Leaves on the massive oak tree outside my window labored to stay horizontal on their stems, struggling to shed heavy beads of dew. The fog, not opaque but nearly so, distorted my view of the trunks of trees, even those nearest me, behind branches that reached almost to my window. The sun had risen over an hour earlier, but it remained hidden behind the thick, wet, grey blanket that blocked my view of the road. Dim, filtered light made its way through the haze, casting a pall over the tiny part of the earth I could see.
When the fog gets that thick, the scent of seaweed and salt and fish fills the air. It’s the same aroma I smelled the first day after I moved to Christian Bay, twenty years earlier. That seaport perfume had carried me back to my first days on the water when I heard the muffled “crack!” of a rifle shot. My nearest neighbor, Sharon Clutcher, often shot at critters infringing on what she felt was her personal space, so I wasn’t particularly surprised by the sound, but it did seem a bit odd, shooting at something in this pea soup.
Sound plays funny tricks on you in heavy fog. The foghorn of a ship docked at the port right in front of you can sound like it’s a mile away, but a car backfiring on the highway bypass ten blocks away can seem like it’s just behind your ear. So I wasn’t sure the gunshot was Sharon, but I assumed it was, until I saw a man stumble up the walk to the front door of my house, right below me.
“Help, I’ve been shot!” I could barely make out the words, though I could see that his left shoulder was awash in blood.
I ran down the stairs and flung open the front door as the guy collapsed into a heap ten steps away. I ran to him but, just as I reached him, I heard another report from a rifle and saw the man’s body jerk as a bullet ripped into his mid-section. At the same instant, I heard a voice to my right, very close by. “Don’t you even try to help that sorry son-of-a-bitch, mister!”
My heart raced as I wheeled around toward the voice, just as the face of the man it belonged to appeared inches from my own. He smelled of stale beer and day old sweat. His salt and pepper hair, wet and uncombed, clung to his forehead, which dripped with beads of sweat. He was unshaven, inconsistent clots of whiskers dotting his round face, and his eyes were large and dark and bloodshot. He held a gun in his left hand, his right hand clutching the stock, his right finger inside the guard, resting on the trigger.