|Red Farlow resisted following his wife, Leigh, to bed. He’d slept fitfully of late. Instead, he walked to his front porch overlooking the beach and St. Simons Sound.
He sat and listened to the water and waves, cloaked in a fog teased by a gentle winter breeze.
The mist had drifted in earlier that evening and thickened into a likeness comparable to Brunswick stew. The cloud blanketed Red’s neighborhood.
His nostrils flared. A southwesterly wind ushered in the rotten egg stink from the paper mills on the mainland.
A freighter hauling across St. Simons Sound to Brunswick’s port sounded its foghorn. Red watched as the ghostly hulk cruised past. Gulls danced in the breeze over the beach’s surf line. All was right with the world. Or was it?
Red looked down at his cell phone. How did I miss a call? He noticed the time—half past midnight.
He listened to the voice message.
“Red, ah...Tram. Now!”
The short, clipped message alarmed. Red’s friend was a talker by nature. He recalled Joseph Trammell’s older brother relating how he burst forth from their mother’s womb, chatting up a storm. Tram didn’t deny that. He just grinned upon hearing the story.
At times as a federal agent, Tram faced predicaments that would dent anyone’s proclivity toward conversation.
Red considered what the trouble might be as he went in to tell Leigh he was going out. He put on a windbreaker, walked through the mist to his truck, and drove up the road to Tram’s house.
He parked on the street and walked to the front door, which stood half-open. A lone lamp glowed in the living room and an upstairs hall light sprayed the stairwell with its softness. He stepped into the house, down the hall by the stairs, and to the brightest lit room—the kitchen.
Joseph Trammell sprawled, barely alive, in a pool of his blood on the floor. Red kneeled over and cupped the back of his friend’s head and shoulders.
Tram’s eyes fought hard to open.
“Red,” he managed to utter.
“Yeah, man. It’s me,” Red said. “Tram, help will be on the way soon.”
Red dialed for an ambulance.
The former FBI agent fought for breath. He managed to say, “Key West.” Tram tried to heave more air, but the rattle denied it. His eyelids opened and shut several times.
It was the last time Red saw his old boss and friend he called Tram. Someone put four bullets in him. Looking at Tram on the floor, the private investigator feared the EMTs could do little to save him.
Joseph Trammell exhaled a final faint whoosh of breath, and his head slumped to one side. He died.
That was too bad. Red loved the guy. Damned.