Authors: Howard Engel
DEAD AND BURIED
is the creator of the enduring and beloved detective Benny Cooperman, who, through his appearance in twelve best-selling novels, has become an internationally recognized fictional sleuth. Two of Engel’s novels have been adapted for TV movies, and his books have been translated into several languages. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the 2005 Writers’ Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Award, the 1990 Harbourfront Festival Prize for Canadian Literature and an Arthur Ellis Award for crime fiction. Howard Engel lives in Toronto.
Also in the Benny Cooperman series
The Suicide Murders
Murder on Location
Murder Sees the Light
The Ransom Game
A City Called July
A Victim Must Be Found
There Was An Old Woman
Getting Away with Murder
The Cooperman Variations
East of Suez
Also by Howard Engel
Murder in Montparnasse
Mr. Doyle & Dr. Bell
A BENNY COOPERMAN MYSTERY
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First published in a Viking Canada hardcover by Penguin Group (Canada), a division of Pearson Canada Inc., 1990; Published in Penguin Canada paperback by Penguin Group (Canada), a division of Pearson Canada Inc., 1991; Published in this edition, 2008
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Copyright © Howard Engel, 1990
Excerpt from “Bless 'Em All,” words and music by Jimmy Hughes, Frank Lake and Al Stillman. Copyright © 1940 by Keith Prowse and Company Ltd for all countries. Copyright © 1941 by Sam Fox Publishing Company Inc., New York, New York for the United States of America, Canada and all countries of the Western Hemisphere. Used by permission.
Excerpts from "Desiderata" from
The Poems of Max Ehrmann
, copyright © 1927 by Max Ehrmann. Reprinted with permission of Robert L. Bell, Melrose, Massachusetts, 02176, U.S.A.
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Publisher’s note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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For my friend
I would like to express thanks to my friend Doug Monk for his help in getting the business, corporate and taxation details as nearly correct as they appear. Any errors, of course, are mine, not his. I would also like to thank my friend Gary Thaler for putting me in touch with
upon which so much depends.
Irma Dowden looked over my office. She took in the convenient downtown location, the active business files scattered in front of me and the framed licence behind my desk. Furtively she gave the cotton-draped mannequins in the corner a rapid scrutiny. Their breasts were peeking out from under the cloth again. I cleared my throat before she formed a question. “My father closed out his ladies’ ready-to-wear business downstairs,” I explained. “I’m temporarily minding some of his things. You may speak quite freely in front of them.”
She nodded like she knew already. Come to think of it, the mannequins had been around for a few years now. Even without their wigs and wearing a dusty remnant of factory cotton, the trio had become indispensable for second to fourth opinions. As company, they still made me nervous. But Mrs. Dowden didn’t want to know about that. She sat there, cheeks daubed with half-hearted rouge, straight as a post, with her black purse in her lap.
“How can I help you, Mrs. Dowden?” I pushed the files to one side. I didn’t want to discourage her by suggesting that I had other business on hold while we shot the unprofitable breeze. I sat there, giving her all my attention
and trying to look affordable. That little black purse could buy my time for a few days at least.
Irma Dowden hadn’t just walked in my door that Tuesday in early October; she’d phoned first for an appointment. I was impressed. I’d cleaned things up a little and cursed the dirty windows which didn’t give my place of business the cachet I was trying to inspire. But in Grantham there’s only one reliable man for windows and I hadn’t seen him in months. Waiting for Mrs. Dowden to keep her three o’clock appointment had made me nervous. I had even thought of getting up and opening the door for her, but the last time I did that it was a patient of Frank Bushmill’s, the chiropodist who shares the running toilet, the rent and the second floor overlooking St. Andrew Street with me. I realized I was rambling in my thoughts, so I asked my question a second time.
“Did you read in the paper about Jack?” she asked, her eyes like two black currants rolling in my direction. I told her I’d not read anything about Jack, whoever Jack might be, but I was prepared to be sympathetic. She pulled a clipping from her purse and handed it to me. A pencil scrawl in the white space on one side of a heading said: 16 July. That was nearly three months ago. I recognized the type as belonging to the local paper, the
It was a small item, insignificant enough so that I was now no longer guilt-ridden for missing it in the first place. The heading read:
LOCAL MAN CRUSHED BY TRUCK
. The story described the death of Jack Dowden on the 13th at the yard of Kinross Disposals. The truck had apparently
slipped off the brake and pinned Dowden against a cement brick wall. I read the details and handed the clipping back to Irma, who was now looking like she was Jack’s widow.
“I’m sorry,” I said. She nodded her head in sympathy with mine. She looked small and insubstantial sitting there. The falseness of the rouge was standing out on her velveteen cheeks in the greying light coming in through my venetian blinds. I went back to my opening question for the third time: “How can I help you, Mrs. Dowden?”
She leaned closer to my desk and tried to find the words that would convince me to take her case. “Mr. Cooperman, I want you to look into Jack’s death. I think they murdered him, the bastards, I do!” That made me blink and I smiled to encourage her to go on. At the same time, my heart was joining the
on the bottom of the North Atlantic. Rule number one for private investigators: you’ll never make a nickel competing with the cops. I asked Mrs. Dowden to continue. She moistened her narrow lips and tried to find the place where she’d left off.
“Jack wasn’t the sort to get himself killed in an accident like that,” she said. “I’ve lived with the man these eighteen years and I know the things he’ll do and the things he won’t. If they told me he’d run off with the payroll, I wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have been like him. Jack could do a daft thing like spending his wages on a pine cupboard, anything made of wood, but walk in front of his truck, no sir. When it comes to machines,
Jack was as careful as an airline pilot. You see, his friend Charlie Bowman was killed that way ten years ago.”
“Was there an inquest into your husband’s death, Mrs. Dowden?”
“Oh, yes. They held one of those. Company doctor told how he came on the scene and there was nothing he could do. A company director told how there were signs posted everywhere warning the drivers to be careful. Another driver said that Jack hadn’t been keeping his mind on the work the last few weeks. Well, that’s a plain lie and Brian O’Mara knows that, Mr. Cooperman.”
“O’Mara’s the other driver, right?” She nodded. “Who’s the company doctor?”
“Name’s Carswell. Imagine him just happening to be there!” I wrote down the names on a pad of paper that so far only held the name of my client.
“Why do you say O’Mara lied at the inquest?”
“I don’t know why he lied, unless he was paid off, but I know for a fact that Jack was talking about the job all the time. He never shut up about it. He was more involved in his work than before, not less.”
“I see,” I said, drumming my ballpoint pen on the desk and trying to look intelligent. “What do you think was on Jack’s mind?”
“He was worried about the stuff he was hauling, that’s what. I’ll admit he was worried, but he wasn’t ever careless with his truck.”
“And you think they murdered him? Who exactly is
“Why, Kinross, of course. All of them. They just roll over little people like us!” She looked at her knuckles for a minute before going on. They looked cold. “I want you to see if Jack was killed to hush up something he found out about. I know he was murdered. I’m not looking for another whitewashing inquest. I want you to find out what Kinross wanted covered up.”
“You don’t want much, do you?” She looked back at me with a set jaw and steady eyes.
“I want you to get the goods on Kinross. You’ll do us all a favour if you put them out of business.”
“Look, Mrs. Dowden, that’s not really my sort of thing. You know I used to do mostly divorce work. I look into small fraud cases and some family law. I don’t usually get involved with outfits as big as Kinross. And I don’t dig up dirt just to make things look bad, not even to please a lady.” She was looking over my shoulder to the wall where my licence was hanging in its Woolworth’s frame. She didn’t rush her answer.