Book Title: Entropy
Book Genre: Crime, drama
Author: Robert Raker
Publisher: Wattle Publishing
When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s. United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.
Entropy, an elegiac crime novel whose climax reveals its bleakly beautiful pattern.
The bloated, distended corpses of the people whose shortened lives I had retrieved from the water were clearly visible in the immature patterns of condensation that evaporated gradually on the mirror.
I just sat there. Looking closely at the gun, I cocked the trigger back and forth repeatedly, like a curious child studying the physics of a toy, wanting to grasp the technical aspects of it, what made certain parts of it function and react the way that it did when it was used.
I glanced up at the cracked face of the clock above her dresser. She would be leaving for the lawyer’s office soon. After that I would need to catch the next bus to the terminus.
How did we get here?
We were once such a happy family but now I am left alone with only my memories as a comfort to the love we once shared and the child we had borne.
The bloated, distended corpses of the people whose shortened lives I had retrieved from the water were clearly visible in the immature patterns of condensation that evaporated gradually on the mirror. I stood there staring, waiting to hear her tap gently against the bathroom door. She had done that so many times in the last few years. I often didn’t notice her, as she politely sought acknowledgement, before coming into the most vulnerable of places. I now wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to hear her anymore.
Earlier, after I didn’t hear her rise after I left our bedroom, I slid back the glass door to the shower, slowly twisted the end of the brass faucet and let the water run for a few minutes. I watched the quick, sudden burst cover the floor, the droplets clinging to the white and salmon bath sponge that she used. It looked like a wilted flower trapped by its failure to adapt to its environment during a storm. Some water trickled over the edge of the shower and onto the floor. The level rose to about three-quarters of an inch. It wasn’t draining properly. I crouched down and removed the metal screen on the floor. The water moved left, then right. It caused me to think of the rhythm of her body when she crossed a room, and how ethereal she had looked when she broke the surface of the water when we first swam together. I also remembered how all the pain we had endured had begun in less than twelve feet of water.
The water could teach you how to move if you let it.
I had pulled my first body out of less than twelve feet of water over two years ago, from the frigid waters off the coast of Rhode Island. I was a certified swimming and scuba instructor, who taught corporations how to properly use equipment and provided training in recreational and military diving, but I mostly concentrated on commercial diving. I lived under the disruptive surface of the water, in indoor training pools, rivers, oceans, submersed in the water’s reckless and intemperate tenderness.
A civil engineering firm had contracted me to provide training to its employees, in order to repair and construct oil pipeline fittings off the coast of Nova Scotia, in water up to 150 feet deep. I was there in the bitter cold of the North Atlantic for seven months, isolated from the blighted industrial landscapes that corrupted the rural and urban banks of the small town in Pennsylvania where I lived. However for me, there should have never been anything dangerous about water.
Early one dreary, cold morning I arrived at a port in Providence on an oil barge. As I unloaded my equipment onto the docks and prepared to catch a ride, a petroleum worker on another boat cupped his hands over his mouth, outstretched his arms and signalled for me to come over. There was something in the water. Leaving most of my gear left behind I walked tentatively with another worker to the end of the dock, and discovered what appeared to be a body stuck in a drift a few feet below the surface of the water. The torso tapped against the wooden posts that were secured to the inlet floor some ten to fifteen feet from where I stood. We waited for almost an hour for the police to arrive, and I was eventually asked to go into the water because the police diver, who was on call for the area, could not be located. Travel restrictions had also been initiated, as a cold front was moving through, covering most of the East Coast in a dense blanket of sleet and freezing rain.
It wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I had the most detailed training; more inclusive than any of the others on scene, even though some of them were nearly twenty years older than me. It was a mere matter of circumstance or, if you believed in it, fate. I geared up and through the stinging rain listened to the officer on scene relaying messages from a dispatcher speaking to him on his radio on how to proceed once I had penetrated the water: what to initially look for surrounding the body that might determine an accidental death or a homicide; and how not to compromise the integrity of the forensic scene. The coroner would later determine an exact cause of death after the body was removed, and photographs of the scene and surrounding areas had already been taken. They were requesting that we all remained after I came out of the water, because we were all considered to be material witnesses. As I wasn’t going in very deep, I decided to utilize a snorkel on the surface and hold my breath when I had to. As I made my final preparations, I couldn’t force any spittle from my mouth to clean the inside of the mask. My chest tightened.
The water could teach you how to breathe if you let it.
As the ladder was cracked and missing a few rungs, I dropped directly off the edge of the dock and immediately felt the cold water collide with the material of the dry suit. Bright lights from an incoming vessel came up over the horizon and provided an aspect of light that I hardly needed because the body wasn’t deeply submerged. I swam carefully and positioned myself a few feet away from the body and gathered my breath, the serrated sharpness of the air cutting the inside of my throat. I trapped as much air as I could inside my lungs and maneuvered further down.
The man’s body was suspended about three or four feet underneath the surface, entangled in a tattered fisherman’s net secured to the dock. The area was well known for its exquisite seafood, especially the production of crabmeat. Fishing was the reason I first swam in saltwater, when I was six. My back had been so burnt from the scalding sun that my father dropped me over the edge of the boat to alleviate the constant sting. I remembered that the saltwater burned my eyes and I kept rubbing at them until my father told me to stop because I would only make it worse. It looked like I was crying I had irritated them so much. I wanted to pass the clear water over my lips and through my throat, having no understanding of salinity. I took a mouthful of water and it tasted so bitter that I kept spitting. Being so unfamiliar with the sea, its current and pull, I stayed very close to the boat. My father positioned me in his arms so that I could see away from the shore, and gaze at the openness and loneliness of the ocean beyond our boat. I had never seen anything so beautiful, so picturesque. The pureness of it all arrested me.
As I initially looked around the body, there appeared to be nothing that the police would consider out of the ordinary. There was nothing binding his hands or his ankles. No one else was in the water besides me. I moved past him on my back and noticed the small hole slightly off-center against his forehead. It looked to me as if he had been shot. Leaving the body undisturbed, I struggled to climb out of the water and clung limply to the ladder until someone reached over and pulled me up. The voices above me were constant and seemingly indecisive.
It took a few minutes for my fear and shock to initially subside and I couldn’t hold onto the mask that I had pulled away from my eyes, without dropping it. I had seen a dead body before but nothing like that, and not close enough to notice the fact that he hadn’t shaved for several days and that his fingernails weren’t closely manicured. At the time I couldn’t tell how long his body had been in the water. Later, I would. I crawled on my hands and knees further away from the water, and tasted the warm bile in the back of my throat as it rushed forward.
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~ About the Author ~
Robert Raker graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he enjoys art, music, literature and live theater. He is currently working on his next novel.
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~ About the Publisher ~
Wattle Publishing is an independent publisher. We publish fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
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Blitz wide giveaway (Domestic)
- 3 paperback copies of Entropy