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Whiskey Creek Press
A poor fisherman's daughter must fight for her life when her wealthy boyfriend is found dead and she is blamed.
The teenage heir to a Gloucester, MA fortune is dead after recently witnessing a hotel being torched. Was he a suicide as the coroner found, or was he murdered? His mother demands an investigation. Screw-up Nate Lewis is hired to bungle the job. But when he blunders on some shady real estate deals, everyone quickly pressures him to pin the blame on the dead kid’s girlfriend, the daughter of a poor Portuguese fisherman. Then Nate really screws up and falls in love with her. Soon both of them are on the lam.
I was absentmindedly tapping into a can of Krueger ale when a rag-top Coupe DeVille, just off the showroom floor, pulled onto Shore Road. Though much of her face was hidden by a broad-brimmed straw hat and oversized shades, enough epidermis was out there to tell that its driver was a classy lady with a “Coppertone tan.”
She pulled to a stop beneath my window, got out and mounted the stairs slowly. Her slender hand gingerly dodged the splinters on my paint-chipped rail- ing. I didn’t know anybody who could afford a new Caddy. I assumed she’d come to the wrong address.
She was dressed in an expensive plaid skirt that stopped at mid-thigh, and a sleeveless top. Her fine-boned arms had muscle definition and despite some knobbiness in the knees, her legs were long, slim, and looked like they’d seen a lot of exercise. As she neared the top of the stairs, she removed her shades, revealing lines etched in her face. She had a good fifteen years on me. I didn’t mind the etchings. On her they looked good.
I licked a few lingering stalactites of ale foam from my ragged moustache and pushed open the torn aluminum screen door. She halted on the landing a step below me, looked up, rocked back and rolled her eyes.
Her judgment was justified. I was barefoot. My torn-at- the-knees jeans were grease-stained and hung low on my hips. A mis-buttoned blue and gold Sunoco work shirt falsely identified me as “Mike.” I topped this off with my well-worn Sun- oco cap, my wild hair dashing for freedom below the rim.
“Ah hello,” she said in a high-pitched Yankee accent. Her eyes focused on the name on my shirt. “I’m looking for Na- than Lewis.”
“You found him,” I said, watching a disapproving frown replace the hopefulness of the moment before. “What can I do for you?”
She bit her lip then straightened out her face. “I’m Ann Foster diSimone,” she said, emphasizing the “Foster.” She seemed to assume that I recognized the name and held out her hand with reservation.
Her moniker didn’t register in my addled mind. “Pleased to meet you,” I responded, taking her hand, not certain how hard to squeeze. I decided that just a brief, flimsy tweak would suffice. She still hadn’t answered my question but something about her made an end run around my suspicious nature. “Place is a mess. Wasn’t expecting any company.” I looked back over my shoulder into the dust-infested gloom, shrugged, held open the door with a foot and made room for her. “C’mon in.”
She stepped in gingerly, as if expecting an ambush, while casting a judgmental eye around the place. Sucking breath, she stared out my front windows.
Two weary lobster boats were pulling traps in the cove. Dusky blue clouds of fumes clung to their sterns while the rasps of their marine diesels penetrated the tranquility of our tiny village with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. We were in the midst of a New Eng- land Indian summer, warm and windless. Massachusetts Bay was as smooth as a mirror and met the faded blue sky seamlessly. Off to the west you could see the top half of Boston’s new Prudential Building peeking over the hills.
“You’ve got a...er...delightful view,” she said, and sniffed. Her breathing was short, as if she were seeking to avoid inhaling the stench of a rotting corpse.
I pushed aside a week’s worth of Boston Globe newspapers to make room for her on my threadbare, Danish modern sofa. She accepted the invitation with reluctance and sat cautiously, her knees together, her purse balanced on top of them as if she were expecting to be goosed by a wayward spring. When she removed her hat, her heavily-frosted coif seemed to pop back into the shape her stylist had intended when she left the shop—like a semi-inflated beach ball in the hot sun. I sat facing her on the matching easy chair that made you feel like you were sitting on a toilet without a seat.