Saturday, April 14, 2018

While I'm gone

Since I'll be away for a while, I thought I'd leave you something long to read. I'm sure I posted it before but you may not have seen it.




Murder on the Block
Block Island, Rhode Island
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
3:48 a.m.
          Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….
          It became his mantra as the power of his massive shoulders and muscular legs drove him through the surf and out deeper in the ocean.
          Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….
          He could have walked back to the house, all uphill, after throwing the empty tackle box and the pole without a reel and line off the rocks as far as he could. He could have walked back, still looking like a night fisherman, but he was frightened, more frightened than he’d ever been and more angry too. So he walked up the beach a ways and ditched the cheap slicker and boots he’d bought from the bald bigot in town. In the back of his frightened, angry mind, he had known from the beginning he would have to get rid of it all after driving the Lexus into the drop-off beside the familiar dirt road. The deep hole was hidden by brush, but that drunk idiot, Jonas, had slipped into it one of the nights they had walked down to the rocks to ‘fish’. Eli knew from pulling that stupid…stupid…stupid out that night in late September that the hole was deep enough to tip the SUV. He planned to ditch the newly bought disguise all along, but when the impact dragged him over on top of them, he was sure the props were a danger to keep. Still, he was a prudent man and hated to waste any money at all. But the box and pole and slicker and boots had to go.
          Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….
          He paused, treading the chill water, trying to see how far out he had gone. The stars and moon were his only lights and he couldn’t, at first, tell for sure where the land turned west and the bluffs began. If he kept swimming straight and didn’t head back toward the island, he would swim into oblivion. Eli considered it for a moment. Everything was going to unravel now. They would have to go home, back to warmer, bluer waters. He would leave now, if there was a way off the damn island in the middle of the night. He could steal a boat, he thought, staring east, and leave Jonas to deal with the fallout from his stupidity.
          Then he saw the bluffs cutting off the night sky. He was 150 yards out, he reckoned. He could turn toward land now or swim into oblivion.
          Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….
          He dove down, knowing he was in very deep water. He did a breast stroke deeper and deeper, until his lungs were burning. Eli knew he wouldn’t drown himself, no matter what, not even now, so he stoked strongly back to the surface. Breathing deeply, treading water again, he realized he couldn’t ‘go home’—not now, not ever, not even after cleaning up Jonas’ stupid mess as best he could. No, Mon, he thought, feeling the cold numbing his muscles. I be runnin’ now. He had to swim again to burn out his fear and anger.
          Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….
          He lay exhausted and freezing on the narrow spit of sand beside the endless stairs up to the top of the bluffs. As he rested, breathing raggedly, shivering, it all came clear to him. They had been set up. Whoever it was they worked for had made sure they would take all the blame. His instincts had told him to leave the syringes and the medicine in the tiny vials and not to follow orders. He even told Jonas that was what they should do. But Jonas (stupid, stupid Jonas) got excited about the orders on the note.
          “Here’s some real action, Mon,” stupid Jonas had said, his eyes shining from rum though it was early morning the day before. “Now we be talkin’, Mon.”
          Eli had gone along, against what passed as his ‘better judgment’—he bought the cheap gear, drove the SUV left stupid Jonas alone with them too long while he hid the Lexus down a dead end three roads away. He remembered, lying on the beach, wishing he had kept swimming toward oblivion, that walking back to the house after hiding the car he had been tingling with fear. When he finally got back and saw the mess that stupid drunk had made…Jonas was so god-damned stupid!
          Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….
          Eli repeated the word over and over, once on each of the over 100 steps up to the top of the bluffs. He repeated it over and over and he made his way down the road toward the house, still dripping, caked in salt, so cold.
          He thought about simply killing Jonas and leaving the next morning—taking all the money and the stuff they’d been skimming. But then he realized how far he’d have to run. But there would be one more drop—he knew it in his heart, could see the note as surely as if he held it in his hand. The greedy bastards that had set him up so brilliantly would have one more shipment—probably already on the way—before shutting the whole thing down until Jonas’ stupidity blew over. So he and Jonas would take both packages, more than enough to ‘get lost’ somewhere. That was his plan. Maybe he’d kill that stupid drunk and take it all. That was beginning to sound like a better plan.
          When he opened the door to the house, Eli saw Jonas sprawled on the floor, passed out, a spilled bottle of rum laying beside him.
          “Stupid….Stupid….Stupid….” Eli said out loud.









                        I.
 Wednesday, October 22, 2003—6:03 a.m.
          Cecelia woke up and watched Richard sleeping.
          She snuggled closer to him, her hip against his thigh, and felt his sleeping breath against her face. Nothing he could ever do would in any way diminish her love and devotion to him. He defined her life and was the source of her deepest joy. Just watching him sleep moved her deep within—touched her soul and thrilled her. Just that…Richard sleeping was almost enough to make her whole. He had worn her out last night, run her almost ragged. But morning had found her anxious for more.
Shifting slightly in the bed, she listened to the lonely calls of the red-winged blackbirds and the sweet, high songs of the finches feeding on the insects of dawn. And somewhere, at some distance, she could hear the irritable cry of Albert, the sea gull who spent the day complaining loudly from the roof of the house next door. Richard and all those bird sounds were nearly enough.
          But not quite enough—she needed more and her need was greater than she could control. Quivering, her body against his, Cecelia’s mouth reached out for his. Tentatively at first, she tasted his breath, felt the warmth of him move through her body. More…she wanted more, she needed him so much she could hardly wait, so she licked his eyes and face and wagged her tail.
          Richard smiled before he opened his eyes.
          “Good morning, girl,” he said, sleepily. “Don’t want to sleep in?”
          He scratched her ears and laughed out loud.
          “OK, good dog,” he sang like a chant, “let’s get up and get out of here….”
          Little did either of them know what was waiting a hundred yards away, down the dirt road toward Spring Street, nestled like a huge egg in a brush nest, white as an egg, but holding death, not potential life.
          Father Lucas hoisted himself from bed and his half-Lab, half-Retriever dropped to the floor simultaneously. Both of them were ready for another day in the paradise that was Block Island. But time was running out. Within a quarter of an hour they would discover the trouble in paradise.

                                                ***

          Richard wasn’t happy with his new running shoes. The left shoe tended to grab and irritate his heel, just to the left of center. Two pairs of socks helped, but not enough. Maybe there’s a rock, a twig, some sand, he thought, stopping a few strides down the dirt road that lead to Spring Street. He knelt in the mud left by the late October rains and fooled with his shoe. But his dog ran ahead and started barking inexplicably just around the turn.
          Cecelia almost never barked—not at the deer or the turkeys or the tourists (most of them, God bless them, were mercifully gone now, leaving the island to the serious and the brave.) Just two weeks before, a couple of Jamaican who lived most of the year on the island—doing odd jobs, watching summer houses, helping at the docks—had gotten drunk and found their way into St. Anne’s always unlocked door to pass out. Cecelia had sniffed and whined at the door between the rectory’s dining room and the worship space while Richard boiled eggs and sliced melon. She’d run to him and back to the door time and again. She’d licked his bare knees and even nipped at his shorts, but she hadn’t barked, not once, not even with two unconscious, sweaty bodies splayed out only a few feet from the closed doors.
          But now she was barking, barking like her dog-life depended on it, barking madly and running back and forth between the SUV turned over on the dirt road and Richard Lucas, newly widowed Episcopal priest, ready for his morning jog up Spring Street to Mohegan Drive and back across the hill to the little town for a coffee and a New York Times.  Fr. Lucas was growing annoyed with Cecelia and her barking.
          “Can’t you shut up?” he asked the dog as he fooled with his shoe. Cecelia responded with a low growl and a lick to Richard’s face that almost knocked him off balance.
          “Jesus, Cel…” Richard muttered, then thinking, added “at least one of his friends….” And laughed to himself. Then the very worse thing that could have happen happened: Cecelia began her dance.
          She had only done it once before, that morning sixteen months, two weeks and four days earlier when Cecelia, and then Richard, found Susan dead.
          Sixteen months, two weeks and four days, Richard thought, stunned as the dog bounced back and forth unnaturally, almost like a cartoon dog, from her left legs to her right legs, then back again and then turning in a worried circle. The hours and minutes no longer came naturally to him. He had to think: just ten minutes or so. For over a year he had been able to compute automatically the time he had been alive without Susan. He had told only two people about it—his bishop and his psychiatrist—and both had been astonished and a little suspicious. Dr. Clarke had even kept notes and would ask him during a session—“How long now?”—and Richard could always tell her. He’d never been good with time or dates (“linear time confounds me,” was one of the little tag lines he’d developed over the years to explain how he didn’t remember what month, or sometimes even what year something had happened.) But since Susan died, some subconscious clock was constantly ticking, recording the passage of life without Susan. “LWS” he had started calling it to himself, but only once out loud because Laura Clarke had looked up quizzically when he said the initials. “Life without Susan”, Richard said, a bit embarrassed, and carefully avoided saying them after that. However, almost any time of any day, when something happened to make him think of her—the Saturday opera on the radio, a line of poetry, a sudden rainstorm…he never knew what it would be—Richard would “know” the months and weeks and days, not knowing how he knew them, and say them to himself, adding sadly and ironically, “LWS time.”
          Now Cecelia was doing “the Dance of Death” again, spinning in the heavily pocked, muddy dirt road that ran from Spring Street past St. Anne’s to the four or five houses beyond, down on the beginnings of the cliffs that rose and soared a mile away at Mohegan Bluff. He had told dozens of people about Cecelia’s dance—never naming it as he did privately—as he, time and again, had to relive and tell of that awful morning. “She was like Lassie in the old TV show,” he would tell people who listened in rapt attentiveness since everyone secretly longs for all the details of death. “I laughed at her and said, ‘is something wrong with Timmy, girl?’ Then I followed her downstairs, still laughing, anxious to tell Susan what the dumb dog had done….” About then in his telling and retelling of the dog’s dancing antics, a shadow would pass over the face of whoever was listening. They realized that the next part would cause Richard great pain to tell—though they longed to hear it and, if the truth be known, he longed to tell it, as if telling it enough would make it ordinary, common and untrue. So they’d suddenly say something about how smart Cecelia was—which was a patent lie—or how animals have a “sixth sense” about such things and isn’t that amazing….Or else they’d realize they had an appointment or a call to make or someone coming to visit and find a way to escape. Those kindly, curious people thought they were sparing Richard remembered suffering. Little did they know he wanted to tell how he found his wife’s body enough to make it stop hurting so much.
          “Cecelia, damn it!” Richard yelled into a moment in his mind of total silence. The birdsongs and the surf’s call and the screaming of the lone gull, Albert, had been drowned out by the emptiness of his memory. He tried to stand and stumbled, falling to his knees on the gravel and dirt. The pain of the fall brought him back. His dog bounced away, startled by an angry word from Richard. It only made her brain spin faster and she resumed her dance a yard further down the road.
          It was a big white vehicle turned on its side in the ditch. That’s what the dog had seen, for Richard saw it as soon as he took the first turn and cleared the high brush that lined the one-lane road. He found himself laughing with relief. It’s only an SUV some half-drunk fisherman or half-high teenager had slid into the ditch, he thought. Enough to spook Cecelia, he thought, but nobody dead.
          “It’s okay, girl,” he said, walking slowly toward his spinning dog. “Just a little island accident. Happens all the time. They’ll be coming for it soon.”
          His soothing voice calmed Cecelia for a moment. But then she barked and ran toward the car, jumping up and putting her feet on the exposed undercarriage. Richard thought he’d have to bathe her if she got gunk from the bottom of a car all over her. Then she ran back and jumped up on him, leaving his legs and running shorts stained with grease and mud.
          He could see the front of the SUV and noticed an insignia on the hood. He was never good about recognizing cars, but he thought it might be a Lexus. “Some parent is going to be pissed,” he thought to himself as he walked over to the left hand side of the road and noticed the objects he could see through the front window, leaning against the passenger side door. The sun was rising behind him and the windshield reflected orange and bright. He couldn’t quite make out what was in the car. His mind tried to place the shapes—two rolled up sleeping bags with soccer balls on them…soccer balls with something on top of them like the soccer ball in the Tom Hanks movie—what was it called? Of course, Castaway. That crazy ball that the Tom Hanks character made to look like a person—what did he call it? The name of the company…”Spalding”…no, “Wilson.”
          Richard’s momentary pride in dredging that from his memory was canceled out by two rapid realizations: he and Susan had seen that movie together in the “pre-LWS time” and what he was looking at were two bodies, piled on each other by gravity when the SUV turned on its side.
          Suddenly, he was running, bumping into sixty-five pounds of dog, almost falling, rushing to get to the car, hearing in a distance Cecelia’s bark and the cry of a seagull.
                                                ***
          “Father Lucas,” someone was saying to him, “could you tell me what happened after that.”
          Richard looked up at a young man in a uniform standing beside him. After Richard glanced around the room and realized he was sitting on the couch in St. Anne’s Rectory, he looked back at the police officer—that was the uniform, he was certain.
          “What happened after what?” Richard said, so softly he had to repeat it again.
          “After you realized there were people in the car and ran over to try to get them out,” the policeman said. He was in his late 20’s, Richard thought, with dark eyes, almost as black as his crew cut hair, an oval, deeply tanned face and a soft, understanding voice. He held a small, red spiral notebook and a white pen—a BIC, Richard thought, wondering how he knew that. The pin above his badge said “ALT, M”, which struck Richard as incomprehensible until he remembered the policeman had introduced himself as “Officer Malcolm Alt” about a half-an-hour ago.
          Cecelia’s head was in Richard’s lap and there was grease and dirt on the dog and the couch.
          “I’ll have to get this cleaned,” Richard said, to no one in particular.
          “Mal,” someone said, stepping into Richard’s field of vision, “this obviously isn’t going to work. Maybe later.”
          Officer Alt sighed and flipped his notebook closed. Stevenson Matthews insinuated his six and a half foot, bone thin frame between Richard and the arm of the couch. “Thanks, Mal,” Stevenson said in that patrician Boston accent Richard had come to know over the years. In his memory he saw Stevenson Matthews greeting him—him and Susan and their children, wild and not a little sea-sick—as they got off the ferry on Block Island for the first time.
          (“You are, Father Lucas, I believe,” the tall man said, pronouncing Richard’s last name the way a Kennedy would—Lu-KAAS—and turning his hawk like face and gaze to Susan. “And you, I must say,” he went on without missing a beat, “are too lovely to have to be charming.”
          “Keep that up,” Susan said, smiling mischievously, her children gathering around her, staring up at Stevenson, holding onto her legs, “and I’ll never leave this island.”
          Stevenson laughed, throwing his head back, showing his perfect white teeth, his startlingly etched profile and shaking his salt and pepper, wind-blown, exquisitely cut hair.
          “This is going to be more fun that I imagined,” Stevenson told Richard’s lovely and charming wife, smiling broadly at their three wild children running around just barely under control.  The kids, as if knowing they were in the presence of an important adult, stood stock still and stared at him.
He made a sweeping motion with his long arms, as if embracing them and the island. “Welcome to the Block,” he said to the whole family.)
          Stevenson wasn’t laughing as he squeezed onto the couch with Cecelia and Richard. His teeth were still perfect and his profile remarkable, but his hair was thinning and the white of mountain snow. And he was still, as he had been nearly 20 years before, the Senior Warden of St. Anne’s and one of the “powers that be” on the small island everyone called “The Block”.
          “Not to worry about the couch,” he said, softly, to Richard. “Cecelia is guarding you well and needs to be here with you.”
          Richard started brushing sand off the fabric, “I’m really sorry, Stevenson….”
          “We know you are and not to worry,” he replied. “Dr. Weinstein is on his way though God knows he hasn’t practiced for a bit, but the best we can do on an island.”
          “Dr. Weinstein owns the…the farm….” Richard managed.
          “Precisely right, son,” Stevenson said, smiling enough to let the sun wrinkles deeply crease his long, thin face. “See, in spite of how you feel, your memory is fine. A bit of a shock though, I can only imagine, happening upon such a thing.”
          “The people in the truck,” Richard began, “the man and woman, were they…are they….”
          “Dead, I’m afraid,” Stevenson finished his sentence. “Won’t know why or how for sometime, I fear. But help is on the way. Are you hungry?”
          Interestingly, Richard realized how very hungry he was. He and Cecelia were out of the Rectory at just after six, before he had anything to eat. And now, if his senses were normal and believable, it must be past noon. As at a great distance from the death less than a hundred yards away, Richard hungered—famished beyond words, longing to eat, wanting fat and protein and grains.
          Surprisingly, because he didn’t notice that Stevenson had moved, Richard’s friend and Senior Warden was calling to him from the kitchen.
          “Bacon and eggs and toast, how’s that sound?”
          Richard thought he answered, but Stevenson asked again.
          “Is that a breakfast you’d look forward to and enjoy?” he asked.
          “Yes”, Richard thought and thought it again. Then he said it, twice, just to be safe…”Yes. Yes.” He heard and smelt the bacon in the pan before he wondered if he’s said, “thank you, Stevenson” or not.
                                                ***
          At two in the afternoon, Richard was still sitting at the table in the Rectory. He’d eaten Stevenson’s bacon and eggs there and  then an extra large fish and chips from the Captain’s Table that Stevenson’s middle-aged, Cuban-born housekeeper, Ofilia, had brought him for lunch. Somewhere in all of that he must have spoken with a third of the year-round members of Block Island’s community. People had been coming and going all day. Some of them had been willing to take Cecelia out for walks, though they all asked where her lead was since no one wanted to walk back down toward the Lexus SUV that was still in place, still the tomb of two bodies because the Rhode Island State Police had been contacted while Richard was still in some level of shock and requested—no, “demanded”—that nothing else be touched besides what the crazy Episcopal priest had already messed up, so that some semblance of a “crime scene” would be there for them and the Medical Examiner from Providence to survey. So Cecelia, whining and reluctant, had been walked a dozen times that day down toward the shore and away from the white van of death.
          Other folks had brought him food, which he had dutifully covered with saran wrap or foil, and refrigerated. Others had brought strong drink—none of which he could have because Dr. Weinstein, 85 at the least and two decades retired on Block Island from his practice as an OBY-GYN in Boston, had prescribed and obtained some state of the medical arts sedatives that calmed Richard down without putting him to sleep. Most all the “islanders”, as the year-round folk called themselves, knew him in one way or another. He had been coming to Block Island for 20 years—since he was 35 and Susan was 32. A member of his parish in Worthington, Connecticut, was an “owner” on the island—as opposed to the “islanders” and the “tourists”—and knew that St. Anne’s was always looking for priests to come and minister to them. So William Crews had called Stevenson Matthews and those two good white men—both lawyers and bankers—had arranged for Richard and his family to spend three weeks on Block Island as a cheap vacation and the arrangement had lasted for 19 summers, until Susan died, dropping dead of an unexpected and finally explainable aneurysm in her kitchen one autumn morning. As Richard spent over a year in mourning and therapy seeking to deal with Life Without Susan, William Crews and Stevenson Matthews had been on the phone with each other and the Episcopal Bishops of both Connecticut and Rhode Island arranging for Fr. Lucas to spend and extended period—from September until May, at least, giving him time to regain his equilibrium and find himself again. After six weeks on the wind-blown island, it was working. Richard jogged/walked five miles every morning, ate well, went to the beach almost daily, had dinner with St. Anne’s parishioners and slept soundly. He could concentrate well enough to read for an hour at a stretch. The sojourn on Block Island had been just what Richard needed. No one could have known about the white Lexus SUV and the two dead bodies in it that would greet Richard one late October morning. No one could have predicted that—no one at all.
          So, as no one could have predicted, Richard was sitting at the table in the Rectory—more food than he could ever eat in the refrigerator and more wine and whisky than he could have imagined sitting around the kitchen—when Sgt. Mara Coles of the Rhode Island State Police Special Crimes Unit came into his life.
          “Father Lucas,” she said, “in an hour or so we need to talk.”
          “You want to sit down?” Richard asked.
          Mara smiled tightly and chose the chair across from him at the table. That was where Susan had always sat in the 20 years they’d been in that house for three weeks out of every year. Richard had sat with his back to the wall between the Rectory and the church—a wall with a framed print of some unknown painting of women and girls in long dresses on a beach somewhere, probably in the south of France. Susan had sat with her back to the kitchen of the small house. For years their children Jonah and Jeremy and Miriam had occupied the other chairs. As children would, they often chose to sit in different places. The first time the Lucas family sat at that table, the children were 10 and 8 and 6. The last seven years, in the last two weeks of June and the first week of July, Richard and Susan had begun the vacation alone. At some point during their annual stay at St. Anne’s, some collection of their brood, with significant others and, in the case of Jeremy, their middle child, a grandchild, would join them at that table.
          Now it was just Richard—zoned out on Dr. Weinstein’s pills, freaked out by finding dead people in a van—with Mara Coles, a sergeant in the Rhode Island State Police.
          “In an hour or so, I’ll be asleep,” Richard told her. “What’s the wait?”
          Mara was tall, almost 5’10. She could have looked directly into Richard’s eyes if they’d been standing. Beneath her dark, well-cut suit and pale yellow silk blouse was the muscular, thin body of a distance runner—which she was—and her hair was shortly cropped and naturally blonde. She was wearing a slate gray suit so well cut that it must have been tailored. Fr. Lucas glanced down and noticed her black, leather flats—“sensible shoes” Susan would have called them—and her dark hose, containing well sculptured calves. His eyes drifted up from the floor and noticed her skirt stopped exactly at her knees—right in the middle of her knees, not above or below. Richard, woozy from his sedatives, wondered at her age—40, 35, 30—he had no idea. Finally focusing on Sgt. Coles’ face, her large eyes were, Richard thought, the gray of the North Atlantic in a storm. And they were as sad as gray, as unsettled as a storm, as ageless as the ocean. Her face was soft and round, with a straight, small nose, large, pouting lips and an unkind chin that kept her from being drop-dead beautiful.
          “Dante isn’t here yet,” she said, almost whispering though Richard knew instinctively that was her natural voice. “Dante is the one you’ll have to talk to and he’s coming on the Ferry with his car. You won’t understand until you see it—the car, I mean. I flew over and did the crime scene. That I can do, what I can’t do is talk to you, ask you the questions we need to know about. I’m sure you understand.”
          “You are too lovely,” Richard said, mellowed out by his drugs, “to have to be charming.”
          Mara laughed. Her laugh was rich and lusty, full of fog and warmth and hope.
          “I haven’t heard that line before,” she said, still giggling, “but it isn’t original.”
          “No,” Richard said, more willing because of his trauma and drugs to speak the truth than normally. “That’s what Stevenson told Susan the first time he met her.”
          Mara nodded. “Stevenson is the grand pooh-bah of this church and this island,” she said. “That much I know. But what I don’t know is who Susan is.”
          Richard tried to focus on Mara’s face. The shock and drugs had taken their toll.
          “Someone brought some good Scotch,” he said. “Look in the kitchen behind you if you’d like a drink.” He expected some conversation about “being on duty”, but instead she found two glasses and a bottle of Gynfylich. She’d finished one, as they sat and listened to the classical radio station Richard preferred when he wasn’t listening to AM “talk sports”. Then she winked one of her breathlessly gray eyes at him and nodded (“My Lord,” Richard would remember thinking, “a wink and a nod!”) and poured him some scotch, neat.
          “It’ll help you sleep,” she said in her strange whisper of a voice.
          “I’ll need it, I suspect,” he said, not yet slurring.
          Just then someone knocked at the door. “Hello,” a distinctly fake English accent called, “may a humble physician enter?”
          Mara smiled, “Dr. Jay,” she said, “come on in.”
          A tall, stout man with thin brown hair combed straight back came in. He was looking around like he’d never been in a house before. “Mara, my love,” he said, now in an Hispanic accent, embracing her warmly as she stood up, “won’t you run away with me tonight? We can be in Mexico by morning.”
          Richard noticed the man was wearing a motor cycle jacket and black leather chaps with boots garishly decorated with silver inlay. Mara introduced him to Richard.
          “Dr. Anthony Jay,” the man said solemnly, no accent and shook Richard’s hand. “So sorry for your unpleasant day.”
          “Thank you,” he replied, noticing that Dr. Jay had perhaps the worst set of teeth he had ever seen—crooked and broken and brown.
          “Did you ride your motorcycle over, Tony?” Mara asked, smiling broadly.
          “No, darlin’”, now it was a red-neck, mountain accent, “I was out ridin’ when I got the call to be flown over here in a State Police plane—cute littl’ thing—just big enough for a pilot, me and the two bodies to go home in….”
          Dr. Jay shook Richard’s hand again, falling back into what must have been his normal voice and wishing the priest well. He then led Mara to the door and talked animatedly with her for a few minutes. Finally, she laughed so loud it startled Cecelia, asleep at Richard’s feet the whole time. The dog stood up and shook herself as the front door closed and Mara returned to the table, still laughing.
          “Who is he?” Richard asked.
          “The state Medical Examiner,” Mare replied, trying to compose herself. “He specializes in thorough autopsies and horribly bawdy jokes. I suspect he didn’t want to offend you with that one.”
          “I couldn’t help noticing….” Richard began.
          “The teeth,” Mara finished, giggling. “They’re fake. He has four different sets of them. Amuses him to shock people. Dante and I never mention it.”
          “The Medical Examiner of the whole state…?”
          “And a damn good one, if somewhat deranged…..”
          Two drinks later, after talking and slurring non-stop to Mara about just about everything: the war against terrorism, the weather, the Red Sox and Yankees, the weather again, favorite TV shows and global warming, everything but Susan—Dante Caggiano arrived.
          Richard couldn’t tell if all the chemicals and alcohol in his body were to blame, but his first view of Lt. Dante Caggiano was like a cartoon—he and Cecelia could have danced with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. The man moved entirely too fast and looked entirely too strange to be quite real. Suddenly the combination of sedatives and scotch caught up with him. Richard wasn’t sure he could open his mouth again, ever. He felt paralyzed, totally rigid and this little man—who looked like a miniature Al Pacino, except his hair was extremely curly (almost “nappy”, as southern belle Susan, unaware of political correctness, would have said) but wet-looking—was dancing around the room in double time, examining the books on the shelves, bending down to check the carpet, flitting from painting to painting on the walls, pouring himself a healthy scotch and finishing it off in one drink, smiling and winking at Sgt. Coles, complaining about the Ferry trip and how the dirt road had almost ruined his car, doing almost everything anyone could do within the confines of a small house without ever looking at Richard at all.
          The Lieutenant was dressed all in black. The darkness of his dress made him look minimally taller than his true 5’7”. Richard thought Dante Caggiano dressed more like a priest than he ever did. His suit was black, with tiny gray stripes, obviously exquisitely tailored and terribly expensive. His heavily starched shirt was black. His tie was black. His socks and what Richard imagined were hand-made Italian loafers were black. The neatly folded and fluffed handkerchief in his jacket pocket was black. Even the cuff links that showed a standard inch beneath the sleeves of his double breasted jacket were black—like black pearls, tiny and costly. Richard was enough out of it to almost say, had he been able to open his mouth, “I’ve never seen anyone dressed like you.” But he couldn’t open his mouth, so he didn’t say it.
          Finally, after pouring himself another scotch, Lt. Caggiano sat down at the end of the table where Richard was petrified and Mara was gently laughing and said, “Fr. Lucas, you’ve obviously been inspired by my beautiful partner into mixing drugs and drink and aren’t at your best. But I’d really like to see the church.”
          Mara helped Richard stand up and guided him toward the double doors between the Rectory and the Sanctuary of St. Anne’s. She was smiling at him as she supported his staggering walk, wrapping one arm around his waist and guiding him by his shoulder with her other hand.
          “You may have noticed that brilliant Mara and I do not seem to avoid drinking on the job, something most detective novels would tell you was forbidden,” Lt. Caggiano was saying, as if through amber, as Richard commanded his legs to move. Cecelia had left her long nap on the couch and was sniffing the policeman’s crotch. Dante did not seem to notice and kept talking.
          “But we are not your average police persons,” he was saying. “We are the finest team Rhode Island will ever know….And, as I think of it, Mara, dear, we should put the good Padre to bed and see the church tomorrow. You and I will stay here tonight, just as our new best friend Stevenson Matthews suggested. We’ll doubtless drink more of that good whisky and talk over our case, such as it is. So, pleasant dreams, dear priest….”
          Mara was giggling as she guided Richard down the hall to the master bedroom. “He’s the case,” she whispered, laying him on the bed. “I’ll take the dog out, if she’ll go with me, and then let her back here with you. You need someone to sleep with tonight, I think.”

          All of which, Richard later thought, he may have made up out of whole cloth. After all, he’d been through quite enough, hoisting himself up onto an overturned Lexus SUV, bloodying his hands prying the door up and open and plunging, like a scuba-diver into the car, carried by gravity into the strange embrace of a man and a woman, both of whom were obviously dead. Lying tangled in their limbs—that tall, thin man, probably in his sixties, though well-preserved in spite of being dead and that short, middle-aged woman with long brown hair and open, vacant, staring green eyes—Richard experienced a vertigo he had known only once before: the morning Susan died.
          His adroit mind went suddenly blank. As a priest, he had seen many more dead people than most other folks would ever see, but he’d never been lying on top of two corpses, wondering how to find his way back up and out of an overturned car. That these two people were dead was obvious to him. That he was still alive was the harder question. The only thing that made that real was the insistent barking of his dog. Cecelia’s lament came to him through fog and fear. He heard it as at a great distance, but it kept him climbing out of that place of death though something powerful was willing him to stay.
          What he didn’t remember was how he got out of the SUV. Later he would learn from Mara that he had left trace evidence from his troublesome running shoes all over the bodies of Dr. Michael Johnson and Dr. Malinda Spencer. Obviously, he had planted his feet on their shoulders, faces, hips to propel himself upward and out of the car so he could go back to St. Anne’s and phone 911. But none of that came back to him when he awoke—stunned and still a little stiff from drug and drink—late in the night. What he did remember was that he had talked for a long time to an almost beautiful woman. He had talked to her longer, and with more energy than he had talked to any woman since Susan died.
          He only wished he could remember her name.
          The other thing he noticed, waking up in darkness, besides Cecilia’s body against his side and the dog’s loud and raucous snoring, was that he was wearing only his boxer shorts and tee shirt. His running shorts were gone, along with his Block Dog sweat shirt, his ill-fitting running shoes and socks. Someone had undressed him in his sleep. He was both embarrassed and a bit—just a bit—stimulated knowing a beautiful woman had taken off most of his clothes.
          If only he could remember her name. He tried, slipping away.
          While Richard slept, fitfully as it was, Dante and Mara sat at the table and consumed, between them, half a bottle of 18 year old Scotch.
          “So, is he a suspect?” Mara asked at some point before 2 a.m., when Dante was waiting for Brooks to come and pick him up so she could go to one of the guest rooms and get some sleep.
          Dante sat totally, incredibly still. After eight years of working with him, Mara still marveled at both his kinetic, constant movement during the day and his almost catatonic late night posture.
          He looked up at her, almost smiling. “Isn’t everyone?”
          Then they both looked up because a surge of noise was descending on them from above.
          “I need something to read,” Dante said, prancing around the living room and settling on a large book from a table. “Let us pray that Brooks, unlike us, hasn’t been in the Scotch tonight.”
          “Brooks?” Mara replied. “Give me a break….Have a good trip.” She crossed the room and handed him a kitchen glass in a zip-lock bag.
          “Doubtless,” Dante said, heading for the door in double time. Before he closed it he looked back at Mara with something bordering on affection, “and have a good night’s sleep. One of us should.”
          The two detectives smiled at each other, much as they had for much of their eight years together. And Dante left.
Mara sat alone at the table for a while. She panned through the cable stations on the island with the sound too low to really hear, though she was relatively sure that if a helicopter didn’t wake Fr. Lucas, a TV set wouldn’t. She thought for a moment about him: he was not a big man, though she could tell from his face and his limbs when she undressed him that he was used to carrying more weight. His thinness was not quite natural—something was draining him away. His face was unremarkable but etched with memory and pain and creased with laugh marks. He was a man who had laughed a lot, smiled a lot, but was burdened now, struggling to find humor and joy. His longish hair was brown, turning gray. There was something substantial about him that was only in his eyes. When she was taking off his sweatshirt, his eyes opened and gazed into hers: they were brown, green, probably sometimes almost blue and, at least to her, had seen both wonder and suffering.
She walked down the hallway and looked into his room. In the shadows she could see he had turned onto his stomach and was snoring lightly. The dog was pressed against him. Mara liked men who liked dogs. It was in the early morning and he was stirring a bit. She left him there and went to bed to sleep for a few hours.
          (Richard dreamed: Cecelia was dancing before him. He was in stocking feet and naked. He followed the dog down long, dark hallways to a bright place and found Susan on the floor. He pulled her into his arms and breathed into her mouth, willing her to life. But the more he breathed, the smaller she became, deflating like a balloon in spite of his breath blowing into her, until he was holding something light as silk and just as unsubstantial. In his dream, his eyes were burning and filled with fluid as he looked up and saw the dog, dancing, dancing, dancing….Like most of these dreams, even when he wasn’t saturated with drugs and alcohol, Richard would not remember it in the morning.
          Mara dreamed, fitfully and for only a short while: She was flying in a plane across ice and frozen sea. Then the plane began to disintegrate and in a moment she was flying alone, just above the chill and ice. She flew and flew, almost skimming the ice. She was so afraid she could not speak, not even in her dream, and nothing else happened—just the ice and the flying and the chill enveloping her heart—until she dropped into a deep, profound blackness where dreams could not be remembered.
          Cecelia dreamed, as only dogs do, clearly and absolutely: She was chasing something through a field, across a shallow stream, into a wooded area. She was running, running, running….Just that, running, closing in on her prey. At some point in the night, Richard bumped against her, getting out of bed and going to the bathroom. This behavior, she knew. When she felt his warmth near her again, she dropped back into sleep and dreams of running, running, running….Who could say whether she remembered those dream when she awoke or not?)



                                      II.
Thursday, October 23, 2003—7:17 a.m.    
          Richard smelled bacon cooking and voices speaking softly. Someone was in the house with him. He willed his mind still. He tried, as he had been trying for nearly a year and a half, to pray. And nothing happened—not even a busy signal. Here he lay, a priest of God, unable to pray. As far as he knew, no one had figured that out yet—not the folk at St. Mark’s in Worthington or the precious few people of St. Anne’s on Block Island.
          The last prayer he had prayed came sprawled out on the tile of the kitchen floor, his lips pressed against Susan’s mouth, blowing for all he was worth, trying to remember the training he’s received at the Worthington YMCA in first aid. He and Susan had both gone, imagining that parents of three children should know the basics of resuscitation. He had blown the breath of life into a remarkably life-like dummy, watching, out of the corner of his eye, at Susan laughing while he essentially kissed an obviously male torso.
          But all he tasted on the floor of their kitchen was the taste of death. It was not unlike the taste of spring greens a day or two past the expiration date on the cellophane package. He could not for the life of himself describe it any differently or explain what that taste was like. But he knew it. It was the taste of death.
          “Oh God, Jesus, please….” was the prayer he prayed in that moment. And, just as people who pray often tend to reduce their prayers to code, Richard’s prayer boiled down to one word…”Please, please, please….”
          It did not please God to let Richard’s wife of almost 30 years live. In response, Richard, without ever “deciding” or “choosing” one way or the other, simply stopped praying at all. He simply stopped then and there.
          To say he grew ‘angry’ with God would not be subtle enough to describe it. What he felt and experienced and lived out of was a sudden and complete ‘disinterest’ in whatever God was up to that kept the Almighty from noticing that this lovely, good, sometimes annoying woman was dead. Whatever else he knew or imagined that much was true: Susan was dead and God had been distracted by something else. In the beginning, for three months or so, even though he couldn’t pray, Richard had given God some wiggle room. There were a lot of things for the Creator of the Universe to be interested in, after all. There was the slaughter of innocent people in wars and on the streets of civilized countries. There was the insidious expansion of deadly diseases—AIDS, malaria, even new strains of flu—that silently removed thousands each day from this place and time. There was the wasting of the planet—global warming, damage to the ozone layer, deadly flumes, the ravages of pesticides in the air, ground, water table. God was busy with other things, Richard credited that for a few months, it was impossible to deny. But eventually, he realized that no matter what was deterring God from that kitchen floor in Worthington, Connecticut, it wasn’t as important as whether Susan lived or died. So, he stopped praying.  
          He had given it a great deal of thought to ‘not praying’ in the months since then. He had convinced himself that even though he didn’t pray any more, his role as a priest allowed him to be prayed through in the liturgies and rituals of the church. For almost six months after that morning, Richard did not celebrate the Eucharist or lead prayers. People gave him a wide berth. His assistant essentially took over St. Mark’s though Richard was still technically the Rector. And by the time he had gone through the almost Byzantine theological gymnastics that allowed him once more to stand at the altar—a man bereft of prayer himself, able to pray for others—the parish had given him a year’s leave of absence, with pay and benefits, and named Stephanie Poole, his Curate, as “Priest in charge”.
          Richard wasn’t sure how many of the members of St. Mark’s in Worthington expected him to return, healed and restored, to take up his role in their life again. A scant few, he sometimes thought. He was, after all, a deeply wounded and broken man now. That might be an apt metaphor for a priest theologically, but practically, who would want to be comforted by someone who could not find comfort for their own soul? And who would want a priest who couldn’t really pray? So he had embraced the offer to come to Block Island—to “say prayers” rather than pray them for that tiny winter congregation while he sought to find the fruits of a year of counseling and introspection. What would he do next? He hadn’t even begun to plum the depths of that question when he and Cecelia happened upon two more dead people on a muddy dirt road in a place he was sent to be healing.
          The woman whose name he couldn’t remember was in the doorway. She looked a little worse for a scotch filled night but was still almost beautiful. Her blond hair was spikey, like some punk rock singer Richard dimly remembered. She (“Mary?” “Martha?” “Marta?’: he ran through a litany of M names—“Mara”, that was it!) was dressed in faded jeans and a white Brown University T-shirt that almost reached to the top of her jeans. There was a sliver of flat, tanned stomach showing. Richard hadn’t noticed Mara or the other detective carrying in any luggage—but then, Richard hadn’t noticed much, high on pills and whisky and slurring his speech and not knowing if he could move or not.
          Sgt. Mara (now he needed to dredge her last name from the left over stew of his memory) almost smiled at him, but not quite.
          “Good morning, Father,” she said in what he would have described as a whisper except it was totally audible. “Cecelia needs to go out and you need to shave. Breakfast is almost ready and Dante wants to see the church.”
          She lifted her hand and showed the rousing dog her leash. Cecelia tumbled from the bed and stumbled to Mara who bent down and embraced the dog’s head, holding it against her chest.
          “Good morning, girl,” she said in that loud whispery voice that Richard remembered from the previous night as somehow sad. When Mara stood up, the leash was miraculously connected to Cecelia’s collar and the two of them left on six feet, leaving Richard alone, not a little confused and hung over and remarkably hungry.
          Richard’s older maternal cousin, Marlin, had taught him what a man needs in the morning. “Three S’s,” Marlin said to ten year old Richard, “shave, shower and shit.” Many were the mornings, like this one as October began to die on Block Island, that Richard remembered that advice, and followed it.
          Cecelia was eating boisterously and with much noise from her bowl in the small kitchen when Richard arrived, jeaned and t-shirted himself. Dante Caggiano (whose name bubbled up from the alphabet soup of Richard’s memory as soon as he saw him) was dressed in blue—navy blue pin-stripped suit, sky blue shirt, deep blue tie with navy blue accents, but the same black loafers—all of which was topped with an “HAVE YOU KISSED AN EPISCOPALIAN TODAY” apron, replete with a six inch square seal of the Episcopal Church in red and white and blue. Richard had noticed it on a hanger in the hall closet and secretly wondered who would ever wear such a garment.
          Dante had one of the Rectory’s frying pans in one hand and a short, unfiltered cigarette in the other.
          “You can’t smoke in here,” Richard said automatically. “There’s no smoking in the house.”
          “I know,” said Dante, putting the cigarette in the corner of his mouth, expertly closing his eye and finding a spatula to shovel scrambled eggs onto a plate, which he quickly transferred to the table where Richard always sat. “But you can’t smoke outside because the fucking wind is always blowing on this piss-poor excuse for an island. So I will, from time to time, more often than you wish, I’m sure, Padre, be smoking in here.”
          While he was holding his right eye almost shut and talking, the policeman was looking through the cabinets around the kitchen and presenting Richard with a bottle of Texas Pete Hot-Sauce. Richard thought he heard water running somewhere, but didn’t mention it.
          Richard looked up at him. For just a moment Dante seemed to be still, but when that moment passed he was washing out the frying pan, dousing his cigarette butt in the water, dropping it in the trash can, changing Cecelia’s water bowl and putting two plates in the dishwasher.
          “The dishwasher…”, Richard began.
          “Was never fully anchored so I should be careful about pulling the top shelf out too far…”, Dante finished for him.
          Richard covered his eggs with hot sauce and took a bite. They were fluffy, tasty and full of cheese.
          “How did you know…,” he began.
          Dante finished, “that you liked hot sauce? There are four bottles in various places around the kitchen. Elementary, my dear Padre.”
          “He’s a detective, after all,” Mara said, entering the room, dressed now in black slacks, a huge, white fisherman’s sweater and expensive running shoes, her hair still wet from the shower.
          Richard looked up at her between bites, thinking she was almost beautiful, wondering how long he had been noticing women again.
          “My lovely Mara was taking a shower as we shared these moments together,” Lt. Caggiano said, removing the apron and lighting another cigarette with a delicate, monogrammed silver lighter. “That was why you heard water running, though you didn’t mention it.”
          “Isn’t he amazing?” Mara said, teasingly, pouring two cups of coffee from the Mr. Coffee by the sink. “It gets annoying after a while, believe me.”
          She carried the coffee to the table and sat one cup in front of Richard.
          “A little cream,” Dante said, carrying a pint of half-and-half he grabbed gracefully from the refrigerator, “and one—no two—Splendas”. He handed Richard two yellow packets.
          “How did you know that?” Richard asked.
          “Don’t ask,” Mara spoke, whispered, “just be annoyed.”
          Dante was standing with his back to the table, looking out the glass door to the back yard, watching the fluttering life of dozens of birds there.
          “There are three pints of half-and-half in the fridge and an almost empty box of Splenda packets on the counter,” he said. “You’ve been here six weeks, in this house, and, unless you drink a lot of coffee—which I doubt—probably two or so a day, you’ve been using up about two packets a cup. Simple deduction.”
          “Annoyed yet?” Mara said to Richard, nodding and winking again.
          When his plate was empty and Dante had rinsed it thoroughly and put it in the dishwasher, Richard leaned back and felt like himself for the first time in over a day.
          “Lt. Caggiano,” he said, “is it normal….”
          “For the investigating officers to move in with a suspect?” Dante completed Richard’s question. “Not at all. But when our friend, Stevenson, suggested it, I couldn’t think of a reason why not.”
          “Am I…”, Richard tried to say.
          “But darling Mara and I aren’t two to abide by senseless regulations. You’ve noticed that, I presume?”
          Mara laughed. “It’s real important to Dante that you realize he isn’t your normal detective. He has a reputation to uphold.”
          “And you,” Dante said to her, though not unkindly, “have a reputation to live down….”
          She laughed again.
          Richard tired of the interchange between the two cops. “But am I…”, he started again.
          “A suspect?” Mara and Dante said together, alto and tenor, though Mara’s voice was the lower pitch. They laughed, though Richard didn’t.
          “Bread and butter,” Mara said.
          “Guns and butter,” Dante replied.
          They both laughed again, the comfortable laughter of people used to laughing together.
          “Of course you are, Padre,” Dante began. “Of course and always.”
          “One in three times,” Mara added quickly, “the person who reports the crime did the deed.”
          “A remarkable and difficult reality,” Dante said. “Even we don’t understand it.”
          “Why would a murderer turn themselves in?” Mara asked.
          “Because they want to get caught?” Richard interjected, totally confused and searching for dry land in the swamp of his brain and the circumstances. He imagined the chemicals in his blood stream were still playing tricks with his logic.
          “No!” Dante cried, suddenly in full movement, careening around the living room, waving his hands and wondrously lighting another cigarette in the midst of the fluttering of his arms. “No and a thousand times no. The killer calls in the crime thinking that act of civic duty will inoculate him or her—see how modern and politically correct I am, Padre—from being a suspect. And, in the meantime, we defenders of the faith—I mean our civilization’s,  faith, Father, don’t be offended—know that our job has a third of a chance of being done when we discover the person who called 911. This really isn’t very hard, this solving of murders.”
          Lt. Caggiano was flitting around the house so rapidly that Richard had to close his eyes to avoid the distraction of Dante picking up and putting back books, touching flat surfaces, swinging his arm around with a lit cigarette in his hand and dancing—that was the only word for it—dancing around the Rectory.
          “So,” Richard said, calmly and slowly from behind closed eyes, “I AM a suspect?”
          “Open your eyes, Father Lucas,” Mara whispered. Her whisper was just negligibly softer than her normal speaking voice. “He’s standing still now, you can handle it.”
          Dante was perched on the end of the table where Mara and Richard were sitting. Even angled on the edge of a table, his suit’s lines fell sharply.
          “Of course not,” he said. “You’re a respected, though damaged, 55 year old Episcopal priest with three children who live…correct me on this, Mara, if necessary…in Boston, New Haven and St. Louis, am I right?”
          “Right as rain,” Mara answered.
          “And though you have less than $3000 in your savings account, you have a remarkably good pension plan and almost no debt and a house that you’re not living in that is valued at just over three-quarters of a million dollars,” Dante continued. “You are in good health, though you might want to notice the next blood work about your liver—seems you’ve been drinking more than usual since your wife…Susan Marcia Browning Lucas…died….”
          “Wait a minute!” Richard tried to say. He wanted to ask how he knew all this and especially if his house in Worthington was really worth that much.
          “Lay back and enjoy it,” Mara whispered, really whispering this time, “he’s just showing off.”
          “Your children are comfortable, law abiding and relatively debt free,” Dante went on, holding one extinguished cigarette in the palm of his hand and lighting another, “though Mary…no, Miriam…was arrested during a gay-rights demonstration in Boston when she was a student at B.C.—no Tufts, I forgot for a moment that you’re an Episcopalian. And your Episcopalian bishop thinks the world of you and there is nothing to indicate you are anything other than you seem to be. It’s astonishing, isn’t it, what the Rhode Island State Police can learn overnight? So why would you, reasonably, have anything to do with drugs, money or terrorism?”
          Dante took a drag on his cigarette that would have pulled smoke and nicotine into the soles and toenails of his feet, if that were possible. He glided from the table to the sink in the kitchen, dropping one butt in the trash and extinguishing the second under a thin stream of water.
          “Drugs, money or terrorism,” Richard finally interjected, “is that what this is about?”
          “Isn’t it always?” Mara said.
          “I’ve been in police work too long,” Lt. Caggiano said, now standing by the sliding door to the back deck, staring out at the marsh behind St. Anne’s. “There used to be other things to consider—passion and happenstance and the occasional ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ crime. But now it is all much simpler…and, if I might say, much duller. Drugs and money and terrorism are the whole thing, Father. The woof and warp of murder. And there is absolutely no reason to believe you have anything to do with any of that. So, as of now, let it be said, you are officially not a suspect so lovely Mara and I can domicile with you while we investigate and do other detective things here on this miserable rock.”
          Mara actually giggled. Dante turned around and stared at Richard.
          “Let’s see that church now,” he said.
                                                ***
          Dante was curious about everything. He wanted the history of the large old stained glass window of St. Anne and her daughter, Mary.
          “I think it must be from the old church,” Richard said, staring at the window he’d been staring at for a few weeks every year for two decades, realizing he’d never really thought to ask about a stained glass window leaning up against the wall.
          “The one that burned?” Dante asked, already near the altar, examining fair linen and candlesticks. “And before you ask how I knew about the church burning, it’s because I took that coffee table history of Block Island with me to read in the helicopter.”
          By the time he finished speaking, Lt. Caggiano was seated at the little electronic organ, figuring out how to turn it on and playing a few bars of something that sounded like Bach.
          “Not a very good sound,” he said, switching to something sounding like the score for a silent movie. “But one wouldn’t expect it to be….”
          Mara was sitting on one of the rattan chairs near the wall of glass that made up the north wall of the building. She was staring out down to the water and the ferry dock.
          “How do you get people to listen to you?” she asked, still staring out. “Why don’t they just stare out at the view.”
          “Some do,” Richard answered as Dante switched tunes again, this was something smoky, moody, a jazz tune familiar to Richard that he couldn’t place.
          “Ellington,” Dante said, watching him watch Mara watch the view, “from the ‘Sacred Concerts’. Thought it appropriate.” Then he stood and moved around the little chapel again.
          “You…,” Richard began.
          “Play quite well,” Dante finished, “yes, I know.”
          Mara turned back around, her gray eyes crinkled shut, “my God, Father, don’t encourage him!”
          They all retreated to the part of the church near the front door. Dante was staring at a plaque with multiple small name plates by the door.
          “Those are the people whose ashes are interred in the Memorial Garden out back,” Richard told him, moving to read over the detective’s shoulder.
          “This one,” Dante said, pointing. He pointed with both his index and second finger, as if he were holding a cigarette between them. “This ‘Cynthia Jane Cuthbertson Matthews’, any relation to our friend Stevenson?”
          Richard nodded. “His wife. She drowned in a boating accident. It wasn’t while I was up here—it was September, but Susan and I came over to the island for the funeral. She was a sweet and gentle woman. Stevenson was shattered. He had been in the boat with her and couldn’t save her.”
          Dante sniffed, as if smelling a fine wine. “So the two of you are both in the widower’s club,” he said, “an exclusive club since women tend to outlive us by so long.”
          “Only the good die young,” Mara said from behind them. Dante shot her a withering look and Richard flinched. Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes widened. “Father Lucas,” she said, “that was thoughtless….”
          He shook his head and smiled at her embarrassment. “It’s okay….And probably true….”
          Nevertheless, she retreated to the deck just outside the door while Richard showed Dante what was in the kitchen. As he was taking out the silver from under the sink, he noticed it didn’t seem as crowded as usual. But the thought quickly floated away as Dante admired the communion sets.
          And on it went until Richard had replaced all the silver altar pieces and shown Dante the few, dull vestments from the closet for him to examine and comment on.
          “You know a lot about this stuff,” Richard told him finally.
          “Two years in the seminary,” he said, “until I found my true calling—detective work and attractive men.”
          “Oh, Lord,” Mara said from the doorway. She’d come back in but stood by the door staring out into the church parking lot to the houses beyond. “Dante thinks it important to share his sexual orientation as soon as possible. I don’t know why. Perhaps he thinks its disarming or will create some tension so people will say things they didn’t intend to say.”
          “Or maybe Dante just wants to be open and honest,” Dante said, “and to let Fr. Lucas here know that I really appreciate the Episcopal Church, especially after this past summer.”
          “This summer?” Richard asked, genuinely confused which, he decided he would be around the two detectives.
          “The election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire and how the General Convention, I think that’s what it’s called, had the theological courage to approve it.” He looked at Richard, holding a white stole. “Isn’t that what happened, Father?”
          Richard nodded, remembering now. “And high time,” he commented.
          “Hear that, Mara dear,” Dante said, putting the stole around his neck after kissing the cross in the middle of the long white cloth. “That’s why the church I don’t go to is now the Episcopal Church.”
          Mara laughed. “If that’s true for all homosexuals of your age, then when you find partners and adopt a child or when you start worrying about your mortality, the Episcopal church will be overflowing with well-to-do gay men and lesbians with lots of disposable income. Quite an evangical moment for Episcopalians.”
          “You mean ‘evangelical’, I think, Richard said softly.
          “Whatever,” Mara said, not miffed at all as he thought she would be. “Evangelical….”
           Lt. Caggiano turned toward her, wearing the stole. “What do you think, Sergeant?” he asked, modeling it for her. “Maybe the church needs me back after all.”
          “Fat chance these days, unless you do make the Episcopal church the church you don’t attend,” she said, walking out onto the deck that surrounded two sides of the house and connected chapel. Then she called back, “not much wind, Dante.”
          “Come on, Father,” he said, handing the stole to Richard, “she knows if she doesn’t get me outside I’ll light up in a church.”
          “You’ve done it before,” Mara called, though neither of them could see her anymore.
          Richard followed in Dante’s wake, still carrying the stole, and when he stepped outside he saw the white, Rhode Island State Police helicopter sitting in the parking lot only a few feet from his battered, eight-year-old Volvo and a black sport’s car that was built incredibly low to the ground and looked terribly expensive.
          “Ah,” Dante said, lighting a cigarette. “Brooks is back from breakfast.” The pilot waved from the cockpit of the helicopter and seemed to be playing with gages. “I let him take your car, Father, since your keys were on the counter and there’s no way he can drive the Ferrari.”
          “No one but Dante can drive the Ferrari,” Marta said as she slipped around the detective, took Richard’s arm with a conspiratory smile and led him back into the church just as the rotaries of the huge machine jumped to life. A whoosh of air entered the door and Dante cursed outside, loud and creatively.
          “The wind came up, Dante,” Mara said, laughing and moving quickly down the center aisle toward the door to the living room of the house.
          Richard stood in the middle of the church, watching Dante—windblown and trying to pull the door closed as the helicopter began to ascend in a clamor of wind and noise that drowned out the detective’s curses.
                                                ***
          “I don’t see how you slept through its landing and taking off last night,” Mara was saying as she and Richard sat at the table in the same places as the night before, drinking coffee, watching Dante flit around the room, examining everything over and again. “Three of your neighbors called the police.”
          “They doubtless thought it was a terrorist attack,” Dante said from the kitchen, looking through drawers. “Or the feds coming to search for Osama bin Laden the way they did for Philip Berrigan.”
          “You know that story too?” Richard said, “was that in the book?”
          “No, Father,” he said, standing suddenly still next to him. The lack of motion was almost dizzying to Richard. “Our good friend and host, Stevenson Marten Matthews told me that tale. He was one of yours, wasn’t he?”
          “Stevenson?” Richard asked, confused by the question.
          “No,” Dante replied, still stone, “the fugitive harborer, the Berrigan hider. Stringfellow, wasn’t it?”
          “One of mine?”
          “An Anglican, of course.”
          Richard nodded, understanding.
          Dante took off his coat and hung it neatly on the chair to Richard’s left. He sat down, crossed his legs and leaned across the table toward the priest. “So naturally, given the history of Episcopalians giving sanctuary to criminals,” Dante said, slowly, frowning, “Mrs. Symons and Mr. Byrne, two of your neighbors, good citizens both, assumed that you were giving aid and comfort to drug dealers or suicide bombers and the helicopters were landing again. Déjà vu all over again.”
          Richard glanced at Mara who was biting her lip and shaking her head.
          “Drugs and terrorism again….” Richard said, looking back at Dante’s Al Pachio frown.
          “And money, too, Father. Oodles of it most likely.”
          “You seem sure.”
          “Oh yes, since my little flight to Providence and a couple of hours with the Medical Examiner, Dr. Jay, and CSI folks—none to happy to be working through the night because the Italian asshole , as I am known in those circles, is breathing down their necks….”
          “An unpleasant visual image at best,” Mara said softly.
          Dante glanced at her, darkly and turned back to Fr. Lucas. “This whole double homicide—the technical term for two people being murdered at one time—has absolutely everything to do with terrorism, drugs and money. No doubt about it. Case closed.”
          Richard must have looked shocked because Mara giggled. He looked back and forth between them, like someone watching tennis. “The case is closed! You’ve solved the murder?”
          Dante laughed suddenly, like an explosion in a bottle. “No,” he said, leaning back in the chair, lifting the front legs off the floor and folding his hands behind his head, “quite the contrary. This will probably never be solved—at least not to the public’s knowledge. Unless of course my lovely assistant and I do that in the next eight hours or so, because before the day is out, the feds really will be crawling over this island like a hundred Berrigan brothers are running loose in the woods and Mara and I will be packed back to Providence on a special, high speed ferry. ‘The sooner, the better,’ our friends from Washington will say, ‘get them out of here so they don’t do something crazy and embarrassing like solve this crime.’ That’s what I mean, Father Lucas, by saying this case is closed.”
          Richard shook his head, suddenly as confused as the drugs and scotch had made him. “The…the FBI is coming?”
          Mara laughed and got up to get more coffee.
          Dante lowered his chair and stood up. “No, no. Those federal employees would actually have a chance of solving this mess and are, more or less, bound by the government to let some of the truth be known to someone.”
          “I’m confused,” Richard said. “Then who? The CIA?”
          Mara was back at the table. She’d found some stale cookies in a cabinet and arranged them on a saucer. “The reason it isn’t the CIA is that, in spite of their bad press in the last few years and the fact that supposedly they stay out of domestic situations,” she explained, as to a small child about not running with scissors, “if they were coming they would have already been here. They would have beat us here.”
          Dante was walking again. He circled the table slowly so that Richard had to turn his head to watch him talk. “No, good Padre, the really incompetent sons-a-bitches are going to know in just a few hours what’s going down up here on this inhabited vestige of the last Ice Age. They should know by now except our alphabet buddies in the FBI and CIA will take their time telling them since those guys are as pissed off as yours truly that real policemen aren’t going to be handling this one. This one is too big for actual professional law-enforcement types. This one is so big only the biggest assholes in the universe can handle it.”
          “Stop walking!” Richard said suddenly as Dante passed behind him. Cecelia, sleeping peacefully on the couch through everything else, including the departure of the helicopter, heard the change in tenor in Richard’s voice. She growled lowly, rolled off the couch and stared at the three people across the room.
          Dante smiled at Mara over Fr. Lucas’ head and she smiled back.
          “Sit down…please….” Richard said, with a bit of hesitation. But the Lieutenant sat down in his chair and looked at him.
          “Yes,” Dante said.
          “Who are you talking about?” Richard said, near exasperation.
          Dante took a deep breath. “Two dead people,” he said slowly.
          Richard rolled his head and sighed. “I know there are two dead people,” he said, “but you were talking about some mysterious federal agency that is on its way here. That’s the Who I mean!”
          Cecelia walked over and sat beside Richard, gazing as menacingly as a Lab can at Dante.
          Dante watched the dog and spoke softly. “You know what’s really interesting here, Father Lucas?” he asked. When Richard didn’t move, he continued: “over 24 hours ago, you discovered two dead people in a wrecked SUV and you haven’t yet asked how they died.”
          Richard frowned at him and made a hand motion, something like an invitation to move closer. “So?” he finally said.
          “So, Father,” Dante said, narrowing his eyes and leaning forward, “you’re dealing with two accomplished detectives here….”
          “Unconventional but accomplished,” Mara added.
          “And accomplished detectives,” Dante continued, more rapidly, “even unconventional accomplished detectives always tend to postulate that if someone who reports a murder doesn’t soon ask something about how the murder happened…then that’s because they already know….
          Richard leaped up, furious, bumping Cecelia with his knee. The dog let out a rare, threatening bark and her hackles rose on the back of her neck.
          “You arrogant, little jerk!” Richard said, louder than he had said anything since he cried out to God on the kitchen floor beside his dead wife. “I was in shock and then I was stoned and drunk and since then you haven’t stopped talking and flitting around and Mara is so lovely and distracting….” Realizing what he just said, he paused.
          Mara smiled coquettishly at her boss. “I’m so lovely I don’t need to be charming….” She smirked.
          Richard looked at the two of them and, expended, sat down and laid his hand on Cecelia’s head to calm her.
          The three people and the dog sat in tableau for a long moment or two.
          “When could I have asked,” Richard said, quietly, not a little embarrassed, “what happened to those two people? They were in a car wreck. They were dead. What was I supposed to ask?”
          “I told you he had it in him!” Dante said, triumphant, to Mara.
          “You were drunk, last night,” she replied, feigning anger. “I’m the one who told you Richard had it in him!”
          He smiled slyly. “So it’s ‘Richard’ now, is it? No more ‘Father Lucas’ this and ‘Father Lucas’ that?”
          The two police officers stared at each other like two bullies on a playground.
          “I’m…I’m sorry,” Richard said. “About the….”
          Lovely and distracting thing?” Dante said, still staring at Mara.
          “The flitting homophobic reference?” Mara quickly added.
          And then they both broke into laughter. After a while, in spite of his resentment at having been so manipulated, Richard joined them. By then, Cecelia, confused by the emotional roller-coaster of the past few minutes, licked everyone’s face in turn and allowed Mara to take her out for a walk.

          “Here’s the thing, Richard,” Dante said, “if I may call you Richard?” Accepting an affirmative nod, he went on: “actually, two things. What’s interesting is how those two folks died and who they aren’t.”
          “You mean ‘who they are’?”
          “No, my friend….I truly mean who they aren’t.” Dante grinned, stood up and rubbed his hands together like someone excited about what comes next. “I won’t walk, Richard,” he said, “but I need to stand up because this is just too good. All their ID’s said these two were Dr. Michael Johnson and Dr. Malinda Spencer—researchers for the Mystic Aquarium—Ph.D.’s doing jobs someone with a bachelor’s degree would be qualified for, getting paid B.S. salaries…both in the academic and the bull shit sense of the initials. Dr. Johnson even had his last pay stub in his pocket from the Aquarium, though our dear colleagues of the Connecticut State Police confirmed, somehow in the middle of the night—that neither that check nor Dr. Johnson come from Mystic.”
          Dante was glowing, warming to his task.
          “The Connecticut State Police,” Richard asked, “did that last night?”
          Dante did one of his stone still moments. “Oh, my new friend,” he told Richard, “what you and so few folks know or could know—it’s actually a problem of epistemology—is that if it weren’t for the State Police of the fifty little nations we call ‘states’, the whole fabric of the society would be long ago torn asunder from top to bottom. We are,” he said, touching his chest almost reverently, like an altar boy crossing himself at the consecration, “WE of the states’ police—notice how I can accurately speak that plural form…and how, since I found out overnight that you were an English major in college, you can appreciate that—WE are all that is between Rhode Island and Connecticut and Virginia, where you were born, and utter chaos.”
          Richard was caught up in the performance by then. He grinned and made his “go on” motion again.
          “So, we paragons of crime detection—the State Police—ask ourselves, ‘who could manage a cover like that?’ Who, I ask you, Richard, and I always say ‘Richard’ since I learned overnight you’re never called ‘Rick’ or even ‘Rich’….”
          Richard spread his hands and laughed. Then he bowed his head. “Homage to the states’ police,” he said.
          “Well done, my new friend,” Dante said, beginning to move around in spite of his promise. “The names of the two deceased do exist. Addresses exist and phone numbers and next of kin. But they both live, not in Mystic, but Arlington, Virginia. So the mystery deepens.”
          “So who do they work for?” Richard said, impatiently.
          Dante returned, spun the chair beside Richard around and straddled it. “That’s not the deeper mystery,” he said, almost whispering in excitement. “The real mystery is how they died.”
          “Not in the accident?”
          “The accident, as you call it, was staged. The motor in the car didn’t die when it wrecked, it was turned off with the key.”
          Richard frowned, trying to understand. “The key was turned off?”
          “Exactly,” Dante said, “you are a worthy student of detection.”
          “So someone wrecked it on purpose?” Richard said.
          “Exactly! Precisely! It was wrecked, as you put it, by someone quite stupid but not totally so because there’s another thing…no fingerprints—besides yours, of course, anywhere on the door handle or window or steering wheel….Not even the fingerprints of the victims.”
          “No finger prints?”
          “None….So the car was wiped down carefully before it was dumped in the hole and the ‘dump-er’ must have worn gloves. Dr. Jay and his crime scene cronies thinks the wiping was done with Formula 409 or some similar cleaner. And not a print yet found but yours….” Dante smiled at Richard.
          “But how…where….” Richard stammered, suddenly realizing the implication of what Dante kept saying.
          Dante just smiled and watched Richard’s face.
          “Mar…Mara….” Richard thought hard. “The drink she made me have….”
          Lt. Caggiano laughed and clapped his hands together once, loudly, startling Richard even more. “Lovely Mara,” Dante said, “pouring spirits down the gullet of a man on serious tranquilizers. Hardly ‘by the book’, but we aren’t your mother’s detectives. It was her job and she did it well. Lovely Mara…and, by the way, take it from someone with a ‘queer eye’, she is as charming as she is lovely….”
          Richard almost blushed.
          Dante said, suddenly serious. “But more of that much later….What is for now is the P.M., which is detective-speak for….”
          Post mortem,” Richard added.
          Dante stared at him. “A better student than even I predicted.”
          “Detective novels.”
          “Well enough,” the detective said. “Now, listen to this and search your memory of P.D. James and Ruth Rendall—both of which are on your bookshelf—and whoever else you read to see if you’ve ever heard a post mortem quite like this.” Dante paused dramatically. “They drowned.”
          It was Richard’s time to stand up. He breathed in and out and stared at the picture on the wall behind where he’d been sitting. Women in long, pastel dresses on a beach beside of calm waters; he chuckled. “Drowned,” he said, almost to himself, “in a car….”
          After a moment of confounded silence, Dante continued, “It’s still ‘preliminary’, Dr. Jay delves deeply into murdered folks, but it gets better. Listen: Dr. Johnson, whoever the hell he really is, drown in sea water, saline, salt water, like all around this island.”
          “Yes?” Richard asked, thinking as furiously as he had in over a year.
          “You know the rest? Prove yourself to me,” Dante said from the side.
          “The other one…Dr….What’s her name?”
          “Spencer. If either of them are, in fact, PhD’s.”
          “Dr. Spencer,” Richard said, still thinking, pausing. “Did she drown in fresh water?”
          Dante yelped like a seal. “My God, you’re as good as Mara said you’d be! She was right, you know, earlier? I was the one who didn’t believe in you, but she did.”
          “So he drowns in the sea and she drowns in, what? One of the ponds?”
          “Oh God,” Dante chanted, moving around the room rapidly, “it’s even better than that! She was drowned in bottled water—Poland Spring, the fake-tooth wearing ME thinks, but he’s not quite sure. Could be Avian—something like that. And there is absolutely no trace evidence to indicate that either of them were ever submerged in any kind of water other than a shower at the White House, then we’re left with imagining….”
          “Stop!” Richard said. “They were staying at the White House? The B and B here on the Block?”
          “The very one.”
          “So you already know I know the owner?”
          “Of course,” Dante said flatly, “she’s one of your flock here at St. Anne’s.”
          “Margarite….”
          “Larson….”
          Richard shook his head and turned to look at the detective. “It’s a small world,” he said.
          “No, my friend,” Dante replied, “It is a remarkably big world. But this is one bum-fuck small island….”
          Dante smiled and continued his rounds of the room, looking at books, taking them from the shelves, flipping them open, putting them back, all the while smoking a cigarette and flicking the ashes into one of his hands.
          “So they didn’t drown naturally?” Richard asked.
          Dante stopped and looked at him. “What could ever be ‘natural’ about drowning?”
          They both ended up on the couch, watching TV. Dante was about to go find the rest of the bottle of scotch when Mara and Cecelia came back from their long walk. The lab tried to leap the large coffee table to get to Richard but landed on top, kicking her legs wildly until he helped her across onto him like an 60 pound lap dog.
          Mara was flushed from the walk and excitement. “Did he guess, Dante?” she asked. And, surprisingly, before her boss could answer, she said, “I figured out how they got away…they went fishing….”
          “Guess what?” Richard asked her, wrestling with his dog, entranced by Mara’s energy, by her wind-blown hair, her smile, her loveliness.
          Dante returned with three glasses and a totally different, equally good bottle of Scotch.
          “She’s wondering if you figured out what feds are on their way to this far away place with its strange sounding name.”
          Richard was shocked to realize that he had figured it out. “Terrorism, drugs and money”—it made perfect sense, the only sense in the world.
          “Homeland Security,” he said.
          Dante yelped and Mara laughed.
          “Time for a drink,” all three said together.
          Bread and Butter. Bread and Roses. Butter and Guns. Bread and Butter and Roses and Guns.
          “You know what,” Richard said as Dante was examining the whisky bottle, “I saw something like this on TV one time.”
          “Like what?” Mara asked.
          “Someone drowning but not drowning—drowning in a weird way….”
          “Sky diving,” Dante interjected, putting three glasses on the table. “It was on a Monk episode.”
          “You watch TV mysteries?” Richard said. “I thought real cops hated TV cops.”
          “Quite the contrary, Father,” Dante was pouring healthy dosages of scotch into glasses, “where do you think we get our ideas?”
          “And where do the bad-guys get their ideas?” Mara added, lifting her glass.
          “To murder most strange,” Dante toasted.
          “Stranger than TV….” Said, Richard, touching his glass to theirs, wondering what he was doing drinking before lunch.      
                                                *****
          They had a drink—just one this time—and then drove down into the little town in Richard’s Volvo (“not enough room in the Ferrari for three”, Dante said…”no one but Dante and I ever ride in his car,” Mara replied) for lunch at one of the little picnic tables outside a fish place. The weather had cleared and turned unexpectedly warm so Mara and Richard shed sweaters and let the autumn sun bake them. Dante kept his suit coat on and complained about the heat.
          Half-way through their lobster rolls, Richard tried to take up the conversation they’d had in his car. “So let me get this straight…,” he began.
          “Don’t you love the lobster roll?” Mara interrupted.
          “If the sun doesn’t turn it rancid before we finish, we’ll be lucky,” Dante replied.
          Richard looked at them. Both took bites, as if they were part of a synchronized eating team, and glared back at him from above their sunglasses.
          He nodded and whispered, “Too public a place to ask?”
          Dante nodded in return and Mara smiled in mid-chew, lobster meat stuck in her teeth.
           Dante swallowed and whispered back, “we’ll make you a detective yet.”
          Richard bit, chewed and thought, “that’s what I was afraid of….”
          Dante insisted they drive around the island and “see the views”, which they did for nearly an hour, pulling over and stopping from time to time at Lt. Caggiano’s suggestion. As they approached the South East Lighthouse, Dante said, “pull in through the gate.”
          Richard parked and they wandered out toward the Light and the cliffs. The wind was picking up and clouds rolled crazily over the mainland 13 miles away.
          As they walked, Dante spoke. “The lab is rushing the toxicology screens, so we can know more about how the victims might have been killed. But even Homeland Security, as inept as they are, will figure out that they need jurisdiction before the sun sets.”
          “That’s where you come in,” Mara interjected. Richard frowned at her and the three of them kept walking.
          “Precisely,” Dante continued. “I’ll be scourged back to my dungeon in Providence but I want to keep my toes in the water.”
          “You and I are Dante’s toes,” Mara said in her hoarse whisper of a voice.
          “And this is going to work how…?” Richard asked.
          “Lovely, charming Mara has accumulated nearly six weeks of leave,” Dante said, pausing at the fence before the cliff’s edge, staring out, trying to light a cigarette in the rising wind. “She’ll stay on the island with you.”
          Richard reacted visibly and stammered, “wi…with…with me?”
          The two detectives shared a knowing smile. “There are, given the recent unpleasantness…,” Dante began.
            “…Some available rooms in the White House,” Mara concluded.
          “And there is that inexplicable public phone at New Harbor, where the fast boats land,” Dante added. “We’ll keep in touch from there since cell phones and email will be too risky. We are, after all, dealing with the federal government, though a wounded part of that bureaucracy.”
          The three of them were talking to each other but gazing down over the towering cliffs at the water pounding below. This part of the island had been falling into the sea for centuries. The lighthouse had been moved back once and would need to be moved again in twenty years or so, if not sooner.
          “If we need to reach him,” Mara said, “We’ll use that phone to call a restaurant in Providence and order pizza. Of course it is too fancy a restaurant to serve something so pedestrian as pizza. Dante will call that phone back in 10 minutes from a secure place and one of us will answer.”
          “Will there be a code word?” Richard asked.
          Italian asshole, might do,” Mara snickered.
          “Or blonde slut,” said Dante.
          “We could say ’10-4, good buddy’.” Mara added.
          “Or ‘1st Corinthians 13’, in honor of our priest,” said Dante. “Or we might do something as uncreative and mundane as rely on my good, musical ear to recognize your voices when you say ‘hello, Dante”.
          “Okay, okay,” Richard replied, giving in to the ribbing, “so I’ve read too many crime novels.”
          “Exactly right,” Dante added, quickly, “crime novels is what you’ve read. You’ve not read many Rhode Island State Police novels, because there aren’t any. And do you know why, my good priest?”
          Richard shook his head but Dante was staring over the cliffs.
          “I asked if you knew why you haven’t read any books about the Rhode Island State Police,” Dante said, louder, “about people like fetching Mara and yours truly?”
          “No,” Richard said, realizing his error.
          “Here is why, my dear Richard,” Dante said, echoing the baritone certainty of an aging college professor or brand new preacher, “Mara and I actually solve murders and do so without chase scenes or fist fights or dodging bullets. All very bland and boring. Not the stuff of pulp fiction.”
          “But we do it unconventionally,” Mara piped in, reaching over to touch Richard’s arm.
          “Which one might think would make good reading,” Dante went on in the same tone. “However, we are both so self-effacing and humble….”
          “Not to mention lovely and well dressed….” Mara said, laughing out loud now, leaning into the fence.
          “That no one would notice how heroic and brave we are,” Dante finished, just as Richard took a step back and then two quick steps forward to pull Mara away from the fence.
          She shook her head and smiled at him. He held her shoulders a moment longer than he could have without blushing.
          “I don’t like heights,” he said, sheepishly. “I never have.”
          “Time to go,” Dante said.
          On the way to the car, Richard asked about the phone number of the restaurant they would have to call and both detectives laughed. He was confused and said so.
          “We won’t need to contact Dante,” Mara said, “just rely on that.”
          Richard thought for a while. When they were in the car he paused before starting the engine: “so the whole ‘phone’ thing….”
          “Just a little ruse,” Dante said, “a little joke on you….Things will be much simpler than that, just you wait and see.”
          Richard passed through ‘confused’ to ‘angry’. He threw the car in gear and accelerated too fast back toward Spring Street.
                                                ****
          “We have an appointment, Sgt. Coles and I,” Dante told Richard as the three of them stood in the parking lot of St. Anne’s and Cecelia barked and threw herself against the front door of the house, trying to get to them. Mara ran up and let out the dog, jumping and licking all in sight, including Dante who seemed not to notice. “We have thirteen minutes to get there, but thanks to our driving tour of the island after lunch, I know we can do it.”
          Richard had absent-mindedly picked up one of the dozen or so tennis balls that littered the house and yard and parking lot and thrown it over one of the ubiquitous stacked stone walls that lined and relined Block Island. The Lab easily leaped over and chased the yellow ball down a long expanse of grass.
          “Thirteen minutes, you say?” Richard quizzed Dante.
          “See, I told you he’s a born detective,” Mara commented, passing by on the way to Dante’s Ferrari. “I suppose we’re taking the big car….”
          “You’ve noticed I don’t wear a watch, have you, Father?”
          Richard grinned. He had begun to enjoy the little games with Lt. Caggiano. “I didn’t know I noticed until you said the thing about thirteen minutes.” Richard felt a surge of pride in his unconscious observations. “But I suppose you’re going to tell me you have an internal clock.”
          Dante gazed at him with unfocused eyes. He looked exactly like Al Pacino playing a blind man in Scent of a Woman to Richard. “Such things exist”, the detective said softly, turning to notice Mara was in the driver’s seat of his car. “Get out of that seat, you blonde hussy,” he yelled. “Then turning back to Richard, said, “it is now exactly 2:49 p.m. and we have only 11 minutes to get to Stevenson’s house.”
          Cecelia came back, slobbering with her ball and dropped it at her master’s feet, then laid down in front of him. Richard watched Dante start the Ferrari—though the engine was so quiet he wasn’t sure he heard it turn over. The sleek car slipped out slowly into the dirt road. Dante wouldn’t want to damage the bottom of his pride. Only then did Richard think about what Dante had told him about internal clocks.
          “Sixteen months, two weeks, five days, eight hours and 34 minutes,” Richard said to himself, as much to prove Dante right as anything. Then he tossed Cecelia’s ball across the wall again, watched her jump it gracefully, catch a scent and run off toward the ocean. Then he said out loud, “since Susan died.”

          Ten minutes later, the panting dog found Richard down the dirt road toward Spring Street, examining the crushed bushes and weeds where the Lexus had turned over. He hadn’t ever noticed how steep the bank was just outside the track in the road. It dropped off four or five feet. Obviously, he thought, the marshy area between St. Anne’s and Spring Street had been filled with dirt at some point to make the narrow roadway. It must have all been marsh at some point in time, long ago. Gradually, over decades, as wetlands will do, the wet earth below the road bed had reclaimed the edges, just as the sea ate away at the south-east cliffs of the island, and created this drop-off the vegetation had disguised.
          He thought about how many times he’d driven up that road late at night after dinner or a party where he’d had a bit too much to drink. Susan was always concerned about his post-drinking driving but gently so, especially on an island where you could seldom push your car above 40 and there was scant traffic. Back home in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, where he’d been a curate before coming to Worthington, she’d driven home at night. Had she known how being just a foot or so outside the track could turn over a car, she’d have not let him drive on Block Island either.
          The matted and broken scrub brush held the outline of the white SUV. Richard was wondering how long it would take nature to spring back, renewed and fierce, and belie the fact that a car ever ran off the road there. Surely before he left in May to go—where would he go?...and would it, wherever it was, be “home”?—but probably long before that the bushes he could never remember names for, but Susan always knew, would again hide this hazard from the view of residents and fishermen and priests who thankfully served a few weeks at St. Anne’s.
          Since Dante and Mara had christened him their “detective-in-training”, he lifted the yellow police tape around the area and tried to see something that others, more trained and alert that he, had missed. He imagined himself finding some remarkably important clue in the midst of the mess the SUV left behind that would prove Dante’s faith in him was well placed. But Cecelia was pestering him with her tennis ball and he knew, deep inside, that wanting to find a clue was meant to please Mara, not Lt. Caggiano. So the priest and his dog went back to the house and took a nap. As Richard slept, he dreamed, and though he wouldn’t quite remember the dream when the detectives came back and made so much noise fighting that it woke him up, he had the distinct feeling that his dream wasn’t about a woman with brown hair and brown eyes like Susan’s, but about blond hair and sad gray eyes instead.
                                                ***
          Dante and Mara had returned feisty and conflicted but when Richard came down the hall, they stopped talking. Mara was slumped on the couch, with her sweater in her lap, looking up at the ceiling and Dante was examining the books on the shelves for what must have been the tenth time in less than 24 hours.
          “Padre,” Dante said as if Richard hadn’t heard them arguing, “have a nap did we?”
          “A little,” Richard answered, wiping his left eye, wondering where he’d put the Visine.
          “Pleasant dreams, one would hope.”
          “God, Dante,” Mara said crossly, still resting her head against the back of the couch, “why must we talk in that convoluted way, one might wonder….” She clearly wasn’t through fighting, but Dante smiled benevolently at her.
          “Someone else could stand a nap,” he said through his smile.
          She sighed and rose gracefully from the couch. Richard thought she moved like some lean animal and, since she was wearing a simple white blouse, he noticed for the first time how long her neck was—like the neck of the small island deer. He stared at her until she finished glaring at Dante and turned.
          “Let’s go, Richard,” she said, “get a sweater. Some of us have detective work to do.” Before he could answer she banged out of the front door onto the deck.
          Dante smirked at him. “A real pistol, our Mara,” he said. “Hurry, Father or she’ll go without you.”
          Richard started to ask, “go where?” but instead grabbed a sweater off a chair and whistled for Cecelia. The Lab came bounding down the hall and beat him to the door.
          They caught up with Mara who was walking with her hands stuffed down in her jeans and a scowl on her face. She stopped at the gate one of the neighbor’s had erected across the dirt road as it led away from St. Anne’s toward the ocean.
          “What’s this about?” she asked, sensing Richard beside her.
          “Freda Symons lives in the last house down there,” he was pointing to a distant building overlooking the water, “and she actually owns the road from here to there though a couple of other houses use it. She got tired of people who wanted to fish from the rocks leaving their cars down at the bend so she put up the gate and gave the other residents keys.”
          “Good gates make good neighbors?”
          Richard laughed. “I don’t think so. Everyone hates the gate and most everyone hates her. But it is effective. To fish, you have to walk from here. People park in the church’s lot to go fishing.”
          There was room to walk around the gate, which stood on it’s own between the rock wall and some bushes. Cecelia was already two hundred yards down the road, anticipating a chance to swim in the surf. Richard and Mara followed her. At the end of a large open field was a half acre of dense vegetation with paths cut through it and maintained. Mara walked over to the path.
          “A maze?” she asked.
          “Not really,” Richard said, suddenly remembering how his kids would run in and out of the brush for hours when they were small, chased by whatever dog they owned at the time. Cecelia had been the dog of the empty nest. She was the companion of only Susan and Richard and now Richard alone. “There is a huge maze on the far end of the island, over there.” He pointed and Mara looked. Through the light fog of afternoon you could make out Mansion Beach across Old Harbor. “This is just a path.”
          She smiled at him, her gray eyes not quite so sad. “Shall we?” she asked and they plunged into the brush, hearing pheasants clucking and the shuffle of rabbits.
          “God, this place is a zoo,” Mara said half-way through, “listen to the critters.”
          “I didn’t know people from Rhode Island said ‘critters’,” he said.
          “I’m not always from here,” she answered. “Rural Ohio, actually, about 40 miles from Columbus. I came to Brown and fell in love with Providence and never left.”
          “How’d you become a policeman?” Richard asked.
          Detective is better,” she answered lightly, “not so gender specific.”
          He cringed a bit. “I’m usually more politically correct,” he said shyly and she laughed.
          “One would hope so….” She began, imitating Dante’s voice quite well.
          “One would, wouldn’t one…” he added. Then they both laughed.
          They emerged from the path and came to the dirt road again. The way down to the rocks was steep. Cecelia was already wading in the water, sniffing and sneezing and shaking her head. Richard followed Mara down, noticing how surely and effortlessly she moved down an unfamiliar hill. When they got to the rocks—a rock beach 40 feet wide at low tide that stretched off in both directions and disappeared from view around the bends of the island—they did what people always seemed to do: they paused and stared at the ocean and the mainland in the far distance. The ocean was gentle with only scattered foot high white caps to the horizon. The sun was beginning to go down behind them, back to the west toward the church and the gray water was touched with gold and orange. The sky was almost perfectly clear and the slightest breeze came off the water.
          “It gets calm this time of day,” Richard said, breaking the silence.
          “Eight years,” Mara replied and smiled broadly when she noticed the confusion on his face. For the first time he realized that there was a tiny line down the exact middle of her upper lip. It looked like a ridge of skin just a half-shade darker than the rest of her mouth. As imperfections went, he found it startling and not unattractive. He also noticed the faintest down above her lip and then realized she knew he was staring at her mouth.
          “In the State Police,” she said, looking away, sparing him obvious embarrassment. “Eight years. I studied Psychology at Brown and went to law school right after college at Rhode Island University. Criminal law fascinated me and I decided to get a little practical experience, so I applied to the State Police. I thought I’d be a lawyer for them, doing something in an office, handling complaints of misconduct, something like that. But Dante sat in on my last interview and followed me to my car.”
          “Dante did, did he?” Richard said, working on his Dante imitation.
          She smiled at him again. “It was weird. I don’t even know why he was in the room and the whole time he just smoked—even then you couldn’t smoke in the interview room, but he did—and looked bored. But then he follows me out of the interview and into the parking lot. He introduced himself and told me what I needed to do was work with him, be in the field, be a detective.”
          “You thought he was hitting on you….” Richard guessed.
          Mara cocked her head and looked at him. “You really are a detective at heart.”
          “Just intuitive….”
          “Of course that’s what I thought,” she said, turning to watch Cecelia trying to drag something out of the water with her teeth. “But he said, ‘let me assuage your fears, Ms. Coles’, I swear to God—‘assuage’—“I admire your obvious physical attributes as one might admire a fine porcelain…”
          “Fine porcelain?” Richard blurted.
          “Dante collects porcelains, as it turns out. He has a fortune worth of the stuff. But let me finish this…he then said, I swear he did, it’s etched in my memory, ‘but my proclivities lie in quite another arena. I happen to need a partner and my influence is such that my new partner could be you, if you would consent.’  Well, by then I just thought he was a nut case but I asked around and it turns out that Dante Caggiano could be working for the Justice Department or one of the alphabet agencies but he wants to stay near the restaurants.”
          “The restaurants?” Richard was genuinely confused.
          “Dante is a restaurateur,” she said, smiling at the word. “He owns the two finest Italian eateries in Rhode Island. ‘Maria’s’ in Providence, founded by his father and named for his mother—the restaurant we won’t need to call…sorry about that prank—and ‘Maria’s Also’ in Westerly—you’ve heard of them?”
          “I’ve eaten at them!” Richard said. “Stevenson took Susan and I to the one in Providence and we happened across the other one. ‘Maria’s Also’—what a great name for a restaurant.”
          “Pure Dante,” Mara said, “essential Dante….Well, look at this won’t you?”
          Richard looked. Cecelia was staggering across the rocks with a nine foot long fishing rod in her mouth, just the kind to cast into the surf, except it had no reel or line. When she finally dragged it to them and dropped it at their feet she sat back on her haunches, soaking wet and proud to beat the band with her trophy.
          “Richard, even your dog is a detective!” Mara said, excitedly, squatting down to pet Cecelia and look at the rod. “This is what we came here to find. Just exactly.”
          She took a pair of rubber gloves from the back pocket of her jeans and slipped them on expertly. “Little chance of finger prints. Whoever threw this away was wearing gloves too. But this proves my theory. Mara, you are brilliant! Won’t Dante have to eat crow?”
          Richard seemed to remember her saying that morning, “they went fishing!” or something like that. Mara explained while they looked around in the surf where Cecelia had found the rod, the dog shaking and splashing, thinking Mara and Richard had joined her game. Sgt. Coles had been trying to figure out how someone could wreck a car on a dirt road in the middle of the night and then leave. Going up or down Spring Street would risk being seen by some passing, late night driver. But no one would give a second thought to a fisherman walking down to the rocks with a flashlight. Mara had asked Stevenson that afternoon if people fished at night and he told her it was a favorite time for the serious and committed.
          “So he, she, whoever,” Mara told Richard after they found a brand new plastic tackle box—empty—on the rocks twenty feet or so from where the dog had found the rod, “doubtless wore those long boots and a slicker with a hood, probably carrying some bucket of some kind along with the other gear. He dumped the stuff in the water, thinking it was wash away…or, not even caring if someone found it, and walked along the water back toward town or the other way to wherever he left a car, or maybe it’s close enough to walk back to wherever he came from. I bet if we get the Block Island cops to search down other dirt roads we’ll find the boots and slicker somewhere. Then maybe we’ll have something to go on. Maybe even some tire tracks.”
          They were walking rapidly back toward the church and the setting sun was in their faces, casting an orange glow over everything. Mara was talking almost as fast as she was walking, going on and on about what a break this was and how Dante was going “to owe me big time for making fun of my theory!”
          At some point Richard stopped listening to her words. He listened instead to the rhythm of her strange, whispering voice, to her excitement and joy in finding something to work with, something to go on in the case. He was simply glad to be walking with her into the sun, sharing the road with her. Something in him almost forgotten stirred briefly, like a shadow of a memory seeking the light.
                                                ***
          Lt. Caggiano was on the deck, smoking one of his unfiltered cigarettes, talking on his cell phone as Mara and Richard and Cecelia returned triumphant. Richard had to credit Dante—the detective showed great interest in the fishing pole and tackle box and listened attentively to Mara’s theory about back roads. He immediately called to Block Island Police and told them what was needed. They confirmed that there was one spot north toward town from the rocks beyond St. Anne’s that someone could hide a car to find in the dark. Or else, they suggested, the “perpetrator” could have walked all the way down the rocky beach to the Ferry landing.
          “They actually said ‘perpetrator’, just like that?” Mara asked as Dante recounted the other side of the conversation.
          “Obviously the local cops read mysteries and watch Law and Order, reruns,” Dante told her. They laughed companionably together.
          “Dante forbids saying ‘perpetrator’, Mara explained to Richard, “or ‘bust’ or ‘nab’ as simply too stereotypically cop-speak.”
          Dante was staring down toward the rocks where the fishing gear had been found. He pointed to the right with his cell phone. “But young officer Alt is convinced the real treasure may be waiting on them to the south—out toward Mohegan Bluffs and the lighthouse. That way, he tells me, is a rabbit warren of little used roads and tracks.” He paused and stared at the sky. “So little light left, we should get Brooks and the helicopter back over here,” he added, almost to himself, punching in numbers on his phone with his index finger still gripping a butt.
          “Brooks,” Dante said, “kick out the teenage girls out of your apartment and get the bird over to Block Island….Now, that’s when….and don’t land too near my car….What? Yes, of course bring it with you.”
          He turned to Mara and Richard. “Brooks has some more reports from crazy Dr. Jay, the pathology genius. He’ll bring them.” After lighting another cigarette, he said, blowing smoke, “Good job, Sergeant. You made me a proper fool.”
          Mara pursed her lips and mumbled, “Thanks Dante.” Then she turned and went into the house. Richard stood on the deck while Lt. Caggiano smoked. Dusk was gathering. Richard realized how profoundly Mara needed Dante’s approval and how inept she was in accepting it. Perhaps that, he thought, watching his dog circling in the dirt parking lot, sniffing the ground for scents, would somehow explain the odd relationship between the two. They were always joking and jabbing—putting each other down—and bragging about how “unconventional” they were. Dante was bound to be stingy with his praise and Mara, as graceful as she was, lacked the grace to revel in it when it came. Two people who knew each other better than perhaps anyone else knew either of them; but they couldn’t quite “let go” with each other. How hard it is, Richard thought, for the children of earth to be open and vulnerable in relationship. He was just about to analyze how he and Susan had been with each other in that long ago time before LWS began when Dante said something he didn’t hear.
          “What did you say?” Richard asked, noticing that Dante was leaning against the railing, staring out at nothing much, standing uncharacteristically still.
          “She adores me, of course,” he said, softly, tentatively.
          “Obviously,” is all Richard could think to say.
                                                ***
          While Dante and Richard were still outside, Mara sat on the couch and flicked through the 13 or so TV channels of Block Island’s cable. No news of the murders yet on CNN. It always helped to have the Feds involved. The alphabet boys could hold back any news longer than the humble Rhode Island State Police. And the Feds were really involved in this mess, she thought, imagining people yelling and throwing things in several suites of offices in Washington by now. The longer it stayed off the cable news, the longer Dante could stay on the case. As soon as he left, they’d agreed, she’d take vacation and play detective with Fr. Lucas. But she wasn’t sure exactly how to “detect” without Dante involved. For too long now she’d been Tonto to his Lone Ranger, Robin to his Batman, Ginger to his Fred. She still was lit from within from his grudging admission that he’d been wrong in the argument they had coming back from Stevenson’s about the “fishing” angle. Objectively, she was right about as much as he was when they disagreed, but it didn’t feel that way. She was still, in her mind, Mary Magdalene to his Jesus.
          And the “going fishing” dispute about how the killer left the SUV wasn’t the only thing that went wrong on that trip to talk to Stevenson Matthews, not by a long shot. Mara played it back in her mind as she clicked through the channels on TV.
          It started as soon as they got in Dante’s Ferrari and drove as carefully as a surgeon does heart surgery down the dirt road to Spring Street.
          “Let’s talk about your priest,” Dante said, once his precious car was on real pavement.
          “He’s not my priest!”
          “Testy about it, are we?” Dante said, lighting a cigarette, grinning maniacally at her. “Proves my point doesn’t it, Sweetness?”
          Mara sighed and watched the scenery to her right. They were swinging around a curve that revealed a tiny cove where the waves beat monotonously on the rocks.
          “I detect some chemistry,” Dante said, emphasizing the last word entirely too much for Mara’s liking.
          “He’s old enough to be my father.” She said, with a note of finality.
          They drove uphill past the Spring House and then back down hill past a couple of smaller hotels toward the little town.
          “Well, just barely,” he said, “but should we review your history—an affair with your married college advisor that ended badly and then that genuine relationship with a widowed law school professor that you broke off three weeks before the wedding….”
          “You are a bastard,” she said, seething.
          “And you, my lovely partner, are constitutionally attracted to older men. But this isn’t about that—it’s about Fr. Richard David Lucas, who knows something he doesn’t even know he knows that we—sleuths that we are—need to know.”
          They drove in silence down the one long block facing the ferry dock. Hotels and restaurants and gift shops were on their left.
          “What does he know?” Mara finally asked.
          “I don’t know,” said Dante, lighting up again. “That’s why we need to find out what it is.”
          “How do you know he knows something?”
          “I’m a detective. It’s just a detective kind of knowing. But to figure it all out we have to talk about this priest who you aren’t ready to claim as your own or admit you feel drawn to.” Dante drove through the rest of town and then turned right, back down to the shore line, following the directions Stevenson had given him.
          “So what do we need to talk about regarding my priest and what he knows but doesn’t know he knows?” Mara asked, almost smiling at the whole “knowing” conundrum.
          “You’re the psychologist among us,” Dante replied, suddenly pulling into the parking area for the one public beach on Block Island. There were only two other cars there and neither of them was a Ferrari. “We’re can be at good Stevenson’s in a matter of three minutes from here,” he said, “and we don’t want to be on time. Give him ten minutes or so to stew and wonder what we want. So let’s stretch our legs and see the sea.”
          Standing on the sand, staring out at Point Judith over the water with only two other people walking the mid-week, October beach, Dante smoked and talked. It was his belief that some key clue to the double murders was locked inside Fr. Lucas on an unconscious level. He had no idea why he imagined that was true but both he and Mara were familiar enough with his hunches to give credence to his belief.
          “One thing that is absolutely blocking his ability to call that much needed piece of information from his mind,” Dante said, “is his grief.” He paused for a moment, as if considering something. “Grief is the arch-enemy of memory,” he continued, “and so I need some of your psychological insight into the nature of noble Father Lucas’ grief….Like this, did he really love his wife all that much?”
          Mara’s laugh came out as a snort. “How should I know, Dante? How could anyone know?”
          “We’re back to epistemology again,” he said calmly, gently. “None of us could possibly really know—I just want your insights and feelings, your fabled women’s intuition.”
          A ferry was approaching the island, and beyond that two sailboats were tacking against the wind. One sail was white and the other deep red. Mara shifted into “psychologist mode” and tried to formulate a reply, seeking to drive from her mind how naively Richard Lucas had let her ply him with liquor just to get his fingerprints on a glass and how trustingly he had let her put him to bed.
          “Oh, he loved her alright,” she said, speaking flatly, analytically. “He loved her as much…or more…than most women dream of being loved. But he is a good man, a decent man—unlike present company, I might add—a man who wants to ‘do right’ by his life. So, since she died so suddenly and unexpectedly, the tragedy threw Father Lucas into a psycho-drama of his own making. “Did I love her enough?”  he must be asking himself daily, hourly. “Did she know without doubt that I loved her?”  he agonizes, mostly subconsciously, I suspect. So he’s decided he failed her in some way—didn’t love her completely, fervently, totally…didn’t love her enough to keep her alive. He’ll wallow in that for a while—perhaps a long while, maybe the rest of his life. Or else he’ll decide, as he doubtless should, that his love was sufficient enough and true enough, in spite of whatever was missing in it, and move on.”
          After a moment, Dante moved back toward the parking lot and Mara followed. He paused near the bathhouse. “Look, another public phone,” he observed, “a dying breed except on this island.”
          “Two things,” Dante said as they walked, “first of all, damn you’re good at this, your psychological training serves us well.” He paused so Mara could appreciate his rare compliment. “And secondly, you, my lovely assistant, are already hoping you’ll be around when its time for the Reverend Mister Lucas to, as you so aptly put it, move on.”
          “Damn you, Dante,” Mara said, opening the passenger side door of his car, “you are a genuine asshole.”
          “Rhode Island’s finest,” he said, getting in. And when both doors were shut and he’d turned on the engine, he added: “but no man’s fool.”

          Mara wasn’t sure at all about what the interview with Stevenson Matthews accomplished. He spent the first 20 minutes showing the two detectives remarkable items in the study of his sprawling house with a wrap-around porch situated on a knoll above New Harbor with a view of water in every direction. Mara admired his antique Block Island memorabilia, several almost priceless pieces of art, his collection of nautical instruments and the pictures of himself and his late wife—beloved Cynthia—with three, or was it four?—presidents. But when he asked if they’d like to see his porcelains, she excused herself and stood on the porch for a while, knowing he and Dante would be beside themselves and suggesting trades for some time.
          She did learn that night fishing was a common tradition on Block Island and, yes, down from the church was a prime spot. Dante seemed to be asking about where and how the island’s hotels and businesses found summer help for most of the rest of the time they were there. Mara would later regret that she hadn’t been paying attention because she was lost in her theory about finding some evidence that the killer or killers had passed themselves off as going fishing to leave the scene of the crime. Besides that, she was thinking about what Dante had said about her and older men and realizing she’d never completely resolved that in her own mind. Here she was, almost 33, unmarried, childless and “lifeless” besides her job. All that took her deeper into self-examination than she liked to go, but she was spared dangerous introspection when Dante thanked Stevenson and said it was time to go home.
          They were back in the car and on the road when she realized she had no “home” to speak of, nothing worthy of the name.
          “My pretty,” Dante said, “we lost you there somewhere. Are you back with us yet?”
          Mara was suddenly exhausted, peeved and depressed. “So what do you want from me about Fr. Lucas?” she asked, tired enough to go to sleep. “Besides whatever else I’ll be doing once you are shuffled off the case and the island, you want me to find out what he doesn’t know he doesn’t know, is that the deal?”
          “Precisely the deal, darling.”
          “And how do you propose I find that out? Do I need to sleep with him or something like that?” her voice was past tired to hard.
          Dante glanced over at her, slumped back in the rich Corinthian leather seat, without her seat belt on, and he knew something was up with her. In addition, he was reminded of how deeply he cared for his younger partner.
          Something akin to that, emotionally at any rate,” he said, gently, “only in the line of duty, you understand. A little Father Lucas-knows-best pillow talk wouldn’t hurt. If you’d like to….”
          She burned and breathed deeply, “You might like some pillow time with the good priest as well, I’d suspect.”
          Dante flinched at the level of her unkindness, though he knew it was deserved. He had, after all, seen how Mara looked at Richard Lucas and how in looking at him the hard shell of her had momentarily dropped away and she was just a woman looking at a man. He’d felt a genuine hopefulness for his lovely colleague when he saw that look, a hope of a promise of something good for her. But business was business and murder was the most serious business of all—besides, time was running out and the boys from Washington would arrive sooner rather than later. Dante needed all he could get from Mara’s skills and wiles. So he took a cigarette from his case, flicked open his silver butane lighter and expertly lit up while driving back through the little town.
          “He’s not quite my type,” he said, hating how he had to play this out and damage his connection to Mara, “almost…but not quite.”
          “Why not?” she asked, almost with anger.
          “Too old for me,” he said, fully realizing he was 52 and, himself, old enough to be his partner’s father.
          She laughed, breaking the tension, and sat up. “Give me a cigarette, asshole.”
          He feigned surprise. “You don’t smoke.”
          “I do now,” she said, talking the unfiltered, French made cigarette, inhaling deeply as he held out his lighter without taking his eyes from the road.
          As she exhaled smoke, he said, “how was it for you, darling?”
          Mara choked and coughed and they both laughed. Then she brought up her theory about the “perp”—which she said on purpose just to annoy him—disguised as a fisherman, climbing out of the Lexus and walking calmly down the dirt road, through the gate, over the hill to the surf and away.
          Dante didn’t buy it. He was convinced someone had followed the Lexus onto the little road, headlights off, waited for the driver of the wrecked SUV to come back and then calmly backed onto Spring Street and away.
          “Away to where?” Mara was asking as they got out of the car in front of St. Anne’s. “It’s a fucking island, Dante….They have a place here they could either walk to our have a car waiting down the beach….”
          He was already to the front door of the rectory, shaking his head. The argument came inside with them and only stopped because Richard emerged from his nap.
                                                ***
          “Mara…,” Richard said, bursting through the door, jarring her from her memories, then, catching himself in familiarity, he began again: “…Sgt. Coles, we can already see the helicopter!”
          She grinned at his enthusiasm. “Brooks is nothing if not prompt,” she said, smiling at him.
          Dante came in as well, but rather than look at the two of them, he was gazing at the TV set. Mara had left it tuned to CNN.
          “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Dante said, “will you look at this!”
          On the screen was a live, aerial view of Block Island, coming closer. A graphic on the bottom of the screen said, in large, blue, almost gothic letters: MURDERS ON THE BLOCK.
          The woman talking was superimposed on the bottom left as the camera panned over rocks, houses, a half-acre of brush, a field and then a small church with a house attached with an old Volvo and a shiny Ferrari parked in front of it. The sound of the helicopter almost above them was drowning out whatever the talking head was saying.
          “I guess that wasn’t Brooks coming across the water,” Dante shouted, hoping to be heard.
          Richard watched as a police car pulled into the scene on the TV and a young man got out, holding his hat and then having it blow away in the down draft from the helicopter’s rotors. He started to chase it but a large half Lab half Retriever, fur blowing in the swirling air, grabbed it up in her mouth and ran away, jumping a stone wall.
          Mara was rocking on the couch, laughing at Cecelia and Officer Alt chasing her, then giving up the chase. The policeman walked, hatless, toward the house and knocked at the door. Mara and Dante and Richard watched him on TV and then opened the door to let him inside.
          “Daw nook ni ht”, Officer Alt seemed to say. All three of them stared at him until they realized they simply couldn’t hear him from the roar of the helicopter.
          On the TV screen, someone was promising an update from Iraq and then there was a woman worried about constipation. The deafening noise abated as the helicopter veered away to the north. Beyond Mara and Dante and Officer Alt, M., Richard watched Cecelia jump back over the wall and sprint to the house, a policeman’s hat firmly in her jaws. Then he realized what the policeman had been saying, beneath the roar, was simply this: “Dog took my hat”, and on live, national TV at that.

          Malcolm Alt brought good news. The second dirt road off Spring Street to the south had paid off. A pair of fishing boots and a yellow slicker tossed hurriedly into the brush, not hid well at all. The Block Island Police had sealed the road and put up crime scene tape around the evidence. Unfortunately, in the near darkness, one of the officers had driven his patrol car over any possible tire tracks, but something, Officer Alt promised, vainly, might be saved.
          Just as Dante started to ask a question, Brooks arrived in the Rhode Island State Police helicopter, landing in the grass beyond the parking lot and prohibiting conversation until he’d killed the motor and the rotors had swooshed slowly to a stop.
          Brooks got out of the helicopter and wandered toward the house. Richard, who hadn’t gotten a good look at him before, thought he looked like Wayne Newton early in his career except dressed in a police flight suit. He was carrying a manila folder and wiping his broad face with his hand.
          “The blessed report,” Dante said, pushing past Officer Alt and almost running to Brooks.
          “I think we should go over to the scene,” Officer Alt yelled, not noticing the noise had stopped, “before it’s totally dark.”
          Mara and Richard got into back seat of the police car while Dante sent Brooks to the house to stay with Cecelia. He joined them, pouring over the printouts in the folder. Malcolm Alt turned around and started down the dirt road to Spring Street with his siren and flashers on.
          “Turn those fucking things off,” Dante said, annoyed. Then, turning to the two in the back seat he said, “Curiouser and curiouser, my pretties!” His eyes were shining with excitement. “According to Tony Jay and his toxology magic, our good federal employees did not, after all drown. Someone filled their lungs with water after they died.”
          “So what killed them,” Mara asked.
          Dante practically gleamed. “Sodium poisoning,” he said.
          “Too much salt?” Richard asked, confused.
          “From all the fish and chips they consumed? Not at all, good priest and friend,” Dante told them, “an overdose of sodium penathol,” he chortled. “This is just perfect….”
          “Sodium what?” Officer Alt asked.
          “Truth serum,” Richard answered. “At least I think that’s what it is.”
          “Right as rain,” Mara said, reaching over to squeeze his arm, smiling.
          “Just like us, my fine detectives,” Dante said, fishing for his cigarette case, “someone else wanted the truth and wanted it too badly….”
          “What is truth?” Richard said, mostly to himself.
          When Dante and Mara stared at him and Officer Alt said, “what?” he grinned and said, “It’s from the Bible….”
                                                 ****
          Richard stood beside the police car, not wanting to be in the way. Darkness had all but fallen and the darkness is very dark on Block Island. There is little ambient light besides the distant glow of Providence across the waters and the scattered houses are mostly dark in October. Dante and Mara moved with stealth, each carrying small but powerful flashlights they had secreted somehow in their clothing. They spoke in whispers to each other and moved very slowly around the area where the Block Island Police had found a pair of waders and a yellow slicker tossed into the brush. After about 20 minutes they came back to the car, each carrying a large, green trash bag Officer Alt took from his trunk when they arrived.
          “A veritable treasure trove of evidence,” Dante told Richard when they’d carefully put the two bags back in the cruiser’s trunk, “and doubtless more when our stalwart Brooks returns at first light with the crime scene folks from Providence.”
          The detective snapped off his rubber gloves, folded them carefully and slid them in the right pocket of his suit coat. “Officer Alt,” he said, turning to Malcolm, “one of your fine young policemen must spend the night here and wait for the crime scene workers. Try not to get anywhere near the area where we’ve been looking. It’s fouled up enough as it is.” Malcolm Alt was listening intently, not wanting to miss a single word. “Then,” Dante continued, ”you’ll take the good priest back to his Rectory before Sgt. Coles and I take these items to your office to we look over what we’ve found.”
          Somehow Dante had managed to light a cigarette while talking rapidly and he waved the officer away with it.
          “I think its best, Father,” Dante said softly, knowing voices carried much further on the Island than the mainland, “if you go home. When our federal friends get here we don’t want them to get the idea you’re anything other than a country parson.”
          “What else am I going to be?” Richard asked, forgetting to whisper.
          Mara brought her finger to her lips and giggled. “You’re our ace in the hole, our fellow traveler,” she whispered, though her whisper didn’t sound much different from her normal speaking voice, only softer. “You are going to play detective with me when Dante leaves.”
          “Just make sure that’s all you play,” Lt. Caggiano added, smiling wickedly at them. Mara made a smacking motion toward him and smiled back. Richard was glad it was so dark because he could feel himself blushing worse than he could remember when. 
                                                ***
          The answering machine was blinking when Richard got back to the rectory. Brooks was sprawled on the couch watching CNN with Cecelia draped around him. The remains of one of the casseroles people had brought to Richard was on the coffee table along with two empty St. Pauli Girl bottles. The lab looked up at Richard and wagged her tail but didn’t bother getting up. Neither did Brooks.
          “Great dog, Father,” he said, in a surprisingly high-pitched voice, “damn phone’s been ringing non-stop….Here it comes again,” he added, pointing to the TV.
          Richard watched the scene again as the news-chopper flew toward St. Anne’s from the sea. There was the house and church and Officer Alt getting out of his patrol car. There was Cecelia dashing after the policeman’s hat and jumping the rock wall and Officer Alt chasing her in vain.
          “That poor guy will never live this down,” Brooks was saying. “Every police department in the country will tape this and watch it during training about how to be professional and dignified.” Richard thought Brooks was being genuinely sympathetic until he laughed in a high-pitched cackle. “Hard to look professional chasing a dog with your hat! Maybe he should become a fisherman or drive the Ferry—hard to take him seriously as a cop.”
          “I’m Richard Lucas,” the priest said, “we’ve not really met.”
          “Glad to meet you, Father,” Brooks replied, starting to shift the dog’s weight off his legs.
          “Don’t get up,” Richard said and Brooks sunk back into the couch.
          Richard waited. “And you are…?” he began.
          “Oh, I’m Brooks, I fly the bird.”
          “I know, I’ve seen you….Is Brooks your first or last name.”
          The pilot frowned. “Mostly it’s just ‘Brooks’….”
          Richard nodded.
          “You know,” Brooks said, “like Cher….”
          “Like Cher….”
          “Or Madonna even.”
          Richard nodded some more. “Friends is coming on, Father. Wanna watch?”
          Richard mumbled something like, “no, but go ahead….” Then he remembered the blinking light on the phone and went to play back the messages. There were 12 messages. The first six were from news papers or TV news affiliates wanting to interview “the priest who found the bodies”. Then a rambling message from Stevenson wanting to make sure everything was alright and letting Richard know he could call “any time you need.” The next three were from Richard’s children. He smiled as he listened to the worry in their voices and their distinctive styles of speech. Even without their voices, he would have known them from their words written on paper.
          “Well, Pops,” it was Jeremy, the lawyer and father of Richard and Susan’s only grandchild, sweet Lila, almost two. Richard always rejoiced that he and Susan had gone to St. Louis for a week the month before she died and cooed with eight month old Lila and smothered her with love and affection. And, forever etched in his memory was Lila, crawling down the aisle at Susan’s memorial service, crawling toward the urn of Susan’s ashes on a small table at the bottom of the chancel steps. Lila’s mother, Melissa, caught up to her runaway baby just as Lila was pulling herself to her feet by holding onto the table. “I was so afraid she’d turn the table over and…” Melissa said afterwards, catching herself short, not wanting to offend her father-in-law.
          “And spill Mom’s ashes all over the floor,” Jeremy finished for her. Richard and his children laughed for the first time since Susan died.
          “Mom would have loved that,” Miriam added, wiping her eyes with one of the caterer’s napkins and leaning into Richard.
          “Yes she would have,” Richard said, spreading his arms to embrace his children and Melissa as well, “she certainly would have….”
          “Well, Pops,” Jeremy said on the tape, not announcing himself, just jumping into conversation, “You’ve made the news at last! And Cecelia, what a star she is! What’s the inside story out there on the Block? Will you be appearing on talk shows now? Is this an OJ kind of deal? Call us, I want the skinny. Love and kisses from the grandbaby and Melissa….Seriously, are you OK? Gotta go.”
          Dr. Jonah Lucas, Richard’s oldest son, was completing his first year as a psychiatric intern at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Serious to a fault, Richard often thought, Jonah had always been the foil to Jeremy’s spontaneity. Jonah had been the student and Jeremy the athlete. Jonah was the debater and Jeremy the prankster—Jonah the pessimist and Jeremy the cockeyed optimist. Now Jonah tried to bring his patients from inner darkness to some new light while Jeremy, a junior member of the Prosecuting Attorney’s office in St. Louis, sought to put people in small, dark rooms for a long time.
          “Dad, this is Jonah,” the second message began. “Miriam paged me and told me to turn on CNN. This must be terrible for you. I hope you’re talking to people and not repressing your feelings. I’ll call back but here’s my pager number if you don’t have it….”
          “Always in role,” Richard thought, smiling at the professional tone of Jonah’s message. “I won’t repress my feelings”, he said out loud, remembering how that had been Jonah’s problem for much of his life. The oldest of three born each two years apart, Jonah had grown older too fast. He had always been Susan’s favorite—though parents are never supposed to admit such things—and Richard loved him profoundly but liked him less than the younger children.
          Once, late at night, when all three children were in adolescence, Richard and Susan had talked well toward morning about Jonah over several glasses of wine. Richard, a glass or two past his normal air of impartiality, told her he didn’t like Jonah’s moods and seriousness and, truth be known, didn’t like Jonah himself all that much.
          Susan’s Carolina drawl became more pronounced when she was tired or full of red wine. “Tell you what, Richard”, she said, pronouncing his name languidly as Rich-heard, “let’s divide and conquer. You expend all your worry on Jeremy and little princess Miriam and leave Jonah to me. He’s my boy….”
          And so they had compartmentalized their worries. In the end, Richard now realized, Susan got the better of the deal. Moody and brooding as Jonah was from time to time, he never caused them any grief. Brilliant and single-minded, he was a full fledged adult from 16 on. They never spent a moment with Jonah in a principle’s office or emergency room or police station. Jeremy and Miriam, on the other hand, seemed to have special talents at breaking things—curfews, regulations, bones and laws.
          Jonah was “the rock”. Lord knows, Richard often remembered, Jonah was the one who made most of the arrangements and handled the details when Susan died while his father and two siblings ran around like chickens with their heads cut off—spouting emotions and needs. Jonah wrote out all the necessary checks for Richard to sign to pay for funeral expenses. Jonah, Richard knew, took the cards about flowers and memorial gifts and answered them all, signing his father’s name to the thank-you’s.
          Then Richard heard Miriam’s message. She was his baby, his girl-child, his princess, his special friend, his joy and wonder. For the years of their childhood, Jonah made amends for Miriam and Jeremy beat people up for her. Richard was simply mesmerized by her being. Only Susan was immune to the charms and wiles of that golden child. Susan knew Miriam through and through and cast a jaundiced eye toward her from time to time because Susan knew this child was the second coming of her very self. Familiarity did not breed contempt between the two women of the Lucas family, but it did make for some interesting and dangerous battles.
          Miriam taught third grade in a public school in the North End of Boston. She had a Master’s degree in elementary education from Tufts and lived in the neighborhood where she taught and fought for her students. When she’d been an undergraduate she’d brought home a string of boyfriends…and girlfriends to visit her parents’ home. During her Junior year, Richard and Susan had met Brett at Thanksgiving—a member of the Tuft’s swim team from Vermont—tall and broad in the shoulders as only swimmers are. Then, at Christmas, Miriam had brought home Karin, a darkly beautiful poet, Jewish and sultry. If that had not been enough to confound Richard and test his well-know liberal ideals, Brett was back for Easter. Susan and Richard had agreed that once children lived out of the house and came home with “friends”, they would share a room. They both felt liberated and “modern” about that decision. “If they’re sleeping together in their real world,” Susan had put it, “then it’s crazy to make them lie when they’re with us.”
          Richard had willingly agreed. But the junior year holidays had mystified him. Late Easter night when everyone but Miriam and Richard was already asleep, he found the courage to confront her.
          “How’s Karin?” he began. They were sitting in the little room off the kitchen with a fireplace. The chairs all faced the fireplace, but, it being April, there was no fire. At least he could look at something besides his daughter.
          “She’s great,” Miriam said, brightly—as she said almost everything. “She sends her thoughts and love on this celebration of the murder of her Messiah.”
          Richard nodded to the fireplace. “And Brett,” he said, “he’s great as well?”
          Miriam began to laugh. It started as a shaking of her head and then her whole body and then a cackling sound coming from her mouth and then the sound spread to the depths of her. It was so infectious that Richard was soon laughing too, though he didn’t know why. He simply couldn’t not laugh when his princess was laughing.
          “You know, Daddy,” she said, kindly, instructively, when the laughter died a natural death, like a very good teacher tells a very important truth, “this sexual stuff is a lot more ambiguous than you believe or imagine.”
          They sat in a long silence. The dog before Cecelia—there had always been a dog and often cats and other creatures—rested her snout on Richard’s leg until he let her out the kitchen door. When he came back to the fireplace, Miriam was standing, pursing her lips, looking at him, waiting for something.
          “Alright then,” he said—and what else could he had said, loving her so enormously, “give us a hug and let’s get some sleep.”
          She folded into him. Both his sons were several inches taller than he was, but Miriam was a slip of a girl, tiny, petite, fragile. As he embraced her, he lowered his face into her dark and curly hair. He breathed her in and knew, in the way only fathers of daughters can know that this was the essence of life. He never quite understood the ambiguity of Miriam’s sexuality. He knew she now lived with a lovely and generous Hispanic woman, a social worker at a Boston hospital. Milagros was one of his personal favorites of all Miriam’s lovers. She was almost the same size as his daughter—they could have been models for salt and pepper shakers of two beautiful women. And he had talked with both them about their dreams of adopting a child. Yet, they’d only been together for two years and Miriam’s last “friend” had been Chuck, an investment banker, for God’s sake! Richard would just wait and see.
          Miriam’s message was the dearest of the three to him.
          “Daddy, I just saw it on TV. Milagros was watching and made me watch. I called Jeremy and Jonah. Are you alright? Are you okay? I could be there tomorrow if you need me. I will be there if you don’t call me. Be brave, daddy. Don’t worry, I can come to you. Oh, I love you….Just know that, this must be horrible for you after…after Mom and all….I’m blathering, just blathering….Call me. Call me. Okay? Be well. I love you. Goodbye.”
          The last messages were from more media outlets. Richard erased all the messages but the three from his children. Then he listened to those again and once more. He loved their voices, just hearing them speak, and knew he needed to call them and let them know he was fine, just fine, surrounded by police on every side. He even had the phone in his hand, about to dial Miriam’s number first, when Lt. Caggiano and Sgt. Coles burst into the house, startling Brooks and Cecelia off the couch at last and followed—or, perhaps, propelled into the house by a large, red-haired man who entered last and broke into a song: “There’s no business like show business, like no business I know….”
          Not a bad tenor, Richard thought, hanging up the phone half-dialed and turning to see what the fuss was….

                                      ************
          According to Dante and Marta, both talking at the same time to Richard, FBI Agent Owen Gordon was one of the good guys of law enforcement. By that, Richard would learn quickly, they meant Agent Gordon was more interested in catching the miscreants and villains (Dante’s terms) than in abiding by the “jots and tittles”, Dante put it, of institutional regulations. Agent Gordon’s presence on Block Island that early evening in October was proof enough of that.
          “You never saw me here, Father,” Gordon told Richard after introductions were made and everyone had a neat glass of scotch. Brooks threw down his drink and went back to the kitchen for a refill. Richard wondered if, after beer and whiskey, Brooks planned to fly the helicopter back to the mainland that night.  
Brooks stood in the kitchen with Cecelia lying at his feet. Richard felt a slight pang of jealousy that the lab could develop such loyalty to a stranger. The three policemen and Richard sat at the table holding their glasses like bridge hands while Owen Gordon talked.
Owen was as Scots-Irish as Dante was Italian and the two of them were polar opposites in size and demeanor. Agent Gordon was huge—6’5” at least, and must have weighed 250 pounds, Richard imagined, though he wasn’t flabby at all, just big and hard. He was dressed as casually as Dante was formally—an open necked, wrinkled white shirt, equally wrinkled khaki’s, a dark blue, zip-up jacket with a logo for a car dealer—O’Mally Ford—on the breast. He wore deck shoes without socks. His fair skinned face reminded Richard of some bartender’s face from his distant past and his hair was beyond carrot colored to day-glow orange.
“If I were on this island,” Agent Gordon began, smiling and winking, “which we all agree I’m not and never have been…right?”
The others nodded, except for Brooks who was searching through the refrigerator with Cecelia, paying scant attention.
“If I were here I could tell you some fascinating but confusing details,” Gordon paused, winked and waited.
“But you’re not here, for Christsake,” Dante said, anxious and annoyed. “Get on with it.”
Before Owen could answer, Richard asked, “why aren’t you here?”
Agent Gordon laughed and poured more scotch all around. Richard began to think law enforcement played hell with your liver.
“Flash is doing an end run around the other feds,” Mara explained patiently while Dante lit a cigarette and almost swooned. “He’s screwing over the Homeland Security boys by being here.”
“But I’m not here!” Owen laughed.
“Mary, Mother of God,” Dante almost shouted, standing up and knocking over his chair, momentarily distracting the Lab from the ham Brooks was feeding her. “this Mick takes forever to tell you something. Let him talk!”
“My mother was Irish,” Owen winked and explained calmly to Richard, “which explains the dagos’ reference. But my father was a Scotsman through and through.”
“Do you have your gun?” Dante asked Mara.
“In my room,” she answered.
“Go get it and put me out of this misery!”
After another minute of two of what Richard realized was meant to do exactly what it did—drive Dante nearly crazy—Owen settled into his story. Richard noticed the clock on the kitchen wall—7:45 p.m.
By 8 o’clock, Owen had told them that Spencer and Johnson, the two victims, were from Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence—people who spent their days worrying about terrorism, money laundering, drugs and illegal aliens as well as “whatever else has crossed Tom Ridge’s feeble mind since he woke up this morning”. At first, and even second, glance, they didn’t seem to be trained, professional investigators. “Glorified accountants assigned to the Boston office from all we can dig up,” is how Gordon put it, “monitoring banking records that might smell of some terrorist plot. But God knows,” he continued, “these people can do almost anything—no rules for them.” His biggest evidence of the overarching power of DHS was the car they were found in.
“Registered in Michigan with fake Connecticut plates,” he told them, “and when we ran it down it turns out that particular Lexus was seized in Miami from some drug lord. But why did they give it to bean counters?”
“I don’t mean to interrupt,” Richard said, interrupting, “but I’ve been wondering where the car is.”
“Providence,” Dante said, testily.
“No more,” Owen added, “on its way to Washington as we speak.”
“God-damn!” Dante said, lighting up again. He was putting his butts in his half-full scotch glass.
“It was a huge car,” Richard said, obsessing on the Lexus, “it must have weighed two tons.”
Owen smiled at him, winking. “Close guess, Father. 4037 pounds curb weight, but someone—the drug guy or Homeland Security had added bullet resistant everything to it along the way. They put another 800 pounds of reinforced steel in the doors.”
“That must have hurt the gas mileage,” Richard mused aloud. Dante almost starting tearing out his hair.
“So why were they here?” Mara asked.
Owen Gordon shook his head sadly. “Amore,” he said. “From their credit card records we’ve been able to find a pattern of week-ends away together—P-Town, New Hampshire, and now the Block.”
“They were just having an affair?” Richard asked, incredulous.
“Not ‘just’ an affair,” Dante said, flipping through some pages the FBI agent who wasn’t there hadn’t given him, “though one would think a priest would have a little less sympathy for adulterers—it was an affair that got them mistakenly murdered, most likely because they were driving the ‘company car’….”
“Wrong place at the wrong time,” Mara said, quietly.
“Star crossed lovers,” Richard added, barely audibly.
The truth was, Owen didn’t know much more than that. No other federal agency—all of which hated Homeland Security—had a clue why the two Mystic Aquarium slash Homeland Security agents slash couple on a romantic weekend were murdered. It all seemed to hinge on the Lexus.
“That’s all I’ve got for you,” Flash said, reaching for the bottle.
“And you’ve never been here,” Richard said.
“Right. And the HLS guys are going to want Dante to not be here either….” Owen laughed and winked. Richard suddenly realized that the agent’s winking—how his face was always contracting and expanding with one eye or another blinking—might be a twitch instead of a subtle message.
It was time for everyone to scatter. Owen had a boat to take Dante back to Providence.
“My car too?” the detective asked, suddenly anxious.
“Sure,” Agent Gordon said, “if you let me sit in the driver’s seat on the way across the water and pretend I’m driving….”
Brooks said a long, slobbering good-bye to Cecelia—he had to go get the Crime Scene people in the helicopter and bring them back before dawn and Homeland Security arrived. Mara went to get her luggage—one small bag, really—so she could move into the White House.
Owen “Flash” Gordon looked at Richard as Mara hurried out of the room. “Missed opportunities never return, Father,” he said, wickedly.
Mara would ride with Dante in the Ferrari and Richard would drive Owen to the dock in New Harbor where the FBI boat “really wasn’t”. Then Richard would drive Mara to the White House and himself home.
As they were all crowding out of the front door onto the deck, Mara turned to Richard, “is there anything open now?” she asked, “a place to eat.”
“One,” he said, “down by the water.”
“Can we eat after we get rid of this trash?” she said.
“Sure,” Richard answered, “no problem.”
Owen and Dante exchanged a glance.
                                      ***
The Ferrari crawled down the dirt road but exploded when Dante turned right. Richard and Owen watched the sports car’s tail-lights disappear around the first curve.
“Good cops, those two,” Owen offered.
Unconventional, though they may be,” Richard responded.
Owen laughed a broad Scotch-Irish laugh. “They filled me in about their plans,” he said, suddenly serious. “Risky, I’d say, involving a civilian like you.”
“So I’m in danger?” Richard asked, taking the turn uphill by the Spring House. He was a little anxious, but, he realized, more excited than anxious.
Agent Gordon was winking overtime and smiling slyly, “you mean other than from Mara?”
They were gliding downhill toward the statue round-about. Richard was surprised at how he reacted to Owen’s question. Already he had dreamed about Sgt. Coles and he realized her fierce femininity had touched him. But a year was not enough time to mourn a 30 year marriage. His flicker of desire and hope was extinguished by a feeling of guilt. Just then he remembered he hadn’t returned any of his children’s calls.
“Do you know what Mara means?” Owen was asking him as Richard reminded himself he had to make those calls.
“Bitter,” he said, driving through the town and heading to New Harbor. “Mara means bitter.
Ahead of them, coming up to the stop sign where they’d turn right and quickly left to arrive at New Harbor, Mara broke eight minutes of driving silence.
“I’m not sure I can do this, Dante,” she said.
Dante was lighting a cigarette while he drove and tried to find the Boston Hip-Hop station he loved on the radio. “Do what?” he asked, in the midst of all that.
“Fuck, Dante,” she said, painfully, “you know what….”
“Endure the psycho-drama with fair Father Lucas? Is that what you mean?” he asked, a bit harshly, pedantically. “Teasing out what he knows but doesn’t know he knows that we need to know to discover why two presumably decent people were given sodium penathol until they died and then had water poured down their gullets to confuse us and were left in an expensive SUV on a dirt road on an island—is that it?”
“I mean pretending to like him and being his shoulder to cry on. I mean spending this time with him making him remember what he doesn’t remember.” Mara felt suddenly drained, exhausted. “I mean….”
“Getting attached?” Dante said, softly.
He pulled the Ferrari up on the dock. They both saw a boat ahead with something that looked like a gangplank for an automobile between the boat and the dock. It was very dark, but there were lights in some of the yachts moored by the dock. And up to the right, on a hill, Stevenson’s house was lit up like a Christmas Tree, as if he were having a party.
“I’m already attached,” Mara whispered, really whispered, rather than saying it out loud in her whisper-sounding voice.
Dante was silent and uncharacteristically still. Then he offered Mara his cigarette case.
“I don’t smoke,” she said.
“You do now,” he answered as she laughed and took one of the thin, unfiltered cigarettes.
                                      ***
Mara and Richard watched the FBI boat pull away. Then they watched its lights until it cleared the harbor and turned toward the mainland.  Before that, Mara, Owen and Dante had huddled briefly, all talking at once, Richard thought, though he couldn’t hear their conversation, before the Ferrari was driven onto the boat—with lots of directions and curses from Dante—by a young FBI agent—and Lt. Caggiano and Agent Gordon followed it on board.
There was a constant breeze with a hint of winter chill in it, but the two of them stood and stared out across the water for a long time after any sight of the boat’s lights was futile. Mara leaned back, almost against Richard, and he imagined he could feel her body heat and he briefly considered wrapping his arm around her shoulder. But he didn’t.
“Dinner?” he finally asked.
She smiled, wrapping her arms around herself. “That would be nice.”
In unnatural silence, they drove a mile or so in Richard’s old Volvo to the Captain’s Cove, the only restaurant open on the island that late on a weeknight in October. Richard was reminding himself to call his kids—especially Miriam—and Mara was making a list in her head about what she needed to do tomorrow. The gravel of the parking lot crunched beneath the tires before either spoke.
“We’re here,” Richard said.
“Good,” Mara answered, “I’m starving.”
She certainly ate like a starving woman, Richard thought to himself as Mara, unable to decide between Rhode Island style clam chowder and fried calamari for starters, ordered both. Richard picked at Mara’s squid while she quickly finished the chowder.
“Have as much as you want,” she told him, buttering bread to dip in the broth, “I always order too much.”
“I hope you like the food,” Richard said, smiling.
“Oh, I do like food….”
The waitress stopped by. She was an Islander in her mid-50’s, dyed blond hair tucked up under a baseball cap with “Captain’s Table” on the front. Her smile emphasized the sun-wrinkles on her face. She stood by Richard’s chair for a moment, watching Mara eat.
“Everything fine here?” she asked. Mara nodded and pulled the plate of calamari closer to her. “Another ale, Reverend Lucas?”
“Thanks, Millie,” Richard said, glad that waitresses and police officers both wore nametags, thinking everyone should.
“You too, M’am?” Millie asked Sgt. Coles. Mara’s mouth was full so she made a motion with her fork like keep ‘em coming.
After she swallowed, Mara asked, “do I look like a ‘M’am’ to you?”
“She’s wanting me to introduce you….There’s probably a bet in the bar that you’re the cop.”
Mara stopped her fork of squid half-way to her mouth, “or if the priest has a date….” She glanced at Richard, squinted her eyes and shoveled in the calamari. A dollop of thick tomato sauce dropped from the fork to her left breast. “God, I need a bib,” she said, “wiping it away with her napkin, leaving a dime sized red stain on the white sweater.
Richard averted his eyes, realizing he was staring at Mara’s chest, noticing how her breast moved as she dipped her napkin in water and tried to wash away the sauce. “Lord,” he thought, “that’s something I’ve not done for a while….”
Mara had noticed his gaze and his looking away. She felt a blush rising up her neck when Millie returned with more Otter’s Creek Ale.
“Want some seltzer for that?” the waitress asked, smiling at Mara, “better than plain water I’m told.”
“No, thanks. It’ll be fine,” she answered, self-consciously rubbing the spot with her fingers.
“Sure now? Won’t be any trouble….”
“No really…it’s….Don’t worry.” Mara forced herself to stop fussing with the stain, feeling fully embarrassed.
“Staying on the Block for a while?” Millie asked, picking up the empty chowder bowl.
“For a while….” Mara answered, picking up her mug and drinking a third of the glass.
“Hope you enjoy it. Let me get you some more bread….” Millie grinned obviously at Richard and hurried back toward the kitchen.
“Well, she’s certainly friendly.” Mara took another long drink of ale.
“Curious, more likely,” Richard said. “The real Islanders want to know about the tourists, especially detectives from the mainland.”
Mara rubbed her hand through her short, blond hair and Richard suddenly laughed. “What?” she said, a little sharply.
“Now you’ve got sauce in your hair.”
“Jesus,” she said, standing up just as Millie returned with another basket of bread and two more ales. She looked at the waitress, but before she could speak, Millie pointed the way through the bar to the bathrooms.
“Up the steps to your left, dear,” she said.
When Mara had gone, passing the few couples still eating and the half-dozen regulars at the bar, Millie asked Richard how he was doing.
“The calamari is very good,” he answered.
“No, Father Lucas,” she said, shaking her head and almost clucking like a mother to a young child. “I mean after your shock….Finding those bodies and all.”
Richard told her it had been a shock but that he was doing okay, that everyone had been kind and thanks for asking.
“Your…your friend….”
“Sgt. Coles.”
“Oh, Sgt. Coles,” Millie said, nodding knowingly, “is she…looking into all that? Mal…Officer Alt…told me earlier tonight there were two of them.”
Richard smiled. He was sure Malcolm Alt has said something like, an arrogant little Italian prick and a really hot blond. Mara wouldn’t have been unknown on the island after the first 10 minutes she’d been there.
“Some Federal officers will be taking over tomorrow,” Richard said, knowing he wasn’t revealing anything half the island didn’t already know. “Sgt. Coles is taking some time off.”
Millie was nodding again. Richard could see questions forming on her face. But before she could ask them, Mara was back. Her hair was damp and she was carrying her sweater. Underneath she wore a tight black crew neck pullover. It was patently obvious now, as Richard had subconsciously imagined, that she wasn’t wearing a bra. But before he had a chance to reflect on that he noticed what she was wearing—a small pistol in a dark brown leather holster and a pair of handcuffs, both on her belt. Never a gun-lover, Richard inhaled involuntarily. Since she never seemed to carry a bag and since she was a detective, he shouldn’t have been shocked to see the gun, but he was.
His reaction was mild compared to Millie’s. She was staring open mouthed at Mara’s waist. Mara sat down and pulled up close to the table, hiding the weapon from view.
“More ale,” she said brightly, “you must have known I’m on vacation.”
The waitress recovered quickly. “Yes M…yes, Sergeant…I’m sure you’ll love the White House. Margarite does a fabulous job up there….” Mara’s suddenly cold glance made her pause. “Your meals will be right out,” she finished and rushed away.
Mara turned the same gaze on Richard. He held his hands up, as if at gun point, “I told her your rank,” he explained, “but not where you’re staying. She knew that not long after you did….”
She rolled her eyes and softened. “God, island people….”

The meals came quickly, as promised. Mara had shrimp scampi and Richard mussels in wine and garlic. The extra bread came in handy for sopping up the rich sauce. They both saved their salads for last. For the first time Richard noticed Mara ate with either hand, switching the fork back and forth.
“You’re ambidextrous?”
“In most things,” she said. Then smiling, “but I shoot left handed.”
His eyes must have grown wide because she laughed. “I saw your reaction to my pistol.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just….”
“No problem,” she said, “I forget I have it on and take off my jacket. One of the pick-up lines I got once was, ‘what’s a nice girl like you doing with a gun?’  Then he found out I’m a cop and had a pressing engagement or a wife to get home to.”
Richard was busy separating the black shells and forking the meat out of the mussels. He looked up and noticed that Mara was staring at him. Her face was passive and expectant, like something was required of him. Her slate gray eyes did not glitter in the dim light of the restaurant. Those eyes had so distracted him before that he only now noticed how much darker, almost black, her caterpillar eye brows were than her hair. There were no wrinkles—not one, not any—on her face. Again his attention was drawn to the slight imperfection—scar?—on her top lip. He’d had three 20 ounce mugs of beer on an almost empty stomach, so time stretched out for him as the two of them looked at each other over seafood.
“I must admit,” he said, hesitantly, inspired by ale, “there is something remarkably exciting about a woman bearing arms….”
Mara took a deep breath and smiled at him. Richard thought for a moment she looked like Sharon Stone in some movie whose name eluded him. Sharon Stone was in a bathtub, he remembered that much, and was being watched via a camera by another character. Then he was seized by embarrassment on two fronts: how often he thought people looked like characters in movies and how he had begun to wonder what Mara would look like naked. Richard was truly a “straight arrow”, a Boy Scout, a square and a bore. And for over a year all that had been submerged in what was initially a tidal wave—a Bay of Fundy high tide—of grief and pain and loss. Now the water was, much to his surprise, retreating, and his normal thoughts and feelings were beginning to return. He was staring at a woman’s lips and breasts. He was suddenly aware again of how vital and wondrous it was to be across a table from a member of the opposite sex—and, in this case, an almost beautiful, almost Sharon Stone looking woman, only thinner and carrying a gun. And all that embarrassed him all over again. Richard was once more—after months and months of sitting Shiva in his own way—coming back to life, drinking ale and eating fish with a Sergeant in the Rhode Island State Police and enjoying it all, as embarrassing as it was.
“So you won’t leave me alone here because I’m a cop with a gun?” Mara said, looking at her plate. Her voice was now truly a whisper, and since her normal speaking voice was whisper-like, Richard couldn’t quite hear her.
When he asked what she had said, she repeated it verbatim, still not looking up, but a little louder. He was overcome with compassion for her in that moment. And in the next moment he reminded himself that he hadn’t heard her the first time because he was getting old and his hearing wasn’t what it used to be. A cold chill ran through him. What am I doing here? He asked himself, Mara’s only a few years older than my children….Why am I looking at her lips and noticing her breasts and worrying about how she’s feeling?
For her part, Mara was having second thoughts as well. Am I being so coy with him because Dante wants me to find out what Richard doesn’t know what he knows? Or am I truly wondering if who I am—a woman with a gun and a badge and God knows ‘a past’—is a problem with him? He’s too old, for Christ’s sake. And yet, there’s something here….
So there they sat, two human beings in 2003, in a restaurant on a rock of an island that was a gift of the last great Ice Age, each dealing with who they were and what they were doing there with each other and what it meant. There was more talk and more than enough beer and a minor dispute over who would pay—Mara on her State of Rhode Island credit card (because this had been “official” State Police business) or Richard on his pristine MasterCard (because Susan had always paid the bills and abhorred debt and he’d spend almost no money in the past year)—and then a slightly tipsy, almost silent ride in Richard’s Volvo back through the town and up the hill to the White House.
Richard cut the lights but not the motor. They sat in silence in the chill of October on an island. The front porch light was on and Mara had a key even if the door was locked. She’d put her sauce stained sweater on inside out before they left the Captain’s Table. It was at once—as it always was on Block Island when there were no clouds at night—both extremely dark and lit by starlight not available in Providence.
Mara was about to say something about what they needed to do tomorrow when Richard said, out of the starlit darkness, “I had a wonderful time.”
He regretted saying it as soon as it was out of his mouth and in the universe. He suddenly felt 17 and crazy as that. Embarrassed again. He began to think about how “embarrassment” was a significant part of being human and being alive.
She smiled to herself and remembered how awkward and awful adolescent “first dates” had been. She closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip so hard it almost bled.
“Me too,” she said, quickly, before either of them could say more and ruin the moment. Quickly as a night cat, she opened her door, leapt out and moved, slightly shaken from the ale and the moment and the starlit night toward the White House.
Richard watched her go, admired her grace as she ascended the steps to the porch and began to miss her as she closed the door behind her. Then, absent-mindedly he turned on the radio to a talk-station before backing out in that alcohol inspired carefulness onto Spring Street and drove the half-mile back to St. Anne’s.
Her room in Margarita Larson’s White House was dream-like to Mara. The double bed had high posts on each side. The mattress was soft—but not too soft—the pillows were feather-filled and the blanket was home-made and just heavy enough. After brushing her teeth—something she always did, no matter what…Dante had chided her because she carried a tooth brush and a travel sized tube of toothpaste plus floss and wooden picks everywhere they went—she fell into bed and, for the first time in months? Years? Decided it might be fun to touch herself. She touched her breasts, bringing her nipples to attention, then her stomach—flat and covered with feathery down—and then, if only but a moment, she explored her genitals with her fingers, carefully, gently, falling to sleep like a glass falls off a table. Suddenly. All at once.
Richard, for his part, opened the door to the Rectory with the intention of calling Miriam and his sons as soon as he was inside. Instead, he was greeted with 60 pounds of excited, loving dog and so he stood on the deck for 15 minutes while Cecelia did whatever was her business in the darkness, lit by a million stars.
As he stood in the windy chill, Richard could not help but think of dinner with Mara. Part of that thinking was some misplaced guilt about enjoying the company of an almost beautiful woman when his wife was dead and buried. Another part was replaying what he had said and done and wondering what the State Police Sergeant had “thought” of him. It hadn’t been a “date”, Richard reminded himself, trying to remember what it meant to “date” someone and why his dinner with Mara hadn’t been that. He felt foolish and vain standing on the deck, waiting for his dog to return. So when Cecelia came back, Richard filled her water bowl, gave her a new rawhide chew from the cabinets in the kitchen and followed her down the hall to bed.
As he was drifting off to sleep, he remembered he should have washed his face and taken a St. Joseph’s Aspirin and brushed his teeth—but he didn’t and that was okay too….When he woke from a troubling dream at 3:35 a.m. (he looked at his bedside digital clock) he realized his mouth was almost like a mouth full of cotton and he had forgotten to call his children and tell them he was alright. Falling back to sleep, he also noticed he had an erection, and, for the first time in over a year, he considered masturbating, but his mind was confused…he imagined both Susan and Mara, naked on a bed in some ethereal place—together or separately? he wasn’t sure—but sleep rose up and pulled him under before he could decide or touch himself.





                   III.
Friday, October 24, 2003—7:23 a.m.
          Richard rolled over and over again, tangling himself in his sheet and blanket, trying to pull himself to consciousness to respond to the repeated pounding on the door and the calls of his name.
          Then Cecelia dove off the bed and leaped up on the person standing in the bedroom door, licking her and wagging her tail like a flag at a 4th of July parade. Richard rolled over, now entombed in his bed clothing, wrapped up like a mummy and saw a head so blond it was almost white nuzzling his dog. The head came into focus and he noticed how dark the eyebrows were and how wide the smile was.
          “Wake up, sleepy head,” Mara said in a loud, whispery voice, full of smoke and fog and morning, “your dog is ready for morning. It’s time to wake up….” She smelled faintly of the garlic from her scampi the night before. Richard had long ago noticed how some people’s bodies processed garlic and seemed to have it ooze from their pours. Susan had been like that. His daughter, Miriam, as well. And now this police Sergeant. It was disconcerting since Richard was fond of women who smelled of garlic.
          Richard stared at her in the dim light of early morning. She ruffled Cecelia’s head and pushed her aside. Then Mara put both knees on Richard’s king-sized bed (a gift to St. Anne’s from a grateful priest who spent two weeks each summer on the Block and wanted a comfortable place to sleep) and leaned over toward him. She was dressed in sweats—a loose fitting light gray top and equally loose pants. Her face was only a foot or so from Richard’s and she smelled of last night’s garlic and ale and of women’s sweat and of something different, something fruity…green apples, Richard thought, green apples that had just fallen from the tree. That fresh. That new.
          “I’ll take your dog out,” she said, breathing on him, “while you wake your ass up and get dressed.”
          Mara was on all fours, knees and hands on the bed with him, her lips—the flawless top one and the bottom one with the wondrous flaw of a scar almost in the middle—within easy reach of Richard’s mouth. He thought, for a fleeting moment, about rising up and kissing her. But it passed almost before it occurred to him.
          “How…how did you get in?” he asked, instead of kissing her.
          She stayed poised on his bed. “I knocked and yelled and then found out that the church is unlocked and the door to the house from the church is unlocked as well….Then I found you wrapped up in your cocoon with your dog slobbering all over me.”
          “Some watch-dog,” Richard said.
          Mara jumped off the bed, landing on her feet, growing suddenly grave. There was enough light for Richard to see the gray of her eyes. Storms gathering over the sea—and she was so lithe and graceful and under control.
          “When Cecelia and I get back,” she said, turning toward the dog and the door, “I expect a butterfly from that cocoon.”
          She moved so rapidly that Richard’s reply was stuck in his throat. So he got up, washed his face, brushed his teeth brutally to make up for his neglect the night before and found his dog and Mara in the kitchen.
          She was pouring Uncle Sam Cereal into two bowls.
          “I don’t cook like Dante,” she said, “but I’m making toast and slicing this God-awful cantaloupe I found in the fridge.”
          Two teaspoons of Splenda and cold milk made the healthy cereal eatable. The melon was tasteless but the rye toast, smeared with butter and topped with damson jam from some previous priest’s stay on the Block, left in the refrigerator for those to come, was marvelous to Richard.
          Half way through their silent breakfast, the Mr. Coffee was through with its work. Mara got up to pour and doctor the brew for them.
          “The church door is always unlocked?” she asked, pouring half-and-half into the cups.
          “Are you being a detective now?” Richard’s mouth was full of toast.
          She carried their coffee to the table and handed him a cup.
          “Where’s your gun today, detective?” Richard was being playful.
          Still standing by the table, after taking a sip of coffee and sitting her cup there, Mara slowly lifted her baggy sweat shirt, showing him an expanse of flat, brown stomach and the hint of the swell of her breast so he could see the shoulder holster that held her weapon. Even as she was doing it, she was wondering why—she could as easily have told him she had a shoulder-holster or joked back with him: “that’s why they call it a concealed weapon, Father….”  But before she could stop herself, she had lifted her shirt in an obviously seductive way.
          He instinctively looked away. Mara lowered her shirt as slowly as she had raised it and then sat down opposite him at the table. She breathed in and out through her nose twice—very slowly and audibly.
          “Richard….Father Lucas….” Mara spoke softly, almost tenderly, in her naturally breathless whisper, “I don’t think we should do this. I really don’t.”
          Richard’s mind was racing wildly between the garlic/ale/green apple and sweat smell of her and the glimpse he’s just had of her belly and the wondrously round bottom of her breast…and a gun as well….He was still chewing on a bite of rye toast she had toasted and the butter and jam she’d smeared on it.
          “Listen, God Damn it!” she said coarsely, jarring Richard back from his thoughts. “Dante wants you and me to be detectives for him. And here I am exposing myself to you at the breakfast table….I don’t know why I did that. I really don’t.”
          Richard suddenly had lots of things to say, lots of rebuttal material about how it had been no big deal and she shouldn’t feel bad, but he was still thinking about the expanse of skin he’d seen and she raced on before he could speak.
          She was terribly upset with herself, Richard knew at least that much. So she raved on: “I’m a good cop, but not if I’m out of control. I’m no good to myself and doubly no good to you. Dante and his hair-brained schemes about using you to help in whatever the fuck happens next…. But I can’t. I just can’t make you do this….”
          Richard was confused. “Why not? Why can’t we do this…whatever this is?”
          Mara bit her bottom lip and then released it. Richard was fascinated by how pale her lip seemed and how pink it soon became. He was on the verge of asking her about the little scar when she started talking again.
          “The ‘why not?’ is like this,” she said, suddenly dreamy, disconnected, as if no one was listening, “I like you, Richard….Dante thinks it’s chemistry or hormones or the fact that we’re both lonely. Whatever…. You’re a gentle, tender man and I’m supposed to work with you, use you, find out what you don’t know you don’t know and solve all this nonsense and then walk away….but what the hell was I doing raising my shirt to you—I’m not sure why I did that and it’s not something I would ever do. I’m on thin ice here, I know, but I believe I’m starting to worry about you and worry makes me careless….so that’s the why not….That’s the truth.”
          Richard stared at her. The “truth” that all his training and education had taught him would “set him free” seemed suddenly like a great burden on his heart. “Oh, God…” he thought, distracted by whether or not that qualified as a prayer, then returned to the jumble and stew of his feelings and thoughts. Here is this woman, he thought, confused and troubled, that I actually “think of” as a woman and not just another person I’ve met since Susan died….And there is this incredible down on her tight, tanned belly and she’s wearing a gun and she just told me she’s starting to “worry about” me and I want, more than anything, for her to go away so I can remember how mournful I am and yet, if she goes away now….
          “Cat got your tongue?” Mara said, softly, slowly, just before taking a drink of her coffee. Her ocean-storm-gray eyes turned soft, moist. She was waiting for something from Richard that he wasn’t sure how to give but knew he didn’t want to withhold.
          He took a deep breath and started to say something like, “I am beginning to care for you, though I don’t know why,” or “I’m old enough to be your father,” or “My wife just died—a year ago or so—and I’m still on LWS time….” He never knew which thing he would have said because he was saved by the front door flying open, Cecelia waking from her slumber under the table and a massive collision between his dog and his daughter.
          Miriam Lucas’ hair was cut as short as Mara’s, but was so black it was almost navy blue in certain light and remarkably, incredibly curly. In high school she’d worn it as a soft Afro—towering on her head in a profusion of tangled curls. In college she’d grown it out and suffered gladly the jokes about her hair being like some vast, layered hat. As an adult, she had it cut as short as she could, but no matter how short it was, it kinked and twirled out of control.
          Miriam is a tiny woman—barely 5’1’’ and weighing 98 pounds on a fat day. Though Richard was 5’10” and Susan 5’8” and both their sons an inch or two over 6 feet tall, Miriam was a miniature miracle with black hair to everyone else’s dull brown and inexplicable jade green eyes out of the soupy DNA mix of Susan’s bright brown and Richard’s darker brown. Richard had often thought she was a leprechaun, born of recessive Irish genes on both sides. “Munchkin” and “Hobbit” were the names her brothers gave her.
          Her cheek bones were so high and prominent that her eyes looked almost Asian. Her skin was just a shade darker than a piece of typing paper. Her mouth was generous and her lips so unnaturally red she never wore lipstick. Susan had called her “Black Irish”. Richard always called her “Princess”.
          Dressed in jeans, a purple sweater and the sandals she wore until the first snowfall, she was on the floor with Cecelia in the middle of the living room and anyone would have been hard pressed to decide who was happier to see the other. The dog was only a few pounds lighter than Miriam and Richard laughed to see them tangled so while Mara wondered if the Lab might hurt this tiny girl.
          Finally, face covered with slobber, Miriam stood up and started talking non-stop, as always.
          “You didn’t call, Daddy, so I came over on the first plane. Just a twenty minute flight—can you believe that—from Logan. I’ve been so worried about you I just couldn’t not come. How are you, anyway? Is this just awful? There were some guys on the plane in suits and skinny black ties who looked terribly grim and Republican and….”
          “The Homeland Security agents have arrived,” Mara said calmly, looking at Richard, who was looking at his daughter, who suddenly—noticing her for the first time—was staring, with her generous mouth wide-open at Mara.
          Things got awkward fast. Richard stood up in what passed as his pajamas—a pair of faded gym shorts and a UConn tee-shirt—Cecelia, still excited from her bout with Miriam, put her front paws on Mara’s lap and began licking her face, Miriam looked back and forth from her (she believed) still-mournful father to the lovely blond woman trying to push away the dog to stand up.
          Richard moved toward Miriam and took her in his arms. “I should have called…I meant to call…last night, but when I got home….Well….”
          Miriam returned her father’s hug, but stared around his arm at Mara, who had calmed the Lab enough to stand up.
          “Where were you last night?” Miriam asked, narrowing her green, almost Asian eyes at Mara.
          Richard stepped back. “Mara and I had dinner after Dante left….” He was suddenly seized with a confusion and embarrassment that would rival any adolescent’s worst nightmare.
            “This is Mara…Sgt. Coles...,” he said to Miriam, who was standing absolutely still, staring at Mara.  “Mar…Sgt. Coles,” Richard continued, falling back on time honored formulas to smooth the heavy seas of his predicament, “this is my daughter, Miriam.”
          Mara offered her hand, but Miriam wasn’t through staring. After a couple of moments, the detective slowly lowered her offering.
          “I’m glad to meet you, Miriam,” she said, as calmly as she could.
          Miriam broke the exchanged gaze with Mara and turned to Richard.
          “I think we should talk in private,” she said, her voice emphasizing her confusion and need.
          Cecelia was still rubbing against Mara’s legs, adoring her in the way dogs do. She reached done to pet the Lab’s head.
          “The dog and I will take a run now,” she said, obviously flustered. And, with Mara’s surpassing grace and Cecelia’s rambunctious clumsiness, they made their way through the living room and into the great outdoors.
          “Want some coffee?” Richard weakly asked his daughter.
          She stood stock still, a mighty mite, by the table, then slowly turned her eyes to Mara’s cup and cereal bowl and plate with a half-eaten piece of rye toast still on it.
          “What’s up here, Daddy?” she finally asked, a bit too harshly for Richard’s liking.
          He had the good sense (the Spirit moving, he later told himself) to take his cup and go to the kitchen where he found another cup and slowly, meticulously made them both fresh coffee. He carried the steaming brew back to the table and sat down, motioning to the chair at the end of the table for his daughter. She sat down, glumly.
          “Is this sugar or Splenda?” she asked.
          “Sugar for you, Splenda for me,” Richard answered.
          “Cream or milk?” Miriam’s voice was harsh, judging.
          “Cream for you—half-and-half, actually—and the same for me,” Richard said, softly.
          The two of them sipped coffee for a few minutes.
          “Miriam,” Richard finally said when he thought she was beginning to calm down, “until your reaction to Sgt. Coles—Mara—I had no more idea than you about what’s up here, as you put it.”
          Miriam started to speak, but Richard calmly raised his hand and said, “not yet.”
          She looked at him and he could see love and worry in her face. Miriam had been the worrier of the family—wild and untamed, but always concerned about the others. She swallowed her words with a sip of coffee.
          “Two people died and I found them,” Richard began, “and I’ve spent the last two days with police of one ilk or another and there’s this one police officer, who you were, I must say, very rude too, who is here on the island to do something I only vaguely understand and….”
          Miriam’s face was back to what Richard always saw—open, accepting, interested.
          “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said.
          He melted, as always with his daughter. “I know, Princess….And something is going on here just in the last two days—something besides the murders—something about me and how I am beginning, little by little to come back to life.”
          Now she smiled her pixie smile, eyes almost shut. “And this woman—this police sergeant, this…what’s her name…Marty?”
          “Mara.”
          She smiled even more. “This Mara is part of your coming back to life?”
          Richard rubbed his face. “I don’t know,” he said, sad, almost defeated. “I don’t know at all.” Brightening, he continued, “but I know I have to find out. Does that make any sense? Is it enough that I’m feeling stuff I haven’t felt—not Mara in particular—just in general…I’m feeling again, not just bad feelings, but good too….Is that alright with you?”
          Miriam laughed out loud.
          “Let’s go find her…her and your dog,” she said, rising.
          Richard waved the thought away. “Forget it,” he said bluntly, “she’s a runner. She might run Cel to death. We could never fucking catch her.”
          Opening her mouth, rolling her head, Miriam moved around the table and insinuated herself into Richard’s lap.
          “Omygod,” she said, laughing, kissing his face, “you said ‘fucking’, Daddy! You must be getting better. You’ve been so…’non-profane’ since mother died!”
          Richard wrapped his tiny daughter in his arms and, inexplicably, began to weep. “I must be,” he said, burying his face into her hair.
                                                ****
          Father and daughter had cleared the table and put everything away before Mara came back. As they moved around the small kitchen, Richard suddenly remembered the first two weeks after Susan died—how Miriam had taken a leave from school, sent Milagros back to Boston, and stayed with him in the suddenly too large, too lonely house. The boys had left only a day or two after the funeral, but Miriam stayed on. The two of them had moved like wraiths for several days, neither able to sleep but both spending lots of time in their beds. After the first week, they began, tentatively and carefully, to talk late into each night. The flood of people who had been dropping by died out quickly enough to a trickle and then to almost nothing besides a few phone calls and cards each day. So he and Miriam would take long, almost silent walks with the dog, cook complicated meals they only picked at and, once fortified by a bottle of wine or several whiskeys, wrap themselves in blankets on the two couches in the family room and talk with the TV on and muted.
          Richard would tell stories about Susan—most of which Miriam knew anyway—and about what they’d been like B.C. (“before children”). Miriam would relate her memories of childhood, of the mischief she and Jeremy would get into and how Jonah would cover for them and clean up their messes. Most of it was harmless childhood pranks, but there were things about drinking and drugs (“just pot, Daddy, and only pot—well, maybe a little something else, but only experimenting”) that Richard hadn’t known about. By then Jonah was away at school and the two younger children had to cover their own tracks. Richard wasn’t whether he was more relieved or embarrassed that he hadn’t known at the time.
          Deep in the nights he began to wonder if he had been paying attention at all when he children were young. But Miriam reassured him he’d been there when they needed him—they just hadn’t needed him as much as he might have imagined. And he came to see Susan through Miriam’s eyes and through her interpretation of her brothers’ vastly different points of view. He was struck, in those late night talks, by how distinct and unique each child was—something he, as an only child, had always found confusing.
          Their nightly conversations were initially tender and gentle, but after a week of staying up to the early hours and sleeping late, laughter began to slip into their talking. Both of them felt guilty to be laughing, half-drunk—as if gayety were a sin against Susan. But the two of them had so often laughed together, so often been so silly Jeremy hadn’t known how to keep up while Jonah and Susan—like the two adults—would merely shake their heads and smile lovingly. They would even tell jokes, though Miriam was terrible at it, because Richard—a natural storyteller and speaker—was so good.
          (“Mom would have liked this one,” Miriam said one night, already giggling to herself—one of the reasons she was bad at joke telling. “Do you know the difference between southern zoos and northern zoos?” Richard didn’t, so she told him, laughing, “northern zoos only have the names of animals of the cages!”
          Richard looked puzzled in the dim, flickering light of the silent TV show, so she asked, “don’t you get it?” When he shook his head, she added, “the southern zoos have ‘recipes’ on the cages….”
          Richard almost chortled, “you left that out….”
          “Left what out?”
          “The recipe part. The punch line should have been, ‘southern zoos have recipes beside the names of the animals’. Something like that.”
          Miriam grimaced, thinking, then laughed so hard she almost fell off her couch, so hard Cecelia woke up to come check on her. “That’s good, Daddy,” she said, breathless, almost as if he had told it to begin with.)
          One night—the last night before Miriam went home to her classroom and Milagros—Richard asked her if she and her brothers had discussed what to do about him and decided she should stay with him for a while. She had laughed about that.
          “What’s to discuss, Daddy?” she said. “I’m the only one who could have stayed. I’m a lowly school teacher, not a lawyer or a doctor! And I’m the ‘girl’, it’s my job to take care of you….” Richard was touched by her words, but then she added, “besides, Jonah or Jeremy would have driven you crazy. Can you imagine?”
          He couldn’t imagine, of course. After a day or two, Jonah would have started rearranging Richard’s sock drawer and Jeremy would have gone to Blockbuster to rent the complex video games he loved to play. Neither would have sat in the flickering light of a soundless TV set, wrapped in blankets, talking the night away. Only Miriam could do that. Only Miriam could endure the silences of the day and the tears they shed at night. She had done the job only she could have done—smoothing the transition for her father from the shock and denial of Susan’s death to the long, painful, necessary months of his mourning. All that came to him at once and completely.
          After they finished off the second bottle of wine of that night, he said to her, “it’s time for you to go, Princess.”
          She unwrapped herself from her blanket and wrapped herself around him. “I know, Daddy,” she whispered after they had shared a long, tearful hug, “it’s time.”
          The next day she left. And Richard began Life Without Susan alone.
          Here they were, almost a year and a half later, sitting on the couch in St. Anne’s Rectory, watching CNN with the sound turned off, when Mara and Cecelia returned.
          The dog ran by them into the kitchen where she noisily began lapping up a whole bowl of water. Mara stood in the door, drenched with sweat. Her hair was plastered to her head, a shade or two darker than normal and her sweat suit was so wet it clung to her and showed the outline of her shoulder holster clearly. Richard found himself thinking if it was uncomfortable running with a gun weighing her down and the holster rubbing against her skin.
          “I brought Cecelia home,” she said, so out of breath that her voice was even more like a whisper, “and I’ll be going now….”
          Miriam was rising from the couch, staring intently at Mara. “No, don’t go,” she was saying, moving slowly toward the detective. “I was so awful to you before. It’s just…just that I….Well, I was….”
          “Worried about your father?” Mara finished for her.
          Miriam sighed. “Yes,” she said, “exactly. But that doesn’t excuse how rude I was….I’m just so….Well, I’m….”
          “A little crazy when it comes to him?”
          “Do you know what I’m thinking?” Miriam laughed out the words.
          “I am a detective, after all,” Mara answered, smiling, holding out her hand once more, and this time Miriam took it. Richard noticed Mara’s hand enveloped and contained his daughter’s. Mara’s hands were at least as large as his and Miriam’s were tiny. The two women grinned at each other and then at Richard.
          “If I’m staying, I need a shower…and some clothes….”
          Miriam threw back her head, exasperated. “Oh shit,” she said, “I left my bag in the taxi!” Then looking up into Mara’s face, “but you couldn’t wear my clothes….I mean….” Then she turned and sized up her father. “But you’re as tall as Daddy. He has something you could wear, I’m sure.”
          Mara bit her lip to keep from laughing as Richard jumped off the couch and raced to his room. Glancing at the TV, she said to Miriam, “the sound is off, you know.”
          Miriam waved a hand before her face, “it’s a family thing,” she said, smiling as Richard returned with a towel, a pair of jeans, some white athletic socks and a purple Block Dog tee shirt. Mara took them from him, turning her gray eyes on him with a smile.
          “And a belt,” he said, “you’ll need a belt since the waist will be too big.” Then he paused and blushed.
          “No underwear?” Miriam asked. And the two women looked at each other and burst into laughter at his expense.
          While they listened to the water running in the shower and Richard flipped the channels, Miriam said, softly, “she’s a beautiful woman.”
          Richard’s breath caught. Miriam’s words had shocked him from an subconscious vision of Mara in the shower, imagining her body under the spray. How much embarrassment must he endure? He was horrified by what he had been thinking but was spared from responding by the Block Island taxi that pulled into the parking lot.
          Miriam ran to the door. “My bag is here,” she said, rushing out the door. But before she got to the taxi, another car arrived. A Block Island Police cruiser driven by Officer Alt pulled up beside the taxi bearing two large passengers in dark suits.
          Richard stood, holding the door open, and Cecelia ran out to greet positively everybody. Malcolm Alt patted her genuinely, though she was the cause of untold humiliation for him. The taxi-driver, a middle aged, extremely fat woman, handed the Lab a bone from the box she kept beside her seat for all the Island Dogs she ferried about in her van. The two suits more or less ignored the dog’s attention, as well as Miriam’s who seemed to be trying to engage them in conversation about having shared a plane ride from Boston with them a few hours earlier.
          One man was tall, perhaps 6’4’’, and so gaunt that his black suit and white shirt hung uncomfortably on his frame. He looked like a man in his early 30’s with a long, slender nose and ears that stood away from his head. His hair was that muddy brown Richard associated with people several generations removed from the British Isles. Beside him was a fire-plug of a man in a matching, though much differently cut, black suit. This one’s hair was red and as severely cut as his partner’s. But his face was round and ruddy, matching in roundness the body it rested on. The two of them reminded Richard of Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy—some mismatched, almost comedic pair.
          Ignoring both Richard’s dog and his daughter, the two of them mounted the steps to the deck of St. Anne’s house. Without prelude, the taller, thinner one—Abbot or Laurel—reached into his inside jacket pocket and produced a multi-folded document.
          “Father Lucas,” he said, thrusting the papers out toward Richard, “I have a federal warrant to search this house and church.”
          Richard was reaching out instinctively, a normal reflex, to take the papers when Mara shoved past him, still steaming from the heat of her shower, damp underneath Richard’s sweat shirt and too large jeans. Her feet were bare (Richard noticed with surprise that Mara’s toenails were polished a pale orange—‘tangerine’, he thought) and her head was wrapped in a towel.
          “I’m Sgt. Coles, Rhode Island State Police,” she said, grabbing the papers and opening them up to read. Without looking at the two suits, she asked, harshly, “and you are?”
          By then Miriam and Cecelia had arrived at the door as well. Things were getting crowded.
          “Daddy, these are the guys from the plane,” Miriam said, moving past everyone and through the door with her recaptured overnight bag.
          The dog followed her inside. Richard still stood, holding the door open like the doorkeeper for the House of the Lord.
          The shorter man answered Mara’s question. “I’m Federal Agent Cosby and this,” motioning to the tall, brown haired man, “is Agent Nash.”
          “What happened to Agent Stills?” Mara asked, absently, still reading the papers. Richard did all he could to keep from laughing.
          Mara looked up from the warrant and said to Richard, “those aren’t their real names. We’ll never know their real names. I’m not sure they remember them….”
          By then, Officer Alt was in the midst of them.
          “Go on inside, Malcolm,” Mara said kindly, “find some coffee and something to eat.” The policeman nodded and passed Richard by.
          Then she continued in a tone that was all business-like and formal, “Father Lucas, I’ll keep these gentlemen occupied out here long enough for you to go telephone Mr. Matthews and the Bishop of Rhode Island about why we shouldn’t let this warrant stand.”
          The two men on the deck looked at each other before Agent Nash (Abbott/Laurel) tried to speak. “This warrant was issued by a Federal Judge in Providence,” is all he got out before Mara interrupted.
          “This is a church, Graham, or whatever your name is,” she began, turning her troubled sea-gray eyes on him, “and there may be something in the law that you and your federal judge haven’t noticed—separation of church and state comes to mind—and you aren’t moving off this deck until Fr. Lucas makes some calls….” She turned to Richard and repeated, with serious inflection: “Until Father Lucas makes some calls….”
          Richard let the screen door slam and rushed to the phone. After he explained the situation to Stevenson Matthews, Stevenson said, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes, don’t let them inside.”
          Getting the Bishop of Rhode Island on the phone was more difficult. He was out of the office, but his executive assistant knew how to run him to ground. Richard stood by the phone for a return call long enough for Stevenson to arrive in a big-assed Jeep of some kind. He jumped out, took a few steps and then retreated to his truck to get a large L. L. Bean bag—the most common means of conveyance on the island.
          He joined Mara and the Agents on the deck. Stevenson, luckily, was a lawyer as well as a banker and the Senior Warden of St. Anne’s. He knew what to ask Mara.
          “What are the parameters of the search?” he asked her, ignoring the agents to the side.
          She was still eyeing the papers the agents had brought with them. “They seem to be looking for anything Dante and I may have left here—files, information about our investigation.”
          “Why might that be?” he asked, politely reaching out for the warrant. “If you don’t mind, Sgt. Coles,” he said.
          “Certainly Mr. Matthews,” she replied, handing him the papers and turning a gaze on Cosby and Nash that would have frozen a rose to absolute zero.
          Stevenson read the document, moving his lips slightly and then looked up at Mara, “this is preposterous”.
          “I agree,” she said.
          Richard was fascinated that a man nearing 80—well dressed in tan, wide-wale corduroy slacks and a deep purple turtle neck though he might be—and a still damp, lovely woman in men’s jeans and a tee-shirt and her head in a towel could be holding up the work of two federal agents. Cosby and Nash looked befuddled, still standing in the yard where Mara had chased them, whispering to each other.
          “They’re assholes”, Officer Alt whispered to Richard from inside the door. “Half an hour with them taught me that. They’re not even real cops like Lt. Caggiano and Sgt. Coles or that FBI fellow who wasn’t really on the Block last night.”
          Richard would have been shocked if the Islanders hadn’t known about Agent Gordon’s visit. When you live on an island you notice comings and goings acutely.
          The phone was ringing, but before Richard could get inside, Miriam answered it by saying, “St. Anne’s Rectory.” A life time as a Priest’s Kid had taught her many things. “Yes, he’s right here…wait there’s another call….St. Anne’s Rectory….Yahoo, it’s me….Daddy, its Jonah….Yeal, he’s fine. House is full of cops of all sorts….I’ll put him on….Here, Daddy, its Jonah the doctor.”
          Richard took the phone but Miriam pulled his head down so she could get her ear near the receiver. “Jonah,” he said, his neck suddenly aching, “so good to hear from you….”
          From the door Stevenson called out, “is it Bishop Loring?”
          “Wait a minute, Jonah,” he said, then to Miriam, “who’s the other call from?”
          “Some bishop,” she said, pulling the phone from him.
          “Richard,” Stevenson said harshly, “is it the bishop?”
          Richard wrestled the phone back from his daughter and spoke into it, “we’ve got a situation here, Jonah, I’ll have to call you back….are you at home or work?”
          Jonah’s tinny telephone voice was saying, “What kind of situation? Dad, what’s going on up there?”
 Richard covered the mouth piece and said to Miriam, “show me how to get the bishop back….”
          She gave him a rolling eye look and an exaggerated sigh. “Daddy, when will you figure out call waiting?” Then into the phone she said, “Jonah, where are you?….OK, I’ll call you on my cell….Hello, Bishop Loring, thanks for holding….”
          She handed the phone to her father who handed it to Stevenson.
          “Hey, Stevenson,” Miriam said, standing on tiptoe and pulling his face down with both hands to give him a kiss, “pretty exciting, huh?”
          After Stevenson put down his bag and told Richard he’d brought some chicken soup his housekeeper made, he talked to the Bishop while Miriam and Richard talked to Jonah on her cell phone. Conversations ended, they all returned to the deck. Mara was sitting in a deck chair, drying her hair in the sun, talking to Officer Alt while the two Homeland Security agents were fuming in the grass. They both started to speak when they saw Stevenson and Richard, but the elderly man held up both hands and stared at them until they were silent.
          “Agents,” he said, as if he were speaking to children or the simple minded, “I fear you will be able to exercise your warrant, but not before our bishop speaks to his chancellor and the chancellor speaks to Judge Martini about all this.”
          Glancing at Mara, he said, “if it’s alright with you Sgt. Coles, perhaps we can invite these representatives of our federal government inside for some coffee while we wait to hear the chancellor’s opinion?”
          Mara shot Cosby and Nash a nasty look then turned, smiling, to Stevenson, “as long as I don’t have to brew it,” she said, almost sweetly.
          Miriam grabbed Richard’s arm and squeezed. “Isn’t she wonderful?” she asked in an energetic whisper. Richard was once again, as always, astonished at how quickly his daughter could change her mind and how much she loved an adventure! He began to wonder how long it would take to get her to go home to Boston and he realized he, too, thought Mara ‘wonderful’.
          While Richard made more coffee, Stevenson put a plastic container in the refrigerator and took his bag to car. Richard noticed he went through the church to reach the deck, but thought little of it. Stevenson went whichever way Stevenson wanted to go….
          The chancellor of the Diocese of Rhode Island, an Ivy League WASP with oodles of money, eventually called back when everyone—including the Homeland Security agents—was full to bursting with coffee and wondering about lunch. Judge Judi Martini was unyielding and told Robert Alan Aronson Morrison, the bishop’s chancellor, that he could appeal her ruling at his leisure, but agents Cosby and Nash could indeed search St. Anne’s church and rectory for any files, papers, notes Dante and Mara had possibly squirreled away and hidden there and any other evidence that seemed material to their case. This was, the good judge was reported  saying, relayed to all by Stevenson, from R.A.A. Morrison, “a matter of national security”.
          “The tide that swamps all boats,” Stevenson told Richard and Mara and Miriam, “that’s what national security has become since 9/11. Nothing much else matters if you say those magic words.”
          “Poof, poof, piffle,” came to Richard’s mind from some long hidden and forgotten synapse in his brain, “make me just as small as Sniffle.” For the life of him he couldn’t remember the context or origin of those words, but he knew they were “magic”, just as much as “national security” was.
                                                ***
          Mara and Stevenson stayed at the church to shadow the agents’ search and make sure nothing much got upset or displaced.
          “This is holy space, after all,” Richard heard Stevenson saying to Cosby and Nash as he and his daughter and dog were leaving to take a walk into town. As faithful and committed as Stevenson was to St. Anne’s, there was nothing in Richard’s nearly 20 year relationship with Stevenson that would lead him to believe that the Sr. Warden had any concept of “holiness”. Stevenson was a banker and a lawyer. He had a keen sense of the value of space—but, so far as Richard knew, and he knew the older man quite well, “holy” was not a word that came easily or accurately to Stevenson’s lips. But Richard was smiling as he and Miriam and Cecelia left the parking lot and started down the dirt road, past the shrine to the dead in the Lexus—some bunches of autumn flowers well-meaning islanders had stopped by to put there—to Spring Street and town. For as long as he’d known Stevenson and for the intensity of his knowledge of Mara, Richard knew St. Anne’s was in good hands and that the federal agents would be haunted every step and movement of their search.
          Cecelia, for all her wildness, knew the command “heel” and walked to Richard’s right and a few steps behind Miriam and him. One of the joys of the dog was that she would never venture onto the road and Richard could take her anywhere without a lead. Cecelia wasn’t brilliant, by any means, but “stay”, “heel”, “sit”, “leave” and “back” were the five absolute words of her vocabulary—they were as deeply ingrained in her as DNA. There was almost no situation that a single word wouldn’t control her. For all of the Lab’s life, Richard had walked her and controlled her with his voice.
          The three of them turned down Spring Street, walking past St. Andrew’s parish house and chapel—the Roman Catholic Church on the Island that had another building in the town for packed summer masses and the weddings that contributed so mightily to Block Island’s economy. Then they passed a wondrous house called “Seal Rest”, above the rocks and the North Atlantic where seals were legendarily supposed to sun. In all his time on the Block, Richard had never seen a seal, not once, but the year round residents swore they were plentiful.
          The road dipped down past St. Andrew’s and Seal Rest and the island curved slightly to take in a bay of ocean some 80 feet beneath Spring Street. There was a rock jetty in that bay where teens sometimes sought Rhode Island tans and fishers often stood. The jetty pushed out into the water for 25 yards. Richard had many times marked it off at low tide with long strides—25 of them—until he stood at the end, looking toward the mainland…Port Judith and beyond.
          They’d walked in companionable silence—Miriam and her father and his dog—for ten minutes or so, until they were almost even with the jetty but high above it, separated from the rocky beach by even larger rocks that formed a formidable and steep decline from Spring Street to the water. One of the things both Richard and Susan had learned from living in New England was that there were always rocks.
          Susan grew up outside of Greenville, North Carolina, where the land was red clay and damp, even in the height of summer. Roanoke, Virginia, where Richard had lived as a child and adolescent, had rich, black dirt beneath the grass—like Charlottesville, where he and Susan had met at, of all things, a dinner for Episcopal students given by Father Roberts when Richard was a senior and Susan a sophomore. But in Connecticut and all the other New England states—and especially Block Island—rocks were everywhere. Something to do with the last Ice Age, Richard vaguely knew, a frigid time where the glaciers and ice stopped short of southwestern Virginia and North Carolina, so long ago it numbed the mind to imagine it.
          Rocks were not part of his childhood, but they had formed his children, New Englanders all. And a single fisher was on the jetty, casting awkwardly into the surf, standing on Ice Age rocks. Cecelia started barking and poked her head beneath the metal barrier to the rock ledge and the beach below. It was unlike her to bark, being, as some rare labs were, almost silent. But she was interested in the lone fisherman and seemed ready to roll down the hill to get to him.
          “Funny hat,” Miriam said, the first words spoken since they left the house.
          Richard knew she meant the fisherman’s hat. It was soft and wide brimmed, like something from New Zealand or the defunct Peterman catalog. Besides the misplaced hat, the fisherman wore a bright yellow jacket—not unlike the one the police had found that the murderer wore—and knee boots over what appeared to be dress pants. It was a most unlikely outfit for a fisherman.
          Richard’s words did not work on Cecelia, so he finally had to wrap his hand around her collar and pull her away, up the hill in front of the Spring House, out of sight of the man fishing on the jetty.
          Several red-winged black birds swirled around their heads as they climbed the grade and walked on the newly repaired sidewalk past bed and breakfast homes, the White House, and a hotel or two. The walk was down hill now, past the artists gallery and down into town.
          They’d now walked for half-an-hour, and in the last five minutes or so, Richard had been telling his daughter the details of the past two day—Dante figured large in his story, that included “Flash” Gordon, FBI agent, two dead people and, of course, Mara.
          Miriam looked up at her father. “I haven’t heard you so excited….” She began, suddenly stopping on a precipice they both knew well. Her face clouded over as she turned away and dropped into silence.
          After a dozen steps or so, Richard completed her thought: “since Susan died….”
          Head down, watching her feet, she echoed softly, “since mother died….”
          After they crossed the side street and reached the long, unbroken block of storefronts, restaurants and hotels facing Old Harbor, she smiled at him, her eyes brimming. “Having that back in you is like having a little bit of her back too….”
          “I know”, he said, wrapping her in his arm as he would wrap her in a blanket, “me too. My being dead inside so long has been like killing her all over again. The only way she can live in me is if I’m really alive.”
          They walked like that past a scattering of day-trippers. It occurred to Richard to wonder if the people they passed could tell they were father and daughter or if they thought of them as a December-May couple. Miriam looked so little like him that he suspected the men they passed glanced with envy at this nearing 60 man and his not yet 30 girl-friend. That thought amused him and, just more, made him think how Mara was much closer to his daughter’s age than to his. He thought several different things about that all at once—how crazy he was to be attracted to Mara, how brittle he was about himself and his feeling, how lovely and graceful the detective appeared to him. Richard had always been a man who could look at something a dozen different ways. He was never know for being decisive, in fact, many of his friends and colleagues and parishioners had rolled their eyes over the years at how frustratingly circumspect he was—never quite sure or definite in his opinions. He got so lost in his rolling thoughts that Miriam, still wrapped in his arm, pulled on his sleeve.
          “Slow down, Daddy,” she said. He hadn’t realized he was walking so fast.
          “It’s going to still take some time, Princess,” he told her, lifting away the blanket of his arm, slowing his thoughts and stride, “but I’m coming back to you.”
          “Maybe something bitter can make for sweetness,” she replied in a gentle tone, almost as if she didn’t expect him to hear or, if he heard, to respond.
          “What?” he said, coming to a stop, thinking she couldn’t possibly mean what she said the way he heard it.
          “You know, Daddy,” she smiled at him, “bitter, Mara….”
          He shook his head. “How do you know that?”
          She laughed her munchkin laugh, throaty and too low pitched for such a little woman. “Good Lord, Daddy, I grew up in church! I know all sorts of thing. I know about epistemology and ontology the doctrine of the atonement and what the epiclesis is….”
          Right in front of the Block Dog Store, Richard embraced his daughter and they both shook with laughter. He didn’t wonder, not for a moment, what people passing thought. All he experienced was the feeling—almost forgotten but rising past the dark, odd shapes in his subconscious—of joy. Whether he realized it or not, he was “coming home” to joy.
          The two of them, with Cecelia waiting patiently outside, had coffee and deli sandwiches in a coffee house squeezed between an overpriced J. Crew store and a small art gallery and divided up the New York Times—Richard the front page and sports, Miriam got the rest. The argued for a bit about some movie neither of them had seen and about an op-ed piece Richard read to her about the Middle East. No matter how left-wing Richard was, Miriam would outdo him. Arguing with Miriam was a pleasure he had almost forgotten.
          The walk back was more uphill and took longer. Miriam used the time to say, “so here’s what Jonah and Jeremy want, Daddy…and me, too, though it was their idea…we’re all going to have Christmas in St. Louis.”
          Richard was shocked. “Not at home?”
          She walked on for a few moments then stopped and put herself in his way. Staring up into his face, she said, “Worthington isn’t home now. And even if we all came here, this isn’t home. You don’t have to answer now but that’s where we’ll be and we want you there too. New start. New traditions.”
          “Princess…,” he began.
          “Enough talk,” she said, turning and double-timing ahead of him.
          Richard sighed. All the possible arguments that were lining up in his mind melted away. Christmas in the mid-west, he was horrified at the thought. He hurried to catch up.
 The fisherman who had been on the jetty was gone, though the red-winged black birds weren’t. Cecelia whined and pushed her head under the barrier several times while they passed the little cove with the fishing jetty. Richard wasn’t used to his dog acting that way and spoke harshly to her. Miriam chastised him for his uncharacteristic mistreatment of the dog.
          “She’s just doing what dog’s do, Daddy. And you’re mad at me, not her.”
          He felt himself blushing. Of course she was right. One of the mantras that Richard and Susan had filled their children’s lives with was much like that. When one of the endless stream of cats Miriam had grown up with left an offering of a bird or mole or even a baby rabbit on the porch, one of her parents would say, “Sammie” (or Blackie or Abby—all the cats of the multitude of cats had names that ended in an e sound) “is just doing what cats do, darlin’.”
          Richard even remembered the conversations he’d had with each of his children about what was “wired into” various creatures, like the way certain things were wired into cars and computers and washing machines to make them do what they do. Even human beings have such “wiring”, he had told them all, wiring about survival and safety and reproduction. “But the difference is,” he always told them, “dogs and cats and eagles and dolphins cannot disobey their wiring, but people can.”
          Richard, in the last five minutes of his walk with his daughter back to St. Anne’s, considered how his reaction to Cecelia’s “being a dog” was, finally, more about the thoughts and feelings he’d been having about Sgt. Mara Coles for the last two days. His chastisement of his dog was, most likely, misplaced and should have been directed toward himself. He was, he thought, just “being a man”—experiencing feelings and thoughts on a basic human level and not disobeying his wiring. He made a mental note to be gentler with himself—and with his dog and everyone.
          As they turned off Spring Street onto the dirt road where the SUV and the dead people had been, Richard asked, “so if I’m mad at Cecelia for being a dog, as if she could be anything else, what does that make me?”
          Miriam grinned at him. “Fish sticks,” she said. It was then that Richard remembered how in his household, among his children, fish sticks were the worse thing ever for dinner, the worse thing in the world, the bottom of the barrel, the dregs in the cup, the lowest of the low. So he smiled back and understood.
         
          In the midst of all that, Miriam and Richard and Cecelia arrived back at St. Anne’s to a house and church dutifully and conscientiously searched by Federal Agents. Stevenson had left and Mara was sitting on the deck with the fisherman they had seen. He was smoking a European cigarette.
          “Dante!” Richard almost shouted, “what the hell….”
          The detective took off his misplaced hat and took a drag on his smoke. Cecelia ran to him and began to sniff him and whine. As always, Dante ignored the dog.
          “I’m like Flash Gordon,” he said, flicking his cigarette far out into the yard, sending Cecelia dashing after it in true retriever fashion, “I’m not here.”
          “Dante’s in Cancun,” Mara said, smiling.
          The detective stood, lighting another cigarette, “Among the bronzed and rich,” he said, “or at least my brother is….”
          The story flowed quickly, effortlessly, from both Dante and Mara. Dante’s brother, Leo, was four years older but could pass in customs for his baby brother. With Dante’s passport and Dante’s credit card, Leo had left the country for Mexico and Dante had bought bad fisherman’s gear and come on the noon ferry.
          “So much for Homeland Security,” Richard said.
          “So much for Dante’s bank account,” Mara added, laughing.
          “Leo knows how to spend money,” Dante contributed, just before Miriam, who’d been standing in the grass, watching and listening, came up the steps, crossed to Dante, took his cigarette from his mouth and had a long draw. Then she hugged him, driving him, for the first time since Richard had known him—two days, more or less—into stunned silence.
          “A real detective,” Miriam said in mid-embrace.
          Mara and Richard were smiling in disbelief.
          “What does that make me?” she asked.
          “I don’t know,” Richard answered, almost giggling at Dante’s discomfort, “fish sticks?”
          Mara glared at him. “Too hard to explain,” he told her. She shook her head and smiled a bit, so glad to have Dante back.
                                                **** 
          The four of them spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening plotting and planning and inventing schemes. They were a detective on vacation, a detective who wasn’t there—was in Cancun, in fact—a priest and a school teacher…not an impressive corps to take on a murder investigation. And yet they would.
          It looked like this: “How long can you stay, Miriam, my love? Because you are a real god-send…an off-islander who people know and don’t fear because you’ve been coming here so long? How long can you stay?”
          “Until Sunday?” Miriam said, shrugging.
          Dante had obviously been thinking this out. “Exemplary!” he said. “You and the lovely Mara will scour the island, asking questions that people will only answer to a familiar face and two beautiful women….Execllent.”
          He turned his gaze to Richard. “You, Father Lucas, will have this job, the one I’ve always known you had—you must pray and worship and whatever a man of the cloth does until you remember what you can’t remember that will break this case wide open.”
          “I still don’t know what that means,” Richard began, looking first at Miriam who was entranced with Dante and did not look back and then to Mara who laughed and shook her head.
          “This is Dante’s motis operandi,” she said. “he always decides someone on the edge of the case knows something they don’t remember knowing that will make every thing turn out right in the end—bad guys caught and punished, good guys happy and redeemed. Just the way he plays it and he most always plays it right….”
          Dante nodded in agreement.
          “And what are you going to do to aid this investigation?” Richard asked him, a little annoyed.
          “Me,” Dante answered, innocently, “I’m going fishing….”
          What he meant was that he was going to spend his days as Leo Caggiano (whose driver’s license and passport he held) amateur fisherman, asking anyone who would listen and even those who wouldn’t, things about fishing the sea around Block Island, gathering information, acting dumb, soaking up answers.
          “And all the alphabet soup guys besides Homeland Security have been warned off this case,” he told them all, even the dog sitting attentively at his knee. “So the only people here besides us don’t know shit about all this and we will know it all—especially you, Padre, when you remember what you don’t even know you know….”
          Dante was grinning like a crazy man, watching Richard intently, waiting for something.
          “Ok,” Richard said, finally, “the bar at St. Ann’s is open.”
          Dante laughed, “you are a detective,” is all he said, heading toward the door and the kitchen stash of alcohol.
                                                ***
          The four of them—a motley crew at best—had a hardy meal from the casseroles and salads and sandwiches the Block Island folk had brought to Richard in his distress. And they drank a great deal of the wine folks had brought as well.
          By the time dinner was over, it was growing dark and chilly. Miriam invited Dante to go for a ride down to Mansion Beach to look at the stars. The unlikely pair sat off in Richard’s car with the dog in the backseat and the priest and detective sergeant were left alone. They watched TV for a while, neither paying attention, then sat on the deck to watch the darkness.
          Finally, as much to break the tension of their aloneness as to gather information, Richard asked, “what was the search of the church like? Did they find damning evidence?”
          Mara smiled. “Hardly,” she said. “The only exciting moment was when they found this big silver box under the sink in the little room….”
          “The sacristy,” Richard prompted.
          “Right. The sacristy,” she repeated. Mutt and Jeff got all excited until Stevenson produced a key from somewhere and opened it.”
          “The memorial porcelain communion set,” Richard suggested.
          “Right again, Father Detective.” She said, smiling. Her smile made Richard’s knees weak. He was glad they were sitting at the kitchen table. “Your noble friend Stevenson launched into the story of why they were there. It was terribly moving. The Homeland Security guys and I were on the verge of tears.”
          “It’s a memorial to his wife…his ‘beloved’ Cynthia…who died in a boating accident off of Old Harbor in 1994.” And before he knew it, Richard continued by saying, “the loss of a spouse is a terrible thing, a wound that doesn’t soon scar over….” He paused, realizing he was talking about himself, not Stevenson.
          When he suddenly stopped, Mara said softly, “I know the history, Richard. I know….”
          After a deep breath, Richard told her that shortly after Cynthia’s death Stevenson had donated a remarkably valuable plate and cup from his collection of porcelains to be used on Easter and Christmas at St. Anne’s Eucharists.
          “They must be very valuable,” she said. “When I saw them I wished Dante had been there. He would have coveted them on the spot. He said Stevenson’s porcelains were museum quality. He would have loved seeing those two pieces.”
          Richard crinkled his brow. “They were there—the cup and the plate were in the box?” he asked.
          Mara nodded. “Why?”
          He shook his head. “I don’t know.” He pursed his lips. “I’ve never seen them, never been here at Easter or Christmas. I just imagined because they were so valuable that Stevenson brought them in a day or two before each service. The church is open….”
          “All the time…,” Mara finished.
          He nodded.
          “I guess I was wrong.” Something nagged at him on the edge of his consciousness.
          She smiled, “I guess you were,” she said stifling a yawn. “I need to get to the White House and sleep. You need rest too.”
          “Too bad for me,” he replied. I’m preaching Sunday. I need to read the lessons.”
          “I never thought of that.” She stood up. “Tomorrow, then?”
          “Tomorrow,” he said, realizing in some important way that he was sorry to see her leave.
          He was still studying the lessons for Sunday when he heard Miriam come in with the dog. She banged around in the kitchen for a while and then it was quiet. Cecelia found Richard in his room and leaped on the bed, exhausted and damp.
          “Need anything, Princess?” he called out.
          “Nothing, daddy. Good night.”
          He knew without seeing that she was watching the TV in the living room with the volume on mute.



                                      IV.
Saturday, October 25—6:45 a.m.
          Richard woke just past his normal time and lay still for a long moment, listening to the hundreds of birds outside for their morning feasting on the autumn-slowed insects and the seeds and berries on all the low scrub brush. He savored the time, trying to remember when he started loving waking up again. For month’s after Susan’s death, he would wake from sleep confused and with a dull ache in the back of his confusion. It would take a minute or two for him to ‘come to himself’ and remember why sleep was so blessed and to be coveted.
          He could smell breakfast things from down the hall—coffee and bacon…no, sausage—and the sweet breeze through the opened window smelling of grass and ocean and morning and coming warmth. As he laid there, he thought of the term ‘come to himself’, dredging up from his memory of the study of scripture that those words were exactly the right English translation of the Greek verb at the dénouement of Luke’s gospel story of the Prodigal Son. The young Jewish boy, having squandered a fortune and fallen on the hardest of time, was sitting among the pigs, longing to be a servant in his father’s house. Then, according to Luke, at least, the boy ‘comes to himself’. The rest becomes clear. The path is obvious. The road home is straight.
          Richard luxuriated in his musings and his senses. He pulled the pillow from the other side of the bed under his cheek and felt the night cool of the cotton still lingering. He breathed deeply, seeking every order he could inhale. Rolling on his stomach, above the sounds of the birds, he heard distant voices. Two people were talking on the front deck, laughing together. Mara and Miriam, he realized, since both voices, though low pitched, were female. And the sometimes vegetarian Miriam had a soft spot in her taste buds for sausage. That explained why he could smell it so distinctly.
          Just about to fall back into that state of “almost sleep” that is so longed for by those who love to sleep, he realized that Cecelia wasn’t in the bed with him. She must be outside with the women, chasing the scents of morning, leaping stone walls, running wildly through the dew-wet grass. Lord, he thought to himself, I’m loving my senses this morning. He was about to think, thank God, when he remembered he no longer prayed.
          Richard climbed out of bed, swearing to himself that he would take Cecelia on a long, long walk, up past the bluffs and overland down to the town as soon as Miriam and Mara left to be detectives. He knew the plans the two women had made the night before—trying to find out who might have bought the fishing gear Cecelia discovered on the rocks and Officer Alt found further north. As he had read and pondered about the gospel of Bartimaeus, he had worried about Miriam’s role in all this…and worried about Mara too.
          He and the dog needed a long walk. In the pandemonium since Wednesday, the crowded rectory, the ‘investigation’ had kept him from his routine. And though Richard never noticed it before, thinking himself the champion of flexibility, there were certain routines in his life that he had relied on to keep him firmly in the ‘now’ in the time of life without Susan. But before that much needed walk, he would perform the three S’s, have eggs and sausage and several cups of coffee and meet the day with Miriam and Mara.
          “Your parents,” Mara was asking as Richard turned on the shower, “from all I know, must have been wonderful for you.”
          Miriam, holding one hand like a salute to keep the morning sun out of her face and holding a cup of coffee in the other, looked out of the corner of her eyes at Mara.
          “Are you being a detective now?”
          Mara smiled and glanced at her. Miriam had already seen the multitude of gays in the policewoman’s eyes. This morning they were the gray of mourning doves—soft and inviting.
          “No, not really, just curious.”
          “Curious like a cat,” Miriam asked, “or like a woman?”
          “You’re still wondering about your father and me, aren’t you?”
          Miriam sipped her coffee, growing cool, to give herself time to think. “A little,” she replied, “like ‘curious’…but not nearly so much as when I first saw you with him—you sitting where Mom sat for all those summers and you looking so god-damned beautiful.”
          Mara turned to interrupt but Miriam waved her sun-blocking hand at her and continued. “It was a marriage,” she said, growing serious, “that I used to think my brothers and I had, in some way, interrupted. But who knows what they would have been like without us? I think my father actually tells people in pre-marriage counseling that having children with ruin their marriage.” She paused and winked at Mara, who had a look of horror on her face. “But he tells them to consider it anyway, at least I hope he does. But it was true for my parents. You have this relationship where you know most of the rules and then kids come along and it’s almost guaranteed that at many places during those endless years of raising children that you will come to hate the person you sleep with.”
          They sat in silence for a few moments.
          “Hate,” Mara asked at last, “isn’t that a little strong?”
          Miriam turned to her and smiled, the hint of dimples forming on both her cheeks, “it’s obvious to me, Sergeant, that you’ve never had children.”
          After a while, during which they both thought they should get more coffee, Miriam spoke again. “But nothing bad, nothing traumatic, no beatings or sexual assault, no screaming fights between them…just normal stuff from two reasonably good people who loved us fiercely. The only tragedy was my mother’s death and it did to daddy.”
          Mara arched her eyebrows to indicate “what?”
          “Oh, I don’t know. He went on a trip but forgot to leave. Nothing much has mattered to him since then. But, besides that, I guess you’re right—I was blessed to have such parents. I’m sure you’ve seen enough of the other options in your job.”
          “More than enough,” Mara said, “for several lifetimes.”
          Then Richard opened the door from the living room to the deck. He wished both Miriam and Mara ‘good morning’ and asked, “who’s fixing me some breakfast?”
          The two women—dark and light, short and tall, daughter and…well, none of the three of them were sure about Mara’s ‘role’ in Richard’s life—looked at each other and said, as if one: “you!”
          Humbled, Richard fried sausage and eggs, downing coffee as quickly as he could, toasting some raisin bread someone must have brought as comfort food and slathering it with butter. While he was eating ravenously, still indulging his senses, Miriam showered, Mara called Dante on his cell phone and the two of them eventually joined him at the kitchen table.
          “We’ll be walking into town, Miriam and I,” Mara informed him, “in just a bit, so we can be there when the stores begin to open. We’re going to see if any of the owners remember selling the stuff from the beach and the brush to anyone in particular. We have pictures.”
          Miriam added, “I’m taking Mara to Filbert Collins’ hardware store first, so she can interrogate him….”
          “Interrogate Filbert…?”
          Miriam rolled her eyes. “I’m getting into this, Daddy. It’s like being on Law and Order, except on Block Island, not New York…or like tagging along with V. I. Warshawski. You of all people know how great that would be. And what was found sounds like the hardware store to me….”
          “Is she in any danger?” Richard said quickly to Mara.
          She shrugged. “We’re all ‘in danger’, as you put it, all the time. Does nosing around about fishing gear mean she’ll be ‘knocked off’ by the mob? I don’t think so. Besides,” she added, repressing a smile, “as you know, I have a gun and am trained to kill anyone who would hurt your baby girl….”
          “Plus, Daddy,” Miriam’s voice had a bit of adolescent pleading in it, like asking to borrow the car, “people on the island know me. I’ve been around here for years. I’ll make them feel at ease while Mara grills them.”
          The two women looked at each other in a conspiratorial way.
          “Besides all that,” Miriam said, suddenly looking to Richard like an eight year old who would jump off a bridge just because she was standing on it, “Mara’s got a really big gun!”
          To the surprise of Richard’s left-wing, gun-hating heart, Mara having a Glock suddenly became something positive and comforting.
          As Richard and Cecelia set off on their long walk while Mara and Miriam strolled down to town, planning to drink more coffee somewhere along the way, the eyes that had been watching St. Anne’s knew it was safe to come and look for the note. Finding none, much to his surprise, he went home and found ‘the note’ neatly folded and pushed under the kitchen door.
          Rounding the bend and circling the small harbor where Dante had been fishing and the droves of black birds lived, Mara asked Miriam about the stone walls.
          “One of the stories is that the slaves built them,” Miriam responded.
          “The slaves?”
          “It was either runaway slaves whose underground railroad ended on Block Island, heaven knows why, or slaves that the old families brought to the island.” They had started up the steep hill beside the Spring House but Mara’s pace didn’t slacken. Got to get to the gym more, Miriam thought, finding it difficult to keep talking. “So, which ever it was, they were suddenly slaves again. Only, instead of picking cotton or whatever, they were stacking rocks.”
          When they reached the top of the hill, Miriam and Mara, with time to spare before businesses opened, went over to the ‘zoo’ that was part of the Spring House. Emus and peacocks and goats and llamas and a Braham bull and several other exotic creatures were wandering around in a large field. The two women watched the animals watching them for a while. For the most part the field was lined with more rock walls.
          “You’re from the Midwest, right?” Miriam asked.
          “How’d you know?”
          “You have one of those ‘no accent’ accents. You could be a news anchor.” After a while she continued the stone wall conversation. “You don’t have rocks like these in the Midwest, not in the South either. The slaves were told, how I’ve heard it anyway, that when the rocks were all stacked they’d be given some land and a house and be truly free.”
          “And they agreed?” Mara questioned, reaching out with a handful of animal food available in buckets attached to the fence, offering it to a goat with ridiculously long ears that had wandered near.
          “South Carolina doesn’t have rocks like these. They didn’t understand that the whole island is essentially rocks. No matter how many they harvested and stacked into walls, there were always more and more. They could never finish.”
          “So they stayed slaves?” Mara asked as they walked away from the farm. A peacock screamed good-bye to them.
          “Something like that,” Miriam replied.
          “And this is true?”
          “The way I’ve heard it, it’s true. Of course, there are a couple of other tales about the rock walls.”
          “Island people have lots of time to make shit up….”
          “Precisely,” Miriam said, trying out her Dante imitation.
          They had coffee at the first open shop they found and shared a newspaper as they sipped and waited for the Hardware Store to open. Neither of them read very carefully. They were both thinking about the other, mentally sizing each other up. As confused as Mara was about her feelings for Richard, she knew for certain that she liked his daughter. Miriam, still cautious about her father’s vulnerability, decided the detective could ‘wake up’ most any man.
          On the last leg of their journey, knowing Filbert Collins would have opened his store, Miriam resumed the conversation. Mara knew she was still talking about the stone walls and the slaves.
          “Reminds me of Daddy in a way.”
          “How’s that?”
          “He’s harvesting rocks—rocks of pain and grief and probably guilt and God knows what else. He imagines if he gets them stacked and organized, everything will be alright again.”
          “And it won’t be?”
          “Not so long as he keeps digging….”
          “There are always more rocks?” Mara asked.
          “Now you’ve got it.”
          Mara wondered if she ‘got it’, even a little bit. But she realized she had fields of rocks of her own. Maybe at some point, she thought, you just have to leave some buried and walk away to something new.
          “My job—the one my brothers have given me,” Miriam said, almost echoing Mara’s thoughts, “is to convince Daddy to agree to come the Jeremy’s in St. Louis for Christmas. That would get him away from his rocks for a while, be something new….I just hope all this won’t prevent that.”
          “I don’t see how it could,” Mara said, “if we tripped over the killer and he confessed to us this minute, the wheels of justice never move fast. It’d be a year before anything came to a trial, if there was one. Nothing happens without lots of wrangling and hand wringing.”
          “Sounds a lot like Daddy’s description of the Episcopal Church.”
          By then, they’d come to Collins’ Hardware, just past the only real grocery store on the island, well beyond the cutesy shops and hotels and Block Island memorabilia stores, most of which had pared back or shut down by late October. Filbert’s store was a ‘year rounder’—always open. And Filbert himself was predictable.
          “Mr. Collins is a real ‘letch’,” Miriam told the detective. “He’ll be staring at your breasts and your crotch non-stop. He’s been doing it to me since I was 13. But I’m used to it. Let me start the conversation and you can then…you know…be ‘bad cop’. OK?”
          Mara stopped on the steps to the store. “You’re just like your father,” she said, “too many TV shows and murder mystery novels. All cops are good cops.”
          “Not with Filbert, you’ll see….”
          A bell above the door signaled their arrival and a man in his 60’s, dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, needing a shave, with a deeply sun-tanned head where hair might once have grown, turned toward them from behind the counter. Just as Miriam had predicted, he feasted his eyes on Mara’s breasts.
          “Miriam Lucas,” he said, obviously too happy to see her, “I haven’t seen you for two years. So sorry about your mother and about Fr. Lucas’ recent unpleasant experiences….” His eyes, both women noticed, had lingered on Mara as he spoke. Miriam had long experience with Filbert and could almost read his thoughts.
          “Filbert,” Miriam said, moving her body subtly so when he hugged her, as she knew he would, he pressed her side and not her breasts against him. “This is Sgt. Coles of the Rhode Island State Police. She’s helping figure out what happened to those folks my Daddy found. She has some questions for you.”
          Filbert turned toward Mara, as if he expected a hug from her as well, but she instinctively stepped back and subtly pulled her leather jacket open so he could see part of her shoulder holster. Filbert’s small eyes widened and he nodded.
          “Sgt. Coles,” he said, “how can I help you?”
          Nothing like a gun, Miriam thought, to discourage sexual harassment.
          But she was wrong. Filbert resumed assaulting Mara with his eyes as she showed him photos of the fishing gear. He examined the pictures, glancing up as often as possible to look at the detective’s chest. But he did identify it as part of his stock.
          “Cheap stuff—the cheapest I have,” he told Mara, licking his lips as he spoke. “I sell lots of cheap stuff this time of year. People who find themselves on the island and think they simply have to try fishing but don’t want any good equipment. They’re just ‘fooling around’, you know.”
          Miriam knew Mara had heard the words ‘fooling around’ in the lascivious tone Filbert had used. But Mara gave not notice to it at all.
          “Do you remember who you might have sold these items to this week?”
          “Several people, like I said.” He paused, pretending to try to remember, though Miriam imagined what his true thoughts were. “But I do recall selling some to one of the Jamaican boys,” he said, “Monday or Tuesday, don’t remember which exactly.”
          “A Jamaican?” Mara asked.
          “One of those who come up to work the season in the hotels and restaurants.”
          “That’s a common thing, help from Jamaica?”
          “Too common for me,” he said, distastefully, “all their reggae and dope and Rastafarian hair. I don’t see why more American college kids don’t come over for the summer—make some money and ‘have some fun’. Always lots of ‘fun’ on the island.
          Mara considered showing him what eight years of martial arts training could inflict on an aging white man. But she took a deep breath, feeling this was important, somehow vital to the case, and asked, calmly, “so how many Jamaicans are on the island?”
          Filbert scratched his head, his eyes roving down Mara’s body and then over at Miriam’s. “Dozen or so, I suppose. Probably 50 during the season. But only a few stay around this late—staying to clean up and help shut things down for the winter…things like that.”
          A large woman, her hair in curlers, wearing a bathrobe and pink slippers along with a yellow slicker, came through the door, causing the bell to tingle.
          “Help you, Martha?” Filbert called.
          “Don’t trouble yourself,” she replied, eyeing Mara and Miriam. “I think I can find light bulbs….Keep on talkin’ to the police and the pastor’s daughter.”
          Martha moved toward the light bulbs, pretending to be searching for something in particular, but obviously wanting to listen in on the conversation.
          Mara muttered to Miriam under her breath, “do they fucking know everything?”
          “Pretty much,” Miriam whispered back, “but I’m betting they don’t know the names of the Jamaican ‘boys’.”
          “What was the name of the Jamaican who bought this cheap fishing gear?” Mara asked sharply.
          “Don’t remember…not personal friends with them,” he said, “Paid cash. Done deal.”
          “Anything else you can tell me, Mr. Collins,” Mara continued, “about this particular Jamaican who paid cash?”
          Filbert’s eyes were lingering on Mara’s chest again. She reached out with her finger and raised his chin so he had to look in her eyes—swirling and stormy gray, like what you see before your boat goes under in a north Atlantic gale.
          Her action momentarily stunned him. “He…uh…the boy who brought these things, he might be one of the pair that live her most year round,” Filbert said in a monotone, transfixed by Mara’s gaze.
          “You know where he lives?”
          He shook his head.
          “His description?”
          “Hard to say,” he began, unable to disengage from Mara’s stare.
          “Let me guess,” she said, “they tend to look alike….”
          “Mostly,” Filbert said, finally able to drop his eyes back to the curves beneath Mara’s sweater, “though some are big and others are smaller….”
          “Just like women’s breasts,” Miriam said quickly, smiling coldly at him. “Thank you, Filbert, for all your attention.”
          As they turned to leave, Mara noticed the customer in hair-curlers had edged near them. She smiled and winked as they passed.
          The bell was still vibrating above the door when Mara burst into laughter on the front porch.
          “Jesus, Miriam,” she said, trying to compose herself, “you know how to end an interview with a bang!”
          Banging is all that asshole thinks about,” Miriam replied, renewing Mara’s laughter.
          The two of them walked down to Corn Neck Road and the public beach. They walked the beach and watched the waves.
          “So,” Mara said, kicking aside a bit of driftwood, “we might be looking for one of the summer help—someone from a very different island than this. We just need a name and an address.”
          “Good luck to us,” Miriam answered, the expert on Island people.
          Sure enough, though they talked to waiters and shop keepers and island taxi drivers and people down by the ferry landing, no one could give them any helpful information. The insatiable curiosity of Block Islanders did not seem to extend to the Jamaicans whose toil made the island work during the tourist season. Several of those they interviewed seemed genuinely surprised at the suggestion that there might be Jamaicans who stayed on the island after October. Like ‘good help’, black folks seemed to be invisible. No names, no descriptions, no addresses.
          The two of them had a lunch of seafood salad at one of the open restaurants. The wait staff was all white and middle aged. They stopped for a cone of ice cream from one of the island’s landmarks—cherry for Miriam and rum raisin for Mara—to eat as they walked back toward St. Anne’s.
          “We didn’t accomplish much,” Miriam said, licking her ice cream and walking fast to keep up with Mara.
          “Don’t think that,” the detective answered, “we found out a key piece. We need to question some Jamaican and see if he still has his fishing gear. We just don’t know which one or if he went home in the past few days. But, on an island as ‘white’ as this, that really is something helpful.”
          They finished their cones sitting on the barrier overlooking the cove where Dante had been fishing the day before. There were no seals to be seen on the rocks but there were lots of cormorants, holding their wings out to dry in the breeze.
          “It is beautiful here,” Miriam said, watching the blackbirds circle above her head. “I forget how beautiful when I’m in Boston.”
          “But the slaves are still here,” Mara said, “only now they’re from the Caribbean. They clean up, change the sheets, serve the food, bring the boats to dry dock. It’s still like stacking rocks. No matter how many beds you change and rooms you clean….”
          “There’s always more,” Miriam finished.
          “There’s always more,” Mara echoed.
          They sat for a while in companionable silence. Then they started back to the church. When they got there Richard was making coffee and offered them some. Dante came by around 4 o’clock. Celia was sleeping in the sun on the deck where the humans were on their second cups of Richard’s strong brew. Mara and Miriam told the men about the Jamaican angle and asked Dante what to do.
          “It could be something,” he said, “though I wasn’t thinking it could be summer help.”
          “More coffee?” Richard asked, starting inside with his empty cup.
          “I’m shaking from coffee,” Miriam answered, and the others shook their heads. While Richard was inside, she added, “some of them aren’t strictly ‘summer’ help. That’s what a couple of people said.”
          “We could round up all the black people on the island,” Dante suggested in a mock serious voice. “Put them in a line up—shouldn’t be too hard.”
          “Yeal,” Mara said, chuckling in her foggy tone, “I can see the Providence paper’s headline about that. Let the Homeland Security boys do that piece.”
          Dante was lighting a cigarette, his sergeant turned toward him, “wonder what happened to Crosby and Nash anyway?”
          “Ah, fair one,” Dante said, exhaling smoke and looking suspiciously up at the gull on the roof of the house next door that was squawking fitfully, “that’s where yours truly has been.”
          “I thought you were ‘fishing’,” Miriam said. Both the police officers looked at her to see if she was being ironic. “No, really,” she said, reacting to their quizzical stares, “that’s what you said you were going to do.”
          Mara and Dante had a laugh about Miriam’s innocence. Richard came back with more coffee and said, looking at the two laughers and his blushing daughter, “did I miss something?”
          Dante waved his cigarette hand, making little streams of dancing smoke in the calm air of early afternoon. “Nothing, Padre, but you’re expertise is needed. Isn’t there something in the Good Book about fishing, about being a fisher of men…or at least of H.S. agents?”
          They all laughed and the gull screamed back at them. “Albert doesn’t like good jovial fun,” Dante said, looking up at the bird.
          “How’d you know his name was Albert?” Richard asked.
          Mara and Miriam glanced at each other, smiled knowing, and said, in chorus: “he’s a detective!”  This time the laughter drove the bird into flight and he soared down toward the ocean.
          “Crosby and Nash don’t seem very interested in the murder at all,” Dante said. “I’ve been following them around and they aren’t interviewing people about that. They’re asking folks, mostly folks who work near the water if they’ve noticed any unusual boat traffic. I shamble along behind them and ask the good citizens they talk to what the suits wanted and they are almost beholden to me for asking.
          “Plus, when I was having lunch at the bar near their table at that place across from the ferry landing,” he continued, lighting up without pausing, “I heard them mention needing to call their friends at the DEA….”
          “So they think this is about drugs?” Richard asked.
          “So does our esteemed friend, Flash Gordon,” Dante responded. “He and our not so well dressed Homeland Security colleagues both think our murder victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and most especially, in the wrong car.”
          “So we’re ruling terrorism out?” Richard asked, remembering Dante’s  earlier thinking.
          “Well,” he said, “I seem to remember the U.S. of A. thought this rock might be the jumping off place for a German invasion of the mainland….” Richard smiled, wondering if Dante had a photographic memory of the book he scanned about the history of Block Island. “But I don’t see any sign of wild-eyed suicide bombers on the island, so it must be ‘drugs and money’, though I’m not sure how just yet.”
          They sat in silence until Albert returned, fussing. “It doesn’t have the feel of any really ‘bad guys’—no self-respecting mobster would have botched those murders that way.”
          Richard was wondering how ‘mobsters’ could be involved when Dante continued. “The name that has popped up several times when the two of them are talking together is a little surprising—Milo Miano.”
          “Imagine that,” Mara said.
          “Who’s that?” Miriam asked.
          “Biggest mob family in Rhode Island,” Mara answered, “though connecting Milo to actual criminal activity has been impossible, not that Flash and the FBI haven’t been trying. He has a staff of high powered lawyers and keeps mostly to quite legitimate businesses, like competing with Dante and Leo.” She noticed Richard and Miriam seemed confused, though there was nothing new about that, so she explained. “Milo has two restaurants, just like the Caggiano brothers. Very respectable and up scale….”
          “Their veal is cheap,” Dante interjected.
          “Be that as it may, this is exactly the kind of messy and unprofessional thing that could cast a wider net, maybe even as wide as the Miano family.” Mara stood up as she spoke. “I just remembered, Richard, do you have a key to that box in the sacristy?”
          He shook his head. “The hired help isn’t trusted with such a thing,” he responded, “why?”
          “I thought Dante should see the porcelain, he’s such a fan.”
          “What porcelain?” Dante said, eyes brightening.
          “A cup and plate. I saw it when they were searching the church.” Looking at Richard, “so Stevenson has the only key?”
          “Far as I know.”
          Dante stood, “let’s have a look at the box, anyway.”
          The four of them were crowded in the sacristy and Cecelia had come in to resume her nap in the middle of the church’s aisle. Dante toyed with picking or forcing the lock but decided against it. “Out of respect for holy objects,” he told Richard. “Funny though,” he continued, hefting the box, “seems a bit light.”
          “I think Stevenson keeps them at home,” Richard offered, “I was surprised they were here when the search was done.”
          Dante shrugged and carefully replaced the box under the sink.
          “Time for more fishing,” he said, to no one in particular.
          “Aren’t you afraid they’ll recognize you?” Miriam asked.
          “They don’t know me. Besides I’m not really here, I’m in Mexico and I have Leo’s ID to prove it.” He stepped out on the deck and looked at the sky, “But I meant ‘real fishing’ this time, down on the rocks. Crosby and Nash were into their third pitcher when I left them. They won’t be doing much investigating this afternoon.”
          He looked at Miriam, “want to join me?”
          “I thought you’d never ask,” she replied. “Let me change clothes.”

          While Dante and Mara went fishing, Cecelia following along after them, Mara and Richard sat on the deck, almost dozing in the sun, feeling the breeze picking up a bit. After a long silence, Richard finally said, “want to drive down to the North Light?”
          Mara roused herself, wondering if he was nervous being alone with her at the house, if he needed activity to distract him—all of which was true.
          They drove the familiar Spring Street route down into the little town. There were lots of people milling around and even more of the shops were open than that morning. Richard explained they were “day trippers” or people looking for one last weekend before the water became choppy and the ferry trips further apart. Some people waved at them as they passed and Mara smiled, imagining the tongue wagging of the year-rounders over the priest and the cop out on a joy ride.
          “I’ve never been here in the winter,” Richard related. “I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it.”
          “Couldn’t you go home?”
          “I have no ‘home’,” he spoke softly, reflectively. “My leave from the church in Worthington isn’t up until April. I’d be in the way back at the parish—everything is designed to work without me until then. And the house isn’t anywhere I want to be either.”
          “Ghosts?”
          He smiled at her sadly. “Yeah,” he said after a moment, “one ghost.”
          She wondered if he wanted to talk about his dead wife and wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it right then, so she asked, “So, why did you become a priest? I told you about why I’m a cop, it’s your turn.”
          “It’s hard to say,” he answered after a quarter of a mile. They were on the stretch of Cornneck where Stevenson’s house dominated the view on the left. They both glanced over at it, but neither mentioned it.
          She thought he wasn’t going to answer when he finally said, “I’m not very ‘religious’, you know.” It struck her as similar to Dante’s refusal to be a “conventional” police Lieutenant. Two men that were not quite comfortable or satisfied being what their jobs entailed.
          As he talked, Mara watched the scenery. There was a huge housing development just beyond some fields full of cows. As she listened, she wondered, for no real reason, how much one of them would cost. Richard told her about his childhood in Roanoke, Virginia. His father had owned a small construction business—“really blue collar”, he observed—and his mother worked part-time in a bank. He’d grown up in the Episcopal church his parents joined because they wanted ‘more’ for their children and were secret social climbers. When she asked what they’d been before, he said “Presbyterian”. She thought it a lateral move at best, but with more pomp and circumstances. He’d been an acolyte and was washed out of the boy’s choir for being tone deaf.
          “Brothers and sisters?” she asked.
          “Just me.”
          She thought for a moment. “But you said your parents wanted more for their ‘children’. I just thought….”
          “Oh,” he said, something she’d never seen washing over his face—resignation? “I thought you meant now. I have…had…a sister, Caroline, who died before I was born. What we’d call SIDS today. But back then it was just a bottomless pit of despair. She was around a lot when I was going up. Sometimes dead children are more real than living ones. We didn’t actually ‘celebrate’ her birthday, but it was time of great emotion.”
          Another ghost, Mara thought. Then she named the emotion she’d seen in his face. He was ‘haunted’.
          He explained how he had been in college at the University of Virginia and called his mother on Caroline’s birthday, April 7. “We chatted about my classes and how everything was in Roanoke. The conversation was about to run out when I finally mentioned Caroline’s birthday.” He paused. They’d reached a dead end and he was pulling into a parking space in front of a large monument. “It was the first year she hadn’t spent the whole day in mourning. She’d actually forgotten. I brought all the pain back. She started crying and had to hang up.”
          Not just ‘haunted’, Mara thought, so sensitive to pain that he can’t bear to inflict it. Her training in psychology made her wonder if Richard were damaged or enriched by how the pain of others became his own. She imagined she knew which he would say. She, herself, wasn’t sure.
          They paused to read the monument at the north end of the island. It told part of the story of the wreck of the Princess Augusta in 1738. The half-starved survivors made it to shore and that group of Germans, looking for Philadelphia in their ocean voyage, added much to the life and future of Block Island.
          As they walked away, heading down to a narrow beach with a light house at the far end, out where your eyes were drawn, Richard started talking.
          “A ship wreck helped form this island. Something terrible and tragic turned out to make a contribution to the future.”
          Mara walked over sand and rocks, avoiding his eyes until he continued to speak: “Something to reflect on. Something to remember. Out of tragedy comes new life.”
          A dozen steps later, Mara asked, “Is that why you became a priest.”
          He smiled. She didn’t see it because she was avoiding looking at him and gazing out, instead, at the ocean, its waves, its power, its depth. Never mind that she could see the mainland of Rhode Island—Charleston, most likely, and a coast line that covered the horizon—still, it was the ocean she was looking at, so broad and deep, so adept at burying secrets.
          “No,” he said, not looking at her and not realizing she wasn’t looking at him. “I became a priest because my father died.”
          He told her, neither of them looking at each other, how, when he was a junior in college her got a call from his mother on a chill February night. His father, just turned 56, had a massive heart attack while driving home from work. He’d pulled over, off the road so he wouldn’t endanger anyone else, and embraced death embracing him.
          The EMT’s who had come to the scene had started life support in the ambulance that had been continued in the ER at Virginia Commonwealth’s hospital. His dad was technically ‘dead’, but his mother, because the machinery was in place, had the option about turning it off. She wanted Richard to come home and be with her. Now, that was what she needed and wanted—now.
          Richard had lived his life with a dead sister, but a dead father was something he wasn’t ready for. Charlottesville wasn’t that far from Roanoke—two hours or so, more or less—but he wasn’t sure he could drive himself that distance, still dealing with what he didn’t know how to deal with—being half an orphan. He could see his mother’s drawn and bloodless face; he could even see her body, stooped and leaning over the bed of a man alive only academically, only because of machines that made it so.
          “I called Father Roberts,” he said to Mara, neither of them looking at the other. “I didn’t know who to call. I told him I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t drive to Roanoke over slippery roads. An ice storm had hit the evening my father died.”
          Father Roberts, the Episcopal chaplain to the university, a man who had ruined his career track by being open and outraged about the war in Viet Nam, had been sent like a refugee into college chaplainry by his bishop. But, being a man who knew lemonade came from lemons, he had thrown himself into the life of the campus and welcomed all into his field of love. Richard had been one of them—reluctant at first to admit his attachment to the church, but gradually, by Fr. Roberts’ calm hospitality, he had become a part of a worshipping community.
          “He said to meet him at the church,” Richard said. “He said to come in the chapel door and he’d be there. When I got there I found him in full Eucharistic vestments behind the little rail in the chapel. He gave me communion from the reserved sacrament…somehow that meant something to me, bread and wine blessed for someone else that was now mine. And then he anointed me….”
          Richard’s voice broke and he stopped talking. He and Mara kept walking. Finally she said, “he ‘anointed’ you?”
          “Like a child at baptism,” he said, his voice unsteady. “He made sure I knew that the oil he was using was ‘chrisom’, the oil of baptism and not the oil for healing. Different prayers were said over them, he told me and he thought what I needed was the oil of ‘new life’, not the oil of healing,” Richard shook his head. By this time Mara was watching him. “So he smeared this oil on my head…I could smell it…I can smell it now…and told me I could drive those icy roads and be with my father when he died. And I did. I drove home and held my mother in my arms as they turned off the machines.”
          They had walked another 20 yards or so, avoiding the flotsam and jetsam on the beach—plastic grocery bags, soda cans, seaweed and God knows what else—when Richard started speaking again.
          “Isn’t it amazing,” he asked Mara, looking resolutely into her eyes, sparkling gray, sunlit and beautiful to him, “how a machine can keep us technically alive? How like machines we are?”
          It was a question she had never considered, yet she agreed, longing for him to keep talking. They were almost to the two-story light house across the dunes. There was a sprinkling of other people close enough to them to hear what they said. But she wanted him to keep talking. She wanted to hear his voice.
          “Let’s go back,” he said. “Miriam and Dante will be wanting dinner.”
          They were half-way back to the parking lot, a ten minute walk, before Richard started talking again.
          “It was the oil that got me, the oil Fr. Roberts smeared on my forehead. It was that oil that made me change my plans and apply to the Episcopal seminary in Cambridge instead of going to graduate school in something important.”
          “Being a priest isn’t ‘important’?” Mara asked, looking out again at cows in a field and expensive housing overlooking the sea. “What about the God-thing?”
          Richard almost laughed as he drove. “Quite honestly, that hasn’t been working for me lately. I haven’t told anyone this, my therapist maybe, though I don’t remember, but I don’t, can’t, don’t want to pray.
          “It’s not a ‘big deal’. We Episcopalians have lots of ritual and sacraments to hang our hat on. I can read the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. I can do that. And it seems to be enough.”
          They were almost back to the town when Mara said, “is it enough? How’s that working out?”
          “Better than anyone might imagine,” he said, sounding invigorated, watching the road. “I pretend to pray. And someone said, some writer I think, ‘be careful who you pretend to be because you might just become who you pretend to be.’ Something like that.” 
          They walked for a good while, half-way back up the beach toward Richard’s car, both of them lossed in their thoughts.
          “Vonnegut,” Mara finally said, “Kurt Vonnegut said that.”
          “I think you’re right,” Richard answered, a few steps later.
          And after a few more steps, Mara responded: “do you think he’s right?” And when Richard didn’t answer, she continued: “It’s a lot like being a detective. As soon as a crime happens you ‘pretend’ to know the answer to the whole thing. Then you find out, several times over, that you’re original ‘pretend answer’ is totally wrong, so you invent a new ‘pretend answer’ and live out of that for a while until something else shows up and you have to pretend all over again.”
          “It’s a lot like that,” Richard answered, “though the problem is that people want a ‘real answer’, like right away—something to hold onto and depend on and those answers don’t exist.”
          “Tell me about it,” Mara said, smiling. They were back at the car and she climbed in. Richard pushed in a cassette since his car was too old to have a CD player. It was a Bob Dylan album.
          Blood on the tracks,” Mara observed.
          They drove for a long time, listening to Tangled up in Blue and then Simple Twist of Fate, Dylan croaking as only he could.
          “Lots of blood on the tracks,” Richard finally said, accelerating up hill out of town on Spring Street.
          Mara couldn’t disagree.
          As he was pulling off Spring Street onto the dirt road where the Lexus had been over turned, Mara asked, “What happens next for you? Where are you going after your time here?”
          He said, “well, that’s the question, isn’t it?” His voice was so soft and sad that she wished she had on her shoulder holster so she could lift her shirt and show it to him again. And this time, she’d know why.
          Unbeknownst to Mara, Richard was thinking about how taunt her stomach was when she showed it to him, about the perfect oval of her navel, about the fine down of blonde hair on the bottom of her stomach, about the hint of roundness of the bottom of her breast. He hated himself for wondering, but he wondered about that all the same.


          While all that was happening, Dante and Miriam were on the rocks to the west of the rectory and church, fishing. Miriam was much more adroit at casting, but she let him struggle with it, knowing he wanted no advice. They would catch no fish; however, they would talk—the two of them were incapable of silence.
          “So why don’t you go interview the Jamaicans?” she asked as they walked. Cecelia ran ahead rousting a rabbit and then a pheasant from the brush.
          “What would we accuse them of? Buying stuff they then threw away? I’m not sure the fishing equipment has anything to do with the murders—that’s Mara’s theory.
          She thought for a while. “You could charge them with littering a public beach and then sweat them.”
          Dante chuckled. “Sweat them! You mean bright lights and rubber hoses?”
          “Sure,” Miriam said. Dante didn’t yet know her well enough to tell if she was serious or just playing. “Or have Mara seduce them with her womanly wiles.”
          Now he understood where she was going. By God, I am a detective, after all, he thought. Then he said, “I’m not going to be the one to suggest that. After a moment, just to check his theory, he added, “besides, Mara only works one ‘seduction’ at a time.”
          Miriam’s head jerked toward him as he thought it would. “Do you think,” she said, like a whisper, a secret, “Sgt. Coles…Mara and Daddy….”
          “When you call him ‘daddy’ it all seems too tawdry.”
          “Is it tawdry?” she asked, reaching over to touch Dante’s arm. Her eyes were wide and shining green in the sun, “do you think something’s going on between them?”
          Dante smiled at her excitement. “I have no idea, my dear. And I certainly have no intention of asking either of them such questions. They are, after all, consenting adults.”
          “I never thought I’d say this,” she began, looking around for the dog, seeing her tail above the grass, “but daddy could actually do with some consenting….
          To get to the rocks they had to walk down a steep path through wild rosehips and bayberry bushes. Cecelia was waiting patiently at the bottom for permission to go into the water. Miriam rubbed the dog’s head and said, “go on girl.” Cecelia yelped with delight as she ran into the chill ocean.
          The surf was light and the tide low. They stood on a rock about a foot above the water and Dante skewered a shrimp and began to cast. Miriam could tell he hadn’t fished much, but he had a natural grace that allowed him to master the rod quickly. She was much better at surf fishing than he, but she let him play with the rod without comment.
          After a few minutes, keeping one eye on Cecelia’s whereabouts, Miriam spoke: “so, where’d you get your name? Were your parents literary sorts?” She thought he might have hooked something, but again she didn’t try to coach him. She knew most men hated help from women barely 5 feet tall.
          “Shit, something just got away,” he said. He paused in reeling back the hook and sinker long enough to light a cigarette. The wind was picking up and Miriam thought he’d never get the cigarette to burn. However, he had an index finger sized lighter that put out a flame like a butane torch. Finally smoking and reeling, he responded.
          “Mom was educated, but not my old man. He was a cook—not a ‘chef’, not at first, just a cook. He started with one of those silver carts selling sausage and pepper hoagies in front of the state house in Providence. He was barely 20 and just off the boat, probably stole the cart, couldn’t speak much English and was confused by making change for American money. But he had an eye for the ladies and the ‘Caggiano charm’,” Dante winked at her.
          “My mother was a Smyth—with a ‘y’—imagine that, more WASPY than the queen and a looker. She was a freshman at Brown doing an internship with whatever crooked administration was in office at the time. She started eating lunch every day at my dad’s cart, helping him make change while he wooed her. The Smyth’s were from Long Island. They knew some ‘I-talians’—one cooked for them and one mowed their grass and took care of the roses.”
          “A little culture shock when she brought your daddy home, I’d imagine.”
          Dante grinned and then laughed out loud. He speared shrimp on all three hooks this time and handed the rod to Miriam. He watched her cast and was impressed that she hadn’t tried to school him.
          “She was as blond and lovely as Mara,” he continued, “and on the field hockey team, for God’s sake. But she started taking Italian the next semester and taught my father passing English. Her Italian was always hysterical—a language made for poetry spoken with one of those tight-lipped, lock-jawed WASP mouths.”
          “So the Italian genes won out,” she said, looking him up and down.”
          “With a vengeance.”
          “Their names?” she asked, maneuvering the line, waiting for the first tiny tug that might be a hungry fish.
          “Margaret Anne, with an ‘e’ of course, and Benito,” he told her. “And you have to credit my Smyth grandparents—they rolled with the punch and welcomed my old man into the family. Mom convinced them to pay for Papa’s tuition at culinary school and then to buy the first restaurant for him. He paid them back and more. ‘Maria’s’ and ‘Maria’s Too” are cash cows—just got the fifth star last year.”
          “Those are yours now?”
          “Mine and Leo’s. He does all the work and I make half the money, a pretty sweet deal.”
          Miriam made sure she could still see the dog, digging among the rocks down the beach, and reeled the line back in. “I thought the restaurants were named after your mother.”
          “Oh, they are,” he said, chuckling and shaking his head. “Papa never learned to pronounce Margaret Anne without it sounding a bit risqué, so he called Mama ‘Maria’. She finally gave up and added it to her name, all very proper and legal….Besides,” he added, “how could you have an Italian restaurant named ‘Margaret Anne’s’?”
          Having had no luck, Miriam handed the rod back to Dante. He added more shrimp. “Tell me what I’m doing wrong,” he said, before casting out beyond the breakers.
          “A little more wrist,” she said, “and keep the rod more perpendicular, not so much to the side…but mostly, you’re doing fine.”
          After he fished for a while, Cecelia came wandering over, panting and soaked.
          “Speaking of names,” Dante said, “what about the dog’s?”
          “Simon and Garfunkle”, she said, breaking into the first lines of the song: “you’re breakin’ my heart, you’re shakin’ my confidence daily….”
          “Enough!” he said, above her song. “And here I thought your father was a sophisticated, reasonable man.”
          “Not really,” she was smiling broadly, “the priest thing gives him that aura, but he loved Dylan and Joni Mitchell and the Stones.” She started an animated version of Beast of Burden, strutting like Mick Jaggar from rock to rock. Dante rolled his eyes and Cecelia began to bark and jump around.
          “This is an amazing revelation—excuse the theological allusion—about the good Padre,” he was amused and captivated by the little woman’s energy.
          “A good ‘Padre’ he is,” she said, still dancing a little. “The people at the church in Worthington just love him, absent minded and forgetful as he is.”
          “And so do you….”
          She laughed and punched his arm, hard enough that he almost dropped the fishing rod.
          “That’s assault on an officer,” he said.
          “Tough shit, Jose….”
          “Ah,” Dante replied, barely containing his enjoyment of this woman, “that has ear-marks of an ethnic slur. You have the makings of a bigot, Ms. Lucas.”
          Miriam hung her head and spoke softly. Dante could hear her because the tide was still out and the surf wasn’t noisy at all. “Daddy says we all are, bigots, I mean. He taught me that everybody ‘hates’—mostly out of fear of people who are different from themselves. People are afraid of what they don’t know and don’t understand. So, each in our own way—some subtle and some no so…--we’re all bigots.”
          “What else did ‘daddy’ teach you, my dear,” Dante asked kindly, “about fear and hate and all?”
          “You really want to know, don’t you?”
          He nodded gravely.
          “He says that it’s important to ‘pay attention’ whenever we hate someone or are afraid of something. He told me to ‘be aware’ of my fears and dislikes, to be on tiptoe with anticipation.”
          “Why would he say that?” Dante asked, really not knowing.
          She smiled, looking out at the ocean as if she could see the past there. “He’d say, ‘you’re about to learn something, Princess. Something you need to know.’ That’s why, Dante.
          That ended the fishing. All thoughts of more casting without results were gone. Dante reeled in the line, then shouted with surprise and excitement at a tiny, less than six inch fish on the hook. Miriam gently removed it and threw it back out to sea. As they started up the steep bank, back through the rosehips and bayberries, the dog trailing behind them, he finally spoke again.
          “Good advice, all in all,” he said, “but advice that, sadly, I’d never give. What I tend to learn from my fears and hatreds is to be cautious, be very cautious….”
          “I know,” Miriam said, “me too.”
          They sat on rocks at the top of the hill, Cecelia smelling of surf and dog, dozing beside them, exhausted. They stared out at the waters.
          “What’s that buoy for?” He was pointing out about a hundred yards.
          “Who knows,” she replied, “a lobster trap, a place to tie up a boat to fish or swim, a channel marker that’s drifted away. The water is lousy with buoys around this island. Haven’t you seen how many people just have piles and piles of them laying around?”
          He had noticed that, but he still squinted through the smoke of a newly lit cigarette and the light haze of late afternoon. For reasons he couldn’t place, the buoy—blue and white—bobbing on the water interested him. He was about to ask her more about buoys when she raised the question people like the two of them eventually got to.
          “So,” she said, inevitably, “what about the gay thing?”
          Dante looked at her, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. “You’re one to talk, from what I understand.”
          She twisted her mouth up at him and stuck out her tongue. “I love who I love. I’ve loved some men and I’ve loved some women. I think I like women better. Milagros, I think, is my ‘soul-mate’, if that isn’t too romantic to bear. We just happen to have the same plumbing—big deal. I love her. I hope this is forever….We want to have a baby, you know….”
          “Good for you for loving women,” he said, “leaves more of the man for me.”
          “But you’re a cop,” she observed, “and pretty outspoken about being gay. How do you deal with the assholes who fear and hate that? You must know lots of them.”
          “They are legion,” he snuffed out his cigarette on the rock where they were sitting. “I don’t ‘deal with them’, as you put it. ‘Fuck them,’ I say, thought that thought would doubtless send them running to the hills.”
          She smiled. “If I loved a man, Dante, he’d be a lot like you.”
          “Gay?” he asked in a falsetto.
          “Don’t joke.”
          “Sorry, Kiddo,” he said in his natural voice, “same goes for me. If I loved a women—heaven forefend!—she’d have to be a lot like you.”
          They both stared at the ocean until Miriam wondered, “want to give Milagros and me some sperm?”
          He stared at her with a mixture of horror and curiosity. Then they both laughed.
          “Guess we’ll just go to the bank and make a withdrawal,” she said.
          “Interesting choice of metaphor….”
          “Well, it wouldn’t be a ‘deposit’, would it?”
          “Time to go, Kiddo,” he said. And they did.
          Crossing the dirt road to the field they walked through, she said, “shouldn’t you be out detecting rather than fishing?”
          He laughed. “There are times when not much is going on that looks like police work,” he told her. “That’s the one thing the TV shows and mystery novels leave out. There’s no such thing as constant action. Sometimes we just wait around for a clue to find us.”
          “You’re kidding, right?”
          Au contraire,” he replied. It so happens that Flash Gordon is out doing some background, probably on a lap-top in a bar. I’m fishing. So I’m not kidding. You’d be surprised how much of detecting is waiting for someone to finish a report and then distracting yourself for a while. Otherwise you start thinking too much….But, if something doesn’t show up soon, maybe we will go round up Jamaicans.”
          He wanted to walk through the weird little maze that had been created in the field out of brush. Cecelia plunged down a path without waiting for them. He was amazed by the maze—which must have taken some serious work each spring to keep the paths clear. He was about to ask Miriam if she knew who planted it when they were both distracted by the dog’s whining.
          Cecelia was pulling at a blue tarp in the undergrowth beside the path. Miriam called her away with ‘leave it’ and she sat obediently a few feet from what she’d found.
          Dante knelt down, pushing branches way and unrolled the tarp. He held up, in success for Miriam to see, two pairs of goggles, two wet suits and two pairs of flippers. She shook her head at him and he carefully replaced the swimming gear.
          “What’s it mean?”
          “Mara has been right as rain all along, though it pains me to admit it. Someone comes here and puts on this stuff and goes swimming. This is a big honking clue that just fell in our laps, or, more accurately, in the dog’s mouth.”
          “What’s it a clue to?” she asked.
          “That is yet to be seen, sweet Miriam. Yet to be seen.”
          When they got back to the rectory, Dante praised Mara and told her and Richard about what Cecelia had unearthed. “The only real detective on this island has four legs,” Dante said. Somehow understanding he was talking about her, the dog came over and jumped up on him, trying to lick his face. “I don’t like dogs, dog,” Dante said, pushing her away.
          “So you left them there?” Mara asked.
          Dante grinned and nodded. “The best is yet to come, beloved,” he said to the other three. Cecelia leaped on him again and he rolled his eyes, giving in a bit to her affection.
          It was just past 6 and darkness was beginning to wonder about gathering in a serious way. Dante declared the bar open and they picked through what was left of booze and wine people had brought to Richard on Wednesday. Two full bottles of scotch, a bottle of bourbon (“they remembered you were a southerner, Father,” Dante observed) and lots of wine. There was a mint plant that Miriam remembered from her summers on the island that was off on the south side of the house. It was dead, not even recognizable, but she grated ice in a blender and made them all mint juleps without mint to watch the stars with.
          After a while, Dante and Miriam cooked, somehow creating a wondrous seafood Diablo from what was available to them and a salad of Boston lettuce, heart of palm and anchovies from a thin can they found in the back of a shelf. Dante and Miriam stayed with bourbon while Mara and Richard switched to wine and water respectively.
          “I have to do church tomorrow,” he explained to the drinkers, who hooted and kidded him mercilessly.
          Dante had a room at the Spring House under Leo’s name and Mara was still registered at the White House, but when dinner was over, no one made any move to leave. Mara took the third bedroom and Dante hunkered down on the couch, TV flipper in hand, running through the few channels. Miriam and Richard took Cecelia for a walk down Spring Street, though neither of them had much to say. Everyone was full and tired and a little high. When they came back, Dante was snoring lightly on the couch, the TV still on. Miriam found a blanket and covered him carefully. Richard and the dog went to the master bedroom. Somehow, having the police ‘sleeping over’ seemed natural and right to him now.
          Within half an hour, everyone was asleep.

          In a little three bedroom house on a rock of an island on a tiny planet lost in the wonderment of an already endless and still expanding universe, five sentient being slept. And they all dreamed.
          Here is Dante’s dream, being the first of the night: he is holding a child, a baby that has curly hair and dark skin. He does not know who the child is or whose it, yet it seems familiar to him. He holds the child and rocks it in his arms, waiting, he knows but doesn’t know, that two lovely, small women are coming to join him. He is singing a lullaby in Italian, one his mother sang to him. He sings it though he doesn’t know the words, doesn’t remember them, but he sings them in perfect Italian and knows the words are all right. The child he holds smiles at him, gurgles and begins to sing along.
          Mara’s dream is verging on a nightmare. She is alone in a strange and ill-defined landscape. She is alone and the edges of the horizon are closing in on her. She is alone and frightened, trying to scream as people often do in dreams, but having no ability to create noise. She is alone and she knows someone is near, even in the ever dwindling space. Someone is near and she is afraid. She is alone and she is afraid.
          She wakes and shakes off that dream, which she will never remember, and falls back into sleep and a second dream. In this dream she is wrapped in some rubbery substance and swimming, swimming, swimming. She is not a good swimmer in life, but in her dream she swims effortlessly, with power, with and remarkable grace. She swims and swims and swims.
          Miriam’s dreams that night are multitudinous and perplexing. She is walking a pleasant path with two women. She is standing on a rock, fishing. She is like an animal, picking her way through deep brush, sniffing. She is eating an ice-cream cone overlooking a pleasant bay. She is talking with her father and laughing and they talk and talk and laugh and laugh but she doesn’t hear any words—her dream is on ‘mute’. She is wrapped in someone’s arms, kissing them, touching them—first it is a Spanish woman and then a thin Italian man. And she is in love….
          Richard dreams of a house he’s never seen, a house with many rooms. He wanders through the rooms, many of which have white cloths covering the furniture. He hears someone playing some reed instrument in the distance and tries to move toward it, but, as in dreams, he can hardly move.
          And Cecelia dreams as well. While she dreams her legs move involuntarily back and forth. She is dreaming of running, chasing some creature she has no name for but can smell clearly. She runs, in her dream, tracking and chasing and running and running until she drops into a dark hole where there are no dreams, only sleep.
          Richard has a second dream. In this dream he is blind and running toward something. He feels hands touch him and hold him up in his blindness. He is running toward that same sound—some reed instrument playing something beautiful and calm. And he is still blind and still running, supported by unseen hands.
          Later Dante dreams of cutting onions, onion after onion with the sharpest knife he’s ever held. And weeping from the onions. Then someone comes and takes the knife from his hand and wipes away the tears from his face and holds him like a baby as he weeps.
          Early in the morning, around 2:30 a.m., Richard wakes up and needs to pee. He staggers to the bathroom, noticing that Cecelia is whining and her legs are moving in her sleep. When he comes back to bed he falls immediately to sleep and dreams that Susan is responding to his fitful prayers and his attempts to revive her. She stirs and stands up, alive as alive can be and embraces him. He holds her near and weeps with joy. And at some point realizes his face is not buried in her hair but in some other hair, short and blonde almost to white.
          Mara dreams she is standing on the precipice of the Mohegan Bluffs. The wind is tearing around her and the void beneath her is calling to her. She shuts her eyes and leaps, but someone’s arms pull her back.
          Miriam dreams of Christmas, of being in St. Louis at her brother’s house. The tree is trimmed to perfection. She can smell food being cooked. She turns and sees her father and someone else she cannot recognize before her dream ends.
          Just before he wakes, Dante dreams of holding a golden box in his hands, a box locked and sealed. But he opens it anyway and inside he finds….Then he wakes up.
          Everyone and the dog in that house woke up within ten minutes of each other. Everyone and the dog, except for Richard, needed to pee. Time was spent doing that.
          None of them, save Cecelia, remembered their dreams. Cecelia remembered running and running and running and running….













                                                V.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26   6:45 A.M.


          Richard and Cecelia had been out since 6. They’d walked down to the rocky beach and back—pausing for a wasted 10 minutes in the pathways through the high brush until Richard realized Cecelia wasn’t going back to the wetsuits and he couldn’t find them without her.
          He picked up a couple of empty rum bottles he found in the field to carry back to the house. As he crossed the parking lot, Cecelia yelped to see Dante smoking on the deck and ran to him, her tail working overtime. As usual, Dante ignored her and called to Richard, “Drinking already, Padre? And on the Lord’s day at that.”
          Richard said, “good morning to you too, Lieutenant” while he was putting the bottles in the recycling box on the side of the house. He was trying to remember what days the recycling and trash center was open. People on an island have to send their garbage to the mainland, to some huge hole in the ground outside of Providence. Richard was amazed at how much refuse even one person, living alone, could create on a weekly basis. During the summer the station loading garbage was open every day. When autumn came, most of the business went away. When his children were small they loved to go to the recycling center. Anything recycled was carried off the island for free—garbage you have to pay for, pennies a pound, actually, but it must add up during the season. He was about to mention to Dante one of his pet theories about how day care providers and trash haulers should be two of the highest paid professions, when he looked up and Dante was beside him.
          “Did you find them, preacher?” he asked, smiling wickedly.
          Richard flushed. Though he knew Dante meant the wetsuits, he still said, “find what?”
          Dante chuckled. “This detecting business gets under your skin, doesn’t it? Nothing like a little evidence to get the blood moving and the gray cells working, I always say.”
           “What do you think the wetsuits mean?”
          “We have a couple of ‘secret swimmers’ among us.” Dante thought for a moment. “It means something, I think, but I don’t know what yet.”
          “Are you going to stake it out?”
          “Lay in the bayberry, drinking coffee and wait?” He smiled at Richard. “I don’t think so, unless you’re interested in trying that tonight. I figure our swimmers might just come to us, if we’re lucky.”
          They wandered inside to find Mara and Miriam making pancakes. Richard smiled, realizing his daughter was re-creating the Sunday breakfasts of her childhood. When he woke, before leaving for the early mass, Richard would make the batter and leave it in the refrigerator. Susan would add blueberries or chocolate chips or bananas and make the children pancakes. The boys ate them with maple syrup and Miriam with honey, preferably the kind with the cone still in it.
          “Guess what’s for breakfast, Daddy?” she said, dropping sausage links in a frying pan.
          Mara was trying to pour batter onto a griddle in perfect ovals, but they ran into shapes that looked like countries of Europe.
          “It’s not quite hot enough,” Richard said.
          She looked up at him. There was flour on her cheek. He stepped over, adjusted the gas slightly, licked his thumb and wiped the flour away. Miriam and Dante exchanged a glance.
          After they ate, Dante cleaned up, a cigarette dangling from his lips. “I always work for my daily bread,” he commented, pulling out the dishwasher’s top rack.
          “Not too far,” Richard warned, then looked astonished as Dante pulled it all the way out without the rack tipping forward. Dante grinned. “I fixed it, Father. Couldn’t sleep on that couch so I fixed your dishwasher about 1:30 in the a.m. Like I always say, ‘earn your keep’, Dante, ‘earn your keep, young man’….”
          Richard went to change into khaki’s and a black clergy shirt from his running shorts and sweat shirt. When he came back, Dante whistled. “My Lord, you are a priest after all!”
          “Cleans up nicely,” Miriam added.
          Two cars pulled into the church parking lot, crunching gravel.
          “The faithful are arriving,” Dante said, heading for a bedroom. “I’ll stay out of sight since some of these folks have met me and I am, after all, not here.”
          “Almost ‘show time’, Daddy,” Miriam said. Mara realized it must be a family joke. “Are you coming to see him in action?” Miriam asked her.
          “Dressed like this?” Mara said. She had on white jeans and a black turtle neck sweater.
          “With your looks,” Miriam replied, looking the detective up and down, “no body will pay attention to what you’re wearing and most of the men will be wondering how you’d look wearing nothing at all.” She noticed that Mara blushed and glanced around to see Richard turning his head away. Oops, she thought, too close to the truth.
          “I forgot to take my detective suit to the B and B,” Mara said to cover her discomfort. “I think I’ll change anyway.”
          Richard went through the door from the kitchen to the sanctuary to greet the early comers, get his vestments from the closet and try to forget how accurate his daughter’s words had been. I’m must be having an anima attack, he told himself. He took comfort in pushing his thoughts about the detective off on his unconsciousness. Then he was submerged in the greetings and condolences about ‘his awful week’ from the altar guild ladies and the retired music teacher who played the little organ during the winter. They were waters he could swim in without much effort. He didn’t think of himself as especially outgoing, but he was well schooled in the social vocabulary of the church.
          Just before 9, he took his seat near the altar. The prelude was near it’s end—something by Bach that sounded under-served by the little organ—and he suddenly realized that by sitting quietly, the people filling the little church probably imagined he was praying. It struck him as ironic that prayer was assumed in him, even when it wasn’t there.
          Richard’s inability to pray, except as a leader of worship, had changed—perhaps improved—his preaching. Oddly enough, the humility he felt from God’s silence and his own unwillingness to ask for the Almighty’s ear had given him new insight into human vulnerability. Where once he would have pleaded with the congregation to put their faith in God, to lean into the Love of the Lord, he now knew the profound loneliness of those without that comfort. Always admired for his optimism and clear hopefulness, Life Without Susan had taken him—for the first time in his life—into the Dark Night of the Soul he had described so glibly before actually knowing it. He understood God much less than before but he comprehended the depths of human suffering in a real and powerful way.
A friend of his had told him years ago: “I can’t trust anyone who hasn’t had their face on the pavement”. Richard had understood that intellectually at the time; now it was something palpable, something he knew at his core. Living without God had made him less impatient with those who knew that experience inside out. He had always been caring and sympathetic to those “lost souls” all around him—now he had real compassion for them...he had joined their ranks. He had always said, “I feel your pain” as he sat by the deathbed or in the recovery room or outside a lawyer’s office with a parishioner. At last, it was true. His sermons had ceased to give “advice” about how to deal with life’s vicissitudes. When he preached during LWS, it was much more from his heart than his mind. He was a fellow traveler for the pained and confused and angry. He urged them to cling together against the Darkness.
The Sunday after he and Cecelia had found the Lexus and it’s passengers of death, the gospel reading from the Episcopal lectionary was from Mark: the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. Always before, in the dozen times this passage had come up since Richard was ordained, he had seen it as a testimony to the blind man’s faith. Bartimaeus sat by the side of the road and called out to Jesus as he was passing. “Jesus, Son of David,” he cried, “have mercy on me!”
“What an example of optimism and faith,” Richard had preached in times gone by. “We need to find the Bartimaeus inside ourselves. No matter how dark the blindness of our lives may be, Jesus is near. We only need to call out for his healing love….”
Richard remembered those sermons as he read the lesson late Friday night. Easy enough for me to say, he thought, then.
This time it was not Bartimaeus’ faith that struck him, but the blind man’s desperation and fear. The crowds around him told him to be quiet, not to bother the Teacher. But Bartimaeus was so alone, so lost, so locked in his darkness that he continued to call. When Jesus heard him, it was the crowd around the blind man that brought him the news—the self-same crowd that had discouraged him now told him to “take heart”. It was the people around him in the darkness that must have guided him to his healing.
“Bartimaeus could have never made it to Jesus without the help of those around him,” Richard said that Sunday morning at St. Anne’s. “He was blind—how could he have found his healing without those around him guiding him as he ran? And he did run. Mark tells us so. Imagine the depths of longing, the depths of pain that would cause a blind man to try to run….”
Miriam and Mara sat in the back, snuggled into a corner of the tiny church. The tragedy of the week had brought a larger crowd than usual to the Eucharist. Stevenson was standing by the front door along with two other men because all the 40 seats were taken. The summer crowd was always like this—filled with visitors to the island. But October usually brought less than a minion of true islanders to church. When Richard first saw the parking lot full and entered the church from the rectory’s living room in his vestments, he  had thought curiosity had brought them there—the wondering of how he would ‘bear up’ after having discovered the murdered couple. But as the liturgy began, he softened, wondering himself if they had come out of concern for him rather than morbid curiosity. And perhaps, he thought as he listened to Stevenson read the first two lessons and lead the Psalm, perhaps they had come longing against hope themselves.
The first verse of the Psalm of the day—Psalm 13—struck him deeply, causing him to see those gathered there not as the crowd that discourages, but as the crowd that would support those running blind.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?”
“We must be the crowd who supports, who guides, who holds onto those running blind,” he said, nearing his conclusion. “None of us can find healing without the love of friends and the kindness of strangers.”
Miriam almost laughed when he said those words. And even wrapped up in what he was trying to say, Richard realized she would chide him for unconscious literary allusions. Since Susan’s death, Richard had never written out sermons—first not having the energy and then because he had learned to like speaking without notes. And, sure enough, English major that he was, lines from plays and poems would find their way into what he was saying.
“It may be,” he continued, avoiding Miriam’s smiling gaze, “that we all need help from others because we are running blind. It may be that we wanderers on the earth can only find our way if we cling together.”
He paused, about the end. Then a synapse in his brain reminded him of something that seemed to fit.
“A few weeks ago,” he said, “I discovered two men sleeping off what must have been quite a drunk here in the church. My first thought was the wake them and ask them to leave. My first thought—like the thought of the crowd about Bartimaeus—was to chide them….But then, watching them sleep, I realized the church is where we should come when we are confused.
“So, I fixed them breakfast and woke them up. We ate together, breaking bread. They were embarrassed but quite hungry.”
He noticed Miriam stifling another laugh and saw that Mara had suddenly sat upright and was staring at him with her ocean gray eyes.
“Sometimes we—the church, the people of God, Christ’s Body in this world—are the hands and feet and voice of God to each other. When God has seemingly forgotten us, we must reach out to comfort and embrace each other. Only then…just perhaps…may we run through the darkness toward the light….”
Richard felt suddenly exposed. Maybe he should write his sermons down. He would have never used his own ‘good deed’ as an illustration had he been using a text. He always cringed with preachers pointed to themselves as examples of how to live. That was probably why Mara seemed so shocked. It was a prideful thing to do.
Half-way through the Nicene Creed Mara squeezed out of the row and, nodding to Stevenson by the door, left. Richard’s mind was racing. He wondered, as he often did, if the people in the congregation imagined he was totally focused on what he was during in the service. The few times he’d ever mentioned to anyone that it is possible to say Mass while thinking of something else they had seemed horrified. He wondered where Mara had gone, picturing her in the mind in the suit she was wearing—the same one she’d had on the first time he saw her. He thought about the lunch he’d have with Miriam before the plane to Boston. Fried fish or lobster roll, he tried to decide during the prayers of the people.
After the peace, when Richard realized how few names he knew among the people there, Stevenson made some announcements. A planned potluck, the repair of a window in the rectory and a reminder to pray for the Diocesan Convention next weekend in Providence was followed by Stevenson asking Richard to join him in front of the altar.
Stevenson threw an arm around Richard in a show of uncharacteristic affection. Then he began speaking in his most impressive and stentorian voice—a voice that Richard had often thought of as “the Board Room” voice, a voice so full of confidence and seriousness that it could not be ignored. Though Richard was not terribly short, Stevenson wrapped himself around him like a little league coach encouraging a struggling pitcher.
“We all know the travail that Fr. Lucas has endured,” Stevenson began. Richard didn’t remember ever hearing “travail” used in a real conversation. “And his strength and courage during this week of trials has been exemplary.” (Richard had, of course, heard “exemplary” spoken, but never about him—much less his strength and courage.)
“Richard has suffered much in the past year,” Stevenson’s words were bringing a blush to Richard’s cheeks, “and I know you will join me in supporting him in the times ahead….”
Before people could applaud, Stevenson stopped them with a perfectly timed, though subtle movement of his large, well manicured right hand.
“And today, Richard’s daughter, Miriam, who’ve we’ve had the pleasure of watching grow up summer after summer here on the Block is with us as well.” Richard watched Miriam blanch, though only he could have noticed her already pale skin grow even paler. Stevenson was motioning to Miriam in the back of the church. “Come on up, dear,” he was saying.
Miriam rolled her eyes, but ever the dutiful priest’s kid, she moved to the center aisle and started toward the front where Stevenson had already started clapping his hands as a signal that all could applaud.
Stevenson in the middle, Richard and Miriam shrunk in his presence as the congregation acknowledged them.
“I’ll get you for this, Stevenson,” Miriam whispered just beneath the noise. Several people were wiping tears away and Richard was mortified to see Mara and Dante standing in the very back, near the door, smirking at him. They would not soon let him forget this moment he knew.
But Stevenson was not through. “Today I’d like to ask Fr. Lucas to use the antique porcelain communion set that is normally only brought out on Christmas and Easter.” He looked at Richard as if he had just offered him the Pulitzer Prize. “Richard…?” he asked. Of course Richard nodded assent and Stevenson asked Irma Norman, a member of the altar guild to bring up the silver case, about the size of an overnight case. Stevenson unlocked it with a flourish with the tiny key that seemed to materialize in his hand. As Irma unpacked the chalice and paten (Chinese, Richard imagined, from the pastoral scenes of high mountains, torrential rivers and serene Buddhist monks painted on them—surely worth a priest’s annual salary) Stevenson beamed and the congregation applauded again.
Finally, the offertory sentences had to be said and the service had to continue. Dante and Mara disappeared onto the porch. Richard could see them through the open door—Dante smoking franticly and Mara’s head bent near his, her mouth moving, her head turning back toward the church and nodding. Intrigue on top of humiliation—Richard did finally lose himself in the ancient and oh-so-familiar formulary of the canon of the Mass. He took the bread and broke it, blessed the cup and elevated it and invited all to come to the feast of the Lord’s Table. People reached to touch his hand as he offered him the host. More than a few whispered good wishes and blessings as the told them the little tasteless piece of wafer was, indeed, the Body of Christ. By the time all had received—even Miriam, though Richard doubted she much believed his pronouncements about the bread and wine (she probably just wanted to see the porcelains up close)—there was little wine left in the invaluable cup. Richard wished there had been several slugs of the inferior port to fortify him for what would come next.
The coffee and cookies on the deck in the warm October sun was as horrendous as Richard had feared. Stevenson had whipped the people into a frenzy of support and comfort and many of them quoted parts of his sermon.
“I know you’ve been ‘running blind’,” one tall, well dressed woman with a Beacon Hill accent told him, “but Randolph and I are here for you.” Randolph had on an impeccably tied bow tie and terribly expensive herringbone jacket. The creases in his khaki’s would have caused paper cuts and his wing-tips were polished within an inch of their life. Randolph pursed his lips and nodded solemnly. Liver spots on his aging face were mostly obscured by the kind of flawless tan only the rich seemed to get on Block Island. Richard mumbled his thanks, wondering who in the hell Randolph and his wife were.
It went on like that until Mara, wearing sunglasses and stunning, sidled up to him. “Block Island’s Bartimaeus,” she whispered hoarsely. Before he could reply she added, conspiratorially, “Dante and I need to talk to you now.”
“I’m taking Miriam to the airport,” Richard replied, unconsciously mocking her whisper. “After that maybe.”
Mara took off her sunglasses so he could see her roll her eyes. “Oh, Jesus,” she said through clinched teeth, “this is about murder most foul.”
Richard smiled and shook his head in confusion.
“You remembered,” she said, leaning toward him.
“Remembered what?”
“What you knew but didn’t know you knew,” she said, “or however that Italian asshole, Dante, put it.”
“I have no idea….” Richard began.
“I know you don’t,” she said, gripping his forearm tightly. A sudden jolt of feelings consumed him at her touch, “but I DO!”

Richard was driving his Volvo toward Old Town. Dante was smoking in the passenger seat, though Richard asked him not to. Miriam and Mara, like two 1950’s wives, sat in the back, leaning up against the front seats, listening intently.
“So who were they?” Dante said, turning his head to blow his smoke toward the open window.
“Who were who?” Richard responded, disoriented and confused.
“The two drunks in the church—that’s the key to the whole case—who were they?”
“The drunks are the key? How do you know?”
“He’s a fucking detective, Daddy,” Miriam chirped in from the back. “This is what he does—gut feelings, instinct, detecting…all that shit.”
Richard turned toward her for a moment, just as he was negotiating the turn up hill toward town.
“What kind of mouth is that?” he said, sternly.
“The one you fuckin’ gave me,” she replied, equally stern. “Don’t play ‘good preacher man’ here. Tell Dante who they were.”
“Let me guess,” Mara said, “they were Jamaicans.”
Richard nodded.
“Yea for the girl detectives!” Miriam cheered, “Nancy Drew lives!”
“Not really,” Mara said. “Dante was so interested in the off-island workers and the fisherman theory from the beginning….” Dante glared at her and she winked.
Mara plowed on: “did you ever see them—besides that time, of course?”
Richard was nodding his head. “Before and after, both.”
“Tell me about the ‘before’ times, if you can…” Mara’s eyes grew wide and she pointed ahead. “But you don’t have to look at me, keep your eyes on the road.”
“Let’s see,” Richard began, “before that day I’d seen them around town—they were always together. Did some work around the dock from time to time, rented Mopeds for the guy who rents them, handyman stuff.”
“So they were familiar to you when you saw them asleep in the church?” Dante asked.
“Sometimes I wished them good luck when they went fishing at night,” Mara whooped and Richard paused, “they’d pass through the church parking lot and I’m be on a late walk with Cecelia….”
“And after the day in your sermon, Richard,” Mara asked, leaning up so her arms were on his seat and her face next to his, “did you see them after then?”
“Oh, more often,” he replied. “A couple of times when I got up late, I’d meet one of them coming out of the church when I started my morning walk.”
“How’d they explain themselves? Why were they there?”
“They’d been praying,” he said, “just passing by and stopping into pray. They are Anglicans, after all.”
“Could you identify them?” Dante asked.
“Sure,” Richard said….He was slowing down for some people riding bikes in front of him. “I know their names…”
“You know their names, Father,” Dante said, tossing his cigarette butt out the window.
“Eli and Jonah…no, Jonas. I remember because I had to ask Jonas how he spelled his….”
“Last names,” Mara bit off, “or where they live.”
“Eli Holland and Jonas….” Richard tried to think.
“Not ‘Salk’, I hope,” Miriam said, giggling.
“No, it was pretty common,” Richard said as Dante was frantically punching numbers into his cell phone. “They are the ‘year-round’ Jamaicans who live just inland from the bluffs in a rented house. They do repairs during the winter, watch out for summer houses, help unload the ferry…things like that….”
“Wake up some judge, Brooks,” Dante was saying into his phone. “We need a search warrant for the domicile of one Eli Holland and Jonas…come on, Padre, what is it, what is the ‘common’ name?”
Richard laughed out loud. He was coming to the round about around the statue of Minerva.
“Christian,” he said, “Jonas Christian….
Mara flopped back and pushed on Richard’s seat with her knees. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” she said, breaking into a deep, sultry laugh. “Christian, ain’t that a kick in the ass! No wonder you couldn’t remember!”
While Mara and Miriam collapsed on each other in the back seat, Dante was all business. He instructed Richard to circle the statue and take him and “the laughing detective bitch in the back seat” back to the church. “We’ll wait for Brooks there and you can tell us exactly where these perps live.”
“Oh, my God, Dante,” Mara howled at the lower pitches of the female voice spectrum, “you said perps again!”

Miriam and Richard were sitting in the Block Island airport’s tiny grill, having lunch, waiting for the next flight to Boston. Miriam was picking at her salad and talking non-stop. Richard was concentrating on his second hot dog.
          “I hate to leave, Daddy,” she was saying as her father chewed, “everything is getting so exciting….You have mustard on your chin…no, higher…there, ok. I want to be in on the ‘bust’ or whatever. This is one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever been around. Milagros will simply die when I tell her about Mara and Dante and Flash and the poor dead people….Oh-oh, more mustard…there, on your shirt, lucky for you it’s black….Am I just blathering?”
          Richard found time to nod while wiping off his shirt and taking another bite. Of course I shouldn’t eat hot dogs, he was thinking, but thank you for not mentioning it—well, except for the mustard.
          Miriam grew suddenly still. Richard could feel her staring at him. Here comes the ‘hot dog’ lecture, he thought.
          Instead, she said, “you really are alright, aren’t you? You really are coming back from the dead.”
          Her eyes were almost pea-green in the light of the little restaurant. They enveloped him when he looked up.
          “Yes, Princess,” he said and then took a sip of his diet Coke. Hot dogs and diet coke, he said to himself, a perfectly balanced meal.
          “Have you slept with Mara yet?” his daughter said, forking a piece of cucumber and lifting it to her mouth.
          It was one of those things that hadn’t happened to him since he was an adolescent—he gulped, snorted and felt the cola rising toward his nose. His choking and coughing and clearing out his nasal cavities by blowing his nose into a paper napkin, then another, gave him ample time to gather himself.
          “That might be considered an inappropriate question in some circles,” he finally replied.
          “Not my circle,” she said, giving him a knowing grin.
          “Sgt. Coles and I have a ‘professional’ relationship,” he said, knowing he was lying to his daughter.
          “Bullshit, Daddy,” she said, a bit too loud for Richard’s comfort—the little restaurant was packed with Islanders, one of the favorite Sunday eating places on the Block. “I’ve seen the glances—I’m a very sexual woman, if you haven’t noticed—and I know the clues. You two are smitten.”
          Smitten,” Richard said, about to laugh. “That’s what you think—‘smitten’?”
          His daughter pulled herself up to her full height in the booth they were sharing, which wasn’t very tall. “As ‘smitten’ as ‘smitten’ can be,” she said, almost singing it. Then she grew suddenly serious. “It’s not being ‘unfaithful’ to Mom,” she said, as solemn as a church bell. She’d be standing on the sidelines cheering for you, Daddy. Really.”
          As they sat there like that, the flight to Boston was announced.
          “Any mustard on my face or clothes?” Richard said.
          Miriam shook her head and smiled. “Really, Daddy,” she said in the tone of voice most people talk with a cancer patient, “I couldn’t be happier than this: you being happy, whatever that means.”
          Then she smiled at him and told him his children’s plan—that all of them, the whole family, would spend Christmas at Jeremy‘s house in St. Louis. That was the plan and he must accommodate himself to it.
          Richard smiled back at her. He was about to ask what her brothers would think if he brought a woman to Christmas in St. Louis…but then he realized he had known Mara for less than a week, and ‘smitten’ as he was, he had no idea whatsoever what her thoughts about him were. This is all crazy, Princess, he thought. But he exercised restraint enough not to say it. He was thinking of Mara’s eyes, how painfully and profoundly gray they were, how stormy and dangerous.
          “Sounds good for me,” he said.
          “Great,” she said, then sobering, added, “I’ve asked Dante and Mara, but I don’t know if they’d tell me the truth…are you in danger because of all of this? Are you?”
“Maybe it’s time for a little ‘danger’,” is what he said, standing up, leaving money on the table for their meal, “and time for you to go back to Boston.”
          Father and daughter embraced in the middle of that little eatery and again on the tarmac before Miriam climbed the steps to the commuter jet and waved back at him. He watched the plane taxi and leap into the air and kept watching even after it was less than a dot in the sky.
                                                *****
          Richard drove around the island for almost an hour. That meant he covered every paved road at least once. He didn’t know why he was delaying his return to St. Anne’s, but he was. He ended up at the ancient burial grounds of Block Island, stopped his Volvo and walked among the graves for a while.
          So many dead, he thought, even on this tiny boulder in the sea. He read names and dates and wondered about the lives of those slumbering beneath the shallow soil. He found the oldest grave on the island—Margaret Guthry who died in 1687, just 25 years or so after the 16 white people who settled on the island arrived. Her tombstone was remarkably undamaged, considering all the wind and weather that had taken place in the 316 years since her death.
          Richard sat by Margaret’s grave in the warmth of the October sun for a long time—half-an-hour at least. He was thinking, not of Margaret, of course, but of Susan, whose grave he was not able to sit by. He resisted talking to his dead wife, remembering Jimmy Steward in Shenandoah. Lord, he thought to himself, my whole life is movies and TV shows! I’m incapable of an original thought. However, his thoughts were ‘original’ for him. He was thinking about Susan and how many ways he had subtlety failed her, how his indiscretion about ‘time’—how to be a priest and be a husband and father—didn’t measure up. He also thought about Mara, this woman he barely knew, having dated Susan for three years before they were married. In less than five days, Mara had awakened him to his longings, his hopes, his life again. Surely it was just the excitement of being a character in a TV show—a priest/detective in a cable channel murder mystery, a supporting actor to something so much bigger than him. That was it…that was the explanation. Nothing formed so quickly could be lasting. Just a passing fancy, that’s all it was, an understandable and short-lived infatuation, soon to be dispelled and done with, a ‘fling’ that never really got ‘flung’.
          He wandered among the tombstones, wishing Cecelia was there with him, running wild, and Miriam, so they could wonder together what life had been like for these long dead people. He found a plot where five children were buried, along with the parents that outlived them. It was stunning to him to consider that possibility. How can a parent outlive their child? What kind of courage and fortitude would that require? He knew this cemetery was only one of thousands holding such secrets, such painful realities. And he wandered among the grave stones, wondering for almost two hours.
          He drove back to the rectory in as oblique a pattern as one can conceive of on a small island. When he got there, Cecelia was outside and greeting him with wetness and whines. Inside the house he found Dante and Mara in the little “office” in one of the three bedrooms, worrying over his computer.
          “Padre,” Dante said, smoking like a furnace, “we’ve got photos of our perfectly legal entry into the abode of your two Jamaican friends. We wore those wondrous gloves, but, to tell you the truth, our presence would only have improved the general order and cleanliness of Eli and Jonas’ home.”
          Mara was flipping through some photographs she’s taken with her digital camera. Dante was correct, the pictures showed a home in great need of a major cleaning. Pizza boxes and empty ‘tall boy’ cans competed with items of clothing and general disorder. But then she brought up a photo of a note. It wasn’t clear enough to read, but both the detectives knew what it said.
          “There’s a drug drop tonight,” Dante told Richard, “and we think it is just off the rocks down below this house. We think this church has been used, in ways we don’t yet understand, to enable a major drug smuggling ring to do their business. I’m getting tingly feelings about it all. I think we’re about to break open something very, very big. I just don’t know how yet.”
          Though Richard couldn’t read the note on the computer screen, he could recognize the hand writing.
          “I’ve seen this handwriting somewhere,” Mara said, pointing to the screen. “I don’t know where or when. But it looks familiar to me. Dante, what about you?”
          “Wishful thinking, my love,” he said, “but the cursive is quite correct. We’re looking at the writing of a very educated criminal.”
          Richard excused himself, claiming he needed a bathroom break. But he flushed the toilet in the bathroom just outside that bedroom without need, just to cover himself as he crept down the hallway and into the kitchen. There was a note attached by a magnet the shape of Block Island on the front of the refrigerator. He took it off, glanced at the handwriting and stuffed it into the back pocket of his jeans. He didn’t dare throw it in the trash, knowing from his movie and TV experiences how often the police examined garbage. Once it was in his pocket, it almost burned his butt. Mara had been in and out of the kitchen numerous times and opened the refrigerator dozens of time in the last few days. No wonder the handwriting on the note left in the Jamaicans’ house looked vaguely familiar to her. She’d been glancing at it for days. But Richard would handle this part of the investigation, even though telling them now would make it so much simpler. ‘Loyalty’ was Richard’s byword, his credo, what made him who he was. And he wasn’t yet ready to give that significant part of himself away.
          Knowing it would be a long night, Dante and Mara had seltzer with the dinner of cold roasted chicken and potato salad and fresh greens that Richard served them. It was the last of the bounty folks from the island had brought to Richard after he found the bodies on Wednesday. Just like any death, the support tended to wilt away before the week was out.  They ate quietly, none of the playfulness that was usual for the two detectives. Richard thought they were getting their ‘game faces’ on.
          When Mara went looking for chutney in the refrigerator, she opened the door, then closed it immediately and stared at the dozen or so things held on the surface with magnets. She didn’t mention it, but Richard watched her and realized she ‘didn’t know what she didn’t know’ and was confused by it all.
          They all watched a little TV after dinner, Mara flipping restlessly through the 7 or 8 channels. Dante went to the second bed room for a quick nap and Mara closed her eyes, sitting on the couch. Richard made coffee that he didn’t drink and spooned out vanilla ice cream that ended up going to Cecelia.  Finally he went into the “office” bed room and went on the internet, searching for a half-hour or so until he found, and printed out, what he had been looking for, though he wasn’t sure, when he was looking, what he was ‘looking for’.
          Shortly after midnight, after sternly warning Richard to ‘stay inside’, no matter what, although they did let him make a quick trip to his car,Dante and Mara took some of the throw pillows scattered around the living room furniture and took up prone positions under the deck of the church and rectory. While they were there, Richard found the tape recorder he used to record sermons and the Bob Dylan cassette that Miriam had given him because he didn’t own a CD player. He put the tape in the machine and set it on the book shelf and went to his room, reading a mystery novel with Cecelia beside him, trying, though failing, to fall asleep.

Transcript of a phone call to the (DEA in Boston, logged in at 12:08 p.m., Sunday, October 2-, 2003.
            DEA: Department of ATF, how may I help you?
            Caller: Something big going down on Block Island tonight, after midnight.
            DEA: How may I direct your call?
            Caller: Get agents out there. It’s up Spring Street, on the beach below some church.
            DEA: What kind of event are you describing.
            Caller: Big drug deal. Get there. (connection from 401-466-7171 disconnected)

Transcript of a phone call to the Office of Homeland Security in NYC, logged in at 12:12 p.m., Sunday, October 2-, 2003.
            HS: Homeland Security, how may I help you?
            Caller: You have  agents on Block Island. Inform them there’s a big drug deal going down tonight. This is not a crank call.
            HS: You’re calling from Block Island? Where is that? What is your name?
            Caller: Down on the beach near some Episcopal Church. Let your people know.
            HS: Is this a matter of national security?
                        (call was disconnect from 401-466-7171)


          It all ‘went down’, as they say in TV and Movies, like this, as near as anyone can tell.
          The note that Dante and Mara found at the Jamaican’s house had, unlike all the others, been slipped under their door. It said:
            Things have gotten hot. Monday night will be the last delivery for a while. After that pick up, go home for a while, see your families. Come back in December. There will be a Christmas bonus.

          So the Rhode Island State Police and the FBI (from Dante’s mouth to Flash Gordon’s ear) knew about the drop of drugs in the ocean. And they knew Eli and Jonas would be coming back toward St. Anne’s, as always. Malcolm Alt, of Block Island’s finest, had seen the note as well. There had been two anonymous calls, later traced to the public phone near the beach of Old Town, made to Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Agency tipping both agencies off about the action. Another call from that phone to a certain Milo Miano in Providence, just three minutes later involved several agencies in search warrants and arrests in the following months. In fact, a check of the calls from that phone revealed it was the contact for the whole drug smuggling operation. From that phone, the whole debacle had gone down. In the end, the caller from that innocent phone was known. Case closed.
          However, on that night, the five agencies of law enforcement involved had chosen different paths. Dante and Mara, of course, were waiting under the deck of St. Anne’s. Homeland Security had broken into the summer house where the seagull liked to sit and Cosby and Nash were armed and ready. The FBI, against Flash’s advice, infiltrated the small maze in the field behind St. Anne’s, near the ocean. The two agents came too early, failed to wait on Agent Gordon and discovered the wet suits Eli and Jonas would need, retreated over a stone wall and waited there where Flash found them.  Three DEA agents set up their surveillance behind the stone wall directly across the field from the FBI’s stone wall. Malcolm Alt, not a bad policeman but limited in his field experience, waited with two other under trained officers in a Block Island police car parked near where the Lexus had been turned over on Spring Street.
          The scene was set.
          At 2:30 a.m., Eli, less drunk than Jonas on good rum, quietly entered the church through the ever open door. When he emerged he had what he thought was a waterproof package containing about $375,000 in unmarked bills. Actually, it was cut up pages from the Boston Globe. The 13 law enforcement agents involved in the stake out all wondered where Eli had found the money. The only civilian watching the proceedings—Fr. Richard David Lucas—knew for sure, but he wasn’t telling anyone yet.
          Eli and Jonas located their wet suits in the small maze, stripped down and pulled them on. They were carrying flippers and snorkels and both were superb swimmers, having been conch divers back in Jamaica. Even a little tipsy, they could out swim most Olympic medal winners.
          As they had done dozens of times, they swam out to a buoy about a hundred yards off the rocky beach, towing an identical buoy hooked to the cash they thought they had. Switching the lines from the two buoys was seamless, as always. They swam silently back to the shore with what they believed to be nearly half a million dollars worth of heroin. Little did they know, because of a phone call made from a public phone near a beach on Block Island, they were dragging carefully wrapped packets of flour and sugar. Wet as they were, they had been ‘hung out to dry’ by those above them. No ‘connections’ would be found, those overconfident bosses believed. Eli and Jonas would take what all Fr. Lucas’ television shows, movies and crime novels would refer to as the fall.
          The two Jamaicans changed out of their wet suits, hid the buoy they’d pulled out of the chill north Atlantic and walked down the road toward Spring Street and St. Anne’s talking in whispers about their good luck and the time they would spend back where it was warm and the sea was mild. All that was left to do was to get home with both the drugs and the money and the next day take the Ferry to Port Judith and a cab to Providence airport. All would be well, all would be well, all manner of things would be well for them.
          Here’s what went wrong: as the FBI crossed the stone wall to the south of Eli and Jonas with stealth born of training and Drug Feds crept over the wall to the north with an equal adroitness…and as the Homeland Security Agents abandoned their illegally entered house to track the two Jamaicans…and as Malcolm Alt opened the door of his cruiser, causing a light to come on that Eli and Jonas would have seen had they not been exhausted by swimming and a bit high on rum…and as Mara and Dante lay, face down, on the deck of St. Anne’s…at just that moment Cecelia started whining and fidgeting and dancing around as if she needed to pee and Richard David Lucas, a man who had five years of education beyond his BA in English, decided it would be alright to let the half Lab/half Retriever out the back door of the rectory to relieve herself.
          Well, the rest is obvious. Cecelia ran around to the front and surprised Eli and Jonas in the church parking lot where she began to lick them like long-lost friends. Powerful flashlights that various federal agencies had brought with them came on, flooding the two Jamaicans and Cecelia as if it were mid-day.
          Thirteen guns were drawn and five law enforcement groups began screaming—at the two “perps” and the dog. At just that moment, Richard rushed out the front door of the Rectory, worried about someone shooting his dog. His sudden appearance upped the anxiety of 12 fingers on 12 triggers. Only one gun carrying person reacted differently. Mara leaped to feet with the grace of a gazelle and brought her Glock down on Richard’s left temple with a calculated and remarkably effective blow.
          He dropped like a stone. His mind became oatmeal with a little honey and two pats of butter.
          “Sorry, Richard,” she whispered to him through the haze of his semi-consciousness, “sorry, love.”
          It took another ten minutes to calm everyone down enough to lower their guns. It was Dante, obviously, who finally closed the deal. Eli and Jonas were face down in the gavel of the parking lot, half-drunk and scared nearly to death while a 70 pound dog licked their faces. Nearby was a small suitcase sized package of the raw material of sweet rolls.
          Dante stood up and holstered his gun. He walked across the illuminated parking lot and pulled two sets of handcuffs from the pockets of his tailored suit that he’d bought in Venice a year before.
          “I’m Lt. Dante Caggiano of the Rhode Island State Police,” he shouted to the dangerous people with guns all around him. “Block Island is, as loathe as I am to admit it, part of Rhode Island. I am now putting these two men under arrest. Officer Alt will help me transport them to a retaining facility—if there is one on this rock—and we will sort out the rest after that….Is that acceptable to the ladies and gentlemen here assembled?”
          One by one, as Dante and Malcolm secured the prisoners, the lights went off and adrenaline pumped law enforcers began to wonder and ask each other if there was anywhere to get a drink this late on Block Island. The only answer was the Rectory of St. Anne’s and so agents from three federal bureaucracies filed into Richard’s home away from home to drink up all the spirits people from the parish had brought him while Dante took the ‘perps’ to jail and Mara carried Richard—literally ‘carried him’—to his bed and found ice to apply to the wound she had inflicted on his head.
          About 4 a.m. Mara called Dr. Weinstein who came to check Richard out to see if he needed Brooks to fly him to a hospital on the mainland. Brooks had arrived a few minutes before Mara called with a message from the Commandant of the Rhode Island State Police to “cooperate fully” with all federal agencies and, surreptitiously, to make this collar be Rhode Island’s alone. Dante is in the right bureaucracy, Mara thought, deciphering the message.
          The doctor was there when Richard began to revive. “A mild concussion,” he said. “You must know how to hurt people appropriately.”
          Mara didn’t smile. She knew she must go to interview the two Jamaicans with Dante. And she needed to move all the feds out of the rectory. She wished Miriam was still here to be with Richard. Cecelia was curled around his body, whimpering a bit, but he needed a “watcher”. At just that moment, Stevenson came into the room.
          “I’ve heard about it somewhat,” he said to Mara, embracing her. “I’ll sit with him if you have to go.”
          She was delighted and so relieved.
          “Oh, Stevenson,” she said, near tears, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
          She knelt by Richard’s bed and kissed his forehead.
          “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
          His eyes opened and he spoke, a little garbled, but understandable: “you had me at ‘I’m sorry, love’.” Then he seemed to fall asleep.
          She kissed his forehead again. Looking at Stevenson and Dr. Weinstein she said, “I’ll leave him in your hands. Be gentle with him.”
          The doctor nodded and Stevenson embraced her. “Worry not,” he said.
          “He’s so lucky to have you,” Mara told him, just before she left.
          All night through, Stevenson sat by Richard’s bed. 
             
          While the agents raided Richard’s alcohol, trading cop stories, and Mara worried about how badly she had hurt him, Dante and Malcolm finally separated the Jamaicans from the happy dog while Cecelia went in the house with all her new federal friends and discovered her master in bed, only a bit conscious. She lay against him, wet and muddy, unwilling to move from the spot.
          Luckily Flash Gordon emerged from the herd of law enforcers to help Dante and Malcolm and the two middle aged, overweight part-time Block Island policemen Officer Alt had brought along on what he kept referring to as ‘the sting’. Dante was too wired up to point out that it had been more like an ambush than a sting, plus, he had his hands full with Eli. Jonas was drunk enough to be compliant and a much smaller man than his partner, so the three Block Island cops got him into the back seat of the cruiser with only a little trouble. Eli, on the other hand, was angry and frightened and kept yelling “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” Dante thought he meant it for Jonas but couldn’t be certain. Flash outweighed the Jamaican and helped Dante force him into the seat beside of Jonas, who looked like he was about to throw up. Dante and Officer Alt leaped into the front seat and, making a broad U-turn in the parking lot at more speed than necessary and went bouncing down the dirt road to Spring Street.
“Jesus, Malcolm,” Dante hissed between clinched teeth, “you just drove through a fucking crime scene! Slow the fuck down!”
Since the FBI’s car was hidden down a separate dirt road, Flash looked in Richard’s Volvo, discovering, as he thought he would, that the good pastor left his keys in the ignition so he could always find them. Agent Gordon and the other two Block Island cops climbed in and followed Malcolm and Dante.
“Where does he think he’s going?” Flash asked out loud. “Where’s the fire?”
One of the cops in back said, “Malcolm’s a bit hyped up. He’s never been in on a ‘bust’ before….”
Flash shook his head. “A bust...” he whispered under his breath.
Back in the Police car, Malcolm moved his hands toward the controls for lights and siren.
“If you touch that,” Dante said tightly, “I’ll tear off your hand and feed it to you. Christ, man, its 3:30 in the morning on a nearly deserted island.”
From the back seat, they heard a moan and then retching.
“Jesus, mon,” Eli shouted, “the fool is vomiting on me….”
Dante smiled and took out a cigarette.
“You can’t…,” Malcolm began.
“I know I can’t smoke in the car,” Dante replied, flicking his expensive lighter and inhaling deeply. “But the smoke will cover the stench….”
Eli was thrashing around in the back, pushing Jonas away roughly with his knee. “Stupid, stupid, stupid….”

The Block Island Police Station had a single holding cell. Dante noticed there was a scatter rug on the floor, patterned bedspreads on two single beds and even a bedside table and lamp.
He told Malcolm to get the lamp and table out of the cell. “Is everything on this half-assed island a bed and breakfast?”
Malcolm and Flash waited until the Block Island police had uncuffed Jonas and poured him into bed. He groaned for a moment then started snoring. Jonas, Dante now saw, was a short, balding man built like a barrel. A rum barrel, he thought. Late 40’s, he imagined. Must be what passes for the brains of these two.
Since he and Flash were holding the still hand-cuffed Eli by his biceps, they could feel the hard sinews of muscle. And this one is the ‘muscle’, Dante continued to think.
“How did he swim that drunk?” Flash said to Dante.
“Fool never swim,” Eli answered, obviously furious.
Dante and Flash exchanged a glance.
“Want to tell us more?” Flash asked in a calm voice.
They watched Eli’s face melt from anger to thoughtfulness and then morph into fear.
“I need my ‘rights’ read, mon,” he said, covering his anxiety with bravura. “I need my phone call….I want to lawyer up….”
Dante laughed, getting a glare from Eli and a smile from Flash Gordon.
“Jesus,” he said, “lawyer up”! Too many cop shows on TV, Agent Gordon.”
“I agree, Lt. Caggiano,” Flash said, his smile growing broader.

After they had freed one of Eli’s hands and cuffed the other to a steel desk, which they were glad to see was bolted to the floor, Dante put a phone set in front of him. “Make your call….”
They moved away, straining to hear nonetheless, as Eli dialed and then talked in rapid, but muted words. Dante noticed the man was over six feet tall, probably in his early 30’s and, as the weight lifting crowd at the RISP called it, ‘buff’. He was still in his rain slicker and jeans. They hadn’t carried figured out, the two Jamaicans weren’t planning to have to masquerade any more. Eli was darker than his friend—though friendship didn’t seem evident between them—with a chiseled face and nearly shaved head. He was a striking looking man, unlike Jonas, and Dante pondered again how mere skin color could make someone invisible sometimes. This was a man everyone should remember if they saw him only once.
He stayed on the phone longer than Dante had imagined he would. They’d find out later what the number was he had dialed—obviously one he had memorized for just such an eventuality. When he finally hung up, he turned toward the assembly of five officers. The two older guys were drinking coffee and eating what looked like home-made peanut butter cookies. Officer Alt, Dante credited him, was hyper-alert and stood with a hard look on his face and his right hand resting on his service revolver.
“My lawyer’ll be here on the first plane, mon,” Eli said, as dangerously as he could manage. The man on the other end of the phone had spoken in clipped, menacing sentences, threatening to ‘leave him in the lurch’ if he said ‘boo’ to the cops.” Eli wasn’t sure what a ‘lurch’ was or why he would say ‘boo’ to the police, but he got the point. “I ain’t talkin’, mon, ‘till he gets here.”
They put him in the cell with Jonas after warning him not to do bodily harm to his accomplice.
“You are in one shit-load of trouble, my man,” Flash said, shutting the cell and realizing Eli could probably break the lock with his hands, “so hurting him won’t be any deeper load of shit—but you’d be facing it all by yourself.”
“I’m thinking, Mr. ------,” Dante added, “that your friend there might be a little deeper than you. I’m just thinking that. So you’ll want him around when all this gets to a judge.”
Eli growled, “stupid, stupid, stupid….” Then he climbed onto the bed and turned his face away from the still snoring Jonas.

One of the other FBI agents had retrieved the car and drove Mara to the station after Stevenson and Dr. Weinstein had arrived at the rectory. When she arrived she found Flash, Dante and Malcolm in the one office of the police station, all wearing the ubiquitous rubber gloves of police work and all chuckling to themselves. Dante was so busy chuckling that he wasn’t smoking.
On the table they were sitting around were the two packages Eli and Jonas had been carrying up from the water when they were licked into submission by detective Cecelia. Malcolm had marked the bags as evidence and Dante had used his expensive pocket knife to carefully cut away the waterproof coverings and reveal the contents. When Mara walked in, Malcolm stood up and said, “Sgt. Coles….How’s Fr. Lucas?”
She shook her head. “He’ll be fine I think….Me, I’m not sure….”
          “He really fell for you, Sergeant,” Dante said, still chuckling.
          Mara glared at him, then rolled her head as if she had a stiff neck. “Dante, you’re chortling. I’ve never seen you chortle before. What’s the joke?”
          “Nearest I can tell,” Flash jumped in, “the joke’s on our friends in the lock up….”
          Between bouts of laughter, they explained to Mara that the Jamaicans were obviously going to make off with both the money and the drugs but one package was dollar bill sized cuttings of what must have taken the whole Sunday Globe and the other was zip lock bags full of what appeared to be flour mixed with sugar.
          “Or Splenda,” Flash said, touching the white stuff with his finger and licking it.
          “I’m sure it’s sugar, Agent Gordon,” Malcolm said seriously. “Sugar is much heavier than Splenda. From the weight of these plastic bags….”
          The two other men, almost giddy from exhaustion, laughed. Mara gave them a withering look and picked up one of the bags. “I think you’re right, Officer Alt,” she said, hefting the white substance in her hand. Good detective work.”
          Malcolm fairly beamed as the other two tried to regain their composure.
          The four of them, realizing it would be mid-morning before Jonas was fully awake and Eli would wait for the mysterious lawyer, spent much of the rest of the darkness going over and over ‘what they knew’ and ‘what they still needed to find out’. Though everyone had guesses, no one was sure where the money had been hidden in the little church where it was switched each time there was a delivery with the still damp packet of drugs.
          “One thing though,” Dante finally added, opening manila folder with the date and the three men’s signatures on it, “this was around Eli’s neck….” He removed an evidence bag with a sturdy, rather old fashioned silver key on it. A circle of rawhide was threaded through the head of the key and tied in a knot.
          Mara shook her head. “The only thing that key might fit is the ciborium….” Seeing the confusion on Malcolm’s face, she added, “the little box attached to the wall beside the altar for the reserved sacraments….But that’s not big enough to packages the size of these in….”
          “Oh my,” Dante said, recognition flooding his face. “The plot thickens….There is something in that church this key might open that is ‘just right’ for packages this size. You and I have seen it, lovely Mara. I’ve held it in my hands….”
          Her lips parted into a little ‘o’, which is what she said. “Does that mean….”
          “That’s what it would mean,” Dante interrupted, subtly nodding toward Officer Alt, who was still staring at the key and looking lost. “But I’m guessing our sleeping prisoners have no idea who their accomplice is, so how do we prove it….”
          Malcolm was about to ask who they thought the accomplice might be when Eli started yelling in the other room that, “This stupid fool threw up again! Get in here and clean it up, Mon.” Malcolm left, clearly disgusted at the prospect.
          “If we say it in front of him, my darling,” Dante said, finally deciding to smoke again, “it’ll be all over the island before dawn….”
          “You don’t think Malcolm is discreet?” Mara asked, clearly it was a rhetorical question for neither of them bothered to respond.
          Later, with dawn just beginning to break, the three of them stood outside the Police Station. One of the other FBI guys, Terrell, who was just as black and just as big as Eli, stayed behind to keep things calm. Mara would drive Richard’s Volvo back to the church while Flash and Dante went for breakfast at the airport, just to see if they could spot a lawyer getting off a plane. They all leaned against the FBI car, silent, watching the light come, staring out at the sea they could see in three directions.
          “If you get a chance and it feels right,” Dante said as they listened to birds catching breakfast all around them, “you might try out our little theory on the good Padre. Gently, certainly.”
          Mara smiled. “Gently, Dante? You’re getting soft.”
          “Don’t you wish,” he replied, getting into the big, black, super-charged Ford.
                                               


                           VI.
Monday, October 27, 2003—6:11 a.m.
Mara was alone with Richard and Cecelia in the ‘big bedroom’ where whatever priest was serving St. Anne’s slept. She sat on the chair Stevenson had brought in from the kitchen for his night’s vigil. The parting between the detective and the Sr. Warden had been, understandably awkward. On one hand, Stevenson had kept vigil over Richard through the night. On the other hand, she had deep suspicions that Stevenson knew something more than was imaginable about the whole deal—the murders and the drugs. Mara realized there was no way to tie him to it yet; however, his gentle kiss on her cheek and his caring report on how Richard had passed the night was hard for her to accept. She was glad when he was gone.
Richard stirred about 7 o’clock. He opened his eyes and he and Mara gazed at each other for a long while. She put her hand to his forehead and held it there. He looked at her without smiling. They sat like that for another space of time, just looking at each other.
“I am so sorry…,” she began.
“Don’t worry about it….I should have never been here, and never let the dog out and never come running out there….”
“But I am so sorry I hurt you.”
“It was Eli and Jonas, wasn’t it?” he asked, knowing the answer.
She nodded.
“They were the bad guys?”
Another nod.
“For sure?”
“For sure,” she said in a voice that he would have thought ‘breathless’ but didn’t because he was accustomed to her voice.
Oh, Lord, Richard thought, ‘I’ve become accustomed to her voice’. When will I escape movies and TV?
Mara told him he needed to eat. Then she left him to go to the kitchen to scramble eggs and burn toast and make coffee for him. When she returned she brought the dog’s bowl full of kibbles and eggs. Cecelia finally dropped from the bed, enticed by eating as Mara fed Richard eggs on a spoon and heavily buttered toast from her hand.
She helped him sit up to drink the cooling coffee—milk and Splenda, just like the wanted it—and was about to ask him about Stevenson when the dog started to whine.
“She needs to go out,” Richard said, half-holding the cup and half-holding Mara’s hand.
While she was gone, letting Cecelia out, Richard gathered the pillows on his bed and laid back, knowing what he knew and wishing he could tell her, knowing he wouldn’t, not now, not yet.
When she came back she didn’t sit on the chair. She laid behind him on the bed and held him softly in her arms.
“I have something to tell you,” she said, caressing him from behind, “something you don’t want to hear…I think Stevenson knows more than he’s telling….”
He was torn with conflicting emotions. He tried to call up LWS time and realized, for the first time since she died, he couldn’t immediately count out the months and weeks and days, much less the minutes. Mara was leaning against him and he suddenly realized that she was trying to get close to him in all this debacle to ‘use’ him to solve her crime. It wasn’t his crime—he was an innocent bystander. Mara was using her guile and her body and her sensuality to ‘entrap’ him. He’d seen enough TV Cop Shows to understand why she was doing it, but it shocked him to realize how susceptible he was to her trap. And all this time he had began to imagine there was ‘something’ between them. But now she was about to violate his soul, his loyalty, his absolute commitments….How dare she?
His head was throbbing. He needed more Advil. He needed her not to feel so soft and inviting behind him. He needed to “come to himself” and shake her off—her and all her deceit and all her flirting. He was about to shrug her away when her cell phone rang.
She sat up and answered. It was Dante as she knew it would be.
“Any luck with the Padre?” he asked after she said ‘hello’.
“No.”
“He must be there with you? Right?”
“Yes.”
          “Guess who got off a plane just now?”
          She didn’t answer, aware of Richard so near her.
          “Well, I’ll tell you, since you asked, James Tennant.”
          Mara listened and did not speak.
          “Just in case you don’t know, he’s an up and coming junior partner in the law firm of ‘Duwey, Cheetam and Howe…..”
          Again, Mara was silent.
          “How close are you, darlin’? In bed with him?”
          “Affirmative,” she finally answered.
          “Well, actually, Jimbo Tennant is part of the law firm of Craft, Newsome and Collins, the very same law firm that represents, guess who? Our old friend, Milo Miano. Flash is wetting his pants, the net is closing and some very big fish may be entrapped.”
          Mara turned off her phone, knowing full well she would catch hell from Dante. She knew she had to go back to the little Police Office to be there when James Tennant, Esquire, who would inadvertently tie all this nonsense back to the mainland and hopefully to a very nasty mob connection, got there to represent Eli and Jonas.
          She also imagined as she sat on the edge of the bed where Fr. Lucas was laying, that he thought she had done all this out of duty. She knew he would have a hard time believing that she was conflicted about ‘using’ him to solve her crime. Will he ever trust me again? she wondered, afraid to ask him outright. Can he ever believe how conflicted I’ve felt all the way through?
          She re-insinuated herself next to him. But his body was hard, rigid, rejecting of her closeness.
          “Richard,” she said, as truthfully as she had ever spoken, “I’m sorry.”
          “My head doesn’t hurt that much,” he replied.
          She truly embraced him for the first time and pressed her body against his back, seeking something, some response, not for ‘the case’ but for herself.
          “That’s not what I meant,” she offered.
          After a long moment he shifted away from her in the bed. “I know,” he gave back.
          Slowly she rose from the bed. “Do you need anything?” she asked, kindly.
          “My life back,” he responded, harshly.
          She did not answer. Weighed down she walked down the hall and was opening the door when he spoke from behind her.
          “When you come back, you’ll have what you need,” is what he said.
          She wasn’t sure what he meant, but she left, taking his car without asking.

          James Tennant was good, she had to give him that. He had rehearsed both hung-over Jonas and vibrant Eli to refuse to answer any questions. And refuse to answer they did.
          Dante offered everyone in the room, including the prisoners, a cigarette from his golden case. When they all refused, he lit up and blew smoke from four inhales before he asked: “Does either of you know who was paying you?”
          Tennant trained, there was no answer.
          “How did you get your instructions?” Dante asked into silence.
          “I think it was from notes like this one,” he said, showing the note in a plastic bag they had found in the Jamaicans’ house. “But in a box in the church.” He put the communion set box on the desk and opened it with the key he’d taken from Eli’s neck.
          “Do you know who left you the notes and the money to exchange on this buoy,” he put the buoy that the FBI frogmen had detached from the anchor that held it on the table, “for the drugs on this buoy that you then put back in the box in the church?”
          Eli was shaking his head. He too wondered who the ‘connection’ was. But he didn’t know and his lawyer of last resort had told him not to talk.
          “Let me mention some names,” Dante said, “and you tell me if you recognize them. James Tennant? Stevenson Matthews? Dante Caggiano? Milo Miano?”
          Though he paused for half a minute or so between each name and the lawyer flinched involuntarily at the mention of Milo Miano, Eli and Jonas’ response was the same. Silence.
          “OK,” Flash Gordon said, after the last silence, “I am going to take this conversation away from the Rhode Island State Police in about an hour. I am Agent Gordon of the FBI. In an hour, you will be answering questions from the FBI, which I assure you is an entirely different ordeal. You’re going back to your cell and you may talk with your lawyer….Just know this, you are ‘small fish’ in this fish fry. You can take the heat all by yourselves or give us something else to look forward to eating….”
          After Officer Alt had taken the two men away, Jimmy Tennant trailing in their wake, Dante observed: “I liked the fish fry image greatly, Agent Gordon. Does it imply you are hungry?”
          It was just past 11 a.m. when Mara and Dante and Flash slid into booths in the Mohegan Restaurant. They weren’t quite open but badges and Flash’s ID got them in. They sat for half-an-hour drinking water with lemon in it before they could order from the lunch menu and have drinks. FBI power only goes so far….
          They all had bloody Mary’s though their lack of sleep and the general disposition of the case would mitigate against it.
          “To unconventional ‘cops’,” Dante toasted them.
          So they ate fried seafood and consumed several glasses of vodka and tomato juice, knowing the ‘missing link’ was still missing.
          Finally, over bad coffee, Mara told them that Richard had promised that they would have what they needed. Flash paid and walked back up the hill to Block Island’s representation of a ‘jail’. Dante and Mara had some cheese cake for dessert, just to give Richard time for what he was doing, and then drove his car back up Spring Street to the church. 


Richard was prone on the couch listening to a cassette of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks on the little tape recorder he sometimes used to record his sermons, an ice bag on his head, several ibeprophins in his stomach and the bottle on the coffee table along with a bottle of Diet Coke. He had slept after Mara fed him breakfast, after he began to think he was being ‘used’. When he woke up at a bit after 10 he had taken Advil and called Stevenson to ask him if he could come over. He remembered Mara telling him how Stevenson had spent the night with him and would be back soon and listened to Mara’s apologies and seen her sad eyes fill with tears three or four times.
Richard was torn between them—his old friend and this woman who had insinuated herself into his life further than was safe for him. He was torn between loyalty and discovering the truth, between old ties and justice.
“Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
blowing down the backroads headin’ south.
Idiot wind, blowing everytime you move your teeth,
You’re an idiot, babe,
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe….”

He heard a car pull up in the gravel and Cecelia rose, tail wagging to greet Stevenson as he came and opened the door. So proprietary, Richard thought, just like always….but I never really noticed.
The Senior Warden was dressed as if going to court—a pale gray suit with tiny black pinstripes, a blindingly white starched shirt and a Yale tie. But he wore waterproof, ankle high duck boots. How incongruous, Richard realized, always enough misdirection with Stevenson to keep you from coming to opinions, from seeing through the guise…but I never really noticed.
“Richard,” Stevenson said, a mixture of sympathy and cheerfulness in his voice, “how’s your head? I hear you were a hero….”
“Hardly,” Richard laughed, making his head hurt. “More like the anti-hero, or non-hero….”
Stevenson smiled, showing his perfect teeth. “But you were there for the ‘shoot-out’….”
Richard pulled himself off the couch. It felt like his right eye was about to come out of his left ear, but he made it to his feet, staggered a bit, waved Stevenson away when he tried to help him and said, “or the ‘anti-shoot-out’ or ‘non-shoot-out’.”
This time Stevenson laughed and Richard forced himself to laugh in return. He spent the night watching over me, Richard reminded himself, already regretting what he was about to do.
Making his way around the coffee table toward the bookshelf where the tape player was. “Let me turn this off,” he said. Dylan was singing “You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done, in the final end he won the wars after losin’ every battle…. After pushing “Stop”, he pressed “Record”, as quietly as possible, moving the volume to high. Turning toward Stevenson he said, “Drink?”
The elegant man looked at his watch. “A little early,” he said, “but if you’re imbibing, so will I. Scotch maybe. Neat.”
Richard poured the drinks—a full two fingers of scotch for Stevenson and a dribble on the rocks with lots of water for himself. His mind was racing—how do I do this? Mara and Dante would know. And what about my loyalty to this man—all he’s done for me, 20 years of friendship? And yet…yet…if I’m right he is a drug dealer and a murderer, after the fact, but a murderer all the same.
Richard took a deep breath, trying to remember every interview with a suspect he’d ever seen on Law and Order or read about in the mystery books he used to devour. Then he whispered what might have been the first ‘real’ prayer he’d prayed in over a year—“help me”.
“Cheers,” Stevenson said, raising his glass.
“Salutations,” Richard replied, and they drank. Richard noticed that his friend’s hand shook, almost imperceptibly as he lifted his glass to his mouth. He also noticed Stevenson almost drained the drink in one gulp. Maybe this will work, God, Richard thought.
“About this whole mess,” Richard began, his head pounding, suddenly thinking scotch might have been good for him as well, “I have a few questions I need to ask you.”
Stevenson’s eyes bored into Richard’s. He finished off his drink and pointed to his glass. Richard went to the kitchen and brought the whole bottle to the coffee table. After replenishing his drink—2 and a half fingers, Richard noticed, Stevenson finally responded: “Questions?” was all he said.
“Well,” Richard began, his concussion suddenly releasing a whole panoply of symptoms—light too bright, dull pain, mild nausea—“I just think you might know a lot more than you’re saying….” After Stevenson took a healthy drink and stared at the ceiling, Richard added, “It’s just something I think.”
“And your evidence is?” Stevenson asked, filling his glass again. Richard was emboldened by the quantity of scotch the old man was drinking and at such speed.
“I’ve seen the note that Eli and Jonas got from their contact. And I know the handwriting.”
Stevenson, in mid-sip, started to speak, spilling Scotch on his tie and shirt. Bingo, Richard thought, holding up his hand to stop the Senior Warden from responding.
“And I know about the box—the box in the sacristy…. You wouldn’t have left the porcelain set there.  With it in the box there was no room for the money you left and the drugs you picked up. But you brought it back sometime before the search.” Suddenly Richard had a revelation. “You brought it back in your Bean bag with the chicken soup, just to show it was there. And I know where the Jamaicans got the sodium penathol.” Richard watched Stevenson’s countenance fall. He had always thought that was just a line from the Psalms, but now he saw it happen. All the confidence and hubris and sophistication of Stevenson Matthew’s demeanor melted away. He was no longer a ‘mover and shaker’, friend of presidents, wealthy New England scion of law and banking—instead, he was only an abandoned boy from a dying town in Pennsylvania.
“I hate doing this, Stevenson,” Richard almost whispered, almost in the tone of Mara’s natural voice, “but I have to know. I just have to know….”
Stevenson regained some of his regal bearing. He finished off another glass of liquor and poured yet another slowly.
“And how much of all you know,” Stevenson asked, a bit of his childhood accent slipping in from fear and alcohol, “have you told your new friends from Providence?”
Richard realized it might be the last time in the conversation he could tell the truth. So many times in his obsession with TV and movies he had felt a twinge of doubt when interrogators intentionally lied to the suspects. That wasn’t fair, he always thought. But now, in that moment, his friend of 20 years held in the balance, he realized that lying is sometimes necessary, sometimes lying is the way to Truth.
“I’ve told them nothing,” he said, truthfully.
Stevenson sighed audibly. When he spoke his voice was so slurred that Richard knew he hadn’t started drinking just a few minutes ago.
“I suppose I need to tell the truth,” he said, softly. Then he added, a little drunken edge to his voice, “and you would tell me, doubtless, that the Truth will set me Free?”
Richard leaned back into his chair across the coffee table from his old friend. He’d never had any illusions that Stevenson was a pious man—but now, in this moment, knowing what he knew, imagining what he didn’t yet know—Richard ached. Loyalty was always his highest virtue. And, in spite of whatever else, he was loyal to this man.
“You’ve done so much for me, Stevenson,” he began….
Drink had turned Stevenson a bit manic. He stood up and started pacing around the room, glass in hand, a lot like Dante did, but without the same gracefulness.
“Damn right, I have,” Stevenson said, anger edging into his voice. “And now I need to know what you are going to tell those fucking detectives you’ve become so fucking bonded with…in more ways than one….”
The look Stevenson gave him turned him into “bad cop” in his amateur role in all this. That look was lascivious, the only word Richard could find for it. And he realized Stevenson had already imagined what he, himself, had imagined—Richard and Mara locked in an embrace, rolling on the bed, showering together.
“Didn’t take so long to forget your precious Susan, your dead and precious Susan, did it?” Stevenson was staggering in the middle of the room, his eyebrows arched, his eyes wet with drink and imagining. “You called out for the beautiful detective last night. She cold-cocked you and yet you were whimpering her name…’Mara….Mara….show me your gun, Mara….” And then, drunk as he was, he slowly moved his crotch in and out, swinging his hips. He took a drink and laughed.
Richard suddenly remembered all the ways Stevenson had looked at Susan, through all the years, all the innuendos he had spoken, all the overly long embraces at 19 arrivals and departures from the Block. The Truth, he suddenly realized, the Truth will set you free…but first it will piss you off….
“It’s your life we’re talking about here, not mine” Richard said, hoping Stevenson was too drunk to notice the blinking light on the tape player that said “recording”.
Then Richard lied—bald faced and boldly. “I’ll never tell them what I know,” he began, stepping out into virgin territory for him, “but if I am to remain ‘loyal’ to you, I must know. I must know, my old friend.”
For three-quarters of an hour, after Stevenson, exhausted by too much morning scotch and too much guilt, had collapsed back into his chair, the man talked. He was deflated and, Richard believed, knew the priest would tell on him.
It was then that Stevenson recounted his lonely, painful childhood in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, abandoned by his father and raised to greatness by his house-cleaning mother who worked herself to death, literally, for him. He had recreated himself as a scholarship student at Yale, married into money, made tons of money himself, become a man ‘to be reckoned’ with, lost his wife’s fortune on bad investments and been drawn into a scheme by one of his less than savory clients, who was a silent partner to the Mianos, to smuggle drugs to the mainland via Block Island.
“I needed the money,” he said, weeping now, a pitiful sinner and drunk, “to BE who I had become….”
He laid out the whole plot to Richard, much of which he had guessed already.
Richard spoke very little, hoping the tape was long enough and wouldn’t click off at some point, exposing his blatant lies. But he did interrupt Stevenson’s confession from time to time.
“The two people in the Lexus,” he asked, “did you order them killed?”
“No, of course not,” the old man, looking older by the minute, answered. “I just provided the sodium penathol. And I warned them about using too much….”
“The truth serum you got from Dr. Weinstein?” Richard said softly, “because you convinced him it could help you deal with your wife’s death?”
“How did you figure that out?” Stevenson asked, seeming genuinely curious.
“The internet,” Richard said, kindly. “A Time Magazine article from 1958 when some doctor had decided sodium penathol would help people deal with trauma in controlled doses.”
Stevenson laughed. It was a real laugh, not the laugh of someone drunk. “The internet! That’s where I found it too,” he said. “How about that.”
“Kismet,” Richard replied, a little harsher than he meant to be. Then he asked, softer again, “did you ‘warn’ them in person? Did you tell them face-to-face how much was safe?”
Stevenson looked confused—drunk and bewildered. “I never met the two gentlemen,” he said. “I’m not stupid. It all started in Providence. They were ‘sent’ here to do this. I mailed them a key to the box and communicated only by notes…notes they were supposed to destroy.”
“And they did,” Richard commented, “except for that last one you must have pushed under the door to their house.”
The old man shrugged and Richard’s guilt at betraying him grew. But the plunged on: “I have to ‘know’ the whole story, Stevenson….”
So Stevenson laid the whole thing out—how he had turned in the Jamaicans with an anonymous call to Homeland Security and DEA. How he and the contact he had in Providence had decided to set them up with a false ‘delivery’. How he thought it would be all over—no connection to him—and, most damning, how they could start again in the spring with new runners, new swimmers, new middle men.
“There are powerful people involved in this,” he told the priest, “people who wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone who crossed them….” He paused for a long moment. “You, for example. Your children. Your grandchild. They are very powerful.”
Richard took it as the threat it was. Stevenson realistically couldn’t depend on Richard’s ‘loyalty’. Stevenson needed to cause fear in Richard’s heart. But that heart was too full of new life, of coming alive again, that the threat made him angry.
“Do you think they’re more powerful than God?” he asked.
Stevenson shook his head, amused. “God doesn’t hold a candle to them,” he said.
Shortly after that, it was over.
Richard walked him to the porch when it was finally all told and recorded over Bob Dylan. Stevenson, always the gentleman, offered his hand to Richard and Richard, always loyal, took it. But before letting go, he had one more question, one that shouldn’t be on tape.
“Cynthia’s death,” the priest asked, “was that really an accident?”
Once more, as it had when they began, Stevenson’s face collapsed.
“Oh, God, Richard, you don’t think I could have killed her?” he asked, suddenly sober.
“You’d lost all her money,” Richard replied, leaving that to hang in the Autumn air of an October afternoon on and island in the Atlantic.
“None of that mattered,” Stevenson whimpered. “She knew. I told her I’d practice some law, get on some paying Boards, even sell my collection. She said it didn’t matter, it was just money. She had just forgiven me when I let go of the tiller on the sailboat to hug her and a wave turned us over. It was a mistake even a rookie sailor wouldn’t make. But I did. She forgave me and in return, she drowned.”
“That’s what really happened?” Richard asked, growing less skeptical. “So why didn’t you follow through with your promise to her?”
Stevenson staggered a bit and Richard kept him from tumbling down the steps from the deck to the parking lot.
The old man took a deep breath. His alcohol dampened eyes were now full of real tears.
“I got greedy after she died…and needy. You must know how that is, you of all people. But Cynthia’s death was a tragic accident…one of my own making, I must grant you that. But I loved her. That…that, you must believe, my friend. And forgive me,” he whispered.
Inexplicably, totally out of character, Richard raised his right hand and made the sign of the cross over Stevenson.
“In the name of God,” he said, prayerfully (his second ‘real’ prayer since Susan died), “you are forgiven.”
Stevenson embraced him, stinking of scotch and guilty sweat. Then he climbed in his Jeep and turned around awkwardly in the parking lot.
He lowered the passenger side’s window and called to Richard.
“Tell them I won’t run,” he said. “I’ll be home when they need me….”
Then he drove off, wobbling on the dirt road from side to side.

Dante and Mara found Richard drinking the rest of the bottle of scotch that Stevenson had left. He had told himself getting stinking drunk would help the pain in his head and his heart. But he knew it wouldn’t—he was just lying to himself.
“Drunk again,” Dante said, “and the crime not yet solved. Some detective you are….” Then he noticed the look of distain Richard gave him and stopped talking. He glanced at Mara who was behind him.
She sat on the coffee table and, leaning forward, asked, “what is it, Richard?”
He looked at the glass in his hand and sat it down beside her. Her eyes were soft gray in the afternoon light and Richard felt them pulling him in, disarming him. But he resisted and stared unspeaking at her. His heart was breaking in three pieces—one for the life he had known that was over, one for Stevenson and loyalty and one for her.
“Richard…?” she said. He thought he heard real concern in her voice, but how could he trust it now?
“I have your pound of flesh,” he said, so pained he didn’t even chide himself for the literary allusion.
The two detectives stared at him in mutual confusion. He almost smiled to see them so dissembled.
With more energy than he could have imagined he had, he got up with Mara’s help and went to rewind the tape on his machine.
“Listen,” he said.
Dylan’s voice came roaring out of the machine since Richard hadn’t turned the volume back down. “I couldn’t believe after all these years, you didn’t know me better than that, sweet lady….”
“Bob Dylan? I don’t understand.” Dante said, standing as still as a statue.
Richard fast forwarded the tape just a little. He knew the song by heart. “Listen,” he said, his voice breaking as he spoke.
And they did.  

When Stevenson’s voice stopped, there was the sound of a door shutting and then muffled voices. Richard realized it was he and Stevenson on the deck talking. Then the machine clicked off and everyone in the room involuntarily jumped a little. They sat for a while, no one speaking.
Then Dante slowly took out his cell phone and punched in numbers. “Flash is still on this rock, probably at a bar somewhere,” Dante said, listening to the tinny ringing.
“Dante,” Richard said.
The detective held up his hand. “Flash, it’s the Brahmin—right, Stevenson. We have him on tape with the Padre, full confession….” Dante listened. “We’ll meet you at his house. He isn’t running….No, it’s a sure thing, a damn sure thing. The only detective around here wears a collar.”
Dante waved to Mara. “Get the tape, let’s go….”
“Dante,” Richard said again.
“Richard, thank you so much for this,” he said when Mara handed him the cassette. “We’ll talk when….”
“Dante!” This time Richard used ‘the voice’ he always used with the generations of dogs who had shared his life when they misbehaved.
Just like the dogs, Dante and Mara stopped in their tracks. Dante had the door half-open and held it there. Mara stared, shocked. Even Cecelia, hearing ‘the voice’, sat and looked expectantly at Richard.
Richard took a breath and said, softly, “he’s a good man, Dante.”
Dante responded in a measured, quiet voice. “He’s also a drug smuggler and an accomplice to murder. Is he really a ‘good man’?
Richard glanced at Mara. She seemed to understand a bit of what he was saying.
“And his wife’s ‘accident’, Padre, that might have been….”
“Don’t even go there, Dante. Don’t even start,” Richard said, realizing in the moment that he had ‘gone there’ with Stevenson himself. A barely perceptible groan escaped him. “It’s your job to see ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’, Dante. But it’s my job to find the ‘good’ in even ‘badness’….What Stevenson did was indefensible, but I can defend him as a man. He kept this tiny church going and gave me his support. Maybe even his love. So he’s a ‘good guy’ in my heart, no matter what he did.”
Dante, Mara and Cecelia remained still, waiting to be released.
“Just remember that, OK?” Richard sat back down, drained by drink and emotion.
Dante nodded. “I’ll remember,” he said. So Richard waved them away.  
After a few moments, Cecelia came over to rest her snout on Richard’s knee. He rubbed her gently.
“And he’ll be dead when you get there,” he said to the departed detectives.
While drinking the first of what needed to be several cups of coffee, Richard wandered into the church’s sacristy to get a vial of holy oil, a white stole and a Prayerbook. When he came back to refill his cup, the phone rang, as he knew it would. It was Mara.
“Flash is coming to get you, Richard,” she said. “I think you know what you’ll need.”
“I’ll be waiting,” he said. He would take the last rites of his church to Stevenson, anoint his cooling head and pray the solemn prayers. It was an ironic act of loyalty, he thought, the least he could do—all he could do.


                                      *****
It was dark when Richard heard his own car pull onto the gravel of the parking lot. Dante had commandeered it, just like a cop in a movie, for the last day. The detective had obvious long ago dropped the guise of ‘not being on the island’, but his car wasn’t. It was back in Providence in the garage of Dante’s townhouse.
He had been sitting in the dark, illuminated only by the light of the muted TV as people and events and television shows paraded before his eyes with no sound. He still remembered the warm clay-like feel of Stevenson’s forehead against his thumb as he smeared the oil and whispered the ancient words of relief and release in the ear of his dead friend:
“Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;
In the name of God the Father Almighty who created you;
In the name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;
In the name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you.
May your rest be this day in peace,
          and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.”

The ‘congregation’ had been Mara, Dante, Flash, Stevenson’s sobbing Cuban house keeper and the two EMT’s on the island—Virgil, a part-time fisherman and Stella, a secretary at the tiny Block Island high school. Both of them were weeping. They had known Stevenson for most of their lives and genuinely mourned his passing. Richard, as soon as he arrived, had dispatched the law-enforcement types on duties: to find a wine glass and plate that matched, to find wine and some sort of bread—crackers would be nice, and to locate a small table that could be placed near the exquisite red leather couch Stevenson’s body was lying on. He had, obviously to everyone but the EMTs, chosen this spot to die. The syringe and vial of sodium penathol was still beside the kitchen sink. Stevenson had been well enough acquainted with his addiction to truth serum to know he’d have time to reach the couch and assume a proper position before the drug stopped his heart.
Dr. Weinstein had come and gone. He’d declared the patient dead and been questioned about the drug by Mara, who was gentle and kind in her inquiries. Richard was both angry with the 90 year old doctor’s complicity in all that had happened—addiction, murder, the ripping of the fabric of the small year-round society of the island—and in admiration of Dr. Weinstein’s loyalty to an old friend. And, since he was gone, one of the few Jews on ‘the Block’, though he’d not been to Shabbat services in several decades, it seemed only appropriate to the priest in Richard to celebrate a funeral mass in the presence of Stevenson’s cooling body.
Mara had found a half-empty package of cracked-pepper crackers. Dante returned with a bottle of Port worth several hundred dollars and Flash brought in an antique table—probably Louis XIV vintage. And together that odd assortment of worshippers shared, Richard believed if no one else did, in the very Body and Blood of Christ after he had said the proper words and broken the crackers.
No one dared not receive this odd and curious sacrament. Even Dante took a piece of cracker from Richard’s hand on his tongue and sipped—though not as deeply as he would have wished—from the fragrant, thick wine. At the last, Richard took a tiny piece of cracker, dipped it in the wine and reached over to the haunting oval of Stevenson’s mouth to place it on his dead tongue.
Dante shivered and was about to tell the priest not to touch the body again, certainly not to put foreign objects, like a wine soaked piece of cracker, in the body’s mouth. But Mara touched him lightly on the sleeve.
“He needs to do this,” she whispered, “we’ll explain to the M.E.”
So Dante held his tongue, still very much alive, while Stevenson’s tongue, dead almost an hour, held the Body and the soaked in Blood of Christ.
Dante did not need to worry. Dr. Anthony Jay, the Rhode Island State Police Medical Examiner would never see Stevenson’s body. It was flown off the island on a FBI helicopter Flash had summoned and delivered to a morgue in Quantico, Virginia. Cause of death was, as at least four of the people at that odd mass knew, “sodium poisoning.” However, the autopsy would also reveal a benign but growing brain tumor and a severely compromised liver. Stevenson Matthews had become a ‘dead man walking’ long before the truth serum set him free.
After the body and Flash Gordon were gone, Mara and Dante did a half-hearted search of obvious places in Stevenson’s house. They found note paper that matched the note they’d found at the Jamaicans’ house and a pen that contained ink identical to the ink on that note. They bagged them as evidence along with the syringe and vial that were easily matched to the syringes and vials from the house above the bluffs already in evidence bags.
They emptied Stevenson’s desk, a brilliant reproduction of the desk JFK had in the Oval Office of all it’s paper—carefully filed phone bills, bank statements and a damning personal calendar enclosed in an expensive leather binder—and placed them carefully, hands covered in RISP issued rubber gloves, into an empty box that once held 12 bottles of vintage Merlot. They went through all of the 17 rooms of the house, gathering whatever they though needed gathered and meticulously storing it for use in the grand jury case they were sure would occur.
All that time, Richard sat on the couch where Stevenson had chosen to die and tried to sort out hid emotions and thoughts. The housekeeper had long before gone to a neighbor’s house to make calls and plans to leave the island.
At some point, Mara drove him back to the rectory while Dante either gathered more evidence or admired the collection of porcelains Stevenson had accumulated over the years.
He still had mild symptoms of his concussion, but the symptoms that most obsessed him concerned his broken heart. Mara drove skillfully and carefully back down to the town and out to the church. In the beginnings of dusk, they said not a word to each other in the ten minutes that drive required. They both got out of the car and climbed the three steps up to the deck and the door of the house. Cecelia, ever predictable, greeted them with groans of joy and movements born of the natural grace of her species.
Still, the two humans did not speak, except to say the dog’s name and appreciate her greeting. Richard suddenly turned and opened the door. Cecelia flew through it and he followed. And Mara followed him.
The dog was already 25 yards ahead of them, running toward the sea. Mara drew even with Richard, both behind the dog, and they walked in silence.
It took a great dose of courage and a jolt of genuine fear that she was about to lose something she wasn’t even sure she wanted for Mara to speak.
“We couldn’t have done it without you,” she said.
“Of course you could have,” he answered tersely.
“It must have taken all your courage to make that tape.”
“Or all my manipulation or all my disloyalty….”
His voice was so tinged with anger that she walked for perhaps two minutes before she replied.
“Ok, it started as a ‘job’, my ‘role’ in getting the bad guys. That’s what I do, Richard, I get the bad guys.” She paused, hoping and praying he would respond. But when he didn’t, she continued: “and it became something else. I don’t know what and I don’t know when…but something very different. I came to admire you and appreciate you and then, I don’t know quite how to say it, to ‘care for you’. And tomorrow you and Dante and I will talk about the whole story and try to see if we can in any way understand what happened here on this island.
“But you need to know this. I wish we had met somewhere else, somehow else. And I know you think I’ve messed with you, somehow, someway. And I need you—really need you—to know that was part of it but not all of it….not all of it at all. Not at all.”
By that time, Sgt. Coles was weeping, something she didn’t do often, hardly at all. And she was feeling the need to get away from him, to give him space and give herself space. So she grabbed his arm and lifted her hands to his face and kissed him angrily on his lips. Then she turned and walked back to the house and his car, which she would drive back to complete whatever interrogation was possible with Eli and Jonas. Let him follow his dog into the sea. Let him disappear from her life. That would be much better. Let him live his life without knowing how she knew the courage it took for him to break the case wide open, like an egg in a frying pan. Let him live his life without knowing that what began for her as a ‘job’ became something altogether different.

Richard stood in the field and watched her walk away. He knew that whatever happened from this moment on he would never forget her gait, how she walked, the unselfconsciousness of it all, how he could know her from afar by that walk, that gate, lovely beyond graceful.
He let Cecelia wear herself out with running, pretended to eat some dinner, drank three glasses of water with four Advils and went to bed, knowing he was alone until morning. His sleep was long and dark and without dreams.







              VII.
Tuesday, October 28, 1 p.m.
          Richard slept until almost 10 a.m. on Tuesday—nearly 14 hours, interrupted only by a 7 a.m. need both he and Cecelia had to relieve their bladders. While the dog squatted in the parking lot and spent several minutes snuffling around the property, distinguishing scents and storing them, in a way humans could never imagine, Richard peed and let her back in and they both slept for three more hours.
          When they finally got up, he fed the dog and ate half a piece of toast without much interest, Richard was content to sit on the couch, watching morning TV shows, until Dante and Mara arrived at one p.m. with bagels, cream cheese, wine and most of the whole story.
“The Jamaicans knew you went out with the dog every morning, Padre,” Dante explained, smoking as fast as he could. “And we now know who told them about that. So one of them would come by while you were out—you were punctual each day—and check to box to see if there was a message de jure. That is, until you became their new best friend and they’d come by to ‘pray’.”
          “But Spencer and Johnson,” Richard asked, “how did anyone think they were mixed up in anything?”
          “Besides a romantic interlude on a rock?” Dante shook his head. “Star-crossed lovers, those two….It happened back on the mainland. Malo Miano, the late, great Stevenson’s partner in crime, is a very cautious man.”
          Richard’s headache was almost gone and his stomach was full of two bagels and his headache was medicated by good red wine Dante had found at the only Block Island package store, but his understanding was still lagging behind. “I don’t understand,” he said.
          Dante looked at him the way one would look at a dull fourth grader or at a goofy Lab/Retriever mix.
          “Miano had a source at the ferry landing in Point Judith,” Mara said, taking up the tale. For once she was the one pacing. It seemed that once things fell into place, Dante became calmer and Mara’s nervous energy kicked in. “He took down license plate numbers of suspicious cars that might belong to, oh, I don’t know, undercover cops. The Lexus fit the bill and Miano had a mole in the Providence Police Department who would run the plates.”
          “You aren’t the only one who had a daily constitutional, Fr. Lucas,” Dante took over. Richard thought they moved back and forth like tag-team wrestlers or a ball at a tennis match. “The soon to be much mourned Stevenson Matthews, walked by the public beach phone every morning at 8 a.m. sharp. If the phone rang, he’s pick it up. If not, he’d enjoy a walk on the beach. The morning after Spencer and Johnson arrived on the Block….”
          “My God, Dante, you’ve become an islander!” Mara said, pacing through the living room.
          He gave her a poison look before continuing. “Our lovebirds, Spencer and Johnson, were doubtless still in their bed at the White House when Stevenson happened by to leave a message and some sodium penathol and a couple of syringes for Eli and Jonas. He was probably here before 8:30.”
          “So the couple came over on Monday….” Richard began.
          “The earliest ferry,” Mara chirped in from the kitchen.
          “And on Tuesday….” Richard tried again.
          “On Tuesday while you were out for your jaunt with your faithful canine friend….” Dante interrupted.
          “Her name is Cecelia,” Mara added, back at the front door: pacing, pacing….
          “I know that,” Dante said impatiently. “And, as I was saying, Stevenson left the message, Eli, I think it was picked up the sodium penathol and the note, probably eating the note, totally getting rid of it, since the only note we’ve found was the one in the house out of the dozens, hundreds there had been. All this while you were eating breakfast and reading the New York Times while your dog…excuse me, Sergeant, while ‘Cecelia’ was waiting outside.”
          “I ate outside that morning,” Richard offered, “so she was with….”
          Mara laughed, back in the kitchen, and Dante fumed. “I’m up to here with these interruptions!”
          Everyone was quiet for a moment. Richard raised his hand and Mara, halfway back from the front door to the kitchen again, laughed once more.
          “Shit!” Dante said. “I call on the priest now….”
          “Sorry to interrupt,” Richard said, guilty that he was about to laugh when discussing the death of two human being, “but Eli and Jonas somehow kidnapped them?”
          Dante breathed deeply. “Yes. As they tell it, now that our inadvertent murderers are telling anyone who will listen anything and everything, hoping for a reduced sentence…it was a clean snatch. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Mara, quit pacing!”
          “How can I help it when you say things like ‘a clean snatch’ with a straight face?” she responded. Then she took a chair across from Richard at the kitchen table and took over the story. “Getting them was easy. Johnson and Spencer were accountants, not agents, not trained. They had parked up at Mohegan Bluffs and went down that endless staircase for a romantic walk on the deserted beach. It’s sad, really…they left the Lexus unlocked and when they came back our bad guys were waiting for them. They made Spencer drive back up to the rental Miano had for them.”
          “This Milo Miano rented the house?” Richard asked.
          “Not directly. It was some offshore account that wired the money to the realtor. But Flash and the FBI have the realtor’s computer. They’ll trace it back eventually….” Mara stopped and lowered her head onto her hands like a grade school kid taking a nap.
          Dante put his hand on Mara’s shoulder. It was a tender touch, Richard would remember, a touch of respect and love between good friends. Dante seemed to know what Mara was thinking.
          “Nothing could justify those poor people’s death,” he said, massaging his assistant’s arm gently. “They were, just like all of us, looking for a little tenderness in a crazy world. But one thing that gives meaning to their murders is that we will finally, one way or another, get Milo Miano and many others of his ilk.” He moved away and stretched. “It will take years of litigation with state and federal prosecutors having pissing matches over jurisdiction, bleeding money into numerous court houses, but Milo Miano, miscreant malefactor is going down! Love doesn’t conquer all, obviously. But it has given us the hooks to put into one very, very bad man and his minions. I’m sure, for Johnson and Spencer, their little bite of love wasn’t sufficient—they wanted more. But from their deaths, something good will come.”
          He smiled, first at Mara, who had raised her head, and then at Richard.
          “Jesus, Dante,” she said, her eyes wet with tears, “you’re boarding on noble…crazy, but noble.”
          “I think I’m going fishing,” Dante said, turning toward the door.
          Richard looked him over, tailored and immaculate as always. “Dressed like that?”
          The detective turned back toward them at the table.
          “Just kidding,” he said. “I simply need some air.”
          At the door, he stopped again, lighting a cigarette. “By the way, I called Miriam and filled her in on all the details since you haven’t found time to do that.” Richard started to speak, but Dante blocked him with a gesture, a hand held up meaning ‘stop’—the sign of crossing guards, cops, red road signs. “She said to tell you that Christmas in St. Louis for will be just what you need to ‘recover’ from all this.
          “Do you think, Father,” Dante asked, not giving Richard time to respond, “the dog might come with me?”
          In that moment, Richard could have almost sobbed…or shouted. “Just call her name,” he said, gently.
Dante inhaled deeply on his smoke. “Cecelia,” he said, “want to go for a walk?”
The dog climbed down off the couch, did that little stretch that dogs do, the one that looks like a bow, and trotted over to Dante and the door. Lt. Caggiano bowed from the waist, returning the salute, smiled back at Mara and Richard like a child on Christmas morning, not sure what to do about the presents under the tree, opened the door for Cecelia and they left.
Neither of them spoke for a minute or two after Dante and the dog had gone. Then Mara finished up the details that still confused Richard. She told him it was possible that originally Stevenson did try sodium penathol for his grief. Dr. Weinstein, who she’d interviewed a few hours before, though he had no business giving Stevenson the prescription, certainly believed that was true.
“Or maybe he got it for this eventuality,” Richard said, grieving himself, “for when things fell apart….But why would he give it to those two idiots?”
Mara told him Jonas Christian was a certified practical nurse who had worked for years in nursing homes in Jamaica and was perfectly qualified to administer drugs, though he probably had no idea how ‘truth serum’ worked, if it worked at all. And when both their victims died, Jonas, most likely drunk as a skunk, decided to stage a drowning.
“They had a bucket of ocean water where they kept minnows for bait when they really fished—not what they did ‘down there’.” She moved her head toward the front door and the rocky beach a quarter of a mile beyond. “He didn’t want to use all the salt water and lose the bait—he was very drunk, remember—so he switched to bottled water.”
 Certainly, she said, it was the most botched faked drowning, which isn’t common, in all of history since they left two drowned people in a car and turned it over on a street they knew well because of all the late night walks down to swim out with money and return with drugs.
“I’m not sure how much Eli really knew,” she continued. “He was out hiding the Lexus while Jonas was supposed to get the ‘truth’ from Spencer and Johnson. Had Eli known about the water Jonas siphoned down their dead gullets, he most likely would have dumped them off the bluffs into the ocean instead of leaving them in the car. Eli was truly astonished to find out what all Jonas had done. He’s a lot smarter than his buddy.”
Richard found new confusion. “Eli and Jonas had fishing gear with them Monday night, when they were arrested and you beat the shit out of me with your gun. So what was the gear we found on the beach and that Malcolm found down the way? What was that about?”
Mara, smiled at him. “Trace evidence,” she said.
“What?”
“Our murderers must have watched as much ‘cop TV’ as you, out here on this island—hardly as lively as the island of Jamaica, you must admit.” She paused to let that set into Richard’s mind. “So they bought another set—Miriam and I found out where, but not ‘who’ last Saturday. Eli, who tried to clean up the mess, told Dante he threw it away because it had been in the Lexus and he was afraid we’d find ‘trace evidence’ on it.”
“And you would have?”
“We did,” she said proudly. “The Rhode Island forensic folks put that slicker and those waders in the Lexus. No ‘bout a doubt it.”
Richard almost laughed. “I haven’t heard that expression for years.”
She shook her head. “I’m from the Midwest where ‘years ago’ is ‘today’.”
Between what Stevenson had confessed—“may his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace”, Richard found himself saying in his head—and what the detectives had told him, the picture was coming whole for Richard at last.
“But the whole thing is really so profoundly stupid, from start to finish,” Richard said, staring unaccountably at the imperfection on her bottom lip and not her North Atlantic eyes.
“Episcopalians make terrible criminals,” she said, sliding her hand across the table to touch his arm. “They have no real sense or appreciation of evil.”
Richard thought about that for a while. Then he asked, “this Milo Miano fellow, he’s a really evil man?”
She nodded. “The worst,” she said, softly. And softer still she added, “but Stevenson was evil too….”
“When will it all come out, about Stevenson, I mean?” he asked.
She pursed her lips before speaking. “Not for a while. A week. A month. Who knows—Christmas. And depending on how the lawyers want to spin it, maybe never. We’re keeping it out of the media so the FBI and the State Police can gather evidence against Miano. But, as Dante believes, the Feds will get all the credit and still screw this up.”
He was still avoiding her eyes, not wanting to be drawn into their crashing surf and dark evenings. “So I can bury him out back—his ashes in the church yard—and people won’t yet know his part in this whole stupid mess? He can have a hero’s funeral?”
“I guess so,” she slowly answered. “Who knows when it will all come out? And another thing you don’t know is about the ‘will’.”
He was startled. “Stevenson’s will?”
“His last and the testament to boot,” she replied. “Oh, the Feds will find a way to get the cash—drug money after all. But the House goes to the Nature Conservatory and the porcelains go to St. Anne’s.”
“What will St. Anne’s do with statues and bowls?” he asked.
“You really are naïve, Richard,” Mara’s low voice was sweet, almost adoring. “Dante only got a little look at them when we were there and he thinks they’re worth four or five million.”
Richard was speechless, so Mara continued, “the 20 people or so who come to this church on a regular basis could start a museum or build a cathedral or help some people who really need it with all that money.”
Now he looked into her eyes and was swept away on the stormy seas, dangerous and deadly. She stared back at his brown eyes—the color of earth, soil, humus.
“Why does Stevenson’s ‘memory’ mean so much to you?” Mara finally asked.
“Stevenson was a ‘good man’ too,” he began, not knowing where he was going, but knowing he wanted to go there. “He was generous and kind and loyal. He’s been good to me, to me and my family, for almost 20 years. I can’t let him be ‘evil’, I’m not prepared to let that be.”
Mara watched him for a long moment and sighed. “Two innocent people are dead. In my book, that’s ‘evil’.”
Richard got up, went to the kitchen and came back with another bottle of the fine Merlot Dante had brought. When he had poured them both large portions, he sat back down.
“This Milo Miano,” he began, avoiding her eyes, staring at the “No Smoking” sign on the wall behind her that Dante hadn’t heeded for a moment, “does he have a family.”
“Richard…,” she began.
“No, just tell me.”
Deep breath and then she said, “yes, of course. He has a daughter and two sons, just like you, about your children’s ages if I’ve got that right from Miriam. The sons, Rocco and Milo, Jr. are as deep in it all as their old man. Marylynn is married to a computer programmer. She’s outside it all, but it’s Milo’s money they live on—drug money, prostitution money, ugly, dirty money all laundered and folded and smelling of fabric softener.”
“And grandchildren?” he asked, thinking of Susan holding their grandchild before she died.
She closed her eyes, as if seeing something in her mind. “Five or six, at least,” she said. “He’s under constant surveillance and, yes, we have video of their Thanksgivings and Christmases, of them on the way to Mass, of Milo with his grandchildren playing in the yard. Real Normal Rockwell stuff, just your average American mobster, drug-dealing, murdering family at play.”
This time he reached across the table and touched her arm. She looked at him and took a long drink of her wine.
“Just like the Godfather movies,” he said.
“I know what you’re going to say….”
“Maybe you can’t see the good in even the worst people….”
“And maybe you,” she answered after a moment, staring straight into his eyes, disarming him completely, “maybe you are just another Episcopalian, unwilling or unable to appreciate evil enough.”
Richard leaned back, deep in his almost forgotten theology, wrestling, as theology always does, always must, with the nature of Evil. The truth was, Richard did have difficulty with Evil when he tried to puzzle it out. The best he could do, usually, was affirm his belief in the overwhelming goodness and grace of God and describe Evil as a ‘metaphysical default’. Just as light needed darkness to be distinguished, good needed evil. He realized, not for the first time, how insufficient such a calm, theological approach was in the face of murder, death, violence and pain. So he decided to keep his thoughts to himself.
So they sat, quietly, simply in each other’s presence, for a half-hour or so, until Dante and Cecelia came back.
Dante threw open the door and the dog bounded into the room, “we’re home!” Dante called. Both Mara and Richard got up to welcome them.

                                      *****
That moment sent Richard into a reverie that would come and go for days, for weeks, if the truth be known, until he packed his things and his dog into his wheezing Volvo and left Block Island. And the reverie, the wondering, the entangling question for him was this—“where is HOME?”
By the time he left ‘the Block’ he knew that island was not his home. And he knew that Worthington, Connecticut would not be his home again, except for as long as it took him to sell his house—about four days for $789,000, just a tad above Dante’s estimate, but it was a seller’s market. He and Cecelia house sat for a member of the parish who wintered in Florida, for reasons Richard never understood, having only been to Florida twice and hating it more the second time than the first. But it was a place to live while he said his ‘good-byes’ to his parish and met with his bishop and decided where ‘home’ would be next.
“Home”, he knew from the old and trustworthy aphorism, “is where the heart is.” So he considered where his children lived: New Haven and Boston and St. Louis and even considered living in a place in between, on some coordinates of those locations, but that ended up being Paducah, Kentucky, as best he could chart it and that seemed to make no sense.
But he knew, somehow subliminally, that when Dante and Cecelia arrived back at the Rectory after their walk that October night, Dante’s saying “we’re home” was right and true. Somehow, Richard began to imagine, “home” is not so much a place as a state of mind, a hopefulness, a belonging, a possibility.
One night he next week, Dante and Mara back in Providence, after the funeral for Stevenson which was so large it had to be held in the Baptist church and still several hundred people spilled out on the grass and the little square near the statue, he knew, somehow in an inexplicable, unexplainable, paradoxical, painful and joyful and real way, that there would be a ‘home’ for him..
And he, on that night and on a night two month’s later when he was at a dinner in his honor at St. Peter’s in Worthington, he had next to no idea where that home would be.
But he had regained Hope, a little Faith and he was thinking about praying again by that time.

          Mara and Dante left at about two p.m. to write reports and have one more go at Eli and Jonas before they were flown off the island by the F.B.I. and escaped their inquiries for good. They took Richard’s car without asking. After a 20 minute nap, his head still a little out of sorts, Richard and his dog went down to the sea for a long while.
          When he came back at 4:30, his car was in the parking lot and Mara was sitting in it, leaned back and dozing. He knocked on the window on the way by and she followed him to the house. But she stopped, just inside the door.
          “There is more to say,” Mara told Richard, who was obviously, to both of them, agitated by her presence.
          “Everything wrapped up now,” he asked, “all the paperwork done?”
          “Dante is finishing it,” she said, coming inside to the kitchen table. “Sit down, Richard, we have to talk.”
          He obeyed, like a timid school child and took his seat opposite her.
          “We have to talk—just you and me—no Dante and no Stevenson, obviously. It’s just what we need to finish up because it ‘matters’, it really ‘matters’, whether you know that or not.”
          Richard knew, really ‘knew’, that what was about to happen ‘mattered’. So he nodded, waiting for Mara to speak.
          She held his gaze with her eyes and said, “whatever you are feeling, what you did was for the greater good.”
          “The greater good,” he said, feeling suddenly angry, “betraying a friend of 20 years? Is something bigger than a friendship of two decades? And to be drawn into this by Dante…and you…you most of all.”
          “I tried say this earlier, but obviously didn’t do it well enough,” she said. He’d never heard her voice so hard and clear, almost without the smokiness and whispering quality of her speech. “I could tell you I argued with Dante and told him it was a terrible idea to involve you in any way. I did do that, and I tried to tell you that. I could say all that and it would be ‘true’. But there is another ‘truth’, if you’ll allow multiple truths, Dante was right. He was right as rain. What you knew that you didn’t know, or however that Italian ass-hole put it, that was what broke this case wide open, Richard. That was what got the bad guys caught. That was what—beyond that, way beyond that, beyond those dupes from Jamaica—will bring down Milo Miano. What a toot. Who knew this crazy case would result in handing cops what they’ve been wanting for twenty years—as long as you knew Stevenson—something solid to nail the whole Miano mob.
          “You and I were simply pawns in that. Unwillingly, both of us, I hope you believe I was as unwilling as you—but we were the pawns that moved first and broke open the chess board for bigger moves.”
          “But you’d have gotten Eli and Jonas anyway, somehow. You were already thinking about them.” Richard sounded desperate to Mara, so she spoke softly, gently.
          “Yes. You are right. But we had nothing to tie them to it all. We’ve had gotten them for the murders but not the drug drops. It was you who tied them to the church, to their connection, to Stevenson, to the pick up and drop off place. We were running blind and had no probable cause until your sermon.”
          There was a long pause. Finally, Richard said, “Don’t think you can appeal to my vanity by quoting my sermon….”
          “Preachers are ‘vain’,” Mara said, smiling as best she could. “Who knew?”
          After a while, he smiled in return.
          “But all the other stuff,” he said, “all the, God I hate the word, ‘flirting’, showing me your gun, spending all that time with me…just to solve a crime?”
          “If that had been the only reason,” she began, feeling like she was flying in a dream above artic oceans, “and it was Dante’s plan…one I reluctantly took on but ‘took on’ nonetheless—if that had been the only reason, I would still say it was worth it.”
          “The end justifies the means?” he asked, acid in his voice.
          “It often does. And in this case it does surely, I think.”
          He was tired of sitting so he stood up and walked around behind her. She scooted her chair around to face him.
          “But it wasn’t the only reason. Is that what you said?”
          She took a deep breath, trying to clear her mind, searching for the words she wanted. Richard waited. Albert, the agitated gull, was making a terrible fuss. Richard wanted to make a fuss as well—he wanted to squawk and complain that Mara was taking too long to replay. Instead, he waited.
          “This is terrifying for me to say,” she began at last, “but I do care for you in a way that has become important—no ‘dear’—to me. The bad news is,” she began at last, “that it may be something like the Stockholm Syndrome—not exactly, but something like that.”
          “Like Patti Hearst?”
          She smiled. “Before my time…but, yes. Something like that. Here we are, you and I thrown together in some unexpected and somewhat ‘dangerous’ situation where you become, in some ways, my captive. Except it all breaks down there because, for me, it’s me identifying with you in your captive state. So, I begin to sympathize, then empathize and then begin to ‘care’ in a way the situation wasn’t meant to create.”
          She paused and he thought for a moment. “That whole suggestion might be to give me a way out, a kind of ‘failsafe’…I know, that too is before your time…but, nevertheless, the ‘bad news’ applies mostly to me. I feel in danger. I identify with the object of my danger—you. I begin to rely on you, trust you, believe in you….On and on, like that…is that a possibility?”
          She nodded. “But remember,” she said, as solemn as a Sanctus bell, “I’m enmeshed in this too. It’s a shared syndrome. So we both have an out if we need one.”
          “When I came down to give Stevenson last rites, I hated you,” he told her, quietly. “But it doesn’t stick. Already the hatred is gone. Could that just be reverting to the Amsterdam Syndrome?”
          “Stockholm,” she corrected, “and yes, that could be the case.”
          “Want some coffee?”

          Over coffee at the Rectory table, in their usual places, Richard began again: “If there is ‘bad news’ there must be ‘good news’. That’s what’s known as a metaphysical default….So, what’s the ‘good news’?”
          Her hand reached out and touched his. “Tell me, Richard, is this where Susan usually sat when you were here?”
          He glanced down and nodded. She took her hand away and pushed back from the table. Standing, she moved to the chair at the head of the table and sat back down.
          “The ‘good news’ is this—for my part at any rate—being with you these few days has awakened something in me I thought was pretty much dead. I’d given up on Prince Charming. I’d resigned myself to being a detective and being Dante’s ‘girl Friday’. I don’t ‘date’ anymore. I have sex from time to time but it’s just instinctual and isn’t going anywhere. No man I’d want more than that from likes to have a romantic evening interrupted by my running off to look at the next dead body. So resignation is my modus operandi, my way of being in the world….
          “So, whatever this is,” she waved her hand back and forth between them as if shooing away gnats or dispersing smoke, “I’ve realized I have some feeling left, some emotions hanging around….And that is your gift to me.”
          He finished his coffee and wished he had one of Dante’s cigarettes though he hadn’t smoked since Jonah was born.
          “Thank you for being sensitive enough to change seats,” he said, avoiding her eyes, wanting to speak clearly and not be drawn into the undercurrents of those gray seas. “The same goes for me—the feeling and emotion parts and even ‘longing’. I haven’t ‘longed’ for anything since Susan died except for her not to be dead.
          Resignation is an interesting way to be. I had a professor in seminary who believed ‘resignation’ was that sin against the Holy Spirit Jesus talked about and we’ve wondered about ever since. To be ‘resigned’ is to resist the Spirit’s power and purpose. No hope. No possibility….And I’ve been ‘resigned’ to being the mourning widower—that and nothing else.”
          “And now?” she asked, again touching his hand.
          Finally he looked up into her eyes. He noticed a tear running down her cheek—a single, perfectly pearl-shaped tear, almost even with her lips.
          He smiled at her and said, reaching up to wipe the tear away, “that, Sgt Mara Coles, is your gift to me….”
          They simply sat at the table, not moving, their hands no longer touching, for nearly ten minutes, until Mara looked at her watch and jumped a little in her chair.
          “O my God, I’ve got to take Dante to the airport. He’s flying back to Westerly in half an hour.”
          She got up quickly and put on her leather jacket that she’d tossed on the couch. Cecelia, who all this time had been dozing on the living room floor came immediately to life, expecting a walk.
          “Do you want to come with me?” Mara asked. “I’ve got to pick him up at the Spring House in a few minutes?”
          “He’s not coming to say ‘good-bye’?”
          She smirked and rolled her eyes. “Dante’s no good at ‘good-byes’. Want to come?”
          “No, I’ll take Cecelia for a walk and think about dinner.”
          She shifted back and forth from foot to foot, like a small child with something difficult to ask.
          “What is it?” he inquired.
          She looked embarrassed. “May I take your car?”
          He laughed. “Sure. The keys are in it…like always….”
          She turned to go then turned back slowly. “May I come back for dinner? I’m not leaving until the early ferry tomorrow.”
          “Oh, yes,” he said. “You’re expected. After all, we need to say ‘good-bye’.”
          She nodded several times, smiling broadly. Then she left.
          Richard let the dog out and then searched the kitchen for dinner. Without his car, he had to make do with what he had. There were eggs and cheese and a can of artichoke hearts and a few sausage links left over from Miriam’s visit. That and the Boston lettuce, still fresh, were enough.
          He dutifully called each of his children in order of birth. Each of them was astonished at Stevenson’s involvement though Jeremy said “I always thought there was something a little ‘off-center’ about that guy. And the way the justice system works, he’ll probably not be involved at all, The Feds will find someway to exonerate him.” Jonah offered and Ivy League, mini-psychoanalysis and Miriam simply said, over and over, “holy shit, Daddy, holy shit,” to each and every revelation he provided. He assured them all that he was ‘fine’ and all would be well. He also let them know a Christmas in St. Louis sounded absolutely right, just perfect.
          His parental duty done, he turned on public radio and was listening to Mozart when Mara knocked timidly at the door.
          Cecelia ran to greet her, just ahead of Richard.
          She looked both uncertain and nervous, two emotions he’d never seen in her before, she was holding a bouquet of bayberry branches and rosehips. “I picked these for you,” she said, holding them out.
          “Is this really OK?” she asked after he opened the door and took the plants and before she came in, hugging the dog’s head.
          He nodded, standing away. “Perfectly alright, if you don’t mind an omelet and what’s left of Dante’s wind for dinner.”
          She touched his arm and engulfed him with her eyes. “I just want it to be alright,” she said in a whisper.
          Richard discovered that Mara truly ‘didn’t cook”. She wasn’t sure how omelets were made or quite how to assemble a salad from lettuce and tomatoes and olives and dressing.
          “How do you survive?” he asked her, genuinely concerned for her well-being.
          “Lot’s of delivery take-out in Providence,” she said. “We’re a ‘real city’ in that respect.”
          They ate in unaccustomed silence—Richard in his usual place and Mara at her new seat at the head of the table. Her simple offering was on the table in a vase he took from the church. Both of them were famished and exhausted.
          After dinner and cleaning up, the two of them were sitting on the remarkably uncomfortable bench that ran around the deck at St. Anne’s in the dim light of a 40 watt bulb. It was a soft and unexpectedly warm October evening. They had missed that strange island twilight—all clear and stark and clean—was edging in from the east as the sun set behind the western hill, outlining the houses scattered on the crest in blue and orange. Darkness on Block Island, Richard had always thought, didn’t ‘fall’ so much as it rose up from the ground until it swallowed the light.
          Mara was tired (“detecting wears you out,” he remembered her saying at some point) and her head was leaning back on the railing of the deck. Her eyes were closed and her legs stretched out in front of her. She was wearing a leather jacket, unbuttoned, and her simple white blouse didn’t quite meet the top of her jeans. There was the thinnest line of skin showing but Richard wasn’t looking at that. He was staring at her neck—long and vulnerable—and the barely perceptible pulse there.
          He tried to remember if other necks in other times had left him quite so weak and breathless, if he’d ever watched blood pumping beneath the skin before.
          “You know,” he said, so softly it startled him and he wondered if she heard him. The sleepless, irascible gull on the neighboring roof chose just that exact moment to fuss loudly at some perceived or imagined intrusion by another bird.
          Mara took a deep breath and Richard imagined she was asleep. But then she spoke: “I know what?”
          Words and phrases were suddenly rattling around in his head like three dozen marbles shaken and thrown into a bowl. He knew he had to say something and knew he probably shouldn’t but opened his mouth anyway.
          “You know, I think,” it all began, “how powerfully I’m attracted to you. How I am coming to ‘care’ for you, for whatever psychological reason we can invent.”
          He almost pictured the words above his head in one of those cartoon balloons. They were spoken and almost visible and there was no taking them back.
          He watched her placid face and closed eyes and began to sputter. “This whole thing…this time we’ve spent together…all the craziness…the getting shot at….”
          She sat up suddenly, smiling widely. “Almost getting shot at, remember that distinction….”
          He laughed, noticing for the first time how shallow his breath had become, how he felt inside—cold and heavy around the heart but his mind racing and his hands growing warm in the gathering darkness.
          Absently, almost without meaning to, he reached a hand toward her and she, surprisingly to him, took it in hers. Mara’s hand was almost exactly the same size as Richard’s, but younger looking, without the weird little brown spots he’d developed while he wasn’t noticing, softer in spite of who she was. A cop with tender hands, Richard thought, as if he was capable of logical thought at that moment, almost gasping for breath, his head about to explode from within, his heart racing.
          She was staring at him and he dared not look away. Summer storm clouds of gray rolled across her eyes. Her voice, always like a whisper, was softer still. “I know,” she said, “I have feelings too.”
          “For me?” Richard thought he thought, but he must have said it out loud because she answered, “of course for you….”
          Nothing much happened for a long time—at least what seemed like a long time to Richard, though it might have been only a minute or so—he couldn’t tell because his fingers and Mara’s were moving and intertwined and he lifted her hand to his lips and then she lifted his to her lips and time stood still.
          {The next morning, Richard would remember that and think: “just holding hands, that’s all it was, and it was as if she had reached inside me and drawn me out, my essence, my soul and touched it to her lips.”  Though he was not a poet, Richard would try to write a poem about holding hands to send to her, but it wasn’t right, didn’t turn out and he folded the paper carefully half-a-dozen times, until it was a tiny thing, before throwing it into the trash.
          Later, after the first boat left the Block with Mara on it and he hadn’t rushed to stop her, he fished the poem out of the trash and carefully pressed it out, thinking he might someday decide to mail it.
                    Hand in hand in hand,
                   until the hands were two no longer.
                   They formed something new, those hands.

                    Salt on the tongue, just a taste, a hint
                   of sweat, a scent of sea and something more.

                   Hope, perhaps, like a mid-wife calling forth
                   new life from an old life’s womb,
                   birthing something new and unexpected,
                   undeserved, unknown.

                   A kiss of fear on a finger tip, but more,
                   fear’s constant friend and greatest enemy:
                   something new—love’s first touch.

          Almost every morning for two weeks after that, until he had buried Stevenson’s ashes and  left Block Island for good,  Richard read his pitiful poem a dozen times while eating breakfast. He knew enough to know how bad it was, how sentimental and personal. Nevertheless, he kept it in his wallet, well worn around the folds, just in case.}

          His face was close to hers, he thought of kissing her and didn’t. They just held hands. Both of them stared, transfixed, at their hands.
          “I thought I’d name the elephant in the room,” he said, almost giddy with the smell of her, so near to him.
          She raised her eyes from their hands and looked at him. “Know what you get when you name the elephant in the room?”
          He thought about it and thought of nothing. “No.”
          She bit her lip the way that made him dizzy and then smiled, “An elephant with a name.”
          They sat that way, holding hands, the darkness all around them, Richard thinking how good it was to have a hand to hold.
          Just as he was thinking that Mara disentangled her hand, stood up and stretched, yawning.
          “Time to go to the White House?” he asked. “I can drive you.”
          She smiled at him. In nothing but the light of a 40 watt bulb beside the door to the Rectory, he could see her eyes—gray as the evening, as the stormy sea, as something else he didn’t quite understand.
          “I checked out this afternoon,” she said, reaching for his hand and leading him into the house. She shut the door before Cecelia could come in.
          “There’s just one thing you must do for me before I leave. I hope you will,” she said in a whisper. Richard nodded, though he didn’t understand, and followed her through the Rectory’s living room and down the hall to where he slept. Mara, without letting go of his hand, somehow found the lamp beside the bed and turned it on.
          Whispering still, more than just her natural voice, whispering into his ear, she said, calmly, he thought: “you must lay down with me and see what you’re doing.” Only then did her hand leave his and she took off her jacket and dropped it on the floor. She kicked off her sneakers and climbed onto the bed, she looked back at him, nervously, as if she expected him to bolt and run.
          Richard lay beside her and took her face in his hands. Slowly, with more patience and wonder than he imagined he had within him, he cupped Mara’s face in his hands and kissed her softly. He had long expected to feel the scar on her lips on his own, but he didn’t. What he did feel was her tongue touching his. Cecelia was barking outside.
          They both laughed in mid-kiss.
          “Let her go catch a deer,” Mara said.
          “Be quite a mess in the morning if she does,” Richard responded, already kissing her again so she missed the last few words.
          Over the course of half-an-hour Richard unbuttoned the five buttons of Mara’s blouse while kissing every part of her face and neck and ears and even her short, blonde hair, blinding to him in the harsh light of the bedside lamp.
          “Should I turn off the light?” he asked, shyly, at some point.
          “Not yet….” She said, soft as smoke.
          He parted her blouse and continued kissing her, surprised that she was wearing a bra instead of her gun. He reached behind her in an almost instinctive way, to unclasp the black and lacy bra. In an awkward moment, Mara rose on an elbow to shed her shirt and bra. Richard looked at her, almost gasping and said, from a place he did not know, “I lay down with you, turn over for me.”
          She looked at him, her face collapsing into shyness, and then she slowly turned her back to him and waited.
          Richard put his right arm under Mara’s side and wrapped her in his left. His hands touched her breasts, tentatively at first, rolling her nipples with his fingers as he kissed her back. He cupped her, adored her, stroked her. After a great, long while, his left hand moved down her stomach and began, with painful slowness, to unbutton her jeans.
          “Richard!” she said, anxiously.
          His hand withdrew, gently across her belly.
          “What?” he said, as best he could.
          “I just thought you’d stopped breathing….”
          He laughed. “I had,” he said, “thank you….”
          Laughing she took his left hand in both hers and drew it to her mouth. He ached as she languidly, as if there were nothing at all in the world but time, took each of his fingers into her mouth and slowly withdrew them.
          “Now…”, is all she said.
          Richard opened the fly to her jeans and touched her, lifting her panties with his finger tips, moving under, marveling at the warmth and dampness, touching her, trying to remember to breathe.
          After Mara shuttered, she took his hand again and gently, slowly, as before, tasted herself on his fingers. Then, before he knew what was happening, she turned to him and deftly reached across to the bedside light.
          “Now…”, is all she whispered, plunging them into darkness.








                             VIII.
Wednesday, October 29—7:15 a.m.

          When Richard woke up, she was gone and Cecelia was beside him in the pre-dawn. At sometime in the night, he remembered, laying still, not moving, that Mara had gone down the hall naked to let the dog in. When she returned to bed, shivering a bit, she needed to be held closely under the covers. Richard did that. They feel asleep that way with Cecelia settling in at the foot of the bed.
          When he got up, he left the dog sleeping and made coffee. As the coffee maker steamed and whined, he found a pen and a piece of paper. He knew Mara would be on the first Ferry from Old Harbor. He had time to go and stop her or go and sail with her or simply go and say “goodbye.” He did none of those things. Instead he sat, eating Uncle Sam cereal and rye toast with butter and ginger preserves and tried to write a poem.
          It began:
                   Hand in hand in hand,
                   until the hands were two no longer….
                  



(From the Providence,Rhode Island Journal—12/12/03)

                FEDERAL WEB ENSNARSES PROVIDENCE MOB FAMILY
        A Federal grand jury in Boston has handed down over 140 separate indictments today against reputed Providence mob boss, Milo Miano, his two sons and twenty associates. The sweeping indictments on a host of RICO violations, resulted from the joint investigations, over several months, of the FBI, Homeland Security and the DEA.
        Federal agents swept through Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, making multiple arrests last night and this morning. Officials at the Department of Justice refused to comment until after arraignments later today in Providence, Boston and Hartford.
        Unnamed federal officials gave credit to the late Stevenson Matthews of Block Island for providing information leading to the investigation. “We couldn’t have reached this point without Mr. Matthews’ cooperation and help,” an unidentified member of the Justice Department commented.
        There is a state grand jury in Providence still hearing evidence on many of the crimes covered by the federal….

          Lt. Dante Caggiano of the Rhode Island State Police dropped his newspaper on the table of the far booth of a Providence shop named WE ‘R COFFEE, and lit a cigarette.
          “You’ve read this crap?” he asked his partner, an almost beautiful woman, who was sipping a latte.
          “You know you can’t smoke in here,” she responded, dryly.
          He shook his head of short, curly, extremely black hair, kept from graying by an expensive hair stylist named Armando. “You tell me that every morning.”
          “I’m sworn to uphold the laws of Rhode Island,” she responded in a voice like a foggy whisper, picking at a banana nut muffin.
          He stared at her for a long moment. She had been looking even better than ever for a few weeks and he’d only just noticed it. Her blonde to white hair was cut short and still a bit damp from a morning shower. It sparkled, Dante noticed. So did Mara. And that, though he was a detective, he hadn’t noticed.
          Embarrassed by how inattentive he had been recently to Sgt. Coles, he said, exhaling illegal smoke, “perhaps you should call your friend on Block Island and let him know what a prophet I was….How I knew the Feds would take all the credit and get it right by getting it wrong….”
          She looked up from her breakfast. Her eyes, swirling gray below black eyebrows, engulfed him and drew him out to sea.
          My friend, as you put it, already knows,” she said. “And he’s been off ‘the Block’ for over a month.”
          Dante glanced down, pulling the right sleeve of his perfectly tailored suit down a quarter of an inch so the fabric of the suit was just touching the one-of-a-kind porcelain cuff link (17th century France) that held together the glaring white cuff of his shirt.
          “You’ve heard from him and didn’t tell me?”
          Sgt. Coles nodded, not averting her eyes for a moment, not even blinking. They sat that way, doing one of their renowned staring contests known throughout the Rhode Island State Police until Dante finally lowered his eyes. She seldom won but this time she did. Maybe, out of some deep seated goodness, he let her.

          “And what are you doing for Christmas, Sgt. Coles?” Dante asked, dropping his cigarette butt into an almost empty cappuccino cup.
          She leaned back into the booth and stretched a bit. “I might be flying to St. Louis.”
          “You mean Iowa or Ohio or whatever backwater state you’re from.”
          She pursed his lips and shook her head. “No,” she said, “I mean St. Louis.”
          “Well,” he said, beginning to grin, “as Ricky Ricardo often said, ‘Lu-Cee, you have some splainin’ to do’.”
          They both laughed—her laugh an octave lower than his. And the laughter was so loud that everyone in WE R COFFEE turned to stare.  












 

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.