Red River

December 2019

Frank Anderson walked along the riverfront to look for the body again. He still had time to hide it and make this all go away. But after many fruitless laps along the trash-lined bank — the bank his son Ted was campaigning to clean up and restore — he stomped a damp log to pieces and sobbed. He’d never meant to kill anyone, never meant to drag Ted into this.

He stared up into the darkening sky. Ted had reminded him that neither of them had an alibi, so a missing person case was far better than a murder investigation, on account of people skipping town all the time. Unfaithful spouses, restless teens. Even politicians, at one point or another. The police barely dug anymore. Even if it was that hotshot Jack Eddington.

But what if someone found the body? Wouldn't they be prime suspects? The night it happened, Frank had asked Ted if he — Frank — should take the fall. Turn himself in to protect his son. But Ted shut down the idea. The ensuing scandal would surely cost him the election, he'd said, his face stricken with worry. It had to stay between them.

Frank never did have this knack for politics. Still, he knew one thing: enough of the public knew what Ted’s defeat would mean for Frank’s farm. Ted Anderson was the only candidate fighting against big business, as the ads declared with such fervor. If an investigation began, the town would put the pieces together, Frank had no doubt.

He walked up from the river to the dirt road back toward town and scarcely noticed the insects biting, drawing blood. Up ahead he saw a familiar green pickup, parked in the grassy edge between the road and the river. The driver’s door was open. The truck belonged to Dale Clark, from the neighboring farm. Frank spotted Dale making his way down the grassy hill to the water below, and tried to think of all the reasons Dale might be stopped here. But it all came down to one.

His heart pounded in his ears as he approached the edge and looked down to see Dale, squatting to turn over a body Frank recognized immediately. Dale stood up, slow in his old age, but panicking. He glanced around, and his eyes lit up when he saw Frank.

“Frank, we gotta do somethin'. He’s dead. Jack Eddington is dead.”

Frank took a deep breath and adjusted the waist of his jeans before making his way toward Dale, using the moment to check that his knife was still clipped in place. He measured each step, slow and careful, down the hill.

“Here, help me get him out,” said Dale, squatting down. “Make sure the river don’t wash him away before the police get here.”

“You call ’em yet?”

“Not yet, phone’s in the truck.”

Frank looked back at the truck, pulling his knife from his belt as he did so. “You know Dale, I really wish you hadn’t come down here.”