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Sunday Serial: ‘Haunted Bones’-Chapter Six

Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.

The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.

— Tom Morrow

Chapter 6

Joe was about ten minutes late arriving at Sara’s condo. He found the complex all right but had some trouble weaving his way back to the area where she lived. He inadvertently drove past it several times because her address numbers were slightly hidden by a Japanese Red Maple. Using his prowess—the process of elimination—he finally homed in on the number. But finding a parking spot was another matter. He just parked on the curb and turned on his flashers. Hopefully the non-descript dark blue Crown Victoria that resembled a police car would keep the tow trucks away. Besides, he wasn’t staying overnight; just picking up his date.

“Joe, good to see you again! Have any trouble finding the place?”

“Nope, came right to it. No problems.”

“Good. Would you like a glass of wine before heading out?”

“Well, probably not. You see I’m parked on the curb with my flashers on and…”

“All the visitor’s spaces were full. Right?”

“All full and…”

“I understand. We’ve had that problem a long time now. Doesn’t seem to be a fix because there’s not enough land to expand. And we’ve got some neighborhood watch-goon walking around keeping an eye on folks who park on the curbs. That’s been a problem, too. Let me just get my coat and we’ll head on out.”

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

“Where’re we going?”

“Thought we’d head down to San Diego. You like fish?”

“Yes, I love fish!”

Without much ado, they got into the car. Instead of the hustle and bustle of taking Interstate 5, more commonly known as the San Diego Freeway, he decided on the lesser of the evils and take the Coastal Highway where he’d eventually hook up with North Harbor Drive in San Diego and work his way around the bay over to the restaurant. It was a little more time consuming than the freeway, but there was some decent ocean scenery along the way; and it was a nice evening for a drive. Besides, neither was in a hurry. It had been a long day for the both of them, and a casual drive seemed to fit the bill.

“So, we’re in the official ride tonight, huh?”

“Well, no, not really. We’re not allowed to use our work cars for personal use. But this car used to be with the department. I bought it when they were rotating the fleet. My twelve-year-old Pontiac blew a head gasket passing a semi out on the San Diego Freeway one day. Found out it was going cost more to fix than the car was worth. Ended up selling it to the mechanic for a hundred bucks.”

“Bad break.”

“Yeah, I suppose. But it worked out okay. I bought this puppy for a grand. Got some miles on it, but the engine is in good shape. Had the cylinders checked and the compression is holding. Also put some new tiger paws on the wheels. So, it’s in pretty good shape. Not so good on gas, but I don’t do a lot of driving. And it’s a lot more comfortable than that dog I was driving.”

“Yes, this car is comfortable.”

For the next fifteen minutes or so the subject turned to gasoline prices, the Keystone pipeline, Obama Care, who was going to be the GOP candidate for president, and whether or not the Iranians were going to nuke the world. No. The Israelis would make sure they didn’t. Nonetheless, it was anybody’s guess as to what anybody was going to do. But there was one thing for sure: gas prices were going crazy.

“What decided you to get into law enforcement?” Sara asked wanting to get away from the depressing news.

“My ex-father-in-law.”

“How so if I should be so bold to ask?”

“Well, I’ll try to keep the story as short as I can so as not to bore you with it. I went to San Diego State and majored in Sociology. I seem to have a knack for communicating with people, especially kids. I don’t want to say I’m gifted, but I really enjoy working with young people. I thought if I could help young kids from going down a destructive path, they just might have a better chance at life.”

“You were naïve, right?”

“Yeah, I was. My first year working with a youth services agency did open up my eyes a lot more than I expected. But I came to grips with it and hung in there until…”

“Your ex-father-in-law came into the picture.”

“Exactly. Right after college I married this gal I had met there. She was studying finance. She no doubt had money on her mind. And of course, me, I’m in a profession that doesn’t pay all that great. I should have seen that train wreck coming, but I didn’t.

“After a few years working, my wife ended up being the bread winner of the household. She kept making subtle hints that I should be more aggressive and start pursuing something that paid more. Unbeknownst to me, she had already been talking with her father.”

“Let me guess. He was well-to-do?”

“Are you reading my mind?”

“No, not hardly. Your story was having telltale signs.”

“Well, I suppose it does. Anyway, he offered me a position with his company; he owned a large insurance agency. He was going to pay me three times over what I was making.”

“Seemed like a logical move.”

“So I thought. I took the job to make everybody happy.”

“But you weren’t happy?”

“No! I hated it almost from day one. After about a year, I threw in the towel. And when I did that, all hell broke loose. Soon after that my wife and father-in-law became exes.”

“Doing some things to please others can cause problems.”

“Boy, don’t I know it!”

“And this led to your career in law enforcement?”

“More or less. My sociology degree got me in the door pretty quick, but I still had to go through the training academy. It was a lot more physical than I expected, but I got through it okay. Did lose about fifteen pounds which have no doubt returned.”

“You started patrol duty first, I assume.”

“Yeah, everybody does. But after a few years on the street, I went to work as a resource officer in one of the larger high schools because of my former work with youth. To some degree, I was back in my element. After a few years, I was promoted to corporal.”

“You must’ve felt proud.”

“I did feel proud. I was doing something I really liked.”

“Then what?”

“My commanders started noticing my work ethics as well as my closure rate.”

“Closure rate?”

“Yeah. It’s how many cases an officer solves without bringing in someone from the detective unit. I had a good rate and people in the department noticed. Then one day I was asked if I’d like to join the juvenile unit. A corporal position had just opened up and it needed filling. They thought I would be a good candidate for it.”

“And that’s when you gave up the uniform?”

“Somewhat. I still have the uniform; but yeah, that’s pretty much how it happened. Had to take some test and be interviewed a few times. Did good there. I was pleased. Of course, the position paid a little more, too. My exes would have been proud of that. But that’s history now.”

“How long have you been with Danny?”

“About four years now. After a couple of years with the juvi unit, I got promoted to sergeant. When that happened, I moved over to the criminal unit and replaced a position vacated by Danny’s partner, who went to N.E.T. So almost overnight, I went from the juvi division to the criminal division. But more specifically, we specialize in homicides.”

Continued on Page Two–>>