Okefenokee Heat

Nothing yet...just opening scenes

Still, silvery water reflecting the moon’s trail

Tall, dark in the moonlight, cypress trunks rising from the black water

Reeds and swamp grasses tangled about the feet of green hammocks

Insects buzzing, frogs croaking, fireflies blinking among the shadowy shapes further off in the swamp

An occasional splash from somewhere… near or far? A raccoon fishing for supper? A fish jumping?

In the far distance, the cough of an alligator

The soft caress of a warm, gentle breeze bringing the earthy, decaying, scent of the surrounding glades

With another sigh, Deputy Sheriff Lem Potter clicked his long flashlight to life and directed its harsh white light on the abandoned shiny aluminum hulled airboat drifted up against a tangle of driftwood a few feet off the short boat launching dock.

“Nothing there, except a pair of hip waders crumpled in the bow, and a tangle of synthetic lines in the bow” “No car, or more likely, truck….no trailer in the parking lot……Nothing.”

“Looks like it might have drifted downstream from the swamp, partner….Go get it!” Lem said, and with a grin jumped back from the edge of the Suwannee River boat landing as his “partner” Peaches promptly launched herself into the dark waters with a huge splash and made a perfect belly flop next to the boat. Grabbing the trailing bow line in her massive jaws, Peaches, swam strongly until her paws touched the sandy bottom, then with a strong surge, drug the bow of the ungainly-looking boat up onto the pavement so her best friend and partner could look at it more closely.

“Lets check it out” Lem said to Peaches, who was still gripping the bow line firmly in her jaws, even as she was shaking river water in all directions from her rough black coat.

“Back, girl”

Peaches immediately dropped the line on the pavement, as the stern of the flat-bottomed boat nestled up against the dock, returned to the deputy’s side and sat, her almond shaped eyes fixed on the boat and her short nub of a tail wiggling slightly.

“Georgia registration”, Lem said to himself, as he wrote the numbers from the boats’ decal in his notebook in the faint light from his patrol cars headlights which he had left on when he and Peaches had noticed the boat apparently drifted up to the landing a few minutes earlier.

“Could have drifted quite a ways…..high water lately, and the Georgia line’s a good way up river….not many good places between here and there to launch a power boat”, Lem thought to himself, and then repeated out loud for Peaches’ benefit.

Shining his flashlight into the boat, Lem slowly walked up the dock, inspecting the interior of the boat carefully, and stopping to look carefully at the high seat directly in front of the exposed engine and propeller cage.

“Key’s in the ignition”, “Seat belt undamaged, but strap dangling on either side of the seat” he noted.

Returning to the front of the boat, Lem stepped into the open end carefully, after a soft command to Peaches to “stay”, which she did, but with an equally soft whine of protest. Lem looked at the fuel gauge and noted it indicated almost full, and then looked closely at the flat top of the boat’s sides, noting a several inch long dark stain along one side. Moving back to the front of the boat, Lem noted two sockets installed in the front of the boat for passenger seats, but saw no signs of the seats themselves in the boat.

Returning to the boat ramp, Lem walked back to his patrol car and retrieved peaches’ leash, which he seldom used, except when his partner was around other people, or when he needed to keep his partner from destroying something. Returning to the boat where Peaches was still obediently sitting, he clipped the leash to her wide leather collar, and led her into the boat.

Watching her reactions carefully he led her from front to back of the boat on both sides of the engine. When she reached the stained area, Peaches sniffed and then “pointed” directly at the stain, emitting a high pitched whine, then looked directly up at Lem and back to the rail.

“Blood, huh!” Lem said to Peaches. “Looks like that’s gonna tie up the rest of this night, for sure.”

“Guess we better call it in, girl.”

Reaching up to his shoulder microphone, Lem pressed the transmit button as he and Peaches walked back to his car, and notified the Sheriff duty dispatcher of the details, requesting a boat trailer for the flat bottom rig to be towed to the impoundment lot at the Sheriff’s substation, a check of the registration numbers with the Georgia authorities, and including the fact he suspected the presence of blood in the boat because of Peaches’ reaction.

An hour later, Lem, watching the tail lights of the tow truck disappear in the direction of the substation, where the abandoned boat would be stowed until the next day or until someone claimed it, decided it was time for a break and accordingly pulled onto the highway and headed toward their regular stopping place in White Springs for coffee and a late night snack.

“Strange about that boat” Lem said to Peaches, who cocked her head towards Lem from the passenger seat in response to his voice, where she was riding in violation of the department’s orders that all K9s were to be confined to the back seat.

‘That rig cost someone a lot of time and effort, or a lot of money, ‘cause it was heavy gauge polished aluminum, and welded construction” “Most of the airboats I’ve seen up here have plywood and fiberglass hulls.” “Damn few up them up here, at any rate: Too noisy for hunting, impractical for fishing, and not usually enough water in the swamps anyway, except way down south around Okeechobee.” “Besides, it had Georgia numbers.”

Dispatch call to domestic dispute;

“Roger, Dispatch”: “ETA 5”! “K2 Out!” Lem spoke tersely into the patrol car’s microphone, before sticking it back onto its dashboard clip, flipped the lights and siren switches to “on”, and floored the accelerator. With a screech of its tires, although already moving at over 70 miles per hour, the specially modified 450 horsepower Sheriff’s interceptor moved up to over 120 miles per hour on the deserted four lane highway towards White Springs.

The End

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