An exclusive short story by Simon Kernick Part 2
On the eleventh day of Christmas….
Here’s the concluding part of Simon Kernick’s 2-part short story called ‘Funeral for a Friend’. If, like us, you were hooked by Part 1….read on….
‘Funeral for a Friend’ ©Simon Kernick
And then it all went wrong and twenty-five pounds of plastic explosive placed on the underside of my Mercedes Coupe, directly beneath the driver’s seat, ended the life of Francis Edward Hanson, aged fifty-eight: lover, friend, businessman and killer.
A homicide investigation started right away, and there are currently plenty of suspects, but no-one who really stands out. We’d killed or bought off most of our rivals years ago. The two homicide cops are in here now, sitting at the back of the church, trying without success to blend chameleon-like into their surroundings. They’re wearing cheap suits and furtive expressions and they couldn’t really be anything else. One or two of the guys turn and give them the look. No one in our organization likes the cops.
The service lasts close to an hour. It’s too long really, especially in this heat. They sing my favourite hymn: Cat Stevens’ ‘Morning Has Broken,’ and I remember I once amputated a man’s leg to that particular song, which brings a smile; and Danny does a reading from one of the psalms. I’ve never believed in a Supreme Being, I’ve seen too much injustice for that. But I’ve always hoped there was some sort of afterlife – somewhere you can kick back and take it easy – and I’m pleased to announce that there is one, and that so far it looks like it might be pretty good.
And then it’s all over. My coffin moves effortlessly along a conveyor belt to the right of the pulpit and disappears behind a curtain. In keeping with my express wishes, my remains are to be cremated rather than buried. The cops aren’t too happy about this – you know, seeing their evidence go up in smoke – but they’ve finished with my body now, so they haven’t got any grounds for refusal. There’s a final bout of loud sobbing – mainly from the women – and then the mourners file slowly out into the furnace-like heat of a New Mexico afternoon.
I see Danny move close to Diana. They talk quietly. It looks to the untrained eye as if he’s offering her comfort and condolences, but I know better. His hand touches her shoulder and lingers there a second too long, and they walk through the graveyard together, continuing their conversation. Several people turn their way, with expressions that aren’t too complimentary, but they don’t care. Danny’s the boss now and I’m reminded of that old English phrase: The King is dead. Long live the King. Life goes on. I’m the past. Like it or not, for these people, Danny’s the future.
Except he isn’t.
There’s going to be a Wake back at the ranch that I’ve called home for these past twenty years. They’ve got outside caterers coming in and it sounds like it’ll be a huge party. I’m only pissed off I can’t attend. And look at this: Danny and Diana are travelling back there together. They ought to be more careful. The cops are going to get suspicious. But they seem oblivious.
Diana gets into the passenger seat of Danny’s limited edition, cobalt-blue Aston Martin. I’ve always liked that car. He gets in the driver’s side and then, three seconds later: Ka-Boom! There’s a ball of fire, a thick stream of acrid black smoke, and when it finally clears, a burnt out chassis with four spoked wheels, and very little else.
People run down towards the site of this, the second assassination of a member of our organization in the space of a month. They want to help, but there’s nothing they can do. Trudy T – she of Christian faith and Tijuana hotel rooms – lets loose this stinging scream that’s probably got every dog in a ten mile radius converging on the church, and the two cops shout for everyone to keep calm and stay put, one of them already talking into his radio. They are roundly ignored.
I just keep walking, ignored by the crowd, knowing that my disguise, coupled with the plastic surgery I’ve recently undergone, means that no one will have recognized me.
Now that I’ve got my revenge, it’s time to start my new life. I always trusted Danny, and I think that’s been my problem. I don’t know when his affair with Diana started, but I guess it must have been a while back. Me and her haven’t been so good lately and this has been the reason why. I think it was a bit much that they wanted to kill me, though, and make it look like an assassination. Not only is it the worst kind of betrayal, but it was stupid, too. How did they think I wouldn’t find out about it? Maybe love makes us all foolish.
Anyways, I did find out. A friend of Rootie’s knew the bombmaker and it didn’t take much to get him to tell me when he was going to be planting his product under my Merc. Diana’s got an older brother – her last living relative, but a guy she rarely sees. His name’s Earl and he lives alone. At least he did. He’s dead now. Being roughly my height and build was a bit unfortunate for him. I had him killed – just to spite her – and his body planted in the Merc on the morning that I was supposed to die. Rather than being ignition-based, the bomb was on a timer (something the cops’ll probably work out eventually, not that it’ll do them much good), and when it went off, tearing the corpse into a hundred unrecognizable pieces, everyone simply assumed it was me who was dead in there.
Not wanting to give anyone the chance to disprove this theory, I disappeared off the scene, having already opened bank accounts in false names and bought a house for myself in the Bahamas. Only thing was, I couldn’t resist coming back to watch my own funeral and, of course, see the bombmaker’s talents put to work for a second time. And it was a nice bonus, too. Getting both of them at once. Saves me tracking down Diana later.
As I get in my own car, and leave the scene of carnage behind, I think back to the friendship Danny and me had, and it makes me a little melancholy that it had to end like this. Like the time with Blue, though, I don’t have any regrets. Danny knew the score. It had been banged into him from our earliest days.
To dishonour your comrades is to deserve their bullets.
And now he’s had mine.
I think that if he wasn’t splattered all over the sidewalk, he’d probably approve.
Well, we hope that you enjoyed that. All of the other published stories can be found in our Short Stories section. The last of our #XmasShorts will be revealed on Christmas Eve.
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