Excerpt from Hearse of a Different Color by Tim Cockey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Hearse of a Different Color

A Novel

by Tim Cockey

Hearse of a Different Color by Tim Cockey X
Hearse of a Different Color by Tim Cockey
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 320 pages

    Feb 2002, 416 pages


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"Looks like a bullet wound," he said, confirming the previous guess. "Has anyone called the police?" A half dozen cell phones were suddenly whipped out, but a man off in the corner announced that he had just made the call. He flipped his phone shut and slid it smugly back into his pocket.

The dead doctor's daughter was standing near the couch. She had a grip on her husband's lapels and was weeping into his shirt. Who could blame her? I looked about and found the widow and her son standing near the parlor door. Shock had loosened the poor woman's skin. She looked ten years older. Her brother-in-law stepped over to them. He didn't look too peachy either.

"We've got to get these people out of here," I muttered to Billie.

"The police will want to talk with them, won't they? I think everyone should stay put."

She was right. I looked about to assess the scene. I'm six-three, so I have a decent vantage point for assessing. My instinct was to herd everybody out of the hallway, away from the gruesome new arrival and back into the parlor. But, of course, there was a dead body in there as well. What a mess. I had to take command. The buzz of voices was rising to a din. I hated to do it, but I clapped my hands together loudly, like a schoolteacher harnessing an unruly class. The room fell instantly silent. Impressive. The only sound was the continued soft sobbing of the daughter.

"I'm terribly sorry about this, but I'm going to have to ask everybody to hang tight until the police get here. Make yourselves at . . . If you could all please be patient, I'm sure that we'll-" Billie was tugging on my sleeve. She pulled me down to her level and whispered in my ear. Brilliant tactician. I straightened and cleared my throat.

"Would any of you care for a drink?"

A dam of relief burst.

As a certified undertaker and overseer of funerals, I'm deft at crowd control when need be. Aunt Billie had taken the doctor's immediate family upstairs to her apartment in order to get them away from the nonsense below. I was bartending and butlering the other guests. Doctors are largely a Scotch and soda crowd, though personally I've never much cared for the perfumey aftertaste of Scotch. I'm a bourbon man. But then, I wasn't drinking.

I had fetched a thin blanket from Billie's linen closet and placed it over the dead waitress. Before I did, I paused and took a long hard look at the woman. I've seen plenty of dead bodies, so it wasn't from morbid fascination that I stared overlong at her. I couldn't place her. She was from none of the restaurants that I frequented in the immediate neighborhood, unless she was brand-new. She had shoulder-length hair, thick and black, which had been gathered up at the back of her head and held there with one of those oversize plastic clips that you can also use to close up a bag of potato chips. With all the jostling she had undergone, the clip was crooked and only holding back a portion of her hair. The loose strands were glued with melted snow against her cheek and her neck. The young woman-I was placing her in her early- to mid-twenties-had high cheekbones, a very distinct widow's peak and a slightly turned-up nose. She was about five-five, probably around a hundred and twenty or so. She had a small scar on her chin, roughly the same as the one I have just below my lip. Mine came from a sledding fiasco in my youth which, next to bicycle mishaps, probably accounts for 90 percent of the tiny scars on the faces of America's men. Of course, I had no idea where the dead waitress got hers. One more thing: How did I know she was a waitress? Simple. She was wearing a short, pale green dress, a pair of white sneakers and a brown-and-white checked apron with a plastic tag attached that read: HELEN.

The police weren't happy that the body had been moved. The snow still hadn't let up and the impression that the body had left was already vanishing. The first policemen to arrive were a mixed pair: The older one was large and gruff, his partner skinny and sour.

Reprinted from Hearse of A Different Color by Tim Cockey by permission of Hyperion Books. Copyright © 2001 by Tim Cockey. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.

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