It was a week later before I could make the trip up to Maine. In that time, I had to quit all three jobs, because there was no telling how long I was going to be in Maine, and I didn't want to leave them hanging. Also in that week, Dad had talked to his brothers about Uncle Lucian, but they had nothing to add what Dad had told me. Lucian was a cipher, even to them.
I took a flight from BWI to Boston’s Logan Airport, rented a car and started driving north. It was late summer, so Fall foliage was still weeks away. I took I-95 through New Hampshire to the Maine Turnpike, the I-295 to US Route 1 North. Kennebunk, Freeport, Rockland, Bucksport and Cherryfield all fell behind me as I made my way to the area of Maine that was commonly known as Downeast coast.
A state route took me to Pilgrim’s Cove and I my first view of the town was from the crest of a hill. A hundred or so houses were clustered around a small bay formed by two headlands that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean. On one headland, I could see a tall lighthouse, what the other one looked someone’s estate. The bay itself had a harbor and several dozen boats of all sorts were clustered in it. It looked like a nice quiet town.
My stomach rumbled, reminding me I hadn't eaten since that morning. As I went down the hill, I spotted a large stone building to my right, with a half-filled parking lot. A large sign proclaimed “WHITNEY’S YANKEE INN. FINE DINING SINCE 1771.”
I thought about it for maybe three seconds before I turned into the parking lot. The building looked as if it had been around for over two hundred years, stone slabs mortared into place, dark wood trim and doors and narrow windows. The parking lot was loose stone, with a low wooden rails marking out the lot’s perimeter. The cars were a mix of old and new, mostly Maine licence plates, with a couple of out of state plates mixed in.
I parked near the inn and got out. I’d dressed for comfort rather than appearance, a gray windbreaker over a golf shirt, military style pants and work boots. I wore a fanny pack with the letter and a few other items I wanted to keep on hand at all times. I took a second to stretch and work the kinks out of a long drive. As I did so, I looked around, getting a feel for the area.
It was near dusk, and it was cool. According to the weatherman I’d listened to on the way up, there was a cold front coming through the area and temperatures were going to be ten degrees below normal for the next several days. There were trees along the parking lot’s perimeter, and the ground sloped away from the lot.
I’d only taken a couple of steps when I saw a couple of shifty-looking guys come around the corner of the Inn and walk toward me. Both of them were on the thin side, a little taller than me, with similar narrow faces, unshaven and deeply sunken eyes. One was wearing a dirty green baseball cap, while the other one was bareheaded and both were wearing clothes that hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine in a month. In a bad light, they might be mistaken for zombies.
I saw them at the same time they saw me. Neither one looked friendly as they moved to block my path to the inn. “Well, Gene,” No hat said, his voice too scratchy to be menacing. “Looks like we have us a visitor.”
Baseball cap, who I assumed was Gene nodded. “Mister,” he said to me, Me and Mel here are the local welcoming committee.”
“Really?” I said in the most neutral tone I could manage.
“Looks like you had a problem recently,” Mel said, motioning to his own eyes.
“A disagreement,” I replied. Even after a week, my bruises hadn't completely faded .
“Well,” Gene said with a smile that exposed teeth that were yellower than a banana’s skin. We can help you avoid any misunderstandings with the locals — for a suitable fee, of course.”
“Of course,” I said. “Thank you for your offer, but I think I’ll pass.”
Both Mel and Gene scowled and moved toward me. “You’re making a mistake,” Mel said.
I took a deep breath, caught a whiff of body odor, and nearly gagged. Apparently their cloths weren’t the only thing that had been avoiding being washed in a while. I stepped back, my hands curling into fists. “It’s a free country,” I said.
The sharp sound of a siren from behind me was accompanied by red and blue lights bouncing off the walls of the inn. As quick as they appeared, they vanished, but I could hear a car engine idling and a car door opening. “Well,” a deep voice said from behind me, “Mel and Gene. Where have you been hiding?”
Both men shrank back. “We’re not doing nothing, Sheriff” Gene said in a simpering tone.
“I’m sure,” the voice said, dripping with sarcasm. “You know the drill, boys. On your knees, hands behind your head.”
Both of them complied. I waited until both of them were on my knees before I stepped back and turned to look at the police officer.
The officer was standing by his cruiser. He was taller than me by several inches, broad-shouldered and looking every inch a police officer. At first glance, he reminded me of a slightly older Denzel Washington, and his expression was stony. “Walker to dispatch,” he said into a radio attached to his jacket. “Get someone up to Witney’s ASAP. I found the Severine boys.”
“Paul’s on his way,” a female voice said.
“Good,” Walker replied, then looked at me. “Are you okay sir?”
“I’m fine,” I replied with a wave.
“These two didn't hurt you?”
“This?” I asked, motioning to my face. “Happened last week a thousand miles away from here. I’m fine. You showed up just in time.”
“Good. Where are you from?”
“Long way for a vacation.”
I shook my head. “Business, I’m afraid. I’m here to settle my great-uncle’s estate.”
“Who’s your great-uncle?”
I heard a gasp from one of the Severines and I glanced at them. Both of them looked like they were ready to get up and run. But Walker growled, “Gene, Mel, stay where you are.”
I looked back at the sheriff, who was eyeing me. You’re Lucian’s great-nephew then?”
“Yes. Lucian was my grandfather’s brother. None of the family knew he was still alive until I got the latter from Lucian’s lawyer.”
“Who’s the lawyer?”
Just then, another police car pulled into the parking lot. A second officer got out and looked at Walker. “Where are they?” Walker pointed and the second officer grimaced. “Aw, Sheriff. It’s going to take me weeks to get the smell out of my car!”
“Then the quicker you get them into jail, the better.”
“Can’t I hose them down first?”
“Deputy Hartwell,” Walker said in a tone of resigned patience. “Arrest the Severine boys and charge them with public disorder, panhandling, and public intoxication. I want them processed before I finish dinner.”
Hartwell didn't look happy, but he complied, and five minutes later, both Severine boys were cuffed and in the back of Hartwell's car. As they were being driven off the lot, Walker turned to me. “Sorry about that,” he said, his tone changing to a warmer one. He walked over and held out his hand. “TJ Walker, I’m Pilgrim’s Cove’s Sheriff.”
I took the hand. “Roger Merlin,” I said.
We shook hands. Walker glanced back at his car. “Tell you what,” he said. “Let me park my car, and you can join me for dinner.”
“Okay,” I replied.