March 3, 2036. I finally have the time to take a vacation. Or, more accurately, the police chief told me that I had to take the time. He had decided that he was tired of finding me in the coroner’s office, especially since there weren’t any active murder investigations that required my attention.
With reluctance, I found myself a diving shop in the inlands of the Keys. Many of the charters close to the beaches had already shut down, a consequence of rising sea levels and the bill that prevented the further development of land in the area. With the stretching maw of the sea threatening to swallow all that was in her path, I could understand why the government decided on such an action, even if they disguised it as a means of safety for evacuating in the case of a hurricane.
Almost every shop I went to greeted me with red and white foreclosure tape. It seemed like the world didn’t want me to get away from my criminal investigations either. Though I couldn’t understand how any dive shop could close in a place such as this. The Florida reefs were a popular attraction back in the day. Even when in Columbia, Illinois I found my way down here when I was 16 to receive my PADI open water certification. I wanted to be a marine scientist back then, but a lot had changed in the following five years that lead to my career as a detective.
The captain of the boat wasn’t a jolly fellow. His face was taut, with a permanent scowl that created vertical trenches between sea cucumber eyebrows that crawled with every comment I made about the nice weather and the turquoise waves. For someone as young as he was, probably only in his early 30’s, he looked as though he had seen someone get away with murder. His jaw was clenched tightly together, like two tectonic plates grinding against one another, only breaking apart to unleash a grumbling earthquake once I had disturbed the little peace he held. While his pale cheeks caught the sparkling sea spray and contrasted against dull, lifeless, umber eyes. This was a kind of face I had seen before.
July 3, 2017. John Lenzie Creech was charged with voluntary manslaughter after brutally beating Gavin Smith to death in his Mercedes Benz. The jury had decided to acquit any premeditated murder charges on the grounds of an act of passion. Afterall, John had found Gavin with his wife on the day in question. Yet it was only a few years back that a threat had been made to kill Gavin if he ever saw him with his wife again. It seemed like Gavin just couldn’t stay away and those acts of adultery had led to only 11 years of jailtime for John. Gavin’s three sons had the same look as his boat captain now, somewhere between rage, sorrow, and abjection.
March 3, 2036. The sound of anchor chains clanging against one another caused me to jerk upwards, only to whip back into the scuba tank strapped to my back and into the boat. The Captain pretended that he was ensuring the anchor was still attached to the boat, but from his sideward glance, he must have thought I was crazy. He was probably right; I had already picked a screw loose from the bench, an act that rubbed the skin raw on my thumb.
I forced myself to relax and thought about the colorful reefs from 1999. It wasn’t good to linger on old cases. Although once that chasm was open, it was nearly impossible to close. “You ready to get in the water?” The captain asked.
“Aye aye captain.”
The captain’s trenches deepened. I shuffled my way backwards towards the stern of the boat with the help of the captain and with one outstretched scissor step I splashed into the water. Gesturing okay with a closed fist over my head, I was ready for descent. The first thing that greeted me in the open expanse of the ocean was the hissing air escaping from my BCD vest. The second, was the anchor chains to guide him to the seafloor. I couldn’t help but sink into the abyss of my career in this moment.
November 15, 2004. Tom and Jackie Hawks set out to sell their Yacht to a young man named John Jacobson after their grandchild was born in Newport Harbor. With him being so young, they were suspicious of the amount of money the man had. However, their suspicions were subdued when he brought his pregnant wife and their child to see the ship.
In celebration of the sale, Tom and Jackie went on a final voyage to allow John, along with two of his friends, to test the seafaring capabilities of the yacht. Just to be sure of smooth sailings ahead before any money exchange occurred. Later, the ship would return to harbor. Nothing on board except for a receipt for bleach, tums, and towels found on the bed of the main cabin. Little did the murderers know that the family was expected for dinner that night.
A year later an accomplice of John’s named Alonso described to me what had happened that day. They had lured Tom below deck by pretending to be seasick and jumped him and his wife separately. Once they had them, they tied their hands and duck taped their eyes and mouths. Jackie screamed and begged to be allowed to see their grandchild one more time while Tom tried to comfort his wife by stroking her hand.
According to Alonso, John callously tied them to the anchor and released it from the yacht. I could only imagine the horror of plunging 13,000ft into the Gulf of Mexico.
March 3, 2036. “15 ft,” I instinctively read off the numbers on my dive computer before fumbling with my oxygen gauge just to be sure I wasn’t drowning.
As I approached the sea floor I was met with a graveyard of bony white stone. Only, it wasn’t what I expected, far from the colorful sights of 1999. What I thought was stone turned out to be coral that was as pale as bone, and the water around it was clear of anything but the silt thrown up by my fins.
It was the high-pitched clinking of chains that drew my attention away from the scene and I saw the anchor sat squarely on the shattered skull of brain coral, much like that of Gavin Smith’s skull after Creech had beaten him to death. Much like the bodies of Tom and Jackie after succumbing to the pressures of the depths. I wondered if I would become like them down here, driven by narcosis and shattered by the weight of the memories brought on by the carnage all around. I finally spotted a fan coral laying in dagger-like pieces that curved at sharp edges.
October 5, 2015. Ann Anastasi with the help of her daughter, Sara and her daughter’s boyfriend, Gabriel Struss murdered Anthony Anastasi and his lover Jacqueline Riggs the night before. That morning a call was made that Anthony had shot himself. We showed up, everything checked out for the moment. When we learned of Riggs living on the property, we made our way down to the basement.
As we made our way down the steps, the noisome smell of blood on the nose and heavy metal music playing on a stereo in the room, we were not prepared to find Riggs strewn over her bed with 42 knife wounds. Murder suicide. It was only later that we found out the gun in Anthony’s hand was planted to make it look like a suicide. The autopsy showed that the caliber of the round wasn’t that of the gun. The bullet just fell out of the barrel in test fires with the same gun.
The verdict was 60 years to life for Ann Anastasi, who masterminded to plan that was carried out by Gabriel Struss, the 19-year-old boyfriend who just wanted the stability of a family because of the abuse in his own household. He was sentenced to 60 years. The daughter, having only conspired was sentenced to juvenile detention with release at 21 years old.
March 3, 2036. As I kept swimming there was more to see, more of what I wanted to see, what I didn’t want to get away from at work. Scattered between the sprawling fingers of staghorn were the skeletal remains of fish. Ribs, spines, skulls discarded and bouncing about like puppets on the wave actions strings. A moment later, a sea turtle skeleton with a six-pack ring still rung around where its neck used to be.
May 5, 2009. A murder too close to home and too soon after I had moved back. Columbia, Illinois. The death of Joyce Mayor and her two kids by way of asphyxiation. I remember finding the ligature marks indicative of strangulation. Multiple marks, which meant she fought her attacker, she was brave. Her son, strangled, with duct tape around his head and the spray-painted word “punished,” made it look like it may be the work of a serial killer.
But her husband, apparently at the gym that morning. Didn’t ask how they had died when arriving on scene. He didn’t rush up the stairs like most people would do. He just sat on his porch with his hands over his face. The camera across the street showed no one entering the home at the time that they were likely killed based upon the autopsy results. Only Chris Coleman, the husband, leaving to go to the gym after that time.
Three life sentences were made.
March 3, 2036.