Feels Like Drowning
It took the jury less than thirty minutes before Peyton Parson was found guilty of murdering Winthrop Winless. Thirty minutes is how long they tell you to wait before going for a swim after you eat. Peyton once told me that the 30-minute rule was a myth. I took him at his word. He was a lifeguard and an All-State swimmer, so it seemed something he should know. I liked Peyton. Man to man, he seemed alright in my book. Mainly it was because he saved my son’s life a few months before I arrested him.
There’s only two things we do well in the small town of Hopewell Hollow: alliteration and keeping things simple. Ten years ago, I was called Deputy Duncan or sometimes Deputy Dunkin’ Doughnuts for people who thought I was out of earshot.
I was out of earshot the day my son David drowned down at the WWW. WWW stands for the Winthrop Winless Wateringhole. A watering hole is usually a bar where people drown their sorrows, but the WWW was the pool where people just get regular drowned sometimes. My son being one of them. Strangest thing. The boy was ten and had always taken to water like duck. I went to get us some blueberry sno cones and onion drenched hot dogs. Next thing I heard yelling and saw Peyton dragging David over to the side of the pool. He swatted him on the back and must’ve been a quart of water come up out of my boy. Like I said, he was Premium Peyton in my book even if I felt like derelict dad that day.
All he said was, “Just doing my job, sir.”
Now, everyone in town knew Peyton was carrying on with Winthrop’s wife, Jessie, who had been labelled Jezebel Jessie quickly after she married Winthrop. Jessie was twice Peyton’s age at 36 which seemed fitting since Winthrop was twice her age at 72. Winthrop himself was supposedly keeping company with Herietta Hussey or Two-Timing Tammy depending on which beauty shoppe you got your gossip from.
It was towards the end of the summer when I got the call at the WWW. Early in the morning before the pool opened. I beat the ambulance there and found Pacing Peyton standing over Waterlogged Winless lying on his back near the high dive.
All Peyton said was, “There was nothing I could do.”
That’s all he ever said about it. I arrested Peyton who was still wearing his red shorts and unbuttoned white cotton shirt. I took his clothes and wallet into evidence. Even took his whistle.
There were only two real pieces of evidence at Peyton’s trial. One was the VHS tape I recovered from the office of the WWW. The cameras recorded on a timer before the pool opened. The Perished Proprietor was already in the water when the Lackadaisical Lifeguard walked up. When Peyton got Winthrop out of the water, he didn’t have that look of exigency I saw with David. The other evidence was the Medical Examiner who found Winthrop to have copious amounts of alcohol in his stomach and water that contained no chlorine in his lungs. Examiner Edward said something interesting in court: we all die of asphyxiation.
I can only go by the way Peyton looked, but I never thought he done it and couldn’t tell you why he never said anything to defend himself or at least implicate his Adulteress Accomplice.
Ten years went by. I went from being Deputy Duncan to Detective Duncan. I wrote to Prisoner Peyton up at the State Pen every so often. He asked me to keep an eye on his ma and baby sister. His mom got on okay. I usually brought David around when I came to call, and he might have kept too close of an eye on Peyton’s sis since they eloped two years ago when she turned 18. They are both in college even though she’s expecting twins in the fall. Guess I’ll be Grandpa Greg then.
Peyton was happy for her and David. I got word he was being released for good behavior and drove up to the Pen to return the clothing and wallet I took into evidence all those years ago. Parolee Peyton looked broken inside and out when he met me at the gate. He took the paper bag from me with a vacant smile. I was going to offer him a ride back to Hopewell Hollow when I saw the Widow Winless pull up in a white convertible. Patient Peyton opened the door and got in the passenger seat. They drove off together.
Two days later I got a call to go to the Winless Estate. I told the deputies to wait while I walked into the backyard and saw Peyton by the swimming pool wearing those red shorts and unbuttoned shirt. The Mastermind Mistress was floating face down in the shallow end. Peyton occasionally blew the whistle around his neck. I sat down next to him with my shoes nearly in the water.
I said, “Jessie drowned Winthrop in his tub. I don’t think you were in on it, but you took his body to the pool.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Penitent Peyton said, “I deserved prison, but the longer I spent there the more I thought Jessie deserved something herself. This is what justice looks like sometimes. Do you know what we all die of in the end?”
Peyton must have known the State had no mercy for two-time killer. I don’t know if they guy who pushed the plunger was named Injector Ian or Executioner Eric, but he did the job well enough. At Peyton’s request I was there when he died. It didn’t seem peaceful to me. Watching him sucking in air like molasses through a straw. They say that it feels like drowning.
Daniel Reece lives in Memphis, TN, with his wife and daughter. Daniel has been writing in and about obscurity for many years.