Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Bad Day at the Boat House - Part One
Sheriff Clarkson swore as he set the receiver back into the cradle.
Deputy Walsh, a fresh coffee-- untasted-- in her hand, watched as he unfolded his gangly six foot, eight inch frame and got out of his chair.
The sheriff rubbed his upper lip and shook his head. A single lock of thin brown hair fell down across his forehead.
Walsh suppressed a smile. If she looked closely enough she could still make out the shape and breadth of the mustache that, until the week before, lived beneath his nose.
“What is it, boss?” she asked.
After a dozen years with the department, she’d thought she’d seen every face the sheriff had-- anger, disgust, fatigue, frustration, empathetic. Outright bafflement was a new one.
He stared down at his telephone like it was some strange alien device.
“It’s the damnedest thing,” he muttered. “Just got a call. Said there was gonna be a shooting. And a fire.”
“A shooting and a fire? Where? When?”
“Didn’t say. Did say I was gonna need five body bags.”
Walsh set her coffee mug down, then ran her fingers through her close-cropped blonde hair. She pulled off the crew-cut look through sheer force of will, the same will she used to survive breast cancer four years earlier.
“Crank is all,” she replied. “Some guy phoning in some vague threat.”
“That’s the thing, Walsh. Wasn’t not some guy.”
She raised one eyebrow at him.
“It’s a woman.”
The wiry, balding man eyed the pier in each direction before turning toward the boat house.
The fresh coat of white paint didn’t quite mask the passage of seven decades of life on the river. The place looked good from a distance. Up close it was impossible to not see how many boards were cracked or warped beyond repair.
The river itself was as clean and blue as he remembered it. Sixteen years away from town had not dampened his love for that particular body of water.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the letter he’d received the previous day.
The simple, typewritten note had come in the mail, without a return address and without any postal markings on the envelope. In it, its writer had instructed him to appear, alone, at the boat house by six the next evening. Failure to do so-- or contacting police-- would result in the carrying out of several specific, terrifying threats. An accurate description of his morning routine helped him to understand the gravity of the situation.
He’d done everything he’d been instructed to do. He’d told no one where he was going, parked his car at the old quarry site outside of town, and walked down Main Street to the pier.
Now that he was there, the .45 he had stuffed in his pocket provided far less comfort than he’d hoped it would.
“Hey Billy! Billy James!”
He spun in the direction of the voice, identifying its owner it as he did so.
Buck Hoskins. A pal from the old days in town, one he hadn’t seen in almost sixteen years.
The voice, huskier and more damaged by cigarettes and cheap whiskey than Billy remembered, matched the man who stepped around from the far side of the boat house.
Where Billy, with his full head of red hair and still spare frame, had aged with a measure of grace, Buck Hoskins had crumbled.
Buck’s leathered and pock-marked face and receding hairline made him look sixty-two rather than thirty-two. His gut and shoulders tested the elastic qualities of his shabby clothes.
“You too, huh?” he croaked.
“Seems that way.” He looked around the dock again. “Anyone else?”
“Murph and Vin,” replied Buck, nodding toward the boat house. “They’re already inside.”
“You, me, Murph, and Vin,” murmured Billy.
His mind tumbled back sixteen years, to the last time the four friends had been together. He thought about the letter again.
Buck read his thoughts.
“It’s gotta be,” he said.
Billy nodded. “Nothing else makes sense. But how?”
“Don’t you mean who?”
“I’m not sure it’s such a smoking hot idea to bunch up in there,” he said.
“Yeah? Well I don’t think it’s such a smoking hot idea to piss off whoever this is. Least not ‘til we know what the fuck we’re dealing with.”
“You’re smarter than you look, Buck. Always were.”
“Good to see you too, Billy James.” He opened and held the boat house door. “After you, pal.”
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.