by Niles Reddick
Sam Reed’s funeral home was on the frontage road, just off the highway. It was a former ranch brick home remodeled, but the contractor had left the 1980’s eight feet popcorn ceiling. Whether the heat or air was running, customers felt closed-in.
“Thank you for taking care of my brother. He’d been in prison for marijuana for over twenty years, and if he had lived in another state like Colorado, he’d have been legit. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, you understand.” Dale didn’t want the owner Sam who doubled as the coroner to think he was into any illegal activity and hoped he wouldn’t share the circumstances with the rest of the Kiwanis Club.
“Dale, we all have family members who don’t live up to our expectations. It’s natural, but I did want to ask you something, and I realize this maybe a bit awkward. Your brother was in a knife attack, right?”
“That’s what the prison officials said, but I was surprised since he was never a fighter.”
“I can give you some details later, but do you mind consenting to an autopsy and keeping it quiet?”
“Don’t mind at all if you think something is wrong.”
“I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Wanda waited in the funeral home lobby, and Dale told her about the strange request on the way home.
Dale and Wanda had an appointment the next afternoon to finalize the arrangements. To cover the cost, there was a little bit of help from the government, the prison also offered financial assistance because they were a corporate prison, not a county, state, or federal one, and Dale had some funds in savings. Depending on costs, they might decide to bury him by his parents, but that would leave Wanda and Dale to search for another burial plot. If it were cheaper, they might just cremate Tim. Dale thought Tim would find it ironic if he were cremated, since he enjoyed smoking a lot of pot before he went to prison.
One of Sam’s assistants at the funeral home showed Dale and Wanda the casket room and prices and Dale asked about cremation. The price was considerably cheaper, and they decided on cremation, but when they finished, they saw Sam in his office. Sam greeted them, invited them inside, and closed the door.
“Dale, I don’t want you to be alarmed, but I do have some news from the autopsy.”
“Really? He didn’t die from a knife attack?”
“Well, no. I think he had a heart attack. The cuts they said were from a knife attack weren’t random at all but were very meticulous and precise. I believe they kept him alive long enough to harvest some organs.”
“What? Was he an organ donor? They didn’t call me, and I didn’t know anything about him going to the hospital.”
“He didn’t. They brought him here from the infirmary at the prison.”
“Are you saying they harvested organs there?”
“What the hell?”
“I know. It sounds awkward and strange, but they are a private prison and are owned by a corporate entity out of China.”
“Yes, the same country that owns most of America’s debt and many of our corporate farms. I know this sounds crazy, but if you buy a car and can’t make the payments, what happens?”
“The bank comes and repossesses the car.”
“That’s right. I often joke China could repossess America.”
“That’s nuts. Would never happen.”
“Well, I don’t think so either, but they are making a killing on our dying prisoners. They took both of your brother’s kidneys and his liver. A kidney brings $150,000 on the black market and a liver can bring upwards of $200,000. Added up, they probably got about half a million. This is actually the third body I’ve received that I can verify organs were missing.”
“Good night! What are you going to do?”
“I’ve contacted the FBI and they are sending an agent tomorrow.”
“Keep me updated, and if I need to, I have a cousin who is an attorney I can call to begin a lawsuit.”
“I’ll draw up my report and make copies of my findings and get them to you and Wanda for safe keeping.”
They stood and shook hands, and Dale thanked him for his work on behalf of his brother. “We had settled on cremation, Sam, but if you think it’s better to bury him in case they need do something later, we can go in that direction.”
“Let’s bury him. I have an extra plot the next row over from your parents, and I’ve put the other two prisoners who had no family.”
“Okay, thank you. Just let one of my assistants know what else you’d like to do.”
“We’ll just do something simple, family only by the grave. Maybe a minister and a little music.”
Sam was supposed to meet the FBI agent the next day at the cemetery to show him where the bodies were buried should they have to exhume the prisoners and to give him the proof he’d gathered, and that’s where they found Sam. His eyes were open, his hands clutched his chest, and he was stiff from the cold. He’d apparently had a heart attack. A few days after Sam was buried, a manilla envelope arrived with the reports Sam had promised, but Dale felt uneasy about contacting the agent.
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