Tag Archives: Ed Staskus

Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Tourists, Jimmy thought.

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

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

   Jimmy tried to get up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   “I understand,” Jimmy said.

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

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

   “Shut the fuck up,” she said.

   “And that’s another thing. You’ve been cursing up a storm everywhere we go. You’ve even been cursing in Portuguese in your sleep.” They shared a motel room with two queen beds. He avoided her bed the same as if a snake was under the covers. “Tone it down. We’ve got to stay low profile.”

   “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she muttered.

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

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

Chapter 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Alewife is a herring called gaspereau in Atlantic Canada. Catching them meant waiting for them to swim back to the ocean with the tide at night. “We net them by hand, in waist-high water. When we get them on shore they flap around and there’s sand flying everywhere. We fill up 40 or 50 boxes and carry them back to our pick-ups.“

   No motor vehicles nor horses were allowed in the National Park, which is what Cavendish Beach was. “We ice them up for the morning, get home by 2 o’clock, and then back up out of bed a couple of hours later, 6 days a week in the season.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 13

   William Murphy, Jr. was 21 years old the day the Marco Polo was run aground at Cavendish. She was a three-masted three-deck clipper ship built at Marsh Creek in Saint John, New Brunswick 32 years earlier. During its construction the frame got loose in a storm and was blown all over the shipyard when the wind kicked up. The skeleton had to be reassembled. After the shipbuilding was done the launch didn’t go well. The boat grazed the bank of the creek while sliding down the slipway, got stuck in a mudflat, and went over on her side. A week later a high tide lifted her up, but she got stuck in the mud again. Two weeks later she finally floated free and was fitted with rigging.

   The big boat carried emigrant men and women from England to Australia for many years. She set the world’s record for the fastest voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne, doing it in 76 days. More than fifty children died of measles on her maiden voyage and were buried at sea. Coming back, she carried a king’s ransom in gold dust and a 340-ounce gold nugget. It was a gift to Queen Victoria from the colonial government. Pulling into its home port, the ship unfurled a banner claiming it was the “Fastest Ship in the World.”

   The gold was delivered to the queen by a fast coach guarded by the King’s Men.

   During the gold rush the ship carried loads of standing room only men to Australia. Nobody died of measles, although some of them died of bad moonshine and fights. Fire is the test of gold. Many of the men died of typhus, what they called ship fever, burning up in their hammocks in the South Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Tasman Sea. Many of the original settlers laying claim to aboriginal land, the oldest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent with the least fertile soil anywhere, got there on the Marco Polo. 

   When she was retired from the passenger trade, she was refitted for the coal, timber, and bat shit trade. The hull was rotting and wasting away. Chains were wrapped around it and drawn tight trying to keep it together. A windmill-driven pump was installed to send leaks back where they came from.

   It was a late July morning, clear sunny warm after the storm that had driven the ship to Cavendish. Bill Murphy was in the dunes watching the crew wade ashore. They had been on the way from Montreal to England loaded with pine planks when they got caught in a gale. They plowed ahead but started to take on water. Two days later wind and waves were still pommeling them, and they were still taking on water. The ship was flooding from stem to stern and the hands couldn’t plug the leaks well enough or fast enough. The windmill blew away and the pumps gave a last gasp. Captain Bull decided to try saving the crew and cargo. He put the clipper into full sail and wheeled it straight at Cavendish’s sandy beaches.

   The closer they got the better their chances looked until, three hundred feet from shore, he ordered the rigging cut. The masts groaned wanting to snap and the bottom of the boat scraped the bottom. Everybody stayed where they were, staying awake all night, until dawn when the storm finally wore itself out and they rowed ashore. There were 25 of them, Norwegians Swedes Germans. They were tough men. There was a Tahitian, too. It was the beginning of only his second sea voyage. He was barely half-tough but looked tougher than he was. He was speckled with tattoos and wore his hair in long braids tied up at their ends with small shiny fishhooks.

   Lucy Maud Montgomery was a pale slim 8-year-old girl, her long crimson hair in braids with choppy bangs, when she and everybody else in Cavendish watched the crew abandon the boat. She wore a white flower hairpiece on one side of her head and took notes on scraps of paper. Nine years later her short story “The Wreck of the Marco Polo” was published. Sixteen years after that her book “Anne of Green Gables” was published.

   Bill Murphy was hired by the salvage company stripping the boat. It was welcome work before harvest time. As soon as they started on the grounded vessel, another storm rolled in. Bill was on the boat and had to stay where he was. Trying for the shore was too dangerous. They battened whatever hatches were still left and spent the night being battered. Captain Macleod from French River showed up the next morning. The wind beat him back the first time he tried to reach the Marco Polo, but he made it the second time, saving all the men except one. He and his shipmates got gold watches for their courage. Bill went home wet as a wet dog.

   He didn’t go home empty-handed, though. There were twin figureheads of Marco Polo, depicting the boat’s namesake, spearheading the boat. A man from Long River hauled one of them away and hung it in his barn. Bill hauled the other one away and hung it in his barn. It was the end of the road for the far-ranging ship.

   Bill was back on the boat two days later as the salvage work went apace. He was taking a break on the poop deck leaning against a gunwale above the captain’s cabin when a young dark-skinned man joined him.

   “I am Teva the Tahitian,” he said.

   “I am Bill the Murphy,” Bill said.

   Teva was the only one of the crew who signed on to help salvage the ship. The rest stayed in Cavendish drinking and chasing farmgirls. The Tahitian and the Irishman worked together for the rest of the week and into August. Teva told Bill he was putting his purse together to get to Maine and sign on as a whaler.

   “My grandfather Queequeg was a harpooner,” he said. “He was the best in the world. You could spit on the water, and he could split your floating spit from the deck with one throw. He shaved with his harpoon and smoked from a tomahawk. He was a cannibal, but his favorite food was clam chowder.”

   “He was a cannibal?” Bill asked, taken aback. 

   “Him, not me,” Teva said. “I never met him, but my father told me about him before he went whaling. He never came back, either.”

   “They both went to sea and never came back?”

   “Both, never. A friend of my grandfather’s stopped on our island when I was a boy and told us about what happened to him. He was a white man. He and grandfather sailed and slept together.”

   “In the morning his arm was thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner,” Ishmael said. “You had almost thought I had been his wife. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian, I always say.”

   Teva asked the white man what his grandfather had been like, what he was about.

   “There was no hair on his head, nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead, large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had a creditor. His bald purplish head looked for all the world like a mildewed skull. His body was checkered with tattoo squares. He seemed to have been in a war, and just escaped from it with a sticking-plaster shirt. Still more, his legs were marked, as if dark green frogs were running up the trunks of young palms.”

   Teva lapped up water from a barrel with his hands and spat on the deck.

   “Grandfather saved Ishmael’s life when their ship was head-butted by a white whale they were hunting. The coffin they had built for him when he was dying during the hunt was thrown overboard and Ishmael hung on to it like a buoy. He was the only sailor who survived when Captain Ahab the crew my grandfather and the Pequod all sank to the bottom.”

   “Since your father and grandfather both went whaling and never came back, why are you going southways to take up whaling?” Bill asked

   “It’s in my blood,” Teva said. “There will be blood.”

   Every day when the day was fair and the sun shining families picnicked on the beach at Cavendish, watching launches with two-masted ketch rigs go back and forth, taking what they could to Alexander MacNeill’s for auction.

   It was a Sunday when Sinbad the Sailor walked up to Bill Murphy, looked him up and down, and meowed. “They say our boat had no rats the whole last year,” Teva said. “This cat drove them off and those who thought they could stand up to him, they disappeared.” Teva tossed a piece of salt pork at Sinbad, who snagged it midair and gulped it down.

   Sinbad was a two-tone Norwegian Forest cat.

   “One of the Vikings brought him aboard,” Teva said.

   Sinbad was a twenty-pound bruiser with long legs and a bushy tail. His coat was a thick, glossy, water-repellent top layer with a woolly undercoat. It was thickest at the legs, chest, and head. His ears were large, tufted, wide at the base, and high set.

   “He’s a good climber, very strong,” Teva said. “He can climb rocks and cliffs.” 

   When he leaned on Bill and reached up stretching flexing his front legs, his claws extended themselves slightly. They were sharp as razors. Bill rubbed Sinbad’s head. 

   “He’s big enough to be a man-eater,” Bill said. “What’s going to happen to him when our work is finished?”

   “I don’t know,” Teva said. “The Viking left him behind.”

   That evening, when Bill was walking back to the rude shelter he had thrown up for himself behind the dunes, Sinbad the Sailor followed him. Bill put a bowl of fresh water out for the cat but left breakfast lunch dinner up to him. He was sure Sinbad was not going to starve. He was a vole shrew deer mouse snowshoe hare red-bellied snake widow maker. Even racoons, coyotes, and foxes gave him a wide berth.

   Sinbad went back and forth to the boat with Bill the rest of the month and into August while the vessel decayed and fell apart piece by piece until a wild thunderstorm barreled up from the United States. It broke up along the coast, going down to the bottom of the sea, to Davy Jones’ Locker. It was the end of the Marco Polo. 

   When Bill packed up his bedroll and shelter and walked home, Sinbad walked beside him the five miles back to Murphy’s Cove and North Rustico. Biddy and Kate were shucking oysters on the porch, a pot at their feet. The oysters were from Malpeque Bay. Hundreds of boats were in the fishery there and at St. Peter’s Bay. Until the 1830s oysters were plentiful and few people ate them. They were spread over land as fertilizer. The shells were burned, too, for the lime they produced.

   After the Intercolonial Railway got rolling in 1876 new markets for Prince Edward Island oysters opened in Quebec and Ontario. But oyster stocks started to fall and kept falling as more boats joined the harvesting. Oysters fled for their lives. They didn’t like being eaten alive. Biddy and Kate didn’t know anything about overfishing or the deep-seated fears of shellfish, and didn’t much care, either, so long as they got their fair share.

   “Oh my gosh, what a beauty!” Kate exclaimed when Bill walked up to the porch with Sinbad the Sailor beside him. 

   “He landed here on the Marco Polo,” Bill explained. “The ship broke up yesterday in the storm and he needed a new home, so here he is.”

   Sinbad walked straight past the girls to the pot and started pulling oysters out, gulping them down without a single word of hello.

   “Hey, stop that,” Biddy scolded, covering the pot. “You’ll ruin your appetite, silly goose.”

   Sinbad’s ears pricked up. He had taken goose for dinner last Christmas, and it was delicious. He shot a look in all directions. He didn’t see any birds, but had no doubt there had to be one or two somewhere nearby. He was by nature a nomad, but as there was a pot full of oysters and silly slow geese to eat, he thought, I’ll stay for the time being.

   He was a back door man, but when the front door was wide open, that was the door he went through. God might or might not still believe in the garden path, but he was only a cat and didn’t know anything about the divine. When there was an easy way of doing things, that was always the way he took.

Chapter 14

   The first day of summer wasn’t any different than the day before the first day of summer. When JT Markunas checked the weather report, it looked like it wasn’t going to be any different the next day, either. He sat outside his rented house in Milton and thought it was like the murder he was investigating. It wasn’t any different today than it had been yesterday and looked like it wasn’t going to be different anytime soon.

   The difference was nobody could do anything about the weather. The RCMP could do something about the murder in North Rustico. They knew where and how the woman with the empty briefcase was killed but didn’t know why. They still didn’t know who she was, nor did they have a solid clue about who might have done it. The more days and weeks went by the more it got pushed back in everybody’s minds. It was starting to become a cold case. Nobody had seen or heard anything in the fall and by the time anybody knew something had happened, winter was over, and it was springtime.

   It was a hell of a shame, he thought. Nobody should get away with murder. Murders are often a spur of the minute mistake, but what happened in Conor Murphy’s field wasn’t a mistake. It was deliberate. It rankled him to think whoever did it thought they could get away with it. It was usually poor slobs who didn’t get away with murder. They got locked up. The rich hired somebody to talk their way out of it. They walked away free. JT thought what happened had to involve money, and lots of it.

   An execution is justice, but assassination is murder. There was no justice in taking the law into your own hands. There was money in farming and fishing, which Prince Edward Island did a lot of. Farmers and fishermen rarely shot each other, or anybody else. At one time lenders got rough when it came to collecting debts, but that time was gone. Criminal gangs shot first and didn’t ask questions whenever they were crossed, but there were no criminal gangs like that on the island. There were some folks with criminal minds. That’s why the force existed. He thought it was likely that whoever did the shooting was a lone wolf. That meant whoever it was, was likely to keep to themselves. Whoever it was, he was going to be hard to find. JT wasn’t holding his breath. He was a patient man, though. He took the long view. He would get his man.

   It was going to be a tough nut to crack but it was a nut that would have to keep. It was his day off. He tossed his bicycle into the back of his pick-up. The bike was a Specialized Rockhopper, nothing special, but virtually indestructible. It went up and down farm roads and tracks just fine and rode smooth enough on pavement. He lived about 10 kilometers from Charlottetown and the RCMP station. Brackley Beach was about 20 kilometers away. He drove to Brackley Beach.

   JT parked at the west end of the beach. It was 15 kilometers to Dalvay. He was going to keep going another 5 kilometers farther on to Grand Tracadie, stop and stretch and his legs, and ride back. Forty kilometers in the saddle would be enough for him. When he started the wind was at his back and the living was easy, until he realized it would be in his face on the way back. He thought he would find somewhere in Grand Tracadie to have a scone and a cup of coffee, maybe two cups.

   He rode past the Harbor Lighthouse, some cottages, Ross Beach, some more cottages, Stanhope Beach, Long Pond, and stopped at Dalvay. He rode to the front steps, parked his bike, and walked down the sloping lawn to a set of red Adirondack chairs. He was sitting there looking out at the ocean when somebody walked up and asked if he would like tea and biscuits.

   “Black tea and plenty of butter,” he said.

   He need not have asked for butter. If there was anything plentiful on the island, it was homegrown butter. There were enough cows in all directions that everybody on the island could go on an all-butter diet if they wanted to and there still wouldn’t be a shortage.

   Dalvay By the Sea was a big house and seasonal rooms. Before becoming lodgings, it was only a big house. The Gilded Age American industrialist Alexander Macdonald built it just before the end of the 19th century on grounds of 120 acres. The lower half of the house and all the fireplaces were island sandstone. Windmills supplied power and water. He kept horses and carriages and a cohort of grooms to look after them. He and his wife entertained all summer when they weren’t riding and at the end of every summer hosted a lavish dance for the locals. They were like patroons from another age.

   By 1909 Alexander Macdonald was dying. At the beginning of fall, he stood on Long Pond for the last time staring at his house. He died the next year. After his children squandered the family fortune, Dalvay was sold to the man who had been tending it. William Hughes contacted the family to ask what should be done with the 26-room place. They said, “You can have it for the back taxes.” He bought it and all the furnishings for less than $500.00. Fifteen years earlier it had cost more than $50,000.00 to build. The furnishings were gotten during family travels to Italy, France, England, and Egypt. They were transported to Prince Edward Island by ocean steamer. Nobody knew what all of it had cost.

   William Hughes turned around and sold the house for a tidy profit. The last owner went broke and sold it to the government in 1938, which turned it over to Parks Canada, which under a concession had been operating it for the past fifty years as a summer hotel.

   JT finished his biscuits and tea, saddled back up, and buckled his helmet. Before he got started, he saw two young women on bicycles going his way. They were noodling it. He rode past them givng them a wave. They waved back. He thought they were both good-looking, one more than the other. He had a job, a house, and a bed, but he didn’t have a girlfriend. His job was the problem. It was a Catch-22. Most of the women he met who liked policemen, he didn’t like them. Most of the women he liked didn’t like policemen.

   There were no coffee shops in Grand Tracadie. There wasn’t much other than houses and fields. He rode as far as MacDougalls Cove and turned around. At first, riding back to Brackley, the breeze was at him from the side. Once he got back on the parkway, though, it was in his face. It wasn’t a hurricane, but it wasn’t a powder puff, either. He dropped his bike into a lower gear and plodded on. He rode the bike for fun and fitness. The ride back to his pick-up was going to be about fitness.

   He had just passed Cape Stanhope when he saw the two young women on their bicycles ahead of him. It almost looked like they were riding in place, although he could see they were peddling. He was fifty-some yards behind them when a red motorcycle went past him fast. JT hadn’t heard the motorcycle and was taken aback when it hummed zipped by him. It was going 140 KPH for sure, maybe faster on a road where the speed limit was a third of that. When the Tasmanian Devil passed the women ahead, the rider wiggle waggled his motorcycle at them and was gone. 

   The women were riding on the shoulder. The one closest to the road got shaky unnerved see-sawed lost control and fell over. She bounced on the shoulder and bounced off sideways onto the sand. Her friend stopped and ran back to her fallen friend.

   “Son of a bitch,” JT cursed under his breath. If he had been working, he could have caught the motorcycle, maybe. It had to be a Jap bike. They made the quietest motorcycles. He hadn’t gotten the plate, but he knew high-tech when he saw it. It looked new and might have been faster than his Ford Mustang pursuit car. He stopped where the fallen woman was rolling over and sitting up. Her hands and forearms were scraped and bleeding. There was sand in the blood. She had broken her fall with them. Both of her knees were scraped and bleeding, one of them worse than the other.

   He put his hand on her shoulder and pressed her back down when she tried to stand up.

   “No, don’t do that,” he said. “I’m with the RCMP. Stay where you are.” 

   He turned to the friend.

   “Don’t let her get up until I come back. It should just be a few minutes.”

   Some gulls came up from the beach to see what was happening. They made a choking ha-ha-ha sound. After they saw there was no food to be had, they flew away.

   He rode back across the bridge the way he had come, raced down Wharf Rd., and stopped at the first deep-sea fishing shack on Covehead Bay that he saw somebody at. He telephoned for an ambulance and rode back to the two women. They were where he had left them, except a man and wife had stopped to help. Their Ford Taurus with Massachusetts plates was half on the road and half on the shoulder behind the women, its flashers blinking. 

   “I run a tow truck operation back in Boston,” the man said.

   When the ambulance had come and gone, the man said, “She’s got road rash all over. What happened?”

   “Some jackass on a motorcycle went past like a scorcher and made a veer at them before cutting away, and she lost it, went down.”

   “That’s too bad,” the man said.

   JT stopped at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital the next morning. It was almost new, the biggest hospital in the province, having replaced both the Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island hospitals in 1982. He was told the woman had been treated and released.

   “Is she an islander?” he asked.

   The woman at the desk checked. “I don’t know, but she lives here in town,” she said.

   An islander was anybody who had been born on Prince Edward Island. The designation was closely watched. When a woman who was brought to the province as a baby died 90 years later her obituary in the newspaper read, “Woman from away died peacefully in her home.”

   Some said you had to be conceived on the island to make the grade. A boy living in Souris was flummoxed when he found out he might not be an islander, even though both his parents were, and he was born on the island. It turned out he was sparked into existence on an impulse in a dark corner of the ferry crossing the Northumberland Strait. “He was not conceived on the island so he’s not an islander,” his uncles and aunts pointed out, their noses out of joint. His parents took the argument to his father’s father. 

   “It all depends on whether the ferry was going away or coming back,” his grandfather said.

   The woman’s name was Kayleigh Jurgelaitis. JT got her address and went to work. After he was done wasting his time arresting a teenaged dishwasher smoking pot behind a dumpster, he clocked out at the end of the day, changed his clothes, and went looking for the address. He didn’t have far to go. She lived near Holland College. It was a two-year trade school, home to the Culinary Institute of Canada and the Atlantic Police Academy.

   He recognized the friend when she opened the door and she recognized him. When Kayleigh limped out of a hallway into the living room, she was limping up a storm.

   “How’s the leg?”

   “Better than yesterday, believe it or not. I couldn’t even walk. You’re the cop, right?”

   “Peace officer.”


   “So, what happened to your leg?”

   “They said I have a slight meniscus tear in the knee,” she said sitting down and elevating her bad leg. “I’m supposed to keep it up and put ice on it every couple of hours. They think I should be back on my feet in a week or two.”

   “I’m glad to hear it. So long as I have it on my mind, did either of you get the license plate of that biker?”

   They both said no.

   “Neither did I,” JT said. “He was too far ahead, and it happened too fast. We might be able to find him, but probably not, except by accident.”

   “If I never see him again it will be soon enough,” Kayleigh said.

   “I couldn’t help noticing your name,” JT said. “Are you Lithuanian?”

   “Yes and no,” she said. “My mother was Irish, from here, and my father was Lithuanian, from there. I’m half of the one and half of the other. Why do you ask?”

   “Because my name is Justinas Markunas,” JT said.

   “I was wondering if I was the only Lithuanian on this island among all the Irish, Scots, and Frogs,” Kayleigh laughed. “Now I know there are two of us.”

   “Spud island is immigrants through and through,” JT said. “Everybody here came from somewhere else. I’ve run into a few Jews, Swedes, and Hungarians, not to mention the Indians. There aren’t many of them even though they were here first. I’ve even heard some Asians are thinking of setting up a Buddhist community in Kings County, which would probably make heads spin while they do their meditating.”

   Before leaving, pausing at the door, he asked, “Since it’s just the two of us, we should have lunch or dinner sometime and toast our native selves.”

   “I think we should, and I think I will take you up on that,” she said.

Chapter 15

   It wasn’t to weeks or even a week later that JT Markunas and Kayleigh Jurgelaitis got together for dinner in Charlottetown. Kayleigh healed fast when dinner on the town was on the table. It was half-a-week later when they sat down to eat at the Canton Café on Queen St. It was early evening. The sky was clear, but the stars weren’t out, yet.

   “Homegrown is the best,” Kayleigh said, “but it’s fun to globetrot now and then.”

   “I’ve had nothing but next-door eggs and bread for breakfast and white fish mussels potatoes and rhubarb pie for dinner the past two weeks,” JT said. “I’m ready and willing for something off-shore.”

   The Canton Cafe opened 19 years earlier. George Lee and Ken Wong both came from China to Prince Edward Island in the 1950s. Whenever they heard the words “Chairman Mao” and “Land Reform” they spit out the back door. They had their reasons. When they got tired of working at other people’s restaurants, they put their heads together and scrimped and saved and bought the Lotus Café. They renovated it renamed it and opened it with themselves in the kitchen and at the cash register. Ken Wong retired in 1980, a new cook getting acquainted with the tongs whisks utility knives, spatulas and skimmers, sushi kits and bamboo steamers, dumpling makers, and the dozens of woks. George Lee stayed behind the cash register, a fixture at the front. He kept his eyes on the prize.

   “They have got great egg rolls,” JT said.

   The Canton Café had a Canadian menu, too, a short list of hamburgers, hot sandwiches, and French fries. Nobody ever ordered the Canadian menu, except for tourists who stumbled in by mistake. When they were done, they usually knew they had made a mistake.

   “Why would you have French fries when you could have this?” Kayleigh asked, biting into an egg roll.

   “Policemen usually say everything happens for a reason. What I say about ordering fries here is that sometimes things happen for no good reason,” JT said.

   “I want to thank you again for stopping and helping me in the park.”

   “Uphold the right,” JT said.

   “What’s that?”

   “That’s the official RCMP motto. The unofficial motto is ‘They always get their man.’ We might get that guy on the bike but I’m not holding my breath until I see his motorcycle again. Anyway, I thought you were a tourist, and part of our mission is making sure tourists want to come back.”

   “Were those the only reasons?”


   “Are you from here?”

   “No, I’m from Sudbury, which is a mining town in Ontario.”

   Kayleigh didn’t say anything for a minute until she said, “Are you messing with me? Did you check up on me?”

   “No, of course not. Why would I do that?”

   “Because I’m from Sudbury, too.”

   JT sat back pursed his lips and whistled. “I don’t believe in coincidences, but that is a hell of a coincidence.” His chopsticks lay on the table untouched. He wasn’t going to touch them and risk going hungry. They ordered dumplings and roasted duck and shared their plates. He snared his dumplings with a fork. They talked about chance and taking chances. 

   A wiry young man walked it and waited at the counter. George went to the kitchen and brought back a take-out order in a brown bag. The man paid in with a one-hundred-dollar bill and walked out nibbling on an egg roll.

   They were sipping their green tea and unraveling fortune cookies when Kayleigh sprang up from her seat facing the front window, “Hey, there’s the motorcycle!” The red Kawasaki wheeled away from the curb. By the time Kayleigh and JT, followed by George, were out the door, the bike was out of sight. They looked up and down the street. George shrugged his shoulders. They heard its whine somewhere in the distance. It was impossible to tell where it was or where it was going.

   “Goddamn it, that is the second time that has happened,” JT cursed.

   “Can you put an APB out for him?” Kayleigh asked.

   “What’s that?”

   “An all-points bulletin like in the movies.”

   “It doesn’t exactly work that way, but it will be on a report tomorrow and a bulletin board after that.”

   After they determined the motorcycle was long gone not to be found, George went back to his cash register, JT paid the bill, and suggested they stop at a bar on the waterfront.

   “Talk about coincidences,” Kayleigh said walking up to the bar and looking at the sign that said JR’s Bar. “JT and JR. Are you two the abbreviation brothers?”

   “Now that is a turn of the cards,” JT said. “I never gave it a thought. This place has probably been here before I ever saw the light of day. They’ve got some good draft beers and a dance floor in the back. The tunes are always terrific, whether they’re local or otherwise. Junior has had his share of music makers come through here, Anne Murray, John Allen Cameron, and Stompin’ Tom Connors. Stompin’ Tom even wrote a song about the place.”

   When they walked in Johnny Reid behind the bar gave JT a wave, waving him to the bar. “Long time no see, been a month, eh?” He was a short man wearing big glasses and a ratty short-sleeved shirt. He had a bar towel stuck in his pants pocket. JT ordered two pints of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale. 

   “He doesn’t look that good, like he’s sick,” Kayleigh said while Junior was pouring their beers.

   “Junior’s got cancer.”

   “Oh, that’s terrible.”

   “Don’t say anything to him about it. He’s afraid he might have to close.”

   “Of course, I won’t, poor man.”

   “He’ll pull through. Junior’s no snowflake. He’s in it for the duration, whatever that might be.”

   They sat in silence for a few minutes until Kayleigh said, “Tell me about yourself and how a Sudbury boy ended up here.”

   “It’s a long story.”

   “I’ve got all night,” Kayleigh smiled, steepling the tips of her fingers under her chin.

   “Me, too,” JT said, “so long as you don’t do the handgun steeple.”

Chapter 16

   The night Siobhan Murphy died in 1901 was the same night Queen Victoria died five thousand kilometers away. Siobhan’s head got bashed in when Father Georges Belcourt’s one-seater fell on her. The horseless carriage killed her just as fast as the horse who kicked her husband in the head many years before killed him. 

   Her last thought was of the first day she met William Murphy in Cavendish, of her first look at him. She knew in a flash what he was about when he looked her up and down and knew what her answer would be. After her last thought of this life she went down into the darkness.

   Siobhan lay dead under the steam-powered car in her barn all day before anybody noticed. She didn’t feel sorry for herself. She knew she wouldn’t be forgotten. Flies buzzed around her. Her cat wandered in and lay down beside her. There was nothing he could do except keep her company. The sun went from one end of the sky to the other. Queen Victoria died in Osborne House of a stroke in her sleep, in a palatial bed surrounded by her family. The moon rose when she died.

   Father Belcourt bought the car that killed Siobhan from a man in New Jersey in 1866. It was unloaded at Charlottetown and pulled to the Farmer’s Bank in Rustico by a team of horses. Nobody except the priest knew how to work the self-propelled wagon. He had a letter explaining its operation. He was keeping it close to the vest in the meantime.

   “Be careful father,” one of his parishioners said pulling him aside. “The devil could be in that tank.”

   If he was, he was hunched over and hot as hell. The steam chamber was four feet high, and the motor was connected to the wheels by a chain. The car had no suspension, no windshield, and no roof. Father Belcourt kept it in a shed beside the bank. The Farmer’s Bank was organized by him soon after he arrived there in 1859. One of the first things that jumped out at him was the economic hardship of his flock. What he did was establish a Catholic Institute to bring parishioners together. Everybody had to agree to be teetotalers. The second thing he did was create the credit union to provide loans to farmers at Christian rates of interest. The third thing he did was buy the car to be able to get out to see the sick and homebound.

   The priest was from Quebec and had been in the business of saving souls for more than thirty years before arriving in Rustico. He led missions in Manitoba and North Dakota and fought it out with the Hudson’s Bay Company over their compensation to the natives who delivered furs to the trading company. But when he demanded the savages swear off liquor as he demanded for conversion, they were unwilling to give up their Hudson’s Bay Company-supplied booze.

   He didn’t give up working for them, working up a petition for redress of wrongs. He persuaded a thousand of the savages to sign the petition about the company’s selfishness and discrimination, a petition he meant to send to Queen Victoria. Earl Gray, the Colonial Secretary, tore it up and threw it away and had Father Belcourt arrested for inciting discontent. The Archbishop of Quebec had to step into the fray. He got the charges retracted but sent the priest far away to Prince Edward Island. 

   Father Belcourt retired as the pastor of Rustico in 1869 and moved to Shediac, New Brunswick, but couldn’t get islands off his mind. He pled to be allowed to pastor a parish on the Magdelen Islands. It wasn’t long before he was on a boat out on the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the Archbishop of Quebec’s blessing. Before he sailed, he asked Siobhan Murphy if he could store his steam-powered car on her farm. 

   “Of course,” she said.

   The horseless carriage had forgotten how to get up and go and had to be towed there by a team of horses. It went into the barn. It was pushed into a corner. Everybody forgot about it.

   Siobhan had gotten into the habit of burying her money in a hole at the backside of the barn. When the bank got going, she dug up her savings and put it in the bank. She didn’t know it, but she was one of the biggest holders at the credit union. In 1893, a year before the bank closed, after her son Bill told her the bank would be closing soon, she withdrew all her money and buried it in the ground again. 

   She had raised six children on her farm outside North Rustico. She raised them by herself. Siobhan knew the value of a dollar better than most. She wasn’t a miser, but she was frugal. When the shipbuilding business in Atlantic Canada collapsed in the 1880s and her son Sean was thrown out of work, she paid for his passage to the United States, where he joined Michael, her youngest. 

   Half of the island’s economy disappeared when shipbuilding disappeared. Thousands of islanders migrated to the Boston States looking for work in factories and domestic service. By the time Siobhan died more than a third of everybody on the island was gone. She never saw Sean and Michael again. Her three daughters all married, one of them going to Summerside, one to Acadian land, while Biddy stayed nearby in Stanley Bridge. She married a fisherman who was good at getting eels. They had seven children by the turn of the century.

   In the mid-1880s, unhappy that their winter mail and passenger service was still relying on iceboats, islanders started demanding a fixed link to the mainland by way of a railway tunnel.

Siobhan rarely got mail and never left the island and didn’t care if there were iceboats tunnels or bridges. The tunnel never got built, no matter how many folks demanded it.

   In 1895 Robert Oulton and Charles Dalton become the first men on Prince Edward Island to successfully breed silver foxes in captivity. They brought a litter of foxes with a vein of silver in their fur to maturity near Tignish, on the west end of the island. They did it by mating red and black foxes. After that the gold rush was on. They shared the secret of their success and breeding stock with a small circle and before long the small circle was getting rich. When word started to get out, the fox boom was on. When Bill Murphy heard about it, his ears pricked up. It was early fall 1900. When he told his mother about it, she dug up the family money buried behind the barn and laid it out on the kitchen table.

   She knew there was a livelihood and even a fortune to be made from fur. The explorer Samuel de Champlain was in the fur trade three hundred years ago. Alexander Mackenzie, the first European to go cross-country and reach the Pacific Ocean, was in the fur trade. John McLaughlin, who built forts in Vancouver and established the Oregon territory, was in the fur trade.

   The Hudson’s Bay Company and North-West Company were in the business of hunting and killing bears, beaver, fox, deer, buffalo, mink, otter, and seal for their skins. Every Victorian woman in the Americas and Europe coveted a fur coat, but as the century raced to a close there weren’t enough wild animals left to answer the demand. Fur farms became the answer.

   “Charlie Dalton and another man have got a fur farm out on Cherry Island,” Bill said. “They’ve been raising foxes in pens and have somehow got it so that the females stay quiet. They sold two breeding pairs to Silas Rayner up in Kildare and he’s making it work, too. Bob Tuplin bought a breeding pair for $340.00 and has gone into a partnership with Jimmy Gordon at Black Banks.”

   “That is a bushel full of money,” Siohhan said.

   Farm hands on Prince Edward Island made about $25.00 a month. After a year they might have been able to buy one breeding fox, but it takes two to tango. Bill leaned across the table. “Charlie sold one of his pelts in London for almost two thousand dollars.”

   Siobhan was amazed and said so.

   “Charlie and the Raynor’s and some others are setting up what they call the Big Six Combine. They plan on keeping their secret a secret, not produce too many pelts, and keep the price sky high.”

   “What’s their secret?” Siobhan asked.

   “One of their secrets is the wire they use, which they import from England. The foxes don’t seem to mind it. Charlie builds his pens with it. The wire stays free of rust and stays shiny. It seems to make a difference. They keep one breeding pair in one wire pen with a wooden kennel.”

   “How do they keep the foxes from climbing or digging their way out?”

  “They build sidewalls slanting in and add overhangs. To keep them from burrowing, they dig trenches and bury wire in the ground. They put catch boxes in corners and along the guard fences to trap any of them trying to escape.”

   “I would build a watchtower, valuable as the animals are.”

   “Charlie’s got watchtowers.”

   “It must be hard on him if a fox does escape.” 

   “He pays schoolboys to hunt them down on weekends. There might be a boy or two who ends up going to Saint Dunstan’s with that money.”

   “What does he feed the foxes?”

   “He mixes fowl livers, junk fish, raw horsemeat, tripe, and offal with water. They eat about the same as a cat does, about a half pound a day. If a vixen can’t make milk for her pups, he brings in a nursing cat. He keeps the pups in good health, making sure they don’t have mites or worms.”

   “How do they go about getting the pelts without damaging them?”

   “Charlie pokes poison into their chest cavities when the time comes. I hear he might be getting a stunner from Norway, which kills the foxes on the spot. He’s got a fleshing machine that cuts the flesh from the pelt and sucks the fat into a tank. He cleans the pelt by putting it into a spinning drum filled with corn grit. Then he dries it on a wood board cut through with ventilation holes.”

   “Do you think you can make it work like Charlie’s done?”


   “How do you know all this about farming fox furs?” Siobhan asked.

   “It’s a secret,” Bill said to his mother, from whom he had never been able to keep a secret.

Chapter 17

   “How does it happen that you come from Sudbury,” Kayleigh Jurgelaitis asked.

   “World War Two,” JT Markunas said.

   “Me, too”

   “My dad is from Siauliai up in the north of Lithuania,” JT said, giving the pint in front of him a break. “My grandmother was Russian, a schoolteacher in Saransk, when my grandfather met her during the first war.” The town and an army garrison were in the Penza, four hundred miles southeast of Moscow. “My grandfather was an officer in the Russian Imperial Army.”

   “You’re part Russian?”

   “A part of me is, so watch your step.”

   Saransk was founded as a fortress, at the crossroads of Moscow and the Crimea. Before World War One its commercial life revolved around leather, meat, and honey. After the war its factories were closed for more than ten years when there weren’t any available fuels or raw materials.

   “He was conscripted and trained as an officer and sent to serve there with an infantry regiment. It was a hard post for him, because back then they said drinkers go to the navy and dimwits to the infantry.” The Imperial Russian Army counted more than a million men in uniform, most of them conscripted, most of them peasants. There were a quarter million Cossacks, too. Only the Cossacks knew what they were doing.

   “He swept my grandmother, Antonina, off her feet and they got married. They had my older aunt, Genute, in 1917. My other aunt Gaile was born the next year.” JT’s father Vytautas was born six years later, in 1924. He was named after King Vytautas the Great. His mother called him Vytas. His sisters called him many things, including the Little Prince. They didn’t mean it as a compliment.

   Siauliai is home to the Hill of Crosses. It is covered with tens of thousands of crosses, crucifixes, and statues. It was after Czarist forces crushed the November Uprising of 1831 when the first crosses appeared. By 1918 Lithuania had been missing from the map for more than one hundred years, having disappeared after the Partition of Poland. Since that time, it had been under the thumb of the Russian Empire.

   In late 1919, while Russia was being torn apart by the Bolshevik revolution, Kestutis Markunas went home to a newly independent Lithuania. “The country didn’t have many officers when they formed their own army,” JT said. “Most of them were men who had been conscripted into the Imperial Army before the war. My grandfather fought in the post-war battles around Klaipeda and after that served in the secret service in Kaunas, which was the capital.”

   “Was he a spy?”

   “He was more like somebody who kept the spies on their toes.”

   Lithuania declared independence and for almost three years fought Soviets, West Russians, and Poles for their land. Finally, in 1920 they formed their own government, although they later lost their largest city Vilnius to the Poles, with whom they remained officially at war with little official warfare.

   “After the fighting my grandfather got some land for serving his country, near Siauliai. They had a house in town but lived on a farm most of the time.”

   During World War One most of Siauliai’s buildings were destroyed and the city center was obliterated. Since its founding in the 13th century Siauliai had been struck by plague seven times, went up in flames seven times, and World War Two was the seventh conflict that wrecked the town.

   “My grandfather was the governor of Panevezys for more than fifteen years.” The royal town founded in the early 16th century, is on the plain of the Nevezis River, about fifty miles east of Siauliai. During the interwar years Lithuania was divided into 24 districts and each district had its own governor.

   Vytas went to grade school and high school in Panevezys, but then his father was transferred to Zerasai, a place that sported a summer resort. In 1834 Zerasai burned down and was rebuilt. Two years later it was renamed Novoalexandrovsk, in honor of Czar Alexander’s son, but after the war the name was expunged. By then most Lithuanians hated most Russians.

   “When my grandfather became the governor of the Zerasai district, my grandmother didn’t want to move, since it was more than seventy-five miles away from where they lived, so my father stayed with her. But he didn’t get along with the students at the high school there.” It was a strict religious school, and everybody had to dress appropriately, like they were tending to saints.

   “On my first day of classes I was dressed up too nice, like I was going to a party, with a bright tie and everything, and everybody laughed at me,” JT’s father said. “Where are you from, they all asked, mocking me. I didn’t make any friends there.” He finally told them, “I’m leaving.” He moved to Zerasai in 1939 and lived with his father. “We always studied a second language in school, and since my mother was Russian, studying it was easy for me. But when I got to Zerasai I found out they only had English as a second language, no Russian. My father had to hire a tutor to help me.”

   During the 1930s the world was changing fast. In 1940 the Lithuanian world changed even faster. It didn’t change so much as fall apart. “The Soviets showed up in 1940,” JT said. “All of the country’s officials were let go and the Russians put in new people they wanted to run the show. They always said they didn’t order anything themselves, but it was the Lithuanian Communists who were in charge, so it was really the Russians.”

   The father and son moved back to Siauliai. By then Vytas spoke Lithuanian, Russian, and English. The Markunas family spent more and more time at their farm. “It was only a few miles from our farmhouse to town,” Vytas said. “I used to walk or bicycle to town. But the mood was bad. Everybody thought something terrible was going to happen.”

   The Russian annexation of Lithuania was completed by the late summer of 1940. Businesses were nationalized and collectivization of land began. As the Russian presence expanded the family talked about leaving the Baltics. “Why don’t we go to Germany?” his mother Antonina asked.

   “We had a chance to leave the country and go somewhere else,” Vytas said. “My mother wanted to go. We talked about it often.”

   But Kestutis Markunas didn’t want to leave his homeland. “I have never done anything wrong that they would arrest me,” he told his family. “I have always been good to the people. They aren’t going to put me in jail.”

   In the fall Soviet infantry commandeered their farm for several days. “They didn’t do anything bad, or mistreat us, but they hadn’t washed in months,” Vytas said. “They smelled bad, and they rolled their Bulgarian tobacco in newspaper. They smoked all the time. It took a week to air out the stink.”

   The family stayed on their farm through the winter. Then, as mass arrests and deportations of policemen and politicians, dissidents, and Catholics began, Kestutis Markunas was picked up by NKVD plainclothesmen. “My father told me he was gardening in their yard, wearing a shirt, old pants, and slippers when they drove up, a carload of Russians, and stopped, saying there was something wrong with their engine,” JT said. “I’ll help you out, my grandfather said. He walked over to the car with them. They shoved him into the back seat and drove off.”

   Vytas was in school taking his final exams that morning. “My mother called the school and told me my father had been taken. I ran out of class and went home right away on my bike.” Antonina packed clothes, socks and shoes, and soap for her husband. She went to see him the next day. “The man who was running the jail was a Jewish fellow. He had grown up with us and was a friend of our family, but when my mother asked him to help us, he said the times have changed.” 

   It was a new day and there was a new order.

   “He was a Communist and had been in and out of jail because of his political activities. He was always in trouble. My father usually let him go after a few days, telling him to not get involved in politics anymore. Just be a nice boy, he would tell him, but then the next thing we knew he would be in jail again. He wouldn’t help my father when he was arrested. He said everything’s different now.”

   The man who had once ruled the local police stayed under lock and key in the local lock-up.

“They didn’t let my mother talk to my father. We went there many times, but they never let us see him. We never saw him again.”

   Kestutis Markunas was taken to New Vilnius and loaded onto a boxcar. Four days later, starting on June 23, 1941, at the Battle of Raseiniai, the 4th Panzer Group, part of the first phase of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia, finished the almost complete destruction of Russian armored forces in Lithuania. Within a week Nazi Germany seized the whole of the country.

   JT’s grandfather was transported to a labor camp near Krasnojarsk in Siberia. He was consigned to log with a work gang in the dense forests and starved to death in the winter of 1942. Anton Chekhov, the Russian short story writer, once wrote that Krasnojarsk was the most beautiful city in Siberia.

   “My father logged when he first came to Canada, north of Sudbury,” Kayleigh said. “He always said it was hard work, working in all kinds of weather, harder than the mines.”

   When the NKVD began mass arrests of Lithuanians, Soviet officials seized their property, and there was widespread looting by the natives among themselves. It was every man for himself, unless you were a Red.

   “If you were a Communist then you were all right,” JT’s father told him. “The father of one of my friends was a metal worker. He didn’t even know how to read, but the Russians made him the mayor of Siauliai because he was a one of them.”

   After the deportation the family left the farm. “It was too dangerous to stay. We went into the forest. But then my mother told me to go to Vilnius and tell Gaile our father had been arrested. She wanted Gaile to know to be very careful. I took a train to Vilnius, but as soon as I got there, I got a phone call saying my mother had been arrested.”

   “How did they live in the forest?” Kayleigh asked.

   “They built a lean-to near a stream and camouflaged it,” JT said. “My father and his sister stole food from nearby farms.”

   “All the French Acadians were deported from here during the French and Indian Wars,” Kayleigh said. “I’ve heard people call it the Great Expulsion.”

   “I’ve heard a little about that,” JT said. “The way I heard it was that if you were Acadian, you were forcibly removed from your home and your land. Their houses were burned, and the land given to settlers loyal to Britain, mostly immigrants from New England and Scotland.”

   “When I got back to Siauliai I found out my mother was being deported,” Vytas said. “Somebody complained and informed on her. We had land, 160 acres, so we were considered capitalists. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor, either. I went to the train station but didn’t see her anywhere. She was sent to a prison camp.”

   His mother was transported to the Gulag. She was released in 1956, after Stalin’s death, but not allowed to return to her home in Siauliai. She was sent to a cinder block two-room apartment near the Baltic Sea.

   “After his mother’s arrest my father moved to Vilnius, staying with my aunt Gaile and her husband,” JT said. “At the time almost everyone living there was either Russian, Polish, or Jewish.” Lithuanians in the former capital city were strangers in their own land.

   “The day the Communists left and before the Germans came, everybody raced to the food warehouses and broke into them,” Vytas said. “It wasn’t that we were robbing them, but everybody was doing it, since there was no food. Gaile and I went, too. We filled up our bags with bread and pork and took everything home. When the Germans arrived, they put a stop to it.”

   Vytas stayed in Vilnius for a month but decided to go home before the end of summer. The family farm had to be cared for, but, first, he had to get a travel permit.

   “I couldn’t get in to see a single German to apply for a permit, but finally I talked to somebody who had known my father and got an appointment. The officer told me they weren’t issuing any more permits, but after we talked about my father a little, he said all right, and wrote one out for me.”

   He took a train back to Siauliai and walked home, but when he got there, he discovered a company of Wehrmacht had taken over the farm. “They were there about three weeks, more than seventy of them. I couldn’t even get into our house since the officers had taken it over. But those Germans were good men. They didn’t do our farm any harm. They had their own quarters and their own mess. I made friends with some of them. We drank beer together at night.”

   His father’s practice had been to have a foreman run the farm. The foreman hired three men and three women every spring. Although the farm had chickens and pigs, and draft horses to do the heavy work, it was largely a dairy farm with more than twenty cows.

   “It was a model farm,” Vytas said, looking back. “Every summer students from the agricultural school would tour it. When I came back, Genute was there, but she wasn’t interested, so she didn’t do any work. I started taking care of things, even though I didn’t know anything. I knew the cows had to be milked and the milk had to go to the dairy. But about growing crops, and the fields, I didn’t know anything. But I worked as though I knew what I was doing.”

   That fall he sent his farmhands out to till the ground in a nearby field. When his nearest neighbor saw them working, he ran across the road shouting and waving his arms.

   “What in the hell are you doing?” he yelled.

   “I told him we were preparing the ground for next year. He said, ‘You’re ruining this year’s seed and you won’t have any grass next year.’ We stopped right away. I learned what to do.”

   A year later he was on a horse-drawn mower cutting hay when he saw storm clouds gathering. He thought he would walk the horses, lightening the load so they could pull the mower faster, and jumped down from his seat. “As I hopped down, I stumbled and fell on the blades of the mower. The horses stopped. My hand was almost cut off. The boy who was helping me ran over. When he saw what happened, and saw my hand, he passed out.”

   As the war went on, he had problems keeping the farm going. He had only partial use of his injured hand and farmhands everywhere were deserting the land.

   “I went to the prisoner-of-war camp where I knew they gave Russians out. They gave me five of them. They worked hard and we sang together at night. One morning I woke up and they were all gone. I had to go back to the Germans and ask for five more. My God, how they yelled about it. One officer shouted that I hadn’t looked after them, shouted that I needed to lock them up at night, and shouted that they weren’t going to give me anymore. In the end I said, I need five more, so they gave me five more. I kept them locked up after that and they were still there when the Red Army came back.”

   In 1944 the Red Army stormed into Lithuania. Vytas Martkunas escaped with a mechanized company of Germans, whisked up by them as they passed. They had been stationed near the prisoner-of-war camp. They told him he had five minutes to decide whether he was coming with them or not as they retreated.

   “They were in a big hurry. They said the Russians were on the other side of the Hill of Crosses. I only had time to fill a bag with a few clothes, a little money, and photographs of my parents.”

   His sister Genute fled to East Prussia. His other sister couldn’t get away. “She had a problem at the border and didn’t make it. The Soviets had taken that area, so Gaile was forced to stop in a town there. She had her daughter and her husband’s mother with her. Her husband had been shot. In the end the three of them were forced to stay there. She finished school, became a nurse, and never told anybody where she was from. The Russians never found out anything about her.”

   In July 1944 the Red Army captured Panevezys. Later that month they took Siauliai, inflicting heavy damage on the city. Two months later the counterattacking German 3rd Panzer Army was destroyed, and Lithuania became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. “My father ended up in Sudbury in the late 1940s with a duffel bag and enough loose change to buy a snack,” JT said. “He got a job with Inco and that’s where he stayed. At first, he worked as a blaster, one of the more dangerous jobs, but over the years the daily grind got easier and paid better.”

   “My dad worked in the mines for seven or eight years after he got there, but then went to Toronto and from there we moved to Buffalo,” Kayleigh said. “No matter, I still think of myself as a Sudbury girl.”

   “Where did you live?”

   “We lived on Pine Street, where the Finns and Eastern Europeans lived.”

   JT grew up on Stanley Street where it dead-ended, only a few blocks from Pine Street.

   “When were you born?”


    JT had been born the same year. Kayleigh was his age, from his hometown, and had grown up within shouting distance of him. He wasn’t sure if the coincidences piling up were a good thing or a bad thing.

   “Do you remember the Canadian Pacific trains blowing their air horns when they curled around the back of Stanley Street?”

  “I do,” Kayleigh said. “Whenever they wailed, I wailed right back.”

   “Me too,” JT said.

Chapter 18

   Malcolm “Monk” Kennedy was half Scottish and half rattlesnake. He was from Prince Edward Island but had spent less than a small part of his life on the island. He was born on Point Prim near the lighthouse, off Route 209 in a fishing shack that had nothing to do with fishing and everything to do with smuggling, especially drugs, most of it weed. 

   When the midwife left the house the middle of the night that he was born the first thing she did when stepping outside the door was make the sign of the cross. She hurried away under a full moon. Monk was born under a bad sign, staying bad as soon as he began to crawl.

   His father was superstitious to a fault. He kept an American Indian head penny made in a leap year and a double six domino made long ago in a drawer. There was a rooster claw nailed to the front door and blood red prayer candles on the sills of the two front windows. Mason jars full of moonshine were buried at the four corners of the house.

   By the time he was ready to go to school Monk decided he wasn’t going to school. 

   “Thomas Edison only went to school for three months his whole life,” he said.

   “Who’s Tom Edison?”

   “He’s the man who invented electricity.”

   “You ain’t no Edison,” his father said.

   “I know, that’s why I’m not going to go at all.”

   “You got more nerve than a bum tooth.”

   Monk’s mother left the minute she was done nursing him, not leaving a note or forwarding address. She left with some clothes and all the money in the house. She moved to Vancouver Island, as far away from Prince Edward Island as possible. None of the clan ever heard about her or from her again.

   His father sent Monk to live with an uncle in McMasterville near Montreal. He turned 18 in 1982 without any kind of diploma. It made no difference to him. He wasn’t planning on working in an office or supermarket. “I ain’t punching no clock,” he said. He knew his way around the world he lived in. He tied his star to Maurice Boucher, a friend of his uncle’s. He was the leader of a white supremacist outlaw motorcycle gang who called themselves the SS.  Salvatore Cazzetta was the other leader.

  The Schutzstaffel, Nazis who were known as the SS, would have shot them dead on the spot if they had spotted them. They hated the French and Italians. They would have appropriated the gang’s motorcycles for their own use. The SS didn’t believe in the law or outlaws. They lived by their own dark rules of due process. They shot first and never asked questions.

    Maurice reluctantly went to prison for sexually assaulting an underage girl. In the meantime, Salvatore ran things. Four years later Maurice was a free man and was hooking up with the Hells Angels. It didn’t take long before he was president of the Quebec branch. Salvatore didn’t like it and said so. He had sworn to never have anything to do with the Angels after the Lennoxville Massacre the year before. Hard words and some pushing and shoving led to more hard words and more pushing and shoving and finally fists. Salvatore stomped off and formed his own gang with his brother Giovanni. They called themselves the Rock Machine.

   Before long Quebec was known as the Red Zone among bikers far and wide. The RCMP didn’t call it that, but they knew all about the blood being spilled. So long as it was biker blood, they didn’t worry overmuch about it. If they could have, they would have encouraged it. Both the Angels and Rock Machine distributed cocaine for the Mafia. They wanted to buy and sell the drugs themselves except the kingpins of the drug trade didn’t trust any of the biker gangs.

   “The Mafia are in charge of importation and the Hells Angels are the distributors. The Mafia has a better reputation than the bikers because the Colombians don’t trust the Hells Angels, but they do trust the Mafia,”the journalist Andre Cedillot explained.

   The made men who were the Mafia were all Sicilians or of Sicilian descent. They kept their business to themselves. They didn’t drive around in limousines without mufflers. The bikers were mostly French-Canadian, with a sprinkling of assorted misfits. Their Harleys were loud. They either replaced the stock exhaust pipes with variants or simply removed the mufflers. Outside their clubhouse doors the Hells Angels were dangerously jacked up men.

   During an RSVP Hells Angel picnic in the homeland, watched over by the San Mateo, California Sheriff’s Office, Terry the Tramp hooked up a microphone to speakers and addressed the lawmen parked on the other side of the road.

   “Remember this, you jackasses,” he screamed, “just remember that while you’re standin’ out there on that cold road, doin’ your righteous duty and watchin’ all of us sex fiends and dope addicts in here having a good time, just think about that little old wife of yours back home with some dirty old Hells Angel crawlin’ up between her thighs! What do you think about that, you worthless fuzz? You gettin’ hungry? We’ll bring you some chili if we have any left over, but don’t hurry home, let your wife enjoy herself.”

   One of the policemen spit in the dirt. “That dog is doing a lot of chopping, but no chips are flying,” he said to the others standing beside him. He fingered his handgun.

  “Yeah, that smart boy has got a mind like a steel trap, except it’s full of mice.”

   “The Hells Angels try not to do anything halfway, and anyone who deals in extremes is bound to cause trouble, whether he means to or not. This, along with a belief in total retaliation for any offense or insult, is what makes the Hells Angels unmanageable for the police,” is what Hunter Thompson said about Terry the Tramp and the rest of the Red & White.

   Chico Jones was a Mexican who cut his own finger off during a statewide Angel run. One of the other Hells Angels, Butch the Gringo who was from Cleveland, Ohio said to Chico, pointing to the man’s hand on the handlebar, “What would you do if I cut that finger of yours off?” 

   Chico said, “You don’t have to cut it off, I will.” 

   After he cut his little finger off and threw it in the ditch beside the road, while doing a wheelie, Butch said, “That’s what I call showing real class.”

   The Hells Angels came to Quebec in 1977, prospered in their own way, but shot themselves in the foot eight years later. During a pow-wow five Angels in the Laval chapter were shot and killed by other Angels.  One of the dead men wasn’t dead. He got his face kicked in for his trouble. After that he was dead. None of the gunmen made any apologies about what they had done. It came to be known as the Lennoxville Massacre. 

   Michel “Sky” Langois, the national president of the Canadian Angels, fled to Morocco after a warrant for his arrest on charges of first-degree murder was issued by the RCMP. Maurice Boucher was fully patched two years later and became president of the Montreal South chapter. He decided the Angels would turn a new page on his watch.

   “We’re going to expand into the Atlantic provinces the next couple of years,” Maurice told Monk. “We’re going to start with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. You go to PEI, scout out Summerside and Charlottetown. Keep it on the quiet side, don’t ride a Harley, and don’t wear colors. Don’t tell anybody what you’re about. We’ll talk every few months.”

   He gave Monk a thick envelope full of fifty-dollar bills.

   “Don’t live it up and don’t come back to me for more,” he said.

   As the end of the next year approached, Monk had gone through almost all the cash living it up. He knew he couldn’t go back to Maurice for more. There would be hell to pay. He hadn’t recruited anybody to the Red & White, not that he tried, although he had found a girlfriend. When he found out she was going to Montreal for a few days, he asked her what it was about.

   “I have to make a delivery.”

   “What kind of delivery?”

   She showed him a briefcase stuffed to the gills with cash. 

   “Two million, but it’s not real.”

   “It looks real,” Monk said after inspecting a wad of bills.

   “It’s the best in the world,” she said.

   The money was going to Montreal. It was going to Vito Rizzuto, who imported and distributed most of the hashish, heroin, and cocaine in the eastern half of Canada. He ran gambling and laundered hundreds of millions of dollars, dollars that included payments for contract killings. Everybody called his gang the Sixth Family.

   Vito’s father and grandfather were both murdered in turf wars. His mother was the daughter of a Mafia chieftain. His wife Giovanna was the daughter of a mobster. The only time he served time was in 1972 for arson but he was on the hook for a boat seized by the RCMP off the coast of Newfoundland the year before. The boat was loaded with 16 tons of hashish. He was out on bail. The prison time he spent 17 years earlier was a mistake. He knew for sure that he wouldn’t be serving any time this time. As soon as it was wrapped up, he would load up another boat.

   “You done good, babe, you done good,” Monk said, giving her a kiss and rifling the wad in his hand.

   “What do you mean?” she asked

   “Nuthin’, babe, nuthin’,” Monk slithered and hissed.

    She didn’t know he signed and sealed her death warrant that night. He would deliver it in his own good time. Her time was almost up.

Chapter 19

   “There used to be trains here,” Junior said as he re-filled their pints. “They ran from Tignish to Summerside, through here and on to Georgetown. We had the first diesels, to save on coal, ten years before anybody else in Canada. But when truckers started hauling potatoes, it was the beginning of the end. Now all we’ve got is a train museum in Elmira.”

   Neither JT Markunas nor Kayleigh Jurgelaitis had ever seen a train on the island. They had never heard of the museum, either. JT knew where Elmira was, although he had never been there. Kayleigh didn’t know anything about the town or trains. She had never been on a train in her life.

   “By the way, have you seen a guy in here who rides a red motorcycle?”

   “What kind of bike?”

   “I don’t know, but it looks and sounds new.”

   “No, not new,” Junior said. “There’s a guy who rides an old red Indian, but it’s a 1970s, before they went bankrupt.”

   “No, this one is new. I think it’s a Jap bike. If you do see it and get a chance to get his plate, let me know, will you?”

   “Will do,” Junior said.

   He pushed a bowl of old pretzels their way and went to the other end of the bar where a loose group of locals looked thirsty. The pretzel bowls were empty. He refilled them to the brim.

   “How is it you come from Sudbury like me?” JT asked.

   “World War Two, just like you,” Kayleigh said. “My father Gediminas was born in 1916, in the Ukraine. My grandfather and grandmother were living in Poltava, insanely far from Marijampole, their home in Lithuania.” She meant the 700 miles was insanely far given the state of Russian roads and railroads. The Eastern Front, where millions of men were slaughtering each other at the time, was closer.

   “He was a professor, teaching there during the war.” 

   The school was the National Technical University. It was founded in 1818 by the wife of the governor-general of the province, the granddaughter of the last Ukrainian strongman before the Russian Empire absorbed the country in the 18th century. For hundreds of years Polish and Lithuanian freebooters controlled vast tracts of the Ukraine and were a law unto themselves. They were no match for the Cossacks, however, who later were no match for the Russians.

   After the war the family, including three-year-old Gediminas’s older brother and sister, who were twins, went back to Lithuania. They settled near Iglauka, not far from Lake Yglos, His father taught school in Marijampole, 12 miles to the west, and they lived on a farm. His mother’s family were well-off property owners.

   In 1924 the state-sponsored revolt in Klaipeda was signed sealed delivered, the country competed in the Summer Olympics for the first time, and Gediminas’s older brother suddenly unexpectedly died. The next year his mother was shot dead at a wedding.

   It had been Russian imperial policy to leave the country in a non-industrial state. The inheritance system that was exercised after the land reform of 1863 forbade the partition of land plots. There were many landowners at the reception. They stuck together socially, friends neighbors families bound by the old time way.

   “A group of Communist agitators, people who wanted land, came to the wedding, started a fight, started shooting guns, and my grandmother was accidentally shot and killed,” Kayleigh said. The Communist party of Lithuania was formed in 1918 but was illegal until 1940. They were out for blood, though. There is only so much land to go around in small Baltic-like countries.

   “My father grew up, got married, had a daughter, and was planning on going to school to study medicine, but then the war happened. My grandfather was shot and killed by fifth column men in his own living room. My father joined the Lithuanian Army, and then the Reds invaded. “

   It was never a fair fight. In mid-June 1940 a half-million Red Army troops poured across the border of Estonia. Within a week the Baltics were overrun, one week before France fell to Nazi Germany. Josef Stalin blew his nose into his walrus mustache. Adolf Hitler did an awkward jig grinning behind his toothbrush mustache.

   “My father took to the forest, joining a group of partisans, staying in the fight for the next year. He had been working in the fields when his father was killed, which is why he wasn’t shot. They were killing landowners. They would have killed him that winter if they had been able to track him down.”

   A year later Lithuania was invaded by two German army groups. Most Russian aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The Wehrmacht advanced rapidly, assisted by Lithuanians, who saw them as liberators. They helped by guarding railroads, bridges, and warehouses. The Lithuanian Activist Front and Lithuanian Territorial Corps formed the native backbone of the anti-Soviet fighting.

   Gediminas Jurgelaitis was one of many who joined the German Army, assigned to a Baltic Unit. Three years later he was having second thoughts. The Russian summer offensive of 1944 was in full swing, the Red Army on the march, saying they meant to “liberate the Soviet Baltic peoples.” An NCO by then, Gediminas and his men were ordered to man the front line and hold it at all costs. It was costing them each and every day. 

   “The rich Lithuanians were our officers,” Gediminas said. They weren’t in the tranches getting their heads shot off. “The enlisted men were the men getting killed.” Gediminas and his men were trying to stay alive. They didn’t care anymore who was right or wrong.

   An airstrip for reconnaissance and resupply was nearby. Junker 52s were flying in and out with ammunition first aid food and hope in the grim hopelessness. Gediminas and three men from his unit were unloading one of the planes at a side door by means of a ramp, the front and wing-mounted engines roaring, when without a word spoken between them, they made up their minds to steal it and fly to safety.

   Two of the men rushed up the ramp and threw the German pilots out the door, while the other man and Gediminas kept watch, guns at the ready. Gediminas was the last one to scramble into the plane and was shot in the back of the foot just before he slammed the door shut.

   “I was playing on the floor one day,” Kayleigh said. It was the late 1960s. “My dad was relaxing, shoes and socks off, sitting on the sofa in the living room reading a newspaper. I saw a scar on his heel and asked him what it was. He said it was a bullet wound. He rolled up his pants and showed me three more on both legs.”

   One of the Lithuanians returned the incoming fire with a MG15 machine gun from the dustbin turret, while the other two dragged Gediminas to the cockpit. None of them had ever flown an airplane. He was the only one of them who had ever even driven a car.

   How hard can it be? he thought. With bullets slamming into the aluminum fuselage, he found out it wasn’t hard at all. He pushed on the throttle, got the Junker going as fast as he thought it would go, raised the nose, and ‘Iron Annie’ lifted up into the air.

   They quickly came up with a plan, planning to fly to Switzerland. They got as far as the Poland Germany border when they ran out of gas. The plane wasn’t the fastest, 165 MPH its top speed, and it could go about 600 miles on a tankful. When they went down, they were headed in the right direction. All they needed was another full tank.

   It solved their landing problem, since Gediminas had already told his countrymen he had no idea how to land the plane. The Junker hit the ground hard and every part of it broke into a thousand pieces. When Gediminas came back to life he was in a field hospital. He never found out what happened to his comrades.

   The doctors asked him who he was and what happened. He answered them in German, in High German, not Low. “My father spoke Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, and German.” He was wearing the right uniform when found, was speaking like a householder, and they assumed he was one of them. He bit his tongue about who he really was, thanking God for his good fortune.

   After he got out of the hospital he was deemed not fit enough for combat and ordered to the motor pool. Soon after he drew a lucky number and was assigned to be the driver for a general. It was lucky enough until several months later, early one morning, in the middle of winter, when he got a wake-up call from one of his motor pool sidekicks.

   “Don’t come to work today,” the man said.

   “What does that mean?”

   “Your general died late last night. One of the first people the Gestapo will want to talk to is you.”

   He knew it was true. He knew what had happened to anybody and everybody involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler earlier that July. Nearly 5,000 people were executed. He would never be able to stand up to scrutiny. 

   His general was probably out carousing in their Tatra 87, slid on ice and smashed into a tree. The Tatra was the car of the year. Sleek futuristic BMW-engine fast and high-tech as could be, it was the vehicle of choice for German officers. Unfortunately for them, it was sloppy, handling like pudding, killing its drivers right and left. Gediminas always kept it under 40 MPH. It was the vehicle of choice of the Allies, too, but for their mortal enemy. They thought of it as a secret weapon, killing more highly placed German officers than died fighting the Red Army.

   But none of it mattered. It didn’t matter whether the general died in the arms of his mother or was assassinated. His goose was cooked if the Staatspolizei got him. The SS literally cooked people to death.

   He jumped to his feet, threw on a winter coat, and fled his room. Making his way to the motor pool, he found a truck with keys in the ignition and a full tank of gas. There were plenty to go around. Opel manufactured 95,000 of the 2-ton 4 x 4 Blitz Utility trucks during the war. He quickly signed it out, turned it over, and drove away unnoticed. He drove straight for the front. His plan was to break through the line and surrender to the Americans.

   When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

   He didn’t get shot by either side and when he got to the Americans, he surrendered. He was confident that the war was over for him. But by the time the war did end, the Wehrmacht raising the white flag, he was in his third army. At least he was finally on the winning side.

   “My grandfather was a big guy,” Kayleigh said. “He was six foot four. My father was five nine and maybe one hundred forty pounds.” Being on the small side doesn’t matter. In the end, what matters is what you do. Dwight Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of what he called “the whole shebang” in Europe. He knew there was more to winning the war than armor. “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” he said.

   At the beginning of 1945 the Allies on the Western Front had 73 divisions ready to go. The Germans had 26 divisions. Adolf Hitler held a meeting with his top men, instructing them to hold the Americans and British off by any means. By that time, however, his top men were flat tires. The Fuhrer boarded a train and never went back to the Western Front. At the end of January, he gave the last speech he was ever to give. He tried to rally the troops. It didn’t do any good. 

   After surrendering, Gediminas spent time in a DP camp, until being recruited by the Americans. They were looking for men who spoke multiple languages and he fit the bill. He had been picking up bits and pieces of English. He was already fluent in Russian and Polish, which are among the top 10 hardest languages to learn. In 1946 and 1947 he was in Nuremberg, where war crime trials were being conducted. The top dogs who propagated the National Socialist German Party either committed suicide, were executed, or locked up in solitary for a long time.

   As the hard-fought decade of the 1940s wound itself down, Gediminas Jurgelaitis snuck aboard a tramp freighter and sailed to North America, finding work as a lumberjack near North Bay, Ontario. “It was an indentured servant kind of job,” Kayleigh said. More than two-thirds of the Canadian province is forest, in land area the equivalent of Fascist Germany and Fascist Italy combined. “He was never quite sure where he was out there,” Kayleigh said. “He wasn’t, at least, a mile down in Sudbury’s nickel mines.”

   “Hey, my dad worked in the mines his whole life,” JT broke in.

   “Going a mile down into the ground takes its own kind of courage,” Kayleigh said.

   Making it work in a company town is unlikely. Since there is no competition, housing costs and groceries bills are exorbitant, and workers build up large debts they are required to pay off before leaving. It can be slavery by another name. Gediminas determined to find another way, his own way.

   “He and some other Lithuanians pooled their resources, found a broken-down car, scavenged parts from other wrecks, filled the tires with rags to get them to roll, and hit the road. They didn’t tell anybody where they were going. He ended up in St. Catherine’s, near Niagara Falls, and later, finding a chance to go to the United States , took the chance and settled down outside Buffalo, New York, where he stayed the rest of his life.”

   “What did he do there?” JT asked.

   “He got married to an Irish girl. He never found out what happened to his Lithuanian wife and daughter.” The Iron Curtain had slammed shut. “My mother Sadie taught school. They raised a family. He went to work as a butcher in the meat department of a grocery store. He never missed a day until the day he died.”

   Kayleigh’s father built a house on three acres of land. One acre of it was devoted to a garden. “My brother pushed thousands of wheelbarrows of manure as a child. Whenever our car parts factory friends went on strike, he and I delivered food to them in the morning before school. Sometimes my father would hang from his heels in the garage to prove he could still do it. He smoked and drank with his friends at the local Italian and Polish social clubs. He was affable, but he was a strong man, too.”

   “He must have been, being in three armies, one of them twice, and fighting with a guerilla group,” JT said. “He had more lives than a cat.” JT wagged two fingers at Junior for two more pints.

   “Yeah, but once he was done, he never enlisted in any other man’s army again.”

Chapter 20

   There are more than six thousand kilometers of two-lane roads from one end of Prince Edward Island to the other end. There are some fast roads, like the Trans-Canada Highway, but most of them are not. The highway is the world’s longest national road, extending from Vancouver Island in British Columbia to Newfoundland. The island’s stretch of fast road is the shortest in the country.

   Tractors cows dogs slow the going down. About two thousand of the six thousand kilometers are unpaved and even slower, even if it was a sports car or a Jap motorcycle trying to get up to speed. The ruts and chuckholes would make short work of them. All the unpaved roads are red clay dirt. At night they are dark as pitch.

   Prince Edward Island is layered over sandstone bedrock. Sandstone is dug up by backhoes simple as ABC. When roads were first built beach sand was mixed into the concrete. Wet weather transforms unpaved tracks into what some call baby poop. The sandstone is leavened with iron oxide, or rust, giving the land a red color beneath blue skies overlooking green fields. The Indians who lived on the island before European colonization called the island Epekwitk. They thought Glooscap, who was their god, after he finished making the rest of the world, with a final flourish mixed all his colors and made their land.

   “When I was a kid most of the roads around here were dirt,” Conor Murphy told JT Markunas. “Sometimes after a bad winter storm you couldn’t go anywhere for a day-or-two.” He took a bite of his fish sandwich. They had picked them up at Carr’s Shellfish Market and were sitting on the front deck of the Sterling Women’s Institute, what everybody called ‘The Hall.’ The lunch wagon was down the hill on the Stanley River.

   “I see kids jumping off that bridge down there all the time,” JT said.

   “That’s been going on for a long time,” Conor said. “Generations, if you want the truth. Parents show their kids how to jump the same way they were shown.”

   “Don’t they worry about their kids getting hurt?”

   “Those that worry, their kids are never on that bridge. Those that don’t worry don’t have anything to worry about.”

   “Maybe they just say a prayer and leave it at that,” JT said.

   Stanley Bridge was settled in the mid-eighteenth century. It took a hundred years for the first church to be built. It was a Presbyterian congregation. It lasted twenty-five years before a new one needed to be built for the expanding flock. It got back to saving souls in 1895, became the United Church in 1925, burned down four years later, and was replaced by its near likeness the next year.

   When the Presbyterians moved out of the building, they kept the deed in their pockets, and rented the upstairs to the local Masonic Lodge, who bought the shebang in 1920. When they did, they rented the lower part of it to the Sterling Women’s Institute. When the Masons ran out of steam, they sold the building to the Institute in 1978.

   “What do the women do?” JT asked.

   “I don’t rightly know,” Conor said. “Probably something to do with good works.” He took a pull on his bottle of Red Rock Lager. He had brought one for JT and one for himself.

   “This isn’t half-bad,” JT said. “I don’t think I’ve seen it around.” 

   “That’s because it’s not around. I have two or three cases of it, which is probably the last of it. My brother Danny runs a seafood pit stop down on the waterfront and he gave them to me after the brewer went out of business.”

   “They brewed it here on the island?”

   “Yeah, right in Charlottetown,” Conor said. “The Island Brewing Company got started a few years ago, the first brewery to operate on PEI since around the turn of the century. There used to be dozens way back then. They hired an English brew master who had worked for Bass. Old Abby, his first draft, was a big hit. They couldn’t keep the kegs filled. They invested in a bottling system two years ago and launched Red Rock Lager. It didn’t go too well, don’t know why, and a year later they were out of business They sold all their equipment to an outfit in Ontario and that was that.”

   “That’s too bad.”

   “You know we had Prohibition here from the turn of the century until 1948.”

   “No alcohol?”

   “Total ban on alcohol.”

   “There must have been some serious bootlegging going on.”

   “We had some smuggling, you could say.”

   “Heavy drinkers hereabouts?”

   “Some, sure, but the other half of it was the money. I remember a guy by the name of Roy Clow from Murry Harbor, my dad knew him, who couldn’t make a living selling his crops and his fish, so he put his mind to running booze. There was real money in that.”

   Real money meant enough money to feed clothe house your family.

   “We’d sell our turnips in the fall. The Newfoundland schooners would come in and we’d get 15 cents for a two-bushel bag of turnips,” said Roy Clow. “Potatoes was 10 cents a bushel, some years less.” He got two and a half cents a pound for his lobsters.

   “There is an older man right here in Stanley Bridge, Tommy Gallant, whose family did more than their fair share of bootlegging,” Conor said.

   “My father Henry drank heavy,” Tommy said. “He done all the things and more in them days that he thought was going to make money. He bootlegged some serious.” There were 11 children in the family. Money was tight. Their salt cod sold for one cent a pound. A gallon of rum sold for four dollars. “As we started to grow up, we thought we should sample it. And we did. We could steal it from our father easy because he had it everywhere. Those were the days when the runners were off Cavendish all the time.”

   Henry Gallant hid his 120-pound 10-gallon kegs in nearby woods or in the ocean. His children knew all his hiding spots. “On his way home with a load of rum, he would run a long line and he’d put all this steel on it and tie the kegs on it. And, of course, it’d all go to the bottom. And then he had a landmark and at night he’d take a dory out and he’d pull up one end and he’d take a keg ashore.”

   When the kegs were empty, he used them to salt mackerel.

   “Us young fellas were schooled by our father. We had a big tree in the woods, probably 80 feet in height. My father used to tell us kids ‘If the RCMP is here before I get home, one of you boys go up that tree and wave a flag three times, when I’m coming up the bay, so I can see that plain, and I’ll know they’re there and I’ll sink the rum in the bay.’” 

   “That’s a lot of trouble to go to for a drink,” JR said. “I’ll bet everybody except for the bootleggers were happy when Prohibition was repealed.”

   “They were, the way I hear it, but it didn’t get all that much  easier to have a drink in peace. As soon as the ban was over a Temperance Act was made law.  If you were an islander, you had to get a permit to buy liquor. Even then you could buy only so much of it. If you were a tourist, you had to get a special temporary permit. Maybe you didn’t if you were staying at Dalvay-by-the-Sea.”

   “Why is that?”

   “Back in the 30s and 40s it was owned by Captain Eddie Dicks, the number one rumrunner on the island. They might still have some of his Irish whiskey left over. They might still be serving it, for all I know.”

   The first roads on Prince Edward Island were built in the late 1760s. At the turn of the 20th century cars were banned on most roads most of the time, especially on market days. It didn’t have anything to do with drunk driving. There was hardly any booze on the island, anyway. A law was passed ordering there be a man at the front of every car with a red flag, ready to wave it just in case a horse or wagon or human was in the way. Everybody who had a car got sick of the flags soon enough. Twenty years later the law was thrown out, the red flags were put away, and cars went anywhere they wanted, so long as there was a throughway that they could handle without breaking an axle.

   “I grew up on a mixed farm,” Conor said. “It wasn’t anything elaborate, basically turnips, which is a rutabaga, and we grew grain, barley, and wheat. My father was the farmer.”

   Conor Murphy’s father Brody farmed 100 acres, although they had 400 acres. “My dad rented most of our land out, the same as I do now. They had seven fields on our 100 acres, but I’m going to shave it back to three fields. I don’t want potatoes growing on my land.”

   “Why not?”

   “Too many pesticides.”

   By the early 1900s most of Prince Edward Island’s wall-to-wall forest had been cleared and ninety percent of the land was being farmed. There were more than 15,000 farms, almost all of them less than one hundred acres. The land was sub-divided by dikes, walls built of rocks dug up from the fields.

   “All around those dikes was full of berries,” Conor said. “Our mom used to send us back in the fields with buckets. We’d come back with them full of wild raspberries and blueberries.”

   After World War Two technology and machinery led to bigger farms and one-crop planting. On the eve of 1990 there were just 2,500 working farms on the island and more than half of them were growing potatoes. It had gotten so it was called Spud Island.

   “Fields were smaller thirty years ago,” Conor said. “Maybe it should have stayed that way. Now the dikes are being ripped out and sprays kill all the wild berries. It’s a shame to see it.”

   Brody Murphy and his wife Eimear were the only Murphy’s who ever farmed. “My great-great-grandfather was from Ireland,” said Conor. “It was on his sailing to the New World that he landed hereabouts and stayed. He did something so that the Queen, or somebody, granted him land, and two shore lots. We’ve still got his British Army handgun from back then.”

   “Does it work?”

   “I don’t know. I’ve never shot it. My dad kept it cleaned oiled wrapped up and locked up. There are some bullets for it, but God knows if the powder is still any good.”

   By 1850 a quarter of the people on Prince Edward Island were Irish. The last wave of immigrants came from County Monaghan. They paid their own way and made their own way once on the island, rather than tenant farming. The freeholders farmed and controlled livestock. By then the island was exporting surplus foodstuff to neighboring provinces and Great Britain. The Murphy’s, however, raised horses and propagated thoroughbreds. Later the family got into the fashion trade and bred black silver foxes for their pelts.

   The secret of breeding foxes was solved by islanders in the late 19th century. Twenty years later single pelts sold for as much as $2000.00, at a time when farm laborers were lucky to make a dollar a day. In 1913 the provincial government estimated foxes were worth twice as much as “all of the cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and poultry” on the island. But, after the Second World War the business was wiped out. It fell out of fashion. Many farmers lost their shirts. They stayed warm wrapped up in fox furs. Fox tails started popping up on car aerials.

   “When they went out of style my dad let all our foxes loose and he became a farmer.”

   Conor went to the Stella Maris School, across the street from the Church of Stella Maris on Church Hill Rd. The school was built in 1940 and burned to the ground in 1954. “We stood looking utterly helpless in our misery,” a nun at the nearby convent wrote in her diary. The village re-built their school the next year. “It is the most modern fourteen room school in the province,” the Guardian newspaper noted in its feature article.

   “I went grades one through nine. Almost everybody my age quit in grade nine. It was the 60s. There was no need of education around here. Fathers would tell their kids, you’re not going to do anything in school, get to work in the boat or the fields. We all said we’ve got better things to do and banged out of there.”

   But he wasn’t ready for work, roaming Lower Canada instead, and moving to Montreal. He sowed a bushel full of wild oats, later joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After he left the force, he ran restaurants.

   “When I was growing up and even now, she was lean here. There was no money around for years.” All through the 1980s the gross domestic product of Prince Edward Island was still the lowest in Canada, just a nudge more than 50% of the national average. Next to Newfoundland, the province had the least income in the country. 

   “Back then all the fishermen around here had a gasoline engine in an old wooden boat. Everything was done manually, except for hydraulics to haul gear off the bottom. The steering was even done by chains. Now everything is going fiberglass, and everything is going diesel.”

   Fish men going door-to-door selling cod was a way of life until the 1980s, when a ban on the taking of ground fish was put in place. Fish stocks had been over-exploited up and down Atlantic Canada for a century and were depleted. “Everybody was baiting all the hooks they had and they was trawling for halibut, haddock, and cod. They took all they could get. Then the moratorium came in. After that, all they were allowed was lobster.”

   “Every harbor I stop at, what I see are lobster traps,” JT said.

   “You want lobsters you got to have traps,” Conor said. “They’re as simple as mousetraps, which this island has plenty of, too, mice, I mean, but you can’t eat them.”

   Like mousetraps, they almost always get the job done. Invented just more than one hundred years ago, they had changed little since. Even though entrances to the traps are one-way, any lobster that tries to escape can get away, if it has a mind to. They hardly ever get away, though.

   “My thought is there are two ways lobsters get caught,” Conor said. “One way is what I call simplemindedness.” Lobster brains are about the size of the tip of a fountain pen. “They won’t usually back out the same way they’ve come in. They crawl up the net, there’s a flap on it, and once they’re in that they can’t go back. The other way they get caught is they just stay in the trap all day eating bait, and when they’re jerked out of the water they get tossed into the back, by the sheer momentum of getting pulled up with the hauler.”

   Lobsters spend most of their time racking their brains about where their next meal is coming from, crawling on their walking legs to get to the table, and finally eating all the crabs, mollusks, fish, and even other lobsters they can get.

   Conor’s brothers all fished at one time or another. “We weren’t farmers, not exactly, but we weren’t fishermen, either, although I think it was naturally in our blood, since every one of us is at ease on the water.”

   Flynn Murphy fished for several years before marrying and moving to Ontario to start a family. After he zipped it up, he brought his new family back to Prince Edward Island. He was one of the few men who came back to work and live on PEI. Most men left to work and live somewhere else. He opened Andy’s Eatery across from Lorne’s Snack Shop. 

   “Danny had rubber boots and oil gear and he went out, too, but then he got into TV’s.” He was one of the first satellite television providers in the province. When he left the boob tube behind, he transitioned from catching lobsters to serving them at the Blue Mussel, his new seasonal seafood restaurant, at the far end of the North Rustico harbor.

   “In the 1960s my parents ran a small restaurant in Cavendish,” Conor said. “It was 7 cents for pop, 30 cents for a hamburger, and 17 cents for fries back then. That was the kind of money you made in 1964. There were five kids in our family. Some of those French Acadian families had a dozen births. It was no different for anyone. Maybe we were all in our separate boats, but we were all in the same pond.”

   Hugo Murphy spent some years as a hand on local boats, and after that got to working on his own boat. “He’s an able man behind the wheel.” Conor said. “He fishes with Paul Doucette, his partner, out of the North Rustico harbor. Their boat is the Flying Wave.” It was a nearly new, high-bowed fiberglass craft built in nearby Kensington.

   “Paul, that’s my buddy, that’s my partner in crime,” Hugo said “He’s roundish, built like a buoy, strong as can be, even though he drinks a bit too much beer. He lives right here in the crick.”

   North Rustico had long been known as the crick. “There is a creek that runs right through the village,” Conor said. “Some people from Charlottetown didn’t know what a creek was, or misunderstood, being from the city, and ended up calling us the crick, so we ended up being nicknamed that.”

   “I’ve heard fishing can be rough work,” JT said.

   “You can get black and bruised on a boat for sure,” Conor said. “When it’s rough, you do everything slower, no matter how strong you are. You need to be more careful with your gear, your traps, and the rope under your feet when the ocean is up. You have got to watch your P’s and Q’s.”

   “You’re right in the National Park,” JT said. “How did that happen, that the land stayed in your hands?”

   Murphy’s Cove and the family’s land were in the National Park but weren’t part of the National Park. The park was established in 1937 and encompassed more than 5,000 acres of coastal headlands, sand dunes, and beaches. The Murphy’s didn’t sell their land when the park was being formed on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.

   “We didn’t sell an acre,” Conor said. “But they have the patience to wait everybody out. That’s the beauty of the National Park. You don’t want to sell right now? That’s fine. Your son will want to sell, and if he doesn’t want to, his son will. If it takes two hundred years, we will get you out of this park.”

   “But you’re staying?”

   “Yeah, I think so, so long as no more bodies get dug up on my property.”

   “It’s a hell of a thing,” JT said. “It doesn’t happen often. There was a man murdered in Charlottetown last year, but the homicide rate here on Prince Edward Island, next to the Yukon’s, which is zero, is the lowest in Canada.”

   The young man who was strangled and stabbed to death in the bedroom of his home on a quiet street in Charlottetown less than a year earlier was Byron Carr. “I will kill again,” was scrawled on the wall in purple crayon block letters. The killer was never found. He hadn’t killed again, not that anyone knew.

   “When I got back, I seen there’ve been a lot of changes around the island, but it’s nice to come home and say it hasn’t changed much right here,” Conor said. “That’s another beauty of the National Park. It stays pretty much the same. Only the rabbits and trees get bigger, and the roads get better. When I was kid there wasn’t much of a road. When the National Park got around to it their new road cut our farm in half, but none of us complained. Before that it was a hillside. When it rained in the early spring or late fall, and especially when it rained all day, it turned into a red clay slippery slope. Sometimes no road will get you where you want to go, but a good road under your feet is the way to go in the right direction.”

   Conor and JT finished their sandwiches and lukewarm beer.

   “Do you think you’ll get whoever done it?” Conor asked about what was on both their minds.

   “If he’s still on the island we’ll find him sooner or later,” JT said. “Unless they’re contract killers. The pros are hard to catch. Most killers, though, are amateurs and don’t know where they are going, which means every road they’re on goes nowhere. They all end up killing time, one way or another.”