Category Archives: Bloodlines

Chapter 21

   At the time Monk Kennedy thought it was a good idea. All at once was how he did things. He didn’t think he would burn through what he had stuffed into his pockets last fall, but he did and now he needed more. That meant going back to North Rustico and the barn beside the green house and digging up his stash.

   It was the last place he thought anybody would look for it. Now, it was the last place he wanted to go, ever since the girl had been dug up. That was a mistake. He should have tied her to an anchor and thrown her in the ocean. He wasn’t going to make himself miserable about it, though. Trial and error were the way he did things. It was how Thomas Edison had done things. Thomas Edison was the only hero he ever had. The Wizard of Menlo Park had invented light bulbs, the movies, record players, and electricity to make it all work. Monk could live without light bulbs and the movies but not electricity or Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest.

   Monk lived in Charlottetown on Dorchester St. in a yellow two-story two-family house with front doors as far apart as they could be. There was no front yard and barely a back yard. There was just enough yard to park and chain his motorcycle out of sight. He kept his shades drawn night and day and never answered the door. He didn’t have any relatives or friends and kept it that way. 

   The Confederation Centre of the Arts was two blocks away. It opened the year he was born. The Queen of England officially dedicated it. He had never gone there and didn’t plan on ever going there. The year after it opened the musical “Anne of Green Gables” opened. It had been playing every summer since then. He hated Anne, even though he had never read the book or seen the show. He hated everybody who went to see the show. If he could have, he would have modified the pipes on his motorcycle and roared up and down Queen St. whenever it was playing. As it was the Kawasaki was as quiet as a stealth bomber.

   The Olde Dublin Pub was a block away and he ate there once a week. They had a “2 Can Dine for 1” special on Wednesdays. He ate alone but ordered for two. He took the leftovers home. One of the waiters told him his contrivance wasn’t allowed but Monk told him in a low menacing way where to go and after that nobody ever bothered him when he ate by himself at a corner table. Even the managers gave him a wide berth.

   After he scouted out the green house, he realized he wouldn’t be able to dig up his stash during the morning noon or night hours. It would have to be the middle of the night. It didn’t matter to him. He hardly ever slept, anyway. He lay in bed on his back with his headphones on listening to heavy metal on his portable CD player.

   Conor Murphy’s cat Snaps slept most of the time. The rest of the time he prowled around, except when he was eating. Sleeping and eating came first with him. Everything else paled by comparison. He got his name the day he showed up and followed on Conor’s heels into his kitchen.

   “What have we got here?” Conor asked. “Where did you come from?”

   Snaps told him but Conor didn’t understand. The cat knew the language he spoke, and the language people spoke, were worlds apart, but it didn’t hurt to try. Conor rubbed his head and put some cold chicken on a plate for him. Snaps wasn’t especially hungry, but since he usually didn’t know where his next meal was coming from, he wolfed it down. 

   “There’s no collar on you, even though you’re a healthy-looking son of a gun.”

   Snaps was a black Maine Coon just shy of seventeen pounds. If he had been a house cat, he would have been bigger, lazing around, but being a rolling stone, he stayed lean and mean. Being a Maine Coon, he wasn’t by nature mean, but he knew how to take care of himself. He had beaten off foxes and coyotes in his time. Dogs were no problem, unless they were Pit Bulls, which he avoided.

   Being a black cat could be a problem, a riddle he had trouble working out. Sometimes when he crossed somebody’s path, he would overhear them saying black cats were bad luck. He was alive and kicking and considered himself a lucky dog. When he tried explaining that he was only going somewhere, and that luck had nothing to do with it, nobody seemed to understand what he was saying.

   Conor made himself a bowl of Rice Krispies and sat down at the kitchen table. The cat finished his chicken, licked his chops until he was clean as whistle, hopped on the chair opposite Conor, and sat there staring at the bowl of cereal. 

   “That’s not for you, Snap Crackle Pop,” Conor said. “Maybe that is what I will call you.” The name was too long to say, so Conor called him Snap, although the cat liked Snaps better, and got his way.

   Snaps was opportunistic at the best of times but understood that what Conor was eating was his and wasn’t his to try for. He knew full well how to bide his time. He slept in the shade on the porch the rest of the day and that evening slipped back into the house. When Conor put another plate of cold chicken and a small bowl of water on the floor for him, he ate all the chicken and lapped up half the water. That night he slept curled up on the floor at the foot of Conor’s bed. The next day it was like he had always been there.

   It was the middle of the night the night Monk parked his Kawasaki at Cape Turner and walked down the Gulf Shore Parkway to Murphy’s Cove. The sky was overcast, and the full moon was a missing man. If he had seen headlights or heard a motor, he would have ducked into the pine and spruce that butted up to the shoulder. But he didn’t see any cars or pickups coming from either direction. What he didn’t see either was Snaps coming back from Rollins Pond, where he had been hunting frogs. He tore their legs off and ate them first thing, considering them a delicacy.

   The cat had fallen asleep under a holly bush after dinner and slept through lights out. He was getting acquainted with the bush because he knew that although the orange berries were poisonous to people, they were prized by red squirrels, ruffed grouse, sparrows, and ducks. He wasn’t going to mess with squirrels but everybody else was fair game.

   When he pawed at the door of the kitchen but found it locked, he made a night of it, exploring and reconnoitering. Rollins Pond was almost a mile away. It was as far as he ever went. He and a red fox skirted each other on the way back. A rabbit pretended he wasn’t there. He exchanged suspicious glances with a racoon.

   He saw Monk the second he darted off the road and crept toward the barn. The man looked like a hairball some stray mutt might have coughed up. Snaps stood stock still, almost invisible inside a dark shadow. He didn’t normally over think anything, but he thought whatever was going on had to be sketchy. When Monk ducked out of sight, Snaps followed. He moved slowly alert and vigilant. He knew full well people could be dangerous. He had good teeth and razor-sharp claws, but he was out of his weight class going up against a full-grown man.

   He stopped when he heard digging sounds. He got low and looked around the corner of the barn. He had heard curiosity killed the cat, but he wasn’t the suspect tonight. The man doing the digging was the suspect. He had a garden spade and was using it to dig at the base of the barn. The soil was loose, and it didn’t take him long. He pulled a canvas bag out of the ground reached in removed some banded money cinched up the bag returned it to where he had found it filled the hole and smoothed the dirt over to make it look undisturbed. He put the money he had taken into a paper bag, rolled it up tight, and walked back to the road towards Cape Turner.

   “What is this all about?” Snaps wondered, although he knew some kind of cat was out of the bag.

   Monk had been planning on taking all the money with him, but at the last minute decided to only take some of it and leave the rest where it was. He had to hide it somewhere, anyway, and the scene of the crime was as good a place as any, probably better. Who would ever think of looking there? It had been ridiculously easy getting what he wanted. He could do it again anytime he wanted. He had enough in the bag to last him the rest of the year, and maybe longer. Once the heat was off, he would get the rest of it in early spring and leave Prince Edward Island for good. He had been thinking of going to the States, to New Orleans for a while, and from there to Mexico.

   He could live like the King of the Jungle in Mexico.

   Snaps was still watching the road from the base of the roadside mailbox when he heard the Kawasaki coming. He backed up into high grass. When the bike was gone in the direction of North Rustico, he cautiously came out and made a beeline for the house. The kitchen door was still locked. He followed his nose to the holly bush and got comfortable for the rest of the night.

   He would have to tell Conor in the morning about what he had seen. He made a mental note. He wasn’t a thinking man’s cat, but he knew full well what mattered when it came to home and hearth.

Chapter 22

“When Britain is at war, Canada is at war,” Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier said in 1910. “There is no distinction.” Four years later when Britain entered World War One, Canada signed on, too. In August 1914 the Governor-General of Canada vowed that “the Canadian people will be united in a common resolve to put forth every effort and to make every sacrifice necessary to ensure the integrity and maintain the honor of our Empire”

The blood and guts credo was easy for him to say. He wasn’t going to be doing the sacrificing. He had the guts. but it was going to be somebody else’s blood. Empires are made by savaging and slaughtering. They are always sure of the rightness of their cause. They never go down without a fight. It doesn’t matter if there’s any honor in the fighting, or not. They plow straight ahead. Stay out of the way or get plowed under.

Canada had no air force, a navy fit only for a bathtub, and an army of 3,000-some men. By the end of the war more than 600,000 Canadians had enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight for King and Country and more than 400,000 of them served in Europe, out of a population of fewer than 8 million souls.

   “The Empire Needs MEN” is what the posters said. “All answer the CALL! Helped by the YOUNG LIONS the OLD LION defies his foes. ENLIST NOW!”

   Everybody wanted in on the fight because everybody thought it would be over by Christmas. Canadians lined up to support the British Empire and collect pay of $1.10 a day. The harvest that year was bad, and unemployment was soaring. The army was a steady paymaster. But machine guns fired ten times as many bullets a minute as they were paid pennies a day. Hundreds of thousands on all sides were slaughtered day by week by month by the new rapid-firing weapons on the Western Front.

   At the beginning of the war, it was better to be killed than wounded. The wounded were taken off battlefields in horse-drawn wagons or on mules with baskets on their sides, the baskets soaked and dripping with men bleeding to death. There wasn’t any such thing as immediate lifesaving. If they made it to a train station, they were transported to hospitals. “One of those trains dumped about 500 badly wounded men and left them lying between the tracks in the rain, with no cover whatsoever,” said Harvey Cushing, the head of volunteer doctors at the American Ambulance Hospital of Paris.

   Nearly 60,000 Canadians were killed, the result of enemy action and disease, and more than 170,000 of them were wounded. Almost 3.500 men and one woman had at least one arm or leg amputated. Private Curley Christian lost all four limbs but survived.

   During the Battle of Vimy Ridge he was unloading cargo from a truck when an artillery shell hit next to where he was, trapping him under debris for several days. When stretcher bearers tried to reach him, they were killed by more artillery. When he was finally rescued, he was transported to a military hospital and from there to London. His arms and legs had gone gangrenous and all four were sawed off. When he got back home, he was fitted with prosthetic limbs and married Cleopatra McPherson. He deigned his own prosthesis for writing letters. Cleo and he had a son who twenty years later served in World War Two.

   More than 7,000 Prince Edward Islander’s enlisted. Five hundred of them were killed and more than a 1,000 wounded. Tommy Murphy went overseas with a siege battery in 1915. Before he went, he got married to Freya O’Sullivan and got her pregnant. He got word of his son Danny’s birth by telegram while taking a break in ankle-deep water sheltering in a trench during the Third Battle of Artois. 

   He had spent eight days at the front and was due for four days in a reserve trench and then four more days at a rest camp. When the bloodletting went on and on and the ranks thinned out, he never made it to the reserve trench much less the rest camp. It was that kind of a war. The Allied and Central Powers fought the same battles over and over. It was every man for himself and God against all.

   The British, French, and Canadians assembled seventeen infantry and two cavalry divisions for the offensive at Artois, backed by 630 field guns and 420 heavy artillery guns. During the fighting the field artillery fired 1.5 million rounds and the heavy artillery 250,000 rounds at the Germans. Tommy Murphy barely slept for days. Whenever he took a break, he felt like his arms were going to fall off after loading shells until there weren’t any more to load. He knew he had sent his share of Germans to their makers even though he never saw one of them die.

   When the Allies tried to advance, they suffered horrific losses. The battle went on from late September to mid-October when it ground to a halt in the middle of a never-ending autumn rainstorm and mutual exhaustion. By that time both sides were conserving ammunition because they were running out of it. They spent the rest of the month burying their dead, tending to the wounded, and withdrawing.

   Tommy was a cannon man because he was taller than five feet seven inches and burly enough to do the heavy work of feeding artillery. He didn’t have flat feet or bad eyesight, He didn’t have the greatest teeth, but explained he was enlisting to fight Germans, not bite them. He could have begged off the war because he was married, but he was patriotic and wanted to do his fair share. Money from the Canadian Patriotic Fund helped his wife keep the home fires burning.

   His battery had a lance corporal sniper attached to it. Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow was an Aboriginal who could split a bullseye nobody else could even see. He had more than 300 kills to his name. He roamed No Man’s Land at night for them, seeking out enemy snipers and forward spotters. He always came back in the morning. The other side never made it back to their side.

   Peggy wore moccasins instead of army boots, chewed dead twigs whenever he sensed danger, and always carried a medicine bag. “When I was at training camp on Lake Superior in 1914, some of us landed from our vessel to gather blueberries near an Ojibwa settlement,” he said. “An old Indian recognized me and gave me a tiny medicine bag to protect me, saying I would shortly go into great danger. The bag was skin tightly bound with a leather throng. Sometimes it seemed to be hard as a rock, at other times it appeared to contain nothing. What was inside of the bag I do not know.”

   Tommy had signed up for short service and when 1915 was over and done and it was April 1916, he was done with his one year on the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His commanding officer tried to convince him to re-enlist, but he had a wife, a child, and a farm that needed him. He didn’t need to kill anymore Germans. He was sick of the butchery. Three men from North Rustico were already dead. He didn’t want to be next one. He knew if he re-enlisted it was only a matter of time before he went home in a pine box to be buried on Church Hill Rd.

   He got out when the going was good. The next year enlistments dried up as men near and far began to realize the toll the new style combat on the Western Front was taking. Machine gun and shell fire were murderous. On top of that there was poison gas. The dead were left where they fell. They were left for the rats. In May 1917 the government announced conscription through the Military Service Act. The rats stood up and cheered.

   It was easier getting into the army than it was getting out. However, he finally found a ride on a troop transport from Calais to Dover, took a train to London, and spent the night at a whore house with a razzle dazzle girl. He took a steam bath the next morning and had lunch at a corner fish and chip shop, cod with a splash of vinegar and a pint at his elbow. He followed the first pint with a second one and was happy for it. He had a ticket for passage to Halifax, but the voyage was a week away. His grandfather had come from Ireland, or so the family story went, and done something big for the Crown, who rewarded him with 400 acres of PEI shoreline. He unfolded a map and located Dublin. It was directly across the Irish Sea from Liverpool.

   He bought a train ticket to Liverpool and the next morning landed in Dublin. It was Easter Monday. The Easter Rising had happened yesterday. The Easter Rising was happening today. Tommy was unaware of the hubbub until he walked into it.

   After landing at Dublin Port, he followed the River Liffey, making for Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His plan was to find a room for a few days and have dinner. He would explore the rest of the city after a good night’s sleep. He was wearing his Canadian Army uniform over a pair of Spring Needle underwear and carrying a rucksack. He had his toiletries, four pairs of clean socks, his rolled up military wool overcoat, and a paper bag full of Huntley & Palmer biscuits in it. The biscuits were so hard they would crack a man’s teeth at the first bite if not soaked in tea beforehand.

   His papers and money were in a travel wallet attached to his belt. He had his Colt New Service revolver on his belt, too, for what it was worth now that his war was over. An hour later he was glad he had it, after he got it back from the rebel lasses, although he wasn’t sure if he was going to need it to protect himself from the Irish or the British.

   Dublin Castle was in the middle of the old part of the city. The city got its name from the Black Pool, the ‘Dubh Linn,’ where the rivers Liffey and Poddle met. It was where the castle was. It had been a Gaelic ring fort in the beginning, a long time ago. Later, after the Vikings showed up, it was a Viking fort. For the past 700 years it had been a British fort, the seat of their rule in Ireland. 

   Tommy didn’t have anything against the British, but after a year of serving in their army, he thought the Irish might be better served ruling themselves. They couldn’t do worse. During the year he served on the Western Front three quarters of a million Jacks and John Bulls were killed. It made him sick to think of the men he had seen obeying harebrained orders to attack barbed wire and machines guns across open fields. A few million men went wounded and missing. The wounded might survive, but he didn’t think the missing were coming back anytime soon.

   He was glad to be out of it. It hadn’t ended by Christmas of 1914. It still wasn’t over by Christmas of 1915. The next Christmas was in eight months and the talk was it would take a half-dozen more holidays to either win or lose the war. He meant to say a prayer in St. Patrick’s Cathedral before dinner. 

   He didn’t get a chance to say a prayer, find a room, or have dinner. He lost his chance when he came across the bridge leading to Trinity College, turned the corner towards Dublin Castle, and found himself face to face with a Mauser semi-automatic pistol. He knew exactly what it was. He stood stock still where he was. The hand on the firearm was a woman’s hand. She was wearing an old military hat and a yellow armband.

   “Hand’s up and on the wall, boyo,” she said, a second woman coming up behind him. The second woman was wearing a bandolier laden with half dozen hand grenades. She had a revolver. It looked like it came from the Middle Ages. He did what she said. She patted him down and took his Colt.

   “Who are you and what are you doing here?” she asked.

   “Tommy Murphy, Canadian Army, from Prince Edward Island by way of a year in France,” he said. “I’m here to take in the sights before going home. Now that we’re talking, I thought Ireland was sitting the war out.”

   “We ask the questions,” the woman wearing the bandolier barked.

   “Come on,” the woman with the Mauser said, poking him in the small of the back with the barrel of the gun.

   The streets leading to the city center were barricaded. When they got to the General Post Office, he saw there were two green flags flying in place of the Union Jack. They said “Irish Republic” in gold letters. He knew there was no such thing as an Irish Republic. 

   “What’s going on?”  

   “We’re rocking the casbah,” the grenade girl said.

   There was a man outside the post office reading from a broadsheet. It was the “Proclamation of the Irish Republic.” There were copies of it pasted on walls. Newsboys were handing them out to anybody who wanted one. Not everybody wanted one. Most of the onlookers didn’t understand what was happening. They went about their business, shopping, stopping for lunch, gossiping. The grenade girl handed him a copy. “Read this,” she said. There were men with rifles and shotguns on the roofs of buildings overlooking bridges.

   “Who’s this?” said a man wearing a scrap of paper pinned to his breast. It said “Citizen Army.”

   “We found him down the street, Sean.”

   Sean was Sean Mac Duiarmada, one of Commander-in-Chief Patrick Pearce’s right-hand men.

   “He’s Canadian,” Sean said pointing to Tommy’s regimental badge and the “CANADA” title at the end of his shoulder straps.

   “We thought he was a Brit.”

   “They’ll be here soon enough,” Sean said.

   There were 1,200 rebels waiting for 20,000 British troops to show up.

   A shot rang out in the distance and Margaret Keogh fell down dead. She was a 19-year-old nurse tending to a wounded Citizen Army man. She was the first person to die during the Rising of Easter Week.

   A team of Volunteers trotted past on their way to the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park. They took all the weapons and ammunition they could carry and blew up the rest. When the son of the fort’s commander tried to raise the alarm, he was shot dead. He was the second person to die.

   “You’re free to go,” Sean said to Tommy. “Best you leave Dublin all together.”

   “What about my firearm?”

   Sean nodded to the grenade girl, and she handed Tommy’s Colt back to him.

   When a contingent of the Citizen’s Army approached Dublin Castle, the police sentry James O’Brien ordered them to halt. He was shot dead even though he was unarmed. He was the third person to die. When British troops showed up the rebels retreated to City Hall, barreled up to the roof, and fired down on the troops in the street. The man commanding the rebel contingent, Sean Connolly, was shot dead by a sniper, the first rebel and fourth person killed.

   Tommy carefully made his way back to the docklands. He boarded the same boat he had come on. An hour later the boat was steaming out of Dublin Bay on its way back to Liverpool. Eight hours later he was asleep in a room of a boarding house on the waterfront, not far from the Three Graces.

   The next morning was cold and damp. Women were out in the streets with their long-handled push brooms. They were called Sweepers. Others were in homes cleaning and scrubbing. They were called Dailies. Many more were at work in munitions factories. They were called Munitionettes. Liverpool’s men were on the Royal Navy’s battleships and in the King’s Liverpool Regiment. They were called Cannon Fodder.

   Tommy found a greasy spoon near the port and ordered breakfast, eggs back bacon sausage baked beans a fried tomato fried mushrooms fried bread and black pudding. The Liverpool Daily Post headline screamed “REBELLION!” There was no need for him to read about it. He thought he might have this same breakfast at midday and tonight. Somebody once said, “To eat well in England you must have breakfast three times a day.”

   He put the newspaper aside. Pushing himself away from the table, he checked his ticket for Canada. He tucked it securely away with his service revolver. Tommy Murphy was going to keep himself safe and sound until his boat sailed for home. Once he was out of the frying pan that was sizzling on another man’s stove, he was going to make sure he stayed out of it the rest of his born days.

Chapter 23

   Every morning before breakfast Snaps strolled to the edge of the cliff behind the house, lay on his stomach like a sphinx, and watched cormorants in the sky and fishing boats on the sea. The birds were looking for food and the fisherman were looking for food, too. Until a stroke of good luck landed him at Conor’s house, Snaps had always been on the prowl for his daily bread. He was never not dreaming scheming about where his next meal was coming from. Now he didn’t have to forage and fight for it. It was in a bowl in the kitchen. Whenever he wanted to eat, he went and ate. If his food or water bowl was empty, all he had to do was find Conor and pester him. It worked like a charm except when Conor was gone God knows where, in which case Snaps had to bide his time.

   Biding his time was no problem. He was so good at it he could spend all day doing it. He had heard a farmer say good things come to those who wait when he was a kitten and had adopted the old man’s point-of-view as his own. That was the way he looked at it from them on, even after the farmer did his best to drown his family. He never knew what happened to his brothers and sisters, but he clawed his way out of the burlap bag weighted with rocks and swam to shore.

   His fur was water repellent enough that he didn’t get waterlogged. He didn’t know how he knew to paddle, but that is what he did. After he made it to shore, he was on his own. The first year was hard. He almost starved to death. He found an abandoned fox den and lived in it through the winter. There were some scraps of mummified vole left behind. He lived on the occasional mixed-up mouse and old root vegetables. The vegetables gave him diarrhea, but it was better than dying.

   When he heard the Buick GNX coming up the parkway he stretched and beat feet to the kitchen. He was a hungry hound. After he ate, he would show Conor what he had seen. Conor emptied the clothes washing machine while Snaps ate and hung the clothes on a line outside. He had a dryer but didn’t use it when the weather was fair. The nearly constant breeze and summer sun did the trick better than electricity, anyway.

   It took a few minutes of meowing and suggesting, but Snaps finally convinced Conor to follow him. He headed straight for the barn, looking over his shoulder to make sure Conor was getting the message. When he got to where the nighttime man had dug up and buried something, he pointed to the spot with his forepaw, pretended to dig, and backed away. Conor didn’t seem to understand what he was saying, so he repeated the pantomime.

   “There’s something there?” Conor asked.

   Snaps motioned with his nose leather one more time.

   “All right,” Conor said, humoring the cat.

   When he took a closer look, he realized the dirt was loose. It looked like it was recently loose. He went into the barn and came back with a shovel. Snaps sat on his haunches and watched. It didn’t take long before Conor unearthed a black plastic trash bag. He pulled it out of the ground, puzzled. 

   “Jesus Christ,” he said under his breath when he looked inside the trash bag. It was full of money. Lots of money. More money than he had ever seen in his life. He got on the telephone, called the RCMP, asked that JT Markunas call him, and left his name and number. He sat on the porch within earshot of the telephone and waited. It took an hour before JT called him back.

   “I’ve got something to show you,” he said.

   “What is it?”

   “I’ll show you when you get here.”

   “I’m over in New London,” he said. “I should be there in a half-hour or so.”

   An hour later when JT walked up to his porch Conor pointed to the trash bag.

   “Something in there?”

   “Something in there, yes.”

   “I’m going to assume this isn’t yours,” JT said after looking inside the bag and whistling.

   “You would be right about that,” Conor said.

   “Where did you find it?”

   “Buried beside the barn.”

   “In the ground?”

   “Yes.”

   “What made you look there?”

   “The cat,” Conor said pointing to Snaps, who was snoozing nearby. “He pointed the spot out to me and more or less said dig there.”

   “The cat?”

   “The less we say about that the better,” Conor said. “I don’t like it any better than you do.”

   “So, you dug it up?”

   “Yes.”

   “Can you show me where?”

   “Come on.”

   The two men stood beside the barn and looked down into the foot-and-a-half deep hole.

   “Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?” Conor asked.

   “Yes,” JT said.

   He went back to his car and radioed headquarters.

   It took another hour before an unmarked police car pulled into the yard and parked behind the barn. Two men in summer clothes got out and waved. They walked up to the porch, and everybody went into the kitchen. Snaps stayed where he was. He had done his part and wasn’t interested in anything that might happen next. He had better things to do.

   A half hour later the four men walked out of the kitchen. One of the plainclothes men went to his car, got a backpack, came back, and put the black trash bag inside it. “We are going to come back tonight and bury it where you found it. In the meantime, we will have a man here watching, at least until we get back. If you don’t see him, he’ll be doing his job. We’re hoping the moneyman hasn’t seen any of this and won’t see us when we come back.”

   The two policemen looked down at Snaps who half opened his eyes and squinted back at them. They looked harmless so far. He closed his eyes again. He was starting to regret his good deed.

   “If you weren’t former RCMP I’m not sure how we would take this,” one of the men said. “As it is, we’re going to take your word for it. Whoever he is if he comes back don’t interfere with him. We will want him to take the trash bag. When he does, we’ll be able to find him.”

   Conor didn’t ask how. He knew electronics had come a long way. He knew they had their own way of doing things. It was partly why he wasn’t with them anymore. He nodded at the two men.

   “By the way, we saw the weed you’ve got growing back there. Is it for your personal use?”

   “Yes.”

   “All right, that’s fine, we don’t mind about that.”

   “Thanks,” Conor said. “I had juvenile arthritis. It’s in remission now, but the damage has been done. The weed helps.”

   “Like I said, we don’t mind so long as you keep it to yourself.”

   “Is that right” JT asked when the two policemen were gone.

   “Yeah, I’ve got some permanent joint pain, especially in my knees. It didn’t bother me much when I was a kid but when I got into my late 20s, they started to ache. So long as I smoke some every day, I feel all right.”

   “Nothing else helps?”

   “I’ve tried everything else.”

   “Is that why you’re not with the force anymore?”

   “I couldn’t go around arresting teenagers for pot when I was a pothead myself. Besides, they would have been found out sooner or later and I would have been given my walking papers.”

   “You’re right,” JT said. “The force wasn’t and isn’t with you on the weed thing.”

Chapter 24

   Conor Murphy’s green house on Murphy’s Cove and the shore road running past it had both been there a long time, except as the century unrolled, they changed places. The road used to be on the cliff side and the house at the base of the sloped fields. The green house was now on the cliff side, and the road had been moved away from the ocean.

   “What became our house was on the property but maybe a few hundred yards away,” said Brody Murphy, Conor’s father, said. “It wasn’t even a house, but we made it into that after we hauled it down to the water.” It was because his new wife refused to live in the family home that the green house ended up where it was, just barely within earshot.

   “I had it in the back of my head that my mother and wife would get along, but they were both strong women,” Brody said. “Too damn strong. They just couldn’t live in the same house. They were both determined about that.”

   When Brody Murphy and Eimear Walsh married in 1947, both in their early 20s, he native to the island and she from Boston, they moved into the big white family house on the cove built in 1930. It was the family house Brody grew up in. “The only place to live was living in the white house,” he said. “It was for us.”

   The house is on the ocean side of North Rustico, on the north side of Prince Edward Island, near the entrance to the harbor, a two-story clapboard with a dozen windows, two dormers, and three porches on the side facing the water. A broad lawn slopes down to the cliffs. “The first house was bigger,” Brody said. It had been bigger, but it was nearly sixty years gone. It went gone in a half-hour. It happened shortly before midnight.

   Brody’s grandparents, Tom and Freya, were having dinner and playing cards at a neighbor’s house one night in 1929. It was wintertime, cold and snowbound. Their friends lived about a mile away. At the end of the evening, going home in their horse-drawn sled, they came over the crest of an icy hill. A red glow lit up the sky and flared over the cove below them. 

   The dark sky was lit up like it was on fire. Their house was on fire. They had left seven children behind in the care of the eldest. Brody was the youngest, four years old. “It was a flue fire,” he said. “It burnt down because of the stove.” By the time the horses raced down to the house, the parents finding all their children safe and sound outside, there wasn’t much Tom and Freya could do. There were no neighbors nearby to help and there was no fire department. Tom was able to drag some furniture from the first floor out the front door and saved as many fox furs as he could.

   The house was rebuilt the next year and finished the following year. “The furs my grandfather saved from the fire built the new house.” Conor’s grandfather was a fox farmer. He sold the pelts he saved from the fire, and they went to pay for the work of the nomadic tradesmen who built the new house. “Nobody knew them,” Conor said. “They were immigrants. They weren’t from around here. They did good work, though.”

   It took the Great Depression a year to get to Prince Edward Island, but when it did it disrupted farming, which was what the island did for a living. In 1930 PEI farmers had a bumper grain and potato harvest. They never had problems selling to their markets, but by then their markets were disappearing. For the next couple of years, no markets were buying. By 1933 average net farm income on PEI fell to twenty dollars a year, selling fruits, produce, vegetables, and cattle.

   Although agriculture and the fisheries crashed, tourism and fox farming boomed during those years. It was how many islanders kept their heads above water. One in ten PEI farmers were involved in keeping foxes, so supporting their families. There were 600-some fox farms on the island in 1932. Five years later there were double that. By the end of the decade ten times the number of pelts went to market as had the previous decade.

   “When my mother married my dad, she didn’t get along with my grandmother all that well,” Conor said. The extended family was living together in the family house. “My mom and grandmother liked each well other enough, but not enough by far to live in the same house. She finally said to my dad, ‘Brody my good man, you better build me a house, or I’ll be seeing myself n\back to New England.’”

   It put Brody on the spot. There wasn’t the money for a new house, even though they had the property. “Dad had a choice to make, either lose your wife, or build a house,” Conor said. “He couldn’t build a house, so he improvised. “I don’t know what kind of a building it was originally. It was probably a barn, so I hear. It was few hundred yards away. He hauled it down the hill to the cliffs and turned it into a house, even though he had his hands full farming at the time.”

   Moving a building is no small kind of effort. Fortunately, the building was on the small side, there was a short clear route, and there weren’t any utility wires that had to raised. There was no electricity or plumbing to disconnect, either. Still, wooden cribs had to be inserted to support the building inside and out, jacks had to raise it at the corners at the same rate and lower it the same way, and it had to be pampered to its new foundation, between the barn and the family home.

   “The barn, or whatever it was, was going on eighty years old when my dad moved it,” Conor said. “It was two thirds the size of what it is now. When I grew up in it, it was darn small. They built onto it in 1964 when I was eight years old. We spent that winter in my grandmother’s house while our house was being renovated. It was a long winter.”

   The Doyle kids, Danny, Hugo, Conor, Flynn, and Fiona grew up in what became a two-story, gable-roofed, green-shingled house, even though it was never big enough for all of them. There were never enough bedrooms. “It wasn’t bad, since there was a fifteen-year difference between the youngest and the oldest. We all left the house at different times.”

   Tom Doyle died in 1948, soon after Brody and Eimear’s marriage, leaving Conor’s grandmother Sophie a widow. She started taking in tourists, putting up a sign that said Surfside Inn. She planted and harvested a garden for the B & B’s breakfasts. “My grandmother filled all the rooms every summer. Some Canadians came, and some Europeans, and lots of Americans because they had lots of money.” 

   She ran the inn for more than twenty years. “She got a little bit ill around 1970, and lived alone for six, seven years until my dad moved her into the senior’s home in the village. After that nobody lived in the house for ten years.”

   In the late 1980s Andy Murphy, Conor’s uncle, took it over, rechristening it Andy’s Surfside Inn. “It was a rambling old house with large rooms and a spectacular view,” said a woman who came from Montreal. “The best thing was having breakfast in the morning with all the guests around one table. One summer it was with mime artists from Quebec, an opera singer from Holland, and another lady from Switzerland. A dip in the cove outside the front door was a must before breakfast. There were lovely foxes gamboling outside in the evening.”

   “It was neat when I was growing up,” Conor said. It was the 1960s. “There were ducks geese and sheep and a white picket fence. Sophie had plenty of tourists from Europe, speaking all kinds of languages. We were just kids, all these little blond heads running around. I started meeting those people from overseas.”

   Up the hill from the bottom of the pitch in the 1970s there was a summer camp for clansman kids. “They called it ‘Love It Scots.’ There wasn’t a tree up there then. A couple hundred kids from around the Maritimes would come and they would teach them Scottish music and their heritage. We could hear the bagpipes being played every night on our farm down here. After that it was a campground, two three hundred families up there.”

   When the campground closed for good, trees began to grow back until it looked like the trees had always been there, rimming out the horizon, alive with damp and shadow. Blue jays, weasels, red squirrels, and red foxes lived there. The foxes hunted mice and rabbits. The blue jay, the provincial bird, stayed above the fray.

   The provincial authorities opened a Buffalo Park in the 1970s after getting a herd of bison as a gift. Bison is not native to the island, but nobody wanted to look a gift horse in the mouth. Tourists lined up to gape at the car-sized animal with horns curving upwards. Bison can run three times faster than people and jump fences five feet high. Fortunately, they were behind six-foot fences, and nobody had to run for their life.

   “Back then tourists came here with a different attitude. They liked the humbleness of everybody, the way of life that was honest and down to earth. Prince Edward Island wasn’t like the rest of the world. The Maritimes were kind of cut off from the rest of the world once the Merchant Marine was taken away. We kind of fell behind.”

   The tourists of the 1960s into the 1980s were mostly young couples travelling with children. Some were older couples from the American east coast. There were nature lovers. There were artists. Some of them were bohemians. Others came because Prince Edward Island was the “Cradle of Confederation.”

   “It wasn’t no cradle here. It was a dump here when I was growing up, to be honest,” Conor said. “Everybody had an outhouse and a pig in the backyard. There were rats everywhere. It wasn’t all that nice in Rustico, but a lot of artists, writers, photographers, people who liked nature came here. It took a long time to come back, in the 70s and up to now, before it became looking like a real village.”

   In the 1970s the provincial government invested in tourism and stayed invested. It partnered in a resort near Georgetown and another one near Mill River. Both included golf courses, “Everything started to get sterilized,” Conor said. He grew up on the cove, though. It didn’t get on the sterilization bandwagon. After storms the beach and slabs of sandstone were usually choked with seaweed, stinking for a quarter mile. Some old-school gents collected it as fertilizer for their gardens while others banked it against their house walls as insulation when the cold winter weather settled in.

   Everyone in North Rustico went to the school in town. After school Conor and his friends didn’t have to go far for fun. “Between the pool hall and the rink, those were my social events, before I could drink. We grew up in the pool hall here.”

   The pool hall was down and around the corner from Church Hill Road. A boatbuilder had some shops there and one of his sons converted one of them. The shop that became a pool hall was green like the green house. “There were a couple of pinball machines up front and eight tables in the back. it was the spot for boys and girls on weekends.”

   By the time he was 16 years old and finished with 9th grade, Conor was finished with school. Many boys did the same thing, going to work with their fathers, or simply going to work. Conor went west to Quebec, but when he came back to Prince Edward Island, the green house he had grown up in was still there. 

   It was still Murphy Land, from the edge of the ocean to the edge of the trees.

Chapter 25

   MonkKennedy had been an impulsive child, then an impulsive teenager, and was an impulsive adult. He never thought anything out. Every choice he made was immediate. He went with the flow, although he couldn’t have said what the flow was. He was unable to control his thoughts and so was unable to control his actions. He was always looking for something that wasn’t there and doing what didn’t have to be done. It was why he needed all the excuses he could make. 

   The funny money he had been living on since last year made him even more impulsive. Whenever he wanted to, he could stuff his pockets with it and have fun, except there was hardly any fun to be had on Prince Edward Island. He hated the place. Most people were hard-working while he wasn’t. The rest were tourists. He hated them, too. He had to be careful in Charlottetown and anywhere else there might be a cop nearby. What was the point of having two million in one-hundred-dollar bills if it was always a pain in the ass spending it?

   Even most of the girls were a pain in the ass. He shouldn’t have killed the one who was free and easy with her loot, and her money, too. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, and even though he hated second guessing himself, it might have been a bad idea. He would never know so he dropped the doldrums. Never look back is how he looked at it.

   He decided at the drop of a hat he was leaving, the sooner the better, before it started getting windy cold again, for sure. Bad weather wasn’t far off. He could pack and go in an hour. The island was a great place to ride his Kawasaki so long as he didn’t mind parking it for eight months. But he did mind. His motorcycle was the only friend he had. 

   The Kawasaki and he had to find a new home. Atlantic Canada was out. What the hell would he do in Moncton or Saint John? Quebec was out for sure. There was no future for him there unless he was looking for an early grave. As it stood, he was sure somebody was either on his way from Montreal to the island or already here looking for somebody like him, or him personally. He knew there would be no complaining or explaining. Contract killers never listened to reason or reasons. 

   Out west was out, too, flat, endless, and pointless. Toronto would fit the bill for the winter. It was big enough to get lost in and he could spread his hundreds around, collect and save all the legitimate money he got as change, change it into American dollars in the spring, and go to the United States. What was left he would squirrel away somewhere, maybe even in a bank. At the border all he needed was his driver’s license. He would say he was going on a tour for the summer, pointing to his saddlebags. He would have to remember to throw his dope away beforehand. The border guards had dogs who could sniff out anything. Once he was safely across, he would head to the deep south. The farther away the better.

   He thought New Orleans was his kind of place. The Confederacy was the place for him. That’s where he would go, he decided. The Big Easy was his style, babes and bourbon, all day and all night, gators and bayous when he wanted to relax. Why wait, he thought. I’ll get the rest of the money tonight and catch the ferry in the morning. He would have to circle around Montreal and stay overnight somewhere near Ottawa. There was no sense in tempting fate. He could be in Toronto the next day. He could stay in a motel for a week-or-so and find a room in a boarding house. He would have to behave himself. It would be hard, but he thought he might be able to do it for six months. He had trouble thinking that far ahead, but he could try. After that he would be home free.

   He got his bags, laid them out on the bed, and started packing. He was a slovenly man, but neat when it came to packing and traveling. There was only so much he could carry, and he parceled it. When he was done, he changed into leather pants and a leather jacket. He had a Candee Red Outlaw Bandit helmet. He tucked it under his arm and walked out to his Kawasaki. He secured his bags, secured his helmet on the back with a bungee cord, and straddled the motorcycle. He felt good. He felt like going. He got going. 

   I may have my faults, he thought, but changing my mind isn’t one of them.

   It was too early to go up to North Rustico, so he headed for Chubby’s first. He would grab a double burger and a pint, hang around, and shoot the shit until night fell. He would go when it got good and dark. They rolled the sidewalks up early in North Rustico, but he would wait until they were all sweet dreaming. He would have his money in five minutes and be on his way. He could sleep rough outside Borden until the first ferry left in the morning.

   Port Borden was a small village that got biger after World War One when Prime Minister Robert Borden located a ferry terminal there at Carleton Point. In the 1920s, after the use of automobiles was legalized on the island, the roads leading to the terminal were improved. Still, most of the ferry traffic was still rail cars. That changed in the early 1960s when the Trans-Canada Highway across the Maritimes was built. A new automobile-only ferry was built in 1962. All through the 1960s automobile traffic saw record growth. The Abegweit, a new ferry put into service in 1982, was the biggest vessel to ever operate out of Port Borden. It was the boat Monk planned on taking to his new life.

   Chubby’s was full to the gills. Monk took his burger and pint outside and found a spot at a picnic table. The parking lot was full of motorcycles. The island was a great place to ride a bike in summer, chock full of rolling country roads. American Motorcyclist magazine was even advertising six-day tours of PEI and Newfoundland. Monk couldn’t stomach riding in a group.


   “Look at this piece of Jap trash,” he heard a thick-set man wearing colors say, looking down his nose at his Kawasaki. Monk’s good eye got shiny and sharp as an icepick when he heard the comment. He didn’t like it and said so.

   “Who are you, anyway?”

   “I’m the man who rides that,” Monk said.

   “That’s too bad, sonny boy,” the man said. “You should try riding something real.” He nodded at a nearby Harley Davidson. “Something like that.”

   Monk saw red, jumped to his feet, and reached for the switchblade in his back pocket, flicking it open.

   “Whoa there, son, whoa,” the man said, backing up. 

   “Take it back.”

   “Are you serious?”

   “I’m serious as hell, which is where you’re going. Take it back.”

   “I’m not taking anything back. Put that knife away.”

   “Give it up, man,” another biker said. “Only crazy people take themselves seriously.”

   “All right, all right, I’m sorry about what I said. Does that make you happy?”

   Monk slid back into his picnic table seat without saying anything, put his switchblade away, and took a swig of beer. His mouth was dry. He kept his head down finishing his burger but kept his eye on the big man. He fired up his Harley and roared away, but not before spitting on Monk’s Jap bike as he went past it.   

   “Son of a bitch,” Monk muttered to himself, wiping the slobber off the gas tank. Nobody who had seen what happened said anything. Monk got himself together and sped off. He took Route 6 to Grand Tracadie to Oyster Bed Bridge to North Rustico. The ride took him a half-hour. He zipped past Conor Murphy’s house and barn, surprised to see the barn doors wide open and the barn lit up like a jamboree. He parked at Cape Turner and walked down to the Murphy homestead. There was a party going on inside the barn. It was packed full of people dancing to a record player. There was food and drink. There was a banner. It said, “Congratulations PEI Teachers.”

   “What the hell?” Monk asked himself. “Fucking teachers?”

   He had barely spent a day in any school room. He wasn’t home schooled. He was self-taught. He prided himself on being like Thomas Edison. Most of the lessons he had learned were learned the hard way. He had the bumps and bruises to prove it. He backed away from the barn a few feet into the trees and the darkness and waited. 

   Snaps wasn’t far away. He watched Monk. “What does that skunk want?” he asked himself, keeping his distance. He knew a bad smell when he saw one. He adopted his Corgi pose, relaxed and watchful.

   The party went on long and loud. There were no neighbors to disturb so there was no need to be quiet. The teachers were busting loose. Monk yawned, yawned again, propped himself up against a tree trunk, and fell asleep. When he woke up the party was over. It was near dawn.

   He waited while the morning wore on until he saw Conor come out of the house, get into his car, and drive away. He didn’t notice the big black cat watching him. Snaps could be stealthy as the devil when he had to be. Monk waited ten minutes, walked to the barn, dug up his money bag, and walked back to Cape Turner. Snaps watched him go, flopped to the side, licking his butt clean, and sauntered to the oceanside. He was going to stretch his legs, go for a long walk, and do some exploring. He might mess with the odd mouse for old time’s sake.

   Monk stuffed the trash bag into one of his saddle bags and rode away towards Cavendish. He kept strictly to the speed limit, which is what he was going to do all the way to Toronto. He could outrun any police car, but he wasn’t about to invite trouble, not with millions of dollars of counterfeit money on his hands. When he got to New London, he was going to take Route 8 to North Bedeque and from there to Port Borden. When the ferry arrived, he would take it to New Brunswick and head for Ottawa. He would be in Toronto soon enough, safe and sound.

   It was all going to go wrong at Stanley Bridge, but he didn’t know that, yet. He was going to find out all the things that could go wrong in about ten minutes. In the meantime, he was gay as a blade who has gone off a high cliff. He was halfway down, no problem. It was a great view so far, and the farther down he went the better he could see out of his one good eye.