Chapter 1.

The Boot by the Lake

Retired weekly newspaper editor Stoney (my nick name) Brooktrout (yes, my real last name) knows small towns and large urban lakes do not easily give up their secrets nor their dead…

The person-less boot along North Shore Drive early this morning made me turn around on my vintage Schwinn. First the dead opossum, then the chipmunk and now this! Coincidence? Perhaps. And who was it who had even suggested I take up bike riding in the first place?

(Note: I often transition now between talking about myself in the first and third person. But that’s understandable now, since my children committed me to Brookview Senior Care… although, I’ve yet to view a brook here. Oh, and my real name is Robert, but being Bob Brooktrout is kind of pathetic. I got beaned with a rock once in grade school, and since then I’ve always been Stoney Brooktrout. Girls alway seemed to find that somehow more alluring. Even now all these years later here in my new senior digs!)

He (me/I) looked out across the lake, past the empty purple martin bird house atop the pole with its cobwebs and vacancy sign hanging crooked by just one hook, to the girl fifty yards out in a green bikini on her stand-up paddle board. She didn’t seem to know or reveal any more clues — about the boot or any possible submerged body — in her silent skimming of the shallows in this end of the lake. No screaming or frantic waving. Just her rhythmic strokes with the paddle and her slim waist twisting ever so beautifully in the rising sun bright on her bareness. Sigh… Heck to be old.

Yesterday, I believe, had been Memorial Day. Yes. Defnately, with lots of little American flags about the neighborhood. Taps had played somewhere about 3:00 p.m. outside our building because of the pandemic, for which I must wear a mask. And it was hot, like 84 degrees here in Oconomowoc, WI. Locals call it “Lake Country”.

There wasn’t much left of the opossum. Yesterday. On my walk. Just the smell. The two turkey vultures had made sure of that. Scared them off as I approached, as they’d probably heard of me and my reputation as a former badass journalistic investigator and reporter. Even if the CBS News people never wanted me, never seemed to have heard of me! Whatever…

I almost touched the boot, but then held back. Evidence. It was a men’s boot, to be certain. Right foot. Looked to be a size 10 or 11. Steel toe. Enough to kill an opossum and easily the chipmunk; although, the rodent bore marks from a truck or SUV tire, not a men’s work boot. I’ll call it in to the local cops or FBI when I get back, I thought.

I got back on my Schwinn and rode on some more to check the iron gates on an apparent old entrance to one of the lakefront’s oldest estates. Further around the lake it was. At least, they remained undisturbed!

Where to look? Where to look now for the man missing a boot, presumably drown in Oconomowoc Lake?

Biked back to “home”. Last week was it when they moved me in and promised to check on me everyday? No, last week I still was editing a weekly newspaper near Spokane, Wa. Must have been just last week. Think it was Spokane… Anyway, it’s easy to come and go now through the home’s kitchen loading dock, maybe at least for another day. No one’s picked up on the fact that the security camera there has been disabled! (Huh… How’d that happen?) But I check it’s blinking light to be sure, each time I leave or come back.

(He had hid his bike in the brush along the RR tracks before the kids moved him out of the condo, before they cleared out and took what they wanted of his “stuff”, which wasn’t much. He’d heard them talking quietly about making trips to St. Viney’s. His wife’s things had remained, too, after her passing. He couldn’t let go of them. They still smelled like her; but she seems to be leaving him more each day now.)

It will take 48 hours. I’ll stay tuned to the news. Maybe the man will be reported missing. I reported the opossum missing, and that’s why I have this new home.

It takes 48 hours to float a body in this lake. Maybe it’ll be soon. The water is warming up. I think the killer is warming up, too. Just my gut instinct …or maybe heartburn.