White puffs of steam escaped Wentz’s fists as he blew on his hands to warm his cold, tingling fingers, The bright sunshine did little to warm the frigid winter air. He leaned on the railing of the wooden boardwalk watching a bale of snapping turtles in the creek below grazing on the remains of summer lilies.
Wentz adjusted his sunglasses, squinting against the shimmering reflections dancing over the dark water. Wentz saw Bradford’s shadow move across the water surface before he heard his approach.
Wentz flipped up the collar of his coat then shoved his aching hands into his pockets.
Arriving late, Bradford tossed the remainder of his lunch into the water, laughing as the turtles fought over scraps of his deli sandwich.
“Where’ve you been?” Wentz’s teeth chattered. “It’s cold out here.”
“The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day,” Bradford picked bits of lettuce out of his front teeth, then brushed off his hands on the front of his jacket. “Chill.”
Bradford laughed at his joke, smacking Wentz on the shoulder.
“There’s lots of turtles out today,” Bradford said, pointing into the murky water flowing like molasses beneath them. “Didja see how they devoured Sal’s pastrami?”
“They don’t usually come out in the cold,” Wentz said. “Turtles normally go into a state of brumation in the winter, like how bears hibernate.”
“Whaddya think it could mean?” Bradford rummaged in his jacket pocket for his pack of cigarettes, offering one to Wentz before lighting his behind cupped hands.
A child ran down the boardwalk ahead of his harried mother. The two men fell silent, waiting for the intrusion to pass.
“Rachel is missing,” Wentz said.
“Ya don’t say,” Bradford took a long drag on his cigarette letting out the smoke in perfectly formed rings.
“You wouldn’t know anything about that?” Wentz shivered.
“I read somewhere that turtles mostly eat meat, ya know, fish, frogs, even other turtles.” Bradford dropped the spent butt of his smoke, grinding out the burning ember with his heel, leaving a black smudge on the wooden walkway.
“We were talking about Rachel not the dietary habits of snapping turtles,” Wentz said between clenched teeth.
“I thought we were talking about the same thing,” Bradford lit another cigarette.
Wentz stepped back, staring at Bradford, his mouth working like a beached fish.
“Mr. Black wants his money,” Bradford said, dropping ash in the water. “You have two days.”
Wentz watched Bradford’s back as he walked away, After the other man left, he gazed down into the water at the turtles, afraid of what brought them out of their winter’s sleep.