The Drowners (part 1)

Good Morning!  I hope everyone is having a great week so far.

Today it’s back to business as usual.  That’s right folks, it’s story time again.  We’re getting a little dark and mysterious with this one- okay a lot dark.  Just like with any short story, I’ve split the complete work into shorter parts for your ease of reading.  Once the last part of the story is posted, I will also post the complete story on my Short Fiction page (which is filling up with all manner of goodies for your reading pleasure).  I’d also like to remind everyone about the Flash Fiction page, where you can find every flash challenge story I’ve written since this blog got started.  New flash pieces are added every Friday.  If you’ve been watching, I created a new Poetry page as well.  It’s got a few strange little gems of mine you might have some fun with!  🙂

As always, I’d love to hear from you awesome folks!  Comments are welcome and appreciated.  Enjoy the read!  I’ll see everyone for the new flash story tomorrow, and Tuesday next week for the next part of The Drowners.  Thanks for stopping by!

*     *     *     *     *

The Drowners

Outside, the wind screamed against the mountains. It roared through the pine trees. It howled as it threw rain against the windows of the small house set against the foothills. The music of the storm was sporadic; jumping, spinning, and wailing. Yet, inside, the three occupants slept peacefully, unaffected by the torrent.

Slowly, a man in the living room stirred. He kicked his legs off the couch, stretching as he stood. He sluggishly scratched his belly as he walked into the kitchen and flipped on the light and coffee maker. As he took a seat at the worn table against the wall, it creaked quietly.

As the coffee maker finished its only job in the world, another of the three men staggered into the small kitchen. He knuckled his eyes and pulled three mugs from the cupboard, splashing hot coffee into them. He carried two carefully to the table, leaving the third by the machine.

Outside it was still dark. The clock on the wall above the stove read a few minutes past two in the morning. The last man found his way into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He left the door hanging out and poured a bit of milk into the mug on the counter. With the fridge open and the milk by the coffee pot, he plopped into the last chair at the table. The three drank their coffee in silence.

With coffee finished and fridge still open, the three left the kitchen and dressed. They stumbled into the garage and piled into the faded, black Lincoln Town Car. As the garage door squealed open, not one man noticed the raging wind or sheeting rain.

They drove down the rain slick roads, navigating the switchbacks as they did every morning, silent as they had been in the kitchen. The man in the backseat absently played with the neatly folded towels that were placed there the night before. It was a short drive to Lake Aedin where they parked the car and left it running.

The men climbed out and walked, fully clothed, into the cold, dark water. The wind did its best to get their attention, moaning and shrieking. They would have none of it and continued into the lake. One by one they slipped below the surface.

When the storm broke later that morning, the sun beating the clouds from the sky as it climbed over the mountains, the car sat idling with open doors and lights on. The towels were left untouched. Three bodies drifted in lazy circles face down in the water.

*     *     *     *     *

“I just don’t understand it,” the sheriff said, pulling on his ear. “Why in God’s name would they go swimming in the middle of a storm?”

“Could be drugs involved, Al.” One of the Deputies, Lester, always thought it was drugs. Car accident? It was drugs. Bar fight? It was drugs. “Maybe it was drugs, Al?”

“Yeah, Lester, sure. And maybe they were so goofed up that they drove their car all the way down the hill, with forty mile an hour winds and heavy rain, and never once swerved or slammed on the brakes. And they were so goofed up they brought towels they had no intention of using.  Okay, that part sounds like drugs.” Al pulled his glasses from his face and rubbed the bridge of his nose, a short shake of his head. “Law of averages says you’ll be right one of these days, Lester. It just ain’t today. Drag the lake and see if anybody else is down there.”

Sheriff Al Todd slid into the seat of his cruiser and yanked the radio free. He could see the lines in his face in the rear-view mirror; they looked a little deeper today. He thumbed the button and cleared his throat.

“Dolores, this is Al, come back.”

The speaker crackled, the voice of forty years spent smoking filter-less cigarettes responded. If you closed your eyes, she sounded like a gravel-throated man. “What do you got, Al? Over.”

“I need you to send the coroner out her to Aedin Lake. Tell Don to bring the van. I’m looking at three bodies. Possible drownings. Over.” Al slid a cigar from the leather case on the seat next to him and bit the tip off. He chewed the nub for a moment before spitting it onto the ground and flicking his lighter.

“Jesus, Al. Who is it? Over.”

“It’s them Murphy boys, from up the hill. Just send Don up here to get ‘em. Over and out.”

Al puffed on his cigar, it was descent enough. Shipped in from all the way out in Honduras, the label said so. He climbed out and stood by the open door. “Hey, Lester. Take Charlie and fish them out of the water. Wait til Don gets here and help him load the bodies. I got to run back to the station and start this damn paperwork, give their Mother a call.”

“You got it, Al.” Lester gave a hasty thumbs-up and turned back to the other Deputies.

Al slid himself back into the car and started the engine. He reached out and pulled the door shut with a groan.

As he pulled into the Sheriff’s Station, Al Todd wished he was someplace else. It looked like damn near the whole town was waiting for him. He just knew that each one had questions he didn’t want to answer. He’d watched plenty of movies where the phrase ‘no comment’ worked just fine the sate the masses. But this was a small town, ‘no comment’ wasn’t going to fly here.

He climbed out and was showered with everything he knew was coming. “Listen up, I got nothing to say yet. Save all your whatever you got till I find out what happened.”  Al worked the cigar around with his lips, rolling it from one corner of his mouth to the other.

“Sheriff! Was it really the Murphy brothers?  All three of them?”

“Why’d they do it, Al?”

“Was it murder?”

“Yeah, was it murder?”

Al slammed the car door and spit the chewed cigar onto the ground. “Damn it, what’d I just say folks? I don’t know. You know just as much as I do right now. Go home, go to work. I got nothing to tell you.”

Al pushed his way through amid shouts and pleas for more answers. There were no answers yet, plain and simple.

Hours later Al was leaning over his desk cradling his head in hands. He had called the Widow Murphy nine times with no answer. Al couldn’t bring himself to leave a message, it just felt like a cheap shot to get this kind of information from a answering machine. He thought about driving the three hours to her house, talking to her face to face, but that would have to wait until tomorrow.

A knock at his office door drew his attentions away from staring at the phone. Al looked up to see Don, the town’s Medical Examiner, Coroner, and Doctor, standing in the doorway. Don stepped in and eased himself into a chair.

“What is it, Don?” Al leaned forward in his seat, expecting to hear blood alcohol levels from the Murphy brothers.

“Tox-screens came up negative.” Don pulled at the fabric of his jeans, unable to meet Al’s eye. “I opened up Jake and his body started convulsing.”

“What? How does that work? They’re dead.”

“Jake is for sure now. Mike and Dale, damn I don’t know. They have no pulse, but their brain activity is off the charts. I had to put them in a room, ventilators, heart machines. Jesus, Al, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Al stood and faced the wall rubbing his jaw, the sound of his rough stubble was almost comforting. What the hell was going on here? “Those boys were in the water for hours, Don.  What am I supposed to do about this? Should we call in some kind of Specialist Doctor?  I mean, for Gods’ sake, they weren’t breathing when we found them!”

“Take the ventilator away, Al, and they still aren’t breathing. By all accounts they should be dead.”

*     *     *     *     *

Tune in next Tuesday for the next part of The Drowners!

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7 thoughts on “The Drowners (part 1)

  1. One of the coolest openings ever. Begins with a great hook and ends with a terrific cliffhanger. Really great writing throughout.

  2. Very suspenseful. I felt on edge the whole way through, wondering like the Sheriff “What the hell is going on here?”!! Great descriptions and the opening was just wonderful. An awful storm, but the men’s actions were so subtle and normal, I didn’t suspect something wrong was going on until the 3rd guy left the refrigerator open and the milk on the counter. Your characters are excellent. I could see the sheriff and his cigar. I wonder how long it’s going to take before Lester is finally right? Definitely left me hanging and needing to know how this is going to resolve. I like it!!!

  3. This is one of the best opening’s I’ve read for some time, Joe. Suspenseful, intriguing…you just want more! I could picture this as a horror movie. Very well written and thoroughly enjoyable. Oh, and I love these little touches like: “As the coffee maker finished its only job in the world” – awesome! 🙂

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