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Accepting my client’s invitation to the Kentucky Derby meant bourbon laced trysts in a four star hotel. Bizarre anonymous exchanges among dignitaries boldly enticed the infamous. Cash flowed for services rendered. Conscientiously rendering my craft placed me in the middle of the Down’s murder investigation. My only weekend goal was to cajole Unc, my fishing partner into going fishing before savoring my childhood biblical seasonings at Sunday morning service.
That sort of flavor always marinades underneath your skin until a lapse conduct boils over humble borders of civility. Appropriately charged, there was always someone around gently thumping your head and quoting verses to chastise offenders. Until this morning it wasn’t easy to miss that sort of thing. Head thumping and verses is always a better catch than the mutilated body part dangling from Unc’s fathom reel. That kind of catch is considered a definite breach of civility. The head thumping and verses weren’t needed. Unc’s spirit didn’t need any chastising. His slumped posture on the bench shouted his story. The memory of this morning would be enough penalties for the remainder of his life.
“What the . . . ? Who or what would do such a thing? Son, what are we gotten our selves into? Call somebody on that gadget of yours.”
Instinct told me there won’t be any future fishing trips anytime soon. Distance and time had fooled me into over looking how much time had passed for him. Usually Unc was as spry as they come. He exerted little effort going toe to toe with anybody. There were only two exceptions anyone could recall any different. The first being the day he stood graveside watching my aunt’s body being lowered into her grave. Today was the second of his two exceptions. His dirty catch had put him at the mercy of time. The kind side of time had allowed Unc to remain slow and steady. While it’s ravaging cousin had robbed Unc of his perceptions of protocol.
Lately, Unc seemed to lose a lot in that regard. Unc usually took full advantage of every courtesy that age had to offer. Now Unc prideful and shaken Unc’s valiantly concealed his turmoil. Barking orders was his only way of coping with his catch.
“What’s the matter with these guys? All this waiting around is for backwoods operations and the feeble-minded? Just get in the water.”
It was clear that Unc hadn’t forgotten how to bark orders. It was also apparent these guys knew how to take them. Yes sirs continued to echo in unison. The air permeated with officers’ Midwestern sentiment and traditions. It reminded me of the lost part of my career. Unc barked loud enough to spook all of Kentucky’s Cardinals out of trees
“Officer, do you have an ETA for Rescue?”
“Sir, yes sir. I’ll be right back with that information.”
They had accepted Unc as one of their own. Those who didn’t just mingled out of his way looking busy until the Louisville Metro Police Department dive team and Jefferson County Water Rescue Units went into action. It was impressive watching most of those uniforms giving Unc their acknowledgements. Outside of that manners and respect for the departing generation sometimes dissipated among cultures, neighborhoods, and titles. It was a social flaw that often became more contaminated in the hustle of life. It was no different in my part of northeast Florida. That sort of thing was expected living in a tourist town. It would never be tolerated here.
Brethren in Blue always held their own with esteem. Their cadence movement continued to placate Unc the rest of the morning.
“Son, I realize that none of the first responders had any obligation to acknowledge a retired officer’s bellowing. They did so out of respect. It‘s a courtesy not extended to outsiders. I just lost myself. I’m alright now.”
More weight lifted. We both knew that me having to intervene on Unc’s behalf was not going to make life here any easier. The presence of blue always meant the presence of boundaries. Those were the same boundaries I needed to cross for my client. There was no reason for Unc to know. Giving Unc free rein gave made me privy to what is off-limits to outsiders.
“Son, what’s taking them so long? In my day these…”
“It’s good to see you again Detective Wright.” Officer Short Straw has his priorities straight. He dismissed my presence immediately acknowledging Unc.
“Good morning sir. Understand you’ve taken in quiet a bit. What do you have for me?”
Officer Short Straw was a great save. Unc’s distractions would only go so far with this crowd. There was no use in making more enemies. Smooth as silk, Short Straw immersed himself into the fray.
Short Straw used his agility to corral Unc away leaving me behind to examine the crime scene. Short Straw had earned another star in my book. Unc was busy, LMPD was unfettered by Unc, and JCWR was in my line of sight. Divers and sonar equipment were under water.
Uniforms present just assumed my presence was needed until they were told otherwise. That should give me about five minutes to look around. It took much longer. The signal came about an hour later after a suit type showed up. He nodded in my direction and headed straight to the OC. He was the same suit attached to my client at the Downs scene.
The response to his order wasn’t immediate. The delay gave me time to see the first diver hit the surface empty-handed. That’s all that was needed for the sonar hit the water. A polite officer walked me to the area outside the perimeter where Unc sat drinking his morning brew. The officer shook my hand discretely palming a card from the Jefferson County the coroner’s office. Knowing Unc wasn’t the only one outside of protocol this morning brought momentary relief. It quickly left at the flip of a government business card. Letters on the card made hairs on my neck rise and fall. It became very clear that my return home would have to wait. S-A-N-G-U-I-N-E the name spelled on the card was the same name given to me by someone sipping Mojitos on Bay City Beach less than seventy-two hours ago.