The man, if it indeed was a man, lounged in a lawn chair on a boat that looked like it had been to the bottom a couple times and been resalvaged. Barnacles and green slime grew on the outside. The man wasn’t that different. His beard was a good six months of unkempt growth, cigarette ashes and Dorito crumbs. A faded baseball cap was perched on his stringy blonde hair that grew past his shoulders.
“Ahoy,” he grinned. His teeth were yellow. He held a smoldering cigarette in his left hand while shifting his beer belly to exit his lawn chair. He moved towards Gregson like a wounded slug.
“Folks on the water call me Fred.”
“My name’s Gregson.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing around here, do yah?”
“You’re pretty observant. The city told me to take a week off.”
“You a cop?”
“Really? I always wanted to serve and protect, but my old man thinks I’m a bum. He tells me every week when I call him from the harbor pay phone.”
His Tie Dye shirt was making Gregson nauseous. “Would you like a beer?” Fred asked.
“Sure,” Gregson said. He was having creative problems, so maybe the alcohol would help.
“This place doesn’t get many new people. Most of these boats belong to retirees in nursing homes. Nobody deals with their estates and the harbor continues to rot on the water. I’m sorry, I’m being too negative.”
“No. It’s quite all right.”
“I’d like to know what it feels like to collar some criminals and do some good, for a change. It seems like the older I get; the slower time goes.”
“How old are you? Aren’t you like, 30?” Gregson asked.
“Well, you’re too young to be talking like that.”
“Maybe, but nothing changes around here. It’s just beer, and cigarettes, and trying to make sense of eternity. That’s why I hang around the ocean.”
“Maybe you’d like to help me on a case?” Gregson suggested.
Really? No foolin? I’d love that.”
“Well… I’m supposed to be laying low for a while, but next week we’ll go catch some criminals.”
Evening sank and the stars came out. Gregson noticed his neighbor puffing cigarettes until the air got too cold. Then it was dark and all he could hear was the regular lapping of waves. That was until footsteps, lots of footsteps, echoed on the gangplank.