not a woman. The man knelt by the fresh earth, staring at it for a long time. Then he lifted something-Girard couldn't make out what-and put it on the grave. He got up and strode away without looking back.
Girard recognized him then, by his walk. Garibaldi.
He almost went after him, to say hello, if nothing else, but somehow felt it would be inappropriate. There had been something solemn, almost sacred about Garibaldi's movements, something inviolable.
Still, when Garibaldi was gone, Girard walked over to see what he had placed on the grave.
When he saw it, he shook his head and chuckled softly. It was a wooden stake, pushed into the yellow clay as far as it would go.
"Amen," Girard whispered. And, "Peace." Then he left the dead where they belonged.
When he reached the street, he flipped his phone open and ordered flowers for his wife. As he walked to the hotel, he began humming to himself. The rain kept up, but it didn't bother him in the slightest. There were worse things in life than a little rain.
Born in Meridian, Mississippi, in 1963, J. GREGORY KEYES spent his early years roaming the forests of his native state and the red rock cliffs of the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona. He earned a B.A. in anthropology from Mississippi State University and a master's degree from the University of Georgia, where he did course work for a Ph.D. He and his wife, Nell, live in Seattle, where, in addition to full-time writing, he practices ethnic