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Death of a Pickerel Princess

by Jack Bates

About the Author: Jack Bates is an award winning writer and three time Derringer Nominee for Short Mystery fiction.


North of Algonac there is a lonely stretch of two-lane road running along Michigan’s thumb. On maps, both paper and digital, this road is called M25. It begins in Port Huron, traces the edge and tip of the thumb, and unravels outside of Bay City. Most people in the area refer to it as the Sunday Drive. It stays busy for the small towns from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Day trippers travel it for color tours, summer festivals, or crossing the Blue Water Bridge into Canada. Some like to go freighter-spotting or do some shore fishing or go out on their boats.

Just outside of Port Sanilac, Lake Huron looks as infinite as the oceans, there is a roadside park on a bluff three hundred feet over a sandy shore. Three tall pine trees rise in the center of the park lending their name to it. Beneath the trees are several picnic tables, now chained to concrete patios as the tables kept disappearing. Sometimes local teens pitched them over the bluff in the middle of the night after setting them on fire.

And so it was that Sheriff Connor Finch found himself going down the wooden steps zigzagging to the beach to investigate another picnic table released from its chains. This time the culprit had used bolt cutters to snap through the links.

The metal base of the table faced the sky. Finch could see there was very little fire damage to the wooden seats or benches. He could also see there was a new aspect to the crime. Lengths of yellow, nylon cords stretched from the curved legs to something tied to the table planks.

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