Monday 4 – Friday 8 May 2015
The line went taut bending the rod tip down towards the water. Under the surface, swirling water gave away to Chester that he’d caught himself a good size fish.
‘Probably a trout,’ he said as he reeled in the line. He landed the fish flapping and flailing on the riverbank without so much as a decent fight from the creature.
‘That’s dinner for me. Now for some fun.’ He rebaited the hook, and then cast the line out into the middle of the river. With the rod resting gently in his hand, Chester sat back from the edge of the bank, his back against an ancient tree, in a position where the fish wouldn’t be able to see or hear him. He was a superstitious fisherman, still following the old rules of fishing that his father had passed on to him when he was a boy. He closed his eyes and waited for the fish to bite.
‘D’you come here often?’ It was the voice of a young male that jolted Chester out of the daze he’d promptly fallen into.
‘What? Who’s there? Show yourself.’
‘Do you come here often? That’s what I asked.’ Teddy Lange stepped out from the copse of oaks behind Chester.
‘Oh it’s you.’ Chester recognised the boy having seen him around the town usually when the boy was with his mother. Momentarily, Chester wondered if the boy even had a father, as he couldn’t recall ever having seen him with anyone other than his mother.
‘You didn’t answer my question, Chester. You know that’s terribly rude of you. Didn’t your parents ever teach you any manners?’
The rod and line regained Chester’s attention. ‘Apparently yours didn’t teach you manners either. Or anything about respect. So, off you twaddle, little boy. Go back to your play things and leave the grown ups alone.’
A sour look of defeat on his face, Teddy faded back into the trees. But only long enough for old Chester to return his full attention to the rod and reel, and the river and fish in front of him.
* * * * *
A large police presence indicated to anyone remotely interested that something big, something important had occurred again by the river. With the Chief of Police at his side, Homicide Detective Harry Forbes trudged along the muddy riverbank towards Chester Warner’s battered body.
‘I don’t like this, Harry . . . second death along this stretch of river within a week. The media will be all over this. We need to stay on top of the story. I’ll liaise with the media, and you just make sure that you get to the bottom of both of these deaths as soon as possible. Now, do we know if they’re connected at all, these deaths?’
Harry listened dutifully, grunting his agreement to Joe Gray’s comments where he thought the Chief of Police might expect him to contribute.
‘Hard to say at the moment, sir. The young boy drowned, but old Chester Warner’s been bludgeoned. There’s not a lot left of his skull, so we’ll have to wait for Anna Carlsson to do her magic and I.D. him through dental records, if that’s even possible with what’s left.’
‘What’s your gut telling you about this, Harry?’
Forbes eyeballed the Chief, watched him scratch the stubble on his left cheek, and pick at a shaving sore under his chin. His response was measured.
‘My head tells me it’s unlikely to be linked to the boy’s drowning. But my gut . . . that’s a different story. My gut tells me two things. The first is that there’s something about both deaths that doesn’t sit right with me. Something fishy, if you like. No pun intended, given where we are.’
‘You’re suggesting that these deaths might be murder?’
Harry shrugged his shoulders. Experience had taught him that neutrality was best in these situations, and that Joe Gray was quite capable of jumping marvellously to his own conclusions.
Gray nodded. He had reached one of those conclusions. ‘And the second, Harry?’
‘The second thing is that these two deaths are somehow linked. I don’t believe in coincidence, and two deaths within a week on the same stretch of river, well, that’s not simply bad luck. Yes, sir, I think we might have a murderer on our hands. And before you press me for a suspect, I’ve no idea yet as to a culprit.’
. . . To be continued . . .