Blood Lines Chapter 5

   It wasn’t breaking news that Prince Edward Island was an island. It was older than old dirt news that it hadn’t always been one. It was news that didn’t matter to many folks who lived on the island. They weren’t overly concerned with the past. They cared about right now. They cared about heating oil being delivered on time. They checked the time the school bus was scheduled. They cared about the flat tire that stopped them dead in their tracks on the way to the grocery store. They were concerned about putting food on the table that day, but not overmuch about what made the tire go flat. They worried that prices had fallen so low for lobster that fishermen were getting only 50 cents a pound for it. 

   It wasn’t news to the lobsters who lived in the ocean. They had been around much longer than the fishermen, farmers, and townsfolk who plied their trade on sea and shore. The crustaceans had seen it all, although they hadn’t seen amnesic shellfish poisoning before. The new toxin was killing Canadians who ate shellfish. No lobster ever went to any of their funerals. “That’s a dose of your own medicine,” Louie the Large said, chuckling to himself that the toxin wasn’t bothering his kith and kin.

   Lobsters didn’t have a trade or much else to do, other than eat anything and everything they could all day and night. They hated crabs and crabs hated them and it was the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s whenever the shellfish ran into each other. The lobsters were bigger badder more determined and three of their five pairs of legs were outfitted with claws. They usually carried the day. Might makes right.

   The number one rock ‘n’ roll band among the island’s lobsters was the B-52’s. They were the house band in their part of the world. Every lobster knew the lyrics to their ‘Rock Lobster’ song. The band had released it ten years earlier and when they did it shot up the charts, even though every single crab scorned it as the devil’s music.

   “We were at the beach, everybody had matching towels, somebody went under a dock, and there they saw a rock, it wasn’t a rock, it was a rock lobster!” 

   Whenever a crab heard the song, it kicked sideways and cursed. They were happy to see the island’s fishing boats go after their country cousins in the spring. They showed up at every harbor for the blessing of the fleet on Setting Day and shouted “Godspeed!” when the boats broke the waves. There was no love lost between crabs and lobsters. “We don’t need no skunks at our lawn party,” the crabs said.

   Even though lobsters could be bad as the wrong side of a Hells Angels bed, all they really wanted to do was eat and have some fun afterwards. They were always on the move, looking for a party.

   “Havin’ fun, bakin’ potatoes.”

   Prince Edward Island was known as Spud Island. It was no small potatoes when it came to the tuber. It was the smallest province but the top potato producing province in the country. Mr. Potato Head lived around every corner.

   “Boys in bikinis, girls in surfboards, everybody’s rockin’, everybody’s fruggin’.”

   Lobsters couldn’t move nearly fast enough to frug, but it didn’t matter. They got into the spirit of the song. They lived in concord among themselves ten months out of the year, except when one of them happened to eat another one of them. Two months of the year all bets were off. That’s when the island’s lobster boats went hunting for them. That’s when the angels sang. They didn’t like it, but they had to take their lumps like everybody else.

   There were about 1200 boats sailing out of 45 harbors. More than three dozen boats came out of the North Rustico harbor alone. Every one of them was out to get them. Once they got them their fate was sealed. Every lobster knew it in its bones, even though all they had was an exoskeleton. Their inner selves had no bones. They were going to be boiled alive and there was nothing they could do about it.

   “Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

   Traps have escape vents to let shorts get away while still on the bottom. The under-sized lobsters who overstayed their welcome were thrown back into the ocean. Egg-bearing females were also thrown back. The female carried her eggs inside of her for about a year and then for about another year attached to the swimmerets under her tail. When the eggs hatch, the larvae float near the surface for a month. The few that survive eventually sink to the bottom and develop as full-fledged shellfish. For every 50,000 eggs generated two lobsters survive to grow up and go rocking.

   Some diners wearing bibs argue that lobsters don’t have a brain and so they can’t and don’t feel pain. They have probably never seen their tails twitch like the mosh pit at high tide when they get thrown into a pot of boiling water. They weren’t twitching to the beat of the B-52’s. Their brains might not amount to much, but they had a nervous system. They reacted to pain physically and hormonally. The hormone they released when dying was the same one that human beings release when hurt. Cortisol is cortisol. They would have screamed if they could.

   “How about coming down here with the rest of us,” they wanted to scream from the red hot mosh pit.

   The Prince Edward Island seafood industry considered lobster to be their crown jewel. It was a gourmet delicacy known for its tender juicy meat. But that was like getting the Medal of Honor when you weren’t around anymore. Who needs to bask in that kind of glory? The only consolation lobsters had was that harvesters took care to manage their resource. They didn’t pull up over many of them in their traps. They were learning their lesson from what was happening to cod, which were disappearing fast.

   It was a small consolation for Louie the Large and his clan. It only meant fishermen were in it for the long haul and weren’t going to change their minds about snatching them up anytime soon. The only consolation a lobster ever got was when somebody reached for it and the lobster was able to get the outstretched hand in its crusher claw.

   “We were at a party, his earlobe fell in the deep, someone reached in and grabbed it, it was a rock lobster!”

   When that happened, there was no quarter given. The lobster was going to sell its life dear. The hand was going to pay dear for sticking its nose where it didn’t belong. It should have stayed where it was before it ever came to the island. Why didn’t they stay in the Old World? What lobsters didn’t know was that fishermen came from the same place they came from way back when. They came from way down in the ocean. They weren’t ever going back. It was the New World. The sooner they got that through their thick heads the better.

   “Lots of bubble, lots of trouble, rock lobster.”

Blood Lines Chapter 6

   Clyde Ferguson walked slowly into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital mortuary room like he was seeing it for the first time, his eyes tearing up, even though he had been the provincial pathologist for 11 years. “Fuck, that hurts,” he said under his breath. He waited for the sharp stab in his left hip to go away. He felt unsteady. He steadied himself with one hand on the doorjamb. He was all right after a moment, as far as it went. His left heel wouldn’t flatten down to the floor. That leg had gotten shorter the past five years. He put his arms at his sides and breathed evenly.

   The hospital was practically new. It was still in its infancy. He was getting older by the minute, which bothered him. “Getting old is no problem,” is what Groucho Marx said. “You just have to live long enough.” But sometimes he didn’t feel like he was just getting old. He felt like he was getting old and getting crippled to boot.

   His hip hurt like hell and worse. He knew exactly what the matter was. It had finally gotten to be bone on bone. The day had always been coming. Walking and yoga and strong drink had forestalled the inevitable. But he had walked too much the past several days. When the weather had gotten better, he drove to Brackley Beach, and walked two miles back and forth three days in a row. That was a mistake. It wasn’t the same as his treadmill, which had arm rails he could support himself on. He had three months left before his retirement became official. When it was signed sealed delivered , he was getting an after-market hip the next day, going back to Tracadie, and staying there. He would break it in and in the evening cut up fillets rather than dead folks.

   He blinked in the fluorescent light, wondering why there were two tables set up for him. When he remembered the arm, he remembered he was going to have to do two post-mortems, one on the arm and one on the young woman who the arm had once belonged to. It looks like it’s been chewed on, he thought. 

   Her death was being treated as the result of criminal activity. If it was some place bigger than Charlottetown the post-mortem would have been performed by a forensic pathologist. They investigate deaths where there are legal implications, like a suspected murder. But it wasn’t some other place. It was Charlottetown, the smallest capital city of the smallest province in Canada. It would have to do, and he would have to do it.

   After he was suited up, Clyde stood over the dead woman and blinked his fly-belly blue eyes. She was on her back on a stainless-steel cadaver table. It was essentially a body-sized slanted tray with raised edges to keep fluids from flowing onto the floor. There was running water to wash away the blood that is released during the procedure. The blood went down a drain.

   She hadn’t been shot or stabbed. Her face was a mess, though. It took him a minute to see what it was that had killed her. Her skull was fractured. Parts of the broken head had pressed into the brain. It swelled and cut off access to blood by squeezing shut the arteries and blood vessels that supply it. As the brain swelled it grew larger than the skull that held it and begin to press outside of it into the nasal cavity, out of the ears, and through the fracture. After a minute it began to die. After five minutes, if she hadn’t called it a day, she would have suffered irreversible brain damage. One way or the other it was the end of her.

   He got down to the rest of his work, making a long incision down the front of the body to remove the internal organs and examine them. A single incision across the back of the head allowed the top of her skull to be removed so the brain could be examined. He saw what he expected to see. He examined everything carefully with the naked eye. If dissection had been necessary to look for any abnormalities, such as blood clots or tumors, he would have done it, but what was the point?

   After the examination he returned the organs and brain to the body. He sewed her back up. When he turned his attention to the arm, he saw clearly enough it had been chopped off with one clean blow. The axe, or whatever it was, must have been new or even newer. In any case, it was as sharp as could be. Her hand was clenched in a fist. He had to break her fingers to loosen it. When he did, he found a loonie in her palm. It was Canada’s one-dollar coin introduced two years earlier to replace paper dollar bills, which had become too expensive to print. Everybody called them loonies after the bird on the reverse side.

   Clyde looked at the spanking new coin smeared with old blood and older dirt. He put it in a plastic bag and labelled it. He recorded everything on a body diagram and verbally on a cassette tape. He put the loonie, diagram, and tape in a pouch and labelled it. When he was done, he washed up and decided to go eat. After that he would call it a day. The work had warmed him up and he wasn’t limping as much as he had earlier. He tested his hip, lifting his leg at the knee and rotating it. It felt reasonably ready to go. He would go to Chubby’s Roadhouse for lunch. They had the best burgers on the island.

   The phone rang. It was Pete Lambert, the Commanding Officer of the RCMP Queens detachment.

   “What have you found out, Clyde.”

   “I’m on my way out for a bite to eat. Meet me at Chubby’s. So long as the force pays, I’ll tell you everything I know.”

   Chubby’s was 15 minutes from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and 20 minutes from the RCMP station. While he was driving Clyde thanked God it was 1989 and metallic hip replacements were as good as they had ever been. The first hips dated back a hundred years to when ivory implants were used to replace the femoral head. Elephant tusks were cheap at the time and were thought to possess good biomechanical properties. That proved to not be the case. Men and women died right and left from infections and dislocations.

   Fifty years later an American surgeon performed the first metallic hip replacement. He designed a prosthesis with a head made of something he called Vitallium. The implant was 12 inches in length and attached with bolts to the end of the femoral shaft. It worked like a charm. That same prosthesis is what he would be getting, except it was better and the implant would be inserted within the canal of the femur, where bone growth would lead to more permanent attachment. So long as he could wake up and walk upright first thing in the morning, instead of staggering and grabbing for support, he would be a happy man.

   Chubby’s Roadhouse and Bud’s Diner were next to each other in a pink and blue building on St. Peters Road in Dunstaffnage. They did brisk business. It was a popular pit stop for bikers on poker runs. It was why Pete Lambert had lunch or dinner there once a week, getting to know the riders. He kept his enemies close.

   “We serve burgers and fries and shakes, and fish and chips and clams and all that stuff,” Clarence Foster said. “But I think as far as the burger goes, the best, the one that everybody seems to like is called the Bud Burger.” Clarence was both the Chubby and the Bud.

   Dances were held in the back of the building with local bands. The local rock ‘n roll group Haywire was a summer favorite. Teenagers with ice cream cones gathered around the pinball machines at the front. Drinkers stayed at the bar, drinking. The bikers ate their Bud Burgers outside during the day and drank inside during the night.

   “We have wedding receptions and things like that,” Clarence said. He told the bikers about them in advance, so that nobody ended up stepping on anybody else’s toes.

   The Spoke Wheel Car Museum was next door. Clarence and his father, Ray, shared an appreciation for old cars. They both liked to smoke but loved cars more. They gave up cigarettes to save money. Instead of going up in smoke their savings went toward buying heaps nobody else wanted and restoring them. They offered to buy Bernie Doiron’s VW Beetle, but he said, “It ain’t no antique.” By 1969, they had 13 cars, including a 1930 Ford Model A Coach that Clarence drove. It was how the roadhouse and diner came into being. 

   “People were coming to the museum and looking for a place to eat,” he said. “Since my dad was a cook in the army, we decided to build a little canteen and it just kept on growing.” 

   Clyde and Pete ate inside at a back table. It wasn’t the warmest spring day, although it was sunny. They had Bud Burgers and cold pints. There were a handful pf people having a late lunch.

   “How’s the hip?” Pete asked.

   “Hellzapoppin’,” Clyde said.

   “Is that the official word?”

   “It’s how I feel. I’ve got two months and 29 days from now circled on my calendar.”

   They ate and small talked. “Find anything out?” Pete asked, finishing his burger and hand-cut fries. The food was good because the beef and potatoes came from the island. It would be a trifecta once islanders started up their own breweries.

   “It will be in my report tomorrow, but since you’re interested, I’ll summarize it. She died of a fractured skull. There was tissue not hers on her face and in her hair. I want to say she was hit by a fist that got scuffed up doing it. She had alfalfa on and in her clothes. More than a brush of silage, enough to make me think she was on a dairy farm long enough to roll around in it. She wasn’t killed on that field, although her arm was probably cut off there. The last field cutting there was in late August, so she was put in the ground sometime between then and no later than the end of October.”

   Thousands of acres of potatoes on the island the last fall were left in the ground. Heavy rain and cold temperatures put a damper on the harvest. There was too much rain and cold, freezing and thawing, day after day, and it led to a deep frost.

   “Her arm was probably cut off by an axe, sharp as hell, clean as a whistle. Whoever did it, like the fist, is a strong man or woman. Why it was cut off, since she was already dead when it happened, is for you to find out. She had a loonie clenched in her missing hand. It was a 1988 issue. No prints other than hers on it.”

   “Are her prints in the report?”

   “Yes, what we could get, which wasn’t much of anything, but they will do.” It was shop talk. Pete knew everything and a batch of photographs would be part of the report.     

   “She wasn’t molested or abused. I don’t think she had eaten for several days. There wasn’t anything remarkable about her teeth, none missing, one filling. She was in her early twenties, five foot five, 118 pounds, green eyes, light brown hair, no moles, birthmarks, or tattoos. She was healthy as a horse.”

   “Anything else?”

   “One more thing. I think she might have poked somebody in the eye. There was retinal fluid and blood under the fingernails of the first two fingers on the cut-off arm. Her nails were 7 mm long and almond shaped, perfect for poking. It wasn’t her blood, either.”

   Blunt trauma to the eye can cause the retina to tear. It can lead to retinal detachment. It can require urgent surgery. The alternative is blindness. After that it’s living in the dark forever.

   “If that happened, where would the eye have been treated?” Pete asked.

   “At a hospital or a large eye clinic.”

   “What happens if it’s not treated?”

   “Kiss goodbye to that eye.”

   “I see,” Pete said, paying the bill when the waitress stopped at their table. What thin crowd there had been had cleared out. It was the middle of the afternoon. When the two men went out to their cars, they were the only two cars in the front lot. Pete was driving an unmarked police car, although it was clearly an official car. Clyde was driving a Buick Electra station wagon. He could lay a corpse out in the back if he had to. They shook hands and went their separate ways.

   Five hours later a biker riding a red motorcycle approached the roadhouse, swerving to avoid a fox. There was always more roadkill in the spring and fall. Skunks and raccoons were the most common, although foxes weren’t always as quick and slippery as their reputation. He pulled up, parked, and went inside. He left the key in the ignition. His Kawasaki Ninja had an inline four cylinder, 16 valve, liquid cooled engine with a top speed above 240 KPH. He had already made that speed and more. He knew nobody was going to mess with his bike because everybody at Chubby’s knew whose motorcycle it was. At the bar he ordered a Bud Burger and a cold pint.

   “How’s the eye?” the bartender asked. “It looks good. At least, no more pirate’s patch.”

   “Yeah, but I waited too long to get it fixed,” the biker said. “The doc says I’ll probably be more blind than not in that eye from here on. It doesn’t matter, I can still see enough out of the other one to take care of my business.”

   He ate fast and downed his beer. When he left, he paid cash with a new one-hundred-dollar bill.

   “Where do you keep finding these?” the bartender asked.

   “Pennies from heaven, my man, pennies from the main man” the biker said, leaving him a tip of a half dozen shiny loonies.

   Getting on his glam motorcycle in the dusk he thought, I got to be more careful about that.

Blood Liners Chapter 7

   When the rainstorm became a thunderstorm and lightning hit the ground where Becky LaPlante was lying dead in a shallow pit up the hill from Murphy’s Cove, the zigzag voltage found the handcuff and watchband on her wrist. Her cut off arm convulsed and jumped to life. It was the middle of the night and pitch dark. There were no houselights and no streetlights anywhere nearby. The arm sparked and glowed an electric white and blue.

   Life is made in Heaven, but so is thunder and lightning. There were more than 100 million volts in the lightning bolt. There were 120 volts waiting in the wires to light up North Rustico in the morning. When the arm got over the shock, it reached for Becky. It didn’t like what it found. It reached the other way. It fought to dig its way out.

   If I ever get my fingers on the neck of the killer, I will have my revenge, the arm thought. It wouldn’t look for the right time and the right place. It would spring and squeeze the life out of who had done the evil act the second it found him. The arm’s revenge would be vigilante justice, plain and simple.

   Becky wanted to tell her arm to settle down and lay low. She wanted to say revenge was for the living, who might find satisfaction in it, but not for the dead. She wanted to say don’t bother on my account but couldn’t get the words out.

   There were more firebolts. There were more thundercracks. Wood ducks and Canada geese hunkered down. Lightning bugs in the weeds stayed where they were. A hard rain fell.

   As the arm broke through the ground its spurt of energy died away. It stopped in its tracks and made a fist around the loonie in its hand. The killer was going to pay, the arm vowed. It struggled to form an image of the man with the axe. It was the arm’s last thought. It was the end of the last living part of Becky.

   She thought it was better that way. She didn’t want to be cut off from herself. She was on her way somewhere and wanted to get there in one piece. If it was Hell, she would give the Devil a piece of her mind. If it was Heaven, she would bite her tongue and get through the pearly gates as fast as she could.

   Even though it was the witching hour, all the dark things in the trees and in their burrows and bedrooms stayed asleep. There was a silence that wasn’t entirely quiet. There were some sounds in the tiny gaps. A fox snapped awake in his den, made sure the kits were all right, and tried to work out what he thought he had heard. He couldn’t make out if it was real, or not.

   The arm stiffened getting rigid fast and the briefcase handcuffed to its wrist fell to the side. The fox drifted back to sleep, making a mental note to take stock of his domain when he had a chance. A steady rain fell all through the night and most of the rest of the next day. It was only the day after that the fox was able to get out on his tour of duty. By then there wasn’t much to see. The fox got down to business hunting mice and rabbits.

Blood Lines Chapter 8

  “Oy, where is that you are coming from?” William Murphy asked the pussycat going on tomcat at his feet. The half-pint was looking up at him. He had been in Thomas Spate’s coat pocket when Prince Albert’s hired gunman shot him dead. As the ferryman was spitting out his last breath, the cat jumped out of his pocket and scurried to the side. He watched Bill Murphy roll push kick Tom Spate into the Stanley River. He floated face down into the New London Bay.

   That was the end of Queen Victoria’s would-be killer, at least until he sank. When he did bottom feeders like eels would eat whatever was left of his decaying decomposing body. The cat had seen plenty of eels in his short time on Prince Edward Island. He knew what they were up to. It was why he never snacked on them.

   The tabby was striped and gray, still small but on the stocky side. “The only true animal is a cat, and the only true cat is a gray cat,” Lucy Maud Montgomery said years later while writing about Anne the spunky Green Gables girl. She had two of them. “When people ask me why I want to keep two cats I tell them I keep them to do my resting for me.”

   Snapper was a Scottish half-breed from Rear Settlement, on the west side of Settlement Rd. beside a tributary of the Montague River. Everything had gone wrong a month before when Ann Beaton, the woman who had given him his name and kept him fed dry and warm in bad weather, was murdered when somebody smashed in the back of her head with a grubbing hoe.

   Ann was 41 years old and a spinster. She was lonely but had a one-year-old daughter to keep her company. Nobody knew who had gotten Ann pregnant. She had a lot of explaining to do but kept it a secret. She called the bun in the oven her snapper. When she found the kitten, who had wandered away from his litter, she called him Snapper. She lived with her brother Murdoch and his family. The night she was killed was the day she went visiting her neighbor who was weaving some cloth for her. They had tea and raisin pie after dinner and Ann started for home when it was near to sunset.

   “What do you say, it’s getting awful dark, maybe you should stay overnight,” her neighbor suggested.

   Ann said she knew the way back like the back of her hand and besides, she enjoyed walking in the dark. Her brother was away and one of his children was watching her girl. She wanted to get back so she could watch the young one herself. Ann was found dead the next day laying in a ditch at the back of her brother’s farm, her blood day-old dry and caked.

   She was laid out in the barn. She was a mess. She had been stamped on and violated. Her body and dress were marked with the prints of a shod foot. Everybody from the community filing past the viewing laid a hand on her. There was a Scottish belief that if a murderer touched the body of his victim, blood would gush forth. At the end of the viewing everybody was in the clear. There had not been any gushers. The killer was still on the loose.

   Snapper stayed alert as Bill Murphy walked back to North Rustico. He bounced up and down in the man’s coat pocket. The island’s pioneer days weren’t over, except where they were. Most folks still farmed and fished, but not all of them. Some made and sold farming implements while some worked in shipyards. Everybody needed lumber and many men worked at lumbering. There were sawmills and shingle mills. There were schools, churches, and post offices. There were some inns and hotels. There were plenty of distilleries.

   Ann Beaton’s funeral was presided over by the Reverend Donald McDonald, a minister of the Church of Scotland. He had a large following of “kickers” and “jumpers.” They were known that way for the religious frenzy they fell into while being “under the works.” The clergyman had emigrated from Scotland to Cape Breton and finally to Prince Edward Island. Everybody knew he drank too much when he was a Scotsman. When he became a Canadian, he tried to stay on the wagon. “Prince Edward Island is a dubious haven for a man fleeing demon rum,” one of his kinsmen said. There was plenty of strong drink on the island. A year before her death Ann attended several prayer meetings and while under the works knocked a Bible and a candle from Reverend McDonald’s hands. She invertedly kicked the Bible. She purposely blew out the candle.

   “They are both under her feet now and mark the end of that girl,” the clergyman said by way of a sour eulogy.

   Snapper watched country folk going to Cavendish by horse and buggy to buy tea, salt, and sugar. If they had something extra in their pockets, they bought molasses and tobacco. They only bought clothes they couldn’t make themselves. They didn’t buy food as a rule. They grew and processed it themselves, picking and preserving berries, milking cows and churning cream for butter, and curing beef and pork after slaughtering the animals.

​   The grubbing hoe that killed Ann Beaton belonged to Archibald Matheson. He lived nearby on the Settlement Rd. with his wife and son. The three of them were arrested on suspicion of the crime. Some local women reported being molested by the farmer. Bad feelings among neighbors weren’t facts. He and his family were soon released. He may have had a bad reputation, but so did Ann. There were rumors she had been killed by a jealous wife. A smutty ballad was written describing her as “light in her way.” 

   After the funeral she was buried in the Pioneer Graveyard. Her brother moved away nobody knew where. Nobody knew what happened to her baby, either. Nobody wanted to know. By the time Snapper was on his way to North Rustico everybody had done their best to forget all about it.

   The kitten was sleeping in the back of a wagon one day almost a month after Ann’s death. He was sick and tired of nobody feeding him. Before he knew it the wagon was on its way. When he looked back, he didn’t see much worth going back to. He made himself comfortable and went with the flow. The flow was towards the northwest. The wagon stopped overnight at Saint Andrews and the next night at Covehead before getting to the Stanley River, where it rang for the ferry. Once they were across, and the wagoner was stretching his legs, Snapper stretched his legs, too. When he was done the wagon was long gone. Unlike wagoner’s hauling freight, the kitten wasn’t on a schedule. He was go-as-you-please footloose.

   Tom Spate’s young wife took him in, poured him milk, and fed him scraps of white fish. He bulked up and stayed agile staying out of Tom Spate’s way. The ferryman had a bad temper and wasn’t above hitting his wife or trying to kick the cat. Snapper was fast and none of the ferryman’s kicks ever landed. Tom Spate’s wife wasn’t fast enough and had the bruises to prove it.

   He wasn’t overly distressed to see the dead as a doornail Tom Spate floating away. Bill Murphy was his kind of man, gruff but not mean-hearted. “I have never known anyone worth a damn who wasn’t irascible,” he thought. Snapper stayed where he was, not jumping ship. Besides, he had already spotted foxes along the coastline. He would deal with them once he was grown up and ready for bear, but for the moment he kept his eyes open and his nose on high alert.

   Snapper saw a lighthouse in the distance. It was weather-beaten. He was nearsighted and needed spectacles but saw well enough so long as it was a few feet past his nose. He made good use of his nose and ears for everything closer. They walked past a house where it was wash day. Behind the house was a field of sunlit rapeseed. A woman was raising water from a well with a bucket and washing clothes on a washboard with home-made laundry soap. She pressed what clothes needed to be pressed using an iron she heated on her kitchen stove. Snapper didn’t own or wear clothes and thought it was a lot of bother.

   A traveling tailor was walking up the path to another house. He was going to stay for several days, maybe even a week, making wool coats for everybody. The lady of the house had already spun dyed and woven the cloth. What Snapper didn’t know was winters on the island were long and cold. He was going to find out soon enough. When he did, he was every single day going to sniff out wool so he could curl up into it.

   When they got to North Rustico there was still plenty of daylight left in the day. Snapper ran behind the boarding house where Bill Murphy was staying and started pawing at a beetle. He batted it one way and another way. The beetle looked for a tree to scurry up. The only beetles Snapper never messed with were lady bugs. He liked the way they went about their business and took lessons as they hunted for aphids. They were deadly killers of the pests.

   Snapper slept at the foot of Bill Murphy’s bed that night. He made himself small and pressed himself against the man’s feet. The Irishman wasn’t a tosser and turner, which suited the cat. He didn’t have to catnap with one eye open, ready to jump at any minute. He slept better that night than he had in many days and nights. Even the farmland flies didn’t bother him.

Blood Lines Chapter 9

   Finnegan McFly wanted to scream every time somebody tried to swat him. Did they have any idea of the good he did for them? “Don’t bite the hand that cleans up after you,” he would have said if he could have said it loud enough to be heard. As it was, his voice was tinny and largely inaudible. Besides, he could have talked until he was blue in the face, which he was all the time, anyway, and it wouldn’t have made a dent.

   If it wasn’t for him everybody would be knee deep in shit in no time. That they weren’t was because flies laid their eggs on feces, rotting flesh, and decaying fruit. That way the maggots who hatched would have something to eat the instant they were born. If there were no maggots every toilet in the world would soon be plugged up and stay plugged up.

   He could have tried reasoning with those who came after him with fly swatter in hand, but he doubted whether that would have done any good. Most people were unreasonable. They had their own reasons for doing what they did. He didn’t pretend to be able to fathom the reasons. It was like the creepazola who chopped off the girl’s arm last fall. He didn’t have to do it. He wanted to do it. Why he wanted to do it was beyond Finnegan’s comprehension.

   He hadn’t seen it happen, of course, since his natural life span was barely one month. He heard about it through the grapevine. That was the way the fly news network worked. His home grounds were Cape Turner, less than a mile up from Murphy’s Cove. The hatchet job had gotten everybody in his neck of the woods buzzing with the news.

   Finnegan thought the RCMP might enlist him in their investigation, but they didn’t. Flies had been employed in criminal cases in China for more than 700 years. By studying larval stages at a crime scene, forensics could estimate the time of a death. Finnegan was a flesh fly and knew all about carcasses.

   Those who tried to kill him always got off with attempted murder. It was a slap on the wrist. They had not gotten him, yet. He was much faster than them. Their brains could process around 60 images a second. His brain could process around 250 images a second. He had compound eyes and could see all around himself all at once, including behind him. “They call themselves the master race,” Finnegan muttered. “Bah!”

   He knew his buzzing could be annoying. He didn’t always enjoy fly parties when there were too many of them and the buzzing grew to a crescendo. That was when he usually took his drink and himself to the side for some peace and quiet. Even so, he never reflexively tried to kill whoever was buzzing, not even a mosquito. 

   Finnegan knew hardly anybody liked a fly landing on them. He got that. His fuzzy legs could be ticklish. He made it a point to avoid human beings. He couldn’t always help himself, however. He just had to land on them sometimes to see if there was anything worth eating. He taste tested  with his legs.

   Eating was Finnegan’’s number one priority. It was the love of his life. The only other priority he had was sex, but that was a sometime thing he did more out of necessity than desire. When it came time for the love bug he unleashed his love spot. The love spot was on the front of his head near his eyes. It was how he stayed locked onto potential mates during aerial pursuit. He always got his girl.

   The creepazola with the hand axe had bashed in his girl’s head and chopped off her arm. Finnegan had gotten some of her arm. It wasn’t much, but there was always more than less of that to be had. In the meantime, he was so hungry he could eat a horse. He was airborne in no time flat and eyeballing high and wide for grub.

Blood Lines Chapter 10

   Some men are good at farming. Other men are good at fishing. Merchants and tradesmen keep them in gear and goods. Most men are good for something, although some are good for nothing. William Murphy wasn’t a man good at doing nothing. He didn’t know fishing or farming but was experienced at raising horses. He was going to make a horse farm and make his way that way.

   He stayed on the cove where he landed, building a house. He cut limbed sawed trees by hand and split blocks with an axe. The wood would be ready for a stove and fireplace next year. In the meantime, he bought a load of coal from a passing schooner. He found dampness nearby and looked for an underground spring. When he found it, he dug it out for drinking water, saving himself the work and expense of digging a well. Whenever he could he cleared land. It was one stump at a time, pulling them out with a team of draft horses. Sometimes it seemed like it was all he did.

   “The islander making a new farm cut down the trees as fast as possible until a few square yards of the blue sky could be seen above. Roots and branches lying on the ground were set on fire and sometimes the forest caught fire and hundreds of acres of timber were burned,” is how Walter Johnson, who came to Prince Edward Island to start Sunday schools, described it.

   Bill Murphy put enough salted cod away to feed a God-fearing family of Acadians. When the weather changed for the worse, he smoked read ate slept through the season, living in his union suit. The dead of winter arrived near the beginning of January and kept at it through February. The daytime high temperatures were below zero, and the overnight low temperatures were less than below zero. After spring arrived and the Prince Consort proved true to his word, his land grant stamped with officialdom and delivered, he continued clearing land and building his house.

   He wasn’t a food growing man, but he had to eat. His first task was putting in a root garden of beets turnips carrots and potatoes. They would store well during the winter. He made sure there were onions. They added flavor to food and were a remedy to fight off colds. Whenever he started coughing or sneezing, he stripped and rubbed himself all over with goose grease, stuffing a handful of onions into his underwear. He always felt better afterwards. 

   Corn peas beans could be dried and stored for soup. A bachelor might even live on the fare. Rhubarb was a perennial and one of the earliest to come up in the spring. After a long winter it was the first fresh produce. He planted plenty of it. The island had a short but rapid growing season. He woke up before sunrise and worked until dusk. He kept at it every day. The Sabbath meant nothing to him.

   The Prince of Wales visited Prince Edward Island that summer during his tour of British North America, arriving in a squadron consisting of the Nile, the Flying Fish, and three more men-of-war. The Nile accidentally grounded trying to enter Charlottetown’s harbor. Once the tide lifted it, the unlucky boat sailed away towards Quebec. Spectators cheered Bertie’s progress to Government House on streets decorated with spruce arches. 

   “The town is a long straggling place, built almost entirely of wood, and presents few objects of interest,” he wrote home to his mother Queen Victoria. She was too busy to reply with sympathy. England had been importing loads of Southern cotton for its textile industries, which were exporting loads of cloth back to the USA. Queen Victoria was on the side of Johnny Reb, but Prince Albert cautioned her to not take sides and meddle in foreign affairs. When the Union Navy seized a British ship with two Johnny Reb spies on board, there was an outcry in parliament A declaration of war was submitted for the queen’s signature, but her consort threw her quill pen away.

   Prince Albert died within the year, but not his admonishments about politics. Queen Victoria stuck to his guns for the next forty years of her reign. “I love peace and quiet,” she said. “I hate politics and turmoil. We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we must dislike these masculine occupations.” War with America would have been disastrous.

   It was a cloudy afternoon, but when it cleared, the Prince of Wales went horseback riding. That evening there was a dress dinner and ball at the Province Buildings. His lordship took a minute to step out onto a balcony. “Some Micmac Indians grouped themselves on the lawn, dressed in their gay attire, the headgear of the women recalling the tall caps of Normandy.” When the squadron ferrying the noble party embarked towards the mainland it was in a heavy rain. No one who didn’t need to be on deck wasn’t on deck. There were no spectators in the harbor waving hats and kerchiefs. Even the Indians stayed away.

   “Our visit it is to be hoped has done much good in drawing forth decided evidence of the loyalty of the colonists to the Queen.” Colonial loyalty and Queen Victoria’s confidence in her colonists were soon to be tested. It was not yet viable, but Confederation was rearing its head. The Prince of Wales played cards and lost money on his way to Quebec. He was loath to ante up. The wealthy are usually tighter with their money than the beggarly.

   Bill Murphy didn’t bother making the long trip into town, having already gotten what he wanted from the royal family. The Prince of Wales was a playboy. He didn’t care whether Bill Murphy lived or died. When the North Rustico man was able to at last move into his house, he started work on a horse barn. It would be large, more than large enough for stabling animals, milking cattle, and storing tools. The haymow would hold more than forty tons to feed his animals during the winter.

   At the same time, he started looking for a wife. He needed help indoors so he could work the outdoors. He needed help planting crops to feed himself and a family. He needed help clothing himself. Life without a woman on Prince Edward Island was a hard life. He found his wife-to-be at the same time his work bee was finishing the barn.

   He met her in the cash provision store in Cavendish. Siobhan Regan was 19 years-old, a few years older than half his age. She wasn’t pretty or well off but looked sturdy and round bottomed. He was sure she could bear children without killing herself or the infant. She could read, although she seldom did, except for the Good Book. She was ruddy cheeked with big teeth and she was a quiet woman, suiting him, who used the spoken word only for what it was worth.

   They were married and snug in their new house, home from the wedding in a buggy retrofitted with sleigh runners, the night before the last big snowfall in April. She got pregnant on Easter Sunday and stayed more-or-less pregnant for the next ten years, bearing six children, all of whom survived. Her husband refused the services of the village’s midwives, refused the services of the doctor, and delivered the children himself. He threw quacksalvers out the door with a curse and a kick. He trusted them as much as he trusted the Prince of Wales. They peddled tonics saturated with moonshine and opium. He had had some of both, enough to know they were no good for the sick or healthy, more likely to kill than not. He never drank port, punch, or whiskey, rather drinking his own homemade beer. He liked to wrap up the day with a pint.

   He knew cholera and typhus had something to do with uncleanliness, although he didn’t know what. He had seen enough of it on ships, where straw mattresses weren’t destroyed after somebody died from dysentery while laying on them. He ran a tight ship, keeping his house and grounds in working order. He didn’t let his livestock near the spring at the house, instead taking them downstream. He had seen the toll in towns where garbage was thrown into the street and left there for years. He and his wife were inoculated against smallpox, and as the children got on their feet, so were they. He brooked no objections about it.

   The Irishman wasn’t going to throw the dice with the lives of his children. Six of his ten brothers and sisters died before they reached adulthood in the Land of Saints and Scholars. Their overlords had something to do with it, famine had something to do with it, and their rude lives the rest of it, putting them in early graves. One of them died on the kitchen table where a barber was bleeding him. He bled to death. They buried him in cold sod.

   Siobhan Murphy took a breather from childbearing towards the end of the decade. Her husband and she went to Charlottetown twice that summer to see shows at St. Andrew’s Hall. They saw “Box and Cox” and “Fortune’s Frolic,” both directed by the eccentric Wentworth Stevenson, an actress and music teacher trained in London who had formed the Charlottetown Amateur Dramatic Club. 

   They stayed at Mrs. Rankin’s Hotel, having breakfast and dinner there, walking about the city, stopping for tea when the occasion arose, and spent their otherwise not engaged hours making a new baby. When they were done, they went home. The children weren’t surprised months later when told another one of them was on the way.   

   Every farm on Prince Edward had a stable of horses for work and transport. Most farmers used draft horses for hard labor, the nearly one-ton animals two in hand plowing fields, bringing in hay, and hauling manure. It was his good fortune to know horses inside and out, whether big or small. The carrying capacity of his land was more than a hundred horses. He wasn’t planning on that many, although a hundred would suit him well enough if it came to that. He was going to grow most of his own food and sell horses for the rest of life’s essentials and pleasures.   

   By 1867 when Prince Edward Island rejected joining the Confederation, even though it hosted the Charlottetown Conference in 1864 where it was first proposed, he was well on his way to making his horse farm a going concern. Confederation didn’t concern him, one way of the other. Many islanders wanted to stay part of Great Britain. Others wanted to be annexed by the United States. Some thought becoming a dominion on their own was best. He kept his eyes on the prize, his family, and his farm.

   John D. Macdonald, the country’s first Prime Minister, who was always worried about American expansionism, tried to coax the island into the union with incentives, but it wasn’t until they were faced with a financial crisis that its leaders reconsidered John D’s various offers. It was when they put themselves into a hole that his efforts paid off.

   A coastline-to-coastline railway-building plan gone bad put Prince Edward Island into debt. It spawned a banking crisis. Parliament Hill agreed to take over the debt and prop up the financing needed to resume railway construction. There was demand for year-round steamer service between the island and mainland. Parliament Hill agreed to the demand. The province wanted money to buy back land owned by absentee landlords. Parliament Hill agreed to that, too. 

   In the event, the politics and wrangling went on. “Let us pray,” Bill Murphy said. “Oh, Lord, give us strength to bear that which is about to be inflicted upon us. Be merciful with them, oh, Lord, for they know not what they are doing.” He neglected to say amen.

   He was better off than many people on the island. He had a small amount of hard cash while most islanders had no cash to speak of and bartered almost everything. When the chance arose to make a killing during the horse disease of 1872, he took it. The pandemic started in a pasture near Toronto. Inside a year it spread across Canada. Mules, donkeys, and horses got too sick to work. They coughed, ran a fever, and keeled over exhausted getting out of their barns and stables. Delivering lumber from sawmills or beer to saloons killed them outright. They died like flies.

   “There are not a hundred horses in the city free from the disease,” a newspaper editor in Ottawa wrote. Another editor in Montreal wrote, “We have very few horses unaffected.” The only place the pandemic didn’t touch was Prince Edward Island.

   “When the disease was raging in the other provinces, our navigation was closed, and our island entirely cut off, in the way of export or import from the mainland, which in fact must have been the reason it did not cross to our shores,” wrote the editor of The Patriot newspaper.

   Bill Murphy drove forty horses to Summerside where they were loaded on two ships for crossing the Northumberland Straight. Once on shore they were walked to the railhead in New Brunswick and shipped by railcar to Montreal, whose money for the horses was better than all others. After he was paid, he hid the money inside his shirt with his jacket buttoned up to the collar all the way home.

   In 1873 the island’s voters were given the option of accepting Confederation or going it alone and having their local taxes raised substantially. “I pray it’s not a tie,” Bill Murphy said. Most voters finally chose Confederation, voting their pocketbooks. Prince Edward Island officially joined Canada on July 1, 1873. The weather that day was foul and then a storm rolled in. Thunderbolts lit up the low clouds, followed a split second later by sonic booms. It was like fireworks. The fox in the fields lay low in their foxholes. It wasn’t fit for man or beast.

   It was two years later, lightning slashing the sky, that the prize horse on Murphy land spooked and kicked him in the head, knocking an eye out, breaking his jaw, and fracturing his skull. Everything he knew about horses, as well as the money from the sale of them the year before, which he had secreted away behind the barn, flew out the window with his soul. The gates of the Underworld and Heaven both opened wide to admit him. He tossed the Devil’s invitation away.

   Flags flew everywhere on the island that same August when George Coles died in Charlottetown. He had been the first premier of Prince Edward Island and one of the Fathers of Confederation, which didn’t keep him from dueling with Edward Palmer, another Father of Confederation. He was a feisty man. He was convicted of assault over the incident. He spent a month in custody while still in the provincial government. His twelve children visited him often and brought him beer every day. He had been a distiller and brewer earlier in life.

   Siobhan Murphy folded her flag and buried it with her husband in the Catholic burying ground. After the interment, her children gathered around her, she looked out on the Atlantic Ocean from the top of Church Hill Road. Her husband had crossed the western ocean at peril to himself to make his fortune, no matter what it might be. He was gone now but the land was still theirs. She would never give it up. It would always be theirs. Her children’s children would bear fruit there.

   Siobhan wasn’t going anywhere, no matter whether it was Canada or the United States or anywhere else on the island. She couldn’t raise the dead, but she could raise her children on the farm her husband made. She was determined none of them would ever forget their father. Murphy’s Cove would stay what it was and where it was.

   She started the slow walk home with her sick at heart brood back up then down the red road to the cove and their farm. The smallest of them, a girl her pigtails flapping, pulled at her mother’s dress.

   “Mommy, I have a secret to tell you.”

Blood Lines Chapter 11

   When the Chevy pick-up in front of him swerved suddenly to the left, JT Markunas pushed down on the brake pedal of his police car. The pick-up stopped on the shoulder on the left side of Route 6 just as JT saw what it was that had made the driver swerve. It was a woman in a Mother Hubbard house dress crossing the road, looking steadily ahead but not for approaching traffic. She looked unsteady. He pulled off and turned on his flashers. The pick-up driver was leading the woman by the elbow away from the road.

   “She almost walked right into my truck,” he said.

   “Do you know who she is?” 

   “No, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m making a delivery to French River, coming up from Stratford. I thought I would go along the coast. Christ, I almost hit a dog down by Oyster Bed Bridge and now this. Next time I’m taking the highway.”

   JT put the woman in the front seat of his car and radioed that he was going to try to find out where she lived and get her back to her home.

   “How are you feeling?” he asked.

   “Good, but I’m cold,” the woman said.

   He turned the car’s heating on, directing the vents at her.

   “Where do you live? Here in South Rustico?” 

   She pointed up Route 243 in the direction of St. Augustine’s. He swung his police car around, turning in a tight circle, and drove slowly up the road. 

   “Along here?” he asked.   

   “No,” she said. “Up that way.”

   When they got to the church he stopped and asked again.

   “I don’t know,” she said. “Somewhere that way,” pointing to their left.

   “What color is your house?”

   The woman looked at the church, ignoring his question. “Everybody went to church back when I was a girl. Especially here in a small community like this. My goodness, we all went. I just walked up the road from home to the church and the school. It was the same way we walked to the beach and went swimming. My teachers were Mother Saint Alphonse, Mother Saint Theodore, and Mother Saint Cyril, who was sort of icky. Kids came to our school from all over, from Hope River and Oyster Bed Bridge.”

   “You have a good memory,” JT said.

   “Oh, yes,” she said. “My school was run by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Most of them came from the islands.” The Magdalen Islands are an archipelago not far away in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. “There were four classrooms and eleven grades. The nuns were one hundred percent French. My French is fluid to this day.”

   South Rustico is where Route 6 and Church Road cross. There is a beach on Luke’s Creek, which is a bay on the far shoreline, near the National Park. The Rustico lands were some of the oldest communities established in La Nouvelle Acadie after the Treaty of Paris in 1763. 

   “I once went to mass at St. Augustine’s twice in twelve hours,” Archie Thomson said. He spoke from the hereafter. He was the woman’s dead husband. “We were dating, I was on the island, and her mother insisted we go to church Saturday night before stepping out. So, OK, that’s it, we go. Sunday morning, they wake me up and say it’s time to go to church again. I say, what, did I die? When I did, I thought, I got to be desperate for a girlfriend.”

   “You must have really liked me,” his sweetheart said.

   Built in 1838, the oldest Catholic Church on the island, St. Augustine’s was an old church when Ida and Archie got married there in 1941. “Her foster mother hosted our dinner at the Charlottetown Hotel and the party afterwards was at their house,” Archie said. “The barn was behind the house, and they brewed homemade beer. Ida and I didn’t have ten cents to rub together, but we were young and ready to go.”

   Ida Arsenault was born at home in 1917. She grew up in what became the Barachois Inn on the Church Road. A barachois is like a bayou, a coastal lagoon separated from the ocean by a sandbar. But the home she grew up in wasn’t where she was born, nor were her parents the parents she was born to.

   “When my twin sister and I were born, our mother died the next day,” she said. “It was too much for her.”

   Her father, Jovite Arsenault, a farmer with nine children, owned a house behind the church and the croplands between Anglo Rustico and the red sand shore. “Where the new school was built,” said Ida, “that was once part of his fields.” Suddenly a widower, he was unable to care for the newborns.

   Ida and her sister, Elsy, were placed with foster families. Her sister went to Mt. Carmel, on the southwest end of the island. Ida became a ward of the Boucher’s, a husband and wife in their 50s, who lived down the street, on the front side of the church. “It was just a few minutes away,” she said. “I saw my brothers and sisters, and my father, all the time, and my new parents made sure I saw my twin sister now and then.”

   The Boucher’s were islanders who had long worked in Boston as domestics, saved their money, and returned to Prince Edward Island, buying a house and farm. They kept cows and some horses. They were childless. “I was spoiled rotten since I was their only child,” Ida said. “They were older and well-to-do. We had a car, a black Ford. I didn’t do too much, although I might have milked a cow once-in-a-while.”

   Before mid-century most of the roads on Prince Edward Island were dirt or clay, muddy when it rained, dusty when it was dry. The first paved road, two miles of it, was University Avenue in Charlottetown in 1930. “They eventually paved the road up to the church,” said Ida. “We used to say, ‘Meet me at the pave,’ which was where the pavement ended.”

   One of her aunts lived a few miles away in Cymbria on Route 242. She washed clothes by hand in a washtub and dried them on the line. There were thirteen children in her family. They didn’t have running water or electricity. They had an outhouse. “When I went out to the well and pulled the bucket up, there was meat and butter in the bucket. That was their refrigeration.”

   “When did they get power and plumbing?” JT asked.

   “In the 1950s when they moved across the street into an old schoolhouse,” Ida said.

   “Where were you going when I found you on the road?”

   “I don’t know,” Ida said. “Maybe I was going to visit my auntie, but I’m not sure.”

   Archie was born in Thorold, Ontario a year after Ida. “My father worked on the boats all the time, Montreal to Thorold, where the locks are, and that’s where we moved,” he said. From Montreal the passage is down the St. Lawrence River and across the length of Lake Ontario to Niagara. The Welland Canal at Thorold, sitting on top of the Niagara Escarpment, is ‘Where the Ships Climb the Mountain.’ Standing on viewing platforms, anybody can watch cargo ships pass slowly by at eye-level barely an arm’s length away.

   He enlisted with the Royal Canadian Navy on his twenty-first birthday. It was 1939. During World War Two Canada commanded the fifth largest navy in the world. Archie met Ida when she was in nursing school in Halifax, where he was stationed with the fleet. “I was working a little job at the Charlottetown Hospital,” said Ida. “A friend of mine told me about the nursing course in Halifax. Right away I got the bug.” She and her friend enrolled, and her friend’s father drove them to Nova Scotia.

   After graduating, as part of her scholarship agreement, she worked at the Christie Street Veterans Hospital in Toronto. It was a Collegiate Gothic building originally built as the National Cash Register Company factory in 1913. “They gave us $45.00 a month to live on.” She and Archie dated long-distance by mail and phone. They got together when they could. When they did, they jumped into each other’s arms.

   “Whenever I got leave, I would pick her up in Toronto and take her to visit my parents in Thorold. That’s how I introduced her to my family.” At the same time, Ida was introducing Archie to Prince Edward Island. “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression,” Archie said.  It was a long drive alone to the far coast. He practiced making a good first impression.

   “I took the S. S. Charlottetown across the strait when we were dating,” Archie said.. “You had to sleep in your car if you missed the last one. We would be lined up single file down the road. There would be a hundred cars full of frozen men inching along in the morning trying to get on the first ferry.”

   In the steel gray of winter, crossing the Northumberland Strait from Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, to Port Borden, Archie stood bundled up against the cold wind, hands stuck in mittens, leaning over the bow watching as the heavy boat broke through thick ice.

   “It would crunch ice into big blocks and turn them over like ice cubes as it went across,” he said.

   One afternoon, making his way from Halifax to South Rustico, coming off the ferry in December and driving up Route 13 from Crapaud, he was brought up short by a snowdrift in the road. “The road went down a valley and there was five feet of snow piled up,” Archie said. He reversed his 1935 Chrysler Airflow back to where the rear tires could get a grip on a stretch of clear road. “I hit the gas as hard as I could, went as fast as I could, hit the snow, everything disappeared, and I came out the other side. By the time I did the car was barely moving. I shut it off and caught my breath.”

   Archie gave Ida a ring. She gave him a stack of books for his next sea voyage. They hardly saw each other after that as her man sailed back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. In June the S. S. Charlottetown sank on her way to a dry dock in Saint John for an overhaul. The boat was four miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. The crew rowed to safety in their lifeboats. Two tugs tried to get to the vessel but had to turn around in the heavy fog. When she was finally refloated the flow of water into her couldn’t be stemmed. It was the end of her.

   “We were in Lisbon when I got a message from Ida that she and my mother had decided on December 8th for our marriage,” Archie said. The executive order said to be ready. “I went to the radio communications on board and sent a telegraph confirming my agreement.” They were married the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.

   “Stay in the car, Ida,” JT said. “I’m going to the church for a minute.” He was hoping to find somebody who would know where she lived. But there was nobody to ask. All the doors were locked, and he didn’t see any vehicles anywhere. He went back to his police car.

   “That’s where I live,” Ida said pointing through the windshield at the Barachois Inn up the street from the church.

   “That’s a hotel,” JT said.

   “That’s where I live,” Ida repeated.

   When JT knocked on the door with Ida standing behind him, a woman wearing an apron answered. She was drying her hands on a dish towel.

   “Can I help you?” she asked until she spotted Ida. “Where did you find her?”

   “Trying to cross Route 6,” he said.

   “Oh, dear.”

   “She said she lives here.”

   “She did when she was a child.”

   “Do you know where she lives now.”

   “Yes,” the woman said, and gave him directions, describing the house. “She has a neighbor by the name of Bernie Doiron. He tries to keep an eye on her, but he’s a farmhand and works most days.”

   “Thanks for your help. If you don’t mind my asking, how old is this house? It looks like it has been restored.”

   “It was more than a hundred years old when we bought it,” the woman said. “It was built by a merchant back then, a man by the name of Joseph Gallant, so we call it the Gallant House. My husband and I had planned on living here, fixing it up, which we are still doing. It is an unending job. We converted it into a bed and breakfast to help with the bills.”

   Back in the car Ida said she was hungry.

   “We ate fish, mussels, potatoes, carrots, and turnips when I was a girl. That was about it. Whenever we went to Charlottetown we ate at a Chinese restaurant, but that was as much as I ever knew. Before I got married, I never had Italian food. After I got married, my cousin and a friend of hers said, we’re coming over to make dinner. We’re going to make spaghetti. I thought, yippee, what’s that?”

   JT found her house easily enough, helped get Ida inside, and boiled water fin a kettle for tea. He waited until she was resting easy in her easy chair before leaving. He shot her a two-finger salute off the brim of his cap.

   “Thank you, Mr. Policeman,” she said. “Can you come back soon and take me for another walk?”

Blood Lines Chapter 12

   “Mommy, you know how those men dug a hole for daddy because he wasn’t alive anymore?”

   “Yes, Maggie.”

    “I saw daddy dig a hole behind the barn and bury something in it.”

   “When did you see that?”

   “I saw it when he came back.”

   “Came back from where?”

   “When he left with all the horses that time and came back.”

   Siobhan rubbed her hands clean on her apron. “Show me where that is,” she said. The widow and her daughter walked out of the kitchen, across the yard, and behind the barn. It was early in the morning, the bottom half of the sun still on its way up out of the ocean.

   “Look mommy, there’s a fox digging near where daddy buried his treasure.”

   A red fox was digging, stopping, listening, and digging again. He had long, thin legs, a lean lithe frame, pointed nose and bushy tail. They ate everything, rats, mice, voles, lizards, rabbits and hares, birds, fruits, and bugs. The foxes on the shoreline ate fish and crabs. There wasn’t anything that wasn’t grist for the mill.

   “What is he doing?” Maggie asked, watching the fox listening.

   “When he stops to listen, he’s listening for a rat or a mouse digging underground,” Siobhan said.

   The fox cocked his head. “I know you’re down there,” he said to himself. “You can’t get away.” He dug deeper, not trying to be quiet. He knew he could dig faster than whatever rodent was soon going to be his breakfast could scurry.

   He was the size of a medium-sized dog. He was a tod. The vixen was probably in the nesting chamber with their pups. They lived in the dunes, in burrows they dug for the family. There were three four five ways of getting into and out of the den in case predators snuck in trying to eat the pups. The fox husband and wife stored groceries there, pushing it under piles of leaves, spending most of the day in the safe and sound, searching for more food mostly at night.

   The fox looked up at Maggie and Siobhan. She knew they could see as well as cats, their vertically slit pupils glinting. If he yipped and turned to go, he would be gone in a flash. They were practically the fastest animals on the island. Many people thought they were cunning. Some people thought they had magical powers. Whatever spells they could cast never helped when a coyote was tracking them.

   When the fox got his Norway rat, he trotted off with it. Siobhan went into the barn and brought back a shovel. Maggie pointed at the spot where to dig. Ten minutes later her mother had a dirty leather tobacco pouch in her hands. She knocked the loose dirt off it and walked to the house, Maggie trailing behind her. They sat on the porch facing Murphy’s Cove. When she opened the pouch and reached inside, her hand brought out money in bundles held together by elastic bands. She had never seen elastic bands before and never seen that much money, either. When she finished counting it there was $7,000.00 in her lap.

   It was all in fifty-dollar Dominion of Canada bills. The god  Mercury was on the front holding a map of British North America, along with a harbor, ships, and a train in the background. “50 Dollars Payable at Montreal” was printed on the back. Montreal was where her husband had sold his horses.

   “Look mommy,” Maggie said. “Somebody is coming.”

   A two-man horse and buggy was coming down the road, except there were three people in the buggy. There were a man and a woman and a one-year-old girl.

   “It’s Clara and Hugh come down from Clifton with their new-born,” Siobhan said as the buggy got closer. Her children were on the porch watching. She stuffed the cash money back into the leather pouch and handed it to Billy, her oldest son. “Go to my bedroom and wait for me there. Keep this in your hands on your lap until I come for it.”

   “Good day,” Siobhan said as the buggy came to a stop. Clara handed the child to her. Hugh walked around and helped his wife down to the ground. Lucy Maud Montgomery looked up at Siobhan and smiled. Siobhan smiled back. The baby girl cut cheese, and Siobhan gave her back to her mother.

   “Lucy is a lovely name, but she looks like an Annie to me,” Siobhan said.

   “That’s odd, because you’re the second person who has said the same thing,” Clara said.

   “We wanted to stop and pay our condolences,” Hugh said.

   “Thank you,” Siobhan said.

   “William was a good man.”

   “Yes, he was.”

   Hugh fed and watered the horse. The grown-ups sat and talked on the porch. The children played with the child. When the sun started to set Hugh and Clara got ready to go to North Rustico where they planned to spend the night with relations.

   “Come and have dinner with us,” Clara said.

   “I would love that,” Siobhan said and that is what she did, but not before walking upstairs with Sean, her second-oldest son. “I won’t be back tonight,” she said to him and Billy. “Put the children to bed once it gets dark. Don’t light anything and keep this bag in bed with you tight between the two of you until we decide what to do with it tomorrow.” She kissed her sons, and the other children downstairs, and once outside walked alongside the buggy towards town. She carried the baby, cooing at the girl as they walked past the burying ground.

   The next morning, she made breakfast for her children and when they were done eating, she and the girls cleaned up while the boys tended to their chores. Michael was too small to do much, but Billy and Sean were strong boys who knew their way around animals and farmland. Next summer she would add on to the house, adding two bedrooms so when the boys and girls grew up, they could have separate bedrooms. She would improve the fields and fences. She would hire a farmhand, but not increase the size of her herd overmuch. Her husband had wanted to keep a hundred horses, but she didn’t think the land would keep that many. She would devote three hundred acres to the horses and thought fifty-or-so of them would be best. 

   She didn’t believe in continuous grazing. Horses had a bad habit of grazing their favorite grass close to the ground, then returning to eat the regrowth as soon as it came back. As the year went on there wasn’t enough of it left to capture sunlight. It had to use stored energy to regrow, and if horses kept eating in the same place, energy stores ran out and the grass died.

   Horses liked orchard grass, smooth brome, and timothy the best. They could eat it all day long down to the bare earth which was when weeds started to grow in their place. Siobhan had heard of rotational grazing and that was what she was going to do. She would move the horses to one pasture and let the other pastures recover. Each of the pastures would be left empty for at least several weeks at a time. That was how long it took for forage regrowth after grazing.

   She had four paddocks connected to a sacrifice lot. The lot had a shelter, a feeder, and a water source so that the paddocks didn’t need to have their own. The horses could get to the sacrifice lot anytime they wanted. They liked it that way. Siobhan was determined to keep draft horses. She wasn’t a racing horse woman. Prince Edward Island was a farming island and farmers needed draft horses more than anything else.

   When Friday came and before it went, she told the children they would be going to Charlottetown the next day, and staying overnight, so they could buy clothes shoes boots tools small barrels utensils dishes a new table and chairs and as many household necessities as they could carry back. Winter was coming soon enough.

   Her team could trot at 15 KPH if they had to and get them to Charlottetown in two-and-a-half hours or die trying. The road wasn’t especially rough or hilly, but it wasn’t smooth and flat, either. If the team walked, they could get to the city and live to tell the tale, although it would take them five hours-or-more. She would take the four youngest children with her and leave the two oldest behind. She stood Billy and Sean on brown paper and traced their bare feet. She rolled the paper up and tied it with a string. She measured their arms and legs and height twice.

   The five of them going all together would weigh less than 400 pounds. They would be heavier coming back, but the horses could pull ten times and more that weight with no trouble and do it all day if the distance was slow and steady. She hitched the horses to their farm wagon and started before dawn. Maggie and Michael, the two youngest, sat up front with her. Biddy and Kate knelt in the back on the floor of the wagon leaning on the tailgate, looking back from the way they were going.

   When coming into Charlottetown she asked the children if they wanted to see Fanningbank. “Yes, please!” They were unanimous that they did. “Our teacher told us it is the Government House,” Biddy said when she saw it. “Why do you call it Fanningbank?”

   “It’s because a hundred years ago Edmund Fanning, who was going to become the governor, set this land on the riverbank aside for the building of a residence for the governor,” Siobhan said. “The land was his and known as Fanning Bank then, and that is what it has stayed to this day.”

   Fanningbank was a large Georgian style house. It was the kind of architecture popular in England in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Georgian style valued classical balance. John Harvey was the second governor to live there. After the start of the new year of 1837, in the dead of winter, he held the first dress-up party in the elegant house. 

   “An entertainment upon a splendid scale was given by Sir John and Lady Harvey at Government House on Thursday evening last. As this was the first occasion upon which the rooms were thrown open to a large evening party, no pains were spared to give full effect. At ten o’clock dancing commenced, which was continued with great spirit and animation until after one o’clock. The rooms were brilliantly lighted, and this, added to the crown of beauty and fashion with which they were thronged, exhibited their handsome proportions and striking appearance to peculiar advantage,” the Royal Gazette reported.

   The dancing mingling gossiping and back-slapping took place in the Grand Ballroom, a large high-ceilinged room surrounded by eight columns. When the party was over His Excellency and Lady went upstairs and rooted around under the covers in the Sovereign’s Bedroom. The party was the talk of the season that year.

   In 1864 the delegates to the Charlottetown Conference came to the house in the evening for an official dinner and dance given by Governor George Dundas. They had a grand time excited by their grand ideas, although none of them had any illusions about what it would take to make their ideas come true.

   “Mommy, why do they call them excellencies?” Maggie asked.

   “I will tell you when you are a little bit older,” Siobhan said.

   They went on to the south side of Queen Square, one of Charlottetown’s main commercial streets. It was where Siobhan knew there was tailoring, the selling of dry goods, and the manufacture and sale of rubber boots and furniture. What she didn’t know was that a fire had swept through the section destroying all but one building on the corner of Richmond and Queen. Where wood had stood brick was being laid, but nothing there was ready yet to provide her with what she wanted and needed.

   Charlottetown was a small city but with big enough business, and she had no great difficulty finding the clothes and goods she was looking for elsewhere. One merchant’s loss was another merchant’s gain. The first merchant she visited was the shoemaker Thomas Strangman and Sons. A shoe stitching machine had been invented by an American in 1856. It was known as the McKay Stitching Machine and Thomas Strangman was the first man on Prince Edward Island to have one. Sole cuts tailored to fit the right or left foot were still on the way. In the meantime, it was make them shape up on your own.

   When she was ready to pay for the shoes and boots for her children and herself, she showed one of the fifty-dollar bills to Tom Strangman.

   “Is my money good here?”

   He looked at the front and back of the bill.

   “Yes, ma’am, your money is good here.” He would take it next door to the dry goods store, which was also an exchange bank, among other things.

   She bought rice, sugar, and coffee. She bought cotton socks wool socks undershirts under garments shirts denim pants and blankets. She bought rolls of calico, brown shirting, domestic gingham, and bleached cotton. She bought a heavy plaid shawl for $3.00. She bought a dining room table and eight chairs for $45.00. 

   On the way back to Murphy’s Cove the following Sunday morning the children sat on the chairs at the table in the back of the farm wagon all the way home, waving to everybody they saw, pointing out a cross-eyed cow, and singing songs. They took turns sitting at the head of the table. They sang parlor songs and minstrel songs. They sang “The Maple Leaf Forever” and “The Red River Valley.” They sang loud and long and off-key.

   “From this valley they say you are going, I shall miss your bright eyes and sweet smile, for alas you take with the sunshine, that has brightened my pathway awhile.”

   Siobhan kept her eyes fixed on the path ahead of her while her children sang.

Blood Lines Chapter 13

   Jimmy LaPlante’s neighbors either didn’t know a thing about him or thought he was a mean recluse with a nice dog. The dog was a Labrador Retriever, young and friendly, willing to chase any stick thrown by anybody into the bay. Jimmy didn’t especially like dogs, but he had gotten the black puppy last fall to keep him company and be a bow wow alarm. He wasn’t worried about his neighbors. He was worried about Montreal. Jimmy was from Montreal but had lived on St Peter’s Bay the past eleven years. He kept himself to himself.

   Nobody except his dog and his neighbors and his niece knew where he lived. Now it was only the Lab and the neighbors. He had made sure Montreal didn’t know where he was. He had made absolutely sure of it. He was sure they still didn’t know. He was careful talking to them on the pay phone outside the down the road fish and chip shop, never talking for long. He knew they knew how to trace calls.

   He hadn’t been close to his niece, but he didn’t like it when he read in the newspaper that she was dead. Now at least he knew something. Until then all he had known was that Becky was gone. She had been found buried in a potato field up around Rustico. What was she doing there? The cops weren’t saying much. The newspapers weren’t repeating much.

   What the hell happened? She had delivered the hundred grand of good cash from Montreal and long since was supposed to have delivered the two million dollars of bad cash to them, although he knew all winter she hadn’t. He wasn’t returning his hundred grand, though. He told Montreal that and told them to find the girl themselves. He had done his part. When they found her, they would find their money, he said. They didn’t like it and told him so. He told them to drop dead and hung up with a bang. He knew it was the wrong thing to say, but what could he say? 

   He knew somebody would be showing soon enough, nosing around, looking for him and their money. The newspaper said she had been found with a briefcase but no identification. It didn’t say anything about what was in the briefcase. He knew without thinking about it that it had been empty just like he knew from now on he was going to have to be careful. That’s the way the Quebecois men were. He didn’t think they would find him but started sleeping with his dog at the foot of the bed and a Colt .38 Super under his pillow.

   Jimmy was 16 years old when he made his first counterfeit bill. By his late teens he was making fake c-notes that his friends spent everywhere without any of them bouncing. By his early 20s he was flooding the market with so many of the fakes that many businesses stopped accepting them. The Bank of Canada was forced to change the design to put their currency back on the right track.

   He got good at reproducing security holograms on banknotes and earned the nickname of “Hologram Tom.” His middle name was Tom. When he took a break from forgery, he took up impersonation. He masqueraded as a pilot for Air Canada so he could fly on courtesy passes. Over the next five years he pretended to be a doctor and a lawyer, among other things. One man died and another man was disbarred, but he left his mistakes behind him when he moved on to bank checks. In the end he went back to hard cash. It was what he knew best.

   What had happened to his niece? It had to be something to do with that dickhead biker, who he disliked and distrusted the minute he saw him and whose name he never got. He thought he was probably an islander, although he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know where he lived, but guessed it had to be Summerside or Charlottetown. He didn’t even know what kind of motorcycle the ferret rode, although he knew it was red.

   If push came to shove, he might tell the men from Montreal what he knew but make sure he told them from the back end of his handgun. He wouldn’t let them get their hands on him. If they did, he stood no chance. He knew that as well as he knew anything. He wasn’t planning on moving or leaving Prince Edward Island. There was no point to it. It would just make them testy and not believe anything he might tell them later. He would sit tight until if and when they showed up. He had moved to Prince Edward Island to get away from the life of crime, although crime was how he made his living. He knew the everyday risks, which was why he left Quebec for Atlantic Canada. The past years had been peace and quiet, the occasional phony bag of loot keeping him in plenty of spending money.

   It had blown up in his face, but he put a brave face on it and took his dog for a walk. He wore a pair of knee-high rubber boots. His house was just past Bay Shore Rd. where it turned toward Greenwich Rd. The dog and he walked on the thin strip of beach on the bay past some cottages until there weren’t any more cottages.

   St. Peter’s went back to 1720 when the village of Saint Pierre was established. It was one of the most important settlements on the island then because it had a good harbor and good fishing grounds full of clams oysters quahogs lobsters trout and schools of salmon. Many of the frogs considered it to be the commercial capital of Isle St. Jean. When the Fort of Louisbourg on Cape Breton surrendered to the British it was the end of Isle St. Jean. The French were all deported in 1758 and the English poured in. The land became Prince Edward Island. St. Pierre became St. Peter’s. 

   The British weren’t overly interested in fish. They were more interested in boats. They turned St. Peter’s into a booming shipbuilding community, building 27 big craft between 1841 and 1850. There were three shipyards, all controlled by Martin MacInnis and William Coffin. They couldn’t launch their ships fast enough because the north shore was a graveyard for ships.

   Passenger steamers between the mainland and Prince Edward Island sank all the time. When they did new ones had to be built. In 1859 the Fairie Queene from Nova Scotia didn’t make it. The bells of Saint James Church in Charlottetown tolled eight times on their own on the morning of the disaster, foretelling the deaths of the eight passengers on board the steamer.

   “Keen blows the bitter spirit of the north,” is what everybody said.

   The Turret Bell was driven ashore by a violent storm in 1906 at Cable Head. It stayed beached for more than three years and became a tourist attraction. Picnickers sat in the dunes staring at the rotting hulk, eating apples, drinking cold tea, and chatting. Their dogs ran up and down the beach barking up a storm.

   Jimmy lit an Export-A and blew smoke out through his nose. He wasn’t interested in the past. He was only interested in what was in front of him. A seagull flew past looking for scraps.

   The first sawmill was Leslie’s Mill near Schooner Pond. There were lobster factories on the northside. A starch factory opened in 1880 and stayed open until 1945. A trotter track opened in 1929. It was still there. Jimmy wasn’t a betting man and never went there. He liked horses but disliked trotters. If God had meant horses to pull two-wheel carts for sport, he would have created two-wheel carts. If Jimmy had gone to the track, he wouldn’t have bet real money, anyway. 

   Jimmy and his dog went as far as Sunrise Ave. and took a break. Sitting on the sand leaning back against a mound he watched the Lab run into the water after a stick. Whenever a stick went flying into the ocean the dog became a creature of habit. He watched a man and a woman coming his way. They were both in shorts. The man had a camera slung around his neck. It bounced on his chest with every step he took. He looked fair and sunburned. The woman was slightly taller than the man. She didn’t look fair. She carried a kind of messenger bag over her shoulder. She could have carried three or four more of them. She was a hefty gal.

   Tourists, Jimmy thought.

   They stopped a few yards away and watched the wet dog lunge out of the water and run up to Jimmy. He shook himself dry, the water spraying on all three of them. The woman reached into her bag. She pulled a Colt .38 Super out of the bag and shot the dog twice. He cried yelped groaned staggered backwards and fell over, shaking uncontrollably until he stopped.

   The dog’s last thought before giving up the ghost was, “What did I ever do to you?”

   Jimmy tried to get up.

   “Stay where you are. Don’t be the dog.”

   “Jesus Christ, why did you do that?” He was shaken.

   “Dogs are a man’s best friend,” the woman said. “I’m not a man. He wasn’t my best friend.”

   She threw the gun down at his feet. “That’s yours.”

   In that second Jimmy understood they were from Montreal. He understood they had found him. He understood his life was in mortal danger. He didn’t reach for the handgun. There was no point in trying. If he tried, he would be dead as the dog in no time flat.

   “What you need to do, Jimmy, is print another batch of bills for us,” the man said, taking a picture of the counterfeiter with his camera. “If you don’t, what happened to your dog will happen to you. The sooner you print them, the better. In the meantime, we are going to find whoever stole our first batch and take care of that business. When we do, we will be back to get what is ours before we leave. Do you understand?”

   “I understand,” Jimmy said.

   “If anybody asks about the dog, just say he dropped dead,” the woman said. “And put that gun away somewhere safe, so nobody else gets hurt on this shitty island.” They walked away, going up the bay the way they had been going. 

   “You’ve had a hell of a bad attitude ever since we got here,” Jules said as they walked away. “There was no need to shoot the dog. What is the matter with you?”

   “Shut the fuck up,” Louise said.

   “And that’s another thing. You’ve been cursing up a storm everywhere we go. You’ve been cursing in Portuguese in your sleep.” Louise was Quebecois, like Jules, but her grandmother had been Portuguese. She cursed like a sailor and taught Louise everything she knew. The two killers shared a motel room with two queen beds. He avoided her bed the same as if a rattlesnake had been under the covers. “Tone it down. We’ve got to stay low profile.”

   “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she muttered, sullen and satisfied.

   Waiting until they were mites in the distance, Jimmy stood up and looked down at the dead dog. “Goddamn it,” he said to himself, and turned around to go back the way he had come. When he was gone gulls and crows started nosing around the still warm Lab. A fox crept out of his burrow to investigate. Flies put the word out and were soon gathering. Jimmy came back and waved them away. He pushed the dead dog into the bay. By that night the carcass had floated past Morell, Greenwich, and the lighthouse. When the moon came out, he was far out to sea.

   The next day Jimmy drove to a farm outside Saint Catherine’s and got a new dog. It was a Pit Bull almost full grown and trained to bite on command. It took a week, but he taught the dog to hate guns. When he was done, the Pit Bull knew full well to bite off any hand not Jimmy’s that had a gun in it.

Blood Lines Chapter 14

   Conor Murphy’s brother Flynn was living with his Japanese girlfriend in a trailer parked beside the barn. They spent some of their time at Sandy’s Surfside Inn. They spent the rest of their time at Conor’s house, where they usually had breakfast and dinner. They were helping resurrect Sandy’s place. The trailer was small and only fit for sleeping. After dinner Conor and Flynn often shared a joint, sitting on the side porch. Mariko didn’t smoke, weed or tobacco or anything else, staying straight, sitting up straight with a book in her lap.

   She looked over her shoulder to where the dead woman had been found. She was still disturbed about it, especially since the woman had been in the ground frozen stiff all winter. None of them knew it then, but they knew now, and it clouded the memory of her first year on Prince Edward Island. She had been told before she came from Osaka that there was little crime on the island and murders were almost unheard of. Yet, a murder had been committed in her own backyard.

   Flynn was planning on building three cottages that summer up the slope from the cove and living in the first cottage, which would be winterized. The other two cottages were going to be seasonal. He would start taking reservations for them in the winter once he knew how far along he was.  If all went well, he would build two or three more in the next couple of years and live off the fat of the summertime.  

   In the meantime, he ran Sandy’s Eatery in town, next to the post office, where they made man-sized sub sandwiches, poutines, and pizza baked in a brick oven. A drunkard delivered phone-ordered pizza pies on his bicycle, one hand balancing the box which never went out of whack and the other hand on the handlebars. When it rained, he wore a windbreaker and slipped the boxes into a 30-gallon black trash bag for safekeeping. When he was done for the day, he rode home, put the trash bag away, and got juiced for the rest of the night.

   Conor’s oldest brother Danny operated the Blue Mussel, a seafood café at the far end of Harbourview Drive. He opened it in the morning and closed it at night. He was the cook and bottle washer. He carried out the garbage and cooked the books.  He had a pack-a-day habit and a motel tan. Conor’s sister Fiona left the family home the day she turned eighteen and moved to Charlottetown, got married soon enough, and bought a small bakery in the capital city, where she was keeping her nose to the grindstone trying to turn it into a thriving concern.  

   Hugo was Conor’s other older brother. He lived in nearby Rusticoville. His lobster boat was one of forty-some in the harbor at North Rustico. “It will bring tears to a grown man’s eyes,” he said. He was talking to Mariko about lobster claws. They were all on a big blanket at a picnic she had laid out. Flynn was rubbing her neck. “The bite force of a dog is about 500 pounds. A good-sized lobster’s crusher claw is about 1000 pounds. I had a claw on my hand one morning, he was squeezing my finger, and not letting go. He’s got you and you think, that’s it, he can’t go no more, but then he’ll squeeze some more. My stern man Paul had to take a screwdriver to it. Paul is a big man, and he had a big screwdriver, but it still took him a few minutes to pry it off my finger.”

   A 27-pound lobster was caught off the coast of Maine a couple of years earlier. The feat was widely written up in Atlantic Canada. The claws were so large they would “break a man’s arm,” said Elmer Bezos, a Down East man. Louie the Large laughed when he heard the news. He was at least ten pounds bigger. “We don’t catch those kinds of monsters here,” Hugo said. “The biggest one I ever caught in my traps was maybe 7 pounds. But that’s a whopper, a foot-and-a-half long.”

   Tens of millions of pounds of lobster were harvested on Prince Edward Island every year. The province accounted for more than half of all Canada’s landings, just like Maine accounted for more than half of America’s landings. Most of the catch ended up in the United States, anyway, some shipped live by air, the others live by land. It was a one-way ticket either way. 

   Many of the shellfish were pulled up from the north shore, ranging from Malpeque to St Peter’s. The Rustico fisheries were roughly the axis of the lobster world on the island. Besides North Rustico, there were the towns of Rustico, South Rustico, and Rusticoville, all named after a pioneer by the name of Rene Racicot, a French Norman who came to Prince Edward Island in 1724. Racicot became Rustico among the settlers.

   The reason the north shore was settled in the first place was fishing. After the deportation of the French by the British in 1758, and the eventual return of those who had made themselves scarce, survived drowning and shipboard epidemics, living to tell the tale, fishing was what meant life or death for their families.

   “We cook lobster on the boat sometimes,” Hugo said. They were a fast boiling fast-food late breakfast.

   Although fishing in North Rustico dated back more than two hundred and fifty years, groundfish stocks fell sharply by mid-century. “I’m no fortune teller, but a moratorium is coming, mark my words,” Hugo said. “No more white fish. All we’re going to be allowed is crawlers, although I hear we’ll still be able to catch our own bait, like mackerel and herring.” 

   Lobster got the blue ribbon. Their landings almost tripled in the decades after 1960. Except for a dozen he dropped off at his brother’s eatery, Hugo took all his takings to Doiron Fisheries in town. “I come in, pull up to the wharf, and they unload every lobster I’ve got. I might start to buy my bait from them, too.” Doiron Fisheries got its start when Aiden Doiron bought his first fishing boat in 1957. One day, when a man asked him for a cooked lobster, he said, “I’ll be right back.” He grabbed a lobster, a pot, and cooked the lobster on the spot. The Doiron’s sold fresh fish to townsfolk out of a shanty on the wharf.

   Hugo usually bagged his own bait for lobstering, late at night. “There’s a freshwater run about 2 or 3 kilometers down Cavendish Beach, where the gaspereau come up from the ocean, smell the fresh water, and spawn there. When they come back down, we catch them in nets.”

   Alewife is a herring called gaspereau in Atlantic Canada. Catching them meant waiting for them to swim back to the ocean with the tide at night. “We net them by hand, in waist-high water. When we get them on shore they flap around and there’s sand flying everywhere. We fill up 40 or 50 boxes and carry them back to our pick-ups.“ No motor vehicles nor horses were allowed on the National Park dune lands, which is what Cavendish Beach was. “We ice them up for the morning, get home by 2 o’clock, and then back up out of bed a couple of hours later, 6 days a week in the season.”

   Some of the boats in the harbor were wood and some were fiberglass, the hull of choice for more than a decade. Hugo co-owned a  state-of-the-art boat fitted with a diesel engine and electronic gear with Paul Doucette, a man he’d known since first grade. They dropped out of high school on the same day of 9th grade.

   “The word boat is really an acronym,” Hugo said. “It means break out another thousand.”

    All lobster boats were once wood, ran on 6-cylinder gas engines, and most of them didn’t come with a cabin to stand inside of. It wasn’t until about the same time that John Glenn orbited the planet that windshields were added for protection against the elements.

   “In the winter in the old days motors were removed and taken home,” said Norman Peters, who everybody called the Bearded Skipper, even though plenty of skippers had beards. “Boats were hauled to a field and turned upside down to keep rain and snow out. I remember playing under the boats and finding bits of fishing line to use for flying kites.”

   “Our boat is the Flying Squid,” Hugo said. “It was built in Kensington, so it’s called a Provincial. It’s a great boat, very dependable, although a little on the rocky side. It’s good going into it on the water, but it doesn’t like being turned. It throws you around a bit. The best thing about fiberglass is it don’t leak. Except, if it does leak, it won’t float, not at all, not like wood. If you put a hole in the hull, it will sink pretty much instantly.” 

   Lobstermen start their day early. “He gets up at 4:20 in the morning,” Hugo’s wife Kathleen said. “He’s gone before 5. I go back to bed and sleep a little more.” 

   Hugo captained the Flying Squid and Paul was the stern man. Both were in long johns through May and sometimes into June. “On top of that I wear insulated overalls and when I get to the boat I oil up,” Hugo said. “We put on oilskins, a full bib, and a jacket. It’s so you can stand in the rain for hours.”

   After clearing the North Rustico harbor the first thing Hugo did was turn on his electronics to locate their traps. “The guy I fished with before I got my own boat only had a compass,” he told Mariko. “But it never really worked right. They fished by strings back then, by their compasses and landmarks. You would probably find your buoys, but on a dirty morning, no. They’re only so big floating in a bigger ocean out there.”

   Mariko took a bite on a fried scallop. She came from her own island where there were plenty of fish and shellfish. She could shuck oysters. Clams opened when she said, “Open sesame.” She had bled and gutted fish when she was a girl.

   Lobstermen were limited to several hundred traps by the law of the land. It wasn’t always like that. In the early 19th century lobsters were so abundant they washed up after storms. Islanders used tongs to pick them up, although many were ashamed to be seen eating them because it was thought of as a poor man’s dinner. There used to be no rules about harvesting lobster. But, by the 1890s there were problems with less and less of them in the land of plenty.

   “Many fishermen had more than a thousand traps,” the Bearded Skipper said. In the second half of the 20thcentury the fishing season was shortened, lobstermen had to be licensed, and taking spawners wasn’t allowed anymore. Old traps were put out to dry and sold to tourists.   

   The island’s coastline is mostly ledge and sand. When the frozen waters thaw in April lobsters move in from the deeper ocean. They come back to warm shoal water for egg-bearing females to hatch and release in springtime and early summer.  

   Once out on the Gulf of St. Lawrence the Flying Squid looked for its traps. “We’ve got 37 bunches of 8 traps and one of 4,” Hugo said. Traps are connected by a line, eight of them on a stringer, and attached to buoys with a unique color for easy identification. “There’s 8 traps between buoys and that’s called a set, or a full trawl. They’re all numbered, and we pick them up every morning.” 

   “How do you know where the lobsters are going to be when you go after them?” Mariko asked.

   “Hard rock is what you want for lobsters, rock that looks like mountains,” Hugo said. “Sometimes they’ll cross sand. Most of the time the sand is full of crabs and crabs hate lobsters. When lobsters cross it, they bully the crabs away and you can have a tremendous catch the next day. You’ve got to think like a lobster, about the depth of the water, how warm it is, and when you think they’re going to be there.”

   When the fishing was good, they hauled one lobster after another out of the ocean, slipped rubber bands over the claws of the keepers, loading them into onboard tanks, and re-baited the traps. As they were lowered back into the water the most important rule for stern men was to not step on rope, get caught in the rope, and get dragged overboard. 

   “Lots of guys will get caught for a second, but the last guy who drowned out of this harbor was Jackie Arsenault twenty years ago. He got his leg caught and was gone, just like that, and stayed gone overnight. He was a goner. The tide worked him loose the next day.”

   Lobster fishing on Prince Edward Island could be but usually wasn’t dangerous, but it was always hard work, in more ways than one. Everything on a boat is hard. “Everything’s hard as steel,” Hugo said. “Or it is steel. No matter, whatever you bounce off hurts. I come out of the cabin one morning, coming up the steps, when something came off the sea and threw me out of the cab. The momentum of the boat picked my body up like it was weightless. I banged on the bulkhead and just like that you’re on the ground, hurting, black and bruised.”

   Boats bob and toss on the water since the ocean is never steady like dry land. “I’ve been hurt every year I’ve fished, banged up like an old man.” Working on a lobster boat means working on a moving wet platform in weather that is bad as often as it is good. Men sometimes drown in bathtubs. Fishermen are faced with open water as far as they can see. 

   Unlike most fishermen on Prince Edward Island, the Murphy’s didn’t come from a fishing background. The first Murphy came to the north shore from Ireland on an errand for the Prince Consort. When he got the job done, he was given land on the cove. They raised horses and later the family bred black silver foxes for their pelts. When fox furs went out of fashion Conor’s grandfather and father both farmed mixed crops, turnips, barley, and wheat.

   “I have three brothers and they all became fishermen, even your boyfriend,” Conor said. Mariko blushed in mid-bite of a scallop. “We weren’t fishermen, but it might have been in our blood. We were all at ease on the water. None of us got sick. Still and all, Hugo is the only one who still fishes. It can be hard on you.”

   In season the Flying Squid went after lobster every day it could. Some days, like after a storm when the 7 kilometers of line they carried was tangled and needed to be untangled, they were out for up to 12 hours. “Gear starts to move. Before you know it, everything is all snarled, mine and everybody else’s. You’ve got to pull it up, bind it up, and that’s some donkeywork.”

   Lobster cages weigh about 20 pounds without the 44 pounds of concrete ballast in them. When they are wet, they are more than 100 pounds. “Thank you to the man who invented hydraulics,” Hugo said. “Years ago, it was all hauled up by hand. The forearms of those guys in Rustico back in the day were like Popeye. I was out of fishing for a year. The next year I thought I was going to die. It was a tough spring. There was crappy weather every day. I was bouncing around like a cork and going to bed at 7 o’clock, just all beat up.”

   Ancient oceans are more ancient than anything, including mountains. Men have fished for more than 40,000 years, from about the time modern men and women wandered into Europe. More than a 1,000 kilometers of shoreline ring Prince Edward Island, some of it sand beaches, some cliffs, all of it surrounded by the deep blue sea.

   “I’m going to keep fishing, at least as long as I’m on this side of the sod,” Hugo said. “If I die, I hope it’s out there, not like that poor lass up the hill.”

   Mariko gave a start, dropping a scallop which was halfway up to her mouth. She was suddenly down in the dumps. “Ittari nani ga okotta nda?” she whispered. She waved her hand back and forth in front of her face. Something felt like an evil spirit was nearby.