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Chapter 14: "Custom Of The Sea"

The sheriff's office bagged up Santos' late aunt with the swordfish mount still threaded through her body. Obviously, they decided, it might  create an even bigger sloppy mess in the floor of the tavern if they tried to unhook her at the scene. It was a taxidermist's worst joke, but it was no joke. And if those at the wake had sheepishly regained their bender after its subject's ashes had been fumbled into the mud and rain at the graveyard, they, after the filthy demise of Santos' aunt on the hardwood floor of Kelly Sammys, were outright bashful about the resumption of the wet mourning. But they continued, did they.

Around 9 o'clock Saturday evening, the county phoned Smith regarding the new addition to the Pierce County Coroner's collection of oddities. The rain storm had continued all day, and at dusk it went from buckets to barrels, steadily with no sign of cessation. The low pressure parked itself overhead and loosened itself onto the weekend and maybe the whole week to come. A gale warning offshore. The storm sewers rose while the daytime highs and the nighttime lows dropped. Smith decided to let the world spin on its own and left the various corpus dilecti alone until tomorrow if not Monday.

Dispatch also called Coroner Thompson regarding Janice Allison's skewering with the stuffed swordfish, and she also opted to deal with it not until business hours resumed. Earlier Saturday afternoon, Dixie had also taken a call from Thurston County Coroner Ben Jones regarding the disappearance of the gutted Great White they had “sharktopsied” on Thursday—within which they had discovered Firepie Beaver of the demised, unlucky, frequently undead Chino Wheeled Beavers banked track women's roller derby squad. He said they still had (what was left of) Firepie—in fact, as Jones had not taken steps to preserve the abominable womanimal cadaver, and he reported it had (rather than quickening from the dead, as had more than a handful of these things done in recent weeks) begun properly decomposing. So far.

So, beyond spilling Santos in the mud at her own funeral, and the following shish kebabization of her aunt, and the erstwhile land dwelling sharks disappearing from the Thurston and Pierce county morgues, nothing else too wacky occurred Saturday, despite Detective Thompson's wry warning to Smith. But, Thompson's was still a valuable and honest caveat to be disregarded only by fools. The rest of the night in Tacoma went OK, the local women's banked track roller derby squad, the Davey Jones Lickers, won their match on the week's anniversary of their parking lot massacre — though, granted, it was a road game.

The wind and the rain persevered through the night. Instead of bringing sunlight, the dawn brought with it a wintry mix. The phone at Lt. MacKinney's home rang during breakfast Sunday. The call was from the investigative unit of the Coast Guard Seattle Sector, and they said they wanted to talk with whomever at the Washington State Police was investigating the shark-and-doglady-related murders. The man did not elaborate during the conversation, though the context was plain of course: That is, this zombie business was no longer a matter landlocked now. The lieutenant gave the man contact information for both of his involved detectives. MacKinney explained that it was not restricted to Tacoma—although it was admittedly a hot spot, and he mentioned that there had also been some new activity at the Port of Olympia Marine Terminal.


Smith and Thompson met with the Coast Guard investigator at the diner near their office for lunch. His story was well suited to the dark weather. All three of them ordered chicken fried steak and tea.

“This morning about 2 a.m., a commercial fishing vessel in the Sound contacted us. They were unable to raise a fellow fleet vessel who was also out last night, the Blint Mary. The captain estimated their last radio communication with them was about midnight, and that the Blint Mary was probably approximately at the mouth of the sound when they lost communication. But there was no EPIRB or any other distress signal. Just suddenly off the air, they said. About 3 a.m., one of our patrol boats painted something, adrift about 30 miles west of Ozette Lake. It was the Blint Mary. Out of fuel and crewless. None living anyway. I don't really know how to describe what we found, but I can show it to you. We towed her down to Westport,” the officer said. They all continued working at their chicken fried steaks. Cold rain ran down the diner's glass window next to the booth where they sat.

“Did you find some wolfladies on that boat, commander?” Thompson asked.

“Yep,” he answered. “And some pieces of the crew, and some sharks. I can't tell if it was some kind of orgy gone south or if it started out the way it ended. I would like the two of you to go look at it this afternoon.”

The detectives agreed. They finished their lunches, then had a couple of coffees before getting back out into the weather.


Smith and Thompson followed their friend in Thompson's sedan. It took them about two hours to get there. It was a rainy, hilly drive. “I guess you heard about what happened to Santos' aunt yesterday afternoon,” Smith said.

“Yep. I heard that after Tina got spilled like so much bongwater by the hippies at her own graveside service,” Thompson said, “she took a stuffed swordfish, in through the neck, out through the southern can. Ouch.”

“Your heard right. What a very screwy mess. And, Dixie says the sharks are gone from the body locker. Nothing left but piles of sand. Ben Jones also called up from Thurston County to tell Dixie their Great White's gone too,” Smith reported.

“Welcome to the rest of your life. MacKinney is going to have to pull us off these unsolvable cases if he wants us to get any work done. Or otherwise hire a hundred people to muck around bagging up zombies,” Thompson exclaimed, and honestly so. He was right, Smith thought. This was a waxing boondoggle.

“I think you're right. How would you prosecute a zombie wolf...or a shark?,” Smith said. “Ridiculous. You know, I wonder if they can talk? Maybe if we could catch one—a live one—maybe then we could make some progress.”
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