“Still Water”

By Graham Powell
Summer 2001

“Mr. Ross,” she said, “I need your help.”

Her name was Helen Rhinehart. She sat on the very edge of her seat like a bird on a perch. Her navy blue dress matched her shoes and the handbag she kept clutched in her lap. No jewelry; just a plain gold band on her left ring finger. She spoke so softly I had to strain to hear.

“You understand that this is very hard for me. It’s my husband, Steven. He’s – well – he hasn’t been home in four days. I’m just so frightened there, all alone” Her voice trailed off and a look of profound sadness fell over her face. I noticed the tears welling in her eyes just as they brimmed over, falling down her face in long, straight streaks.

I came around from behind my desk and offered her my handkerchief. While she regained her composure I pulled over another chair and sat down beside her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “The truth is I can’t even bring myself to be afraid. I’m just so certain something has happened to him, something terrible.” She sighed and wiped her eyes.

“Helen– may I call you Helen?” She nodded. “Just tell me what happened. I’ll do the rest.”

She sniffled and said, “It was four days ago.” Last Thursday. “I’d just come home from the store when Steven called. He said that he’d be working late, he had a meeting with a client or something, and I shouldn’t wait dinner for him. He often laughed about keeping ‘doctor’s hours’, but usually it was someone calling from jail.”

“Jail?” I said. “What does your husband do?”

“He’s an attorney,” she said. “A criminal defense lawyer.”

“I see,” I said, scribbling on my pad. When did you hear from him next?”

She gestured helplessly. “I didn’t,” she said. “He didn’t come home that night. That’s not really unusual; sometimes he stays with his clients until after the arraignment. I didn’t start worrying until the next morning. When I didn’t hear from him I called the office, but they said he hadn’t been in.” Tears welled in her eyes again. “Then the bank called.”

“There was a problem?”

She lowered her head in reply. “The checkbook said we had plenty of money,” she said quietly. “Thousands. It was all gone. I tried our credits cards. They were all over the limit. By then I was frantic. I called the police, but they hardly seemed interested. They said, ‘Be patient, we’ll do our best, he’ll probably turn up in a couple of days'”

She looked up desperately. “Well, it’s been a couple of days, and he’s still missing! I couldn’t think of anything except finding him.”

She stopped, caught her breath. “That’s why I’m here.”

I set aside my notepad. “Helen, there’s a possibility that your husband disappeared voluntarily. He may have taken the money himself. Have you thought about what you’ll say to him? What you’ll do?”

“I just want to know,” she said. “I don’t want to worry any more.”

“All right,” I said. “I’ll need your credit card information, bank accounts, that sort of thing. I’ll need access to his office. And I’ll need a recent picture.”

“That’s no problem,” she said. She wiped her eyes again and smiled. “Thank you so much, Mr. Ross.”

I smiled back. “Please, call me Thomas.”

Technology is wonderful. Half an hour after Helen left I was pulling Rhinehart’s credit card and bank statements and his last ten checks out of the fax machine. The credit cards were unremarkable, lunches and a few small purchases. I started on the checks. Bills, groceries, a donation to the YMCA – and a check for $2,600 to Elaine Boudreaux. The memo read “Professional services.”

Very interesting.

The police had been looking for him for the better part of a week. I decided to see if they’d turned up anything.

Jerry answered his phone on the ninth ring. “Squad room, Detective Roberts speaking.”

“Hey, Jerry”, I said. “It’s Thomas Ross. Got any free time this afternoon?”

He sighed. “I’m buried, Tom. I’ve got a stack of reports to finish, then I’ve gotta go see the DA to prep for trial tomorrow. I’ll have to work straight through lunch.”

“Lunch is on me,” I said, laughing. “How ’bout Theo’s?”

“Bring it on, boss,” he said.

Shreveport is not a great dinner town, but if you want lunch, it’s the place to be. Theo’s is one of the best in the business district, a diner that’s been around longer than dirt. A lot of Louisiana history was decided over breakfast in places like Theo’s. Even now, more deals are cut there than anyone admits.

The only deal I was looking for today was their plate lunch: roast beef and potatoes with brown gravy, a salad, and a big glass of iced tea. Every time I ate at Theo’s, my health insurance went up. They bagged up two specials for me, and I headed to the station.

Jerry was pecking away at a typewriter when I arrived. He was still the same, weary, rumpled, hair going gray or just going. But he smiled and said, “Slow service. No tip.”

“You get what you pay for. Hungry?”

“You betcha,” he said, reaching for his plate.

“Not yet,” I said. “First, a little quid pro quo.”

“I should have known. What do you need?”

“You’ve got a missing person report on a guy named Steven Rhinehart. I’m sure you gave it your best effort, but I’m hoping you turned up something anyway.”

“Ha-ha,” he said. “Steven Rhinehart? I’ll check on it.”

A few minutes later he was back with two manila folders and a frown. “Here’s your boy,” he said.

I pointed at the other folder. “Who’s his friend?”

“Later,” he said, digging into his lunch.

While he ate I flipped through Rhinehart’s folder. I shouldn’t have bothered. It had taken the police four days to find out he wasn’t in the hospital, the jail, or the morgue.

When Jerry finished eating he held up the other folder. “This is what we call a hot button,” he said. “Carlton Schiller. Ever heard of him?”

“Should I have?”

He waved the folder. “This is his life story. Depressing reading for a working stiff like me. He comes from old money. His family owned the land South Highlands was built on. Schiller didn’t want for much growing up. He was spoiled, and a little wild to boot. He had a few arrests for possession, disturbing the peace, stuff like that. Nothing serious, and his dad had enough pull to get him off. After high school he bounced around college for a while. Got busted for possession again, put on probation. He was in his third year at Tulane when his dad died.”

“So?” I asked.

“So,” he said wearily, “He came home, cleaned up his act, and became the businessman his father always wanted him to be. But he didn’t go into the family business. He runs coke, a lot of it. He’s the biggest distributor in the city.”

I leaned back thoughtfully. “All very interesting,” I said. “But how does he tie in with Rhinehart?”

“Rhinehart is Schiller’s legal bodyguard. Anything that can reach his client, he stops cold. He’ll defend anyone who can drop Schiller’s name.”

I stood up. “That’s good to know, Jerry,” I said. “You’ve earned a bonus. I’ll buy you a beer sometime.”

He called to me as I reached the door. “Tom, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but be careful. Please.”

There was one E. Boudreaux listed in the phone book. The address was The Riverside Apartments down by Veteran’s Park. It was big, new, and very, very nice. Four buildings formed a crescent around a man-made lake, complete with fountain.

I climbed up to the second floor. All the doors opened on the courtyard; the windows would face the water. I rang the bell on number 214 and gazed down idly at the parking lot. My Oldsmobile looked embarrassed among the upscale imports.

The door opened and a voice said, “Yes?”

My eyes met hers; that was the first surprise. I’m six foot two, and she was no more than two or three inches shorter. The second surprise was in the eyes themselves, soft pools. Only then did I notice that she wore only a short robe, belted at the waist.

She saw me looking and pulled it tighter. “Can I help you?” she said.

“How do you do?” I said. “My name is Thomas Ross. I’m a private detective and I’d like to speak with you, if you have a few minutes.”

She looked me over. “Regarding?” she said.

“Steven Rhinehart.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What about him?”

I just smiled and waited. She looked me over, opened her mouth to speak, then pushed the door wide and turned away. “You win,” she said. “I guess I’ve got a few minutes.”

Beyond the door was a living room, with a small kitchen visible to the left. There wasn’t much furniture, but the apartment was crowded. It was absolutely crammed with junk. Every available horizontal space had a miniature cottage or a porcelain cat or a creaky old music box. The walls were lined with photographs. A ceramic gnome peered out from behind a fern. “Are you some kind of collector?” I said.

She smiled back over her shoulder. “I guess you could say that.”

Beyond the living room was a short hallway. To the right was a bedroom, the bed unmade. To the left was a closed door, presumably to another bedroom. Straight ahead was the bathroom. An impressive dressing table filled one corner, topped with a large mirror ringed with lights. She sat on a stool and started sorting through her makeup. She wasn’t in a hurry to start talking.

There was no place for me to sit except the toilet. I leaned against the door instead. “How long have you been seeing Steven?” I asked.

“Steve’s just a friend,” she said. “I’ve known him since college, but we never went out.”

“Really?” I said. I started down the hall for the closed door. “Mind if I look around?”

“Wait!” I leaned back against the door and waited. “Steve and I have been seeing each other for about six months. You know that or you wouldn’t be here.”

“Does his wife know?”

She selected a bottle of mascara. “I suppose she must have some idea. Steve never talked about her much. I still don’t understand why he married her”

“You and Steven met in college?” I said.

“Yes, down at Tulane. He was so different then. Different and a lot more fun. I guess when he moved back to Shreveport he decided to grow up.”

“Not entirely,” I said.

She smiled. “Well,” she said. “A man wants to enjoy himself once in a while. Have you met his wife?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Then you know what I mean.”

I had no reply.

She picked out a bottle and began brushing on lavender eye shadow. “What’s this all about anyway?” she asked. “Why are you here?”

I looked around again. “This is a pretty nice place. How much does it run per month?”

Her eyes flashed. “That’s none of your business!” she said. “Anyway, I work. As a model. It’s not much but it pays the bills.” She glared at me in the mirror, then went back to her makeup. “I’d appreciate it if you could leave my name out of this.”

“Out of what?” I said. “Look, I’m just trying to find out where Steve is. Have you seen him recently?”

She shook her head. “Not for a few days.”

“Last Thursday he told his wife he had to meet a client. Was that you?”

She hesitated. “No,” she said. “That wasn’t me.” She wouldn’t meet my eyes.

“Come on,” I said. “I know he gave you some money last week. What for?”

She fingered her little bottles of rouge and perfume and base. “We were going away,” she said. “We were going down to New Orleans for the weekend. He said he would take off early on Friday, make some excuse to his wife. I made all the arrangements. Nothing was in his name.”

“He never showed up? You never heard from him?” She shook her head. “Okay,” I said. I pulled a card from my pocket and laid it on the table. “If you think of anything else, please give me a call.” I turned to go.

“Wait,” she said. “What’s going on? Is Steve in some kind of trouble?”

“He’s disappeared,” I said. “No one’s seen him since Thursday.” She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. “I’ll call you if I hear anything,” I said.

As I turned away I saw her pick up my card.

* * * * *Elaine Boudreaux was getting ready to go somewhere. I decided to tag along.

There was a small parking lot in the median of the parkway with exits to both the north- and south-bound sides. I pulled around to where I could see her driveway and settled down to wait.

It wasn’t long. I’d expected a Mercedes or a BMW, but instead she pulled out in a battered old Alfa Romeo convertible – red, of course. She turned north, towards downtown, moving at a brisk pace. I threw my Olds into gear and followed.

She drove with style and verve, pushing the speed limit, veering into openings not large enough for a bicycle. Angry honks she answered with a smile and a friendly wave. A jaywalker scrambled for the sidewalk as she flashed by.

At Grimmett Drive she turned left, zipping over to North Market. This was an industrial part of town, full of little machine shops, garages, and pawnbrokers. I had no idea where she was headed unless she was leaving town entirely.

But after only a few blocks she slashed across two lanes of traffic and turned into the parking lot of an old warehouse. I continued past, then made a U-turn and eased up to the entrance. After chasing her across town my hands were knotted around the steering wheel, so I was happy to get off the street.
The warehouse was little more than a huge shed, rusting sheets of tin hung from a steel frame. A row of windows provided light and ventilation. Elaine’s car was parked at the side next to a blue Corvette. I pulled alongside the other cars and got out.

To my right was a loading dock, with a door set into the wall next to it. At the other end of the parking lot was a dumpster, with nothing beyond but a chain link fence.

There was no one in sight, but it wasn’t hard to figure out where she’d gone. I walked down to the dumpster and climbed on top. The window above was clotted with grime. I rubbed it clean and peered inside.

It looked like the Hollywood rummage sale. Racks of old costumes, a painted backdrop, odds and ends of furniture, a chaise lounge with an old rug heaped on it. There was a flash of light to my left. I pressed my cheek against the window for a better view.

The scene was surreal. In one corner of the warehouse, floodlights illuminated the interior of a Colorado cabin. Rough-hewn walls, a raw pine table, even a big bearskin rug. The “windows” looked out onto a snowy forest. Someone was speaking. Figures moved. There was a bright flash of light. More conversation, a woman’s voice. I realized someone was lying on the bearskin rug. She sat up–

And there she was, stark, staring nude.

I chuckled and jumped to the ground, ears burning. I’d learned more than I wanted to know about Elaine Boudreaux, but I was no closer to finding Steven Rhinehart.

Carlton Schiller was the palest man I’d ever seen, and white was the theme of his office. The white marble floor was covered with a vast expanse of cream-colored carpet. Schiller himself wore a white shirt, white suit, and white patent leather shoes. Only his tie added any color, a pale blue. His chrome-and-glass desk reflected and magnified the glare.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but where Elaine’s eyes had been deep and eloquent, Schiller’s eyes were hard little bits of flint, shields against the world. They matched the rest of him; the iceman cometh.

Schiller looked me over once, then smiled and stood up behind his desk. He was whip-thin, but when he shook my hand, it felt more like steel cable. “Have a chair, won’t you?” he said cordially. I thanked him and we sat down.

“We don’t get many private detectives around here,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

This was no time to be coy. “Steven Rhinehart has disappeared, and his wife has hired me to find him. He told her he had to meet a client, and he never came home. Was it you he was meeting with?”

He shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen him in some time, and then only socially. I take it you knew we were friends?”

“I’d heard as much,” I said. “I understand you also had a business relationship. He defended you in court several times?”

“Once, actually,” said Schiller. “A trumped-up charge he had dismissed.”

“And he defended some of your employees?” I prodded.

He leaned forward slowly. “Mr. Ross,” he said. “I’d prefer not to discuss the details of my business with Mr. Rhinehart. That’s why I hired an attorney of his discretion in the first place. Let’s move on, if you don’t mind.” He smiled. It didn’t reassure me.

“All right,” I said. “Have you seen him recently? Socially, I mean?” Schiller nodded. “Did he seem different? Troubled? Did he say anything that might lead you to believe something was bothering him?”

He laughed. “I can see you don’t know Steve,” he said. “He was never troubled. He was a badass, a stud. Total self-confidence. He knew what he wanted and he went and got it.”

“And he wanted…?” I said.

He shrugged. “Success. Money. Thousand dollar suits. Golf on Fridays. Women.” He saw my look, and nodded. “Steve’s not a saint, I’m afraid. His motto is ‘Variety is the spice of life.'”

“I see. I have reason to believe he was deeply involved with another woman. Do you think he’d give up his marriage?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” he said with another cool smile.

“He’d been giving this woman money,” I said. “I think he got her a place at the Riverside Apartments. He was probably staying there quite a bit himself.”

Schiller stared at me, jaw working silently. A flush crept into his cheeks. I thought he was going to say something, but instead he leaned back and slowly turned his chair to stare out the window. “Riverside Apartments?” he said. “Number 214?”

Well, hell. “You know Miss Boudreaux?” I said.

“Yes. We were all friends at school,” he said. “Friends for life. Did you ever have friends like that?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, Mr. Schiller,” I said.

“We were friends, Mr. Ross,” he said. “Steve, Elaine, myself. We did everything together. Steve and I both loved Elaine, I guess, but we never asked her to choose between us. So we were just friends. I guess things change.” He turned to face me. The mask was back in place.

He glanced at the clock on his desk. “I’m afraid I must say goodbye now, Mr. Ross,” he said. He pressed a button on his desk. “I’ve got a rather important meeting.”

“Just a few more questions-”

“I’m afraid not.” His looked over my shoulder and said, “Billy, please show Mr. Ross the door.”

I hadn’t heard him come in. A thick hand closed on my shoulder and nearly lifted me from the chair. “Let’s go,” said Billy.

Billy was big. He stood an inch or two taller than I did, and he didn’t miss too many meals. He had the broad shoulders of a farm boy and the smirk of a twelve year old bully.

I shook off the hand and got up. “Let’s go,” he said again.

“Hold on, Billy Bob,” I said. “I’m not through.”

Billy shoved me again. Clearly, I was through after all. As I headed for the door I looked Billy in the eye and said, “Fuck you, fatass.”

The next thing I knew, I was face down on the carpet with Billy’s knee digging a hole in my back. I tried to flip him off, but he was too big, too heavy. “Billy,” said Schiller calmly. “That’s enough.” The bulldozer climbed off my back. I rolled over and sat up. Billy was grinning stupidly, his hand out to help me up. I slapped it aside and got to my feet.

“Sorry, Mr. Ross,” said Schiller. “In my business, I have to employ people who aren’t, well, delicate.” It was nothing he did, nothing he said, but the man wore menace like cologne.

“Have a nice day,” I said.

* * * * *The next morning I went down to Rhinehart’s office for a look around. His staff bustled quietly, seemingly oblivious to the boss’ absence.

His private office was a case study in depersonalized efficiency. The only clue to the occupant’s identity was the name on his diploma. Bland corporate fixtures dominated, right down to the artwork on the walls.

Rhinehart’s case files showed the same lack of personality. He was a mechanic, a technician, finding every flaw in the prosecution’s case, never resorting to dramatics. Most of his cases never reached the jury. Hostile witnesses tended to change their stories under cross-examination; Schiller’s money and muscle definitely improved his winning percentage.

His bottom desk drawer didn’t yield to any of the keys that Helen Rhinehart had given me, so I forced it open. It contained a roll of money, a small caliber revolver, and a plastic bag of white powder. It could have been a lot of things, but I knew it wasn’t. Cocaine.

I got back to my office just before five. The phone rang as I opened the door. I grabbed it and said, “Hello? Hello?”

“Mr. Ross? This is Elaine Boudreaux.”

I hung my jacket on the doorknob and sat down. “Yes, Miss Boudreaux. What can I do for you?”

“Well, it’s about yesterday,” she said. “I’m afraid I wasn’t completely honest with you.”

“Well, I didn’t completely believe you, so I guess we’re even.”

“It’s very important that I talk to you,” she said quickly. “Can you come over to my place? Right away?”

“Sure. I’m leaving now.”

Rush-hour traffic held me up for half an hour. It was getting dark by the time I reached her apartment. I had my hand raised to knock on her door when I noticed it wasn’t latched. I nudged it open with my foot.

She lay on the floor beside a dozen red roses. A dark blotch just below her breast marred her evening gown. I knelt for a closer look. Two puncture wounds. Not much blood.

I pulled out my gun and slipped quietly through the living room. Nothing. Her bedroom was empty; same for the bathroom.

The door at the end of the hall was closed. I crept forward, nerves twitching. There was no sound anywhere in the apartment.

Someone had moved out in a hurry. Wire hangers were scattered about the closet floor. Dresser drawers stood open. I checked them anyway. Empty.

There was a picture frame face down next to the bedside table. I held my breath and gingerly lifted a corner. The glass was smashed, the picture gone. One of the shards gleamed redly.

“I went looking for the phone and found an answering machine instead, its light blinking insistently. I pressed Play. It told me all I needed to know. I stuck the tape in my pocket and headed downtown.

Billy was just getting out of his car when I passed in front of Schiller’s building. I drove around the corner and parked, then eased back as quietly as I could.

\He fumbled with his keys at the foyer door. I grabbed him by the hair and mashed his face against the glass, and screwed my gun into the back of his neck. “Good to see you again, Billy,” I whispered.

The lights were on in Schiller’s office. I kicked the door open, shoved Billy towards a chair. “Hello, Schiller.”

\He was cool as ever. “Put the gun away, Ross.”

“You’re not surprised to see me?”

\He shrugged. “I’d have to deal with you sooner or later. No time like the present.”

“Pick up the phone,” I said. “Dial 911.”

“Let’s talk, Ross. What do you want?”

\My fingers tightened around the gun. “Nothing you can give me. You’re going to jail, Schiller.”

“Put that thing away and sit down,” he said. “You’re safe in my office, and even if you weren’t, that gun wouldn’t help you.”

He had a point. I stuck the gun in my coat pocket and sat down. “A love triangle. A bit old fashioned, eh?”

“It wasn’t supposed to be that way. A little loyalty, a little respect, and she’d be home painting her nails.”

“Well, she’s not. And your buddy’s not around to get you off this time.” I pointed to the phone..“Pick it up.”

“I’m not going to jail,” he said, eyes cold. “You need to accept that if you want to go on living. Now come on, you’re a businessman. Let’s do business.”

“I looked over at Billy, grinning stupidly over by the wall, then back to Schiller. I licked my lips. “The cops will want a killer.”

“You have someone in mind?”

I ticked off points on my hand. “Someone was seen in the area. Someone left evidence all over the apartment. Hell, he even cut himself. Someone is too stupid to get rid of the murder weapon.”

Billy was wheezing, his eyes wide and staring. “Come on, Carl,” he said. “This ain’t funny.”

Schiller didn’t look at him. “What am I buying?”

“There’s a tape,” I said. “You called her this afternoon, told her to get ready to go out. I know where it is.”

The blue eyes behind the desk shifted to Billy and back to me. “Why?” he said.

“A bird in the hand,” I said. “Come on, Schiller. You need me. You’re a criminal. The cops won’t just take your word for something like this.”

Schiller slowly turned to look at Billy. “Since you put it that way”

Billy flicked his wrist and I was looking at four inches of razor-sharp steel. He lunged forward with a roar. I jumped up and kicked the chair away, fumbling for my gun.

Schiller was faster than either of us. I never saw him move, but before Billy could take a step he shot him three times with a long barreled Colt .22. Billy gasped, swayed as blood leaked out of his chest. He stumbled and Schiller shot him again. Billy fell heavily and slid to the floor. He sighed peacefully and lay still.

Schiller turned towards me, the gun still in his hand. “You bastard,” I said. “You already had your gun out. You were going to kill him anyway.”

He laid the gun on his desk and picked up the phone. “Some business advice,” he said. “Never buy what you can get for free.” And there was nothing in those baby blues at all.

* * * * *I went out to see Helen Rhinehart two days later. Her house – their house – turned out to be a modest bungalow out by the lake. “Oh, hello, Mr. Ross,” she said as she opened the door. “I was hoping I’d hear from you today.”

“May I come in?”

“Oh, please do. Would you like some tea?”

I said that I would, and she left me in the den.

“It was a comfortable room, cozy even, with a pair of overstuffed chairs and a well-worn sofa. A thick rug covered the hardwood floor. The windows were large and bright, giving the room an open, airy feel. Mrs. Rhinehart returned with the tea, and we sat down to drink it.

I took a few sips, then carefully set my teacup on the coffee table. “I’ve almost finished my final report.”

She tried to smile. It wasn’t pretty. “My husband’s dead, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“That man – Schiller – had him killed? Over a woman?”

“I wish it were that simple, Mrs. Rhinehart,” I said. “Schiller didn’t know your husband was seeing Elaine Boudreaux until I told him. Four days after your husband was killed.” I looked at her, not hard, but steady. “Isn’t that right?”

“I don’t know what you mean…”

“Helen,” I said. “Just tell me what happened.”

“Well” she said, “I…” She buried her face in her hands. Sobs racked her body.

I let her go on for half a minute before I got up and walked to the window.

“It was a glorious day outside. The lake was as still as I’d ever seen it. If not for a fleet of ducks sculling towards shore I could have believed it was a photograph. Behind the house, the land sloped away gently. A dock jutted out into the water. “When was it?” I said.

“It was last Thursday. Steven came home late from work, as usual. I’d had dinner waiting for an hour. While I was getting the food out of the oven he said he had to go to New Orleans for the weekend. For business. He was lying, and I told him so.” Her voice shook. “He looked up, stared at me. Told me not to talk back. I said I didn’t have to take this and I wouldn’t anymore. His face got redder and redder. Then he slapped me.”

She choked back a sob. “I didn’t know how to react. He’d never struck me before. I just stood there. He smiled and slapped me again. Then he sat down and started eating. I went and got his gun and shot him in the back.”

“He didn’t even make a sound,” she said, “He just slumped over. When I realized what I’d done I panicked. I dragged his body down to the lake and hid it under the dock. Then I put everything away, and pretended he was just out of town.”

I turned and looked at her. Tragedy had lent her a special beauty.

“Why did you bring me into it?” I said. She gestured aimlessly. I grabbed her arm and said, “Two more people are dead, and I want to know why!”

Tears rolled down her face again. “Those people Once he was kind. He cared. Then they took him away from me. They killed him inside. They deserved what they got. The wages of sin are death.”

“Yeah, well,” I said. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

I walked out the front door and headed around the side of the house and down to the shoreline. I sat down on the grass and pulled off my shoes and socks. The water was cold.

A week under the dock hadn’t done Rhinehart much good. He’d been good looking before the fish got to him. His eyes were wide open, surprised. I slipped a hand inside his collar and hauled him out from between the pilings.

As I pulled him up on the grass I heard a sound from the house. A chill went through me, and again I heard Helen’s voice saying I put everything away.

The gun.

I dropped Rhinehart’s body and raced up the slope, the pulse in my head pounding out too late, too late, too late.


Graham Powell is a lifelong resident of Shreveport, Louisiana, where many of his stories are set. He was hooked on the Hardy Boys at an early age and has been a mystery fan ever since. Currently his favorite authors include George P. Pelecanos and Bill Pronzini. In addition to writing and a full time job as a computer engineer, Graham runs Bleeker Books, a cyber store specializing in books by writers of classic noir like Charles Williams and Fredric Brown, in addition to more recent authors. In his free time, he likes playing with his two children.

Copyright © 2001 by Graham Powell.

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