Murder Lake

02/09/23

The water caressed him, cooled him, embraced him. Andy floated on his back and when he opened his eyes, he saw the new day lightening the sky. The solitary quiet helped him reflect. He drifted down and as he touched the bottom, mud floated up around him, as did the memories of his long-lost wife and daughter.

After a minute, he kicked and rose slowly. As he surfaced, he surveyed the lake. Through the early morning mist, he saw three boats with the occupants hunched over their fishing poles. Anybody who saw him would think he was a camper out for a swim. The mourning doves cooed softly to one another, and the scent of pine trees drifted to him. The surface of the lake reflected the trees and hills and made him feel like he was part of the surroundings.

He paddled farther out and felt the cooler water. He swam two hundred yards, following the shoreline, then turned around and swam to his starting point. He swam back and forth with different strokes for a half-hour, powered by an unlimited rage, then headed to shore. As he stood, the sun peaked over the distant hill, and the trees and shore glowed gold. He watched the sunrise and let it dry his body. He envied the sun; every day it rose with hope and possibility. That’s what I need, he thought, a fresh start.

Andy and his wife and daughter had come to the lake for years. They enjoyed hiking and fishing and camping. He taught Maddie how to swim, tie flies, row a canoe, and tell when a thunderstorm was coming by watching the sky and the birds. She could name and point out the constellations to her mother. He missed the girl’s curiosity, her ability to master a skill quickly, and that she never whined.

After the girl went to bed, he and Eileen sipped gin from tin cups, swam naked, and made love under the Summer Triangle. He’d never get to see her freckled tan again or feel her body next to his. He missed the way she looked in the morning while making breakfast, with her red hair tied up, a sweatshirt over her bathing suit, and the way her green eyes sparkled in the morning sun. He missed her intellect and her stubbornness.

The three of them had hiked over the hills around the lake. They found hidden places in the woods and declared it their kingdom.

He came to the lake with them until they died in a car wreck. A gypsy truck rammed into the back of their stopped car, killing them instantly. The judge ruled it an accident and dropped the charges. Andy thought otherwise.

It had been years since their deaths, but memories of them had osmosed into his marrow and pumped through his veins, fueling his rage. His customers saw him as a bartender who was quick with a drink or a joke. But he saw himself as Vengeance, with a capital V.

He still came to the lake every year, but he never came alone. One of those responsible rode in the trunk. The first one, the trucker, had been difficult, but each one since, the mechanic, the cop, the lawyer, and the judge, got easier.

Earlier today, as dawn approached, he drove close to their kingdom and carried the newest body the rest of the way. He dumped it in the hole he dug a few days before and covered it.

One more and justice will be complete, he thought. But will the rage ever go away?

~ fin ~

charlesjones

Charlie Jones lives in and writes about Philadelphia. The local neighborhood bars provide a wealth of stories and characters that he uses in his writing. In addition to short stories, he writes a series of novels about a private detective, Mike Maxwell, working in Philadelphia in the 1970s-90s, a hotbed of crime, corruption, racism, and greed. His stories have recently appeared in the anthologies The Devil You Know Better and Starlite Pulp Review