The Mystery of the First to Find SocietyMark Hall / Mystery & Detective
The Mystery of the First to Find Society
By Mark Hall
Copyright 2016 74Blues Publishing
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Table of Contents
Ms. Joyce Wilkes, Fullington Academy Librarian, retired. This wonderful young lady fed this kid books until he couldn’t consume any more.
I took the fishing rod from Chris with a look of aggravation. I looked down at the Abu Garcia bait casting reel and the unbelievable bird’s nest tangle of line coming from every direction. With a sigh, I took out my knife and just started cutting away at the line. Normally, I would try to work out the backlash but this very well could have been the worst I’ve seen. It was terrible.
“This is terrible” I said.
“Well, you know” he said, “I just don’t get the thumb thing”.
“Look,” I said, “just pick up that 33 and use it until I get this straight”.
“But that’s Brad’s” he responded.
“Brad isn’t with us and that was Brad’s when he was seven. It is almost impossible to get it to hang up or backlash or break”.
He picked up the rod and brushed off the old cobwebs that were there from the rod sitting in the garage for several months. It hadn’t been used much since Brad was now sixteen and using a bait casting reel like the one I was working on. It sat in the garage through winter and now we were sitting in a boat outside of Marshallville at my Uncle Danny’s pond. It was early March and I was trying to coach Chris on the finer points of bass fishing. Apparently, fishing was not in his upbringing wherever that had been. He had been dropped into my life a couple years ago as part of the witness protection program. I am a US Marshal based out of Macon and since he was my charge, I set him up near my own home in Warner Robins and got him a job down at Ace Hardware in Perry but that hadn’t lasted long because we discovered he had talents.
These talents or gifts or training had been unbelievable at first when he started helping out law enforcement around the area. He was amazing in his ability to see things that might have happened, especially in that mess with the dogfighters and again with the copper thieves and their operation down on Echeconnee creek. We have kept him out of the news but it has been difficult given the number of calls we keep getting from law enforcement friends needing help. His reputation was getting around in sheriff departments and the GBI and I was more and more concerned about keeping his identity secret. Marshals don’t handle witness protection but that night he got delivered was unique; more like protecting a person than witness protection. No paperwork, no names, just a call from my boss directing me to take him in from the people dropping him off. He didn’t know who this guy was and I sure didn’t either.
We gave him the name Chris Calhoun and went from there but he was as much a mystery then as he is now. He had some experience in forensics and detection, which was obvious. But he was clearly inexperienced in field work so I wasn’t sure what his life had been. He wasn’t from here and that was obvious, too. Where I am a poster for middle-aged, divorced, country boy; he was clearly not. I like to eat and not exercise and he ate a lot of vegetables and jogged all the time. I have a short haircut of whatever hair is left up there and he had longer brown hair that fell over his eyes all the time. He seemed to enjoy pulling it out of his face and grinning at me. He took his cap off and brushed the hair back then put it back on – all while smiling at me.
“You can have hair or you can catch fish but not both” I said. I finally put up the rod I was working on and started swapping out the lure I was using, a Shad Rap made to imitate a small bait fish. I clipped the line and tied on a hook then reached into the tackle box and came out with a lime green lizard.
“What is that, a salamander?” Chris asked.
“Salamander, lizard, whatever.” I answered as I casted out toward the bank. I began my slow retrieve back over and between the few lily pads on that side of the boat.
“Know why bass hit lizards?” I asked.
Just at that moment an explosion of force hit the lizard I was reeling in and I jerked back on the rod to set the hook. The bass fought against the line but I was able to reel her in and a minute or so later was holding her up and smiling at my friend.
“Why do bass hit lizards?” Chris asked.
“Meanness” I said, “just out of meanness. They hate ‘em.”
An hour or so later, I received a call from a Department of Natural Resources friend up on Butts County, Laura Brock. There had been a death at High Falls, the state park right off Interstate 75.
“Somebody playing on the rocks?” I asked.
“Maybe so”, she answered, “but there is something you need to see. And bring your friend”.
My friend, of course, was Chris who has been becoming known in law enforcement areas. Especially DNR since that mess on the Echeconnee last summer.
“Like what kind of something I need to see?”
“This guy had on scuba gear”.
“Was it at the falls or in the lake?” I asked, guessing the lake.
“I doubt he was in the lake. I am not sure where he started but we found him at the base of the falls just before the old mill site”.
“The water’s up, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s up pretty good with all this rain we’ve had lately”.
I filled Chris in on our conversation on the way to High Falls State Park which is ten minutes or so above Forsyth and about an hour from where we were. It is a favorite getaway spot for families in the area with its scenic waterfalls, picnic area and camping, and High Falls Lake.
The road to High Falls runs over the top of the Towaliga River which feeds the lake and falls. People were gathered on the sidewalk of the bridge overlooking the crime scene. We turned just before the bridge to the driveway that leads to the old mill. The road drops down and pretty good rate with the river on the right just next to the old brick and concrete mill. There were dozens of deputies and DNR folks up and down and around the river and the mill area. The coroner’s van was already there. A deputy motioned for us to drive over to the left side parking area. When we got out of my truck, the roar of the river falling down on the rocks through dozens of smaller cascades and falls was so loud we almost had to yell at each other to be heard.
Laura met us as we walked up to the crime scene. She was a short, blonde, and tanned from being outside everyday even though it was March. We’d known each other for quite some time as this lake was a favorite of mine.
“I know this isn’t one for the Marshal Service but I heard about what you two did down on the Echeconnee and I thought this might be interesting to you”, she shouted then leaned over to Chris, “and you’d be helpful to us. The Sheriff is here and he agreed”.
I introduced Chris to her. “Have they moved him yet?” Chris asked over the roar.
“They were just about to” Laura replied. She was clearly looking at him for a little bit longer than normal. Chris just seemed to look out of place sometimes in the circles we ran in from time to time. Whereas jeans and thick short-sleeved shirts and boots are the usual uniform for me and most my friends, his were much more fashionable for downtown than outside of town. I finally got him a pair of boots for days like this because I was tired of hearing him whine about messing up his loafer or whatever they’re called.
We made our way down to the body which had been pulled up on to the grassy bank just in the shadow of the mill by the campers who found him. I have been down on this side of the river many times when camping with my son and I figured the water level was a good five or six feet above its normal bank. Not flooding but certainly high. The water in this section of the Towaliga is deadly; the river flows over an exposed rocky bed that dips into pools and also hides sharp boulders and debris like stumps or tree limbs. The river widens, too, in high water – I guessed it was a good 200 to 250 across to the other side. This was one long series of cascades and pools; we were probably two hundred yards from the bridge and another two hundred to the lake.
Chris went straight to the body and I walked over to the Sheriff, Gerald Taylor. I wanted to deflect some of the attention from Chris to avoid too many questions. After a few minutes of looking over the body, Chris looked downstream then up at the falls. The water was high and roaring past with tremendous volume. I know some kayakers can play in this stuff but I had never heard of anyone trying to scuba in it.
The dead man was on his back with his feet