Thanks to my ring tone, Def Leppard jerked me out of a jasmine-scented dream where I’d been comfortable, lying next to my sweet departed wife Rainee, and into the lonely and harsh one a.m. tang of two-day-stale coffee that languished inches from my face in the half-empty cup I’d abandoned on the nightstand.
My tongue is thick with morning mouth, but I snatch up the phone and answer. “Maroon, here.”
“Captain Plunket here. We need your help locating a body. SR 12, three miles east from Telegraph.”
I would dearly rather return to my dream, but duty calls. I rise, dress, chug down a leftover cup of cold coffee sitting on the kitchen counter, and, as I head out the door, snatch my ‘Y’ shaped rosewood wand from the coat rack just inside the front door.
Outside the early morning is bitter with moist cold, it stings my face and hands during the short walk to the garage. Small patches of ice crunch between the concrete and my shoes, and mesquite smoke from wood stoves warming cold houses hangs thick in the air.
The skin of my left hand sticks to the shiny surface of the door handle like I’ve licked a metal fence post. The cold from the steering wheel wheedles its way into my bones.
Just to reassure myself it is still there in the dark, I reach out and caress the wand on the seat next to me. The rosewood is smooth, and emanates the stored warmth from the house. The rough idling car spews exhaust that hangs in the enclosed garage like a cloud, and invades the passenger compartment with its stench. The door rolls up with a touch of the remote, and I back out, leaving the fumes trapped inside.
Headlights and streetlights illuminate a six foot thick icy fog suspended in the darkness at hood height. It swirls around the car as I plow through the morning.
The police call it a scene, as if the victim plays out the last moments of her life in some final movie act. But they don’t call me to judge or criticize their operation, they call me to help them find the lost. Victims mostly, and sometimes criminals. I am the Huntington Police Department’s official dowser.
I know the location of the crime scene because there are four marked police cars festooned with yellow, “Police Line Do Not Cross,” tape parked across the entrance to a dry riverbed. A wary officer stationed between the vehicles watches me as I approach. He nonchalantly moves his right hand to rest it on the butt of his holstered weapon, his fingers lightly curl around the hand grips. I’ve been involved with the department long enough not to be offended. Perpetrators often return to the scene of the crime.
“Devlin Maroon,” I mutter. The drive over hasn’t done much to make me more lucid. He extends the clipboard for my signature. After I sign in, he points to a point farther up the riverbed where a clump of three officers are huddled in a small clearing.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” I say as I walk up.
All three turn and look at me. “Hi’ya, Mr. Maroon,” one of the older men responds. He looks too chipper for the time, place, and occasion of our meeting. But then, two in the morning is probably the middle of his workday, and he’s grown acquainted with such tragedy and accustomed to the hours.
“Why is it we’re waiting for this guy,” the youngest of the three pipes up as he jabs his finger my direction, “out here at o’dark-thirty?”
The older officer, Harris, nudges him with enough force the young man stumbles away from the group, his grunt of surprise sends a cloud of steam billowing from his mouth into the pine scented moonlight.
“So what? We’re out here for like, some kind of full-moon, witchy kind of thing?” he says, but now he’s far enough from his senior officer that he doesn’t receive another nudge, but Harris glares at him with enough force to shut his mouth.
-- Excerpt from The Dowser