Ahead, he saw a cluster of cars parked under a spreading willow, among them the long, low shape of the hearse. A small group stood by them. Two men were opening the rear door as he pulled the car onto the verge. He saw the faces turn toward him but for the moment, he remained seated, watching. Finally, he left the car and joined the rest of the group.
A silent nod was all he offered in greeting, and all he received in reply. He walked to where Jason and Ourinho stood, grabbing the hand of each in turn and clasping them around the shoulders. Silver beads of water dotted Jason's dreadlocks, dripping on the fabric of his black suit. A few tears dotted Ourinho's golden lashes, and he brushed them away with a gloved hand. Ze Carlos and brothers Damien and James joined them and together, the six men lifted the casket out of the hearse. Raindrops drummed on the black lacquered wood and rolled off the gilt edging.
They moved slowly; without his cane, Rafael gritted his teeth against the shocks that ran up his leg with each step. He could feel the eyes of the small crowd boring into him as they bent to set the coffin on the metal frame which would lower it into the earth. The six men stood and stepped back almost in unison. Across from him stood Gina, Louis's fiance. Former fiance, he reminded himself. She was in black, of course, from head to toe. A veil fell just to her mouth, but he could still glimpse her eyes, burning beneath. What was that expression..hate? Pity? Or just sorrow. Her long, brown fingers worried at the gleaming gold ring with the canary diamonds.
Damien and James flanked their brother's fiancee, arms around her in condolence. Their faces shared the same high, almost arrogant brows, deep-set eyes and sunken cheeks that had given Louis the look of some mournful chieftain, but physically, they could not be more different. James had a prizefighter's body, with shoulders seemingly twice as wide as his younger brother's taller, lankier frame. Louis had always seemed the golden mean of the two, Rafael thought. Damien did not look at him, but gazed downwards at the casket, focused as if staring into an infinite tunnel. James' eyes, though, bore into him like drillbits, burning darkly from the carved mask of his face.
Beside them stood Ourinho, shorter than all three, his dark golden curls sodden and running down his back. He had the face of a Raphaelite angel and another, even more angelic figure stood by his side. His latest girlfriend; was it Caroline? Or maybe Karen, Rafael couldn't remember. Though he was sure they'd only been together a month, he wept openly in front of her. Near the head of the coffin Jason slowly shifted his weight from leg to leg, looking menacing and incongruous with his long dreads and immaculately tailored suit and raincoat, towering over everyone nearby. He watched Rafael as well, his eyes a piercing, peculiar grey.
Mestre Ibrahim stepped forward and softly dropped a silk cordão casket, the green and gold shining on the black wood like some kind of tropical serpent. His suit fit oddly on his small frame, his old tweed flat cap was ragged, and his shoes scuffed and worn. On the street, he would be easy to overlook, but many in the small crowd stared at him with reverence. He crossed himself, work-worn hands moving in a swift motion from shoulder to shoulder and chest to aquiline nose. The mestre murmured a brief Portuguese prayer and turned away. Others stepped forward and dropped mementoes into the grave; a gold cross, white flowers, a worn leather bible, a tattered Red Sox cap.
A priest began to speak; Rafael didn't recognize him. The words flowed past him leaving no mark, bringing no meaning; platitudes, invocations and prayers. Gina sobbed silently beneath her veil. James' knuckles clenched white. Rafael listened but heard nothing, raindrops drumming on his head, his shoulders, cascading down between his fingers. He could feel the eyes boring into him. The priest finished his speech. Rafael licked dry lips.
Damien began to speak. "He was a brother to me, and to a lotta other people. He..." The words choked in the tall man's throat. "We're gonna miss the hell out of you, Lou."
He stepped back and shoved his hands back into his pockets, shoulders hunched, face to the ground. James pulled his arms from Gina's shoulder and edged towards the casket.
"You left us too soon, brother. All of us deserved to go before you." As he spoke his gaze drilled into Rafael's. "You were a good man, you were a good brother, and I know you woulda been an even better husband and a father. Rest in peace, brother. They ain't gonna make no more like you."
Another moment of silence, and then Rafael stepped forward, drew a slim bottle of Jameson from his pocket and upended it over the casket, watching the twisting amber stream cascade downwards, tumbling and blending with the falling rain. The acrid smell of whiskey touched his nose. He might have been shedding a tear, but he couldn't tell with the water pouring down his face. The last drops fell from the bottle and he put it back in his pocket.