So here's one of my favourite scenes from THE GODDAUGHTER CAPER. I often read this one at events. It answers the question: Do old mobsters ever really retire?
(Background: Gina has inherited a chest full of cash and bonds from her great-uncle Seb, who was in the mob. But when the chest arrives at her store, it has a dead body in it! This scene is two chapters later.)
Still had time to kill. I picked up the magazine that was on top of the pile. Had to smile at the name on the cover.
Association of Retired Seniors…ARS for short.
I paged through it. One ad in particular caught my interest. This was because someone had taken a black felt pen and circled it. It read:
Fly By Night Funerals
Need Help? Short on cash?
From Rigor to Removal,
we do the whole thing.
Plenty of satisfied customers.
I felt the blood leave my face. I recognized that phone number. It was the number
I had used that morning to reach Jimmy in the retirement home. Crap!
I quickly speed-dialed Sammy, my uncle Vince’s underboss. It immediately went to voice mail. I said a very bad word.
“Sammy, call me back as soon as you can,” I hissed into the phone.
I sat for a moment listening to my heart pound. But I’m really not good at sitting and doing nothing. So I phoned the number in the ad. Again, it went to voice mail. A shaky elderly voice addressed me.
“You have reached Fly By Night Funerals…
You plug ’em, we plant ’em. Please leave a number,
and we will return your call as soon as possible.”
The machine beeped at me. I clicked off without leaving a message.
I stared at the phone in my hand. Almost immediately it binged to signal a new call.
“What’s up?” said Sammy.
“Fly by Night Funerals. Spill it,” I said, keeping my voice low.
“Oh, that,” said Sammy. “Yeah, I figured there was a mix-up. The box with the body in it that got delivered to your place was supposed to go to the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home.”
“The retirement home? Like they need more dead bodies? They don’t create
enough of their own?” This was just loony.
“Easy, sugar. It’s simply a small business we’re supporting. Old Jimmy is the manager.”
I got this cold feeling. “The manager of what small business?”
“A funeral business. Nothing to get excited about. They just run it from the
retirement home so there aren’t that many questions.”
Questions? I had a few questions. But before I could ask them, Sammy said,
“Nobody notices a few extra bodies leaving a retirement home. Get it?”
I was starting to get it. I remembered the answering machine message. You plug ’em—we plant ’em.
“They’re running a business burying people who get murdered?” I said.
“We don’t off them ourselves, sweetheart,” said Sammy. “That’s the joy of it.
We just do the cleanup. We’re actually providing a much-needed service. Or, at
least, they are. I’m only a consultant.”
“Old Jimmy? And Magda? And my great aunt Rita?” I couldn’t believe it. Those
sweet, elderly folk? Okay, maybe they had checkered pasts, but…
Sammy went on. “The key to good business management is to provide a service
that’s got a demand for it. Jimmy nailed it. People are distressed when they have a body hanging around. They pay well. So the Last Chance Club…they got more business than they can handle.”
“But why? I said. “Why would they do this?”
Sammy’s voice perked up. “Oh. Well, that’s easy. Those old folks at the retirement home - they want to go on a bus trip to Vegas. You know. Hit the tables, see the shows. It costs big bucks to rent a bus to go that distance. Not to mention hotel rooms and all those buffets. And they need supervision.”
No argument there from me. “Isn’t this sort of illegal?” I said.
“Embalming and burying isn’t illegal. And Freddie was a licensed funeral worker
guy, although I don’t know that he’s kept up his license. Tends to forget things, what with the dementia.”
“Dementia?” I squeaked.
“Yeah,” Sammy said. “Once he forgot to dress a guy after the embalming. You wouldn’t believe what a little extra fluid can do to some parts. We don’t do open casket anymore.”
Available at Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, Barnes&Noble, Walmart, independent bookstores, and online at all the usual suspects.