Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores April 2023.)


Southern Caribbean Sea,
Northwest of Bonaire, C.N. (Caribisch Nederland)

Top quality knives easily slice through muscle and fat. But the human body is composed of much more. Bone, cartilage, and the occasional ligament are more difficult. A sharp knife is essential, but not always enough. Regardless of how well the blade held its edge, separating the larger joints required a hatchet. And, in the case of a hatchet, almost any would do, sharp or dull, when delivered with ample force. Smashing and splitting the joints made a cracking sound, like breaking a large stick, and echoed through the boat. But not to worry.

No one would hear.

Only one person on board. One live person, that is.

The skin was still in place, wrapped tightly around the flesh. No need to remove it. All the body parts went over the side and into the ocean; two arms; two legs; three sections of torso; and a head, pounded flat enough to be unrecognizable. After dissection, and before being discarded, the parts were secured with wire to weights. Flat, round, iron weights with a hole through the middle. The kind bodybuilders use to bulk up. Make sure everything went to the bottom. Quickly.

The weights might be unnecessary. But not using them would be a rookie mistake.

Prevailing tides and the easterly trade winds would push the remains—blood, bones, skin—west, away from the island. The aquatic predators and scavengers would feast for days, saltwater eventually shriveling away what remained of the body parts as they dissipated into the vastness of the Caribbean Sea.

No trace.

And an easy cleanup. Except for the blood.

Which seemed to be everywhere.

Plastic tarps covered most of the deck to catch the blood—and other bodily fluids—dripping off the carving table. And, for the most part, worked as intended. But the boat rocked in the gentle waves, and eventually, some of the blood and gunk made its way off the coverings, seeping into seams between planks of the wood deck. It'd take hours to clean.

The Boss hadn't planned for that.

But improvisation was the name of the game. Like a guitar, piano, or bass player taking their turn on the lead. Or sometimes a vocalist. Making it up as they went along. No printed music; no script.

A quick blast of the hose—again everything over the side—and the deck was, at least, surface clean. Anyone coming aboard would be none the wiser. They'd have to look closely, deep into the deck seams, probably with a light of some sort, to see anything amiss. And who does that? No one, that's who. It's as if the particles of blood and guts were invisible.

Same with the Boss's work clothes. Black fabric covered with blood and flesh. Probably piss, shit, and who knew what else. Packed in a plastic bag with weights, they went over the side and into the sea. No problem. Along with the deck shoes, which happened to be new. That was a rookie mistake. The Boss sighed and dropped them into the water.

Job complete. For now, anyway. The detailed cleaning would be done later, by someone on their hands and knees, scrubbing till their arms went numb and felt like falling off. Shit work by any definition.

And The Boss didn't do shit work. At least not on a regular basis. A sensation of tiredness, one of fulfillment as opposed to exhaustion, swept over The Boss. It had been a sweaty job under the high tropical sun. Not a cloud in the sky, the day ending with a beautiful sunset, streaks of orange reflecting off the now-calm waters. Sails lowered, the boat sat motionless and quiet in the pending nightfall, its mast casting a long shadow away from the sinking sun.

A few gulls dove at the blood-covered sea, snatching bits of flesh and guts floating on the surface. Others hovered above, squawking at their peers, waiting in line for their chance to scavenge. Two of the birds landed on the deck, a dozen feet or so from The Boss, and picked at near-microscopic remnants of viscera drying and sticking to the wood planks of the deck.

Whatever, thought The Boss. Have at it.

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