The calling hours went on for three days. Thomas Richardson had been a beloved man in the small community. A firefighter and member of the City Council, Tom carried a great deal of respect. The entire town came in droves to pay their respects. Gabriel was convinced the family would never finish reading all the sympathy cards or run out of casseroles delivered each day.
In 1987 a great fire had erupted in the South Point Library. The fire alarms never went off, causing the sprinkler system to fail and dozens of lives were lost. It was because of this event that Tom petitioned the City Council to over haul the emergency system in every public building in the town. When the City Consil refused to listen to his petition he ran for office and won. While in office Tom had saved several fire houses from closing their doors, re-written the protocol for fire safety procedures in every business and re-designed emergency sprinkler systems all over town.
Ten years later, almost to the exact date of the South Point Library Fire, a small fire began in the boiler room of the Community Center during the James A. Garfield High School Homecoming Dance. The new emergency system worked perfectly with no injuries or casualties. The success of Tom’s new system made him a home town hero. Not a single person in the small town of Regina, Maryland dared miss Thomas Richardson’s funeral.
When Tom grew ill from cancer he hid it well. It was in his fifth year of battle against the cancer cells in his stomach that he could hide it no further. He had lost a great deal of weight that could no longer be hidden under bulky clothing, his appetite was almost gone and could no longer take comfort in anything. But Tom was resilient yet and outlasted every prediction until the very end. Where most people only live for five to six years, Tom lasted ten.
When he finally passed, it was a quiet death, his wife, Chloe at his bedside. In his final weeks he had requested to return to his home. The hospital did not normally allow this practice for terminal patients, but Tom’s reputation proceeded himself and he was granted his final wish.
Gabriel knew all these things and called every day from his office in California. When he called one afternoon at his regular time and no one answered the call, that was all he needed. He packed his bags that night and left. But it was already too late.
Perhaps that is why Gabriel had trouble sleeping at night.