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A crime scene at Church Hill Downs almost guarantees the primary evidence is going to be compromised by trampling employees changing shifts and noisy neighbors. Answering one timely call almost saved me from being documented at this poorly secured crime scene. My escort, the Short Straw uniform signaled for me to put my call on hold. Smarter than he appeared, Short Straw then stood idly by while I took a communal dressing down.
No one could blame him for not stretching for a visitor who no longer represented Florida’s brethren in blue. Short Straw had to live here. His sleep deprived sergeant geared up to give me a polite but effective portion of his gruff.
“These men have a site to secure. We just don’t see how you can be of any help at this point, sir. The OC will get in contact with you if he has any questions. Your boss’ authority may extend for miles around the Down’s track. But he has no authority at my crime scene.”
Short straw and the rest of the uniforms remained in motionless cadence conveying their support for Sarge’s barrage. “There doesn’t appear to be any work to be done here by an outsider.”
Scurrying like bees, all the local law enforcement came out in defense mode searching the premises for persons of interest. Most of the stable community didn’t seem to mind passing back and forth past a mutilated corpse while officers looked for its missing parts or trace. The arrival of the morning rush brought out droves of school age and university students hopping stable fences for a short cut across the track to a trolley stop. It was no surprise to see local media and politicians posturing about the grounds to protect their off-track-betting interests.
None of this required any acknowledgment from my caller whose voice resonated through my ear because I didn’t care to place him on hold. Returning to my call, “My ETA is at least twenty minutes out. I’m approaching my vehicle now. Hope you will be ready.”
My caller had saved me. Phone to ear, I just kept walking towards my vehicle until Sarge’s voice faded. My caller had signed off after my ETA statement. But not before giving me his dutiful warning.
“Son, I sworn off Downs and OTB decades ago. And so should you.”
We both knew that no threat of storm or discovery of a crimson headed corpse would tarnish our commitment. My return to town always meant a fishing day for my caller. Neither conditions nor circumstances would interfere this morning.
Spending dawn on a Kentucky lake was a bone chilling experience after twenty years of beach side mornings. Morning heat seemed scarce in this part of the country. The sun was taking its own sweet time casting its rays over Unc’s and my head. Unc is affectionate slang for Mitchell Aloysius Lincoln, a childhood mentor who never missed an opportunity to chide me. A chance promotion was the one event caused him to let up. No one had been prouder when the Bay City’s Chief pinned me Detective A. L. Wright. Years had passed since then. Unc was easily led to return to his old ways.
Today he was in rare form watching my body adjust to moisture droppings from the mangled nimbostratus cloud hoisted in the sky. Six in the morning was as good a time as any for nature to enjoy wringing out its nectar everywhere. The sky looked like murky opaque under bellies of a load of catfish struggling against entangled threads of fishing net. The sight reminded me of the pallor skin of the bagged crimson headed beauty sprawled in the green residue of death behind the horse stables earlier this morning. The vision continued to languish in my memory until Unc caught my attention.
“Boy you got to get some thicker blood. Morning’s the best time to be out here. I always told your parents taking you to Florida would ruin you.”
No replies to Unc’s mutterings were necessary. Nothing was meant by this old man’s words. His mutterings were his brand. Going fishing was our token of respect. In our case, it’s a statement of confirmation of our relationship.
We didn’t call monthly or write. Some years we didn’t even send cards. It didn’t matter that decades passed. What mattered was our show of love that decades and distance could not touch. This morning his call had touched me. The rasp in his voice confirmed that my time would be better spent with him than watching a crimson headed corpse.
The chilling dampness continued to make it difficult for me to relax. It was good that Unc had no such problem. Our fishing day was for him. The Deep Diver lure put a smile on his face when he opened my bag. Our morning came and went without a nibble.
Afternoon sprinkles and no catch in sight didn’t deter Unc from his mission. Occasionally he would stir the water when he checked his new lure. Unc was completely captivated by his Fathom FTH25N reel. He even failed to comprehend the nature of his unusual catch. Whatever Unc caught was tugged back. Unc’s lure and the lake’s rooted foliage posed a double threat this eminent catch.
“Son, don’t care what is caught right now. My new lure is coming home with me.”
Protocol required me to keep my distance until he beckoned for me to come closer. After an acceptable amount of time I went over to assist. Unc being who he is probably didn’t see my gestures in that light. He considered me an envious observer. The event became the singular focus of my attention once he beckoned. Moments later we were both surprised. Unc’s Fathom dangled a mangled body part. It was the fastest way to end a perfectly good fishing day.