I wrote a short cross-over fiction in tribute to Maury Chaykin, who died last week. Maury played Sheriff Cobb in the pilot for Eureka. He also, in his long and successful career, starred with Timothy Hutton in the A&E series, Nero Wolfe. Hutton, of course, is currently starring in the very entertaining series, Leverage. I thought it would be nice for everyone to get together to say goodbye.
Note: All the usual disclaimers apply - I own neither Eureka nor Leverage, more's the pity. The characters aren't mine, but the story is.
“I… I still can’t believe he’s gone,” Jo’s normally controlled face betrayed her distress. “It was so sudden.”
Henry nodded, “I know, Jo,” he said sympathetically. “But at least the heart attack came in his sleep. There was no suffering.”
They stood together in Eureka’s funeral home, along with numerous other residents of the town. In the casket at the end of the room lay the remains of Major William Cobb, former Sheriff of Eureka. The number of Army uniforms present showed that he had been highly regarded by the military attached to Eureka as well.
Ernie Perkins came up to them. “It’s a sad day,” the lawyer said softly. “Sheriff Cobb was one of a kind. I know this is a difficult time, but if you could come see me tomorrow… It’s about the Sheriff’s Will. Would two o’clock be alright?” They nodded and Ernie patted Jo’s arm awkwardly and moved on to chat to others there.
Even though she wasn’t on duty, Jo automatically scanned the room. Her eyes came to rest on a stranger but even as she stepped forward to get a better look, the man seemed to melt into the crowd. Jo frowned and looked around.
“How are you holding up, Jo?” Carter’s voice came at her shoulder, surprising her. She turned to face her boss. Jack had insisted on wearing civvies to the wake, stating that Cobb should be the lone Sheriff today. But that didn’t stop him from keeping an eye on things, particularly his deputy. He knew how much Jo had cared for his predecessor, regarding him almost as a surrogate father. So many other people had been so sympathetic that it had been hard for her not to burst into tears. Jack’s eyes, while also showing sympathy, carried a calming, I-know-you-can-handle-this message which helped her square her shoulders.
“I’m alright,” she assured him, her voice still a little rough. “I was just looking -- I saw a stranger a minute ago and I was trying to get a better look at him.”
Jack looked around at the crowd. “There are a lot of people here. Maybe someone from GD that you don’t usually see in a suit?” he suggested. “Or was he Army?”
“No, he wasn’t wearing a uniform and I’m sure he wasn’t from Eureka,” she replied positively, craning her neck. “Wait, he’s over there,” she gestured with her chin toward the casket.
Jack stepped aside to get a better view. The man had his back to them, so all Carter could see was a dark suit, a rangy build and slightly longish wavy dark hair. He knelt at the rail and bowed his head. Then Vincent came up to Jack to offer him some hors d’oeuvres and when Jack looked again the man was gone.
Jo stepped forward, determined to find the stranger, but Jack stopped her. “I’m sure it’s alright,” he said soothingly. “Just an old friend come to say goodbye. Cobb probably had any number of acquaintances outside of Eureka.” She seemed ready to argue with him, then suddenly deflated.
“You’re probably right,” she said tiredly. “I guess I’m just overreacting.”
“Understandable,” Carter reassured her. He glanced around the room. “Look, things are winding down. Why don’t you head home and try to get some sleep?”
Indeed, the crowd was steadily thinning, mostly leaving in small groups, still talking in slightly subdued voices. Vincent and Zoë moved about, stacking empty plates and collecting glasses. The stranger was nowhere to be seen. Jo went up to the casket for one last look at her old friend, then said good night to Jack and went home.
The graveside service the next morning was brief but heartfelt. Standing between Jack and Henry, Jo couldn’t help checking the crowd to see if the stranger was there. At first she thought he wasn’t, but then she saw him at the very back. His eyes were shaded by sunglasses but she had the odd impression that he was looking right at her. Before she could move, the crowd shifted and he disappeared again.
At two o’clock, a small group of people gathered at Ernie Perkins’ law office. They filed into the conference room, found seats and looked expectantly at Ernie. The attorney coughed and smoothed his navy blue tie.
“There is one more person,” he said in his quiet way. “We’ll just…” He broke off as his secretary showed in the last person. Jo was startled to see that it was the stranger. He nodded briefly to the others with no sign of nervousness and calmly took a seat.
“Ah, fine. Now that we’re all gathered, I will proceed with the reading of the Will.” Ernie cleared his throat and then said, “I’ll spare you the legalese, although of course as legatees you are each entitled to a copy of the Will if you so desire.” He glanced up and everyone nodded in understanding. “There are several small legacies, as follows: To Alison Blake, my collection of cookbooks so that she can finally try out some of my secret recipes. To Henry Deacon, my old tool set to supplement his own collection. To Jack Carter, my fishing gear in the hopes that he will remember to take a day off now and then. To Douglas Fargo, my telescope so that he can look at the stars from his own back yard.”
Fargo, who had enjoyed many a friendly argument with Cobbs about old-fashioned versus electronically enhanced telescopes, sniffled and wiped a tear from his eye. Ernie paused to push a box of tissues within his reach. Returning his attention to the Will, he continued with a few mementos for others there. Finally there remained only Jo and the stranger.
“To Nathan Ford, I leave my collection of first edition Nero Wolfe books, in fond remembrance of the cases we solved together.” Every eye in the room turned toward the stranger, but he was looking down at his folded hands on the table, a small smile tugging at his lips. “And finally, to Josephine Lupo, whom I have always regarded as the daughter I never had, I leave the rest and remainder of my estate.” Jo’s eyes widened in shock, and Jack squeezed her hand in support. Ernie put down the papers and looked at Jack. “Sheriff Carter, I believe you know that Sheriff Cobbs appointed you as executor of the estate.” Jack nodded. “If you’ll remain behind, we can go over the paperwork. Sheriff Cobb was a very well organized man, so I expect you will find everything in order.”
As the others left, Jo stepped up next to Ford. He paused and looked at her. “My condolences,” he said. “I know you must be feeling his loss.”
She nodded. “Yeah, he was my first boss here.” She bit her lip, suddenly at a loss for words. Ford came to her rescue.
“Is there some place I can get a bite to eat?” he asked. “Maybe you could join me? We could share some stories about Bill. He spoke very highly of you on the few occasions we saw each other in the past few years.”
Jo nodded gratefully, smiling genuinely for the first time in several days. “I’d like that,” she replied.
They walked out the door and down the steps into the sunshine.