Eric looked in the direction Dylan was indicating. It did look like a deserted spot, just perfect for catching striped bass. ‘Let’s go,’ he said. He glanced down and mentally checked off the list of things the two men would need: bait, fishing tackle, safety equipment, snacks, and coffee. It was all there. Eric nodded, and Dylan started the boat’s motor.
Within a few minutes, Dylan and Eric had reached the mouth of the creek, one of many that opened into the Intercoastal Waterway. Dylan soon cut the engine, and the two men drifted slowly into the creek. As they went along, the tree cover over their heads got denser, and the air cooler and damper. Eric looked at the creek banks as they passed. They were practically deserted. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling they were being watched. ‘You think anyone lives out here?’ he asked Dylan.
‘I don’t see any houses or even cabins. Why?’
‘I don’t know. It just feels like someone’s there.’
‘You mean watching us?’ Dylan couldn’t help laughing. ‘What, was Deliverance on TV last night or something?’ He shook his head and Eric looked down at the water, a little embarrassed at letting a case of nerves get to him.
‘How about if we stop here,’ Eric said after a few minutes of silence. ‘It looks like as good a place as any.’
‘Fine with me. You get the bait going, and I’ll settle the boat.’
Within a few minutes, Dylan and Eric were casting their lines. Silence settled in, but the creek wasn’t really quiet. There was the soft swish of water lapping against the boat, and splashes as wood ducks and teals dove in to go after their prey. Every once in a while, toads croaked, and once or twice, a flock of pelicans went by in a rush of flapping wings. The creek wasn’t very far from where the two men were staying, but it felt like a real wilderness. The resort’s web pages had been right about it being ‘away from it all.’ Hopefully the web pages were also right about the fishing.
Dylan was just reaching up to slap at a bug on his neck when he felt a hard tug on his line. ‘I got one!’ he called. ‘And it feels like a big one, too!’ He slowly reeled his fishing line in, with Eric eagerly watching over his shoulder. All of a sudden, both men stiffened. Eric gulped hard and Dylan said, ‘Oh, my God,’ as water gushed from the arm that had been caught on the fishing hook.
‘We need to call the cops or something,’ Eric said. Dylan nodded. ‘You’re right. I’ll keep an eye on it – him – while you call, OK?’ A minute later, Eric had gotten through on the emergency number, and was told to wait where he was until the police arrived.
After about ten minutes, Dylan and Eric could hear the blast of a siren. ‘Thank God,’ Dylan said. ‘I don’t want to be cooped up with a dead body any longer than we have to be.’
Within a half hour, police officers had cordoned off the part of the creek where Dylan and Eric had found the body. The men had had to give up their boat and equipment as evidence while the police determined what happened. Now, they were seated in the police station, answering questions.
‘This shouldn’t take too long,’ the officer – he’d said his name was McCabe – told them. ‘I just need you to tell me what happened.’
‘It’s like I said,’ Eric responded. ‘We were fishing, trying get some bass, and Dylan’s line got caught on him – on the body.’
Dylan nodded. ‘We’d only been there twenty minutes or so when it happened. For sure less than half an hour.’
McCabe nodded and made notes. ‘All right. Now, you two gentlemen don’t live locally, do you?’
‘No,’ Dylan said. ‘We’re just here for the week.’
‘That’s right,’ Eric added. ‘We’re thinking of buying here, and wanted to visit for a bit before making a decision.’
‘That so?‘ McCabe looked up and met both men’s eyes with his own. ‘Where are you staying?’
‘The Villages at West Palm Beach,’ Dylan answered.
McCabe nodded slowly. ‘All right, you two make yourselves comfortable. I’ll be back in just a minute.’
Dylan and Eric tried to relax, but an interview room at a police station isn’t exactly comfortable. A minute turned into five, then to fifteen, then to twenty. Finally, Dylan said, ‘You think we should go? It’s not like we did anything.’
‘No, but it won’t look good if we go.’
‘Yeah, you’re right.’
After five more long minutes, McCabe came back into the room. ‘I’m going to have to ask you a few more questions.’
‘But we don’t know anything more than we’ve said,’ Dylan insisted.
‘See, that’s the thing,’ McCabe said slowly. ‘You two were in the boat, A man’s body’s found right where you were. That interests me.’
‘But we reported the body!’ Eric protested.
‘Wouldn’t be the first time that kind of thing happened.’
‘So, what? Are we under arrest?’ Dylan burst out.
‘Well, you certainly have some questions to answer. You might want to get yourselves real comfortable. It’s going to be a long night.’
And it was. McCabe kept asking questions, and Dylan and Eric kept insisting they didn’t know anything about the dead man. It was nearly dawn before they were finally released. They went back to the resort, slept for a few hours, and then packed and left. Then, both of them let loose on social media, warning prospectives not to consider the Villages at West Palm Beach.
McCabe was glad when he read their reviews. He and some of the local residents had been at war with Villages ever since that asshole hedge fund manager had bought the land and built the resort. It was nothing but trouble – all the crowds, bad drivers, and rude, loud residents. The more people stayed away from it the better. He wouldn’t have minded using those men as patsies, though. He’d had to hide Shep’s body in a better place. Oh, well, nobody but alligators would find it now. If only McCabe’s brother hadn’t gotten in that bar fight with Shep. What was he supposed to do, though? You had to take care of family.