Mangrove bayou, p.1

Mangrove Bayou, page 1

 

Mangrove Bayou
 


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Mangrove Bayou


  Table of Contents

  Copyright

  Mangrove Bayou

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  About the Author

  Mangrove Bayou

  By Stephen Morrill

  Copyright 2015 by Stephen Morrill

  Cover Copyright 2015 by Untreed Reads Publishing

  Cover Design by Ginny Glass

  The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. The characters, dialogue and events in this book are wholly fictional, and any resemblance to companies and actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  www.untreedreads.com

  Mangrove Bayou

  Stephen Morrill

  Chapter 1

  June

  The cool days were past and another sauna summer approaching, with 90-degree temperatures and 90-percent humidity—what the locals called “the 90-90s.” It was still morning in the town of Mangrove Bayou, on the Gulf coast of Florida somewhere south of Naples and somewhere west of the Moon. Out on the Gulf of Mexico the first thunderheads were building into the blue sky. They would sweep ashore by late morning and in the afternoon collide with the east coast storms crossing over the vast Everglades between here and Miami. That daily artillery duel would continue to mid-October.

  Troy Adam was standing on the town’s small public beach admiring the clouds through polarized sunglasses. He was sweating already in his one dark gray suit that he wore only to job interviews. He looked at his wrist watch, sighed and turned and walked the few blocks to the town hall. He’d already applied to half a dozen other police departments with no luck. But he had always liked Mangrove Bayou, and he had hopes.

  The mayor of Mangrove Bayou and the other two town councilmen had picked Troy’s résumé out of a stack of two and, on seeing Troy, they weren’t sure they didn’t like the loser better. In thirty-five years he had grown accustomed to people staring at him. He was light brown, with black eyes with just a hint of almond shape, and with short jet-black straight hair, and the Mangrove Bayou town council was staring now.

  Two of the men looked as if they worked with their hands and stood around in the sun. One was heavyset, with thick wrists and callused hands with scarred, thick fingers. He wore khaki slacks and a darker brown Columbia fishing shirt, vented across the back and with pockets all over it. Troy had a closet full of identical shirts. The other was shorter, slender, with softer hands, who wore creased denim slacks and a Polo shirt. The third was a tall, pale, skinny man with a bald, narrow head, sorrowful look, black suit and matching narrow black tie.

  The four of them sat in the large meeting room above the town hall, three councilmen on one side of a cheap wood-grain-vinyl-covered table with folding legs, one police chief candidate on the other side. The yellow plastic chairs would stack neatly and there were more tables and stacks of chairs against one wall, useful should a game of bingo suddenly break out.

  “I’m Les Groud,” the heavyset man said. “Besides being one of the councilmen, I’m the mayor when I’m not out guiding sport fishermen.” He pointed at Polo Shirt, “Councilman Max Reed. Max is a real estate developer out to bulldoze Mangrove Bayou into the modern day.” Reed gave Troy a small, pained smile. “And the other gent is Councilman Howard Duell—that’s like a sword duel but with two ls. He rides herd on our high school kids.”

  “Doctor Howard Parkland Duell,” bald-head said emphatically. “I’m principal of the high school and the junior high as well. And I would like to know why you even want this job. It’s not as if we’ve had a lot of applicants. Just two, in fact. It makes me wonder what past transgressions you are running from that you didn’t mention in your résumé.”

  Troy stared at Duell a moment, then switched his attention to Mayor Groud.

  “Well?” Duell said after a long moment of silence.

  “Oh. Was that a question?” Troy said, looking back at Duell. “Or just your assumption as to my integrity?” Tamp it down, he thought. Give this guy a chance.

  “We’ll figure out quick enough if you’re honest,” the mayor said. “That’s why you would be hired on probation. We have six months to decide to keep you or throw you back.”

  Troy smiled. “Like an undersized redfish.”

  “Exactly.”

  “You see,” Max Reed said, “we’re a little cautious. You know, after Bob Redmond and all.”

  “Redmond was the chief before you fired him last month?” Troy asked. “What did he do that scared you so much? And where is he now?”

  “He left,” Groud said. “I don’t know where he went and I don’t care, just so as he’s gone. He had a thirteen-year-old boy in jail for killing his father with a shotgun. My opinion, the old bastard deserved it. But I’m not the jury. Anyway, the kid was looking at being sent on up to Naples, sitting in county jail there, being tried as an adult, and sentenced to twenty-to-life in state prison. Redmond sat down with the kid in the jail cell here and explained to him how he could break up razor blades into tiny bits and swallow those.”

  “Did he also recommend a good wine to go with that?” Troy asked.

  Groud ignored that. “We didn’t think our public safety director should be advising kids on how to commit suicide. There were other incidents but that was the last straw. We fired his sorry ass and shopped around for a replacement.”

  “And you got, what, two outsiders interested? Why didn’t someone on the police force ask for a promotion?”

  “Ask them,” Groud said. “You look good on paper: Army MPs, Tampa police, college degree from some place up north…”

  “Cornell, actually,” Troy said. “Majored in history. And the college came first. Then the Army. Through ROTC. Then the Tampa police department.”

  “Histo
ry?” Duell said. “The classics.”

  “Ancient and medieval history concentration,” Troy said.

  Duell frowned. “But what good is that to a policeman?”

  “Well, with that and a driver license, I can get a job as a taxi driver.” Troy often spoke only to amuse himself.

  Duell frowned. “Perhaps we should let you do that.”

  Groud was looking at Troy’s application. “You never put down a next of kin. Something happens to you, who do we contact?”

  “I have no next of kin. I grew up in The Orphans Home in Troy, New York. They named me for the town and also for the first man in the Bible.”

  “That sucks,” Groud said. “Growing up like that.”

  “His race might be a problem too,” Duell said. “With some prominent members of our community.”

  Groud stared at Duell a moment. “I suppose so. With some of the scum of our community too.” He looked at Troy. “I’m not legally permitted to even ask you what race you are. But you are an odd duck, for sure.”

  Troy grinned. “Nice work-around. But I don’t mind. My mother probably was, perhaps still is, a light-skinned black woman, most likely a prostitute, who spent one night with an oriental man, gave birth to a mixed-race baby, abandoned me on the steps of The Orphans Home, and vanished.”

  Mayor Groud glanced to his left at Councilman Duell. “We don’t hire, fire or promote people here based on the color of their skin. You know that.”

  Duell looked sorrowful. “Of course. And there are legal considerations too. Just thought I’d mention that there will be some pushback from certain quarters.”

  “They can screw themselves,” Groud said. He grinned. “Besides, Adam, here, looks sort of beige, kind of like a Seminole. Around here that could be an advantage. He’s gonna confuse the hell out of people.”

  “Beige?” Troy said.

  “It’s a good color,” Groud said. “Goes with almost any furniture. Now, I talked to a few folks up in Tampa. Heard you were smart. They said you could sniff out a crime like a bloodhound. Said you had an IQ of 160 and could almost tell what a criminal was thinking, just by looking at a clue.”

  “What am I thinking now?”

  “You’re thinking that Duell, here, is a pompous ass and that we’re going to hire you anyway.”

  Troy grinned. Duell opened his mouth to say something, thought about it, and closed his mouth. Max Reed gave out his pained smile.

  “That alone can’t be it,” Troy said. “What’s the other reason?”

  “People I spoke to said you might have gotten a raw deal from Tampa, that them firing you was a mistake. Why did they fire you?”

  “I shot a teenager with a water pistol.”

  The three men stared at Troy. “Well, that hardly seems serious,” Max Reed said.

  “The teenager was the one with the water pistol.”

  “Oh.”.

  “That teenager was not exactly the apple of his mother’s eye. He had just used the fake gun to commit a robbery but, no matter the perp’s criminal record, the law takes a dim view of a police officer sparing the courts the trouble of a trial. The review board said I should have held my fire.” Troy shrugged. “Maybe I should have. I don’t make excuses for my past actions.” Troy decided against telling them about the nightmares. Hard enough to get hired without people thinking you were mentally unstable.

  “Wasn’t just that, according to what I heard,” Groud said. “Guy named Prado said your main problem was that you wanted to run the show.”

  “Ah. ‘Bust’ Prado.” Troy smiled. “Ramon Bustello Prado. He was my immediate boss. He loves me like a son.”

  “Didn’t sound like it. He said you didn’t work well as an Indian. You wanted to be the chief. Well, here’s your chance to be the chief. I’m curious to see how it works out.”

  “I’m not,” Duell said. “Put another way, he was both trigger-happy and insubordinate to the point that he was fired from his last job and now we’re talking about giving him a new job and promotion. And,” Duell said, speaking to Troy, “you were willing to come to this godforsaken place. Why is that?”

  “I like it here. Been here visiting many times. This is a pretty town and well-laid out. Come here canoeing. Some sailing. Done the Wilderness Waterway, from here to Everglades City and then into the park and on to Flamingo, several times.”

  Groud smiled. “Know every foot of that route. More’n a hundred miles. All-day trip by powerboat. And I wouldn’t do that in a canoe if you paid me.”

  “Plus, Doctor Duell is right,” Troy said. “The Tampa P.D. booted me out. I need the job. And, not to be overlooked, I’ll take the job for the pitiful salary you’re offering. What was wrong with the other applicant? Was he a bigger jerk than I am?”

  “He had one tooth, and a left eye that pointed someplace his right eye wasn’t looking at,” Max Reed said. “I wondered if he could even shoot a gun straight.”

  “I guess that might depend upon whether he shot right- or left-handed,” Troy said. “So does the beige guy get the job?”

  The mayor looked at his councilmen. Reed thought about it but then nodded. “May as well. These two are the only people who answered the ad. We can always look for a replacement later, re-advertise, see if we can get more responses than a half-blind guy and a trigger-happy, insubordinate, fired guy.”

  Principal Councilman Dr. Howard Parkland Duell just looked sorrowful and shook his head. “This man is far from suitable,” he said. “And I certainly don’t care for his attitude.”

  Groud looked at Reed and Duell. “I vote yes. That’s two out of three.” He looked across the table at Troy. “You get the job. On probation. For six months. Then we’ll make it permanent or look around some more.”

  “Good,” Troy said. “Now that I’m your chief…”

  “Actually, director of public safety,” Dr. Howard Parkland Duell said.

  Troy ignored him and focused on Les Groud. “Now that I’m the chief, I want some things.”

  “Demands already?” Groud frowned. “I’d hoped to get to the next monthly town council meeting before that started. Whattaya need?”

  “Can’t be anything that costs much money,” Max Reed said. “We run a tight ship here.”

  Troy looked at him. “You’re in a marsh between Everglades City and Naples and not even the sheriff’s deputies like to come here. You have a nine-person police department, a volunteer fire department, and the town clinic doctor drives the town ambulance. Ships don’t come tighter than that. Your officers not only look like bad Gestapo troops in sweat-stained black uniforms but they like to stay inside their air-conditioned Suburbans all day. Nice patrol trucks, by the way.”

  “Hah. Got those with some drug-bust money,” Groud said. “Along with that fancy police boat we have. You find any more drug money and you can have a shopping list for yourself.”

  “I’ll keep an eye out,” Troy said. “But I need officers that get out and hoof it around too. Some of them need haircuts and shaves. They’re undisciplined and, I suspect, a little insubordinate. Some are getting soggy around the gut.” Troy pulled a paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and handed it to the mayor. “Here’s a list of things I need right off. Nothing too expensive.”

  Les Groud pulled out some reading glasses and looked at the list. He smiled. “This is going to be fun to watch.”

  “Hope you enjoy it,” Troy said. “By the way. What happened to that kid with the razor blades?”

  “He didn’t eat any. He thought Bob Redmond was crazy too. Today the kid is in county jail in Naples. I hear Jack DeGrasse, the state attorney there, is asking for the max adult time and likely to get it.”

  “Kid’s thirteen, right?” Troy asked. “Isn’t that a little young to be tried as an adult?”

  “Yeah. But Jack DeGrasse never forgets that he’s elected. He rides into office each time on full prison cells, hefty political contributions, and harsh law enforcement. Don’t forget that, by the way, or he
ll be on your case.”

  “Kid may have been better off eating the razor blades,” Troy said.

  Chapter 2

  June

  “Tats” Michaels rolled over onto his back and gasped for air. “Wow,” he said. “That was some fuck. Been saving up.”

  “Honey-bunny, I could tell,” Katie Barrymore said with a laugh. “Lemme clean up.” She hopped out of the motel room bed and vanished into the bathroom. Tats sat up and lit a cigarette and looked down at his skinny chest where one of his many tattoos was a golden dragon. He liked the dragon, but at times like this, he wished he’d had the guy put it on upside down, so Tats could admire it better. He pulled the heavy spread up over his skinny torso and reached for the pint bottle of cheap red wine on the small table between the queen-sized beds.

  They were in a motel on Marco Island, Katie’s favorite meeting place. They rarely met more than the once per month when her husband went to Atlanta and Katie drove up to Marco Island to pick up Tats. She insisted that he never come to her; she always came to him. Tats hated the waiting, for the next night with Katie, and for the ultimate payoff yet to come.

  Katie Barrymore came back to bed and slipped in beside him. She took a drag off his cigarette and a pull off the wine bottle. “Sleep good tonight,” she said. “Gotta get up early, though, and get back. Don’t want no neighbors seein’ me comin’ home at dawn.”

  “We gotta do this more often,” Tats said. “When we gonna do your husband?” Tats laughed. “Then we can fuck all the time, and have the money to buy real booze.”

  “Gotta wait, honey-bunny. You know that. Just a little longer. Year’s almost up. I get away often as I can. Lucky for us he goes out of town every month. Lucky for you, anyway.”

  “Yeah. Right. You screwing him too?”

  “Got to. Often as he wants. He doesn’t want it too often. He’s old. Don’t worry, Tats. You’re my guy. Always have been. Always will be.”

  “Always have been, always will be. Sort of our motto. I don’t like your fucking another man. Old, rich guy. What’s he got that I don’ have?”

  “He’s got money. You don’. He’s old and ain’t getting it up much any more. You’re my stallion.”

 
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