Drew Hayden Taylor

Drew Hayden Taylor
Meet the Playwright

Thursday, February 7, 2008

ALIBI CREEK

The prologue of a mystery thriller by Ted Fryia

Andy Wells had tested what was left of the shore-bound ice, poking at the glazed surface with a tree branch and leaning his weight out in front. He had anticipated the edge breaking away. But what he didn’t know is the secret it would give up.

Hoping to get ahead of the season and luck into a winter-starved book trout or two, Andy had wedged the pole into the fracture and pushed. A mass separated from the shore. There it bobbed, rolled and rotated. With it was a body, shirt, hands and hair fixed to the under side.

The breath startled out of Andy in a burst of vapor. His feet slipped and he thumped down on his tailbone. He scrambled to his feet, his rod still in hand, slipping in snow and mud as he crawled over the bank to solid ground. There he pulled off his muddied gloves, reached inside his fleece jacket and palmed a cell phone out of the pocket. With fingers so cold they felt like flattened nubs of stone, he poked at the numbers.
After explaining to the 9-1-1 operator that he’d discovered a body, then his location, Andy hiked through the trees to the highway and waited. It was his first encounter with death. Real human death. It was encounter enough to tell him that he didn’t want to be alone with it.

Now a creek slaps around rock. It punches through ice then empties into the pond. Mist rises while shivering evergreens crowd the shore and leafless birch trees flick strips of white bark at the breeze. Andy sits on the bank straddling a fallen log, a wool blanket draped over his slumped shoulders. Clutching the fishing pole he received as a fifteenth birthday gift, colour still absent from his sallow face, he’s reminded of market fish he’d seen stretched on beds of ice; the image of the man’s clouded eyes are frozen in his memory forever.
A diver is chest-deep in the bitter water, his gloved hands looking like black paws nudges the body around jags of ice. A grey-haired officer waits on the shore.

“Who is it?” the officer asks as he reaches down to help heft the rigid body out of the water.

Once the body is on the shore the diver shoves and slides it further from the edge. “Don’t know,” he says. “Been here a while though; looks like decay started before winter set.”

A young officer comes to assist. He helps his partner turn the bloated body onto its back, then his baby-face pales and he gags. The ballooned face has a sickly white pallor, all pigmentation leeched away where bleached eyeballs stare at him.

“Jimmy, get the boy home,” the older officer instructs. “Radio in and see about any missing persons.”
Fighting to keep his breakfast down, Jimmy nods then trudges up the bank on long legs. He stops in front of Andy. “Hey, you wanna go now? I’ll take you home,” he offers with a sympathetic face, then points to the trees where a path leads to the highway.

Officer Jimmy Dole drops Andy Wells at his home, talks briefly to Andy’s mother and heads back. Wipers move intermittently, streaking the windshield of the police cruiser. Tires lick the asphalt then spit back the morning rain. The radio squawks and the dispatcher calls; none of the missing persons’ reports describe anyone tall enough to be the corpse from the pond.

He wonders what kind of man goes missing with no inquiries made. Could be a drifter or some homeless person migrating from a big city where shelters and food banks can’t keep up. Likely, foul play, Officer Dole has already decided. But by the time he can get back to the pond where the forensic unit will already have the area taped off, he’s sure that evidence will be scarce. Time, rain and snow, high and low water levels, sun and wind would have scoured the site.

Jimmy Dole had been a deputy for a little more than a year, and in that time he couldn’t help but notice that Solomon City, considering its size, had seen more than its share of strange goings on. Many were connected to the Crowthers property in either proximity or kinship. And what had just surfaced in the pond, tucked away in the forested part of the Crowthers’ estate, was just the latest in a series.

So why didn’t he see it in the dead man on the bank? Why did he just realize that this too would lead back to the old house and the old woman’s last days there? Keeping his eyes on the road, Jimmy picks up the radio transmitter, squeezes, then speaks.

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