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THE WATERS OF LARK'S COVE LAY MIRROR-LIKE reflecting the coming rays of the rising sun in the morning sky. The noisy sea birds remained at rest, not ready to begin their day. Thomas looked over his recently acquired cove, and smiled. (A cove he considered to be his private sanctuary). At last, his favorite time of day had arrived once again.
Since his wife Rebecca passed a year earlier life hadn't been kind to him. To lose a loved one after so many years of togetherness was difficult for anyone, but for Thomas it had been considerably more hellish for the tough cop to accept. While on the job he worked hard to hide his feelings, but when he was with his chosen partner, his feelings ran deep, unchecked, for his Rebecca, no matter what. The tragic end of their lifetime love affair was extremely difficult for Thomas to accept, and to put aside. As each day passed, it became more arduous for Thomas to move on without his chosen companion by his side.
The year Rebecca became seriously ill from cancer Thomas was forced to retire from the police force for missing too much time while taking care of his beloved mate. The multiple warnings about his absenteeism went unheeded by Thomas until finally Captain Elliot had enough, and told him it was time for him to retire.
"Retire!" Thomas bellowed at his Captain. "There is no way I can retire — and continue to live. You should know this work is my life. Without it, I can't imagine what I will turn into — possibly a dried up turnip."
His Captain and immediate superior had forged their history together, which dated back some forty years. Oddly enough, they both entered the 42nd Division the same week. Thomas, as the Chief Homicide Detective of the 42nd Division of the New York City Police, shared his daily ups and downs with his lovely wife Rebecca each evening he returned home. Listening to his frustrations about his work — day in day out — Rebecca remained patiently by his side to help him overcome his inability to close a case as quickly as he wanted. Somehow, she understood his frustrations, and was able to calm him for another day on the force. Each case he solved during his years on the force became most important to him.
Detective Riley was promoted to take Thomas's place as lead detective when he left the force to care for his beloved Rebecca. Being forced to retire, and then being replaced by his archrival, was extremely grueling for him to accept and move on with the rest of his life. Feelings ran deep between the two detectives for years, and often ended up in a physical brawl between the two rivals.
Being replaced by someone who cared less about how justice was dispensed, but one who pursued a lifelong pattern of building up his own self-image was too difficult for Thomas to accept. Through the years, his job had become the core of his life. He knew when he went to sleep at the end of a tiring day he'd done his best to satisfy justice.
His last year in New York City was a nightmare. He was an imperfect caregiver, but he did the best he knew how because his true love for Rebecca ran deep within him. She was willing to go into a care facility to ease Thomas's daily load, but Thomas would have no part of her leaving his side. Later, without a crime to solve and a beloved wife to care for, Thomas left New York City in deep despair. There was nothing left for him in New York City, and he traveled for weeks and weeks before finding his ideal home for life.
With his move to South Carolina, Thomas found his way to a home away from the big city, and a place where he could put those last stressful years behind him. The transition from solving some of the worst crimes in the largest city in the 48 States to caring for a sick wife was too much ... too much ... even for Thomas to accept. Leaving New York City behind to capture a new life without the everyday chaos became his one and only desire.
He sipped his coffee and frowned as the bitterness of the brew touched his tongue. He looked over his cove and beyond. He considered his cove to be his private haven, and intruders certainly were not welcome to enter.
The yachts from the northern waters of Chesapeake Bay and southern ports of Florida regularly passed by his cove entrance, but seldom entered it.
The cove had a small entrance because of overgrown underbrush, which discouraged most yachts from intruding. All of the coves on the South Carolina coast were uncharted waters, which discouraged most inexperienced yachtsmen from entering. And Thomas did not welcome visitors to his private cove, because during his service years he'd learned people brought their troubles with them. If a yacht chose to intrude, a blast or two from his shotgun was enough to make them turn around and flee his beloved cove.
He sipped his coffee while enjoying the peaceful surroundings of the early morning. The stillness of the air was a new and welcome beginning to another blistery day yet to arrive. He put down his cup when he saw an intruder at the entrance of his cove. He peered closer. Something different interrupted his usual view, but his tired eyes were unable to make out exactly what it could be.
He hastily rose to fetch a spyglass left by the previous tenant. He rushed back to the veranda and looked intensely toward the entrance of the cove. He saw a medium size yacht with a sail not fully deployed with its bow entering his cove entrance. He returned to the lean-to to get his shotgun. He looked through his spyglass once again, but saw nothing moving on the yacht. Odd, he thought, and knowing a half deployed sail could possibly mean something was amiss onboard the yacht.
Should I help in some way or not? If so — how should I? Came to mind.
He fired his shotgun, not once, but twice. The blast of his shotgun woke the sea birds and pelicans resting on the nearby shores. He watched as the disturbed pelicans rose and flew in a line eastward out of the cove, and the seagulls scattered about. Once again, he peered closer through his spyglass at the distressed yacht. He couldn't see anyone moving on the yacht, and with its sail not fully deployed, he presumed the yacht was in distress of some kind.
His shotgun, only a threat, was his way to keep people from entering his coveted cove. In a month and a half he had only fired the shotgun twice and it had worked well each time. He watched the listless sailboat for a while until his eye watered too much. The yacht appeared to lay idle in the calmness of the waters at the entrance of the cove.
A fresh breeze arose. In a way, it felt like a warning of an oncoming rainstorm, but Thomas hadn't heard anything on his air-sea radio about a change in the weather.
He sipped his coffee as he thought about Rebecca, which he often did in his leisure time. The thought of how to spend the rest of his life without her companionship invaded his thoughts. In his time of need his thoughts always turned to Rebecca. And now, alone, he found himself asking for her guidance.
After looking through his spyglass at the distressed yacht for some time his eye watered too much to continue. He laid it down and rubbed his eye. Cursing at his failing eyes he looked to his dock to help clear them. It didn't help. He rubbed them harder. His eyes had been failing since the car crash he was involved in five years earlier where the flames of the wrecked car scorched the outer lens of his eyes. Since, his eyes were added to the other hurtful injuries he'd acquired over the years.
He would need to deal with the problem of the troubled yacht later if it intruded further into his private Shangri La. Putting his immediate concerns about the yacht aside, he went inside his lean-to to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast before the blistering heat of the day arrived.
Cooking eggs and bacon was the extent of his cooking knowledge. The lean-to was equipped with a propane stove and refrigerator. A single light bulb hung by its cord from the ceiling in the center of his lean-to. The Coast Guard would bring propane monthly to keep Thomas's stove and refrigerator running.
After removing his four eggs and numerous slices of bacon from the oversize cast iron skillet he placed two frozen slices of bread in the bacon grease to thaw and cook at the same time. It was something Rebecca taught him to do when he came home in the middle of the night. Filling his coffee cup again, he sat and ate. The thought of the wayward yacht slipped unfettered from his thoughts.
This would be the only meal Thomas would cook for the day. His evening meal consisted of two tins of sardines, twelve saltine crackers, and a half-cup of bourbon. A diet Thomas never tired of having. The shelves inside his lean-to were filled with sardine tins. Sardines and saltines were the extent of his evening meals only sometimes he would refill his tin cup with bourbon once again.
He reached for a file from his well-worn file box — a file box that contained the unsolved cases of his lengthy career — cases the retired detective couldn't let go.
Before opening his favorite file he thought, Be Myself. These few unsolved cases had followed Thomas from New York City to his newly acquired home on the cove.
His heart filled with regrets once again. The unsolved cases of his long distinguished career remained a tiresome reminder of his failures. When Rebecca was living she would tout his successes in an effort to get him to forget about the criminals he couldn't convict, but deep down Thomas couldn't find a way to put them behind him.
And now alone ... he had time to review each unsolved case more thoroughly.
His hand shook as he searched for the unsolved case that bothered him the most.
"Why can't I put these cases behind me, and move on with my life?" He questioned himself. "I've solved so many cases other detectives have given up on, so why do I continue to question myself about these seven unsolved cases?"
Thomas picked up his cup, took a sip, and sighed. Alone, by choice, his past life ran like a herd of buffalos through his thoughts. "What can I do about these cases that continue to haunt me?" He pleaded aloud.
Thomas sipped his coffee as he paged through his most haunting cases. One by one he reviewed his seven unsolved cases. Alone at his cove with only these failures to work on appeared to be the direction of his ongoing life.CHAPTER 2
AND SO WENT THE NEWFOUND LIFE of Thomas Griffin. Nearly a half-century of being the top homicide detective of the 42nd division of the finest police force in the country to now: facing a future life in an aging body, and living in foreign surroundings, Thomas was ready to accept the challenges his future would bring.
These challenges — Would it be too difficult for him, and if so, could it mean his short-lived downfall? Or would something happen in his life to resurrect the man he used to be? Only the future could determine his coming days.
Regardless of his present state of mind he must move forward in a most positive way. He had fought depression at times throughout his life. And now ... alone with nothing of value to accomplish, he must find a way to move on with his life. He'd reviewed his seven unsolved cases over and over without a solution of any kind. "So why," he asked himself, "should I continue reading these cases over and over again?"
Out of respect for his long and distinguished service, Captain Elliot had permitted Thomas to take a copy of those seven unsolved cases with him to study and to possibly find the missing clue to bring those criminals to justice. The pain of not being able to close those files during his active career had troubled him greatly, and each case remained a source of unrelenting anxiety for him to overcome, even stretching into his retirement years.
While active, Thomas's daily assigned cases were more than three detectives could handle in a week. As lead detective he was given the most engaging and baffling cases. When the Mayor's wife was brutally beaten and murdered he needed to learn to be a politician as well as a hard-nose homicide detective, but regardless of the challenges the dual role presented, the Chief of Detectives handled both tasks with ease, which amazed his Captain and the rest of the detectives of the 42nd.
During his active career, Thomas's Captain would only allow him to revisit the cold cases on his own time. Since then, during his ongoing review of four of his most troubling unsolved cases, he felt satisfied with his conclusions, but the District Attorney's office thought differently. They insisted more evidence was needed for a conviction. Those disturbing unsolved cases continued to trouble Thomas as he went about his daily routine at the cove.
A gust of wind slammed his dinghy against the pier. Thomas peered between the opening slats of the lean-to wall facing the cove, and cursed loudly.
If he had the strength he would have removed the dinghy from the water the night before. Bothersome as it must have been, Thomas shrugged his wide shoulders to relieve his pain and frustrations. For now, he had more important things to think about — solve — his unsolved cases.
While eating, he opened his file on the JFK airport case — the most puzzling of all the cases he worked as a detective. During his investigation he had identified the serial killer, but much to his dislike, the case never closed to his satisfaction. In fact, he came face-to-face with the killer, but didn't have solid enough evidence for the District Attorney to bring him to trial. He closed his eyes to picture the man he knew killed eight people in four years inside the JFK airport terminal.
He shuddered with the thought of what the District Attorney had to say about his efforts to solve such a highly publicized case. "Bring me solid evidence and we'll put him away. So far, you have nothing. I need evidence to convict this man you're convinced is a murderer, and only you can find that evidence. Go do it, and quit whining on my doorstep."
Thomas closed his eyes to picture the face of the killer. In his face-to-face encounter with the suspect he had grabbed the suspect by the throat while the killer continued laughing at him. He couldn't shed the killer's haunting laughter. The killer's laughing face would pop into his mind, time and time again, regardless of what he was doing at the time.
Thomas didn't have the four essentials necessary to take the serial killer off the streets of New York — motive, gun, witnesses, and proof the suspect was at the scene of the crime. The judge denied his request for a search warrant of the suspect's house because Thomas didn't have enough evidence to justify a search of this kind. However, Thomas had convinced himself the suspect had the guns hidden in his basement. The killer had used a different gun each time, and disposed of it, which made the case more puzzling.
He'd reread the file more than a dozen times in an attempt to discover a new clue of any kind. The thought the killer would surely strike again bothered him the most, and if he did murder again, Thomas would blame himself. For some unknown reason the killer had stopped his senseless killings three years ago. Thomas sought the reason, but was never able to come up with an answer. This frustrated him all the more.
He took his cup in hand, and held it so tight his knuckles turned white as he grimaced with the thought he had identified the killer, came face-to-face with him, but couldn't keep him behind bars for good. He sat back with a heavy sigh to bring the case more into focus.
The dinghy crashed into the pier again.
Damn It! He muttered, as the static of his air-sea radio rose to a bothersome pitch. Thomas pounded on the top of his radio in an effort to quell the static, however it continued to bother him, while the Weatherman continued with his prediction.
The Atlantic storm is twelve miles off the South Carolina shoreline, and should arrive in the vicinity of Lark's Cove, early Sunday morning.
Thomas set his cup down to plan his coming hours, as he listened to the predicted rain totals and the fierceness of the storm. In his short stay at Lark's Cove, rainstorms often came at night while Thomas was sleeping.
To date, he hadn't experienced an extended rainstorm during the daylight hours, but the summer months would surely bring more storms with high humidity to follow.
The past mistakes of the Weatherman fueled Thomas's distrust of his forecasting. He glanced at the calendar to see when the 2nd would arrive as his supplies were running low, especially the bourbon. He picked up his almost empty bottle of bourbon to check its level. Almost empty! He shrugged his broad shoulders in disbelief with the thought of it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Be Myself"
Copyright © 2018 John (Jack) Callahan.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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