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Authors: Martin Bodenham

Once a Killer

BOOK: Once a Killer
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Title Page

Once a Killer


Martin Bodenham


Mount Tuam Publishing

Copyright Information

Once a Killer, Copyright © 2014 by Martin Bodenham

All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of Canada, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author/publisher.


Published by Mount Tuam Publishing

First eBook edition, June 2014

First trade paperback edition, June 2014


The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.


ISBN: 978-0-9938446-1-4


Book Design by Coreen Montagna

[email protected]


To Jules, my angel.

Chapter 1

the old woman as they bludgeoned her to death. It wasn’t personal; she was bait, nothing more.

Easing back on the gas, Michael Hoffman peered through the clunking wipers of his rental car, looking for the place they’d taken his mother’s mutilated body. He passed an empty Mexican restaurant, then a Laundromat with a group of young men inside who looked like they were in the middle of a fight. As he checked the central locking system for the third time since leaving the freeway, up ahead, a bright neon sign caught his attention—
Cook County Funeral Home - Affordable Funerals By People Who Care Since 1954
. Its red light, high up on a steel pole, and the pouring rain conspired to distort his view through the windshield. Rainwater pelted his face when he opened the side window and leaned out of the car, searching for a break in the wall. The entrance to the private parking area had to be close. The man he’d spoken to on the phone yesterday had warned him, if he wanted it back, he should avoid leaving his vehicle on the street.

There it was. At the bottom of the illuminated sign stood two brick pillars on either side of a narrow driveway. Michael pulled off the road and entered the vacant car park. As he killed the engine, the digital clock on the dashboard flashed 9:10 p.m. He was late—very late—and there were no lights on inside. Maybe the man had already left.

The iPhone in Michael’s jacket pocket rang. As he retrieved it, an image of his wife appeared on the screen. For a moment, he thought about taking the call, but decided against the idea; lying to Caroline again about where he was tonight would only take up valuable time.

When the door at the side of the building opened, a tall, muscular man in his early forties stepped out.

“Hello,” Michael said, jumping out of the car. He ran over to the man, soaking the bottom of his suit trousers in the puddles forming in the potholed tarmac. “I’m really sorry I’m late.”

The man threw him a shit-look. “I said no later than quarter to nine.” He turned the key to lock the door. “We’re done here tonight.”

“My flight was delayed coming into O’Hare. I got here as soon as I could.”

The man shrugged his shoulders. “Not my problem. You’ll have to come back tomorrow morning.”

“I have to do this tonight. Please.”

“I can’t help you. Now, if it’s okay, I’d like to get out of this rain.”

Michael reached into his jacket, and the man flinched.

“Yesterday, you wanted a hundred.” Michael took out a bunch of notes from his Mulberry wallet. “Would two hundred change your mind? I really have to see her tonight.”

The man relaxed then smiled. “Make it three, and I’ll give you ten minutes.”

Moments later, Michael stood waiting in the mortuary, the pungent odor of disinfectant failing to mask the smell of death.

“You said you weren’t family, right?” The man was wheeling out a shrouded body on a gurney.

“Right.” Michael looked away. “I’m here for a good friend who can’t make it.”

“It’s a good job your friend’s not here.” He nodded toward the body. “This one’s a bit of a mess.”

The knot tightened in Michael’s stomach. “I’d appreciate some privacy.”

“Sure. Ten minutes, remember.”

When the man left, Michael stood in the cold room, staring at the gurney. His fingers trembled when he reached for the white sheet. Bracing himself for a shock, he drew back the cloth, revealing long gray hair that had been combed straight back. Holding his breath, slowly he revealed the woman’s face before lurching backward, almost losing his balance.

“Jesus.” Michael fought back the bile in his throat.

His mother’s head looked like a deflated football. It was obvious her nose had been broken and cheekbones shattered. Dark bruises covered what remained of her face, and on her neck remnants of dried blood still showed on her pale skin where they’d failed to clean her properly. Maybe the staff here had figured nobody in their right mind would want to visit her in this condition. But Michael had to be here. Not only had he come a long way, but he’d also taken a great risk for this last chance to see for himself the bitch was actually dead.

Although he hadn’t seen her for almost twenty-five years, his mother looked older than he’d expected—much older. She’d have been sixty-four on her last birthday, but now, even allowing for her injuries, she had the weathered appearance of a woman well into her eighties. Years of alcohol abuse, and God knows what else, had eaten her away.

He leaned forward and stared at the sunken face of the monster who had made his early childhood a living hell. As Michael drew closer, a whiff of cleaning agent entered his nostrils, and he recoiled at the memory it stirred. He remembered the times his mother would squirt Clorox into his mouth if she caught him lying or, worse, stealing food. Apart from the regular beatings with her walking stick, food deprivation had been her favorite way to torture him. What kind of woman could do these things to her own child?

“Come on,” said the man, returning to the room. “You’ve had more than ten minutes.”

“Just a while longer.” Michael kept his eyes on his mother. “Please.”

“I can’t do it.”

“All I’m asking for is a few minutes.”

“You shouldn’t even be in here now. You’re not family and you don’t really have an appointment. I’d lose my job if the owners found out about this.”

The man pulled the sheet back over the body, and Michael watched as the gurney was wheeled away.

By the time he stepped out of the building, the rain had stopped and a smell of fried onions from the Mexican restaurant down the street clung to the humid air. Hearing the sound of male voices, Michael glanced across the unlit car park. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he could make out three young men hanging around his vehicle, checking it out.

“Nice wheels,” said one of them, leaning on the hood as Michael approached. “Don’t see many like this around here.”

Michael cursed the rental company for upgrading his vehicle. He’d known it would stand out where he was going, but there hadn’t been enough time to change it and still make it to the funeral home before the man left.

Michael raised his palms. “Hey, I don’t want any trouble, guys.”

The biggest of the three men swaggered over to him. Towering over Michael, he stood only six inches away and grinned.

“We just wanna take it for a ride.” He held out his hand for the keys.

Michael stared at the thug. “I told you I don’t want any trouble.”

“Just give him the keys, Whiteboy,” shouted the man leaning on the hood.

“I think I’m gonna have some fun with this one,” said the large man, turning his face toward his friend for a second.

Michael kneed him hard in the groin and, as the giant lunged forward, struck the man’s face with the sharp tip of his elbow, knocking him out cold. The other two men froze, stunned by the speed at which their accomplice had been brought down by this stranger in a suit.

“You want some of this?” said Michael, crouching with fists clenched and pointing with his chin to the unconscious man lying face down on the wet tarmac. “Do you?”

“You boys better get out of here,” shouted the funeral home worker, leaving the building behind Michael. “He’s with me.”

The two men ran off as the man came over to attend to the bleeding victim on the ground.

“Thanks for your help.” Michael reached into his pocket for the car keys. “I didn’t want any of this.”

“I didn’t do it for you.” The man pointed to the comatose lump at his feet. “I saw what you did to this one. You seem pretty handy with your fists.”

“Is he okay?”

“He’ll recover. Look, I don’t know who you are, but you’d better leave before those guys come back with their friends.”

BOOK: Once a Killer
13.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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