Turned out that was Patty I saw in the crowd at the service. I know because later, I went looking for Ziggy outside the church, and eventually found him practically holding Patty and Digger apart at arm’s length. He caught sight of me and gave me a look that I took to mean get out of here and let me handle this.
So I did. I went back inside. What I heard of the argument was Digger calling Patty a cunt, and Patty, laughing her throaty laugh and pointing at him, replying, “No. You’re a cunt.”
That made me laugh.
Like her death, Claire’s funeral was a drawn out affair with multiple stages. In addition to the memorial service where her body was presented and Remo and I sang, there was a separate mass, and then there was a thing at the funeral home where she was being cremated. And also the reception.
What is a “reception,” anyway? I guess in the case of weddings and funerals it was for the family to “receive” either congratulations or condolences, depending? Or maybe just receive guests. But I kept thinking of radio reception, how sometimes it was clear as crystal, and other times as full of static as my own brain.
The reception was back at the hotel, in a private function room they had off the lobby. There were mini quiches. Courtney must have arranged that because I sure as heck do not remember Claire ever mentioning to me that she wanted mini quiches at her reception.
Ziggy got me through the reception kind of like he got me through the set at the church.
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? “The set at the church.” But that’s what it was, or what it had turned into. Three songs, but it was… really something. I’m not sure which thing made me more of a zombie, flashbacks to Claire’s demise or flashbacks to the performance. My mind was really not on all the people around me and no amount of shaking hands and accepting pats on the back could break me out of that.
Bart was one of the back-patters. “I’ve never seen you like this.”
“So… shell-shocked. Not even when you were on the verge of losing it in South America.”
“Huh. Maybe being at my mother’s funeral gives me permission not to have to hide it.”
“You’re probably right.” He pulled me into a hug, but I didn’t feel like crying. I had Ziggy’s voice ringing in my ears. It was just nice to know Bart was trying to comfort me. “That’s really perceptive of you.”
“Maybe that means therapy worked.”
He grinned and it felt okay to grin back at him.
“See you at home.” He combined the back-pat and the hug one more time and then left.
I got to say goodbye to Rose, too, in one of those moments when Ziggy was talking to someone else. “That hymn! Goodness, boy, I hadn’t heard that one since I was a little girl.” She kissed me on my cheeks, one and then the other.
“Um, yeah, that was…” I couldn’t explain Ziggy or anything about why he was late or… anything about him really. Well, maybe a little: “That was the singer in my band.” My band, which might be resurrected from the dead. “He and I have a vocal coach. She’s German. She made us learn it as a vocal exercise.”
“Well, it was perfect. And what a set of pipes on him, hm? On both of you. I haven’t heard harmony like that since… oh, since…” She trailed off, looking at me carefully.
“Since who? It’s okay, Rose. I won’t be offended if you say some band I don’t like.”
“Well, I was going to say Donny and Marie, but then I thought, no, that doesn’t sound right at all.” She chuckled. “Sonny and Cher? But here’s hoping you two last a lot longer than they did.”
I remembered Sonny and Cher being on TV when I was a kid, but I didn’t really know the details of their private life. I had a vague memory that they had split up. A very public split, since they were on TV and all…
Patty wanted to use Ziggy and my reunion to launch a publicity campaign. She’d already left for New York without talking to me. I guess she’d come all the way to Tennessee to tell Digger off? It sounded like it felt good. (Or maybe I was projecting. It certainly felt great when I did it.) I smiled, thinking about the fact that Digger hadn’t even set foot in the service. And that I hadn’t had to talk to him at all. There was something wonderful about that. Like true miracles could occur.
But I wanted to know, of course, what Ziggy had said to him. Where Ziggy had been and what he had been doing.
The static in my brain started to resolve into something, like a radio station coming into range on the dial. A song, a chorus, hey Ziggy, did you sell your soul this time? Hey Ziggy, did you sell your soul?
Of course I couldn’t use his name in it, so I’d need something else that scanned. Heh. “Digger” would work, too, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to use that name, not when the next line was about how I’d go to hell and back for him.
I could almost hear the melody, feel the texture of the riff. I’d need to get my hands on a guitar soon to make sure I noted it down before the idea faded away. Fortunately our room was just across the building, and things were beginning to wind down.
I gave Ziggy’s arm a squeeze and retreated to our room. I tuned the guitar and kept hearing flashbacks to the way it had sounded in the church. I hoped Patty had liked Claire’s song, because it was definitely up there in the list of things I wanted to work on. And it was a list, I realized. We had the song we’d written in Ziggy’s living room, too. And “Infernal Medicine,” that one was just hanging there waiting to be plucked like a fat, juicy pear. And “Moving Parts,” I hadn’t thought about that one in a while, but I knew it was out there. I’d given a lot of songs to Jordan–dozens–but some of the gems I’d held back.
Ziggy came in while I was plucking away softly at the melody, and he said nothing, just closed the door quietly behind him and moved around trying not to disturb me.
It didn’t work. I ended up looking at him over my shoulder. “Hey.”
He slid onto the rectilinear couch next to me. “Hey.”
“You said to trust you.”
“I did. And you did.”
I nodded. “Though I’ve gotta say… I really started to doubt you in that last… oh… half hour or so before you showed up.”
“I’m sorry about that.” He kissed me on the temple. “Digger did everything possible to fuck things up. But I threatened to bring the hammer down.”
I didn’t ask. If he was going to tell me, he was going to tell me. All I cared about was the logistics. “Did he sign the paper or whatever it was Patty faxed you?”
“He did.” His smile was a bit wan, a bit tired maybe, but his eyes were bright. “He’s calling off the dogs. He’s settling. And he’ll be out of our hair very soon now.”
“Good.” I kissed him on the mouth, just a peck, just an I love you.
Ziggy looked me over. “Don’t you want to know?”
“Do I? You tell me if I’ll sleep better at night not knowing.”
He considered for a moment, then said, “You remember a couple of times I told you I had something to tell you later?”
“At least a few of those times it was that I had something on him. I’ve been carrying it around for a very long time.”
“This is starting to sound like something I don’t want to hear.”
He tipped his head, considering me somberly. “What kind of thing are you expecting?”
I put the guitar down flat on the table so it wouldn’t fall over and took his hands in mine. “It wouldn’t be unlike you to have set up some kind of blackmail situation, you know.”
“Oh, you mean like inviting Digger to an orgy and getting photos of him with every fruit from Carmen Miranda’s fucking hat up his rear?”
We both snorted at that image, although I thought that sounded awfully specific. But that’s sometimes the kind of graphic Ziggy could be. “Well, for example,” I said.
“True, dear one. True. But this was nothing like that.” He kissed my fingers in that way he often did. “You remember when Colin went through the records that Janessa had turned over?”
“Yeah.” That was a while back, but then again these lawsuits had taken years to come around.
“One of the things he found, but which he didn’t realize was something until I figured it out, was something involving my mother’s money.” His eyes narrowed and I could almost feel his temperature rising just from thinking about it. “After all, if no one ever looked at his records, who was ever going to notice that payments were still going on for months after she died?”
“Wait, you’re saying he took money out of your dead mother’s bank accounts?”
“No no no. Worse. Paying for her was coming out of my accounts, remember? Something like ten grand, sometimes twenty grand a month, paid to the fancy assisted living place I’d put her in. Wouldn’t you think it weird that he’d keep sending that money after she’d passed away?”
“They didn’t notify him?”
“Oh, he tried to tell me that. He didn’t know and that I should sue the place for fraud. But guess where Antonio’s brother Ferdinand worked as a physical therapist?”
So that’s what his name was. I was pretty sure Tony had never told me. “Ziggy, this is too much of a coincidence.”
“It’s not a coincidence at all, dear one. I heard about the place from him to begin with, when I was looking for the absolute best place to put her.”
I guess that was logical, but…
“He’d been working with a bunch of residents there for a while and was going to full time on staff, right when I was looking to move her into a home. And I wanted a place where I knew someone on the inside, you know? To make sure they weren’t abusing the residents or whatever.” He gave me a look, because I guess I was giving him a look. “This just makes sense. I wasn’t going to put her somewhere I knew nobody. It worked out perfectly.”
“So what did Antonio’s brother tell you?”
“One of the reasons he’s not working there anymore is because of the dirt he’s got on someone in the finance department there who was taking Digger’s checks–my checks–and cashing them, and then kicking the money back to Digger.” He squeezed my hands. “So, yes, there’s another scumbag out there, but I’m satisfied with screwing the one we know personally. Whose idea it was to begin with.”
“Okay, and you what, confronted him with the truth and he confessed?”
Ziggy snorted. “Does that sound likely?”
“That man has no conscience whatsoever. But he’s weak.”
“So you… scared the shit of him.”
Ziggy nodded, a gleam of relish in his eye. “I had him believing he could be in Riker’s Island by next week if he didn’t sign everything I put in front of him. Your oldest sister helped, you know. She told me where to find him.” A wider smile spread onto his face. “It was glorious. You should’ve seen it. I made him beg. I made him think I didn’t give a fuck about any of the record company bullshit. All I wanted to do was nail his fucking balls to the wall and literally let him die in prison.” His eyelids fluttered as if he were recalling a particularly ecstatic orgasm. “When he caved, and I let him realize there was a way out, that I’d ‘settle’ for him calling off the suits as a way to pay me off, he broke down and bawled like a baby.”
“You are terrifying and I love you.” I rubbed my nose against his.
“I know. I deserve a goddamn Academy award for the performance, too.” He kissed me softly. “But it took a long time to wear him down.” Two days, right? Or had it been three? I’d lost track. “And I am exhausted.”
I think it was still early in the evening, but so what. We got in bed and we slept the sweet sleep of the righteous.