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Tyshawn Rodamar and the Cetacean Mystery

Novel By: Devon Pitlor
Mystery and crime



The new leader of the Plus Sized Club flexes his tribal muscle and enters into a supernatural horror story. View table of contents...


Chapters:

1 2

Submitted:Jan 12, 2011    Reads: 35    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


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 his wishes.
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.
Friends
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 was taken.
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 unofficial organizations.
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 side.
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 finally."
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 at that.
"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 word.
"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 DNA testing?"
"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 word.
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 voice.
 
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 what?"
"And Jared and I don't like to think about rape. We're just boys, you know."
"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 parts museum."
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 purchase.
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 whores."
Eric looked at Scott and laughed. "The boys are growing up," he chuckled.
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 museum?"
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 fastened."
"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 officially closed."
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 once."
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 page."
"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 matched?"
"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 bail."
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 whiteboard.
"He's coming over in a half hour. You will talk to him, won't you?"
"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," sighed Eric.
"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 space."
"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 Florida sunshine.
"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 not welcome.
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 pictures."
"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 contempt.
"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 air."
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 before.
"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 fourteen inches."
"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 is saying."
"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 late."
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 said.
"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 and Tuss?"
"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 yet."
"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 dolphins."




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