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“Pull over,” Starr said. “Let’s stop.”


“Why?”


She gestured behind them toward the vegetable stand they had just passed.


“Those look like heirlooms.”


Percy nodded. “Pretty.”


“Good bases of my salads.”


“How are your own heirlooms doing now?”


“Not so well this year. My beefsteaks are all right. The Early Girls are gone.”


Percy slowed his F-150 and found a driveway ahead by which to make a three-

point turn. He made the turn and drove them back toward Liberty on 173. “Nice looking

stand,” he commented when they got close.



The garden stand was spread out across two low and slightly rolling hillsides. It

was enclosed by attractive white fencing and spotted with painted signs having pictures

of the offered vegetables and their names in red on white. Several cars and pickups

were spread around in a parking area, and the women from the vehicles were shopping

with wired baskets. The men were mostly leaning back against the vehicles and doing

not much at all.


It was a mid-August day, warm, humid, and still. Late in the afternoon.


While waiting for his wife, Percy figured they’d buy whatever Starr needed, he’d

head back through Liberty and then cut east on Route 3, make it down off the hill into

Belfast in an hour or so, stop at Delvino’s for a pasta dish and eggplant fries; please

Starr. Make it to their house by dusk.


In time, Starr returned to the truck with a paper bag of eight heirloom tomatoes

and half a dozen ears of honey ‘n pearl corn on the cob. She was smiling. “Got a quart

of lowbush blueberries, too.”


What Percy particularly wanted at Delvino’s was a draft pint of Allagash Curieux

Belgian Style Gold and a buffalo burger …yes, and fries, but not eggplant fries.



The two of them had earlier spent a relaxing day in Brunswick visiting the

Bowdoin College Art Museum, enjoying (or critiquing) its various collections on display,

and then strolling on Maine Street and window shopping. Percy had bought Starr a gift.


It was the wrong weather time of year for such a gift. Starr’s birthday wasn’t until

February. Nevertheless, Percy had bought her an attractive, thick, knitted shawl with

good, responsive and subtly changing colors of wool to complement her hale

complexion and especially gorgeously to set off her thick, rich, and multi-colored gray

hair, which that day she had piled loosely on top of her head with its tendrils curling

down to her neck and shoulders.


The shop where Percy had bought the shawl was among a cluster of attractive

hide-a-ways off of the parking lot behind the public library, which shops were close

together, nicely landscaped, with brick walkways between them. The woman inside the

shop was in her mid-forties, slim, and wore a light weight wool dress in tan, which

complimented her own auburn hair. Other shawls, dresses, and sweaters rounded out

the stock on sale in the store, and Percy was happy to be in such an heirloom spot.

The place smelled delightfully of wool. It suggested how things had been done in earlier

ages along the Maine coast.


Starr was using her cane during their stroll, and she clasped her arm around

Percy’s arm when he made his purchase and leaned her happy head against his

shoulder. “I love you,” she said, and the sales woman smiled.



Percy smiled at Starr. Aloud, he ticked off the necessary elements of the gift.

“Thanksgiving. Christmas. Your birthday. The new baby. Come on, woman. Let’s go

get you a glass of wine.”


The owner of the shop came outside with them, took a breath of air, shook hands

all around. “Come back again,” she prompted them. “We always have new things on

show.”


Simpering just a little, Starr responded, “And I like what you have to show.”


Then she giggled and nudged Percy. “And he does, too. We’re in South Orland.

Do you have a website?”


The woman said, “Let me get your email. I’ll stay in touch.” When the woman

had written Starr’s email address into her customer book, she looked up and asked,

“New baby?”


“First grandchild. February. I’m so happy. I’ll be sixty at the beginning of that

month. My daughter’s doctor tells us the baby’s due about the twentieth.”


“Oh, how wonderful for you! It’s just the way things used to be done. It’s the

heritage of all us Mainer women.” Then she took Starr’s hand and led her back into the

store. “Come here, I want to give you something.”


Percy trailed inside, too.


The woman opened a drawer and pulled out a slender box. She opened its top

and pulled from inside a pair of lovely wool mittens. The thickness of the wool, the

colors of the mittens – they were perfect with the shawl.


“Here,” she said, and she handed them to Starr. “What’s your name again?”


“Starr.”


“Starr, these are for you.”


Starr laughed delightedly. “So, now we will be back. I’ll treasure these like an

heirloom.”


“And I’ll think of you while you’re treasuring them.”


Starr glowed. “It’ll be a special match between us, how sweet.”


Percy and the two women went back outside, with Starr holding her mitten box in

her hand. The owner leaned forward and kissed Starr on her cheek. She winked.


“New stock mostly in October.”


“I’ll remember that,” Starr grinned.


“I’ve ordered some cashmere wraps in heathered gray.”


“Oooh!” Starr shivered slightly.


“Would be wonderful with your color.”


Starr reached and shook hands. “We will be back.”



 

EGG ISLAND: Death is Your Choice is available now at Amazon.com!

DOWNEAST: This Blessed Assurance, the second in the Percy Black series, will be released mid-January 2024.


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That’s what Starr said that morning to Percy, when she rolled over in their zipped together sleeping bags inside the tent during their moose hunt. 


         He rolled toward her and pushed his face into her throat and murmured, “What?”  Her skin smelled good with a slight residual of perfume.


         “Magpies.  Don’t they eat winter ticks off moose?”


         “Yeah.  I think the black-billed ones do.”


         “Good all around.  The bird gets a meal. The moose gets rid of the ticks.”


         He rolled back a little and responded, “Not gets rid of.  You know how many ticks on a moose?”


         “A lot?”


         He laughed. “Heard it’s 30 or 40,000 on an adult moose, especially a cow, and they’re draining her blood so fast she may die before winter’s over, and she’s got no way to replace her body fat, particularly if she’s had twins and they’re drinking her dry, too.”


         “Poor Mama.” 


         Percy raised himself on his elbow and looked down at her face.  There had been a late gibbous moon when they retired that night, and it still provided a slight illumination inside the tent as it sank.  He bent down and kissed her forehead.  “Love you,” he whispered. 


         “Don’t want to be a Mama moose.”


         “Don’t suppose you do.”  He said, “Know what you gotta do if you come across a deceased Mama in the woods?”


         Starr shook her head.


         “Cut out her ovaries and preserve them and turn them in at the registration station.”


         “Yuck.”


         Percy huffed himself around onto his back and reached his hand up inside her flannel nightie and cupped one of her breasts.  “But you can keep her boobs.”


         That made Starr laugh.


         “You know what we also need?” Percy asked his wife.  She shook her head again. “Colder winters.”


         “Not the magpies?”


         “Colder winters should slow the reproduction cycle of the winter tick. The ticks are waiting in the bracken for a moose to come by, and one female leaps aboard and a swarm follows, and she can produce 4,000 to 6,500 eggs and then she dies. The eggs drop off and scramble around looking for a new host. They can live for more than 550 days before they find food.”


         Starr looked at Percy for a moment and then shook her head.  “How in the world do you know all this stuff?”


         He smiled. “Remember a while ago when I was showing you the constellations during that night we were anchored off Islesboro?”  She nodded. “Same explanation. I grew up a boy.”


         Starr smiled and rolled toward him, and reached inside her nightie and held his hand that was holding her breast.  “Like boys,” she murmured. 


         “Like girls.”


         “Good that we’re married then.”


         “Let’s go back to sleep. We’ll be up at 5 stalking that bull.”


         Starr took a big deep breath, blew it out, and murmured, “Love you, Percy man.”


         “Love you back.”


         They slept.   



 

EGG ISLAND: Death is Your Choice is available now at Amazon.com!

DOWNEAST: This Blessed Assurance, the second in the Percy Black series, will be released mid-January 2024.

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That day was icily cold and was wind-blasted off the sea. 


Percy and Abornazine descended from Percy’s F-150 into the only slightly plowed parking area of the Machias, Maine, McDonalds, slogged through the ankle-high drifts and into the familiar atmosphere of warm fast-food, happy chatter, bustling teenagers, a few quiet old couples in booths, and the ready exchange of cash and cards. 


Percy ignored the new automatic ordering stations – he preferred humans – and bellied up to the counter.  He held up two fingers. 


         “Two Sausage McMuffin with Egg meals, 2 black coffees, for here.”


         Percy shifted his hip so that his holstered Colt 1911 was plainly visible both to the clerk and to the surrounding crowd.  The chatter fell slightly away.  College-age teens don’t really like being nearby to guns. 


 

Percy pointed to an open booth near the outer door and muttered to the clerk, “We’ll be over there.”


         “Yeah.”


         “Bring it over, could you?”


         “Yeah.”


         “We’ll be waiting.”


         “Yeah.”


         Percy opened his wallet again. “Extra five.”


         It appeared that the clerk didn’t quite know what to do.  Percy said, “You keep it.  It’s a tip.”


         A little brightening of the clerk’s face.  “Mine?”


         “What I just said.”


         “Why?”


         “I want to.”


         The clerk hesitated, then said, “Thank you.”


         “Bring extra hash browns when you come.”


         “A-yuh.”

        


Percy and Abornazine settled at the booth.  The Passamaquoddy pulled out some napkins from a dispenser and wiped the surface down.  The two men were trying to find a girl, whom Abornazine had seen on the street two days before.  Round, red hair, Native complexion, back eyes, carrying an empty clam basket, wearing army boots untied – good boobs. 


“Think we’ll find her?” Percy asked.


Abornazine shrugged.  “Maybe need to follow her up onto the mountain, cocoa mountain.”


         “Where she lives?”


         Abornazine shrugged again.  “Used to be a lot of camps up there, hunting cabins.”


         The clerk came by with a plastic tray and their breakfasts.  “Thank you, men,” he said shyly. 


         Abornazine asked him, “We’re looking for a girl.  Maybe you’ve seen her.  She’s be a woman to you, late twenties.  Native, red hair, with an empty clam basket and army books unlaced.  Nice round figure.  You seen anyone like that?”


         The clerk thought a minute and shook his head.  “I just came on a half hour ago. No. I don’t think so.”


         “Going to save her, if we can find her.”


         “Save her?  You cops?”


         “Nah.  But she’s in trouble.  She’s hanging with a guy might kill her.  We believe he did kill another girl.”


         “Around here?”


         Percy shook his head.  “Near Augusta.”


         The clerk looked up and away as though just having encountered a different world from his accustomed McDonald’s fast-food world.  “Hard to believe this stuff,” is what he muttered looking down again at the men who had tipped him. 


         “Anything I can do to help?”


         Abornazine reached behind his shoulder and pulled his long, straight, black hair forward and loosely curled it down the front of his chest, said, “Keep your eyes open for her – just as I described her.  Don’t do anything.  And if she’s with a big guy – bigger than me – absolutely don’t do anything.  But if you see them drive away – you know cars?”


         The clerk nodded.


         “Kinda note the make, model, year, and color.  We’ll be back in the afternoon.  When you off?”


         “Three.”


         Abornazine said to Percy, “Give him a paper.  My name on it.” Percy did.  “Leave me a note if you see her and him – describe the car.  It’d be helpful to us as a start.”


         “Okay.  Cliff comes on after me.  Shorter than me, blond hair.  If I have something for you on the note, I’ll give it to him, for you, and tell him you’ll ask after him.”


         “It’s a plan.”


         The clerk hesitated then asked, “More coffee?”


         Each man said, “Yes.”


         When the coffee came back, they shook hands.


         Percy said, “Thank you for your help.  And look – this is important – remember.  Don’t do anything.  Just make notes and write them down afterwards.  Do not interfere.”


         Abornazine put in, “Maine plates?  New Hampshire?  Mass?  Hell, who knows?  Connecticut?  Damned New York?”


         “Yeah, I get it.”


         Percy said, “And put your name and phone number on the note.”


         The man smiled.  “Like TV.”


         Percy shook his head.  “Life is not like TV.”


         “Oh! Right.”


 

        

         When they were back in Percy’s F-150, Percy asked Abornazine, “What you think?  Think we’ll find her?”


         “Need to.”


         “Glad Starr’s not here this trip.”


         “Why?”


         “Don’t want Starr in the middle of this, if there’s a fight.”


         Abornazine was quiet for a bit, looking out the window.  “That man’s dangerous.  Could kill that woman.  Would probably like to.”


         Percy nodded.  “Gotta stop him.”


         Abornazine sighed.  “That’s how we save her.”



 

EGG ISLAND: Death is Your Choice is available now at Amazon.com!

DOWNEAST: This Blessed Assurance, the second in the Percy Black series, will be released mid-January 2024.

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