An Undertaker knows too much about Death
There was a knock at the door.
Lieutenant Jerome Hawkins looked up from his desk and frowned deeply. His six-foot-four-inch frame sighed from exhaustion and infinite paperwork. It was late and he desperately wanted to go home.
“Yeah, yeah, door’s open...come on in!”
The door swung open and a nervous-looking little man with heavily-greased black hair entered the small Homicide Office. “Hello? Lieutenant Hawkins?”
“My name is Simon Franks. I’m sorry to bother you at such a late hour, Mr. Hawkins, but I need your help."
He gingerly sat down in front of the Lieutenant, not comfortably, but as if he expected the chair to break at any moment.
"I've been warned that the information that I'm about to divulge to you will surely be the cause of my death.”
“You don’t say. Well, Mr. Franks, you look pretty good for a dead guy. Just what is it that you’re not suppose to tell me?”
“No, no, no, you don’t understand!”
The round-headed little man in the black suit began to get quite frantic. His bugged-eyes danced from side to side while he kept wringing his hands and looking out the window.
“I am not dead yet, but I will be...in approximately,” he checked his watch, “...one hour.”
“Whoa there, Franks, you wanna tell me what the hell this is all about?”
“I know this sounds foolish,” he said. “I never should’ve come. But now, I’m dead, whether I tell you, or not. They’ll know I was here! They have people everywhere...even here, at this Police Station.”
“Do you want to explain yourself, Mr. Franks? Are you suggesting we have crooked cops working here? Because if you are ....”
“Have you ever heard the name, Amos LaStrom, Lieutenant?”
“Uh, yeah, sure...who hasn’t? He’s the biggest criminal mastermind in the city.”
“He is also the biggest murderer! How many missing persons did you have in the past ten years? I promise you, I can lead you to where they’re all dead and buried...all killed by Amos LaStrom.”
“You can prove this? ‘Cos nobody else has been able to.”
“Oh, yes, I can prove it. I can prove it in a hundred different ways.”
Franks loosened his tie and looked around the room one more time. “You see, Lieutenant, he brings me the bodies to, uh...dispose of.”
“Yes, yes!” The weasel of a man smiled for the first time, making his thin lips disappear, and showing a mouth full of rotting, crooked teeth. “I specialize in dead bodies. I know everything about them. Everything!”
“Just what kind of freak are you?”
Hawkins reached over and grabbed the man’s arm in a tightening grip. “You better keep talking, cause I don’t need this kind of crap right now, understand?”
“You don’t have to threaten a dead man, Lieutenant.” He pushed away the investigator’s hand, then looked at his watch again. “Just about forty-five minutes left. Do you want to hear my story or not?”
“Get on with it then, but I hope for your sake that you’re not going to waste my time.”
“Oh, no, Lieutenant, I guarantee you will ‘have the goods’, so to speak, on Mr. LaStrom.”
He stood up and walked to the window, peeked around the shade and down into the street below. Satisfied for the moment, he began to pace the floor. “I’m an undertaker, a mortician, if you will. I’ve worked for Amos LaStrom for over ten years. We were even partners at one time, but that was years ago.”
“You expect me to believe, that LaStrom, the cleverest mob boss alive, would be partners with the likes of you.”
“Not only partners, but best friends. We grew up together...even lived on the same block. The other kids used to kick me around some, that is, until Amos showed up. He became my bodyguard. Later, though, the tables turned, and I followed him around doing anything he asked, because just to be close to him meant I would survive another day.”
“So why are you betraying him?”
“Betray? I’d do more than betray...I’d kill him if I could! Make no mistake, Lieutenant, Amos LaStrom is pure evil.”
“So, what’s brought about this change of heart if you were such close friends?”
“In my line of work, I see death everyday, Lieutenant. But what this man, this Amos LaStrom, is doing has simply got to be stopped! He kills for pleasure. He likes it...no, no, no, he...he loves it. He’s got many employees that would gladly do the killing for him, but he’d rather do it himself, and every grotesque killing is different from the previous one!”
“I’ve heard rumors of LaStrom and his Death Chamber.”
“All true, I assure you! He instills the utmost fear into everyone that works for him. Who would dare cross such a man? I, myself, have worked for him for what seems like a lifetime. The Death Chamber is real, Lieutenant, I know, because it’s located in the basement of my funeral home.”
“This will all have to be checked-out, Mr. Franks, but if what you say is true, Amos LaStrom could indeed be facing the death penalty.”
“Lieutenant, I can take you to the graves of hundreds of LaStrom’s former enemies, but more importantly, I can show you how they were killed and by whom.” He checked his watch again. “Thirty minutes left, Mr. Hawkins.”
“Do you really think they can make good on that promise to kill you, Mr. Franks? I mean, you’re on the sixth floor of the police station for God’s sake. It would be suicide for anyone to come in here and try to kill you.”
“LaStrom has many top officials gathered into his fold. It would be an easy matter to get to anyone he wished. The fact that I’m one of the least likely to turn him in, Lieutenant, is the only thing I’ve got going in my favor. He’d never expect a coward such as myself, to ever have enough guts to rat-him-out. But it’s just a matter of time.”
Lieutenant Hawkins rose and walked to the window. He pulled up the shade and stared out, thinking.
“Do you have any evidence or proof on you?” The Lieutenant turned and faced Simon Franks. “Is there anything you can show me at all, that would help me believe your story?”
“I have my bank statements that show large amounts of money deposited into my account from LaStrom, Inc. Hush money, if you will...but it’s all there in black and white.”
“May I see them please?”
“Certainly.” Franks stood up, pulling out an envelope from inside his coat pocket. He walked over to Hawkins and handed it to him. The Lieutenant took it, and without even looking, shoved them into his pocket.
“Anything else? Anything that could tie you to LaStrom?”
No, ‘fraid not. All my evidence is at the funeral home!”
“And we will be heading there shortly, Mr. Franks.”
The Lieutenant looked out the window again, then reached down and pulled it open. “Ah, that’s better...fresh air!”
“Please, Lieutenant, my time is almost up. Are you going to do something, or not?”
Hawkins returned to his seat and picked up the phone. “Sergeant! I want you to take a couple of your best men over to Franks Funeral Home.”
The pudgy little man let out a big sigh of relief, then slowly sat down again. He felt an enormous burden had finally been lifted from his back. He hung his head down, weary from the guilt he had lived with for so long.
“That’s right, Sergeant...Franks Funeral Home. Get over there immediately and burn the place to the ground. Make it a hot one! Leave nothing to be found.”
Simon Franks, his face white as a sheet, looked up at the investigator. Fear seeped through his body like water. Jerome Hawkins slowly hung up the phone and stood up.
“Time’s up, Franks! You’ve got a date at the funeral home. I'm sure Mr. LaStrom will be very eager to speak with you about some unfinished business matters.”
“Please, Lieutenant, please...do not turn me over to that, madman!”
“Sorry, Franks, but we just can’t afford to let you go around telling your story to everyone. It was just a lucky break for LaStrom that you came to me first.” Both men stood up. “Come on, let’s go.”
Simon Franks had the look of a caged animal. He stiffly shuffled his feet toward the door. Jerome tightly gripped his arm.
Then, in a surprising feat of strength, the Lieutenant grabbed him by the seat of his pants, and threw him out of the open window.
There was a scream, a car honking...and then the Lieutenant walked over and looked down at the street below. Satisfied, he went back to his desk and picked up the phone.
“Hello, Captain Stuart? Yeah, Hawkins here. I just had some weirdo jump out of my office window. That’s right. Definite suicide, sir. I’ll put it all in my report. Thank you, sir...and goodnight to you too.”
Jerome Hawkins sat down at his desk and pulled out another long form from the drawer, then hurriedly scribbled "Simon Franks" at the top.