Serialized

The Spill of Sangria Blood

He laid there with the end of an orange silicone dart stuck in his right eye. The point pushed out his skull telling me the tranquilizer dart went through his brain before breaking the skin on the back of his head. 

From the wound, a stream of sangria-colored blood spilled onto the brick path. I figured the killer exhaled a lot of hot air with a blowpipe or the dart ripped from a gun filled with too much compressed gas. Either way, this murder ended the life of my good friend Tom Danty. I intend to find the killer and shove the blowpipe up his ass.

My job borders on the mundane. I hear guest stories, patrol the zoo grounds, and write citations for dogs off their leash. Murder does not make the top of the list. Apart from the gruesomeness of seeing Tom’s dead body, I am pissed. I have a reputation to seek justice, which I plan to do even if it takes giving up my retirement job as a zoo security guard to find the killer.

Tom Danty was a friend, my boss, and the head zookeeper. We pledged the same fraternity, and he begged me to come to work for him after I retired as the Diablo Valley Sheriff. 

He worked late hours, loved telling stories of paranormal oddities, and was a bachelor. I counted Tom among my few friends who work at the zoo. He sometimes joined me for a drink with zoologist Amy Peters, who spends too much time doting on primates, herpetologist Frank Withers, who ponders poisonous toads and Scotch whisky, and my employee and nephew Mark Leary, my sister’s boy. Mark is more of a son than a steady assistant.

Being Friday, we met at Spinnakers Bar for happy hour, nachos, and a chance to wash away the week. This time Tom begged off saying he needed to think. I figured it was something else. He always chose to read a book over drinking at a bar. So I said goodbye and the rest of us rushed to Spinnakers to drink mojitos and tell jokes.

We learned of Tom’s murder by accident; the bartender passed it on to our waitress who passed it on me. Everyone at the table ran to learn what happened.

We arrived behind the tortoise enclosure as the patrol officers taped off the scene. I recognized Tom right away and so did Amy because she fainted. Mark caught her before she fell. Frank drank too much whiskey before our dash and wandered off to the nearest bench to hold his head. I fell right into my sheriff hat.

“What murder weapon did that?” I saw the damage went beyond the usual bullet. The detective ignored me. Spend two weeks off the force and you are a memory. Spend ten years in retirement and you might as well be dead.

“Unless you are the killer, I suggest you step back there behind the tape,” said the dick. “Maybe you don’t recognize me?”

“How’s that?”

“I used to be your boss, Sheriff Torly Stone.” He stepped back and scrutinized my face before shaking my hand.

“The name’s Winters. Bill Winters,” the detective said. “Sorry. I joined the department two years ago.”

“No worries. I’m chief of security here. Danty was my boss.”

“I’m sure you wanted him dead.” Winters chuckled at the private joke. I did not appreciate the humor. Still, I knew better than to show disgust and make myself a suspect. I chuckled and let it go.

Winters bit the end of his pencil and I could tell he was struggling to come up with a question. Waiting for me to talk, I thought. 

“Danty only knew a few of us and he stayed home,” I offered, as Winters continued to munch on the eraser. 

“I don’t get why he was behind the turtles?” Winters said. “Did he often take walks after the zoo closed?”

Danty should have been home. There was no reason for him to be wandering the zoo. He enjoyed Friday night as much as anyone, in his own way. I refused to speculate; there had to be a good reason.

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© 2019, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.


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