It was raining at Beverly’s funeral and that more than anything else was what brought tears to Brian Zeller’s eyes as he stood side-by-side with Jimmy watching them lower her casket into the ground.
If this was a scene in a movie she would have hated it. “Of course it’s raining,” he could almost imagine her saying. “Of course it is, it always rains at funerals, everyone knows that. This is the part where they cut to everyone carrying black umbrellas. Do you even own a black umbrella?” And she’d poke him in the ribs and make him cough, and then Jimmy would laugh.
He and Jimmy were sharing an umbrella. It was hot pink and polka-dotted and he had found it shoved way in the back of his closet with two broken metal ribs. That would have made her happy, at least.
All around them the rain poured down and Brian wouldn’t have believed it was possible to miss a person this much until right that second. He would have given anything to have her standing in between him and Jimmy, making a snide comment about just how ridiculous it was that it was raining at her funeral, actually raining, but he was never going to hear Beverly’s voice again because she was dead. Gone.
“She would have hated this,” said Jimmy’s voice from beside him. Brian didn’t want to look at him, didn’t want to see his own grief mirrored in his friend’s eyes. “Do you remember when she had us watch that murder mystery and made us promise that when she died—”
“—we’d throw a masquerade ball and then announce in the middle that she had been murdered and one of the guests was responsible?” The ghost of a smile flitted across Brian’s face. “Yeah, I remember.”
They had been playing a drinking game, Jimmy’s idea—whenever anyone said the word “murder” they had to take a sip. Alcohol made Beverly giggly, and she had been sprawled across the couch with her feet in Jimmy’s lap and her head in Brian’s. “Promise me, promise,” she’d said.
“I’m not gonna promise you that,” he told her. “You’ve lost it.”
“Oh, what else will you be doing? You’ll be like, ninety-one, and bored to death, and then you’ll receive the letter from my estate. And after you and Jimmy announce my death, you’ll retreat upstairs while the guests are panicking, and then later they’ll find you two have committed a gruesome murder-suicide—”
“Listen to me! Because when we go out, we go out together, right? And we go out in style.”
“Why do you have an estate, Bev?” Jimmy asked from the other end of the couch.
“Shut up, that’s not important. Do you promise, Brian? Do you?”
Brian rolled his eyes, but part of him was touched. “Alright, alright, I promise.”
Beverly had clapped her hands. “Good! Now pay attention. This is the part where you find out it was the sister all along!” She’d paused. “Oh, shit.”
She loved picking murder mystery films apart with Jimmy and Brian, making fun of how dumb the crime teams usually were, if they were even there at all. A sharp pain cut through Brian’s chest as he thought of how self-involved they had been. In their line of work, they should have known how humorless real murder mysteries were.
Or maybe they weren’t self-involved at all. Maybe they were just numb. When you see dead bodies every day it becomes easy to forget just how much it hurts when someone you love dies.
It hurt more than Brian could have imagined.
The drive to the funeral reception was long and quiet. Brian was not looking forward to it, but he had felt obligated to go since neither he nor Jimmy had been able to make it to her wake. He hadn’t been able to bear the thought of standing around the funeral parlor making small talk with Beverly’s relatives next to her casket. Her closed casket, nailed shut even, because of what the Ripper had done to her. The thought of it made Brian’s fists clench unconsciously. His nails bit into his palm until Jimmy, without looking away from the road, reached over and gripped his wrist.
“She didn’t...Will says she didn’t suffer,” he remembered Jack saying. He remembered every detail of that day. How uncomfortable the chairs were in Jack’s office, how his boss had barely been able to meet his eyes, how Jimmy’s hands had been shaking even before Jack had forced himself to say the words: “Beverly is dead.”
It had felt like all the wind had been knocked out of Brian, like suddenly his lungs were too small, like he was suffocating. Since neither he nor Jimmy could speak, Jack had gone on and on about Freddie Lounds and the abandoned warehouse until something got through to Brian’s brain.
“Will Graham? What’s he got to do with this?”
“I asked him...to consult. For me,” Jack had said. He met Brian’s eyes, a warning in his gaze. Brian ignored it.
“You mean you asked that insane son of a bitch to imagine—to pretend he was—to get inside the head of the person, the person who…” He couldn’t say it. “Why, Jack?”
“Because it wasn’t just any person,” said Jack. “It was the Ripper, Brian. Beverly found out who he was, and he killed her.”
And that was when it clicked, when it all fell into place. Beverly was dead. She was actually dead. Perceptive Beverly who always noticed things they didn’t, caring Beverly who cried at the sad parts in movies even more than Jimmy did, bold Beverly who was never afraid to tell you exactly how she felt.
Headstrong, reckless Beverly, who went looking for a murderer, and got herself killed.
This is the part where it turns out it was all just a nightmare, he had pleaded with himself. This is the part where I wake up. But then Jack had taken them to see her body, the gruesome tableau the Ripper had made of her, and he couldn’t pretend it was a nightmare anymore. “She didn’t feel it,” Jack assured them. “He froze her, that was what killed her, and she was already unconscious. She wouldn’t have felt a thing.”
That didn’t make it any better, Brian thought. Because at the end of the day, it didn’t matter how it had ended. All that mattered was that Beverly Katz was gone and no matter how hard he wished for it, she was never coming back.
“We’re here,” said Jimmy. He cut the engine and they sat outside Beverly’s mother’s house in silence.
“We have to go in eventually,” said Brian after a few minutes had passed.
They stayed quiet.
“This is the part where one of us sees someone on the street that looks like her,” said Brian. Jimmy tried to smile and failed.
“This is the part where one of us hallucinates her voice.”
“I don’t need to hallucinate her voice,” said Brian. “It feels like it’s echoing around inside my skull.” See you, Brian, she had said, and her maroon jacket disappearing down the hall.
“Let’s go in,” said Jimmy. “Let’s just get it over with.”
Beverly’s mother’s place was so clean and polished Brian felt like he was in one of those houses they used for home improvement magazines. He couldn’t reconcile this foreign environment with Bev’s tiny, messy apartment with mug rings on every wooden surface and random candles always lit. “You’ll burn the whole place down,” he’d tell her.
“It’s worth it for the smell,” she’d say. “Christmas Pine, I got it for five dollars, do you like it?”
“You’re August,” Jimmy would say from the other room.
“That doesn’t even—” But the other two would already be laughing and then he would have to smile too.
In the center of the room there was a large pinboard covered in photos of Beverly, from baby pictures to her work ID. There was her at age ten with a violin under her chin, the same intensely concentrated expression on her face she always got when examining the newest evidence. There was her in college, laughing into the camera. There was her surrounded by her younger siblings, all of whom now lived in different states. They’d flown in for the funeral and were sitting together in a corner of the room, looking slightly shell-shocked. Brian couldn’t blame them.
“Person we know at two o’clock,” Jimmy hissed in his ear. Brian turned to see Jack Crawford making his way toward them.
“Hello, Jack,” said Brian. His boss looked slightly uncomfortable. Brian wondered if it had anything to do with his wife, in the hospital with terminal cancer. Beverly’s funeral must have brought his wife’s own fragile hold on life into perspective.
“Those pictures are sweet,” Jack commented. “There are a couple up there with the two of you in them.”
A lump rose suddenly in Brian’s throat. That made Jack look even more uncomfortable. “Uh. It’s probably better the two of you couldn’t make it to the wake,” he said, grasping at straws. “The casket really brought the mood down. Don’t understand why they didn’t burn her. Would’ve been...easier.”
“She wanted to be buried,” said Jimmy quietly. “She used to say cemeteries last longer than people. She liked the idea that...that in a hundred years, people will still walk past her grave.”
“I see. That...sounds like her.” Jack cleared his throat, looking lost for something to say. Brian took Jimmy by the shoulder and nodded to Jack, who nodded back, relieved. Brian led his friend over to the photo display, where they stood back and gazed at the collage of snapshots.
Brian’s eyes fixed on a photo of the three of them in their work clothes. Bev had her arms around both their shoulders, pulling them down to her height, and was beaming at the camera. Brian was frowning at Jimmy, who looked like he was about to sneeze. In the background, Will Graham was giving the camera a peace sign. Looking at the photo should have been painful, Brian thought, but somehow, it wasn’t. Somehow, it made him almost want to smile.
“Do you remember the time you took us to the new Star Wars movie and she accidentally spoiled it?” said Jimmy. Brian did. They had been trying to predict the plot twists of the movie, the way they always did, when suddenly Beverly had choked on her popcorn and said, “Oh my god, this is the part where she sacrifices herself!” at the same moment the sound went entirely silent. Everyone in the theater had turned to look at them and they had felt obliged to leave the movie early.
“Yeah. Do you remember the time a bat got in your house and you called us instead of animal control?” Brian had not realized until that night how much he hated bats. Beverly had eventually trapped it in a sieve, but only after the three of them had screamed so much that the next day at work, they had all lost their voices.
“Yes. Do you remember when she broke her coffee table and made us go with her to buy a new one, and then she broke that one too?” It was because any empty surface for Beverly was just a surface waiting to be covered in stacks of books, used plates, and sheet music until it couldn’t take it anymore. For her birthday last year, they had gotten her a bookshelf.
“I remember,” said Brian. He turned to Jimmy, who met his eyes. Both of them were crying.
Brian didn’t know when it had happened, when his coworkers had turned into his friends and then into his family. He had two sisters, Jimmy had a twin brother, Beverly had a whole host of younger siblings, and they had friends outside work—it wasn’t like any of them were lacking in companionship. But from the beginning, they had been different. It was like the three of them were supposed to know each other, like they had always been meant to meet.
On the drive back the skies had cleared to pale grey. Without speaking, Jimmy turned onto Beverly’s street. They both had spare keys to her apartment. Someone had cleaned her room, but most of her belongings were still there, and all her furniture. Brian sat down on one end of the worn couch and Jimmy took the other, leaving one Beverly-sized space between them.
“Hey, Bev,” said Brian softly. If it had been anyone else in the room with him he wouldn’t have said it out loud, but he knew Jimmy understood. “Um, we really miss you. It’s not gonna be the same without you. We hope you know we’re going to find the Ripper and make him pay for what he did to you.”
Jimmy reached across the open space where their best friend should have been and took his hand.
“This is the part where we tell you we love you,” said Brian, his voice cracking. “This is the part where...where we tell you how much you mean to us.” He held back the tears. “A lot, Bev. But you know that already.”
It hurt. It hurt so badly, and Brian knew it was going to hurt for a long time. It would hurt when he and Jimmy went back to work without her, and it would hurt when they watched movies without her sitting in between them. It would hurt in lots of little ways, like hearing songs she liked on the radio or seeing cheap candles at yard sales. It would hurt every time he turned to smile at her and she wasn’t there, and it was going to hurt the worst when eventually, it started to hurt less, because Brian didn’t ever want to forget Beverly Katz or the kind of person she had been.
“We won’t,” said Jimmy, right on track with his thoughts like always. “We won’t forget her. We can’t. Can you imagine she would let us?”
It was true. The sky was so much less interesting without clouds, and Beverly had always been a thunderstorm, pouring down laughter into Jimmy’s and Brian’s lives, dynamic and powerful and full of life. If memories of her evaporated she would rain them back with twice the lightning and all the love.
And when it rains, Brian thought, when it rains, it pours.