TAMPA — The hat in the road confirmed her worst fear.
That male pedestrian they mentioned on the news, the body under the sheet behind all the crime scene tape: It was Luis.
"He was a good man," America Herrera said later in Spanish.
Herrera's common-law husband of 10 years, 83-year-old Luis Salgado, died at about 7 a.m. Saturday as he walked from Herrera's N Church Avenue apartment toward his own place on E Harrison Street.
Two cars hit Salgado as he crossed W Hillsborough Avenue at Church — first a Nissan Sentra, then a Chevrolet Cavalier, police said. There's no crosswalk at that spot. Salgado died at the scene.
Herrera, 84, was on her way to work at a nearby Goodwill thrift store when she saw the police lights and got a terrible feeling.
She didn't have to ask who the dead man was when she saw Salgado's cowboy hat in the blocked-off westbound lanes. She started to cry. One of the female drivers who had hit Salgado hugged her and started crying, too, Herrera recalled.
When they took Salgado away, Herrera went home. She sat at her little dining room table, looked at pictures, prayed the rosary and cried some more.
Herrera remembered the day she first met Salgado, a retired nurse. They were riding the same Tampa bus, and he struck up a conversation.
Herrera thought of the traditional Cuban music Salgado used play on his guitar — always, for her, a love song.
Though the two considered themselves married, they never made it official. Both Herrera and Salgado had been married before, and both already had children.
They became U.S. citizens several years ago — first Herrera, then Salgado.
Though Salgado had his own place, he and Herrera spent nearly every day together.
"He was always taking care of me," Herrera said.
The news came on, and Herrera stopped talking. She looked at a map on the screen that pinpointed the spot where Salgado died. She shook her head.
"Un hombre muy bueno," she said. A very good man.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2442.