Detective Pete Jansen shouldered the handset to his ear and scribbled into his notebook.
“Okay. Got it. Thanks,” he said. The unmistakable sound of an old phone being hung up reached the ears of his partner, Gerry Sharpe. She knew right away it was not a regular hang-up, but a more urgent one.
“What’s up?” she asked, peering over her laptop.
“They found a body.” Pete already had one arm into a sport jacket big enough to cover his desk. “C’mon, were going to Stonington.”
“That’s near Fishers Island. ‘Bout time that dude turned up,” she said as she got up and pulled her jacket off the back of her chair.
“Dudette,” Pete said flatly. “Floater’s a woman. They’re saying it’s June Caruso.”
“Stonington is a small harbor. We don’t get a heck of a lotta bodies floating around here,” the Harbormaster said from behind an old steel desk. He pulled off his sun faded cap and ran a knobby hand through his white hair. Leaning back, he gestured toward two ladder-back chairs against the wall. The Detectives sat.
“One of our locals pulled her up in a net. Couldn’t have been dead all that long. Most of her face was still intact. Not so much the back of her head. I’m no expert, but I’d say she’d been shot. Family’s already ID’d her,” he said sadly, as if he’d been through that gruesome process. “Anyway, I heard about that fella went missing up in Chocomont Cove. Same name, Caruso. Thought I’d better call you guys.”
“‘Preciate it,” Pete said and pulled out his notebook. “They were married.”
“Interesting,” the Harbormaster said looking over his glasses.
“Very interesting. Not sure what to make of it. What time was she found?”
“‘Bout four in the afternoon.”
“We were supposed to meet her at four,” Gerry chimed in.
“It appears you’re late.” The old Harbormaster cracked.
“Was the body tied up, weighted?” Pete asked.
“Oh yeah. Standard 5/8 line. Big ass Danforth anchor and–this is weird–a thirty pound kettle bell.”
“Exercise equipment,” Gerry said. “It’s a round metal thing with a big loop handle so you can swing it. The weight is usually marked right on ’em. Maybe June Caruso was an exercise nut.”
Pete nodded and noted.
“I’d like to talk to the fisherman. If it’s okay,” he said.
“Sure. Last slip down the end of this dock. Should be there right now. Name’s Ferguson, John Ferguson. Captain of the Cara-Lyn. ” The Harbormaster pointed out the window.
“Where’s the body now? I need to talk to forensics.”
“In Hartford. We got nothing like that here.”
“Right. Seems fairly straightforward. Your guy pulls up June Caruso in his net, she’s obviously been shot in the head, body’s been identified by family, and we have no idea who did it,” Pete said and tucked his notebook into his jacket. “That’s all I got. Gerry?”
“What kind of knots were used,” she asked. “Might tell us something about the murderer.”
“Don’t know. Bet John would.”
“We’ll go see him now,” Pete said. “Anything else Gerry?”
“I’m good,” she said.
“Thank you for your time Harbormaster.”
“Anytime guys. Good luck with the investigation.” They all stood and shook hands. Pete held the door for Gerry.
“Detectives,” the Harbormaster called out as they were leaving.
“Ya?” Pete answered.
“I’ve been haunting the waterfront a wicked long time. There’s something I’ve heard more than once.”
“What’s that?” Pete asked, turning toward the older man.
“If you want to kill somebody and get away with it, do it at sea.”
Pete and Gerry headed off toward the fishing boat Cara-Lyn. Lobster traps, buoys, and various pieces of marine equipment lined the edges of the aging dock. Sea gulls roamed at will, many preferring to perch on the rigging of the untidy working vessels that were docked sometimes four abreast in the crowded harbor. The whole place smelled of fish, diesel, and old wood.
“What did the Harbormaster mean by that “killing at sea” remark?” Gerry asked. “It sounded so sinister.”
“I totally get what he was saying. I mean, take a look around. There’s like a thousand boats. And that’s just the ones we can see. You got one guy policing this whole area. He can’t be everywhere. Once you cruise your boat out of the harbor you’re completely on your own, and usually alone to do whatever the heck you want.”
“What about the Coast Guard?”
“Wicked underfunded. And besides, there are hundreds of thousands of square miles of open water. There’s just no possible way to watch all of it.”
“Doesn’t seem right, or safe,” Gerry offered.
“Boating isn’t safe. Not totally. Heard tell it’s part of the attraction, that element of danger, being left to your own devices and such. Man versus the sea. It’s kinda exciting. Don’t you think?”
“Holy crap Pete. You sound like a boater.”
“Ha! I wish.”
“Well why not?”
“Ya know. Bills.The job. No money, no time.”
The pair stuck out like a sore thumb. Pete, a large man in his brown suit and Oxford’s, and Gerry, a trim woman neatly dressed all in black. They would have seemed unusual anywhere, but here on the working dock, they couldn’t have been more at odds with their surroundings if they were wearing fancy evening clothes.
“Told me you’d be coming by,” Captain John Fergusson said without looking up. He sat on the gunwale amidst a pile of fishing nets and engine parts.
“Sorry to keep you from your work,” Pete said and thrust out his hand. “Pete Jansen. And this is Detective Sharpe.”
“Just as well. Got plenty to do,” he answered and swept a ropy arm proudly towards his salty fishing boat. “This old girl is way past her prime. Held together with bubble gum and duct tape,” he said as he wiped his hands on a rag. “Gotta get another season out of ‘er,” he smiled. “That’s exactly what I said last year.”
Pete ignored the grimy hand and shook it firmly.
“Heard you had quite a day, Captain.”
“Call me John.” The smile left his face. “Yup. Quite a shocker.”
“I know sweetheart. It wasn’t one of my better days, but I’m so happy they’re together. Such a nice couple. Remember how nice they were to you? What’s that? Yes, yes of course we can dock soon. Huh? I know dear. We all have needs.”