CH 29: Swim with the Fishes
Haley heard about the girl at school Ellen and her sad misfortunes but it takes one to know one and Haley was very suspicious of the so-called bad luck accidents… the girl’s relatives were dropping like flies and it made Haley happy that she was in no way related to Ellen. At the same time Ellen heard about the neighborhood deaths of pet owners and Ellen thought accidents my ass but that was the pot calling the kettle black. All Ellen knew was that the deaths were too coincidental to be accidental and she was glad that she didn’t have a pet. And Ellen told Sara of her theory and to be careful around Haley when Sara told her of the pets she returned Ellen told her she was probably on Haley’s hit list. In fact though Haley’s next target was unfortunate Mr. Pike who had plenty of chances to swim straight, sort of speak. He was a regular customer replacing his son’s goldfish every two weeks. It was obvious that the boy wasn’t feeding his neglected pet but he always took a fit and demanded another one when the latest victim died and daddy dearest never refused him. Haley was certain the dead Goldie got unceremoniously flushed down the toilet.
To make matters worse Gill Pike bought a large salt-water fish tank hoping to capture the boys’ interest so Haley helped the man pick out a variety of fish, puffer, lion fish, scorpion fish, and an eel that would delight the entire family leaving the unsuspecting people open to dangers of the deep even the coral and rocks were a threat. All that Mr. Pike tried to do was clean out his fish tank like Haley suggested by boiling the rocks and coral that had individual polyps attached on them but ended up in the hospital after inhaling an aerosolized version of one of the deadliest poisons on the planet. His nose was running profusely, he suffered severe coughing fits, chest pains and had trouble breathing. Although the poison was readily available in aquarium stores many of the coral polyps weren’t toxic at all but those that contained paly-toxin could kill if even a small amount of the poison got on the skin or inhaled by vapors/steam. The problem was not being able to tell whether a particular coral had poisonous growths on it or not that was why customers were warned of the hazard and told to clean tanks with cold or lukewarm water, the opposite advice Haley gave him. Poor Gill Pike was swimming with the fishes, forgive the pun.
Illustrated by: Jason Hendrickson
When Detective Buck Dale arrived on the scene it was quite the mystery until he went to the hospital and when the patient died found out there was poison in the man’s system. After interviewing the pet store manager he learned that most of the fish Mr. Pike had chosen were poisonous but it was actually the coral plants that killed him. When co-workers said that Haley helped the man pick out the fish she said the guy wanted cool ones that would interest his son and that the bags had warning poisonous stickers on them. But Haley knew most people didn’t read the labels and just dump the fish into the tank. And in regards to the coral Haley said she gave the man proper instructions on how to clean the tank and with no-one in ear shoot and being so young and innocent looking she wasn’t questioned any further. Still there were too many coincidences the dog owner, snake owner, bird owner, and now fish owner all died and Detective Buck Dale had a nagging suspicion that the cat lady also fell victim to whom, this young innocent looking girl working at the pet store? It was almost laughable if it wasn’t so tragic and the detectives wondered what to do next. “We hope she makes a mistake and in the meantime try to find any evidence we could even though I have no clue where to start… maybe back to where I think it all started … the cat lady” Buck sighed.
Gill Pike grew up in a large family with three older brothers and only one working parent so money was tight, every penny counted. His father worked in the army and his mother stayed at home to watch over the children because a babysitter would cost a fortune. Being in a military environment and living in housing quarters on-base the household was well-organized and regimented but the problem with that was once the kids got older they began to rebel against authority especially since their father was out in the field for weeks even months. The teen’s behavior became out-of-control when like many their age they tried to fit in by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and having sex, Gill was a lightweight compared to his siblings. When his father came back from the field he was too exhausted to deal with the rowdy teens and his wife was almost comatose. When the boys asked for stuff it was easier to give them what they wanted then fight with them so Gill learned the behavior from his parents.
When Gill went to college he became a social worker to help troubled youth thinking he could change the world but quickly felt disrespected by them. During group counselling sessions the yelling gritted against his every nerve. He met Linda when she dropped off her nephew Cody who had court-ordered sessions because of punching his mother in the face. After several encounters he asked her out on a date and within the year proposed to her. Both had seriously discussed whether or not they wanted children because of their personal experiences and agreed not to but fate interceded. Linda’s sister died and she was left as custodian of her nephew.
Poor Gill felt accosted all day long and when he got home he literally had brought his work home with him. Cody knew he had the power over his aunt who felt sorry for him and Gill who was unrelated so he got what-ever he asked for. But Cody was taking way too much credit thinking it was all his doing much of Gill’s behavior he obtained from his parents.
So Haley’s assumption that Mr. Pike wasn’t parenting or standing up to his wife wasn’t as simple as that. That was what happened when one judged a book by its cover, and Ms. Kitty Kat, Shiba, Condor, as well as Mr. Pike were all victims of that analogy.