An Excerpt from “The Imposter”
By Paul DoironMay 1, 2020
Priced at just $1.99, this original short story in the bestselling Mike Bowditch mystery series by Paul Doiron finds Mike confronted with a case of stolen identity.
When the body of a young man is pulled from a submerged car in Roque Harbor, rookie game warden Mike Bowditch is shocked when the man’s driver’s license identifies him as none other than…Mike Bowditch. For weeks, Mike and his colleagues have been fielding reports of a man terrorizing the locals while posing as a game warden, wielding a plastic pin-on badge and claiming to be “Warden Bowditch”. Who is the imposter, and how did he end up dead in the bottom of a harbor? Mike must uncover the truth in order to clear his own name.
Twelve-gauge Gaynor had been rowing his skiff from the town landing out to his lobster boat, the Dragon Lady, when he’d spotted a metallic glimmer coming through the blue-green water. Gaynor had been fishing out of Roque Harbor for fifty years and this wasn’t the first vehicle he’d seen take a bath. On most but not all occasions, the driver had managed to escape from the drowning machine and swim to shore. Gaynor told the dispatcher he had a spooky feeling there was at least one dead person at the bottom of the harbor.
I’d heard the report come over the radio and had decided to drive down in my patrol truck to watch the recovery efforts. Most of the town seemed to be present. Anticipation hung in the air as unmistakably as the smell of the sea. Everyone was waiting to see whose body the divers would find. In a community as tightly woven as Roque Harbor, the deceased was sure to be related to someone or other.
“Bet it’s Merrill’s boy,” Gaynor said to the lobsterman beside him.
“Luke or John?”
“They’re both wild as tomcats. Hell, it might be both of them.”
Cigarette smoke wafted from the crowd behind me. Gulls, drawn by the prospect of thrown food, chattered overhead. It was a beautiful midsummer morning.
I stood on the dock beside Gaynor who was glorifying in his central role in the day’s drama. His first name was Thomas, but everyone called him Twelve-gauge for reasons no one had yet explained to me. I was the new game warden in Down East Maine, and the locals—who tended to be suspicious and closemouthed even with each other—hadn’t decided whether they approved of me or not.
The sheriff had come out to oversee the recovery. Her name was Roberta Rhine. Because of her black braids and fondness for turquoise jewelry, some people thought she was part Indian. She wasn’t, though; she just had a flair for the theatrical. Her deputies had cleared the landing and set up a cordon so the divers could go about their bone-chilling work. It might have been the middle of July, but the temperature in the Gulf of Maine was still in the low fifties.
After a while, the state police divers emerged from the deep with what looked, from a distance, like a department store mannequin. The sheriff and two of her deputies leaned over the edge and, with gloved hands, pulled the corpse onto the dock.
Murmurs started behind me. The same question over and over.
“Who is it?” Gaynor’s friend asked. “Do you recognize him?”
The lobsterman grunted, “No.”
Rhine and her officers stooped over the body. Then they all glanced in my direction. The sheriff beckoned me forward.
The dead man lay exposed to the sun. He looked like he was wearing a mask of wet papier-mâché that might slough off if handled roughly. He was dressed in army fatigues, but one of his combat boots had come off, along with his sock. His toenails badly needed cutting.
The sheriff held out a wet wallet flipped open to the driver’s license. I couldn’t read the name, but the picture showed a young guy with a buzz cut and a lazy eye. I looked from the photograph to the thing at my feet, then back again.
“Who is he?”
“He’s you,” she said.
I peered closer. The name on the license was Mike Bowditch.
Copyright © 2020 Paul Doiron.