I’m totally cheating on this, guys. Sorry. I’m taking a surfer story I wrote last year and changing it to fit the genre. I always meant to do something more with this, but I never got around to it. Let’s try again, shall we?
Waves crash, whooshing outward in the ebbing flow of an angry assault.
Beauty and rhythmic lulling,
Constant motion inspires me to forget the intrinsic danger.
The sea calls me back.
But I refuse; I deny its power over me.
* * *
He stopped dead in his tracks, rolling his eyes to the sky. Brodie. The surfer was like a bad penny. Stern spun on one foot and faced the bronzed, sun-bleached blonde beach bum.
“It’s Detective, brah.”
“Detective Brah, I was just out catching a few with Steelhead McGee before the rays hit, but that last surf was mushy, and I decided to jet. It was Steelhead that saw her first, ’cause he’s an old carp. Says he only craves the waves,” Brodie said with a grin, his rock hard surfer abs vibrating with laughter.
Detective Stern cocked one eyebrow. He couldn’t remember how he’d thought having the beach beat would be the prime policing territory. He’d been called to the beach twenty times in the last eighteen months to investigate deaths related to drowning. Two had proven to be homicide by one means or another, but most had been accidental death. One more bloated body floating on to the popular and crowded San Daniella shores was not his cup of tea. He should have listened to his mother and studied acupuncture.
Brodie was still rambling when Stern tuned back in.
“The waves were righteous at dawn, brah, but it was colder than usual after that storm last night. I left Steelhead on the edge, and that’s when he yelled about the body. And, brah, what a body!”
Stern frowned. He’d just arrived on scene and hadn’t made it to where they’d cordoned off the beach. He was glad the tide was going out when they found it, because at the rate Brodie was yammering Stern wouldn’t make it to the body before the tide turned.
“Listen, Brodie, this officer here,” he motioned over a young man in standard blues, “Officer . . . Kiplicky–Kiplicky? Really?” Stern looked sideways at him, but the kid officer just shrugged. “Okayyy. Officer Kiplicky is going to ask you a few questions.”
“Later, brah.” Brodie waved the shaka, a hang loose hand gesture that was common along the beaches of California.
Detective Stern nodded and walked away, taking a relieved breath. He only felt a little sorry for sticking Officer Kiplicky with the task of taking down the talkative surfer’s statement. Stern made the mistake one too many times to do it again.
It seemed ironic that Brodie, the epitome of the stereotypical dumb blonde, always seemed to be around to discover these wash ups. He was a literal beach bum and spent all his time riding waves or repairing boards to pay for his surfer habit of . . . riding waves. As far as Stern could tell, without doing some digging on him, Brodie was a straight shooter, wasn’t a user, and just lived to surf.
Another thing Detective Stern hated about the beach cases was the sand that got in every nook and cranny of his body and clothes. By the time they were done gathering evidence and viewing the scene his feet had received an in-shoe pedicure and his other more sensitive regions were begging for a bath.
“We’ve got a mermaid here, boss,” Junior Detective Penn said, dusting the sticky, wet sand off his rubber gloves.
“Mermaid?” Stern asked and leaned to snag a peek at the body behind the other man.
The coroner walked up next to Stern, her head barely reaching his shoulder. She stepped around and squatted down.
“Is this a joke? Was she crazy?” Stern asked.
The coroner glanced up at him from her stooped position as he moved closer. “No, Tim, not a joke and not crazy.” She stood up without turning around. “But maybe I am.”
“That’s not a costume,” Dr. Nina Lean said and squatted down again.
“What do you mean, it’s not a costume?”
“It’s. Not. A. Costume.”
“How could it not be costume? She’s got a friggin’ tail!”
“I’m with you, boss,” Penn said, snapping a picture of the dead mermaid with his phone.
Stern swiped the phone out of his hand and deleted the picture, giving Penn a withering look.
Nina pointed at the entanglement of fishing twine around the young fish-woman’s neck and shoulders. “It doesn’t look like this is accidental, Tim, so I’m calling it a homicide, but I won’t be able to tell you what cause of death is until we get her back to my office.” With a tone of awe, she said, “We have to get her back to my office.”
“Is this really happening? Or am I dreaming?” Stern asked, completely ignored by the others.
“There’s no injury that I can see right off that would have done it, though this petechial hemorrhaging might indicate strangulation or drowning. Can mermaids drown?” She stopped and stared wide-eyed at Stern. “I can’t believe I just asked that question. Is this really happening?” Nina refocused on the body and gently touched the netting. “There’s no apparent bruising, though I’m sure under the right light we’ll see some, if not from attack then from being beaten about by the waves.”
“Alright, Nina, get her bagged,” he said and turned his attention to Detective Penn. “Keep everyone back unless they’re essential. I hate to think what kind of story the press will cook up when they catch wind of this . . . this whatever it is.”
“Has anyone checked the upper beach for evidence?” He hated training new detectives because it meant asking a thousand questions.
“Uh, yeah, but there wasn’t anything up there that looked out of the ordinary.”
“Considering the mermaid here, what constitutes out of the ordinary? Expand the search southward, before the wind or tide takes away any possible evidence. The water moves things north as it hits the beach.”
“I-uh . . . dang. Sorry. I’ll get right on that,” Penn said and dashed off toward the van to call for extra help.
Nina walked over to her case that an officer dropped ten feet back and rummaged for a body bag. While she was busy, Stern shifted his gaze to the roiling ocean waves and considered the reality before him. If this wasn’t someone’s sick idea of a joke, maybe that meant legends like Atlantis were real too. It might be time for a career change.