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Blood Tide, a short story by Thomas P Hopp appearing in the anthology, Seattle Noir, 2009, Akashic Books.
Dr. Peyton McKean, who first appeared in The Jihad Virus, returns to tackle another crime on the wet streets of Seattle, when a geoduck clam digger turns up dead of a dose of red tide poison so massive that it seems impossible. Impossible, that is, until Dr. McKean, the inventor of the DNA test, puts his prodigious mind to the task. A noir adventure with plenty of darkness and danger among the dispossessed tribe of Duwamish Indians, Seattle's original people, who may know more about the red tide poison than anyone is admitting.
When we arrived at Herring’s House Park, the police were clearing off the yellow warning tape and packing their forensics bags and boxes, closing their case of an odd death in a parking lot and moving on. Kay Erwin, Epidemiologist at Seattle Public Health Hospital, had declared it shellfish poisoning, and the cops had quickly lost interest. But Peyton McKean was of a different mind. He was getting the lay of what had happened two days before by interrogating a young cop, rapid fire, as the officer rolled up the crime scene tape.
“The body lay here?” McKean asked, drawing an imaginary oblong line around a spot in the middle of the damp gravel.
“Uh huh,” answered the officer, stashing tape in a black garbage bag.
“And the victim’s pickup, parked here?” said McKean, sawing a transect line from the parking bumpers out into the lot with his long-fingered hands.
“ ’At’s right,” said the officer, cinching the bag and pausing to gaze amusedly at McKean, who moved animatedly around the rain drizzled lot quickly on long legs, marching off distances with his hands tucked behind his back like some intense, gangly schoolteacher. McKean was, I could tell, worried that he’d lack some detail of the circumstances surrounding Erik Torvald’s death, when the last cop who had actually seen Torvald lying face down in the parking lot was gone and done with the case. As the officer got in his squad car and prepared to close the door, McKean called somewhat desperately, “Anything else I should know?”
“Nuttin’,” said the cop, slamming his door and backing away, making a half-friendly wave at McKean as he left us alone in the lot.
“There’s more here than meets the eye, Fin Morton,” muttered McKean, lifting his olive green canvas fedora and scratching in the dark hair of one temple.
“There’s nothing here that meets my eye,” I replied, zipping up my windbreaker against the drizzle that had begun as soon as we got out of my Mustang. I looked around the otherwise empty quadrangle of gravel, the alder woods that stretched down to the bank of the Duwamish River below the lot, and the mudpuddled gravel footpaths, without much hope of spotting a clue. The park was devoid of people on a wet Thursday afternoon. “Maybe the cops are right. Maybe he just had shellfish poisoning. Don’t you think that’s possible?”
“Answer: no,” said McKean in his pedagogical way. “The levels of red tide poison in him were without precedent, off scale by any measure. To get the dose Kay Erwin found in his blood, he’d have had to eat ten buckets of steamers, or a dozen geoducks” —he pronounced the word properly: gooey ducks. “And yet,” he continued, “my immunoassay tests for shellfish residues in his guts came up strictly negative. He hadn’t eaten a bit of shellfish. The police may be satisfied that he poisoned himself, but neither Kay nor I believe it. Foul play is at work here, Fin. Somebody killed him, and I’d like to know who.”