St. Paul’s was the only place in Dallas big enough for a funeral like Luke’s.

Lieutenant Trey Munroe didn’t need to look behind him to know that the cathedral was brimming with mourners. The congregation was silent, all eyes fixed on the polished casket below the altar and the woman’s hand that still touched the brass handles. The hum of the boys’ choir seemed miles away as Munroe sat, his mind racing to escape a pain that always caught up with him and slammed him to the ground.

Father McBride’s cough yanked him out of his reverie, back into the nightmare. Somehow he got to his feet, the starched black pants of his brigade feeling foreign on his six foot frame. Every step on the marbled floor ticked in his head, a folded page tight in his hand. There was no way he could ad lib this eulogy. Luke Mullen demanded a carefully prepared speech, but Munroe couldn’t be sure he had even done that.

Hundreds of faces looked to him, a true reflection of the might of a man they would soon have to bury.  

He unfolded the paper, willed the shake in his hand to go away, tried to focus. I need to do this for Luke. For Maria. Keep your head down and get through the next five minutes.

“All of us here will remember this day, this pain. Some will go home, hold their kids. Others go back to work and feel the dread of continuation, the awful legacy of carrying on without a colleague, without a boss. But there are many more of us who, no matter how much time passes, no matter how much joy we seek, will ever be the same.” Scanning the sea of faces didn’t help the wrench of hurt inside him. “They say that life can change in an instant, and for Maria, Joseph and Madeleine, that instant was when Luke Mullen, police captain and my boss, went into a situation last Thursday that took his life.”

At this moment, his body failed to respond. He wanted more than anything to look at Maria, to somehow comfort the two young children whose father had been taken from them by a faceless heartless criminal. But he couldn’t. Only by keeping his eyes fixed on the pages in front of him could Munroe hope for a shred of dignity. Captain Mullen deserved every honor, every compliment, every tear shed by those in the congregation. Only Munroe couldn’t join them. Numbed by the glacier of emotion, he breathed through the moment, searched a sea of faces, for what he didn’t know.

“As cops-“ his voice faltered. He straightened. “As police officers, we crash into danger every day. We are forced into situations we have not chosen. We risk our lives every single day. But we also work alongside the very finest men and women. Luke was the finest man I’ve ever had the—“

Without warning, his voice cracked. His body threatening to collapse, a cold rush of air through the cathedral sent a quiver of energy through his body right down to his toes, nerves stinging and breath arrested. Knowing all eyes were on him helped him. He was the face of the department now that Luke was gone, although how he might possibly fit the shoes of his boss, his friend, his family… Luke would want it. Luke would expect nothing less of him.

Tears spilled down his face now, and Munroe knew he had only seconds left before he would have to slam down the papers and walk out, disgusted at the pathetic eulogy offered to a man who would gladly have given his life for another’s. He didn’t know much about love, but a brother’s loyalty and a colleague’s honor wasn’t just important. It was the only thing he had.