Evidence of ability is the ripples in time produced from its inception. Effects are measured by people touched throughout eternity.
A Grim Discovery
A cold wind whipped across the shallows, cutting through Bayler’s jacket, chilling his face and hands. Shellie stood on the aft deck, his eyes half closed and his ears back, as the wind braced his eyes and nose. The glades still looked peaceful and serine, as if there were no change in seasons, except of fewer birds flying around. “Recon it’s a bit cold for you too boy?” Bayler grinned watching Shellie’s obvious distain of the weather.
Bayler dropped another hook down and moved on to the next one on the line. Fishing is never an easy thing, but wintertime made it harder. He opened and closed his fist two or three times to get his fingers limbered; the chill of the water on his fingers made it difficult to bait the squid and fish chunks on the hooks. He dropped the last line down into the water and tossed the marker out. “’Spect it’s time to move on. Move aside, so I can get on back there.” Bayler went to the back of the boat and picked up the push pole, as Shellie moved around him towards the bow. With two strong pushes Bayler moved the boat out into deeper water. He laid the pole along the Gunwale and dropped the motor down. With one pull, the engine came to life, and he opened the throttle: heading out across Chokoloskee Bay.
The radio barked once, and a familiar voice could be herd over the roar of the outboard “FWC Collier County to VR649 Mobile.” Bayler slowed the boat down to an idle and picked up the mic. As it drifted forward, Bayler responded, “VR649 Mobile Go-ahead Tom”
“VR649 Mobile, FWC Collier County, 10-20 Please.”
“Just finished the lines along “Turner up from Chokoloskee.”
“649 Mobile, ETA at the launch?”
“FWC, recon I’’ll be pullin’ out in an hour or so, why?”
“649, if you can, stop by my office, Ill meet you around 2:30ish?”
“FWC might best make that 3:30ish, givin me some leeway loading the boat and what have you”
“Very well, FWC Collier County Mobile Clear”
As Bayler worked the last trot line, his mind wandered onto what Tom McKinney wanted to talk about. It was also strange to him that Tom was so formal on the Radio. He figured it must be important, moreover he decided Tom must be worried someone was monitoring the conversations and didn’t want anything left to chance.
When Bailer’s red 69 Ford pulled into the parking lot of the Fish and game, Tom was on the side of the building working on his skiff, washing it down from the morning run. Byler opened the door and stepped out followed by Shellie, who ran straight to Tom barking playfully. Tom spun around and gripping the fur on either side of the big dog’s head, started wrestling with him, and playfully growling at Shellie. Shellie responded with a deep menacing growl and fought back shaking his head from side to side, then lunged at Tom pushing him on the ground. Shellie jumped on him and pinned him to the ground, then began licking him all over his face. “Ok OK I give Boy you win!!!he said laughing.
Bayler just shook his head disdainfully, “When you two kids are done, can we get on with it…I have work to do today!”
Tom got up grinning still stroking Shellie’s Head and neck, “Well he’s a whole lot friendlier than you, at least he’s glad to see me.”
Bayler laughed shaking his head, “That’s ‘cause I figure you and him are litter mates.” He walked over and griped Tom’s hand, shaking it firmly. “Good to see you, how’s things goin’?”
Tom smiled, “Going well Bayler, nothing to complain about.”
“Now what’s so all fired important you couldn’t speak with me on the radio ‘bout?”
Tom’s face grew solemn, and lost expression. “Poachers, and its serious.”
“Well, I knew it was somethin’, how serious?”
“When is the last time you were up in Tequesta flats?”
“Been a spell or so, why?”
“I was called to Chokoloskee Island yesterday, about a big Bull Gator carcass that floated up, skinned and its head and feet cut off.”
“That don’t sound like no boatin’ accident...”
“That would have made my job a lot easier, but nope, I went upriver to the flats. Up near the burial grounds, and shell mounds. It was the worst I’ve ever seen.”
“Bayler took a deep breath and let out a sigh. “That’s sayin’ a lot, after what we both seen in the service.”
“Yea, it was really bad; they used the shell mounds to scavenge what they wanted from the gators then left the carcasses to rot. And it wasn’t just gators, there were at least twelve buck carcasses, skinned and headed. I’m fairly sure they’re doing it at night, and possibly using silencers since nobody has heard anything.”
“Bayler saw the disgust in Tom’s face, rivaling the sickening he felt just hearing about it. “Sounds a Lot more serious than takin a restricted fish or two. What about taxidermist, think anything will show up locally?
“If they try to sell the heads or feet anywhere in the US, they will need an active license, and each head has a serial number that has to be placed on the head by the taxidermist when its prepared, but that only covers legal trade.”
Bayler nodded, “What about fake numbers and such?”
“Selling Managed wildlife items is very restrictive. Each item has a permit number attached to the document that goes with the animals. If a retailer or wholesaler is caught with an unlicensed artifact, he can lose his license, as well as all the inventory he has, legal or not.”
What do you want from me? “
“You know this area better than anyone. Just let me know if you see anything unusual on the water or around the landings.”
“Why didn’t you just ask on the wireless, ain’t no need in all this is there?
“Police and law enforcement radios are all monitored now, I couldn’t take the chance on who might be listening, I want to catch these bastards!”
“I feel your pain Tom, just hearing it turns my stomach! I’ll keep an eye-lid pealed, and if-in somthin’ turns up I’ll give you a holler. Now I ‘spect I best be getting home, I’ve a passel of work to do, and I still need to make a run to Sweetwater and Immokalee.” Bayler held his hand out.
“I really appreciate you stopping by,” Tom said gripping his hand and giving it a quick shake. Bayler nodded, “You’ll hear from me directly, and Tom…”
“if-in this is somethin big, you best be keepin’ your head down. Recon these guys won’t be playin’ fair.” He turned towards the truck and opened the door, Shellie Jumped in, followed by Bayler, and they headed to the house.
After breakfast the next morning, Bayler kissed Netty, grabbed his take-it cup from her, long with a thermos of coffee, and headed out to the truck. The Morning air was brisk and the wind coming across the bay, was overcast, making the cold seem harsher. Bayler pulled his skull cap down over his ears and put his ball cap over it.
The bay had a slight chop to it, and cold salt water splashed up, into their faces as he and Shellie headed towards their trot lines. quick work was made of the three trot lines, and Bayler completed the work in less than three hours. After Bayler dropped the last hook in the water, He headed towards the first run of Crab traps. Crabbing was a bit slower due to the females and their egg sacs, so over half of the crabs had to be tossed back in. The good part was, most of the male crabs were larger and the ones he kept would fill the orders.
After Bayler finished with his traps, he pointed his boat towards the Big Cypress area. the tannic acid from the cypress trees gave the water a dark color which the Miccosukee called Loo-choo Okee or black water and ran from the big Cypress, dissipating near everglades city. Bayler’s boat motor churned through the black water and seemed to form a caramel wake behind it. Miccosukee Flatts were on the western side of the everglades, and the burial grounds of the tribe. Bayler knew that to dishonor their tribe would not bode well. he slowed his boat to an idle, as the quiet of the forest seemed as if it demanded reverence to all to trespassed here.
As his boat rounded a bend, he could see more of the carcasses floating in the water, like what Tom mentioned. sickening was hardly the word to describe it.