A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack


Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2019
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Chapter One

On his beat, Patrolman Francis J. Hendersen walks the very outskirts of Riverville, Massachusetts; a medium size community about fourteen miles north of Boston on what is locally known as the “North Shore”. He is a twenty-two-year-old rookie and the fifth Hendersen to proudly serve his community in that capacity. The fact is, his grandfather is Chief of Police and his father a Detective Sargent. His Great Grandfather retired as Chief four years ago. There are two younger brothers, one thirteen and one nineteen waiting in line, their father says. However, the boys have other ambitions and are frankly tired of the tradition. To them it seems everyone brings the police department home at night. There is seldom a conversation about anything else. Gang Busters, This is Your FBI, Official Detective and Calling All Cars are about the only radio heard in the home; other than the morning and evening news.

As Hendersen treads his way along Chandler’s Point, a strip of land about fifty feet wide separating tidal mud flats, he wonders if he will ever get used to the acrid smell of the flats at low tide; especially in summer. He generally walks to the end of the point scanning the flats on his right, and on the other side going back to the road. Today, halfway along the point, something about fifteen feet into the flats caught his eye; a roughly triangular muddy-white shape breaking up the monochrome grey-black of the mud. Wood walkways jut out over the flats about every twenty feet, a relic of earlier clam digging days before the flats became “sour”. Hendersen put one foot over the edge of the walkway and tested the mud. He touched solid ground about three or so inches down and brought the other foot down.

Laboriously, he worked his way to the object, each step making a sucking sound as his boots broke free of the mud.
The object, as he freed it from the glue-like mud, appears to be a sea bag with barely discernable letters, USN, stenciled near the top, a six-foot rope securely tying the opening closed. Hendersen, pulling on the rope, puffed and strained to drag the bag over the mud to the walkway. Once there, and greased with mud, it was relatively easy to move the bag along the wooden walkway. He estimates it weighs a hundred pounds or better. Once off the walkway, he made a quick inspection of the contents by feeling through the canvas and detected what appears to be a leg with a foot attached. A cold shiver came over him as he moved the sea bag to the tall grass bordering the flats, scrapes some mud from his boots and trots back to the road and the nearest police call box.

After calling in his discovery, Hendersen leans on the telephone pole, fishing his Canadian from inside of his uniform jacket, pulling a pouch of Prince Albert from his hip pocket and a match from his pistol belt. After packing the bowl, he raises his foot, out of habit, to strike the match, but thinks better of it after seeing the amount of mud still stuck to the bottom of his boot. He uses the pole as an alternative striker, and puts fire to the P A. Lingering against the pole smoking, he wonders if it really is a leg and foot, he felt in the sea bag or just his mind playing tricks on him. He popes back to the present with the whine of a siren coming into ear-shot; knocks his pipe against the telephone pole and stuffs it into his uniform jacket just as the police car, followed by an ambulance, approaches Chandlers Point.

Chapters:  Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3



Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired. Oh, and in case you didn't notice.... he's a pipe smoker too.


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