Tuesday, November 7, 2017

COLD WATER CREEK

Chapter One


Saturday morning, dressed in board shorts and his favorite T-shirt – the one with the faded shaka – and a mug of coffee from the pot on the kitchen counter, Carter headed for the garage. Ducking under the garage door as it opened, he quickly grabbed his surf board off the rack. He was amped and happy, which is not his usual self, but after several weeks of waiting for this day, the wind had changed and a great time was planned. The weatherman said the shift would come Friday, making for a windy day – it did. It was time for Carter and Jimmy to head to the beach. He was thinking about hitting a couple of bombs, a nug or two, and then lay back with some cold beers in the afternoon. Surfer talk, yes, but a language Carter knew well.
As the sun creeped over the horizon he slid his surfboard onto the top rack of his Jeep and prepared for what he believed would be an epic day. He was strapping the last clip across the long board when he heard Jenna calling out to him.
She stood at the doorway of the house, dressed in a pink cotton house coat with matching faux feather pink slip-on bed slippers, waving her arms and telling the neighborhood of the chores needed around the house. Carter glanced up once and winced when he saw what she was wearing. He honestly hoped she’d get back into the house before a neighbor would see her and figured if he ignored her she would just go away and he could keep loading the Jeep – as if that were going to happen. Truth is, he knew she’d be on him like white on rice as soon as she heard the garage door creaking open.
I hire out that stuff and you know that, he said trying to defend his early morning actions, but he knew Jenna to well; One hand on her hip, her foot tapping restlessly, and the other hand wagging in the air telling him what he did or didn’t do, hadn’t done, or what he was supposed to be doing, or not supposed to be doing whatever crisis it was at the time. Carter did his best to simply ignore the ranting but could still hear the echo of her voice chattering away across the yard and bouncing off the garage walls and all he could think about were the neighbors peering through their window wondering what the fuck was going on, again, at the Blaine house.
Yeah…well, she said at some point, the painters are scheduled for today to start on the house. I told you three days ago and I also told you I don’t want them to be here unsupervised. Someone, and that someone is you Carter, will need to be here because that someone is not going to be me.
Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, he said under his breath and thought about screaming that stupid phrase so she could hear it but decided it better to stop doing what he was doing and said, I told you this exact thing during a conversation last week; Jimmy and I were planning to surf this weekend if the weather was right. I also asked that you not schedule painters for this weekend.
My nail appointment is at nine, she said, while flipping her nose in the air, then turned and walked back into the house.
Typical Jenna, he thought. He had tried, over the years, to be the good husband but it seemed fight it or give in, or try to reason, or compromise he was wrong – always wrong. Carter dialed up Jimmy from his cell phone while leaning against the fender of the Jeep to give him the latest update.
You two are like watermelon and ice cream, Jimmy said in his long drawn good ol’ boy cadence.
What in hell does that mean, Carter said rhetorically, mainly in that he didn’t give two shits about what Jimmy meant but, of course, Jimmy didn’t explain his metaphor but simply told Carter things would work out for later.
And don’t get me wrong, Jimmy had to add, botha ya’ll are fun, just not together.
Jimmy was right. Jenna was a lot of fun, especially in college, but married life had seemed to dampen every reason she and Carter married in the first place. It was apparent, to the most casual of observers, this weekend was now officially over. Carter pulled his board off the rack of the Jeep and put it back in the garage. He decided he’d make another pot of coffee and wait the painters to arrive. Surfing today was out of the question and he truly believed the relationship with Jenna had hit rock bottom. His days couldn’t get any worse, he thought as he walked back into the house.
Of course, they did.
They always did.
The morning passed, the painters didn’t show up, and Carter felt like he had consumed enough coffee to fill a dump truck. Worse yet, these guys didn’t even have the decency to call and cancel. Of course, as if he could read minds, he already knew Jenna would blame him for the no show and say he called the painters to cancel just so he could prove a point and it was his revenge for her ruining his surfing day.
Noon arrived and the morning was ruined and it was too late to load the board again. He called Jimmy just to see what was up but Jimmy’s phone went to voice mail which meant he’d probably made other plans. Carter was feeling jittery from the effects of the caffeine, and it was noon, so he decided a cold beer was in order. He sat on the bench that overlooked the lake behind their house and finished the six-pack. Afterwards, he went to the liquor cabinet and pulled deciding to continue into the evening with a bottle of Vodka. That was about the last of want he remembered of that day except for the Anvil Crawlers that danced across the western sky over the Everglades. He could tell by the bold streaks of lightning this was going to be a humdinger of a squall. The wind had shifted and the air had cooled and that was a sure sign that a storm and rain, lots of it, was imminent. Jimmy called these gales, toad stranglers. Carter knew it wouldn’t be long before the ill-tempered tempest would be knocking on his door so he headed inside the house.
He awoke sometime later feeling the wet of the bedsheets. Sweat rolled off his forehead and he was hot. Through his bloodshot eyes, he could see the ceiling fan wasn’t spinning. Power was out, his head hurt, his eyes were on fire, and other than a dim light coming in the windows, he had no idea as to the time which didn’t surprise him considering the thunder just before he nodded out. It felt like early morning and he didn’t feel that he had really slept. Most of the time, liquor or not, he could sleep like a rock and he hadn’t dreamt in what seemed to be forever but as he laid in bed and collected his thoughts, the night came back to him. The dream he’d almost forgotten. He had started to think it was over and life may become normal again but now the dream was back. Not just a dream but a story and he had thought was over. It had haunted him since he was a young child and it was always the same dream and he would always awaken at the same part. He didn’t like it. In fact, he hated it but there was nothing to do but let it happen.
It may have been the drinking, or the thunder, or just that he was pissed with Jenna for screwing up his weekend but he awoke knowing one thing very clearly – the dream was back. The one about the little girl. Like clockwork, she would wake him and tell him a story. As far back as he can recall she would visit him. Seems she had always been with him, even as a child. When he was a kid he’d tell his parents. They said it was his imagination. They thought she was one of those pretend friend things since Carter had only a few friends and no brothers or sisters. Somehow it felt to real to be imagination. The dreams continued as he grew into his 20’s. Jenna had said to quit eating Burritos for lunch. Today, with everything he knew, he wished friends, or siblings, or burritos had been the answer.
Carter rose from bed and walked to the kitchen to make coffee hoping that would help clear his head. He sat on the back porch overlooking the lake while trying to forget the dream. The moon’s light still shimmered on the water like a line of diamonds making a peaceful quiet setting. That should have been his second hint that his life was about to be turned upside down.
He had left Jenna in bed but she was up by seven. They passed in the hallway as he was leaving for work.
I’m not making breakfast. Fend for yourself and don’t get killed today, she said.
Nice, he thought. You have such a way with words, he said. Don’t worry about me, I’ll grab a breakfast bar and head to the office and try to dodge the bad guys until I come home to your loving arms again.
Jenna’s response was no response which was the perfect response from her.
At the time, Carter Blaine was a detective which essentially means he is not in the daily line of fire like patrol officers and as a detective, in its simplest terms, he waits until something happens before he responds. Often, there is little to do but investigate something that has happened in the past. When that’s done, he tackles the next assignment handed down from this Captain, if there is another one. Of course, there is always another one.
Today should be a good day, he thought as he left the neighborhood and drove onto the highway. The engine revving to highway speed made Carter feel good as if he were part of the car. Traffic was heavier than usual, but he maneuvered through without much effort while thinking about his new case. He and his partner Jack were assigned to investigate a homicide last Friday. His Captain said it was a cold case from around 30 years back. He and Jack didn’t like cold cases because they usually ended without resolution which was why they were cold to begin with, but this time it may be different. This was a good case; interesting, and Carter had thought about it often over the weekend.
As he turned into the police lot he thought about his first day we he had started his career with the department. He was hired out of college as a Criminal Evidence Technician and was called to the Miami River for a recovered cadaver. He was hooked on investigative police work immediately. He loved solving homicides and this time it was a good case; Remains found in a sunken van at Cold Water Creek. There wasn’t a lot to go on but they had an appointment with the Medical Examiner that morning to talk about whatever he had found. He planned his day in his head and figured the morning would be filled with homicide and autopsy details, then he and Jack would go about our business of investigating more leads, then head for lunch as usual. Of course, there are always plans with Carter and rarely did they work like they were supposed to. By the time noon rolled around Carter Blaine was rolling towards the hospital in the back of an ambulance.
Some say life ends at death; your eyes close and everything just goes black. Some say there is a bright light that draws you in. Some folks have said to me that your soul stays around to watch and protect the people you love. Carter did not have the answers; he had never died before so maybe it’s a combination of all three. At one point in his life, he thought he had it all figured out. Now he’s not so sure about how life or death works after his own precognitions while recovering in the hospital after that day he left for work thinking it would be just another day.
This is the story of his life—the second one. If we had had begun his story with his first life, you wouldn't understand his second life. Confused? Think about how he feels. 
Carter Blaine is going through a self-discovery journey of his life and can tell you this much. In the end, the truth will float to the surface through all the crud and crap called life. Sometimes it’s dumb luck. Sometimes it’s just good police work. Sometimes the dead walk right back into your fucked-up life and tell you everything; whether you want to hear it or not.