stood next to his two-year-old station wagon while Shane paid him.

'Not much of a turnout,' the minister said.

'What it lacks in size it makes up for in quality.'

The man nodded, got into his Chevy, and pulled out. As Shane watched him go, he thought it was ironic how things happened. He had never had a family growing up, and now that he finally had one, he seemed to have an overpowering desire to take in every stray that touched his heart. First Franco… now Delfina. He wondered who would be next.

After the service ended, they walked over to the morteary building to check on the brass headstone that Shane had ordered. Once completed, it had been waiting for the grave to be filled. Now the headstone could be placed in cement over Carol's earthly remains. The man behind the counter handed it to them, then he turned and went into the back room. The plaque was heavy in Shane's hands, almost twenty pounds. He set it on the floor and they all looked down at it.

Shane often thought that guilt was like poison, that each person had only a limited amount they could absorb. Once you hit your saturation point, guilt got its shot at you. It would knock you down and feed on you, weakening you until you could no longer stand the consequences of your actions. Guilt could drive you in dangerous directions, push you up against defining prerogatives and ugly realities. It seemed to him that cops were especially susceptible. They saw the worst of society and often got the worst. They wore thin armor constructed out of cynicism and disdain, but often got pushed into dark emotional corners where they ended the struggle by chewing on their own gun barrels. Carol had pushed Shane slightly closer to his own psychological and emotional edge. Pushed him there because, since Alexa and Chooch had come into his life, he had started to feel. He had started to care. But feelings were sloppy, untidy emotions that, in law enforcement, were a terrible liability.

For the hundredth time, Shane wondered about changing careers. This time, maybe something shiny and fun. He had tried being a Blue Knight, had tried living up to a higher vision of himself. But when Carol White needed a hero, there were none around-only a confused cop who had badly misplayed his hand.

If he quit the job, what would he do? Run a fishing boat? Work with kids? Open a sporting goods store? Fireman… lawyer… teacher?

He could not choose.

Franco began to squirm in Alexa's arms, so she put him down. He sniffed at the corner of the brass headstone.

Then he looked up at them, and cried.

Shane stared at the plaque and wondered if he had chosen the right inscription. He didn't know. Maybe it was okay, or maybe it was just stupid and corny. It probably didn't say what she would have wanted. Shane barely knew Carol White, but she had affected him in ways he found hard to understand. Yet if life was going to be about anything, maybe it should be about hope.

Shane picked up Franco and read the inscription one last time…

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