“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
He died ten minutes before they arrived at the hospital. The charge nurse led Detectives Molly Fetterly and Jim Biggins into the emergency room where John Doe lay on a stretcher. They looked down at the bloodied face, the massive lump on the forehead, the welted eye, bruised cheek, split lip, and the nose that had been broken that night and many times prior it seemed due to its crookedness and massive bump at the center. “There was nothing we could do,” the nurse said. “He was pretty much gone by the time we brought him in off the curb.”
“Curb?” Jim asked.
“Yeah. Receptionist said some guy came in here saying there was someone lying by the emergency entrance.”
“He stick around?”
“No. When the orderlies went out to get the body they didn’t see hide nor hair of anyone else.”
Molly inspected the trails of dried blood that seeped from his right ear and gathered in a sickly brown pool at the side of his head on the stretcher. “Head trauma?” she asked.
“That’s what we’re thinking.”
Molly eyes traversed the body. He was clad only in a pair of shorts and cheap, faded running shoes. It was late March and although it wasn’t as chilly as that area of southeastern Michigan was used to, it certainly wasn’t beach clothes and bikini weather.
“Was he wearing anything else?”
“Not a stitch,” the nurse said.
The young man was tall, at least six-foot, with almost no body fat. He was ripped with biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and any kind of “cep” a biologist could imagine. His abdominal muscles would’ve made any Mr. Universe contender jealous, and his hands were massive, rough, calloused. “I think I know what you’re going to say,” Molly asked the nurse, “but any ID?”
“No. We have no idea who he is. No one called in looking fo—”
“It’s K O’Connor,” Jim said, his attention fixed on the body.
“Who?” Molly asked.
“K O’Connor … Keith O’Connor.”
“You know him?”
“Yeah. Well, I know of him. He’s a boxer, a local guy, cruiserweight champ in ’05 for the IBF. It took me a second … I didn’t recognize him when we came in. Hadn’t seen or heard of the guy in years.” His gaze held onto the dead man’s face for a few seconds more, and then he straightened himself up. “He must’ve been jumped or threw down with a couple of people. Big people.” He turned to his partner, his face gravely seriousness. “This kid was a damn tank, Molly. There’s no way another person would have taken him out in a fair fight.”
“Why don’t we find out?”
“You know, I made a good chunk of change off his bouts,” Jim said. “Of course, a year after he won the title I lost a good chunk of change too. My wife didn’t like that, to be honest. Still doesn’t like me betting on bouts, also to be honest.”
“You remember I’m a cop, right?” Molly asked.
Jim ignored her. “Those early days, he was something, man. Made me a couple of thou.”
“You’re a cop, too, you know?”
“Bought a boat with the winnings.”
“Anything you say can and will be held against you?”
“I don’t know… It’s like after he won his belt… I can’t explain it. He just wasn’t the same after that. And then he stopped boxing all together… Back in the day, when he was an amateur doing bouts out of Toledo, he had this jab, Molly, that I swear could knock a guy’s teeth to the back of his head. Now, he was a cruiser, not a heavy, but he had the power of a heavy and the moves of a middleweight. Seriously, the guy had the butterfly-and-bee effect down to a science. And there was this one time …”