Read Bunker 01 - Slipknot Online

Authors: Linda Greenlaw

Bunker 01 - Slipknot

BOOK: Bunker 01 - Slipknot
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


o t h e r b o o k s b y l i n d a g r e e n l a w
The Hungry Ocean

The Lobster Chronicles

All Fishermen Are Liars

b y l i n d a g r e e n l a w

a n d m a r t h a g r e e n l a w
Recipes from a Very Small Island



N e w Yo r k

Copyright © 2007 Linda Greenlaw

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher.

ISBN: 1-4013-8856-6

1. Maine—Fiction. I. Title.

Hyperion books are available

for special promotions, premiums, or corporate training.

For details contact Michael Rentas, Proprietary Markets, Hyperion, 77 West 66th Street, 12th floor, New York, New York 10023,

or call 212-456-0133.

First eBook Edition: June 2007

Fo r G e o r ge P u s e y



“why did you move the body?”

“The tide was coming in.”

I was relieved that my now seemingly stupid question was not flagged as such by either tone or content of reply. The man I was soon to know as Cal Dunham spoke in an oddly pleasant, nicotine-stained voice. His reply revealed no inflec-tions of “dumb broad,” nor did he voice any of the questions that I assumed he might have liked to ask me. Why and how had I appeared, notebook and pen in hand and camera slung on shoulder, at the crack of dawn in the seaweed-strewn and barnacled ledges below the west side of the pier at Turners’

Fish Plant in Green Haven, Maine, just as the body of Nick Dow was discovered washed up on the beach? Cal hadn’t asked. So I assumed there was no need to tell him that I was a rookie marine consultant on my first assignment. I also needn’t tell him that I was a freakishly early riser and had wanted to flounder through this initial survey of Turners’

Fish Plant and property without witnesses to my newly embraced learn-as-you-go style.

“Jane Bunker,” I said, leaning forward and offering a hand.


L i n d a G r e e n l a w

Although his hand was rough and calloused, his grip was as light as that of any man who’s uncomfortable shaking hands with a woman. “Cal Dunham,” he said hesitantly, as if unsettled by the normalcy of introductions in this extraordi-nary scene starring the dead body. Then—out of politeness, I supposed—Cal motioned at the body with an open palm and said, “Nick Dow.”

Nick Dow—wasn’t that the name of the man who had caused such a scene at last night’s town meeting? It was impossible to make a positive ID while seeing only the back of a head, and a badly smashed one at that. Someone had hit him with something heavy to crush the back of his skull so thoroughly. The dark hooded sweatshirt was similar to what half of this town’s population wore, so that was not a defining detail. The rope used as a belt was probably a staple in the Maine fashion scene, I thought as I snapped some pictures.

Was this the same guy? I would have to check with my favorite chatterbox waitress at the coffee shop. Lucky for me that the first and only friend I’d made since moving here three days ago was the girl serving coffee. Audrey knew all and told all.

Once I’d established for Cal that I was not a reporter for the
Morning Sentinel,
and that I was a marine investigator employed by Eastern Marine Safety Consultants, and that I was indeed not “like the fireman who played with matches,”

my acquaintance of only five minutes was somewhat more forthcoming with information. He politely addressed me as Ms. Bunker, even after I insisted he call me Jane. He relaxed a bit and straightened from his crouch over the body, but for s l i p k n o t


the large mass above his shoulder blades. Cool, an authentic hunchback, I thought. They’ve got one of everything in this tiny town.

Although my first instinct was to bombard Cal with questions to satisfy my growing curiosity about the dead man, and to note any theories he might have as to the whys, whos, and hows, I remained quiet, with my eyes riveted on the badly fractured skull. I didn’t ask Cal a thing; I vainly believed I had somehow subliminally compelled him to share all he knew with me. But as disillusioned with my own extrasensory powers as I was, I must admit that Cal Dunham was simply presenting me with his alibi. The covering of one’s own butt is powerful incentive while standing over a dead body.

This June twelfth had begun just like every other day in the past six years since Cal Dunham’s retirement from offshore fishing, or so he told me as we conversed over the waterlogged corpse. He had risen with the sun, sipped a cup of Red Rose tea, and enjoyed a Chesterfield cigarette before slipping out the door without waking Betty, his wife of nearly fifty years. He had driven his Ford pickup the potholed three miles to Turners’ Fish Plant—his place of employment, along with nearly everyone else in Green Haven who didn’t go to sea. He had arrived one hour before the plant was officially open, sometime after the owner and bookkeeper, Ginny Turner. “The owner of the plant is your boss, and she’s at work before you?” I asked, thinking about my experience with bosses and not recalling any who were on the job prior to me. Suspicious, I thought.

“She’s part fish,” Cal said in defense of his boss. “Certain


L i n d a G r e e n l a w

types of fish surface at night. She spends the wee hours accounting bait, fish, lobsters, and clams bought and sold the previous day, settling up with the fishermen and diggers, and taking phone orders from customers down the coast to be packed and delivered each day. Everyone else in Green Haven is tucked into bed when Ginny is most productive. Everything was as usual until I got out of my truck and saw Ginny at the end of the wharf. She’s always up there”—Cal pointed to a second-story window overlooking the harbor—“hovering over the company checkbook like a gull on a mussel.”

“What was she doing on the dock?” I asked impatiently.

“And what were you doing here?”

I didn’t bother explaining to Cal that I was not here to investigate a murder, as old habits are hard to break. I listened intently as he continued to fill in some blanks. “I guess I’m what you’d call the foreman around here. I take orders from the queen and give them to the worker bees. I always come to work early, just habit,” Cal explained. “Anyway, when I looked to see what she was gawking at, there was ol’ Nick, facedown.”

Cal said that he and Ginny quickly agreed she should call someone while he pulled the cold and partially rigor-mortised body out of the incoming tide. “I figured she’d dial up the sheriff or the county coroner. Never thought the insurance company would get here first. Ain’t that just like people, though? Worried about their pocketbooks, with poor Nick here as dead as he can be.”

Oh, how I was enjoying the flow of information I was not really privy to. And the unsolicited editorializing absent any s l i p k n o t


intimidation from me was a gift. If I had stumbled upon a similar scene back in Miami, there wouldn’t have been a drop of information that didn’t first come through the filter of an attorney.

Cal appeared ill at ease in the presence of a female he assumed was here to question him regarding the body. From what he said, it seemed that his boss feared a wrongful-death suit, since the body had washed up below her dock. Again, Cal hadn’t asked. So I would not confess that I was actually here to do a routine safety examination and survey of the fish plant and surrounding properties for insurance purposes.

Coincidentally, this body had washed ashore. I’ve always been lucky that way.

I shrugged at Cal’s disgust that I had arrived on-scene before the law enforcement officials. Accustomed to even less enthusiastic greetings, I began pacing off the piece of jagged shoreline between two rickety, slime-covered ladders secured to the west face of Turners’ dock. “Well, if you ask me, which you have not,” Cal continued, “you might want to do some moonlighting here at the plant. I think you’ll find there ain’t a lot to investigate in Green Haven—not like Florida.

Dead bodies on the beach don’t occur too much here.”

Ah, there it was. A bit of my past had arrived in Green Haven. I snapped a few photos and jotted something in my notebook, but my mind was now occupied with questions unrelated to the scene. I wondered how much this stranger knew about my circumstances other than that I had come to Maine from Florida. Did he know that I had willfully given up a position as chief detective in Dade County to take this


L i n d a G r e e n l a w

entry-level job? Did he know why I had chosen Down East Maine and the Outer Islands as my coverage territory? I checked my paranoia. Of course Cal couldn’t know any of this. It was all very complicated. Hell, these were things I didn’t fully understand myself. Without realizing it, I was staring at Cal as if trying to see into his head. He stood over the body, his well-toned, muscular arms across his chest. His full head of perfectly white hair was cocked to one side as he inspected my every move while guarding his fallen comrade.

His countenance was grave but for a playful spark in his blue eyes. He had a calm about him that I found comforting.

I liked Cal. He looked exactly the way I had imagined a seventy-year-old New Englander. Except for the hump, he looked like Robert Frost. Perhaps apprehensive with what may have been misunderstood as an admiring gaze from a much younger woman, Cal asked, “Why did you decide to come back to Maine after all this time?”

So, Cal knew more of my past than I had hoped. I gave him the short, rehearsed, and totally believable response:

“Just tired of drug runners with fast boats and Haitians on inner tubes.” I had no desire to confide in Cal the more personal reasons for my move. The fact that a relationship gone bad had resulted in my mentor’s imprisonment was something I might never reveal. I grinned as I measured the gap between the lowest two rungs above my head. I released the bitter end of the metal tape, letting it recoil freely into the plastic housing with a sharp snap that punctuated the end of this topic of conversation. The gene responsible for the gift of gab had skipped a generation in my case, which was an s l i p k n o t


obstacle I overcame on a daily basis. In the absence of anything worthy to say, I always bailed out of meaningful conversation or uncomfortable topics with sarcasm. In the most extreme situations, my responses were suitable for print on bumper stickers. Nervousness clipped my half of a dialogue to what I was once told could be read on any of the triangular wisdoms espoused by a Magic 8-Ball. Cal did not make me nervous, but his question had.

“Why not change careers?” Cal asked. “Seems easier than uprooting and moving all the way to Green Haven, Maine. Did you ever consider going back to school for something . . . well, something more appropriate, like nursing or hairdressing?”

Twenty years ago I would have jumped on Cal for his male chauvinism. At the age of forty-two, I didn’t jump much anymore. Besides, I knew he meant no offense. I would have to get to know him a lot better before filling him in on the real reasons for my move north.

Apparently keen to my consternation, Cal politely took his cue to change the subject. “I don’t suppose the ladder was the problem. Nick was a good enough guy, even though he did irritate folks. He has a knack for pissing people off, but not to the point of homicide. Has a long history of getting liquored up at night when he’s not offshore.” The level of intoxication might account for the number of belt loops he missed while threading the old piece of rope around his waist, I thought.

Perhaps threading a belt should be part of roadside sobriety tests. Cal went on, “He must have come here with a skinful and walked right off the dock. He doesn’t have any family that


L i n d a G r e e n l a w

I know of, so I wonder why Ginny would worry about getting sued. It’s not that I don’t like your company, but you are wasting your time here.” So, I thought, human nature held its ground even this far north of the Mason-Dixon Line. My best friend and mentor had taught me this lesson long ago. Disinterest was the best lure for information. The less attention I paid to the corpse, the more I learned about Nick Dow. My mentor’s wisdom hadn’t been enough to keep him out of prison, but that’s another story.

BOOK: Bunker 01 - Slipknot
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Runaway Viper (Viper #2) by Kirsty-Anne Still
Mistwood by Cypess, Leah
The Billionaire Gets His Way by Elizabeth Bevarly
Austenland by Shannon Hale
L. A. Heat by P. A. Brown
Winter Sky by Patricia Reilly Giff
Witness Bares All by Abby Wood
Snowman's Chance in Hell by Robert T. Jeschonek
The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse