Drownings (part two)
On this end of the tunnel grey waters lapped, probing their way landwards, aiming for the foot of a bench. A bench shaded, had there been leaves and sun, by an ugly-trunked, thorn-clustered locust. The bank sat undercut, pod-strewn; dead blond grasses arched and dropped their heads to the river. A large amount of trash collected here…it seemed, to McAlley’s judgment, that the metal post angling from the surface, consequence of some scrap-hunter’s efforts to dislodge it, must have a chain as well.
“I imagine,” he said to Faia, “they’ve got it bedded in concrete, a mooring post.”
“You don’t think I’m talking about the post!”
“Thinking aloud. Ignore me. I’ll have a look.”
She came on behind, but stalled at the bench’s gravel. McAlley tested the integrity of the earth, stooped a second time, the posture reminding him. “See this, Faia. ID card, Bitterroot Cooperative. What sort of place, do you suppose?”
“Hiking gear? Herbals…? What’s the name?” Her guesses were bored. He could feel her chin, there, above his shoulder, her voice immediate to his ear.
“Dustin Carmadge, it says.”
“Oh, well. He drowned himself for that. Give an age?”
“Alive today, twenty-eight. We don’t know that our fellow here has aught to do with Dustin.”
“Move up, McAlley. Make sure it is a fellow.”
Seeing that it had no eyes, that of the face much flesh had abraded off, that fish had done their nibbling, that the hands seemed draped with dirty green bandages, while the trunk bloated tightly into a light-colored pullover, the belly into drawstring pants, he observed from its loose fetal pose nothing discernible as to sex.
“Faia, you don’t mind, do you? I want your eyes on this. Does a person dress for drowning? I note one shoe, a slip-on sort of trainer. We are how far from that wharfside what-have-they-got?”
“Bar and Grill. You can catch the smell of burgers. Glassblowing, yoga. Yarn shop. Confectioners, or maybe a bakery.”
“And what’s the foolery called altogether?”
“Old Parish Centre.”
“For the moribund district, named. Very good. They have the pontoon bridge crossing there?”
“Until they finish the work.”
“Well, take another look. Consider my question. We’ll go over ourselves, after, since it’s downtown we need to be.”
Faia stepped, in a nudging way that moved McAlley aside, and listed for him what little gave interest. “The tide coming and going would have rolled it along, down among the rocks, before it gassed. But, look, it’s male…or, I’m betting. The neck and shoulders, you know. I don’t see a watch, or a ring. Or an earring.”
“Doesn’t seem likely.”
She shrugged and pivoted, taking the lead. He followed by stairs from the top of the tunnel, up the brick-ramped quay, at length to lean around a door of glass, asking for a manager, or security chief.
“Oh, is it?” the reception desk said. “Another…sad. But really, they give me the creeps. I wish they’d stop.”
“I’ll leave you with my card.”
(2021, Stephanie Foster)