Mystery Musings

Thought I’d write a little short-short story for you:

Seth pulled on his line, but it was stuck on something.  He scanned the water near the shore.  No fallen log that he could see.  Maybe it was submerged.  He pulled harder and whatever he’d snagged started to move.  He reeled in his line and noticed a red sweatshirt rise within sight.  A body soon became visible, floating face down.  Whoever it was, he was so bloated, Seth didn’t recognize him until he reeled him into the shallow water.  Even then, he might not have known who it was except for the flame tattoos reaching up his neck to his hair line.

Billy Sanderson.  The meanest know-it-all in Dillard County.  Seth walked closer to get a better look at him.  The back of his skull was cracked open–a long, narrow gape like maybe he’d been hit from behind with a crowbar.  Seth was no expert, but it looked as if he’d been in the water a while.  He thought back to remember when Billy had gone missing.  Two months ago?  In early spring?

There’d been a ruckus for a while, and the sheriff had questioned Billy’s wife, Lizbeth.  Her black eye and bruises attested to Billy’s handiwork.  He’d asked her when she’d last seen her husband.

“Two days after he beat me.  He said he got a job out of town, and he wanted me to move with him.”  She shook her head.  “If I left Dillard, and he didn’t have to answer to my brothers, he’d beat me every time he felt like it.  When I told him that, he said he was gonna give me a better whopping than usual so I’d remember him and mind my manners till he came home.”

The foreman at the quarry where Billy worked, and where Seth was fishing, told the sheriff that Billy had strutted into his office the day he went missing and quit.  “Told me he had a better job with more money, and he didn’t need to put up with me anymore.”

He’d told Carrie Mae the same thing when he stopped in the diner for lunch that day.  No one saw him after that.  The sheriff asked Lizbeth’s brothers about Billy, but they swore he stayed clear of them, because he knew what was coming if they saw him.  Lizbeth’s brothers were built like grizzlies.  Why a  man would risk their tempers, Seth didn’t know.

Seth glanced at Billy’s body again, then rubbed his chin, thinking.  He started to reach for his cellphone but stopped.  He liked Lizbeth’s brothers.  The foreman here, too.  And he’d always felt sorry for Lizbeth.  He didn’t particularly like Billy’s parents or family, and they didn’t seem to miss Billy all that much.  If he called this in, someone would probably be punished for bashing in Billy’s head and dumping him in the quarry, but Seth was pretty sure Billy had probably deserved what happened to him.

A rowboat was tied to the pier a little ways away.  Employees took it out to fish once in a while.  No one was here so early on a Sunday morning, so Seth walked down, got in the boat, and rowed it to where Billy floated.  He pulled in close to shore, got his pole, and started rowing out to the deepest part of the quarry, dragging Billy’s body behind him.  A little island jutted from the water, and he pulled the boat to land there.  Rocks littered the ground, and he stuffed as many of them as he could under Billy’s sweatshirt, even pushed them under his jeans.  Then he got back in the boat, rowed the short distance to the deep water.  That took some effort, since the body wanted to sink, but his fishing line held, and he didn’t cut it until he’d reached the spot he was looking for.

He watched Billy sink out of sight.  Hopefully the fabric of his clothes would pin him to the bottom until enough flesh had rotted from his bones that he wouldn’t float again.  That done, Seth rowed back to the pier and tied the boat in place.  He got his fishing pole and tackle box and decided to call it a day.  As he loaded his pickup and drove back to town, he heard the church bells ringing at the end of Sunday service.  Lizbeth and her brothers never missed a week.  Neither did the quarry’s foreman.  But Seth didn’t feel one twinge of guilt for playing hooky this time.  Instead of worshipping, he’d performed a good deed.  And hopefully, on the Lord’s day, good deeds did go unpunished.



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