Grave Error Of Judgement


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Scene Title Grave Error Of Judgement
Synopsis Coren attends Megan Manning's funeral.
Date August 6, 2009

St. Gabriel Cemetery — Oak Forest, Illinois

It took some convincing the day after her body was reviewed by the medical examiner to convince him to make sure the cause of death did not mention suicide. No, she was coerced into doing it. Of that, there was no question. No, Megan Manning did not kill herself — she was murdered. It was equally brutal picking the coffin up from the funeral parlour, and having it brought to the airport, where he bore it home.

It was nearly unbearable seeing the Manning's again. He had kept in touch via telephone since Meg had gone missing, but he had not talked to them at any length since he left the FBI in 2003. And now, as part of the NYPD, he finally could give them the news they had wanted: We found her. Only the manner in which she was found left him dreading the idea of returning to Oak Forest. It was a bit of a drive from Chicago, where his plane landed, but he met with them. They cried, but thanked him anyway for bringing their daughter back to them. Coren wanted to die.

Coren walks at the side of so many others, although he is amidst the few that bear the coffin as they walk through the Saint Gabriel Cemetery in Oak Forest, Illinois, to its final resting place. He could see a man near the entrance to the cemetery, an old drunk from the looks of things, passed out near the side of the road. It took all the control he has left to not send the man away. For some reason, he considered it a desecration of the consecrated ground, even though he was never religious.

As the coffin is set down upon the Earth, winch at the sides to lower it into the ground upon the completion of the final station, the Rite of Committal, Coren moves to stand behind the family. Tears glisten in his eyes as he hears the Deacon begin. It's no less bearable than the Funeral Mass.

"Friends, family, and guests," the Deacon says, "We are gathered here to put to rest the body and soul of Megan Manning, who was taken from her family ten years ago, and has now been brought home.

"From the book of Job, chapter nineteen verse twenty-three through twenty-nine: Oh, would that my words were written down! Would that they were inscribed in a record: That with an iron chisel and with lead they were cut in the rock forever! But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; And from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing. Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him. But you who say, 'How shall we persecute him, seeing that the root of the matter is found in him?' Be afraid of the sword for yourselves, for these crimes deserve the sword; that you may know that there is a judgement.

"It is during times such as these that we must remember, though we wish we could know the suffering of our loved ones, that we may understand the reasons for their passing, if the Lord so wished, it would be so. It is not their suffering we should remember, but the joys of their life."

Coren never was religious. Maybe in another life it would have mattered, but now it does little. Only days ago, he tried to counsel someone who had lost a loved one, and he failed to teach her that very lesson. Vengeance solves nothing. At least, that's what he gets from those words. The Deacon continues, but Coren remains deep in thought, the words barely reaching his ears. He couldn't save her, but he at least reunited her with her family.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

Coren remains in the graveyard even after the family has left, staring at the now flattened mound of earth that covers the coffin. She's been buried. His leather-gloved hands grip a single white rose, which he has carried with him the entire trip. Even now in the cold dark, as the rain begins to fall, the pedals of the rose begin to wilt. He looks up at the sky, tears freely falling now. The link he has with his partner, Cassidy, seems to have left him, and he finds himself completely alone.

Only he isn't alone.

There is the crunch of hard earth underfoot as another man in a black long coat approaches. Long grey hair hangs down near his shoulders. It's the man Coren mistook for a passed-out drunk. "It's such a tragedy to hear of a sad story such as this," an airy voice says as the man approaches Coren.

Coren is very nearly startled by the approach, but he does not turn to see whomever it is as he continues to stare at the loose dirt before him. He had assumed it was one of those who had attended the funeral. That would make sense. That or someone who works at the cemetery, or even the Deacon. 'You have no idea,' he should say, but he remains quiet.

"To be," the man says, coming right up beside Coren this time, "abducted like that. Taken away from her family. It breaks my heart just thinking about it." The man's own gloved hands both point towards the ground then, "And to be returned to them like this…."

"I wish it had been under better circumstances," Coren says, looking towards the ground. He can still see the face, the smirk upon it. It's Cassidy's memory, but it came through so clearly for him, it may as well be his own.

"Were you close to her, detective?"

The question, perhaps, should have rung some warning bells. But in his present state, Coren's analytical mind just isn't processing the information it should. The details. No, the fact that he never once showed a badge — heck, he doesn't even have his service piece — and never once identified himself as an officer of the law doesn't spring to his mind. He is a detective, it's only natural for people to call him one, right? "In a manner of speaking."

"It's such a tough loss. I'm really sorry about that," the other man says, giving Coren a pat against the shoulder, a hand running down the side of the detective's coat. "My condolences," the air voice says, as the man turns and retreats from the cemetery.

"Thank you," Coren says. For some reason, the words he considered so meaningless so many times, for some reason they weren't so meaningless this time.

He remains watching the ground for a few moments longer before he turns and begins walking down the path that leads back to Cicero Avenue and his rental car. When he reaches it, he pockets his gloves, only he finds something in one of his pockets. He pushes the glove aside and pulls out a card.

In Loving Memory of
Megan Ann Manning
(1981 - 2009)

Coren's eyes once more go the ground. "Good-bye, Meg. I'm sorry I didn't find you in time." He unlocks the car and enters, closing the door once he's seated, and setting the card on the passenger seat. That's when he notices writing on the back of the card. His eyes narrow as he picks it up once more. There, written in an eerily familiar hand:

It was nice meeting you again, Special Agent Shelby.

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