Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Coffin Maker | Crime Detective Suspense

The Coffin Maker
by James McCarthy

‘Ah-ah, that was a sore one.’ He hit his knee on the revolver stuck with duct tape to the underside of the dash when he reached forward for the remote control to open the gates. He should move that pistol somewhere else, but it wouldn’t be as easy to grab when he needed it.
This gun, a Glock 17 had a reputation for reliability, and it was a hell of a lot better than his previous gun which he bought in England as a deactivated firearm. A dodgy gunsmith in Dublin fitted a new firing pin, and that restored it to working order. It didn’t come with any safety guarantees, and he was sure one day it would blow up in his face. He was glad to be rid of it.
It was near midnight, and it had been a long drive in the hearse back to the island, although he had some luck on this trip, the customs officer didn’t search the coffin.
He felt tired, and it would be a relief to take off his undertaker’s uniform; everything black except a white shirt.
He pressed the red button on the remote control, and the wrought iron gates creaked open. When he got time he would spray WD40 on the pivots. It wasn’t exactly a hard task, but recently he had become careless about maintenance jobs like that.
The green button on the remote for closing the gates didn’t work anymore. He’d shut them later.
He drove forward and the security lights came on, lighting up the house and, behind it, the coffin showroom, the workshop, morgue and crematorium. On the other side of the yard, the Chapel was in darkness.
In the showroom window, he had four different priced coffins on display, like grand pianos with their lids open. He had watched a TV documentary on American funeral parlours, and he copied this method for putting them on show.
The neon sign over the showroom read: ‘ACHILL ISLAND FUNERAL UNDERTAKERS. Hand crafted coffins a specialty. Owners Pat O’ Donnell and Son.’
That sign was up there over 50 years, when his father first started the business. Pat missed him since he passed away as a sounding board for all the difficult decisions he had to make about the business.
He halted outside the morgue, switched off the engine, and got out. He might as well shut the gates, and he walked back across the yard. Before he got there, two SUVs with North of Ireland registration plates drove in. They stopped alongside him with the blast of heat from the engines.
Three men in boiler suits carrying machine pistols got out. This didn’t look good. He had read somewhere that new boiler suits didn’t leave any crime scene evidence.
‘What can I do for you gentlemen?’ he asked pretending there was nothing strange about armed men in boiler suits calling to his undertaker business at midnight.
A short man with a beer belly stepped forward. The front of his boiler suit bulging out was making him look pregnant.
‘Are you Pat O’Donnell?’
‘Pat O’Donnell junior. My father died a few years ago.’
It wasn’t the time for a smart answer like, ‘who is asking,’ ‘or what is it to you.’
‘We want a coffin.’
‘You’ve come to the right place. What size.’
‘Your height.’
‘Average then.’
Pat had heard that in this situation, it was a good idea to talk to your captors, if that’s what they were. He thought about making a run for it, but his knees were shaking so much that he wouldn’t get far before they shot him.