The Mighty Mary Kay
The Mighty Mary Kay
“Ah, the Mighty Mary Kay, the finest ship to ever sail the Atlantic Ocean. She sure brought home some good catches over the years.”
“You sure you’re ready to sell her, pop?”
“I couldn’t be a fisherman for the rest of my life, Davey. Your mother wouldn’t stand for it. Besides, the fishing ‘round here’s been dead for the last five years.”
“So, what will you do now?”
“Sell the house and the boat. With the extra cash we’ll be able to afford a move to the mainland. Wilbur McFay has a job lined up for me at his factory. We’ll get along.”
“Pop, the factory is no good for you. Day after day up to your elbows in fish guts. Your hands are bad enough already, a couple months in the freezer will cripple them for good.”
“Don’t you worry about us, Davey. These old paws have spent enough time ripping fish apart that another couple years won’t hurt them. Your ma and I will be fine.”
Davey’s pa was just trying to be brave to settle his concerns, but they both understood a month working the freezer room of McFay’s Fishery Distribution would leave his father with a couple useless claws hanging from his wrists.
“What about sales?” Davey asked. His gaze shifted from the endless swell of waves in the cove to his father’s weather-hardened face. “You always got along with the boys.”
“It’s different on the water. There is a kinship that grows between you when you’re out there.”
Out there was all that mattered to Pa. Out there he commanded the waves. Bent them to chase the fish into the nets and rode them with the expertise of a championship Hawaiian surfer. Some boys dreamed of being a fireman, a cop, or a hockey player. Not Davey’s father. He had always wanted to captain his own boat out of Wallalla Island.
Davey almost followed his father onto the ocean but five summers of peeling scales and getting up at four in the morning to prep the boat proved a fisherman Davey was not.
Leaving the Island had been hard for Davey but he didn’t exactly miss it. The mainland offered freedom. Freedom to roam, freedom to breath, freedom to not have the electricity knocked out every time a storm blew past. But both his parents had grown up on the Island and only went to the mainland when absolutely necessary. Sometimes, it would be a whole year before Pa would step on to the solid shores across the bay. For him to move away from the place he called home, the place he loved, well, it just didn’t make any sense.
“What about running the fish to the mainland?” Davey asked.
“Ha, sure. You figure ole Stanford will give it up without a fight? That old coot’s boat knows the route well enough she can drive the trip herself, which means we’re all a little safer.”
“Maybe you could make a deal with him, work out some kind of partnership.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d be tempted to think you don’t want us on the mainland, Davey.”
“It’s not that.” Davey struggled to find the words to explain his misgivings. “It’s just different over there.” What he was really thinking was; my parents are getting too old to survive out here.
Once on the mainland, his father would surely dry up and blow away. Without Wallalla Island, what else would there be for him? Was he really willing to give it up, to admit this was no place for an old man?
And if he was willing to admit time had finally caught up with him enough to force the move,
what would happen when he realized the hours moved twice as quickly on solid ground?
The days would eat the salt-blood running through his veins. The minutes would erode his weather beaten skin. How long would he last? Weeks? Months? Could he stand a year?
Davey didn’t think so. No, he knew he wouldn’t. Fish guts would be the least of his problems, the move would kill him. Ma would be left alone.
Only, she wouldn’t. Davey would be right there to help pick up the pieces and it would only be a hop and skip to get her moved into Davey’s place so he could look after her.
The whole thing stunk. They didn’t even realize they were threatening the new life he’d begun to build for himself. They were going to take away his freedom, after he’d managed to escape.
“It’s not like we don’t know things will change. We’re ready for it. At least I think we are.”
“But are you?” Davey asked. “You’ve spent your entire life here on the Island. Heck, most times Ma is the one riding the ferry for supplies, or I bring them with me when I visit. Are you really prepared to leave?”
“Out on the boat, watching the waves roll by, you have a lot of time to wonder. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought about what it might be like if I’d had your courage, if I’d been the one to leave when I was young. Those were different times and I probably wouldn’t have been as lucky as you, but now is different too, and I have a chance to find out if I can do it.”
“What if they won’t let you go?”
“The town council has already approved the move, as long as we agree to continue sending our share of the supplies.”
Damn. Davey’s last hope went sailing away with the tide.
“You sure you don’t have a reason for not wanting us there?”
“Come on, Pa. I just want to be sure you guys know what you’re in for.”
“You make it sound like there’s a choice.”
“There is always a choice.” Davey had spent a lot of time pondering over the move but hadn’t come up with any viable alternatives. “If you think you are making the right one, then I think you are. So, when do you pull out?”
“Soon as we sell the boat. Barney Irvine was out to look at her the other day but wants me to drop about a thousand bucks off the price. He might as well ask me to give her away.”
“How much you asking?”
Pa looked a little uncomfortable as he toed the dirt. “Thirteen.”
“Thirteen? Cripes, you are giving it away.”
“We’d never get anything more with the way things are. Nobody is starving but the community has really had to pull together to make sure they don’t go hungry. We’ll be lucky to get thirteen.”
“Then is it really worth it?”
An awkward silence followed, broken only by the squawking of the gulls over the gulf and the crash of the tide against the shoreline.
“Want to take her out?” Davey asked. “One last ride.”
His father grinned and clapped him on the back. “We can slide out to the reef and see if there’s any fish running the channel.”
It didn’t take any time to prep the boat, they had both been through it often enough that instinct took over and they were able to stay out of each other’s way. Within minutes they were unhooked and cresting the smaller waves of the bay.
“She still runs like a beaut,” Davey said as he watched his father guide the Mary Kay into deeper waters. “About as good as the day you bought her.”
“Smoother,” Pa laughed. “She’s better behaved now.”
Out of the cove, they sailed, down around the bend, and following the shoreline to a strip of reefs which ran for about a mile along the coast. At one time, the waters had been legendary for the amount of cod it produced and for generations those on Wallalla Island had lived prosperously from her bounty.
With the fish population drying up further along the coast line, more boats appeared in the area and soon there was nothing left. Davey wondered if this wasn’t the real reason his father had decided to move. Maybe, there just wasn’t enough for everyone anymore.
But why should he be the one to give up? He’d fished these waters since he was a boy and gone out with his own father. He had generations invested in Wallalla Island.
Only, Davey had broken the cycle. He’d left and destroyed the link. Maybe he’d brought this all on to himself.
They found a decent spot and tossed the nets before settling back on the deck to watch the endless swell of waves. Davey let the gentle bobbing of the boat lull him as he breathed deeply of the salty air.
“There’s nothing quite like it., eh Davey?”
It’s so sad you have to give this up. Davey didn’t dare voice the thought, they’d gone as far as they would with that conversation. Still, he had to say something.
“I have to admit I’ll miss coming out here.”
“You won’t miss anything. I’m sure any of the boys would love to have you on their crew. Besides, you will still be expected to bring supplies and visit once a month, even if we aren’t still here.”
Davey understood the importance of his honouring the agreement he’d signed before leaving. As the years had leaned, it had become increasingly important that each member of the community helped provide whatever they could, thus ensuring the continued survival of the town. Each member was an intricate piece, they weren’t so much a community of people as they were a closely knit family of survivors. Davey’s prosperity on the mainland meant he was expected to pay just a little more than his share and he didn’t figure, even though his parents were leaving, he would be granted any kind of respite. Not that he minded giving up part of his paycheck. Davey wanted the people here to continue on, to flourish, to grow completely independent again and regain their proud heritage.
“I’ll probably just send the supplies on the ferry. With you and Ma on the mainland, there won’t be much need for my face around here.” There were still friends Davey could come and see but most took the boat across at least once a week.
“Your ma would be heartbroken if you stopped coming. Whatever happens, this is still our home and an important part of us.”
Before Davey could reply, the fishing net bulged.
“Would you look at that.”
Davey looked to where his father was pointing. An entire school of cod had swum right into the net. “There must be a hundred of them.”
“And the size. I ain’t seen nothing like it in years, Davey.”
“Quick, get the spiller pulled tight,” Davey said as he scrambled for the line.
Pa hit the switch and the wench started to draw the net closed. When it was close enough to the boat, Davey grabbed a hook and starting pulling flailing fish bodies up and over the side. Together, father and son worked to get their catch aboard, each easily singling out the best of the bunch and hooking them up with practised precision.
In less than an hour they had nearly fifty prize-sized fish aboard and Davey’s father fell back into his chair in happy exhaustion. “Couple more catches like that and I’d be able to retire,” he said when he finally caught his breath.
“We have to tell the town council.”
“I dunno about that, Davey. Maybe we should keep it to ourselves for now.”
“But if the fish are running the channel again...”
“I realize what it could do to revitalize the Island, Davey, but what if it was just a fluke?”
“A fluke? Even with a real crew we could be out here a couple days.”
“They could have been chased in here by a whale,” Pa said.
“I still think we should let the council know.”
“Tell you what. Let’s leave it for now. We can come back tomorrow and if there is still a decent catch running the channel we’ll go to the council.”
The idea of not going to the council right away with their find left Davey feeling uncomfortable. His father certainly wouldn’t want to horde the find for himself and was probably just being realistic in not getting everyone’s hopes up. Still, the council had the proper equipment to do a more thorough search and get an accurate reading of any new schools swimming through.
They drove back to the dock and Davey helped his father unload the fish and get them into the freezers. A few passing fishing boats slowed to stare as they unloaded their catch. Word would soon enough be around the Island and Davey might not have to worry about his father’s decision.
Secrets were almost as scarce as the fish had become on the Island. Their community was far too closely knit and dependent upon one another for anyone to keep the others in the dark for long. Once word got out about the size of the fish they’d brought home one of the neighbours would be along to investigate. Pa must have realized this as well because he packed the fish away in the deeper freezers, under the ice where they weren’t immediately visible.
Ma was waiting for them in the kitchen. She had already set out cups for their return and as they came in the back door she poured a stiff black coffee that filled the kitchen with its aromatic sweetness.
“Smell’s great,” Pa said with a kiss to his wife’s cheek.
“I noticed you took the boat out.”
“One last spin,” Davey said.
“Toss any lines?” A slight note of suspicion hung in her tone.
“We got ourselves a couple dandies,” Pa replied, seemingly oblivious to the doubt in his wife’s voice. “The channel is running pretty good considering...”
“You said you weren’t going out anymore. You told me once it was up for sale, that was the end of it, that the Mary Kay was officially docked. You promised, Keith ”
“Now hold on a second, darling. There’s no need to get your girdle all knotted up. Davey wanted to go out for one last ride and I didn’t see any harm. There wasn’t anything serious about it, hon. Honest.”
“He didn’t try to talk you out of moving?”
“Ma ” Davey couldn’t believe what she was suggesting.
“Well, I can just imagine what’s going through that mind of yours. You were quick enough to get away from us when the chance came along, I’m sure you don’t want us there buggerin’ up your new life. Don’t you worry, David William, your parents are still well enough that they can very well look after themselves. We won’t be any concern of yours.”
Davey was caught completely unawares by his mother’s outburst and wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Where had this sense of hurt and betrayal come from? If only Pa had warned him about how poorly she was taking the idea of leaving the Island.
“Ma, that’s not what I was thinking at all. We just didn’t realize our taking the Mary Kay out would upset you so much. I’m sorry.” He gave her a hug. “You know I’m looking forward to having you two living closer so I can keep an eye on you and make sure you aren’t getting into any trouble.”
A grudging smile pulled at the corner’s of Ma’s lips. Davey had successfully defused the situation enough to dampen her anger. And it was a good thing. A knock at the door announced the arrival of a visitor. Pa went to answer it while Ma fetched another coffee cup for the newcomer. It didn’t really matter who it was, they’d be expected to stay for at least one cup of java. Island rules, if you went a visiting during the day your schedule best be cleared of any pressing engagements.
Pa returned with Mr. Steadlow trailing behind. Steadlow was their closest neighbour and lived about a mile on the other side of the cove. Most likely, one of the passing boats they’d seen had docked at his place to refuel and mentioned their catch in passing. Davey could well imagine Mr. Steadlow rushing the customer from his wharf-based shop before quickly locking up and hurrying to the house.
“Quite a spell of weather we’ve been having,” Mr. Steadlow said as he took the offered seat and cup of coffee.
“Plants’d appreciate a touch of rain, I suspect,” Pa replied without looking up from his own cup. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“If it ain’t too hot then it’s too cold,” Mr. Steadlow said.
“There’s always something to complain about,” Ma said with a nervous laugh.
“How’s everything going for you on the mainland, Davey?”
“So far I haven’t run into any major problems.” Davey’s stomach was busy flip-flopping back and forth. What was he so nervous about? They hadn’t broken any laws or even endangered the Island. Heck, they were sitting on a potential goldmine so why was he feeling so guilty?
“And the job?” Mr. Steadlow kept his eyes on the table but kept stealing quick glances at Davey and in the direction of Ma. He couldn’t look at Pa, though Pa didn’t seem to mind.
“Davey just got another promotion,” Ma answered, beaming over with pride. “It won’t be long now before he makes associate partner.”
“That might be pushing it a little, Ma.” Davey was a member of a large law firm on the mainland. He was still pretty much stuck with researching upcoming cases and running the seemingly endless array of errands but a few of his ideas had won some major support recently and he’d been able to climb up a couple rungs on the corporate ladder. It would be another year before Davey saw the inside of a courtroom, at least as long again before he had his own case.
“We’re all real proud of you,” Mr. Steadlow said with as much delight as if it were his own son who had made it to such a lofty position. Island boys were expected to grow up to be fisherman, or miners, or mechanics, so for any of their number to succeed beyond that was a major accomplishment enjoyed by the entire community. “Who would ‘ave thought our own Davey Jones would grow up to be a lawyer, eh Keith?”
“It still baffles me.”
Both men spent some more time examining their coffees. Davey caught Ma’s attention and jerked his eyes in Mr. Steadlow’s direction. Ma smoothed her skirt, sat up a little straighter in her chair, and politely smiled at the store owner.
“Business must be going fairly well for you to shut down in the middle of a Saturday afternoon,” she said.
“I heard Davey was out for a visit and thought I’d catch up with him before he left. Good thing too, ‘cause there’s something I needed to talk to him about.”
“I already told you he wouldn’t be interested,” Pa said, with a little too much force. This time he looked up from his coffee, made sure Steadlow saw the determination on his face.
“Why don’t we let him decide for himself, Keith? He’s a grown man now, he can certainly make up his own mind.”
“Ain’t no need and if that’s all you came for then maybe you best finish your coffee and head on back to your shop. The evening line will be going out soon enough and they’ll need to fill their tanks.”
“Well, I was just talking to a couple of the boys coming back and they said they saw you unloading a fair sized catch. Is there something you need to tell the council, Keith?”
Davey still hadn’t got past the fact his father was keeping something from him. “What’s he talking about, Pa?”
“Just never you mind,” Pa snapped at Davey. “And to you, Mr. Steadlow, I say, I know the Island rules better than most. I don’t need to remind you it was my grandpa who wrote most of them his- self. Now, I ain’t trying to be rude, but when I have something for the council to hear then you better damn well believe they’ll hear it. Until then, it’s none of yours, or anybody else’s, business. You got that?”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Keith, but I sure don’t know you anymore.” Without finishing his coffee, Mr. Steadlow angrily stormed from the room and slammed the front door on his way out.
The three Jones’ sat in silence. Davey wanted to ask about Mr. Steadlow’s question but after the outburst the timing just didn’t seem right. Davey had never seen his pa get so angry before and now he wondered just how much of that rage he’d been storing up for all these years.
He couldn’t possibly be happy all time. And yet, this was the first time Davey had ever seen him loose his cool. Davey decided he could go and see Mr. Steadlow after supper. Pa couldn’t stop him. Davey was a man and could make his own decisions.
* * *
After dinner, Davey decided to take a walk. Both his parents asked if he wanted company. He said no, he was going out to check on some of the old haunts.
As a boy growing up with the isolation of the Island, he’d found many places to explore. Secretive places amongst the cliffs down on the beach. Davey wandered into one of the larger caves and immediately disappeared from sight of the house. He could be gone for hours now, lost in the running tunnels, and his parents would never suspect a thing. Climbing up along the wall, he came out of an opening atop the hill. From here it was an easy distance to the road and a short trek to Mr. Steadlow’s.
The store owner was sitting on his front porch, the smoke from his pipe lazily drifting along the roof just above his head. He looked up as if he’d been expecting Davey but didn’t get up. Instead, he nodded to a second straight-backed wooden chair next to him. Davey sat. The two remained quiet for a time, enjoying the peacefulness of a day winding to its end.
“I’m not sure you noticed but your pa’s a different man the last little while,” Mr. Steadlow finally said. “Seems to me it all started about the same time you packed up and headed for the mainland.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Davey replied. “But with him getting ready for the move and all, I’m sure it has unsettled him.”
“It’s more than that, Davey Jones, and you best be careful. You ask me, them moving is a mistake. The Island is all they know. Both their history is here. Take it away and what’s left?”
“Davey, we both know they are too old to be starting over again. Even still, it don’t explain why he’s keeping the catch you brought home this afternoon from the council.”
Davey didn’t feel comfortable with ratting out his pa but Mr. Steadlow obviously already knew about the fish. “We didn’t think it was wise to get everyone excited over nothing.”
“From what the boys told me the haul you brought back wasn’t exactly nothing.”
Davey couldn’t contain his excitement any longer. “You should have seen the channel. Just full of fish, swimming and splashing, we couldn’t get the nets up fast enough.”
“This out at Peckman’s Point?”
“Couple fishermen saw him out that way last week.”
“But Ma made him promise not to take the boat out anymore.”
“And as far as she knows he hasn’t. Only that ain’t necessarily the way it is, Davey. Your pa, he’s up to something.”
“You think I know?” Davey wouldn’t have told, even if he did. How dare Mr. Steadlow accuse him of sneaking around behind everyone’s back. “As far as I know, Pa is only looking to sell the boat and clear out of here.”
“Don’t you think he’s selling the boat real cheap?”
“You have a hidden treasure you’re willing to give up?”
“Guess I see your point. Still, it seems to me like he’s in too much of a hurry to get out of here. You might want to keep an eye on him.”
“Well, just so you know, we’re going back to the channel tomorrow. If the cod are still running, he plans on going to the council.”
“It’d do us a world of good to get a couple decent catches,” Mr. Steadlow said as he tapped out the ashes of his pipe. “So, you get yourself any good cases yet?”
“So far it’s been all note taking and searching through volumes of reports. Not exactly what I was hoping for but at least I’m in the trenches, if not on the front line yet.”
“You were always such an ambitious kid. All the other boys would be off playing ball or watching the tele, but not you. You were always out exploring the island and coming back with something no one else had noticed. It won’t take you long.”
“Another couple of years if I’m lucky, but what’s this got to do with?”
“There’s a spot of trouble and no one seems to know what to do. Your pa doesn’t want you involved, but Davey, I think you are the only one who can help. You know the people around here and who we are, how we live, what it’s like. Someone who wasn’t from here might not understand.”
Probably not. Living on the island, sometimes cut off from the mainland for months, could be a seriously trying hardship. Most people couldn’t understand what it was really like. But it was more than that. The people here depended on each other and worked together no matter the personal sacrifice.
“What kind of trouble?” Davey asked as his mind switched gears. It amazed him how easily he was able to slip into lawyer mode, his attention narrowing onto Mr. Steadlow’s words, carefully examining his story and looking for weak chinks.
“A young man from one of the mainland fishing crews washed up on our shore a couple days ago. I ain’t sure how he got there, there haven’t been any crews fishing the area for at least two months. So far no one has come looking for him and a couple of us have been following the broadcasts and papers but there hasn’t been any mention of a missing person.”
“Why not turn him over to the mainland authorities? Send him back on the ferry and be done with it.”
“I’m afraid it’s not exactly that easy. You see, it doesn’t look like this was an accidental death or a simple drowning.”
“Are you sure?”
“Maybe you better see for yourself. We’re keeping him at the morgue. I can drive you, if you want to go now.”
“I think we better.”
The drive into the more populated central part of Wallalla Island took ten minutes. The sun had vanished, sinking into the sea to the west in a blazing fireball, so Davey could only see the shadowy outlines of the hills and meadows leading to the grassy, expansive lawns of the townsfolk. Each had their own specific duties, an exact purpose that together with the rest fulfilled the island life. To take one family away wouldn’t cause the town to crumble but there would be a noticeable adjustment period everyone would rather avoid. Children were taught to follow in their parent’s footsteps, learning their skills and then expanding upon them with their own unique abilities.
Except for Davey. He’d destroyed the family cycle.
The morgue was closed but each person in the community possessed a master key to open such buildings; the morgue, the little building that acted as a hospital complete with variety of splints, medicines, and even a decrepit wheelchair that squealed relentlessly whenever moved. Also, the library, town hall, and of course the fire hall were all accessible to everyone who called Wallalla home.
Mr. Steadlow opened the front door and led Dave inside. There was only one room. Along three walls the storage lockers for the bodies, a table was set in one corner, beside it a counter containing variously sharp and dangerous looking tools. On the table lay a body covered by a sheet. Nervously, with a growing sense of dread in his belly, Davey watched as Mr. Steadlow pulled back the sheet, revealing a scarred and battered body. The dead boy’s skin was bloated and water logged, dis-proportioning his facial features. The skin was tightly drawn and an awful blue-black. His eyes were sunken, part of one eyelid had been chewed off, the flap hanging down loosely. Across his neck flared an angry purple welt, the thickness of a leather belt or strap. The back of his head had been bludgeoned open.
An obviously violent end but not necessarily a murder. The young man could have easily fallen from his boat and hit his head as he went over the side, or gotten caught up in one of the lines, or...there were immediately a hundred other options available to Davey’s analytical mind.
“What makes you think he was murdered?”
“I don’t think I ever mentioned anything about murder, Davey Jones. You best watch how you use your words.”
“Hank, you wouldn’t have asked me to come and see for myself if you didn’t think there was a chance one of us might get blamed for it.” If this was the favour, they might as well be on even terms. Never once in his life up until this point had Davey ever called the store owner anything other than Mr. Steadlow. At this exact moment, he became simply Hank.
“There’s something else, something you can’t see. Doc Bailey did an autopsy, or at least what passes for one ‘round here. The tests showed the boy was drugged.”
“There was a major amount of...well heck, how’m I supposed to remember all them fancy names. It was some kind of sedative anyway, enough to knock him out cold.”
“So he’s knocked out and then strangled?” Davey asked.
“Or tied up and dragged behind a boat. The blow to the back of the head is just to knock him overboard.”
“You seem to have this all figured out.”
“I just hope I’m wrong and this was just some crazy accident.”
“You think my Pa had something to do with it?”
“Not for sure, Davey. There’s something definitely bugging him, though. People are starting to wonder, is all.”
“He would never and you know it, Hank Steadlow. Pa is a good man, an honest man. Every person on Wallalla owes him something for all the work he’s done. Just because he wanted something more for his son you are all ready to run him out of town. It isn’t fair.”
“You haven’t seen him, Davey. They way he acts, the look he gets on his face sometimes when he doesn’t think anyone else is watching. I’ve seen it and I know he’s keeping something from the rest of us. You’d know it too, if only you would take the time to look instead of worrying over how their coming to the mainland is going to ruin your new life.”
“I can see it on you face plain as day, Davey Jones. There are no secrets here.”
“Pa doesn’t know everyone thinks it was him who killed the boy.”
“No, but mostly people don’t want to believe it. They do owe him for what he’s done and they don’t want to think he’s capable of something so cruel. With his leaving, it is easier on all of us to send the troubles with him. If we can convince ourselves it was him, then we can convince ourselves we’ll be safe once he’s gone.”
“What do you want from me? To find the truth or help set up Pa to take the blame?”
“What if the truth is he did kill that boy?”
Davey didn’t have an answer. If he were to find out the truth and that was to be it, would he be able to come to his father’s defence? Would Davey ever be able to look at him, the simple fisherman who had spent his entire life helping support the community, the same way again?
“Pa is no murderer.” But there was no conviction behind Davey’s voice.
“He’s up to something, Davey. You best find out what.”
* * *
“We didn’t expect you to be out so long,” Ma said as Davey came through the back door.
Mr. Steadlow had dropped him off on the other side of the hill and he’d climbed back into the tunnel and made his way in the dark back the way he’d come. “I went for a walk down the beach. The tide’s just coming in, seems to be a little higher this year.”
“Been coming in a little further every year since I was a little girl. Someday this whole island will be swallowed back from where she came but none of us will be around to worry about it.”
If it was meant as a personal jab, it didn’t connect very solidly. Most of Davey’s adolescence had been gentle lectures and dry-witted barbs, half of which he never completely understood. It wasn’t exactly a terse relationship shared by the two, it was more one of pretended understanding and compassion. Davey was basically a good kid growing up and his mother knew it. She simply teased him to show she was still the boss, and would be until she finally ascended to the next plain of existence. Even then, she would probably still be watching over him.
“Upstairs, getting ready for bed. He said he wants to get an early start, there’s someone coming to look at the boat. Of course, he wouldn’t give me a name. Said it would jinx the sale and the less we think about it the better. You know how your father is.”
Did he? Did Davey really know? He’d obviously come up with a lie to get the boat out tomorrow. How many other times had there been? There seemed to be a lot Ma didn’t know about. Davey was about to fill her in on a few things when Pa came down the stairs and into the kitchen.
“You’re back. I set some blankets and a pillow in your old room.”
“Thanks. Ma was just saying you have a buyer coming to look at the boat tomorrow?”
The look. Only for a brief moment, nothing more than a twitch that can’t be caught in time, and then it was gone. In that instant, Davey knew what Mr. Steadlow had seen. Davey hadn’t realized because they’d been on the boat before, out on the water, in his father’s favourite place. The nervousness, the tension, the guilt were all disposable to the water, where only the waves and the wind and the clouds existed.
“Yeah, he should be here fairly early so I was hoping you would be up to help me prep the boat. He can take it out and see how she runs, maybe even toss the nets if he’s up for it.”
“This a fisherman?”
“I already told your mother, you can both wait until tomorrow and then we can celebrate the sale.”
“I’m going to bed,” Ma said with a kiss for both her men. “I’ll see you when you get back.”
When she was upstairs, Pa leaned over and whispered, “I had to tell her something. I promised I wouldn’t take the boat out anymore but we have to check the channel.”
“How many times you been out to check?” Davey asked.
“What are you talking about? There were no other times.”
“One of the fisherman saw the Mary Kay out there last week.”
“Today is the first time, Davey. I swear.”
“Then what were you doing out there?”
“I wasn’t. Today was the first time I had the Mary Kay out since she went up for sale. You have to believe me, Davey.”
“Mr. Steadlow showed me the body.”
Again the look. A little longer, a little more pained, and not as easily concealed this time. Davey was surprised by how quickly Pa regained control.
“I asked him not to. This is our business and there’s no need to get you involved.”
“You’ve spent my entire life teaching me the Island is my business and I can help. Just tell me what happened.”
“You think I killed him?” Pa’s words were filled with hurt and dismay. “My own son thinks I’m a murderer?” He collapsed back against the counter, his face filled by a hurtful defeat..
“What were you doing out in the Mary Kay?” Davey’s heart almost broke. He asked this as a lawyer and not as a son, and he knew he had to have a straight answer no matter what it might mean. He was ashamed to realize he could not be a son to this man ever again until he knew the truth. Davey wished he’d never seen the body.
“I already told you, I haven’t had her out since I put her up for sale.”
“Pa, there’s not a boat within a hundred kilometres that looks anything like the Mary Kay. The fishermen know her and if they said they saw it, then that’s what people are going to believe.”
“Even if I tell them different?”
“How else would he get washed up on shore?”
“How should I know? You’re the lawyer, you figure it out.”
“What’s all the racket about?” Ma’s voice called from the top of the stairs. They had both started getting louder without realizing it.
“We’re fine, hon. I’ll be up in a minute.” Pa came eye to eye with Davey. “You don’t feel safe here then the first ferry pulls out at eight sharp. I suggest you be on it.”
* * *
“What was all the hollering about?” Ma asked as Pa climbed into bed.
“Steadlow showed him the body.”
“Davey wouldn’t think you did it.”
“A couple fishermen saw the Mary Kay out that way. I swear to you, hon, today was the first time since my promise, but Davey seems convinced the fisherman know what they saw. Funny thing, ‘cause I can’t see them mistaking her for another boat.”
“Yeah, funny,” Ma said. She placed a marker against the page of the book she was reading, The Fisherman’s Wife, and set it on the night stand. A sad tale of a lonely wife who takes a new lover after her husband is swallowed by the sea. “There aren’t many boats like her.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
Ma wasn’t so sure about that. Just because her husband had kept his promise didn’t mean the boat hadn’t been taken from the dock. She’d spent a lot of time as a fisherman’s wife after all and was bound to pick up a few tricks along the way. With someone to help, piloting a boat wasn’t even that hard.
Being a fisherman’s wife could be lonely, just like her book said, but that didn’t matter anymore. Keith was taking her to the mainland, where she could finally wake up in the morning with her husband beside her and without the dizzying rocking of the sea at her window. Or the incessant calling of the fishing boats when her husband was away.
Maybe Davey would eventually figure it out. Ma thought their little secret would simply sink into the sea when they left, much like the little island would one day. She would be a fisherman’s wife no more. More importantly, she would no longer have to share her husband with that bitch, the Mary Kay.