All posts by Edward Staskus

Edward Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio.

Blood Lines Chapter 1

   The week started by raining Monday and Tuesday, harder the second day than the first day. The wind picked up, gusting by nightfall on Monday. The rain turned into a thunderstorm and lightning crisscrossed the sky. Bernard Doiron had breakfast and lunch and took a nap. He did the same thing the next day. Wednesday morning it was in the low teens at sunrise. There were only scraps of cloud left in the sky. He had ham and eggs and coffee and fired up Conor Murphy’s Massey Ferguson tractor. It was more than twenty years old and clean. Conor took care of it personally, since his father bought it new and paid almost ten grand for it. 

   A good two-horse team could plow two acres a day back in the day. Bernie plowed with a five bottom in the fall and a 490 disc in the spring and could do 60 acres from one end of the day to the other end of it. He was going to start across the street from the white house, what was Sandy’s Surfside Inn, and work his way to the right. He would have lunch before noon, since he was getting an early start.  

   The spring planting was running late because of rain and cold. Setting day for lobster was running late, too, because of the rain and cold. Fishermen were anxious to get out on the ocean. Lobsters were on the move. Farmers were anxious to get out on the land. Seeds were ready to sprout.

   Bernie steered the tractor to the road on the side of the ocean and up the far slope at a steady 15 KPH. It was nearing eleven o’clock when he saw the red fox. It was thirty-some meters ahead of him, sniffing and digging at something. He slowed the tractor and stopped where the fox was, who retreated, stretched, showed his teeth, and sprang into the nearby trees.

   He had plowed the field in the fall, straight furrows that stayed straight through November bluster and snow that buried the island from mid-December to mid-April. It wasn’t usually that snowy, but it had been a bad winter. He stayed snug in his small house on the far side of Anglo Rustico, opposite the North Rustico Harbor. The house was more than a hundred years old, built with island cut lumber and island made shingles. Birch bark was the insulation between the outer wall and the shingles. It cut the wind where it was always windy. He had an oil furnace and a fireplace in the living room and the house kept itself cozy without even trying.

   There was some ground mist. Crows he couldn’t see cawed from nearby trees. He could see a briefcase on the ground on the other side of his front wheels. It was open and attached to something. He hopped off the tractor and walked around to it. The over-sized hard-sided briefcase was empty. The inside lining was torn. There was mud and dried red goo all over it.

   It was attached to a bony wrist grasping the handle. The wrist was wearing a watch and was attached to an arm that was half-buried in the ground. The watch band was gold-colored stainless steel.

   “Ce que ca?” Bernie whispered to himself.

   He knew the arm was attached to a dead man. He looked at the watch dangling loosely on the wrist again. The face of it was cracked. It read three-ten. He knew he was done plowing for the day. He started walking back the way he had come, to the green house, a stone’s throw from the white house. He stopped and walked back. He looked at the arm and the briefcase again. The fox had ripped into what old flesh was left on the arm. He hadn’t imagined seeing it, not that he thought he had.

   The white house had a phone, but if Sandy was the only one at home, he could be deliberately deaf in the morning, not answering the door no matter what. Bernie didn’t see Flynn or Mariko anywhere. Conor didn’t have a phone yet, but he always answered the door when he was at home and had a fast car to get to a phone fast. It was a 1987 Buick GNX, two years old. It wasn’t sleek or refined, but next to the twin-turbo Chevy Corvette it was the fastest car in North America. 

   Looking for sophistication? Don’t get the GNX. Looking for max boost? Get the GNX. Looking for a pool table ride? Go with the Corvette. It doesn’t matter whether your car bounces on potato roads like nuts and bolts in a blender? Go with the GNX. There were two of them on the lot at the first Chevy Buick dealership he saw in Burlington, Vermont the day he went shopping for a new car. One of them was silver and one of them was black.

   “Do you have any other colors, like red?” he asked the salesman.

   “You can have any color you want as long as it’s silver or black,” the salesman said.

   Bernie drove a 1965 VV Beetle. It was red accented with reddish rust spots. It didn’t look like much and ran full speed ahead on forty aluminum-magnesium horses. It sounded like a lawnmower. It ran like a charm. Chubby’s wanted it, but they weren’t going to get it.

   Conor drove to Shearer Chevy Buick down the street and found out they had the same colors on the lot, which were silver and black. “How about red?” he asked.

   “Sorry, sir, it doesn’t come in red. GM hasn’t built many of them. When they’re gone, they’re gone for good. If you can’t decide, I can tell you the only one we have on the lot is silver and black both.” 

   “How long have you been in business?”

   “Since 1929, sir.”

   He bought it, trading in his 1977 Chevy Impala, which was losing oil and wheezing. When he reached an empty stretch of I-87 south of Champlain, he took the car up to 175 KPH. It was outfitted with a turbocharged V6 engine with horsepower to spare on top of a boatload of torque. It was an automatic but could get to 95 KPH in less than five seconds. When he saw a car a kilometer-or-so ahead he backed off his one-man drag race.

   Bernie was wearing almost new insulated rubber boots. By the time he crossed the Gulf Shore Parkway they didn’t look almost new anymore, even though they still were. Standing on the shoulder of the road he stamped most of the mud off. The road didn’t look new anymore, either, but Bernie doubted the National Park was going to be doing anything about it anytime soon. When summer came tourists would be parking on the shoulders, leaving their cars behind to gape at the cliffs and walk along the undulating coastline. In the meantime, the natives would be slowing down, keeping an eye out for loose kids and happy-go-lucky dogs.

   They never should have laid it down with shoulders in the first place, he thought.

   The National Park on Prince Edward Island went back more than fifty years. It was a watercolor landscape in the flesh of green over sandstone and shale. There were sand dunes and sandy beaches. There were salt marshes and barrier islands farther east. There were white spruce along exposed coastal spots. The Gulf Shore Parkway supplanted an older red dirt road along the coastline and cut through Murphy land, but the Murphy’s hadn’t sold any of their nearly four hundred acres to the National Park. The Ottawa men could appropriate land for the road, but they couldn’t take all of it with the wave of a pen. They were going to have to wait the Murphy’s out. They would try to buy it from a generation-or-two down the road. That was their plan, at least.

   Bernie banged on the back door of the house and waited.

   “What’s up?” Conor asked. “Did you run out of gas?”

   “No, nothing like that. Put some boots on and I’ll show you.”

   Conor was the only one living in what had been the Murphy family home. His parents were newly deceased, his mother dead by heart attack the day before Christmas followed by his father. After burying their mother, he and his sister and brothers watched their father give up day after day until he gave up the ghost. Conor gave his father’s clothes away and stored the rest of his belongings.

  He had been living in Montreal the past ten years, but after the funerals and burials moved back to Prince Edward Island. He moved into the green house, even though it was too big for him and needed work. He was the youngest of the five Murphy’s and didn’t know he had missed his birthplace until he returned to it. He made his old bedroom his new bedroom.

   Bernie and Conor walked across the road and up the slope. When they got to the tractor the fox was back. The animal glanced at them and snuck away. They stepped up to the briefcase and arm. It was nearly noon and warmer, breaking into the 20s. What clouds were left had scattered, and the sky was a robin’s egg blue.

   “Jesus Christ almighty,” Conor said. “How did this happen? I haven’t been up here since I came back. Would you have seen it if it was in the field then, when you did the fall plowing?”

   “I think so, but it’s hard to tell,” Bernie said.

   “It’s not anybody from around here, is it?”

   “We would know if it was.”

   “You stay here, watch nothing gets at it, and I’ll go phone the RCMP.”  

   “Should we dig it out?”

   “No, just stay here, and keep that fox away. I’ll drive over to Lorne’s.”

   He didn’t waste time driving to Rollings Pond, up then down Church Hill Road, past the graveyard and Stella Maris Catholic Church, to Lorne’s Snack Shop. He didn’t burn rubber, though. He reckoned there was no need to hurry. What was done was done. He parked the GNX as far away from the nearest car as he could.

   “What are ya at?” one of the two Newfoundlanders behind the counter asked when he stepped into Lorne’s. They ruled the roost spring summer and fall until they went home to Gros Morne. Lorne worked the shop winters. They made breakfasts and lunches in the small kitchen behind the counter, stocked and sold candy bars and cigarettes, rented out VCR movies kept in a back room, and cleaned whenever there was a need for cleaning. 

   “We’re finally getting some springtime.”

   “I know, I been rotten with the weather.”

   “I’ve got to use your phone”

   “You know where it is.”

   Conor dialed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They were federal police, but the provincial police, too, the past 50-odd years. They watched over all the communities on the island except Summerside, Kensington, and Charlottetown. They patrolled most of the land and served most of the population.

   “I’ve got a dead man on my property,” he told 911.

   “Do you need an ambulance?”

   “No, not unless he comes back to life, which isn’t likely.”

   “Are you there?”

   “I will be back there in five minutes.”

   “Where is there?”

   He told the dispatcher and hung up. The younger of the red-cheeked Newfoundlanders threw him an inquiring look.

   “I was some stunned when I overheard what ya said on the phone.”

   “Yeah,” Conor said. “I’ll be back, tell you all about it.”

   Back at the house he parked his car in the barn, walked across the street and up the slope, joining Bernie. A flock of long necked cormorants passed by overhead. They didn’t look down at the two men.

   “Do you have a smoke?” Conor asked.

   “I thought you gave it up.”

   “I did.”

   Bernie shook two smokes out of his pack of Player’s, lit his, and passed the matches to Conor.

   “You’re better off not smoking,” he said. “These things are getting crazy expensive. Ten years ago, a 25-pack cost a Loonie. Now they cost six dollars. I took another look at that watch, on the wrist, and I think it might be a woman down there in the ground.”

   “It’s not good, whoever it is,” Conor said.

   They stood leaning against the tractor, smoking in silence, waiting for the gravel road cops to show up.

Blood Lines Chapter 2

   William Murphy was a shrewd clear-sighted man who knew how to get things done. It was why Prince Albert sent him to Prince Edward Island on the American-built clipper ship Antelope of Boston to kill the man who had tried to kill his wife. It didn’t matter that he was an Irishman sent to drop the hammer on an Englishman. When it came to killing each other the Irish and English were good at it.

   “Either bring the evil-minded blackguard back to be hung or put him in the ground where you find him and spare us the trouble,” the consort to Queen Victoria said.

   He nearly lost his chance when he stepped out of the long boat landing him on the north coast of the island too soon for comfort and almost drowned. The water was deeper near the shore of the cove than anyone thought. He sank to the bottom not knowing how to swim and only made it back up on the back of one of the sailors who knew how to dog paddle, at least.

   The evil-minded man he was after was Thomas Spate, a disgruntled veteran of the Crimean War. When he was awarded the Crimea Medal, he threw it away. When he was one of the first soldiers to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery in action during the Battle of Balaclava, he thought about throwing it away, too, but kept it. He wore it every day pinned on his coat over his heart.

   During the war Queen Victoria knitted woolens for the troops and inspected military hospitals, wearing a custom-made red army jacket. When the war ended, she threw a series of victory balls in her new ballroom. Tom Spate watched from the outside, driving himself crazy. He was alone and down on his luck. He blamed everybody except himself for the bad things that happened to him. He walked incessantly, from one end of London to the other. He goose-stepped up and down Hyde Park. Small groups gathered to watch the performance. The queen saw him often enough to become familiar with him, although she never approached or spoke to him.

   During one of his walks around London he spied Queen Victoria and Prince Albert outside Cambridge House. As their carriage left, it came to a stop outside the gate. Tom Spate had taken to carrying two old-fashioned flintlock coat pocket pistols. They were always loaded. He walked up to the carriage and pulled them out. He straightened one arm and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He brought the other pistol to bear and pulled the trigger. It misfired. He had just enough time to strike his monarch on the head with the butt of one of the guns before Prince Albert lunged at him, shoving him away from the carriage. Men on the walk swarmed the would-be assassin and beat him almost to death.

   Queen Victoria stood up in her carriage and proclaimed in a firm voice, “I am not hurt,” even though she was gushing blood from a deep gash on her forehead. The blood was a violent red on her yellow crocheted shawl.

   Tom Spate was arrested imprisoned tried convicted and sentenced to transportation and twenty years hard labor in the penal colony on Tasmania. There was no appeal. There was no changing anybody’s mind. In their calculation he got what he deserved. “I would have had the rascal drawn and quartered,” Prince Albert complained, speaking his mind about crime and punishment.

   When he escaped his jailers and disappeared, Prince Albert summoned Bill Murphy, a mercenary who it was said always got his man. He told his monarch’s consort as much. It took more than a year, but in the spring of 1859, he was making his way soaking wet up the hill from the cove to the village of North Rustico. He knew where Tom Spate was and knew he could take his time. He needed to get out of his sopping clothes. He needed a hot cider and dinner. He needed a good night’s sleep in a feather bed on dry land that didn’t heave-ho all night long. He found the only boarding house in North Rustico and took a room.

   Bill Murphy’s man was living on the far side of the Stanley River, nine miles northwest up the coast. The Irishman grew up calling miles chains. His man was 720 chains away. It would take him about three hours to walk there on the coastal footpath. He had no intention of dragging anybody back to England. The voyage itself took months.  “Jesus and Mary chain,” he grumbled. He had every intention of collecting his bounty.

   Tom Spate lived in a rough-and-ready hut he had thrown together, living in it with his new wife and new baby. He had no land to farm and no craft to make his way. He made his way by operating a ferry service from one side of the Stanley River to the other. In the winter he closed it down when the water froze, and folks either walked or ice skated across. In January the ice got thick enough that horses and wagons could cross. He bought ice skates, carved sticks with a curve at the bottom, and made homemade pucks. His wife rented them to youngsters with eggs, butter, salt cod, and potatoes to trade for playing shinny on the ice. It was a game of fast skating and trying to hit the puck between two sticks of wood marking the goal.

   Most of North Rustico was Acadian French, and Catholic like Bill Murphy. The north coast was the religious center for the church. St. Augustine’s had been built twenty years earlier. It boasted an 80-foot-high tower. A man could see everything from the top of it. The harbor was filled with boats and the fishing was good. There were cattle and horses grazing and fields of turnip and cabbage.

   Piles of mud dotted the fronts of fields. On his way to introduce Tom Spate to his maker that day, stopping to rest, he asked a passing man what it was.

   “It is mussel mud,” the man, a farmer, said. “The land needs lime to breathe new life into it. We use the mud from bays and riverbeds. It’s filled with oyster shells.”

   He didn’t ask why they called it mussel mud instead of oyster mud. “Do you dig it up?” he asked.

   “We go out in canoes at high tide and dam up a small space so we can dig it from the bottom. When we are full, we go back and unload it at low tide.”

   “It sounds like a great deal of work.”

   “It is, but without the mud we would starve on the farms, both man and beast. I couldn’t keep one horse but for it. Your cow needs at least a ton of hay to survive the winter. We have been doubling our harvests with the mud. We will have more of it soon.”

   “How’s that?” 

   “We have got a man engineering a mechanical digger to harvest the mud in the winter through holes in the ice and carry it across the island by sleigh. There’s talk that we will be able to increase our crops of hay five and ten times. And then there’s the ice besides. We cover it in sawdust and put it into an icehouse, and we can preserve foods that go bad in the summer’s heat.”

   Bill Murphy parted with the farmer, shaking his hand. He liked what he heard about mussel mud. It was a sunny day and the uplands looked fine to him. When he got to the Stanley River, he rang a bell hanging from a post. Tom Spate’s face appeared at a window on the other side. He waved and the next minute was guiding his flatboat across the water, using a rope anchored to oak trees. He pushed with a pole along the riverbed. Bill Murphy paid him his two pennies and put his back to a pillar as Tom Spate pushed off.

   Near the middle of the river the Irishman felt for the sidearm in his pocket. He carried the new Beaumont-Adams percussion revolver. The cylinder held five rounds, just in case, although he knew he wasn’t going to miss his man with his first shot. He intended to be standing face to face with him when he dispatched the villain. He walked up to Tom Spate.

   “Thomas Spate, I have a message for you from your queen,” he said.

   Tom Spate’s face went white as the bones of a carcass when the barrel of the gun pressed into his chest, pressing against his Victoria Cross.

   “For God’s sake, I have a wife and child.”

   “For crown and country,” Bill Murphy said and pulled the trigger. The bullet rocketed out of the barrel, slamming and driving the medal into Tom Spate’s heart, ripping the spirit and strength out of it, and putting an end to the unhappy war veteran’s life.

   Bill Murphy stood over him and decided in a moment of insight that he was going to stay on Prince Edward Island. There was nothing in Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom for him other than more killing and waiting for the day he would be the one killed. He had neither wife nor family. He would find a colleen here, he thought. He would have sons. He would raise horses fed with abundant hay grown in the good graces of mussel mud. He didn’t love his fellow man, but he loved horses. 

   He bent a knee and using both hands pried open the hole in Tom Spate’s chest. He stuck his fingers into the man, feeling for the bullet and the medal. He couldn’t find the bullet at first but found the Victoria Cross easily enough. He yanked the medal out . It had been cast from the cascabels of two cannons captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopal. He searched for the bullet until he found it. He washed the blood on his hands off in the water. He pushed the body off the ferry with his boot. It bobbed in the river and started floating out to the ocean.

   He poled the ferry to the side he had come from and walked back to North Rustico. In his room he packaged the bullet the medal and a letter in a stout envelope. The letter didn’t have a word in it about what he had done, only asking for land on the shoreline where he had landed, and the right to name the cove “Murphy’s Cove.”

   He posted the letter in Charlottetown, paying an extra penny to make it a “Registered Letter.” It would sail on the Gazette to Liverpool the next week. He hoped to have a reply by the fall. In the meantime, he would start building a house on the western side of the cove. The land might already be owned by somebody, but it was nearly all forest. Whoever the landlord was, it was still waiting for a tenant, or the man in the moon. When and if he showed up, Bill Murphy was sure he could set him straight.

   He sat in his room and fired up his Meerschaum pipe. When he was young and poor, he smoked spone. It was coltsfoot mixed with wild rose petals. Now he carried good tobacco in his purse. The smoke curled up from the Irish clay. The kitten he had brought back with him from the no-contest on the Stanley River watched the smoke, avid and curious.

   “All the old haunts and the dear friends, all the things I used to do, the hopes and dreams of boyhood days, they all pass me in review.” It was a song they still sang in military barracks. He had been dragooned into the army while a lad after being plied with drink by a sergeant in a pub. He took the “Queen’s Shilling” and there was no going back, especially after he deserted and went to work for himself, plying his trade. 

   The one window of his room faced west. The setting orange sun slanted in, warming his face. When he was done with his pipe he would go downstairs for haddock, potatoes, and beer. Until then, he would smoke and let his plans unwind themselves from the back of his mind.

Blood Lines Chapter 3

   Seen from outer space Prince Edward Island can hardly be seen. The solar system is a speck in the galaxy. The earth is a speck in the solar system. Prince Edward Island is a speck on the earth. When the sky is clear and the sun is shining, it is a red and green pastoral speck surrounded by blue, except when it is cloudy and stormy. Everything then goes hazy and gray.

   The land formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Creeks and rivers deposited gravel, sand, and silt into what is the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Before the last ice age, Prince Edward Island was part of the mainland. After the glaciers melted it wasn’t a part of it anymore. It went its own way. The Northumberland Strait became what separates it from the rest of Canada.

   It’s one of the country’s Maritime provinces, the others being New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador were on their own, the way they wanted it. It is 225 kilometers from one end of the island to the other. It is 3 kilometers at its most narrow and 65 kilometers at its most wide. It is almost twice as far from the island to Walt Disney World in Florida as it is to the Arctic Circle. Walt Disney World is for pretend. The Arctic Circle is for real.

  There are farms from stem to stern. There are so many of them the province is called the “Million-Acre Farm.” When the French ruled the roost it was called Île Saint-Jean. Jacques Cartier discovered it in 1534 and Samuel Champlain claimed it for France in 1603. The Micmac’s tried to explain they had been there for more than 10,000 years, but all they accomplished was to make themselves hoarse. They switched gears and tried singing some of their Top 10 songs. They sang ‘The Eagle Song’ and ‘The Honor Song’ and ‘The Gathering Song.’ Samuel Champlain finally said, “Try singing ‘The Giveaway Song.’ You know the words.” 

   The Micmac glowered. The French reached for their swords. They were more savage than the savages and were hell bent to prove it.

   When the British took over they changed the name to St. John’s, then changed it to New Ireland, and again on the eve of the 19th century to Prince Edward Island. It was named after Prince Edward who later became the father of Queen Victoria. He visited the island five times, even though it took eight to ten weeks to sail one way.

   It became a separate colony in 1769 and the seventh province of Canada in 1873. The capital is Charlottetown, named after the wife of King George III. Charlotte barely spoke English and never visited the capital city. She stayed home in Buckingham House and played her harpsichord. She stuck to chartbusters like Bach’s ‘Concerto in the Italian Style in F Major’ and Handel’s ‘Keyboard Suite No. 5.’

   “She ain’t no beauty, but she is amiable,” George said about his wife.

   The slender crescent of sandstone is the smallest and most densely populated Canadian province, although outside of Charlottetown and Summerside where half of everybody lives it is spread out far and wide. It is more secluded than it is crowded. Forest once covered all the island. By 1989 trees still covered half of it. The red oak is the official tree. There are pine, maple, beech, and spruce. There are no deer, moose, or black bears. There are many skunks, weasels, muskrats, and plenty of foxes. The red fox is the official animal. In early summer pink and purple lupins, weeds that are an invasive species, line fields and ditches. The Lady Slipper, an out-of-the-way orchid that grows in damp shady woodlands, is the official flower.

   Farming is the number one way of life, followed by fishing, and some tourism. There are cows everywhere in sight, their snouts in the turf. There are a boatload of herring, tuna, clams, mackerel, lobsters, scallops, mussels, and oysters to be had. Tourism was growing and Flynn Murphy and his Japanese girlfriend were building cottages on family land to get in on the summer trade. They stayed at Sandy’s Surfside Inn most of the time. Flynn was one of William Murphy’s descendants, 130 years after the triggerman from the Old World landed on the island, his Beaumont-Adams revolver tucked into a sailor’s bag. 

   In 1989 the pickings were good for the Liberals, and they swept the elections. Andrew, the Duke of York, and Sarah, his once wildly popular duchess, visited, flying in on a Canadian Armed Forces Boeing 707. George Proud, one of the new Liberal members of Parliament, stood on a bench for a better view of the royals as they were driven up University Ave. “We’re the commoners, and they’re royalty, and I think people in a strange way must secretly like that,” he said. “It’s a great day,” declared John Ready, the mayor of Charlottetown. A woman in the crowd groused, “I was talking to a friend this morning who said, ‘I don’t know why we should have to curtsy to a person who a few years ago was living with a race-car driver.’”

   The duchess climbed over a rope barrier to talk to a group of senior citizens. “What are these ropes for?” she asked. “I can’t believe you’re penned in.”  

   Scouts Canada held their annual jamboree on the island that year, honing their outdoor skills and running riot in the woods. They had a rousing early summer week. The TV series “Road to Avonlea” went into production. The last train on Prince Edward Island made its last run, coming to a dead stop in living time. The tip-to-tip railway had been operating for one hundred years. One minute later it was done for good.

   “Look Away” by Chicago was the top song of the year with Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” hard on its heels. Malcolm “Monk” Kennedy was the thorn on the island that year, but nobody knew it until the Boy Scouts had all gone home. They were always prepared, it being the scouting motto, but nobody was prepared for Monk, or Jules and Louise, the Montreal killers who came to the island looking hunting for him.

   Jules and Louise didn’t know they were going to end up paddling upstream. Monk Kennedy didn’t know two million dollars was going to wrap him up. They didn’t like it when they found out, but by then they had picked their poison. The Crick was going to flow into the ocean, no matter what. They were going to have to find that out for themselves. They weren’t prisoners of fate. They were prisoners of their own minds. Monk couldn’t change fate because he couldn’t change his mind. Jules and Louise wouldn’t change their minds, no matter what.

   Hunkered down on a rock shelf at the bottom of the ocean not far from shore, Louie the Large sized the three of them  up. Monk was scrawny. He was off the dinner table unless there was a famine. Jules looked better. He had some meat on his bones. Louise looked the best. He wouldn’t mind getting his claws into her, not at all. They shared a name. He liked that. He would like it even better if they shared some flesh and blood for real.

   Louie loved the ocean, deep and blue, the tides rising and falling, where life came from. He had a high regard for it. And the fear of it, too.

Blood Lines Chapter 4

   JT Markunas was stationed in Charlottetown with the Queens RCMP detachment. He was a grade above constable, but still pulled service in a police pursuit vehicle. He didn’t mind the car he had drawn today. He could have done without the blue velour interior. It was plenty fast enough, though. It was a Ford Mustang.

   He rented a two-bedroom farmhouse in Milton. It was small but the appliances had been updated and it sported a new roof. He planted a root garden. His parents were pleased when they saw the photograph of beets, turnips, and carrots that he mailed them. JT was from Sudbury, Ontario and Prince Edward Island was his third assignment since joining the force. His first assignment had been at Fort Resolution in the Northwest Territories. He missed Sudbury but didn’t miss Fort Resolution.

   When he was growing up, the Canadian Pacific hauled ore on tracks behind their house. When the trains wailed, he wailed right back. When he was a boy, astronauts from the USA trained for their moon landings in the hinterland, where the landscape resembled the moon. After he grew up, he trained for the RCMP at a boot camp in Regina. He was surprised to see women at the camp, the first ones ever allowed on the force. They kissed the Bible and signed their names, like all the recruits, and wore the traditional red serge when on parade, but they wore skirts and high heels and carried a hand clutch, too. 

   He was sitting in his blue and white Mustang Interceptor. Even though Ford had built more than 10,000 of them since 1982, the RCMP had only gotten 32 of the cars. He had one of the two on the island. There were lights on the roof, front grille, and rear parcel shelf. He was in Cavendish, on the other side of Rainbow Valley. He was watching for speeders, of whom he hadn’t seen any that morning. He was thinking of stopping somebody for whatever reason if only to justify the pursuit car. He was also thinking about his second cup of coffee but waiting until he started yawning. He thought it was going to happen soon. When it did, he would 10-99 the radio room and take a break from doing nothing.

   Cavendish was Anne’s Land. It was where the book “Anne of Green Gables” was set. He had never read the book, but doubted it had anything to do with what he could see in all directions. The amusement park across the street was named after Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1919 book “Rainbow Valley.” It was waterslides, swan boats, a sea monster, monorail, roller coasters, animatronics, castles and suspension bridges, and a flying saucer gift shop. The paratrooper ride might have been everyone’s favorite, at least if they were children who didn’t know what fear meant.

   Earl Davison, the man behind Rainbow Valley, was looking for a roller coaster when he found the paratrooper ride. He was in Pennsylvania searching for a bargain at a park that had gone bust. The coaster seemed to fit the bill at first sight.

   “It’s a terrific ride, but you’ll need to have a good maintenance team to keep ’er running,” the Pennsylvania man said with unexpected candor.

   When Earl hemmed and hawed, the man suggested his paratrooper ride instead. “It’s the best piece of equipment I have. I will sell you that for $25,000 and we’ll load it for you.” By the end of the next day Earl had written a check and the ride was ready to go for the long drive back to Prince Edward Island. He flipped a coin about it fitting on the ferry. It came up heads.

   Earl dreamed up Rainbow Valley in 1965, buying and clearing an abandoned apple orchard and filling in a swamp, turning it into ponds. “We borrowed $7,500.00,” he said. “It seemed like an awful lot of money at the time.” When they opened in 1969 admission was 50 cents. Children under 5 got in free. Ten years later, he bought his partners out and expanded the park. Most of the attractions were designed and fabricated by him and his crew.

   “We add something new every year,” Earl said. “That’s a rule.” The other rule-of-thumb was smiles plastered all over the faces of children. “Some of the memories you hear twenty years later are from people whose parents aren’t with them anymore. But they remember their visits to Rainbow Valley and that lasts a lifetime.”

   When his two-way radio came to life, instructing him to go to Murphy’s Cove to check on the report of a suspicious death, JT hesitated, thinking he should get a coffee first, but quickly decided against it. Suspicious deaths were far and few between in the province. Homicides happened on Prince Edward Island once in a blue moon. This might be his only chance to work on one. When he drove off it was fast with flashing lights but no siren. He reported that the address was less than ten minutes away. 

   Conor Murphy saw the patrol car pull off the road onto the shoulder and tramped down the slope to it. Some people called the RCMP Scarlet Guardians. Most people in Conor’s neck of the woods called them Gravel Road Cops, after the GRC on their car doors, the French acronym for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Conor didn’t call them anything. He had been on the force once and didn’t mess with what they might or might not be. 

  JT put his cap on and joining Conor walked up to where Bernie Doiron was waiting beside the tractor. When he saw the arm handcuffed to the briefcase, he told Conor and Bernie to not touch anything and walked back to his pursuit car. He wasn’t sure what code to call in, so he requested an ambulance, and asked for the commander on duty. He described what he had seen and was ordered to sit tight.

   “Yes sir,” he said.

   It wouldn’t be long before an ambulance and more cars showed up. They couldn’t miss his Mustang, but he turned the lights on top of it back on just in case and backtracked to the tractor.

   “Who found this?” he asked, pointing at the arm. 

   “I did,” said Bernie.

   “Is it the same as you found it?” JT asked. “Did you move or disturb anything?”

   “No, we left it alone,” Bernie said. 

   “And you are?” JT asked Conor.

   “I’m across the street in the green house,” Conor said. “These are my fields. Bernie came down and got me when he found this. A fox has been at the arm.”

   “I see that,” JT said, even though he didn’t know what had happened to the arm. He rarely jumped to conclusions. It was flayed and gruesome, whatever had happened. He wasn’t repulsed by it. He was patient and objective. The quality that made him a good policeman was that he was patient. He waited with Conor and Bernie for reinforcements to show up. None of the three men said a word.

   JT looked at the ground around him ready for the growing season. There was no growing season where he grew up. His father worked the nickel mines in Sudbury his whole working life, never missing a day. He had been an explosives man and made it through his last year last week last day unscathed. The long-time miner had always known there was no one to tap him on the shoulder if he made a mistake.

   His mother raised four children. She dealt with powder burns every day. Her brood were firecrackers. They were among the few post-war Lithuanians still left in Sudbury. The rest of them had worked like dogs and scrimped and saved, leaving for greener pastures the first chance they got. His parents put their scrimping and saving into a house on the shores of Lake Ramsey and stayed to see Sudbury transition from open pits and wood roasting to methods less ruinous to the land they lived on.

   An ambulance from a funeral home in Kensington was the first to arrive, followed within minutes by two more RCMP cars. A pumper from the North Rustico Fire Department rolled to a stop, but there wasn’t anything for the volunteer firemen to do. They thought about helping direct traffic, but there was hardly any traffic to speak of. The summer season was still a month away. They waited, suspecting they were going to be the ones asked to unearth the remains. They brought shovels up from their truck and leaned on them.

   A doctor showed up, and bided his time, waiting for a commissioned officer to show up. When he did there were two of them, one an inspector and the other one a superintendent. They talked to JT briefly, and then to the fire department. The firemen measured out a ten-foot by ten-foot square with the arm in the center, pounded stakes into the ground, demarcated the space with police tape, and slowly began to dig, opening a pit.

   They had not gotten far when the arm fell over. It had been chopped off above the elbow. One of the firemen carried the arm and briefcase to a gray tarp and covered it with a sheet of thick translucent plastic.

   “Has anybody got a dog nearby?” the inspector asked.

   Most of the firemen farmed in one way or another. Most of them had dogs. One of them who lived less than two miles away on Route 6 had a Bassett Hound. When he came back with the dog, he led him to the pit. The hound sniffed around the perimeter and then jumped into it, digging with his short legs, barking, and looking up at his master. The fireman clapped his hands and the dog jumped out of the pit.

   “There’s something more there,” he said. “Probably the rest of him.”

   They started digging again carefully and methodically. When they found the rest of the man twenty minutes later and three feet under, he was a woman. She was wearing acid wash jeans and an oversized tangerine sweatshirt. She was covered in dirt and blood. One of her shoes had come off. What they could see of her face was ruined by burrowing insects. She was decomposing inside her rotting clothes.

   The doctor stepped up to the edge of the pit with the two men who had come in the ambulance. “Be careful, she’s going to want to fall apart as soon as you start shifting her weight,” he said. 

   The two men were joined by two of the firemen. When all four were astride the dead woman they slowly moved her into a mortuary bag, zipped it up, and using the handles on the bag lifted it up to two RCMP constables and two more of the firemen. They carried the bag slowly down the hill, the dog following them, placing it on a gurney and inside the ambulance.

   The constables went back up the hill to join the rest of the RCMP team, who were getting ready to sift through the pit looking for evidence. They would scour the ground in all directions, to the tree line and the road. JT had gotten his Minolta out of the trunk and took photographs. When he was done, he joined them. They spread out and with heads bowed started looking for anything and everything.

   The ambulance was ready to go when Conor came down to the shoulder of the park road. He stopped beside it and tapped on the driver’s side window. When it rolled down, he pointed up the slope.

   “Don’t forget the arm,” he said.

Blood Lines Chapter 5

   It wasn’t breaking news that Prince Edward Island was an island. It was old 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 cared about putting food on the table that day, but not about what made the tire go flat. They worried that prices were 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 went 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 kitten 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 Floyd’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.”