Dead people piss me off. Every time I put in for vacation days and psyche myself to break out the rod and flies, some yahoo gets himself shot, stabbed, dismembered or doused with kerosene and burned beyond recognition. Hence, my point: the dead are just plain inconsiderate.
It was with little confidence, then, that I told Lt. Jonas I’d be gone fishing Thursday and Friday. Between unused sick leave and owed vacay, I have maybe a year banked, so he was happy to shave a slice, albeit a thin one, off the balance. The state of Colorado would rather see me take the days than be forced to pony up a cash-out when I retire in five years.
I usually pitch a tent over the flatbed of my F-150 and sleep on an inflatable mattress, but a last-minute cancellation put a sweet little cabin on Crest River in my budget for the long weekend. As a side dish for the trout I intended to catch and eat, I ordered two T-bone steaks for pick up Thursday morning on my way out of town. I also splurged on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, as I find sour mash whiskey pairs well with surf ‘n’ turf. Or any other food, for that matter
Tuesday afternoon closed out with no inconveniently dead John or Jane Doe, so I looked forward to a relaxing evening of tying flies and sorting through my smaller Rapala jigs. Easing my butt out of the chair at 5:00, however, I heard the phone on the desk and instinctively knew it wouldn’t be Publishers Clearing House congratulating me on winning seven grand a week for the rest of my life.
Morris, Goddamn him, was late again for his shift, so I picked up, praying for a wrong number. No such luck.
When a drunk driver makes hit-and-run roadkill out of a jogger or a free-range grandpa in a crosswalk, it’s usually fairly cut and dried, but this was one for the record books. I stared up at the body of a woman impaled through her neck and midriff on the bare branches of a hackberry tree recently pruned by the electric company to prevent its limbs from touching the overhead power lines. She had apparently been struck so hard that she’d sailed high and long, and one could only hope the original impact had killed her, not the skewering.
Sitting out the how do we get her down debate, I waited to take a look until the fire guys sawed through the branches flush with the trunk and lowered her to the ground. That’s when I spotted powder burns on her throat where the smaller branch protruded and realized this was no accident.
Well, crap on a cracker. I had less than thirty-six hours to solve the case or I’d be that sweet little cabin’s second cancellation this week.
Thanks to luminol and trout-fueled incentive, I pulled it off and had her killer in custody by 4:00 P.M. Wednesday, a philandering husband opting for murder over a costly divorce from his wife of twenty years.
In preparing cover for his intended homicide, he’d purchased a new grill and bumper for his SUV weeks earlier. Smart. Except he then stupidly established intent by hiding them in a storage unit rented in his own name.
Instead of buying replacement parts to give his vehicle an alibi, he should have purchased a more leak-proof tarp to transport her body in the trunk of his Escalade after running her down at a remote location and finishing her off with a pair of through-and-through GSWs. The Caddy was awash in DNA. And he should have ditched the ladder he used to lift and impale the missus six feet off the ground.
Attaboys for me; fishing trip snatched from the grabby fingers of a dead woman.
Standing in the languid current, I savor the familiar chill through my Neoprene waders before casting. The clear monofilament erupts out over the river, thrumming as it unspools before dropping my father’s old silver lure onto the dappled surface. And, like Dad taught me to do when I was still a fidgety kindergartener, I settle to wait.
The tug is faint at first, so I only marginally increase my control on the reel. Soon, though, the rod flexes gently under pressure that holds steady, precluding my having to feed out the line and coax it back, that seesaw dynamic with me on one end and a fat, speckled trout on the other. My pull is easy, but resolute.
As the prize is drawn closer, subsiding ripples reveal not a fish, but a corpse, decomp gases giving it buoyancy. Twisting my hook free of the saturated jacket, I give the dead man a light push, enabling him to continue his downstream journey.