Tyshawn Rodamar and the Cetacean Mystery
by Devon Pitlor
I. The victory of the Plus Sized Club and its aftermath
The swinging body of one Kaleigh Silverthorne, an eighteen year
old Native American resident of Aristock and an alleged
prostitute, hung only briefly from the brand new suspension
bridge which connected the twin towns of Aristock and Marshcove.
Not long after Kaleigh's apparent suicide had occurred, the
Aristock and Marshcove police, acting as ever in unison, saw fit
to cut the rope which held the girl's tortured neck to an upper
bridge support, thus allowing her to drop with an unceremonious
thud onto the floor of a waiting rowboat floating in the river
beneath. From this point her body disappeared into the Aristock
morgue because it was determined that Kaleigh had hanged herself
exactly one inch inside the Aristock side of the structure,
which, of course was cause enough for the Aristock police to
claim jurisdiction, and this quieted the momentarily shocking
Kaleigh Silverthorne case even quicker than it would have on the
Marshcove side. No explanation was given for the girl's suicide,
but it was rumored broadly that she had been the coerced,
tyrannized, extorted and abused rape victim of Aristock's mayor,
Jericolb Brunker, and that the latter's repeated sexual
violations of the alleged prostitute had been covered up and
abetted by Aristock's police chief, Danny Plank. The case
remained under hushed investigation, and the main issue facing
the town council of Aristock once again returned to whether the
new bridge would be named for Mayor Brunker, a thing which
Brunker, to tell the truth, desired much more than a thorough
investigation of Kaleigh Silverthorne's death.
But suddenly, by general citizen acclaim, the Aristock town
council was forced into a recall election of both the mayor and
his police chief, and this became the pre-occupation of dozens of
citizens who had never thought of voting in off-season elections
for or against local officials. When the vote came in May of
2011, far more town residents voted than had ever before, this
resulting in the recall of both mayor and police chief and their
pro-tem replacement with others who, not unsurprisingly, did not
clamor to have a bridge named for themselves. A few weeks after
Kaleigh's suicide had dropped off the general awareness screen,
another rumor began circulating down the busy streets of both
towns and across the campus of Central State University, which
they both shared: The larger than usual voter turn-out, which had
sealed the political fate of Jericolb Brunker and left the new
bridge unnamed--- having a voter total of less than one thousand
citizens---had been, somewhat inexplicably, the doing of a club
of eleven and twelve year old kids known as the Plus Sized Club.
The leader of this children's club was a boy named Tyshawn
Rodamar, who, like a few others in the club, had known Kaleigh
personally, though it was not clear exactly how or why.
Apparently the club as a whole had been convinced of Brunker's
guilt and the resulting police complicity, but that didn't really
matter. What mattered was that Tyshawn Rodamar was the club
leader that spring, and the club, by its very charter, acted on
Nearly seven hundred miles to the south in the "Florida-Land"
tourist trap of Mount Tarpon, there occurred not another suicide
but rather a sordid case of reported rape.
And rape is a very difficult subject to deal with on any level,
and it is not always clear whether or not it actually happened,
when or where, but this case was far more transparent than what
had been alleged with Kaleigh.
So the issue comes forth before this story even begins as to
whether eleven and twelve year old boys and girls should even be
dealing with a subject as intangible as rape. But in Aristock
they had. And soon the Florida case, unreported outside of its
small community, would become an issue for the kids as well, but
in ways that are more outstanding and unbelievable than anything
a club full of sixth and seventh graders should ever have needed
to wrestle with.
II. The Plus Sized Club flexes its muscle: Tyshawn Rodamar
On the first Sunday after the dismissal of schools for spring
vacation, Brooke Nescott walked to nearby Camencave Park hand in
hand with her handsome son Jared. Under unusually milky skies for
the season, mother and son realized that something important was
happening that day and that it would most likely be a week before
either would see the other again, as it was agreed that Brooke
would spend the week with her first lover and Jared's father,
Dragonsnort, who could emerge from his tree form for at least
five days and go somewhere on a short vacation with Brooke. This,
of course, was with the complete blessing of Dr. Eric Palobay,
Brooke's domestic partner and Jared's unofficial stepfather, who
was quite content with the ménage à trois between himself, Brooke
and Dragonsnort. It was simply Dragonsnort's turn, and Eric would
spend some quality time with Jared. Little did he know or plan at
the time that it would be in one of his least favorite places on
Earth, Central Florida.
As Brooke and Jared neared the park, they saw exactly what each
expected: a crowd of middle-school aged children, most of them
Jared's classmates, gathered in a tight crowd around one of the
wooden picnic tables near the music pavilion. Under the pavilion
were spread snacks and drinks of all sorts, mostly provided by
the passel of generally doting mothers---interspersed with the
occasional father--who bustled behind the assembled children. The
picnic was a treat provided by the parents for all the children
of Lykes Middle School as a reward for having scored the highest
in the state on the yearly assessment tests, but most present
knew that it was the strong influence of the Plus Sized Club that
had created the atmosphere of achievement which had caused even
non-members to work harder than usual at their studies. Also,
hundreds of household chores, usually ignored, had been performed
by children, who in the past had often needed to be goaded out of
their sloth to volunteer even a small amount of their time to
chores that were routine and normally expected from children.
Credit again to the Plus Sized Club, which, considering itself a
"tribe," had begun a huge "help your family" campaign which had
spread across the entire Aristock community. And then there were
the gifts and donations to families of those out of work. The
Plus Sized Club, under any of its leaders, knew how to raise
money and help local families in need. Its contacts ranged far
beyond the confines of Lykes Middle School and the cities of
Aristock and Marshcove. It had friends everywhere.
was indeed the key word, for most of the children gathered today
were not charter members of Jared's illustrious club. They were
simply called friends. The Plus Sized Club, being a tribe,
conducted business differently than most clubs. For one, it had a
revolving leadership, a leadership which now fell on Tyshawn
Rodamar and would soon fall on one of the other founding members.
Nothing to be accomplished was ever put to a vote once a leader
took office. It was decided in advance that if a child was voted
a member of the club, then his or her leadership was absolute for
the term allotted. Membership itself came with some difficulty,
however. One had to first be named a Friend of the Plus Sized
Club, and a waiting period was required before a membership vote
As a small but annoying steam of spring rain began to dampen the
park and its visitors, so some of the parents became anxious to
get the perfunctory meeting finished and move the children along
to the snack tables.
Jared, leaving Brooke to mingle if she wanted with the other
parents (and she didn't), ran to join the core members of his
group and stood among the founders, Malachi, Subaru, Ian, Cody
and Tyshawn. Without acknowledgement to anyone, Tyshawn Rodamar,
a well-built, athletic eleven year old with a mop of tussled
blond hair that nearly covered his ears and forehead, jumped up
on the central picnic table and addressed the crowd. Even before
he began to speak, two uniformed Aristock policemen who had been
posted to observe the event patted the tops of their service
revolvers and moved in a few steps closer. At once they were
stared down by the cold eyes of at least a dozen parents and
found it better hold their ground near the back.
Tyshawn begin: "The Plus Sized Club wants to thank everyone
present, kids and adults alike, for the cooperation we have all
shown in doing the things we said three months ago we would do.
We kids have done our chores and much more than asked. We have
put Lykes Middle School at the top of the state academic list. We
have helped a few dozen families who are having a hard time, and
we will continue to help them. You adults have done as promised,
gone to the polls during the special recall election and rid the
town of a corrupt and dangerous pair of politicians that we never
needed here in the first place. We are a tribe. We take care of
our own. And we are growing larger every day. There is no need
for a overfed guy in a tight suit to preside over things that can
be best done by a tribe. So thanks and good riddance. And the
next time they want to name that bridge, let them name it after
the innocent girl who was driven to kill herself there."
The crowd, adults and children alike, roared in approval. Both of
the police officers attempted to elbow in closer but were blocked
intentionally by the crowd of children and their parents. They
had planned on an arrest of some sort, a juvenile arrest, but
given the circumstances, they decided to not push their luck. A
grassroots citizens campaign, started by a kids' club, had sent
their supervisor and the mayor of their town to the unemployment
lines. Even as cops, they were beginning to realize the power of
The rain began in earnest, wetting everyone alike as rain does.
"Let's eat!" shouted Tyshawn, and he was carried on the shoulders
of his comrades into the music pavilion followed by as many
present who could fit under its green copper dome. This did not
include the cops, who slunk back into their brown and red patrol
car and glared at the jubilant throng.
Later that day, the sun broke out. Funnels of steam rose from the
rain soaked grass, and first promise of a hotter than usual
summer broke across the afternoon landscape of Aristock. Jared
remained with his club, planning other benevolent activities.
Brooke took the long hike to the far side of town to an abandoned
subdivision construction plot where grew a fenced-in tree that
she both owned and loved. A tall, strong pierced, tattooed and
studded man awaited her at the side of the tree. It was, once
again, their time together. Brooke and Dragonsnort. Like another
honeymoon or however it could be described---and, given the
oddities of their arrangement, that was not easy.
III. Eric Palobay drives across town for a drink
The following Monday, the 16th of May, Dr. Eric Palobay, chairman
of the Department of Entomology at Central State University and
charter member of the International Crypto-Zoological Society,
sat in his office pondering over a mysterious phone call he had
received from an annoying place called Mount Tarpon, Florida. The
call had been an urgent request from a former student named
Peyton Lisk who had recently been arrested by the local police on
a charge of aggravated rape. Lisk was out on some heavy bond but
was confined to house arrest pending a further investigation of
the alleged crime. "I can't go anywhere," screamed Peyton over
the phone. "You need to see that guy Scott Rodamar and see if he
can help me. This whole thing is eerie beyond words."
"You're innocent, I take it," Palobay responded. "Why don't you
just find a local lawyer?"
"The case is right up Scott's alley," said Lisk. "He investigates
weird stuff." Then Peyton nervously stammered out the basic
details of his case. Something or someone prematurely truncated
the call before Peyton was finished, but Eric Palobay managed to
hear the major details.
Palobay hung up with the intention of visiting yet another former
student with whom he was only casually acquainted. As he had
informed Lisk over the phone, the man in question was in his
thirties and totally retired from forensic investigations and
police work. His name had been briefly known about Aristock and
Marshcove for a few years long before Palobay had met Brooke
Nescott. Scott Rodamar had been a graduate student in criminal
justice and had been involved with several bizarre cases, namely
the rather hush-hush Mary Smith murder mystery, about which he
had solidly refused to talk for years. Rodamar had suddenly
become disgusted with police and police work and had briefly
devoted his forensic skills to the solution of cases that no one
else would touch. He claimed to enjoy strange intrigues, but then
again, they all did, thought Palobay. Finally, Rodamar had thrown
everything behind him and bought a bar and grill at the far side
of the river bend where Marshcove and Aristock came together
under a new bridge, a bridge that had been in the news lately and
was the prime subject of one of the boys in the Plus Sized Club
who just happened to be....Tyshawn Rodamar, friend of Jared's and
son of Scott. Palobay mused over how things often wound together.
He decided that Peyton Lisk, who had always been a eager young
man, must have known enough about Scott Rodamar's abilities to
want him involved in his dilemma. It was nearing noon anyway, and
Eric, his morning class finished, felt like canceling his office
hours and having an early drink. He had left Jared alone to join
his friends in the Plus Sized Club, and this upon Jared's request
because the club had, as usual, "unfinished business." The Plus
Sized Club always had unfinished business.
As Eric approached the new and still unnamed bridge, he thought
about the fate of Kaleigh Silverthorne and wondered if his
step-son's club had taken the right course of action. The "tribe"
had effectively eliminated two dirty officials from local
government and was, naturally, treading on some pretty big feet
still. Maybe things were getting dangerously out of hand, and it
might be wise to at least speak to Scott about this, seeing as
his son was the club leader and tribal master now. He drove over
the bridge, glancing upward at the arching supports and tried to
imagine Kaleigh's body dangling from the one exactly in the
middle of the river where Aristock joined Marshcove. The thought
repelled him, and a lifelong sense of impending danger gripped
him enough to cause him to slightly accelerate to reach the other
Rodamar's Roost, Eric thought upon advancing on the lively
tavern. Full of early morning roosters. What a stupid name.
Couldn't Scott have done better? It was now noon, and several
comely female servers were carrying plates out to diners along
with huge mugs of draft beer. The university drinking crowd had
found Rodamar's. That would be all the business Scott needed.
"Mr. Rodamar is in his office," chirped a lively twenty-something
in a tight-fitting pair of purposely frayed jeans. "I'll tell him
you are here if you don't mind me grabbing this table first."
Palobay took a seat at the bar and ordered a draft beer. The
growing merriment which was starting to swirl around him was
becoming slightly annoying for some reason. Perhaps he was
feeling his age. After all, his vap was demanding more and more
"brain time," and in 2011, Eric knew only too well that his life
had been artificially extended to what would be ninety-seven in
August, although he looked and felt no older than a young forty.
"Beer's on me," shouted a gruff voice from somewhere below Eric's
waist. It was Scott, rolling around gymnastically in his sports
wheelchair to which he had been confined since a childhood
accident. The wheelchair seemed to have absolutely no effect on
Scott's mobility either. In fact, it got him around faster than
his feet would have. Scott had always been more active than the
average person, despite his disability. "Bring your beer to my
office," he said, "and let's catch up."
Eric Palobay settled into a comfortable seat directly in front of
Scott Rodamar's desk. They looked each other over in a way that
told each one of them that both had grown slightly older. Scott,
scowled a bit, as a buzzing came from his pocket. He pulled out
his phone and abruptly shut it off, placing it on top his desk.
Then he grinned and rolled his eyes at Eric. Eric immediately
extracted his own cell phone from a jacket pocket and did
likewise. The two mobile phones sat like corpses side by side on
Scott's cluttered desktop. Then both men broke into laughter.
"The fucking Plus Sized Club," said Scott. "They've gotten to us
Eric laughed along with Scott. "Yeah, I don't want to mess with
your kid. He might get me fired."
Scott seemed eager to change the subject. "Still wearing your
mudslug?" he asked. One of the things that Scott knew all about
was vaps and the vap organization, but Eric had never asked how
or why. He trusted in Scott's confidentiality and let matters go
"Yep, it needs three hours of brain time these days, so we can't
make this meeting too long."
Eric began outlining the sketchy details of Peyton Lisk's dilemma
as he had heard them over the phone. Outside of the office the
din of the lunch crowd became louder, and students began cackling
and chortling at one another. "Fucking kids," said Scott. "But
they keep me in business. You know I'm retired from detective
work. Long ago retired. I hate cops and chasing around behind
them. And I hate Florida."
"Me too," agreed Eric. "And this is the worst time of year down
there. But there might be something absorbing in this case. At
least that is what Peyton was counting on."
"I did something for him once," said Scott quietly, not offering
any more details. "He kind of worships me, and it is misguided.
Tell me again about his problem."
Palobay re-iterated the details. Lisk, who worked as an
entomology specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture,
was preparing to get married. It would be a later in life
marriage, as Peyton was Scott's age, now thirty-six. He woke up
one day, turned on his computer to look at the local headlines
and saw a very clear picture of himself. He was wanted by the
police, who for some reason had not bothered to call for him at
his Mount Tarpon house before posting the picture. The charge had
been levied by a young female clerk in a local convenience store.
Her name stuck in Palobay's mind: Fawn Greenbath. Fawn had not
only alleged that Lisk had broken into her apartment the night
before and forced himself on her, but had also taken his picture
with her cell phone. Moreover, Fawn's roommate, another young
woman, had been in the next room when Lisk entered. She had also
made a positive ID on the rapist, who was not only forceful but
depraved as well. Lisk had not only sexually assaulted Fawn, but
he had also slugged and punched both women, and they had the
welts and bruises to prove it. During the entire rape episode,
Lisk had been a full-blown "grunting beast" overtaken with some
kind of sex-driven fury, but perplexingly, he had not spoken a
"Then why is he out on bond?" asked Scott.
"Because the next day when Peyton was securely in police custody,
which is to say the Mount Tarpon jailhouse, he came again and
raped the other girl whose name escapes me, and once again one of
the two of them got a picture with a time stamp on it."
Scott looked up as if to tune into the happy hubbub outside of
his office door. "I always want to hear if they are breaking
glasses," he said. "Then I go out and stop things cold."
He looked back at Palobay and said one word which told Eric that
Scott had grasped the oddity of the case. "Bilocation," he said.
"It used to be reported all the time, like in the Middle Ages.
Most people credited it to hysteria, but now we have
picture-taking cell phones with time stamps. It really isn't that
common anymore. Maybe it was Peyton's double."
"If it was, it was a double with the same fingerprints."
"Now that makes the case even more interesting. Fucking
fingerprints. We all have them and they are unique. What about
"That takes weeks, but they are doing it now. There is some kind
of ambiguity there too, but Peyton wasn't told exactly what it
was. Something sordid to do with sperm."
"Fucking sperm," retorted Scott. "It isn't unique, except in its
DNA. So the cops are moving slow. And our boy has to stay at home
and will probably lose his job."
"Our boys have to stay at home too," said Eric knowingly.
This was all Scott needed. He could easily connect all of Eric's
dots. He pushed his fast-moving chair out from behind the desk
and shot out partly into the lounge. "Pindal!" he screamed at the
top of his voice. From the crowd of servers a tall, dark Indian
man appeared wearing a stained white apron. Pindal Patel was
Scott's assistant manager, and he was summarily told that Scott
was going to be absent on a road trip with his son Tyshawn for a
few days. Pindal was more than happy to take over. He made some
kind of obsequious comment about "appreciating another line on
his resume" and shook Scott's hand.
Scott turned back to Eric. "I hate fucking tourist-trap Florida,"
he muttered, "but the boys need to get out of town. Tyshawn is by
himself too. Summer is off with her sick grandmother. So road
trip!" He bounced his knuckles off of Eric's and Eric, despite
himself, shouted the cliché road trip back at him.
Two hours later, two men and two rather disgruntled boys were
packed into Scott's lift van and were heading down the highway
toward the Sunshine State.
"I hate fucking Florida," whispered Jared to Tyshawn, careful to
not let the men in front hear him say a still-forbidden curse
When, many hours later, the lift van crossed the Florida state
line, Eric Palobay looked at Scott Rodamar and said exactly the
same thing. I hate fucking Florida. He did not try to hide his
IV. Questions and answers on the road
As the trip progressed into the attraction-crowded midlands of
central Florida, both Eric and Scott talked freely with their
sons about the case at hand. "Perhaps the Plus Sized Club will
have some insights," said Scott pensively, glancing at Tyshawn in
the mirror. "This bilocation business has a long and not so
pleasant history. Many famous people have been charged with it in
the past. It was one of the many charges leveled against Grand
Templar Master Jacques de Molay in 1314, which led to his being
burned at the stake. Throughout history, others have reported
cases of bilocation. It is associated with the black arts. You
boys probably know that."
Tyshawn agitated about in his seat. "I don't know nothing about
no bilocation," he grumbled.
"Your grammar?," said Scott.
"I'm on vacation," replied Tyshawn, annoyed. "Besides, this whole
place bores me and I have to pee. And..." he continued.
"And Jared and I don't like to think about rape. We're just boys,
"And very advanced boys too," interjected Eric Palobay. "We
thought you could handle the subject. You're getting older. Not
every kid in Aristock is able to organize the recall of a mayor
and police chief."
"Yeah, sure," muttered Jared. "Why do they put all this crap
here? These museums and these huge billboards? It looks like a
row of junkyards, all this sightseer stuff."
It was true. The deeper they penetrated into Florida's leaden
heartland the more signs appeared announcing attractions, some
well known like Marineland and of course the Disney complexes,
but many others competing for a share of the American tourist
dollar. As they moved forward through Marion, Lake, Sumter and
Orange counties the so-called "must see" attractions became more
and more frequent. World's largest this and smallest that. Parrot
gardens and monuments to huge product displays. "See the world's
largest Biff Burger. Eat in a slave jail. Visit the den of the
Giant Crab. Explore the Lizard Lair guarding a Pirate's Treasure.
Walk among thousands of alligators. Enjoy the highlights at
Flipper's Grave. Meet The Muffler Man. View the biggest
collection of gum wrappers on Earth....and the ubiquitous Swim
With Dolphins, which seemed to available every ten miles or so.
"Who would want to swim with dolphins?" asked Jared suddenly.
"They are supposed to be more intelligent than us anyway. Are we
really sure they want us swimming with them?"
Eric Palobay turned around in his seat and said "No. We are
really not sure. But there are dolphinariums all around the
world, especially in Florida. They say that swimming in a pool
with them can relieve some sorts of depression, but there is a
lot of controversy. Some dolphins have been injured by human
contact, and some humans have not only been hurt by getting too
fresh with dolphins but have been attacked by them as well."
"Sometimes sexually," muttered Scott somewhat faintly to Eric.
Finally after passing down a state highway literally lined with
one small attraction after another, Tyshawn said that he couldn't
hold it any longer and asked to stop to pee as soon as possible.
Scott agreed that all of them needed to use a toilet and probably
get something to eat as well. He steered the lift van off onto
the parking lot of a small gas station and convenience store, the
front of which was littered with trash left by passing visitors
as well as a variety of sundry car parts which seemed to be left
outside merely to rust. As Jared and Tyshawn rushed through the
debris, Jared said "This is probably a museum too. The Rusted Car
After using the bathroom, the foursome emerged in front of the
ragged convenience store, which boasted every sort of Florida
keepsake possible, including the ubiquitous dried baby alligators
dressed in wedding garb. In a fenced yard just to the side of the
store was yet another "museum." World's largest collection of dog
bones...all breeds reconstructed. "Wanna go see the dog bones?"
asked Scott to Eric. "There may be some cryptids in there."
Needing a break from driving, Eric paid five dollars apiece and
the two men along with their sons were admitted into a canopied
yard containing exactly what the sign promised: reconstructed dog
skeletons of every breed. A smirking fat man at the gate pocketed
their cash and announced proudly "Some come from the highway.
Some come from the carcass pick-up wagon. And some were just left
here with us by the tourists. We've got them all!!" He seemed
very excited, as do all Florida impresarios, about his collection
and seemed somewhat crestfallen when the boys and their fathers
brisked rapidly through the collection and exited without
comment. "Dog bones," said Jared to no one in particular. "Just
what I wanted to see over spring break."
Once back on the road, the boys noted more and more signs for
obscure attractions. This was, after all, a back road, a kind of
shortcut around the major points of interest in the area. See the
World's Largest Red Onion read a huge orange-lettered billboard
which was peeling in all four corners. Visit the Cave of the
Ophaloka Dragon and her Cubs, said another. Admission free with a
A clammy and insect ridden Florida night was starting to fall
from the east. "We need to find a motel and wait until tomorrow
to see Lisk," said Eric to Scott. "We can probably save money by
all bunking together. The boys have their sleeping bags, and we
can find a place with two beds. Some fleabag. It doesn't matter
to me. I was raised in them."
Scott agreed and started searching the roadside for a cheap motel
of which there were of course many. In front of some of them,
skinny, underfed prostitutes were lurking. Suddenly, Jared piped
up from behind and said "Let's get a place where there are no
Eric looked at Scott and laughed. "The boys are growing up," he
V. The Ancient Astronauts Motel
Just at the outskirts of Mount Tarpon, a muddled collection of
crumbling wigwam cabins were circled at the bottom of an
unusually sandy hill. The place seemed to have no visitors due to
the state of its ill-repair, and was, Eric noted, free of
hookers. To the right of the wigwam cabins stood a tall wooden
fence. Ancient Astronauts Museum was stenciled in black on the
locked entrance to whatever lay inside the fence. At the desk was
a dark-skinned, Arabic-looking man of about thirty who introduced
himself as Khalid. He seemed very happy to have some customers.
Khalid welcomed them in perfect English and explained that he was
a native American and that his now deceased father had come to
the US years ago from Libya. "He was an archaeologist of sorts,"
volunteered Khalid, and he brought a few desert artifacts with
him. That's what the so-called museum is about."
"So-called," said Eric, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah," said Khalid. "My father was mostly interested in making
money. He claimed some of the twisted metal stuff in there came
from outer space, and he just arranged to have it brought over
from Cyrenaica, that's in Libya."
"I know," said Jared abruptly. "We studied it in geography."
"Did you now?" said Khalid. "I personally think it is a load of
junk. I don't even display it anymore. My father told a lot of
tales. My opinion is that the alien spacecraft, the coracle, is
just a big fish tank that was abandoned here on these sands. It
looks a lot like a desert right here. More barren sand than
anywhere else on the inside of Florida. There used to be fish
tanks all over the place. The tourists used to come to see
swordfish, porpoises and of course swim with dolphins, which is
getting to be illegal most everywhere. If you ask me the
'spaceship' is just a big tank. Although it does have some
strange writing on it." Khalid's voice trailed off as if he were
contemplating what to say next.
"Mind if we look at it?" asked Scott, pushing his sports chair
closer to the counter.
After the boys and their fathers had settled into a wigwam cabin
room, Khalid came bouncing over with a large skeleton key in his
hand. "You're my only customers," he said. "You wanted to see the
The four of them spontaneously agreed that it might be worthy of
note and followed Khalid across some litter-strewn sand dunes to
the back side of the fence. Upon entering the enclosure, it
became clear that no one had visited the place for a long time.
Bits and pieces of tortured metal stuck out from the grainy sand,
none of them in any way easy to identify. Jared and Tyshawn
seemed absorbed for the first time as they dug up little metallic
"artifacts" and then tossed them back into the sand dunes. But
the big attraction lay ahead. It was indeed a part of some kind
of huge tank made of burnished gray metal which did not seem to
rust. It was partly buried by the sand and poked out in a
slanting angle. Along each of its ridged sides were letters or
symbols from some unknown alphabet. "No one has ever been able to
figure out what language this is or what it means," said Khalid.
"My opinion is that it is just simply fake. There is a lot of
fake around here."
"Looks a lot like a fish tank," said Eric. "The inside is
hollowed out just like a big submarine. Can we go inside?"
Scott was the first one in, pushing his wheelchair up a narrow
cast iron ramp and immediately plunging to the bottom of the
tank. "You might have to get me out of this one," he said winking
at Tyshawn. The boys and Eric edged their way to Scott's side at
the bottom. Khalid, looking bored, remained on the upper ledge. A
strange hollow echo reverberated when one of the visitors spoke.
"This thing once had a top," said Eric looking upward toward a
bleak and cloudless Florida sky. I can see where it was
"The metal must be a foot thick," mused Jared.
"There are lots of funny holes in this part," said Tyshawn,
groping about in a forward nook of the tank. "It looks like a
place where something was taken out."
"It looks like a control panel," continued Scott. "A big hollow
tank that flies through space. What the hell?"
"A fish tank," said Khalid from the ledge above. "Nothing more. I
am not one of these Florida scamsters. It's a fish tank pure and
simple. There are a few left around here."
"Swimming with dolphins," murmured Jared under his breath.
Khalid finally joined his guests at the bottom of the tank. "If
you want to believe it's an interstellar craft, you go right
ahead. I'm not charging you for this visit anyway. This museum is
It took both Eric Palobay and Tyshawn to push Scott up the
slippery sides of the metal reservoir. Tyshawn took one final
look behind him at the little indented front end "cabin" of the
tank. "Controls," he said quietly. "They must have been in there
That evening they all sat eating hotdogs roasted on some sticks
over a propane fire. Eric mentioned that he had taken a cell
phone photo of the inscriptions around both the outside and
inside of the tank. "There is a linguist in my building," he
said. "Let's see what he makes of this."
The next day they would visit Peyton Lisk at his home.
VI. Peyton Lisk
Peyton Lisk belonged to that class of adults who exhibit an utter
and unrelenting propensity for ignoring children. Therefore, his
eyes passed completely over the heads of Jared and Tyshawn as the
foursome entered his modest Mount Tarpon house. He greeted both
Scott and Eric warmly and wore a quite obvious tracking device on
his right ankle. He pointed to it with some embarrassment and
said "I can't leave the house without permission." Then he
produced a half gallon of bourbon and poured both Eric and Scott
a quarter waterglass full of the brown liquor, totally ignoring
both Jared and Tyshawn, who settled on a newspaper cluttered sofa
and pretended to not be there. Without prologue, he jumped into
his dilemma. Prior to his arrest, he had no idea of who Fawn
Greenbath or her roommate Tiffany somebody was. They were just
young girls who had most likely dropped out of school and worked
alternating shifts at a convenience store at the opposite end of
Mount Tarpon. Eric Palobay remembered that Peyton had never been
one of his brightest students. He had majored in agricultural
engineering with a specialty in insect pests. A tall and rather
withdrawn man, he seemed incapable of any sort of violence
against women or anyone else. Scott examined him from head to toe
without apology. "So this just happened suddenly," he said. "You
woke up one day and there you were on the local police internet
"That's about it. It was definitely a picture of me. I mean the
real me, mole and all." Scott noted a small black mole that
punctuated the space below Peyton's right eye. "There was no
reason to believe that it was not me. I live alone, and at the
time of the assault, I was right here taking a shower and fixing
some food. The stuff I do every night. But I never had an alibi.
I'd be in jail right now if the second event hadn't happened at
the very time I was in their jail."
"So we have heard," agreed Eric. "You said the fingerprints
"Yup. They were mine. And every cop in that goddamn forsaken
place knew that I was in their keep. When that second girl
was...uh...molested (he finally glanced up at the boys who sat
silently beside one another on the couch), then they decided to
let me out on bond. I was arraigned and my fiancée Fiona paid the
Scott, in his former habitual manner, unfolded a small whiteboard
which he kept in the compartment under his wheelchair seat. He
proceeded to write down some dates and name. "Fawn Greenbath,
roommate Tiffany," he muttered to himself. "Rape, brutal rape and
gratuitous assault. Doesn't sound like you."
"It wasn't," said Peyton Lisk with a certain renewed desperation.
"What on Earth is going on here?"
"Bilocation," said Tyshawn quietly.
"What in hell is that?"
"Being in two places at once," Jared volunteered.
Peyton grimaced at the boys and turned back to Scott. "The
sheriff here is willing to talk to you. I told him..."
"All about me," finished Scott, still pondering the names on his
"He's coming over in a half hour. You will talk to him, won't
"What about? Look, this crime occurred about seven on the evening
of the 5th. I want you to tell me everything you did that day."
Peyton poured himself and the two men another glassful of
bourbon, took a big swig, and began running down his day. It was
a Friday. He had his usual rounds to make to the orchards and
groves. First he went here, then there. None of the places meant
anything to Eric or Scott. "The boring life of an entomologist,"
"Where did you have lunch?"
"With Fiona at the town aquarium. She works there."
Scott sat up a little straighter in his wheelchair and asked
"What does she do? And why on Earth does a little off-track
pigsty like Mount Tarpon have an aquarium? "
"This is Lynx County," said Peyton. "Mount Tarpon is located on a
natural sandy plain. They say you can see the sands here from
"You can see everything from space these days," said Jared,
interrupting. "Google Earth and so on."
Peyton, annoyed at the interruption, shot a daggered look at
Jared and said "I mean even farther out in space. This place is a
natural anomaly. It is like an inland desert. But you did notice
when you crossed the county line into Lynx. We are one of the few
remaining places in Florida where it is legal for tourists to
swim with dolphins. Some people come here for that. We have a
little aquarium up the road. Fiona works there as a guide, but
she never gets in the water. She claims the dolphins are spooky."
Jared shot a fleeting look at Tyshawn who shot a glance at his
father. Scott could not see the connection, and it was rare that
Scott could not connect even the most obscure dots.
"If your Fiona doesn't get in the water with the dolphins, what
does she do?"
"It's like a big tank where the two of them---the dolphins---are
kept. Both of them are males. She throws fish and other food into
the water several times during the day. She makes sure the
sightseers are comfortable being in the tank with them. She also
collects the admission for the absentee owner, some Arab guy who
never comes around."
"His name doesn't happen to be Khalid, does it?" said Scott.
"I think that's it. He owns the tank and the dolphins and just
hires Fiona and the lifeguard to run the place. Why does it
matter? I can find out his name from Fiona if you want."
"No," said Scott. "I can ask her when we visit."
"You're going to visit?"
"Probably so," said Scott, "but later."
Once again, Jared twisted distractedly in his seat. "I need to
get up and walk outside," he said. "Tyshawn can come with me. Is
that okay, Mr. Lisk?"
Peyton waved him away with a brush of his hand. It was clear he
did not like kids. He seemed relieved when Jared and Tyshawn
closed the door behind them and walked out into the steely
"Let me visualize," said Scott meditatively. "There you are on
the day of the alleged rape, sitting on the deck of a large fish
tank and eating lunch with your girlfriend."
"My fiancée," interjected Peyton with some irritation.
"For sure. Now think back. Did the dolphins look up at you?"
Peyton jumped to his feet. He was slightly drunk and visibly
heated. "You came here to ask me stupid questions, Scott? I don't
know if the son of a bitches looked at me. They come up for air
all the time. They didn't have any swimmers with them that day.
So they probably stuck their ugly bottle noses out of the water
whenever they damn well pleased."
Scott remained unshaken by Peyton's frustration. "Do you have a
recent photograph of Fiona?" he asked calmly.
Peyton had hundreds of them. After all, he was marrying the girl
soon. He pulled several glossy shots from a coffee table drawer
and, glaring with unconcealed anger, handed them to Scott, who
examined them rapidly and handed them to Eric. Eric did likewise
and put the photos back on the coffee table.
"I don't see what any of this has to do with...."
Peyton's words were cut short by a loud knock at the front door.
It was the sheriff of Lynx County, a stocky man wearing two side
arms and sporting a wide brimmed hat. His face was ruddy, and
unruly locks of already graying hair fell over his temples. After
brusque introductions were made, he assumed a somewhat arms
akimbo stance, and the first words out of his mouth were about
not wanting any trouble in "his" county. Outsiders were really
But, having a virtually insoluble mystery on his hands, he agreed
to answer questions.
"I want to know about Fawn Greenbath," said Scott, still jotting
down lines and arrows on his whiteboard. "Is she the type who
might make up a story or try to frame someone."
The sheriff, who name was Macklaw, shook his head amusedly at the
question. He sized up both of the men present and pointed to the
bottle of bourbon. "Doing a little drinking, are we?" he said.
Then without asking he poured himself a short glassful and sipped
cautiously at it.
"Fawn Greenbath is a local girl. Born and raised in Mount Tarpon.
She is, well, let's say her morals are not rigid like those of
some people here. But I don't think she would lie about something
as serious as rape. Her roommate Tiffany is a little bit like her
too. Lots of guys in and out of their place. Probably some drugs
too. But basically, they are not liars. They were badly bruised
in the second assault too. And there is the matter of the
"And the fingerprints and the sperm," said Scott.
"Peyton has told you a lot. But I can assure you that these girls
did not frame him. There were valid time stamps on the photos
they got. The crime lab in Volusia has established that by now.
These were not faked pictures. Give our technology that much."
Scott rolled around the room and looked out of the side windows.
Under a huge spreading cypress in the backyard, Jared and Tyshawn
were sitting side by side engaged in some kind of spirited
dialogue. He wheeled back into the living room and asked Sheriff
Macklaw if he had brought any pictures of the girls. Macklaw
opened a thick manila folder and handed him two standard police
mugshots of two very badly bashed and beaten girls. Scott passed
them quickly to Eric and asked whether Macklaw had any photos of
the girls before the battering. Macklaw drew out some rather sexy
images of the girls in scant bikinis standing beside a swimming
pool. He also had some pictures of them from the Mount Tarpon
High School yearbook of two years previous. Scott's eyes bulged
visibly upon scanning the last set of photos.
"Like chicks in bikinis, eh?," said Macklaw with unconcealed
"Love them," smiled Scott. "What about you, sheriff?"
He then passed the photos to Eric and studied his expression. "Do
you like girls in tight jeans and skimpy bikinis?" he asked with
a certain amount of irony. Without waiting for Eric's response,
he steered around to his white board and drew a jagged line
between the dual names of Fawn and Tiffany and that of Fiona,
Peyton's fiancée. Peyton once again jumped to his feet in
apparent resentment. "What in hell does that mean?" he shouted.
"Easy partner," said Macklaw putting a firm hand on Peyton's
shoulder and pushing him back into his seat.
"Nothing in particular," said Scott. "Nothing right now. Can you
leave these pictures with me until tomorrow?"
Macklaw agreed. The pictures had been copied for Scott in the
first place. "Need to know anything else?" he enquired.
"Yeah, have either of these girls been in your news lately for
any reason whatsoever?"
"Nothing," said Macklaw.
"You are absolutely certain of that?"
"As certain as I am going to get today."
"Okay," concluded Scott. "Let me think about this for a while. I
am here to help both Peyton and you. I may come up with nothing."
It was, however, clear to Eric that Scott had something a little
better than nothing, although this understanding was not shared
with Peyton, who seemed to be content with getting drunker and
drunker. Scott was relieved when Sheriff Macklaw finally left.
For some unknown reason, Macklaw had made a point of putting his
squad car lights on as he drove off down Peyton's driveway.
With pictures in hand, Scott motioned for Eric to follow him into
the yard where the boys were still sitting under a cypress
engaged in discussion. Peyton buried his head in his hands and
watched them leave. But suddenly Scott rolled back into the house
and took a few of the glossy photos of Fiona off the coffee
table. "I'll bring these right back," he said. "We need a little
Once out under the now sweltering Florida sun, Scott turned to
Eric and said "I presume that our guys like girls."
Eric nodded. He remembered the sheer fascination they had both
had with Nautica de Craquelot, granddaughter of John Crack, but
that was another story altogether.
Once under the tree alongside the boys, photos of all three women
were passed back and forth. Peyton had no idea of what was being
said, but he did note through a deepening liquor haze that the
boys were pumping their heads in some sort of agreement.
VII. Swimming with dolphins
Fiona Tamblyn was a pleasant and affable host. She seemed duly
concerned about Peyton Lisk too, and it was probably for a very
good reason, Eric thought. Though only forty, Fiona showed signs
of being well past her prime, as did Peyton at thirty-six. Both
soon-to-be-weds probably felt themselves to be foremost members
of the last chance club. Although not drastically overweight,
Fiona bulged in all the wrong places, and her sunbleached hair
was thinning into rather long and somewhat unattractive strings
that cascaded unevenly down her rounded shoulders and curved
back. Though not ugly, Fiona was the very soul of female
plainness, the sort that no one would take any fond notice of in
a shopping mall crowd. The sort that needed to find a mate fast
if she was ever going to get one. She stood watching her
lifeguard in the huge, buried fish tank guide some immature and
giggling college students around between the two bulky bottle
nosed dolphins, who at times swam ominously about, making
echolatic clicks and bumping into the sides of the swimmers, who
seemed unmindful of any potential danger and appeared to be
enjoying themselves immensely. Standing nearby, Jared whispered
to Tyshawn "Swimming with dolphins. I wonder where they pee?"
Fiona said that she knew nothing about the two battered women,
other than she was certain that gentle natured Peyton could not
have committed such an outrage. Nor did she know much about the
dolphins. They were both males and voracious meat eaters, she
explained. She needed to feed them raw fish at least ten times a
day. Their eyes seemed unusually intelligent, almost too
intelligent, she admitted. And their deep coloration was a
brighter hue of luminous gray than she had ever seen with
dolphins before. She had, of course, very little experience with
dolphins and had only been hired, along with her sole
lifeguard---a native-looking man in his twenties---a month
"Mr. Al-Nazar fired his whole staff about six weeks ago," she
said. "Hubert and I were hired to replace them."
As the arson Florida sun hammered down on the pool tank deck,
Fiona tossed the dolphins more fish and motioned to Hubert to
bring the swimmers out of the pool.
"Any idea of why your boss fired the last crew?" said Scott
casually rolling around the edges of the tank.
"None whatsoever. Mr. Al-Nazar is a nice man. He rarely comes
here. He told me that Toff and Tuss were new to the place too.
The two dolphins before them died unexpectedly or something."
"Toff and Tuss," repeated Jared.
"Toff and Tuss," echoed Tyshawn.
Then Tyshawn walked up to his father's side and pointed down at
the tank surface. "I know," said Scott. "It's almost the same.
Like the other half of the one we saw. And this Libyan guy is
most likely the same."
"And," said Tyshawn rolling his eyes at Fiona, "she is about as
bad as her picture."
"Not your type, eh?" Scott chuckled.
"Not at all." Tyshawn, going on twelve, was indeed growing up.
As the sleek, dark Hubert emerged from the pool, Scott rolled
over to him with a few questions. Hubert had a knack for raising
his hands in total ignorance, but he did know that the attraction
had been shut down pending the arrival of Toff and Tuss from a
foreign dolphin vendor somewhere. "They were closed here for a
month or two, and we all just re-opened the place in the spring.
This is supposed to be a year around attraction. The water is
heated. We have a canopy." But Hubert had no clue as to why the
dolphinarium had been also closed for a few weeks after the
coming of the new inhabitants.
Fiona piped up and said that she thought it was because they
wanted to give Toff and Tuss a chance to get acclimated. But then
again, she wasn't sure.
Scott wheeled around to Eric and whispered something in his ear.
Eric looked down in the water and saw a long appendage coming out
from a pouch on one of the dolphin's underside. "Its penis," he
said. "Bet you wish you were endowed like that. Looks like about
"And curved and erect and jabbing against the other male,"
continued Scott. "Horny bastards. Listen, I need to get somewhere
with WiFi so I can go on line."
Again overhearing, Fiona chirped "You can use my computer." It
was clear she found both Scott and Eric attractive. She had long
before developed the habit of being automatically nice to all
men. It was a part of her survival tactic.
She showed Scott into the little side office and disappeared
somewhere with Hubert. In the tank, Toff and Tuss began circling
around more aggressively than ever. "Swimming with dolphins,"
said Jared again with disdain. "Count me out." One of the
dolphins had projected its head out of the water and was
noticeably eyeing both Jared and Tyshawn. Jared scowled at it and
said "Oversexed creep."
Then when he thought Eric wasn't listening, he whispered in
Tyshawn's ear. "That thing would even fuck you!"
Inside the office, Scott became caught up with whatever he was
searching for on Fiona's computer. Eric continued to examine the
dolphins. "They just don't look right," he said out loud to
himself. "They seem too shrewd, too smart. I wish we could
communicate with them. Bet they'd have some tales to tell."
"About fucking," whispered Jared, highly amused, into Tyshawn's
ear. Tyshawn laughed out loud.
VIII. Back at the wigwam motel
Scott was in a hurry to power down out of the lift van and get
onto his whiteboard. He seemed to ignore everyone else in his
rush. In his hands were two printed sheets of paper from Fiona's
office. At once, Scott began scribbling on his board. By the time
Eric and the boys joined him, he sat chin in hand contemplating
his work. In the very center of the board was written the name
Khalid Al-Nazar, Libyan, marine biologist, Red Sea. An arrow
connected Al-Nazar's name to those of Toff and Tuss, and another
arrow pointed obliquely up at the words "big penises." Tyshawn
and Jared snickered and elbowed each other, trying to hide their
amusement from their dads.
"Marine biologist," said Eric with unveiled surprised. "I thought
he was just a two-bit motel keeper."
"He claimed to be a marine biologist. University of Tripoli.
Libya. He claims these funny looking bottle-noses came from the
Red Sea. Now the range of dolphins on Earth is worldwide, but
they are not especially associated with the Red Sea. Anyway, here
in Lynx County, they issued him a permit on that basis. But who
knows how much they checked? Our friend Khalid knows more than he
"About what? Swimming with dolphins?"
"About a lot of things. Here is a brief news item from the Mount
Tarpon Daily Informer dated in April of this year." He handed
Eric a printed sheet of paper. On it was an announcement about
the re-opening of the Swimming With Dolphins Aquarium and the two
new arrivals, Toff and Tuss. Al-Nazar was their curator and owner
of the attraction, which had been closed due to some
"unpleasantness" earlier in April. "Want to read about the
unpleasantness?" said Scott.
He handed Eric another sheet of online newsprint. Two
unidentified local girls had been among the first customers to go
into the heated tank and swim with the dolphins. Both girls had
reported that the dolphins had "jabbed and stroked" them with
their "outstretched genitals." "That's hometown newspaper talk
for hard dicks," said Scott. "These girls told the local
authorities that both dolphins had made sexual advances on them
as they swam."
"Local authorities? That means 'Shurf' Macklaw. Betcha it was
Fawn and Tiffany. Fantasizing no doubt."
"No fantasizing about it," said Scott. "There have been dozens of
cases worldwide where dolphins have attempted sexual come-ons
with humans. There are even pictures of some attacks on the web."
Jared and Tyshawn decided to become serious and walked up to the
board. They knew their boyish jokes had to end before their
fathers would share any more information with them.
Jared pointed to the jagged line Scott had drawn between the
names Fawn and Tiffany over to Fiona. "Does this mean what I
think it means?" he asked.
"It means exactly what you boys told us yesterday. There is a
world of difference between these two sexpots and Fiona. Even an
eleven year old member of the Plus Sized Club could see that, so
why not a horny dolphin?"
"I find it impossible to believe that another species would
define female attraction as we do," said Eric dismissively. "If
they wanted to have intercourse with a human, Fiona would have
had the same parts as Fawn and Tiffany."
"But probably not the same hormones," said Scott. "Fiona, with
all apologies to Peyton, seems to be running low on hers of
Later that evening, the foursome was dining in a cheap fried fish
restaurant, one of the few authentic establishments of Mount
Tarpon, when Sheriff Macklaw walked in with a deputy at his side.
Without being invited, he pulled a chair up to the table and sat
backwards in it. "Been reading the local papers, I hear," he
"How did you know?"
"You had to register with a valid ID to get into those stacks. I
checked it. Scott Rodamar of Aristock, Pee-Ay. It is hard for
outsiders to cover their tracks here."
"So Fawn and Tiffany claimed they were assaulted sexually by Toff
"Yeah. So they maintained. We get a lot of stuff like that here.
Bad for the tourist trade. I told Kally to shut down for a week
or so and hire a new staff. You know the rest."
"I really don't know shit," said Scott. "So these babes reported
that they were stroked by the big dicks of dolphins. Then later
they get raped by Peyton Lisk. I have not made the connection
"Because there is none."
The deputy kept his hand over his holstered side arm and kept
glancing over his shoulder. Outside a slight breeze had suddenly
developed. It swirled a few sparse clouds of sand around in the
restaurant parking lot.
"Anyway, we got much bigger problems. Last night, Shagott here
was over to check on Lisk. Lisk was drunk and in front of his
television at the time."
"The time of what?"
"Fawn Greenbath was inhumanly raped and beaten again. She died in
the Volusia County Hospital this morning. Once again, your boy is
totally clear. Tomorrow, the judge is going to yank him out of
that ankle bracelet and dismiss everything. We have a killer to
find now, and it ain't Lisk. Lisk is just wasting our time---and
yours. If the DNA from the sperm sample comes back and is his,
we'll charge him again. Until that time, he's free. By the way,
you guys are not under suspicion. We've had you followed since
you got here. Routine procedure. Our advice is that you pack up
and go home. We'll take matters from here."
With that, the two uniformed policemen stood up in unison and
tramped out of the fish shack.
"I want to go home anyway," said Jared. "Mr. Lisk is innocent and
going free, and I don't want to see any more swimming with