Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/519135-Fishing-For-the-Past
by Joy
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Mystery · #519135
A victim ends up meaning more to a vacationing detective
          "Oh Aggie, I need time off. I'm sick of crime and busting my brains over each clue. I hope they don't call me back from the station," Buddy said, as we parked the RV in front of the entrance at Happy Hearts RV Resort.

          "You can fish at the creek but the better fishing is at the lake," the manager said. "There's a large screen TV in the clubhouse if you like."

          The resort's main camping area occupied a well-shaded section near Jackson's Creek with a 50-amp full service. Buddy grinned contentedly at our temporary home and I bet he imagined his next big catch.

          While we were busy with the hook-ups, I heard a metallic sound coming from the RV behind us. I looked up. A young blond man standing on the RV's roof waved at us.

          "Hi ya, Sir, Ma'am!"

          I waved back. "Hi there," Buddy answered him.

          "Welcome! Nice spot you've got. We have a leak on the roof. You know, a leak on the roof, you got the hoof."

          "Too bad! Anything we can help you with?"

          "Nah! I'm covering it with tarp for the time being. Thanks anyway."

          Next morning, I woke up to a knocking sound and saw Buddy hobble to the door in his pajama shorts.

          A policeman stuck his neck inside, "Sorry, Folks. I have to ask some questions."

          In the RV behind, there had been a problem. The police asked if we had heard anything in the night.

          "We were tired. We slept soundly; heard nothing," Buddy said. "Except, a young man was fixing a leak on the roof yesterday. We made small talk."

          "Are you going to be here for a while?"

          "We had planned to stay," I answered hesitantly.

          "Well, don't leave without telling us."

          "Officer, I'm a detective myself. Can you tell us more about it?" Buddy asked. The harsh lines around the policeman's mouth softened as he nodded in agreement.

          A young wheel-chair bound woman was brutally murdered. An early morning jogger had seen blood leaking out of the side door of an RV. He called the manager who called the police.

          The policeman allowed Buddy into the crime scene. I walked over there also, up to the yellow tape. The puddle of blood near the side steps extended farther out of the faded 1987 Prelude by El Dorado, an extinct giant in the RV world.

          "Back in a few minutes," Buddy told me as he walked away with the policemen. "Lock the door and stay in."

          When he returned later, he had a stunned look on his face.

          "They said we may leave, but we may be called back because we saw that man on the roof."

          "And the inside?"

          "A young girl about twenty lay on the floor on her side. Her neck was cut open, her head almost severed, Too much blood all around. She had been staying there with her boyfriend since last month. The boyfriend's not around."

          "Not burglary then. Domestic problem, you think?"

          "Possibly. The boyfriend may be the guy on the roof. The description fits." Buddy's brows furrowed. "Did you make coffee?"

          "Yes, do you want cereal and juice?"

          "No, just coffee. I don't feel like eating."

          For Buddy to refuse food seemed unusual. Even after investigating the grizzliest murder scenes, he'd devour a huge meal. Why did I get the feeling he was uneasy in some way?

          "What is it, Buddy? Is there something more you're not telling me?"

          "I'm not sure. I saw the computer data inside the police car. The girl's name is Melanie Garza."


          "Her mother's name is Francine Garza. From Sandusky. Probably she'll be flying here to identify her."

          "From Sandusky...Francine? Sounds familiar but I'm not sure."

          "You probably heard it from me. Francine was my partner over twenty years ago. We were patrol officers in Sandusky."

          "Oh yes, now I remember. Couldn't it be someone else though, maybe with a similar name?"

          "Probably not. Sandusky is a small town."

          Francine Garza arrived the next day. She was Buddy's old partner; it was her daughter who was killed; and Buddy couldn't help but get involved now.

          I met Francine after her trip to the morgue and I asked her to stay with us. There was another bed behind a partition in our RV. How could I leave a grieving mother alone in a hotel room in a strange city?

          "Melanie was a wonderful girl. She meant everything to me." Francine sobbed, drawing spirals in the air with the smoke from her long thin cigarette. "She lost the use of her legs after a car accident when she was fourteen. Even in her condition, she was the one helping everyone else."

          Francine was fiftyish and slim. Even in her grief, she projected independence and beauty with blonde hair perfectly layered in an angular cut. Her light blue eyes flooded with tears when she looked toward my husband's direction.

          With a sudden tinge of jealousy, I glanced at Buddy. He was eyeing her intently. When he met my stare, he blushed and stood up to pour more coffee.

          "Oh, that Ricky! I can't believe he'd do this," Francine continued. "He said he loved her."

          "She must have been a pretty girl. Although when I saw her. . ."Buddy didn't finish his sentence.

          "Oh Buddy," Francine sobbed even harder. "I should have brought her over and let you see her before. You'd be so proud...I mean I was so proud of her. She had all the kindness of ... She was sooo... Maybe it is my fault..."

          She kept babbling without making sense. Buddy looked just as bewildered as I was by the mixture of words coming from Francine's mouth. But then, she was grieving and her confusion was understandable.

          I gave Francine a sedative and made her lie down. "Thank you Aggie," she said, "You're a wonderful person. I'm glad Buddy has you."

          Later, Buddy and I slipped outside to sit on a bench.

          "Where do you think the boyfriend is?" I asked.

          "At this point, he's wanted for questioning. There's something else, though. They found a different type of blood in the RV, other than Melanie's," Buddy said.

          "This must be so awful. Poor Francine!"

          "Awful is the right word."

          "How well did you know Francine, Buddy?" I asked suddenly.

          "We made good friends on the beat." After a short pause he added, "I am not going to hold anything back from you, Aggie. So hear me out. There was a time when Francine and I were more than friends, not important, really. Then I left Sandusky. Francine wouldn't separate from her mother. We said our goodbyes and that was it."

          "Buddy!" I moaned, not knowing what to say.

          "If this bothers you, I'll put Francine in Days Inn. Don't forget, you asked her to stay with us. I wouldn't have asked her at all."

          "No way! Whatever happened is past history. She was your partner and I'll treat her with respect," I said my voice quivering.

          "Thank you, my angel," Buddy hugged me.

          Next day, Buddy took Francine to sign some papers. After they left, I noticed Francine's cell phone on the table. A few seconds later, it rang and I answered it.

          "Now, we're even," A muffled baritone voice said. "You made me lose mine. Now you don't have yours."

          "Who are you? Wait."

          But he cut me off immediately. When Buddy and Francine came back, I told them about the phone call.

          Three days after Melanie Garza was murdered, her boyfriend Richard L. Cooney's body, with a gunshot wound to his head, was found in the bushes on the left side of Jackson's Creek by a fisherman.

          "You don't have to come, Aggie," Francine said, as we were escorted inside to identify the second body. "Morgues are gruesome."

          "Aggie's used to it. She's a nurse," Buddy said. "She's a witness if Ricky's body isn't that of the guy on the roof."

          But it was. The young man who had greeted us in the park now lay as a corpse in the morgue.

          "Monsters! Why would they kill a penniless girl in a wheelchair, even if they had some nasty business with Ricky?" Francine muttered as she sifted through Melanie's effects in our RV. Buddy had left us to go food shopping.

          "If it were for the boyfriend, wouldn't they kill Ricky only?" I asked.

          "According to the investigation, Ricky's time of death is about an hour later than Melanie's. Maybe they had him watch what they did to Melanie," Francine said. Then she stopped and looked at me. "Aggie, there's something I have to tell you. Please, don't let Buddy leave Melanie's case. It's very important that he be on top of this one."

          "Why Buddy? Francine, is there something else you want to tell me?"

          "Sort of but..." She didn't finish.

          "Francine, I know about you and Buddy," I whispered self-consciously.

          "There's more to it, something that even Buddy doesn't know. Aggie, I figured I'd tell you. You'd know what to do with this."

          "Go ahead, Francine."

          "Melanie is...was Buddy's daughter. I never told him. I intended to. But Buddy left Sandusky. I was angry. After the baby was three years old, I took her and came down to Portsmouth to find Buddy. Then I saw the two of you together as newlyweds. I changed my mind."

          "Francine, what did you do! Buddy is a wonderful father to our sons. He would love Melanie very much, also."

          "Aggie, I want Buddy stay with the case. Please help."

          "As painful as this is going to be, Buddy has to know. I'll tell him," I said.

          A day later, Francine received another call from the same man who implied that Francine had made him lose a child. Francine said his voice was familiar but she couldn't put her finger on it.

          Two days later, we drove to Sandusky and parked our RV at the side of Francine's cottage. Francine traveled via US Air accompanying Melanie's casket. Buddy seemed stunned with his newly-found role, but the service was beautiful.

          "My only daughter! And I got to see her after she was killed!" he said. "Francine has done wrong to me and to my daughter."

          "She's hurt just as much as you are, Buddy," I said, "Try to forgive."

          At the department, Buddy, Francine, and other detectives sifted through all the past cases Francine was involved in. They ended up with four of them where a young male criminal was killed. None had a close relative to seek vengeance. Then they went into Richard L. Cooney's background. He had had a pretty clean life with school and working, except when seventeen, he was busted for smoking weed at a teenage party.

          "Maybe it is something else," I said. "Aside from your work, Francine."

Francine could think of no answers, but she wanted to go through all the files again.

          It was three days later. I'd made lemonade for us in Francine's kitchen. As she was sipping the lemonade, suddenly Francine exclaimed, "Yes, it's the lemonade!"

          "Is something wrong with it?"

          "No, Aggie. I just remembered something. Bud, remember Jonathan? After you left Sandusky, he became my partner."

          "Yes, but I don't follow you," Buddy answered.

          "Once, Jonathan and I took a man and his son to the emergency room. The boy's appendix had ruptured. The hospital was close by and driving him would take less time than waiting for the emergency vehicle. Still we were too late. I remember, it was a hot day. I was standing inside the emergency room. Jonathan brought me lemonade from the cafeteria. While I was drinking it, the father rushed out crying and took the paper cup off my hand and threw it on the floor, screaming that I had killed his son. Since I was driving the vehicle, he blamed me. But such things do happen when people get that emotional. We just overlook them."

          "Let's check it anyway," Buddy said. "I have a personal stake in this. I want to find Melanie's killer."

          In the police files, no record of this incident was registered.

          "Hospitals keep files of the deceased for a very long time," I said. "They may be worth a try."

          According to the hospital files, a young man of fourteen, Chris Winslade son of Barney Winslade, was the only deceased due to ruptured appendix that year. A police search found the same Barney Winslade living in Bowling Green, Ohio. Further investigation showed that Barney Winslade had stayed in a mental institution for three years after his son died.

          I called Barney Winslade on my cell phone. His wife answered. I asked her if I could talk to Barney since he had ordered something from my company and hadn't paid. She told me that Barney had been away at the date that I had given her; so, he couldn't have ordered it. I had given her the exact date when Melanie was killed.

          "Where is he now?" I asked.

          "At work. Where else?" she said.

          In Bowling Green, a small town like Sandusky, finding Barney Winslade was not difficult.
Just to make sure, Francine and I called him again from a pay phone. Yes, his voice was the baritone voice we had heard before.

          The local police took Barney to the station. At first, Barney denied everything, but when he saw Francine enter the room he jumped up.

          "Now you know what it's like," he yelled.

          Later, Barney Winslade not only admitted to killing Melanie, but he also gave details of how he took his revenge. He said he waited for Ricky to leave Melanie alone. But Ricky had forgotten his wallet. When he returned for it, Barney hid inside the RV and shot him from the back. Later in the dark he took Ricky's body in his car to the creek.

          "What will happen to Barney Winslade?" I asked Buddy, when we were driving back home.

          "They'll probably send him to a place for the criminally insane," he said. "We might be called back as witnesses later. Will you be up to it, Aggie?"

          "Sweetheart," I answered, "After this, I can be up to anything."

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