I stumbled out of bed to grab the ringing phone. It was just past 7 a.m., Saturday morning, and my head was thumping so hard it felt like my eyes would leave my skull. It was like someone put the Liberty Bell over my head and was trying to add some more cracks to it. Max’s Beachcomber began its annual end of summer blowout weekend last night and I did my best to support the cause. I planned to sleep it off this morning, then maybe stow myself in the hammock and sleep a bit more. The phone had other plans.
“Ross,” I growled into the phone, steadying myself with one hand on the dresser, not in any mood to deal with civilization yet. “A what?— Where?” Cassi told me what and where, I told her when, “Be there in 15.”
I hung up the phone then went to the kitchen and started the single serve coffee machine. Back in the bedroom I pulled on some pants I found thrown over the back of a chair, and pulled a shirt out of the closet. I yanked on the shirt, buttoned some buttons, grabbed my suit jacket, threw a tie around my neck, and shoved a bottle of aspirin and my cell phone into my jacket pocket. I grabbed my coffee on the way out the door and headed to my truck.
With lights and siren on, I made it to the beach in 10 minutes, parked by the curb, and got out. I ducked under the crime scene tape and strode onto the beach toward my deputy Stella Cassidy.
“Morning Chief,” She gave me the once over and chuckled, “nice outfit. Hope we didn’t disturb your beauty sleep.”
“You’re a real hoot Cassi. Where’s Roscoe?”
“Right here Chief,” Roscoe walked up behind us from the parking lot.
I wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead and sipped at my coffee, “Sun’s barely up and I’m freaking sweating already. Gotta love Texas.” I turned to Cassi, “What do we got?”
Cassi lead me and Roscoe to the pier.
I took out the bottle of aspirin and gulped down a handful with my coffee.
Roscoe stared motionless down at the dead man lying face down in the sand.
“A couple of joggers found this guy about a half hour ago,” Cassi began. “The guy’s pretty bloated and there’s lots of bite marks on him. Looks he drifted by and washed up on the beach.”
“ID?” I asked, looking down at the body.
Cassi handed me the man’s wallet, “Samuel Parker. Houston.”
I squatted down to get a closer look, rolling the mangled and bloated corpse onto its back. Its face looked like that of a very bad prizefighter.
Roscoe took in a startled breath.
I looked up into Roscoe’s suddenly pale face and wide eyes, “You OK?”
“Sorry Chief,” Roscoe rattled his head and turned his eyes from the body, “I just wasn’t expecting that is all.”
“Well don’t barf on the deceased. It’s bad karma,” I grumbled.
Cassi looked down at me, “This guy was beaten pretty badly, but his wallet still has credit cards and cash in it so it doesn’t look like a mugging gone bad.”
I ran my fingers through my hair and puffed out a breath, “Somebody must have really disliked this guy and decided to let him know.” I rested my elbows on my knees and looked out over the water, “Cassi, give Harbor Patrol a call. They’ve got a marine forensics team. Maybe they can tell us where this guy floated in from.”
“Got it Chief,” Cassi walked off to place the call.
I stood up and grimaced as I flexed my back. I looked down at the body again. I shook my head, then motioned for the CSU guys to bag him. I turned toward Roscoe then nodded at the news vans beginning to gather in the parking lot behind him, “Good news travels fast.” I looked back at Roscoe, “Get outta here. Go take statements from the joggers. I’ll handle the press.”
“Thanks Chief,” Roscoe walked off, giving a wide birth to the body in the sand.
I tossed my now cold coffee into the trashcan and finished buttoning my shirt, tucked it in, knotted my tie, and adjusted the collar on my coat. I took a deep breath and exhaled forcefully, steeling myself for the circus that was about to descend on my little seaside hamlet. “A stiff on a beach. What a way to work off a bender.”
I made my way up the beach to the waiting press and, for the next half hour, I answered questions about a brutal murder from reporters who had probably never covered anything more serious than a car wreck.
When I finally got back to the station it was approaching nine o’clock. I headed straight for the coffee, “Maybe some of Sand Point PD’s finest sludge will cut this fog.” I washed down a few more aspirin and headed off down the hall to my office. I tossed my jacket onto the back of my chair and loosened my tie.
I fired up my computer and ran a records search for Samuel Parker. I pulled up Parker’s rap sheet and sent it to the printer.
I heard a knock on my door, “Hey Chief.”
I turned, “Come on in Cassi. You get in touch with Harbor Patrol?”
“Gave ‘em the details. Told ‘em I’d stop by later.”
“Good. Let me know what you hear.”
“You got it,” Cassi lingered in my office, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
“Something on your mind Cassi?”
“This town’s gonna go nuts when it learns they’re living in the murder capital of the inner harbor.”
“Welcome to my world, Deputy,” I shrugged, then looked out the window.
I let out a long breath, “Five years on a beat in Queens, seven years in vice, and another six in homicide. I came down here thinking I left all that behind me. I guess if it wants you, it’ll find you.” I turned to look at Cassi, “Ever work a murder before?”
“In Sand Point, Texas?!”
I stared back out the window, “First time for everything I guess. Hang on, it’s gonna be a wild ride.”